#Blogtour Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry @jessbarryauthor @HarvillSecker @JazminaMarsh #Don’tTurnAround

Don't Turn Around
Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry Harvil Secker July 30th 2020

Book Synopsis

An addictive, fast-paced thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Perfect for fans of LISA GARDNER and CLARE MACKINTOSH.

‘A novel like razor-wire…part chase thriller, part psychological suspense’ AJ Finn, author of #1 bestseller The Woman in the Window

Two strangers, Cait and Rebecca, are driving across America. Cait’s job is to transport women to safety. Out of respect, she never asks any questions. Like most of the women, Rebecca is trying to escape something.

But what if Rebecca’s secrets put them both in danger? There’s a reason Cait chooses to keep on the road, helping strangers. She has a past of her own, and knows what it’s like to be followed.

And there is someone right behind them, watching their every move...

My Review

Don’t Turn Around was good, in fact it was very good. It was tense, urgent and at times made me feel quite cross and angry, a sure sign that the author had tapped into my emotions, and really made me think about what I was reading.

At the novels heart were two brilliant but flawed women, Cait and Rebecca, both at opposite ends of the economic and social spectrum. Cait, young, a struggling writer, who worked in a bar to make ends meet. Rebecca, beautiful, poised, married to an upcoming politician, with an ice maiden exterior, but something something deeper and vulnerable hidden within.

The reason for their meeting and subsequent road trip was at first subject to conjecture, reasons that swirled around until Barry slowly peeled away the layers and revealed a reason that you couldn’t quite believe.

Barry used the voices of Cait and Rebecca and the characters they encountered to tell the story, enabled us to see the version of events, the reasons from all angles, that gave a balanced viewpoint on the themes raised.

Indeed the themes raised were deep, current and relevant. For Rebecca she had to question, decide how far she was prepared to sacrifice her own happiness and principles and, to some extent her own identity for the love of a man, for the furtherment of his career. Would she allow those around her husband dictate and take away her right to what happened within her own body, make her suffer unimaginable torment and anguish for political gain. As her husband and those around them plotted, strategised I found myself getting angrier and angrier, how dare they assume, belittle, threaten.

For Cait, an article written after a sexual encounter, provoked outrage, but not as you would have thought, as she found herself vilified online and indeed in public. Again Barry provoked thought, the interpretation of sexual experiences from a male perspective wildly different from those of a woman. Who was right, was the old stereotype still in play, a woman’s sexual encounters frowned upon, a man’s seen just as a bit of fun?

As their road trip continued as the danger to themselves increased, you watched as the two wildly different women, found common ground, camaraderie, and renewed strength to believe in themselves, to take control and stand up for what they wanted.

For all its myriad themes, Barry didn’t forget that we were actually reading a crime/psychological thriller. I loved the darkness of their road trip, the glaring headlights in their rear window, the sense of fear, of being watched, of not knowing which one of them was the target. Their resourcefulness was admirable, as they gained strength and confidence from each other, the final encounter surprising, hugely dramatic and tense.

The ending was………. Definitely not for me to say as this is a book I want you to read. A novel where the author balanced her thought provoking and current themes with that of a crime psychological thriller brilliantly.

I would like to thank Harvil Secker for a copy of Don’t Turn Around to read and review and to Jasmine Marsh for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Jessica Barry is a pseudonym for an American author who has lived and worked in London for the past fifteen years. Look for Me, previously published as Freefall, her debut thriller, has sold in more than twenty-two territories around the world and has also secured a major Hollywood film deal.

#Blogtour The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah @SaharMustafah @Legend_Press #TheBeautyOfYourFace

The Beauty Of Your Face bu Sahar Mustafah Legend Press August 3rd 2020

Book Synopsis

Afaf Rahman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, is the principal of Nurrideen School for Girls, a Muslim school in the Chicago suburbs. One morning, a shooter―radicalized by the online alt-right―attacks the school.
As Afaf listens to his terrifying progress, we are swept back through her memories: the bigotry she faced as a child, her mother’s dreams of returning to Palestine, and the devastating disappearance of her older sister that tore her family apart. Still, there is the sweetness of the music from her father’s oud, and the hope and community Afaf finally finds in Islam.
The Beauty of Your Face is a profound and poignant exploration of one woman’s life in a nation at odds with its ideals. 

