Playdate by Alex Dahl #BookReview

Today, I have the pleasure of sharing my review of Playdate by Alex Dahl as part of the Blog Tour with Midas PR – thank you so much for my space on the tour and also for my gifted copy of this brilliant book.

The blurb …

Have you seen Lucia Blix?

Lucia went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie. Later that evening, her mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and shared a glass of wine with Josie’s mother. Then she kissed her little girl goodnight and drove home.

That was the last time she saw her daughter

The next morning, when Lucia’s dad arrived to pick her up, the house was empty. No furniture, no family, no Lucia.

In Playdate, Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation.

Who has taken their daughter, and why?

My review …

This story is every parent’s worst nightmare – and I loved it!

Set in Norway, the story starts straightaway with Elisa Blix rushing to pick up her children from school. When she collects Lucia the little girl repeatedly asks for a playdate with her new friend Josie, putting Elisa on the spot, as kids tend to do. Elisa doesn’t know the mother and is apprehensive, but when she meets Line and sees that she is beautiful, smart and well spoken, with the girls giggling and playing nearby, she makes a superficial judgement and decides that it can’t do any harm. Straight away my maternal alarm bells are ringing. I’ve been in this position myself, even when I know the mum, of not wanting to let my children go in someone else’s car, or to their house and especially to a sleepover, but also knowing that you have to let them nurture friendships and encourage independence and it really is a horrible feeling.

The playdate does later turn into a sleepover and Elisa arranges to drop Lucia’s night-clothes and minky mouse to Line and Josie’s house. Elisa is impressed with Line’s beautiful sleek home and stays to have a glass of champagne and a chat with the charming and glamorous mum. She then gives Lucia a goodnight kiss and arranges with Lina that Lucia’s dad, Fredrik, will collect her the following morning.

The next morning Elisa leaves early for work as a flight attendant and it is not until 6.30pm that evening, when she arrives back at the airport to a flurry of missed calls and texts, that she realises something is dreadfully wrong. Line hasn’t dropped Lucia home and Fredrik is unable to reach her by phone. They race to Line’s home and find it empty, with no trace of the family. Lucia has been abducted.

I felt that I was thrown headfirst into this Scandi-thriller as Lucia is abducted and the police investigation starts within the first twenty-five pages. As the investigation gets underway Elisa and Fredrik face an agonising wait for news and the story unfolds via alternating chapters from the different characters, which is a format I always enjoy. The characterisation here is remarkable, they are all complex and intriguing, and reading from the first person perspectives of Elisa and Lucia gives a chilling and heartbreaking insight into their thoughts and emotions.

The author’s writing style is exceptional with such attention to detail. It is beautifully atmospheric in the descriptions of the settings between Norway and France, giving a real feel for the different landscapes, towns and cultures. Moreover it is so incredibly evocative and emotive that I could physically feel the fear and pain of the characters. I was completely invested in this story from the first chapter, willing Lucia to be found safe and well, and constantly putting myself in Elisa’s place wondering how I would feel in this situation, and what would I have done?

This is a clever, believable and tragic story with so many twists that it kept me guessing right up until the end and it will resonate with everyone, not just parents, as comparisons will be drawn with recent real life abduction cases. It’s one of my favourite reads of 2020 and I’m adding all of Alex Dahl’s books to my ever growing TBR pile!

About the author …

Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian. Born in Oslo and raised in both Norway and several other European countries she grew up in a multi-cultured family surrounded by artists and creative influences. She studied Russian and German linguistics with international studies, then went on to complete an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University and an MSc in business management at Bath University. A committed Francophile, Alex loves to travel, and has so far lived in Moscow, Paris, Stuttgart, Norway, Switzerland, Bath and London. Alex is the author of two other thrillers: The Heartkeeper and The Boy at the Door, which was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger.

Follow Alex on Twitter @alexdahlauthor, Instagram @authoralex and Facebook alexdahlauthor

For all publicity enquiries please contact Sophie Ransom on

Playdate was published on 2nd October 2020 by Head of Zeus Ltd

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Small Sacrifices by L.E. Luttrell #BookReview

I am pleased to be sharing my review of Small Sacrifices with you today as part of the blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources. Thank you so much to Rachel and the author for my space on the tour and for my gifted copy of the book.

The blurb …

Be careful what you wish for. 

She wanted to be famous. But not like this. 

Ellen Gibson always dreamed of being a star. At a young age those dreams were shattered. 