My Review

This wasn’t quite the book I thought it would be, as I expected the author to concentrate on the aftermath of a school shooting. And perhaps that was the whole point of Mustafah’s book, to challenge our preconceived ideas, the stereotypes we have of situations and people within our society.

It started with the schools shooting, not in your everyday multiracial school but the Nurrideen School for Girls, a Muslim school, its headmistress Afaf, who hid in an old confessional as the shooter ran amok. It was almost as she listened to the screams, to the random shots that she saw as the phrase goes, ‘her life flash before her’. Mutsafah, cleverly looked back, to Afaf’s childhood, to her family and what made her the woman she was today.

It was an utterly fascinating and honest portrayal of the conflict religion can cause, of the comfort and sense of belonging it can give to a person.

Afaf at the outset was just an ordinary young girl of an immigrant family, a family whose roots stemmed from Palestine, who hoped to find riches in the suburbs of Chicago. Their family wasn’t perfect, a mother, who really didn’t want to be there, an older sister, the apple of her eye, a father who worked hard and a younger brother,Majeed. As so often happens a major event can set off a reaction, a future that was perhaps not the one anticipated and so it was that the disappearance of older sister, Nada became the catalyst. Afaf was the onlooker, the one who watched as her family fell apart, a mother who recoiled within herself, a father who turned to alcohol.

Afaf, herself was completely lost, the buffer between her warring parents, a sense of responsibility towards her younger brother. It wasn’t until her father found his own religion, took her to a meeting that Afaf finally found a place she belonged, something that brought her comfort and peace.

Story ended you might have thought, but no for me this is where the real crux of the novel lay. Mustafah didn’t give us the happy ever after, she carefully considered what being a Muslim in America actually meant. Did people still view you the same as everyone else, was there general acceptance and how did it change Afaf’s life.

In so many ways, Mustafah gave us an Afaf who on the one hand found life easier, the rituals, the comraderie a comfort, a place where she finally had friends. Yet outside the confines of the mosque, she was met with scorn, derision, the hajib, the outward facing symbol that marked her as different, foreign, not a true American. The twin towers terrorist attack amplified her difference, all Muslims terrorists, unwanted even if she was a born and bred American.

It was a devastating, thought provoking narrative, the shooting the climax, the representation of true hate, of ignorance. Mustafah was careful to maintain a balance, religion at its heart but also the consequences of our upbringing, the role of the media and those around us, another contributing factor to attitudes, and actions.

The Beauty Of Your Face was an important book, it’s themes serious but Mustafah retained the most important essence of a novel, to tell a story, to immerse the reader in the life of Afaf, a life that will be hard to forget.

I would like to thank Legend Press for a copy of The Beauty of Your Face to read and review and to Lucy Chamberlain for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Sahar Mustafah_photo credit Rebecca Heal

Sahar is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, a richly complex inheritance which she explores in her fiction. She is a member of Radius of Arab American Writers, as well as a 2015 Voices of Our Nation fellow (VONA). She currently writes and teaches in Illinois.
Follow Sahar on Twitter @SaharMustafah

#Blogtour Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver @will_carver @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsBlogtours #HintonHollowDeathTrip

Hinton Hollow by Will Carver Orenda August 6th 2020

Book Synopsis

It’s a small story. A small town with small lives that you would never have heard
about if none of this had happened. Hinton Hollow. Population 5,120. Little Henry Wallace was eight years old and one hundred miles from home
before anyone talked to him. His mother placed him on a train with a label
around his neck, asking for him to be kept safe for a week, kept away from

Hinton Hollow. Because something was coming.
Narrated by Evil itself, Hinton Hollow Death Trip recounts five days in the
history of this small rural town, when darkness paid a visit and infected its
residents. A visit that made them act in unnatural ways. Prodding at their
insecurities. Nudging at their secrets and desires. Coaxing out the malevolence
suppressed within them. Showing their true selves.

Making them cheat.
Making them steal.
Making them kill.
Detective Sergeant Pace had returned to his childhood home. To escape the
things he had done in the city. To go back to something simple. But he was not
alone. Evil had a plan.

My Review

Hinton Hollow was the novel that just kept on giving, its macabre, murderous, and dark subject matter pulled us in to a black hole that at times seemed never ending.

It made me think where and how Carver found his inspiration, what universe his brain flew to when he wrote his novels. If you thought his previous novels were bleak then Hinton Hollow was just as bleak, its narrator, Evil, a genius stroke that burrowed and wormed its way into the minds of the residents of Hinton Hollow.