Discovering she holds the winning ticket in a 55-million Powerball jackpot, Ellen sees it as her opportunity to be in the limelight. But at what cost? 

Detective India Hargreaves and her small team are called in to investigate the disappearance of five- year-old Joshua Gibson, but the investigation is taken over by the big guns from Police Headquarters when it turns out to be a kidnapping. 

When the media and the lead investigator suspect Ellen of being behind the kidnapping, her fame disintegrates into a nightmare and she seems powerless to stop events spiralling out of control …

Purchase Links 

UK –  

US –

My review …

This is the second Australian crime novel, or outback noir, that I’ve read this month and I must say that I’m really warming to this genre and I thoroughly enjoyed this story. This is the third book in a series featuring Detective India Hargreaves but it is definitely a standalone novel.

Set in Windsor in New South Wales we are introduced to unhappily married Ellie and Max Gibson and their five-year-old son Joshie. Money is tight in the Gibson household and Max keeps a tight reign on the household spending much to Ellie’s dismay. They always buy tickets for the Power Ball Draw and when Ellie hears on the news that the $55,000,000 jackpot has yet to be claimed she wonders whether Max put a ticket on that week. When she eventually finds Max’s mislaid ticket, her and Joshie go to their local store to check their numbers and sure enough, against all odds, they are the lucky winners!

Ellie can’t help causing a joyous scene at the busy store which attracts the press to her sensational story. When Ellie was young she was a very talented dancer and it was expected that this would bring her fame, but an injury snatched away her chance to fulfill her dreams and she has been longing for the limelight ever since. This motivates Ellie to lap up the attention caused by her big win and as such, she agrees to several press interviews at her home and glams herself up for photos of her with Joshie. Unfortunately, she never stops to consider the unwanted attention such publicity could attract.

When Max returns from work to a media frenzy outside his home, he wonders what on earth in happening. He is a completely different character to Ellie so when he realises what is happening he can see straightaway how foolish Ellie is in courting so much attention at their home and especially featuring Joshie in the newspapers. Unfortunately, neither of them could possibly imagine the dire sequence of events that Ellie had unwittingly set into motion.

Ellie dismisses Max’s fears and the next day, when he has gone to work, Ellie accepts another press interview. She sends Joshie out into the yard to play so that she can speak to the journalist in peace and this is when Joshie disappears and Detective India Hargreaves steps in to lead the investigation into what turns out to be Joshie’s kidnapping.

As we follow the investigation we see that Ellie’s actions drive a wedge between her and Max and they become more distant as they blame each other for Joshie’s disappearance. While Ellie’s desire for fame causes her to come under suspicion, the media turn against her and it’s interesting to read how the media behave in such situations and the influence they have on public opinion.

There were lots of different intriguing characters here and I admired The Detective as a strong female lead in this story, she is committed to her career and doesn’t let her emotions or personal life interfere with her job. At times I thought that the writing was so clean and to the point that it was missing some emotion. I thought Ellie’s reaction to the disappearance of her son was underplayed and although she was a strange character, it didn’t seem quite right to me, but it absolutely didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book.

This is a cleverly plotted and well written novel and I thoroughly enjoyed following Detective Hargreaves and her team through the Australian outback, as they tried to piece together exactly what happened to Joshie. The story has a great pace to it and it took me no time to finish as I couldn’t put it down and it comes highly recommended from me.

About the author …

L.E. Luttrell was born in Sydney, Australia and spent the first 21 years of her life there before moving to the UK. After working in publishing for a few years she trained as a teacher and from the 90s spent many years working in secondary education, although she’s had numerous other part time jobs.  A frustrated architect, L.E. Luttrell has spent much of her adult life moving house and renovating properties. Although she has written many more ‘books’, Small Sacrifices, is only the third of her books to be published. More will follow. 

She currently lives in Liverpool, Merseyside – although if it hadn’t been for Covid 19 she would have been with family in Brisbane, Queensland. 

Social Media:

Twitter: @lluttrellauthor

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Food for Thought by Sara Madderson #BookReview

Today it’s my turn on the Random Things Tours blog tour for Sara Madderson’s brilliant debut novel Food for Thought. I’d like to thank Sara very much for my gifted (and signed!) copy – just look at that gorgeous pink cover! 🍓

The blurb …

“The Daily Post has got hold of some pap shots of me. They’re fairly… damning.”

What do you do when the person you love threatens everything you’ve worked for?

Evelyn Macleod has spent a decade helping her husband, charismatic TV chef Seb Macleod, to become a household name. Now they’re riding high and enjoying the spoils of their success. When a tabloid forces Seb to come out as gay, Evelyn and her young son flee to a friend’s luxury resort in rural Kent. Sorrel Farm is the perfect place to hide out, decompress from her disciplined London lifestyle, and comfort-eat. The enforced break also throws into question everything that Evelyn has worked so hard for. Should she continue to chase the glittering heights of wealth and power in London? Or should she choose balance—and the chance to find love—in the beautiful English countryside?

Purchase link:

My review …

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was a fabulous escape into a world of glamorous lifestyles, gorgeous food and a rural retreat – what’s not to love?

Successful businesswoman Evelyn seems to have the perfect life. She is rich and beautiful. She lives in a stunning house in Holland Park, is married to handsome celebrity chef Seb Mcleod and is the mother to a darling eight-year-old son, Eddie. They are described as The Beckhams of the Food World. That is until a national newspaper threatens to out Seb as gay and throws a spanner in the works of her perfectly controlled life. Evelyn is devastated by these revelations, made worse by the fact that the whole world comes out in sympathy for Seb, while she is left forgotten. So she escapes to her best friend’s luxury resort, Sorrell Farm, to give her some precious time to think away from the paps.

‘Her husband is gay,

she’s going to need carbs’

Evelyn and Eddie adjust to a different pace of life on the farm. She learns to relax and enjoy spending quality time with Eddie and her friends. She falls in love with her surroundings and indulges in lots of previously forbidden wine and cake and she also catches the eye of handsome farmer Angus. However, she misses the bright lights of the big city and so Evelyn has some big decisions to make.

Evelyn’s best friend Jess runs the farm with her wife Zoe. I absolutely loved these characters, Jess is hysterical and a brilliant friend to Evelyn, the dialogue between these two is fantastic. Zoe’s passion for organic farming and cooking is a major theme in this story. The descriptions of the food and wine are exquisite and will have your mouth watering and tummy rumbling all the way through. Equally the descriptions of the farm and lifestyle at the resort are beautiful and envy inducing. I also really enjoyed a glimpse into the world of business, marketing and PR. A lot of the book is based around women in business and I loved these strong and successful female characters.

I was entertained from start to finish by the world of celebrity in this book but what I loved most was the warm, witty and intelligent writing and the ending which left me smiling from ear to ear.

Now I can’t wait to read Sara’s second book – Parents and Teachers 🥂

About the author …


Sara Madderson is an author, entrepreneur, wife and mother. She was born in Ireland and moved to the UK with her family when she was ten years old. She lives in London with her husband Chris, their two children, Paddy and Tilly, and their cocker spaniel Charlie.

Before turning to writing, Sara worked in finance for a decade and then ran her own fashion brand, Madderson London, for eight years. She earned her MPhil in Early Modern History from the University of Birmingham.

Metamorphosis is Sara’s first book. Given that she spent most of her childhood writing and designing clothes, she’s now seen both of her childhood career dreams come true! She’s enjoyed the adventure of publishing independently as much as she’s enjoyed the writing process itself. She’s now completely hooked on writing!

Follow Sara:

Twitter: @saramadderson

Insta: @saramaddersonauthor 

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For more reviews of this fantastic book check out the other bloggers on this tour

Thanks for reading!


The Life We Almost Had by Amelia Henley #BookReview

Hello and welcome to my blog where today I have the pleasure in sharing my review of The Life We Almost Had as part of the Random Things Tours blog tour. Thank you so much to the author and Random Things Tours for my space on the tour and also for my gifted copy of the book.

The blurb …

This is not a typical love story, but it’s our love story.

Anna wasn’t looking for love when Adam swept her off her feet but there was no denying their connection, and she believed they would be together forever.

Years later, cracks have appeared in their relationship. Anna is questioning whether their love can really be eternal when a cruel twist of fate delivers a crushing blow, and Anna and Adam are completely lost to one another. Now, Anna needs Adam more than ever, but the way back to him has life-changing consequences.

Is a second chance at first love really worth the sacrifice? Anna needs to decide and time is running out …

My review …

It’s been a while since I read a good tear-jerker and I was not prepared for the romantic and emotional journey that this book took me on!