Hinton Hollow itself, a model of respectability, its inhabitants all known to each other, their lives enmeshed until Carver threw in a human bomb, one that continued to let off timely explosions throughout the pages. Sargent Pace, no newcomer to Carver’s fiction, and to Hinton Hollow, was the man sent back to uncover the culprit of such hideous crimes.

Carver didn’t make it easy, as he gave us glimpses into Pace’s own past, his attempts to reconcile his own wrong doings neatly laid alongside Evil’s actions, actions that became more harrowing and distressing as the novel progressed.

I loved how Carver singled out the various residents of Hinton Hollow, how they all represented varying backgrounds and social dynamics. There were the married couples, trapped in the minutiae and often tedious life of raising children, the young couple embarking on their own wedding and new life, the widowed, the resident lothario, and my absolute favourite Mrs Beaumont. She was the matriarch of the town, revered, old, a woman who could be described as a busy body, with a sometimes unhealthy responsibility to protect the town and its residents.

Of course, Evil was the character of the novel, the little voice that pushed, that whispered to its victims, that drove the narrative, but in my opinion, it had another purpose. I very much thought it was also our social conscience, as it questioned how we viewed others, the jealousies that existed between perceived wealth or happiness. Most importantly it looked at motherhood, the choices we make, the way in which we raise our children, the knock on effect on those children as adults.

Carver brilliantly highlighted the Jekyll and Hyde features of human nature, good versus evil, the surprise that someone is just not who you thought they would be. Indeed, the outcome was a surprise, but on reflection made perfect sense, the ending shocking, disturbing.

Not for me you may think and yes it’s bleak, dark, violent and doesn’t hold back but please do not let that put you off. You cannot not read Hinton Hollow with out admiration for Carver, for his ability to think out of outside the box, to venture where other authors fear to go.

The narrative was exemplary, words used sparsely, sentences short and snappy instilling tension, and fear. But most of all it was crime at its best and for me Carver can do no wrong.

I would like to thank Orenda for a copy of Hinton Hollow to read and review and to Anne Cater for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour

About the author

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series.
He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven,
when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby
contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he
set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and
nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Good Samaritans
was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number
one on the ebook charts.

#Blogtour The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheBigChill

The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone Orenda Books

Book Synopsis

Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver’s shadowy life.
While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter
the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly.
But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears, and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves immersed in an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves?
Fast-paced, darkly funny, yet touching and tender, the Skelf family series is a welcome reboot to the classic PI novel, whilst also asking deeper questions about family, society and grief

My Review

The Skelf women were back and oh how pleased I was to see them. When we first met them they were reeling from the death of Jimmy, husband, father, Grandfather and head of Skelf funeral and Private Investigator business. If that wasn’t enough they were also recovering from the murderous antics of Jenny’s ex husband Craig. Would Johnstone have moved them on and did he have anymore adventures in store for them?

The answers were mixed and Johnstone used the Skelf women’s individual voices, a brilliant tactic Johnstone used to great effect, to delve deep into their individual psyche’s uncovering their own personal anguish and worries.

Dorothy, was as wonderful as ever, caring, compassionate, her thoughts of others before herself. Johnstone still showed her vulnerabilities, often bashed out to the rhythm of her drumming, which still makes me smile as I imagine a seventy plus year old beating her worries away.

Jenny, I wasn’t too sure about, I felt she was still processing events, still unsure of her place and her future and had a long way to go before finding peace.

Her daughter Hannah was, perhaps the most mixed up, the one who needed girlfriend Indy to prop her up, cast adrift in the maelstrom of past events.

So, we had three women all with their problems, and they only grew tenfold as Johnstone opened the novel with one of the most dark, and slightly humourous openings I have encountered in a novel. Who an earth would think of a car crashing into an open grave, resulting in a dead body and the acquisition of a one eyed dog named Einstein, who was, for me, the underlying star of the novel.

If the search for the identity of the dead man wasn’t enough, Johnstone also threw in a missing girl and father, a professor and the ultimate villain of the novel, Craig. Jenny’s ex-husband, Craig, was the ultimate pantomime villain, nice on the outside, cold, calculating and utterly murderous on the inside, a constant pain in the life’s of Jenny, and Hannah. I liked the way he didn’t take up the whole of the novel, just lurked on the sidelines, a volcano that bubbled away until Johnstone chose a time for him to explode across the page,

As the women each pursued their own investigations, it became clear that Johnstone had cleverly matched them to their own personal issues, a way for them to examine who they were, what past events had meant for them and how the future might look. He touched on issues prevalent in today’s society from homelessness, to broken families, the idea that wealth didn’t necessarily mean happiness, and indeed sexuality and the unwillingness of some to accept the path we chose.