Two weeks before Anna’s wedding, she finds out that her cheating fiancé has been having an affair and she dumps him. Devastated, she instead goes on her honeymoon to Alircia in Spain with her best friend Nell to recover. Here they meet Adam and his friend Josh. Adam, who has also recently had his heart broken, sees Anna and falls in love at first sight and although Anna isn’t looking for a new relationship, she can’t help falling right back. They spend a blissful two weeks in Spain before realising that this is not just a holiday romance.

But further down the line, when the passion has faded and the mundanities and harsh realities of life have kicked in, Anna and Adam’s relationship is suffering through lack of communication and feelings of guilt and resentment. But just as Anna is wondering whether she loves Adam enough to work on their problems, disaster strikes.

‘If you love someone set them free’

I loved Anna and Adam’s characters, they were so well drawn and I felt really connected to them. Adam was thoughtful, brave and romantic and I just felt so sorry for Anna. I could feel the sadness surrounding her for most of the book and I was willing her to be more honest and open with everyone. The two best friends Nell and Josh turn out to be fantastic supporting characters – everyone needs a friend like Nell and Josh delivers the humour in this sad story.

I was hooked from the first chapter, the writing is fantastic because there is a sense of foreboding right from the start as well as teasers of what is to come, with so many surprises in the plot that I was completely gripped. I don’t want to give anything away but suffice to say that grief, guilt and communication are major themes running throughout this book and affect most of the relationships within it, be it parental, friendships or marriages, in one way or another.

This is a heart wrenching but ultimately uplifting story and I spent my time reading in various stages of emotion; gasping in horror, covered in goosebumps or with tears rolling down my cheeks. Be warned – you will need tissues!

About the author …

Amelia Henley is a hopeless romantic who has a penchant for exploring the intricacies of relationships through writing heartbreaking, high-concept love stories.

Amelia also writes psychological thrillers under her real name, Louise Jenson. As Louise Jenson she has sold over a million copies of her global number one bestsellers. Her stories have been translated into twenty-five languages and optioned for TV as well as featuring on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestsellers list. Louise’s books have been nominated for multiple awards.

The Life We Almost Had is the first story she’s written as Amelia Henley and she can’t wait to share it with readers.

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For more reviews take a look at these fantastic bloggers

Obviously this is an emotional book and if you require the trigger warnings then feel free to contact me.

Thanks for reading!


Green Hands by Barbara Whitton #BookReview

Today it’s my turn on the blog tour with Random Things Tours for this wonderful story, which is the latest in the Imperial War Museum – Wartime Classics series and was published on 3rd September 2020.

The blurb …

It is 1943, and a month into their service as Land Girls, Bee, Anne and Pauline are dispatched to a remote farm in rural Scotland. Here they are introduced to the realities of ‘lending a hand on the land’, as back-breaking work and inhospitable weather mean they struggle to keep their spirits high.

Soon one of the girls falters, and Bee and Pauline receive a new posting to a Northumberland dairy farm. Detailing their friendship, daily struggles and romantic intrigues with a lightness of touch, Barbara Whitton’s autobiographical novel paints a sometimes funny, sometimes bleak picture of time spent in the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War.

My review …

Green Hands is a fictionalised account of the author’s real life experience as a Land Girl in 1939 and is told from Barbara Whitton’s, or Bee’s, point of view. She tells us the stories of her time working on a farm in Scotland and then onto a dairy farm in Northumberland.

The arduous work and the physical effect on the girls is described in back breaking detail, the weather is mostly awful and their accommodation leaves a lot to be desired, especially when they are in Scotland living and working with the frugal Mr and Mr Thompson. However, everything considered, Bee’s story still comes across as a positive experience as she learns to take pride in her work and proves that women can do a ‘man’s job’.

She writes warmly of the friends she makes, evenings out and witty stories of having to fend off the amorous advances of potential suitors. Bee forms a special friendship with fellow Land Girl Pauline, who is a loveable, clumsy and comical character in contrast to Bee herself who comes across as much more self assured and mature.

It was lovely to read about a different way of life in that era, such as evenings sat listening to the radio, reading and writing letters, the food they ate (lots of tea, bread and jam), the blackout and the proper use of the english language, although it was quite jarring to read the words ‘fat’ and ‘tubby’ so often aimed at the lovely Pauline.

The majority of the book describes working outside and the descriptions of the landscape, animals and nature were absolutely beautiful;

‘The first field of hay is finished … behind him he leaves the broken spears of a vanquished army, their brave plumes broken, and their white bones bleaching in the sun. A host of dying marguerites and clover flowers load the air with the heavy scent of their mortality, and the already laden bees are completely intoxicated’

This book was simply lovely. Intelligently written and completely charming I found myself smiling along as I read all about Bee’s adventures as a Land Girl, as well as being in awe of the strength and determination of these women.

Praise for Green Hands …

“Tales from the home front are always more authentic when written from personal experience, as is the case here. Barbara Whitton evokes the highs and lows, joys and agonies of being a Land Girl in the Second World War.” — Julie Summers

“Witty, warm and hugely endearing, Barbara Whitton s Green Hands is full of engaging characters, burgeoning friendships and pure hard-graft. A lovely novel for anyone interested in wartime Britain, it leaves the reader with renewed admiration for the indefatigable work of the Women s Land Army.” — AJ Pearce

About the author …

MARGARET HAZEL WATSON (writing under the pseudonym Barbara Whitton) was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1921. She was educated at the Church High Girls School in Newcastle, and later sent to St Leonards School in St Andrews. Due to study Art in Paris, her training was curtailed by the outbreak of the Second World War.

Having volunteered for the Women’s Land Army (WLA) in 1939, she worked as a Land Girl for around a year before moving to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) and later joining the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) as a driver, where she remained for the duration of the war. Her novel Green Hands is a fictionalised account of her time spent as a Land Girl, detailing the back-breaking hard work and intensity of her experience with good humour and an enchanting lightness of touch. During her time with the ATS she met her husband Pat Chitty and they were married in 1941. After the war, she wrote a number of accounts of her wartime experience and retained an interest in art, literature and horticulture throughout her life. She died in 2016.

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Thank you so much to Random Things Tours, Imperial War Museum and Angela Martin for my spot on the tour and for my gifted copy of the book.


The Story of Babushka by Catherine Flores #BookReview

I’m pleased to be sharing my review with you on the first day of the book tour for The Story of Babushka by Catherine Flores. Thank you so much to Love Books Tours for inviting me to take part and for my gifted copy of this gorgeous book 🌸

The blurb …

A beautifully illustrated book, with a magnificent story that children and tweens will love.

Babushka wants to find out the meaning of life so she sends her bodies out of the forest and into the world to search for answers. But there is a hurdle to overcome, before all the bodies can reunite and return to the forest forever. 

The babushka doll, also known as a matryoshka or Russian nesting doll, is a traditional Russian toy first made over 100 years ago. The doll has come to symbolise Russian folk culture, as well as the complex and beautiful layers of women. 

Babushka dolls are made of wood and painted in bright colours and patterns. Each Babushka is made in a set of many round dolls each a little smaller than the last. They separate at the middle so that each doll can be placed inside the one before it. There are some Babushka dolls with as many as fifty dolls nested inside her.

This is the story of one very special doll with five bodies that together make the Babushka.

My review …

This book is absolutely beautiful in every way. From the vibrant and enchanting illustrations by Ana Beatriz Marques, to the meaningful and charming story.

The story of Babushka starts when she wants to find out the meaning of life, so each of her bodies leave the forest and go out into the world to see what they can learn:

The outer body, Antonia represents Babushka’s beautiful outer appearance.

Beneath Antonia is Loretta who represents Babushka’s wealth.

Beneath Loretta is Paula who represents Babushka’s talents.

Beneath Paula is Viola who represents Babushka’s wisdom.

And in the centre is Mary who represents Babushka’s heart and inner voice.

Each body finds her own way into the world looking for love, to help people, to find work and to spark her creativity until only Mary is left in the forest. But Mary starts to feel unhappy and realises that she needs to find the meaning in her own life and she sets out on an adventure of her own to reunite her different bodies and they each bring back the lessons that they have learned to make Babushka whole again.

It was lovely reading this book with my eight-year-old daughter and she also really enjoyed the colouring sheets from the author’s website. She loved the pictures of the forest and also the wonderful concept of the story. There were so many important lessons here that we could talk about together, such as the value of friendship, that beauty comes from within and that money cannot make you happy. This book really does make you think about your life, the way we work, the environment we live in and what we are teaching our children about themselves.

I loved this book and the hardback copy is so beautiful it would make a wonderful children’s gift. It really would be a valuable addition to any child’s bookshelf.

About the author …

Since quitting her full-time job at a branding communication agency in Zurich, Catherine has gone on to become a successful freelance designer and a children’s author. She spends most of her time on the small island of Madeira with her family, spending her time growing vegetables in her garden and working for clients from around the world.