For all its seriousness, The Big Chill had those wonderfully dark humorous moments that Johnstone is so good at, the macabre backroom workings of a funeral home, that for me were totally fascinating and the traditional good old private investigations. Johnstone’s ability to balance the myriad plot lines was admirable, with the subtle blurring of lines that built to an unending crescendo that left us slightly hanging, with the knowledge that Johnstone had more instore for the Skelf women.

I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of The Big Chill to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Doug Johnstone is the author of more ten novels, most recently Breakers (2019), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and A Dark Matter (2020), which launched the Skelfs series. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home, which he drew on to write A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

#Blogtour The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually by Helen Cullen @wordsofhelen @MichaelJBooks @sriya_v

The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually
The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually by Helen Cullen Michael Joseph August 8th 2020

Book Synopsis

On an island off the west coast of Ireland, the Moone family are shattered by tragedy.

Murtagh Moone is a potter and devoted husband to Maeve, an actor struggling with her most challenging role yet – being a mother to their four children. Now Murtagh must hold his family close as we bear witness to their story before that tragic night.

We return to the day Maeve and Murtagh meet, outside Trinity College in Dublin, and watch how one love story gives rise to another. And as the Moone children learn who their parents truly are, we journey onwards with them to a future that none of the Moones could predict . . .

Except perhaps Maeve herself.

The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually is a celebration of the complex, flawed and stubbornly optimistic human heart.

My Review

The Truth Must Gradually Dazzled definitely dazzled, with its wonderful narrative and examination of a family built on love and the darkness of mental illness.

The Moone families guiding light was the wonderfully complicated Maeve. On the surface fun, outgoing, a magnet to all around her, but as would be husband Murtagh discovered Maeve had a dark side, one that swallowed her up and dogged her relentlessly.

Cullen’s great skill was her ability to go inside Maeve’s mind, the agony and anguish leapt from the pages, the constant thoughts that she was never good enough both as a wife and a mother. You felt the suffocation of the darkness that often engulfed her, the imaginary brick wall that blocked her means of escape, but you also admired her coping mechanism, the requisite medication thrown out the window in favour of exercise, of busyness. I couldn’t help but feel that Cullen was representing women and, indeed men everywhere, that she truly got to the very essence of mental illness and in some ways it resonated with my own past struggles with mental health. In particular her role as a mother, rang so true, the expectation that it was an all encompassing love and total giving up of oneself, yet you held something back, if only to preserve some form of your own identity, afraid of the dependance another human being had over you.

Murtagh, her husband, was her rock, a man who tried and failed to understand, but accepted her for who she was, gave her the space she needed, loved unconditionally. Cullen showed a man marred by tragedy, almost stuck in a time warp, unwilling to move forward, afraid the wall he built around him would open wounds and feelings he couldn’t deal with.

Cullen gave us their four children, all so wonderfully different, their coping mechanisms varied and with varying degrees of success and failure. It was Nollaig, the eldest, that for me, encapsulated so well the ramifications of tragedy, the responsibility she felt to care for her brothers and sisters, to look after her father. She maintained the status quo, as Cullen showed a woman unwilling to change just in case, as time stood still and you waited patiently for the crash that you knew had to come.

The shift between the past and the present was seamless, the structure of the novel almost like a diary, a catalogue of a family as it navigated life, flash points that sparked events, individual reactions. You sensed it was building towards something as characters dangled over a cliff edge, their fall imminent, and indeed Cullen surprised me, took the novel to somewhere I didn’t see, the hints hidden so carefully.

Now Cullen, could so easily have set this novel in your average, town, city but she chose to take us to the small island of Inis Og. It offered a rugged landscape, the crashing of the sea against the cliffs, the isolation that so perfectly reflected the bleakness of Maeve’s mental health. The small community, lives led in each others pockets magnified the bad times, cast the spotlight on those involved, left them exposed with no place to hide. But it also showcased a community that pulled together, that enjoyed the good times, closed around and protected its inhabitants.