She is currently working on the follow up to the 2020 release of “The Story Of Babushka”

Author Social Media Links:











Buy Link: 

YouTube Trailer – – Book Trailer

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Scrublands by Chris Hammer #BookReview

I was very lucky to receive an invite to join in with the Tandem Collective readalong for this fantastic book. A readalong is where a group of bookworms on instagram all get sent a lovely gifted copy of the book and we read it at roughly the same pace over the course of a week. A group message is set up with all the participants and, as we read the book, we can chat about it together, which was great fun as there are some very colourful characters in this story! We also share our thoughts on the prompt cards which are hidden within the pages of the book. At the end of the week we all post our reviews to our bookstagram feeds and lastly we had an event on zoom to wrap up the readalong; there was a quiz and a Q&A with Chris Hammer who also gave us some great recommendations for other books in the bush noir genre. I love taking part in these events, it’s like a virtual book club and Tandem Collective are really lovely to work with, they make everything fun and there is no pressure to stick rigidly to their reading schedule.

So about the book …

The blurb …

In a country town ravaged by drought, a charismatic young priest opens fire on the congregation, killing five men before being shot dead himself.

A year later, journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals don’t fit with the accepted version of events.

Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking discovery rocks the town. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is the one in the spotlight.

Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to uncover a truth that becomes more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town’s secrets stay buried.

My review …

I thought this was a great Australian crime novel which I’ve now learned is a genre known as outback noir or bush noir. I loved the setting and the Australian lingo, but I think I have a soft spot for Australian drama after being brought up watching Home & Away and Neighbours! 

The setting is incredibly atmospheric. The weather is stifling hot and the town is suffering from drought and bush fires. The town and it’s people are struggling following the horrific crime committed by the priest. Many have moved away and shops and businesses are closing and it is described as a ‘town of death’

Martin scarsden arrives at Riversend to write an article on the one year anniversary since the shootings, but he actually goes beyond his journalistic duties and plays a huge part in solving the mystery surrounding the event. I loved Martin’s character, he is laid back and personable but also a complicated character who is struggling to move on from a traumatic event from his past. 

In fact all of the characters in this book are fantastic. They are so original, quirky, contradictory and flawed and I really enjoyed getting to know them all. 

Chris hammer is a great storyteller and his writing just flowed so beautifully and drew me in right from the first chapter. There is a great pace to the story and considering it is a multi-layered mystery I found it easy to follow, whilst still being completely unpredictable.

I really would recommend this book and the Tandem Collective have also, very generously, gifted the sequel to the readalong group. It’s called Silver and it’s out now in the UK and I can’t wait to read it to find out what Martin gets up to next.  

About the author …

Chris Hammer was a journalist for more than thirty years, dividing his career between covering Australian federal politics and international affairs. During the summer of 2008-09, at the height of the millennial drought, Chris travelled extensively throughout eastern Australia researching his non-fiction book, The River, published in 2010 to critical acclaim. The drought, his journey through the Murray – Darling Basin and time spent in the New South Wales Riverina inspired the setting for Scrublands. Chris has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in international relations. He lives in Canberra.

Scrublands purchase link:

Thanks for reading!


The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips #BookReview

Hello and welcome back to my blog where today I am part of The Write Reads blog tour for this weird and wonderful new children’s book from Jack Meggit-Phillips which is published by Egmont on 1st October. Thank you all for having me on the tour and for my gifted e-book 💚 Even more exciting news is that this story is being made into a big budget Hollywood movie by Warner Brothers!

The blurb …

The most exciting new children’s book of 2020 and a modern classic in the making.The Beast and the Bethanyhas all the classic macabre humour of Roald Dahl with the warmth and charm ofDespicable Me, finished off with a gleeful bite ofLittle Shop of Horrors! This book should be on every little monster’s birthday and Christmas list.

Ebenezer Tweezer is a youthful 511-year-old. He keeps a beast in the attic of his mansion, who he feeds all manner of things (including performing monkeys, his pet cat and the occasional cactus) and in return the beast vomits out presents for Ebenezer, as well as potions which keep him young and beautiful. But the beast grows ever greedier, and soon only a nice, juicy child will do. So when Ebenezer encounters orphan Bethany, it seems like (everlasting) life will go on as normal. But Bethany is not your average orphan…

My review …

I really enjoyed this story and it was great to be able to read a book to my eight-year-old daughter that kept us both entertained, but in different ways. I could appreciate the depth of the plot while my daughter was swept away with the humour and gore of the story.

As the blurb explains, Ebeneezer has to feed the beast in his attic all sorts of things and in return the beast vomits out (yes gross, but the kids love it) various items that Ebeneezer wants, including a potion that keeps him forever young. But he has essentially created a monster to feed his own selfish desires, and when the beast demands a child to eat, Ebeneezer is in two minds. He knows that this is probably a step too far, but his vanity and greed gets the better of him and he sets out to find a child for the beast. Ebeneezer eases his conscience by finding the most horrible child he can, but will his plan be as straightforward as he thinks?

Jack Meggitt-Phillips’ writing style is intelligent, witty and enthralling and it draws you into Ebeneezer’s strange little world. The descriptions are so imaginative and appealing to young children, for instance ‘the house was as wide as a dozen elephants’. You can imagine the picture this conjures up, and they will love the gruesome descriptions of the smelly beast and his eating habits. There are also references that might go over a child’s head, but which made me laugh, such as the little suitcase that Bethany finds, I won’t give anything away, but I thought that was genius.

The characterisation is brilliant. Ebeneezer is eccentric and posh while Bethany is feisty and brattish. Both are flawed characters that you just can’t help but like, and it was wonderful to see how the characters grow emotionally and how their relationship evolves throughout the book.

Aside from all the fun and silliness, the story will evoke empathy in children as orphaned Bethany has a very sad backstory, but this is hugely important for a child’s emotional development and why reading with children is so important.

The illustrations are superb and they fit perfectly with the quirky and dark nature of the book. My daughter loved studying them so much that it took a while to get back to reading at times!

The story keeps a great pace all the way through, right up until the exciting ending that will have children on the edge of their seats. This is a fabulously dark and amusing book that kids will love. My daughter and I are looking forward to the release of the movie, as well as the sequel to this book – The Beast and the Bethany 2 – Uncaged!

About the author …

Jack Meggitt-Phillips is an incredibly exciting new talent. He is an author, scriptwriter and playwright whose work has been performed at The Roundhouse and featured on Radio 4. He is scriptwriter and presenter of The History of Advertising podcast. In his mind, Jack is an enormously talented ballroom dancer, however his enthusiasm far surpasses his actual talent. Jack lives in north London where he spends most of his time drinking peculiar teas and reading PG Wodehouse novels.

The illustrator …

Isabelle Follath is an illustrator who has worked in advertising, fashion magazines and book publishing, but her true passion lies in illustrating children’s books. She also loves drinking an alarming amount of coffee, learning new crafts and looking for the perfect greenish-gold colour. Isabellelives in Zurich, Switzerland.

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Emily Knight – I Am Becoming by A.Bello #BlogTour #WeNeedDiverseBooks

I am so pleased to be talking to you about Abiola Bello’s new book, the third in the Emily Knight Series – I Am Becoming, as part of the Blog Tour with publicists Literally PR and Hashtag Press publishers, and my spot on the tour is extra special as it’s also Publication Day!

I was very kindly sent a gorgeous signed copy of this book – just look at that striking cover! Although I’m not reviewing this one just yet, because I want to start reading at the beginning of the series, I wanted to write a blog post about it because I’m so excited by the author and everything that she is doing to promote diversity in children’s reading. And this is EXACTLY the type of book that I want to be reading with my daughters. So, firstly I’ll give you the blurb on the book and then I’ll tell you all about the wonderful author Abiola Bello.

The blurb …

Homecoming. Sacrifice. Family. Fire

The Knights are finally reunited and ready to defeat Neci once and for all. But Neci is one step ahead and is targeting them one by one. When Neci takes one of Emily’s best friends hostage, Emily leads the elite team on a rescue mission but nothing can prepare them for what Neci has planned. 

Book 3 in the best-selling, award-winning, CILIP Carnegie Medal nominated fantasy series.

You can read about the first two books in this series at the end of this post.

‘Emily Knight is back in all her brilliant, brave glory! She’s a fabulously inspirational heroine.’

Joanne Owen, LoveReading4Kids

‘If you haven’t checked out this series for you or your children then WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?’

Popthebutterfly Book Reviews

‘A.Bello represents the long-awaited evolution of diversity in the literature world. Creating a character like Emily Knight who provides YA readers of colour their own heroine to look up to! Really excited about this series!

The British Blacklist

The Emily Knight series is aimed at children around the ages of ten to fifteen years old (and beyond because I can’t wait to read them!) and would be a fantastic book to read in a school setting; there are even classroom discussion questions at the back of the book.

About the author …

Abiola Bello

A. Bello is an award-winning author and publishing entrepreneur, born and raised in London, where she still lives and works.

In 2018, Abiola was named ‘Trailblazer of the Year’ by London Book Fair. Abiola wrote her first novel at the age of eight – when she fought monsters and dragons on a daily basis – and experienced her first taste of ‘being published’ after winning a school poetry competition at the age of 12. Seeing her words in print fuelled a passion for writing that remains to this day. 

The first incarnation of the Emily Knight story can be traced back almost 20 years; Abiola wanted to fill the gaping hole in children’s fiction for an inspirational, strong, black, female, young protagonist. This ‘gap’ in publishing remains in today’s publishing world despite continued calls for more diversity in terms of the authors creating the books and the characters and plot lines within the stories. 

She is the founder of The Lil’ Author School and co-founder of The Author School (shortlisted for The Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2016 and celebrating its fifth birthday in 2020). Abiola is also co-founder of The Diverse Book Awards and Hashtag BLAK. Abiola is regularly asked to contribute to the media; she has been featured in About Time Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Female First, Daily Mirror, BBC1XTRA, The Bookseller, The British Blacklist, Melan Magazine, London Post, and many more. 

Abiola is also a regular at literary festivals and gives talks to children in primary and secondary schools, as well as to young writers and people wishing to get into the publishing business.

You can follow Abiola Bello here:

Make sure to follow the rest of the tour by checking out the other bloggers involved …


The first two books in the Emily Knight series are …

Emily Knight, I Am …

How does it feel to be different and misunderstood? And who cares? Emily Knight is young and famous, self-aware and intelligent. But what if the one thing that makes Emily different also makes her a target for evil? Can she defend herself…and everything she loves?

Emily Knight, I Am Awakened …

Dark times are upon us. Neci is back and she is more dangerous than ever. The warriors are forced to pick a side and to stand up for what theybelieve in. The race is on to find the missing warrior first. It’s the onlyway to prevent a war from happening and to stop Neci fromdestroying everything. Emily Knight has to get sharper, stronger and fasterbecause Neci has made her a target and someone is going to great lengths to hurt her. Can Emily win the race? Or will Neci take her down once and for all?

Thank you so much for reading my blog post and let me know in the comments if you have any more #WeNeedDiverseBooks recommendations!


The Summer of Madness by Alexander Raphael #BookReview

The blurb …

In the summer of love, or rather of madness, a whole set of stories are emerging. But there is one that has got everyone talking. When Kurt Vannes decides to win back his ex-girlfriend with the help of a literary classic, he sets off a string of events that will build to a dramatic finale.

My review …

This is a well written and enjoyable short story. We follow Kurt as he tries every trick in the book to try to woo back his ex-girlfriend Sophia, until his last ditch attempt when he decides to read aloud from her favourite book in public, which garners a lot of attention, judgements and opinions – good and bad. It also has a knock-on effect on members of his audience. Romantic? Maybe. Will it work? Who knows. You’ll have to read it to find out and the moral of the story is – don’t take your loved ones for granted!

About the author …

Half-Welsh, half-Mexican and growing up in London, Alex Raphael was surrounded by different influences and interests. But it was always books that spoke to him most and had the greatest impact.He started writing when at college, where his love of reading evolved into a desire to write, in particular focusing on poetry and short stories. Studying English and American Literature at university meant he took a break from writing, as well as giving him the chance to see more of Mexico on his travels. He concentrated on his journalistic career while working on different writing projects, but his favourite genre of literature has always been short stories as they are what first inspired him to write.That’s why his first book wasThe Summer of Madness, a romantic short story that tells of a guy who goes out to try to win his ex-girlfriend back. Will you be rooting for Kurt and his big public gesture or is it more complicated than that and you don’t want her to date him again? Either way you’ll get to know a memorable set of characters along for the ride.His second bookIllusions, Delusionsreflects Raphael’s love of alternative short stories from the writers of his childhood and challenges the idea of the narrative. Will your favourite be the story in the form of a questionnaire, a poem or a set of jokes, among the seven very different styles?Alex Raphael is currently working on his third collection of short stories, which will provide a wide blend of genres and an assortment of very original premises and distinctive character, with his trademark imagination, humour and memorable dialogue.

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