I really did not want to leave Inis Og, or the Moone family, so brilliantly had Cullen, engulfed me in their lives. I admit to shedding tears, to being so moved by one particular scene that I had to take a moment, to put the book down and reflect. It was a novel that resonated, that had feeling and just wonderful storytelling.

I would like to thank Michael Joseph for a copy of The Truth Must Dazzle to read and to Sriya Varadharajan for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Helen Cullen is an Irish writer living in London.

She worked at RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) for seven years before moving to London in 2010.

Her debut novel, The Lost Letters of William Woolf was published by Penguin in July 2018 in the UK, Ireland, Australia and South Africa and published in America by Harper Collins in June 2019. The novel is also available in translation in numerous foreign markets including Italy, Germany, Russia, Greece and Israel where it hit the bestseller charts. The TV option for the book has also been acquired by Mainstreet Pictures.

The first draft of this novel was written while completing the Guardian/UEA novel writing programme under the mentorship of Michèle Roberts. Helen holds an M.A. Theatre Studies from UCD and is currently completing an M.A. English Literature at Brunel University.

Helen was nominated as Best Newcomer in the An Post Irish Book Awards 2018. She is also a contributor to the Irish Times newspaper and Sunday Times Magazine.

Helen is now writing full-time. Her second novel, The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually, will be published in Ireland and the UK on August 20th, 2020 and as The Dazzling Truth in the USA and Canada on August 18th, 2020.

#Blogtour The Shadow Bird by Ann Gosslin @GosslinAnn @Legend_Press #TheShadowBird

The Shadow Bird.jpg
The Shadow Bird by Ann Gosslin Legend Press July 1st 2020

Book Synopsis

Three months into her new role as a psychiatrist at a clinic in New York, Erin Cartwright is asked to evaluate the case of a man who murdered his mother and sisters at the age of seventeen.

Found not guilty by reason of insanity and held in a maximum-security psychiatric facility for twenty-seven years, Timothy Stern is now eligible for release. Upon learning the crime occurred in the same village she once visited as a child, Erin is on the verge of refusing to take the case, when a startling discovery triggers memories she’d rather keep hidden, and a suspicion the wrong man is behind bars.

My Review

There were so many secrets, so much hidden in The Shadow Bird that it was impossible to put the novel down.

You already knew about the brutal murder of the Stern family, but not what supposedly drove Tim Stern to do it. And what about Erin, psychiatrist sent to assess Tim for imminent release from his psychiatric unit? Was she really all she said she was or did she have her own secrets to hide?

Gosslin, in Erin, gave us a complicated character, seemingly a woman who excelled at her job, a career on the up, but that was merely superficial. Gosslin took us deep into Erin’s own psyche as she wrestled with her own demons, small hints of tenuous connections between herself and Tim Stern. It piqued your interest, made you want to understand her own past trauma’s and difficulties, as you urged her on to pull all the various strands together and come up with the answers.

Tim Stern, our perpetrator was Gosslin’s jewel in the novel, so well did she portray a young man completely lost in a living hell. You could tell Gosslin had done her research, her knowledge of his supposed psychiatric condition presented in a scary, but heart wrenching way. You questioned his guilt, a man trapped, not only mentally but physically.

If the novel centred around Erin and Tim it also swirled around the murder of Tim’s mother and sisters. The circumstances confusing, brutal, his father, the friends who hovered at the periphery, as Gosslin gave you a community with a claustrophobic small town mentality everyone somehow connected via school, clubs, and events.

As Gosslin deftly switched between past and present the picture cleared, as Erin risked both her professional and personal life to unearth the truth.

I loved how she pushed the boundaries, as the need for answers outweighed the consequences, and the reader felt the tension, the premise that something had to give, that it wouldn’t necessarily be pleasant for Erin.

Gosslin left the best until last, a dramatic final, a few surprises, but clarity and satisfaction, no loose ends, no need for the reader to read between the lines, to assume.

The Shadow Bird was a fantastic examination of psychiatry, of what drives the human being to commit crime. It also examined the consequences of those involved, of the collateral damage. It was dark, and unsettling, but with chunks of light that provided that perfect balance.

A brilliant debut.

I would like to thank Legend Press for a copy of The Shadow Bird to read and review and to Lucy Chamberlain for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Ann Gosslin.jpg

Ann Gosslin was born and raised in New England in the US, and moved overseas after leaving University. Having held several full-time roles in the pharmaceutical industry, with stints as a teacher and translator in Europe, Asia, and Africa, she currently works as a freelancer and lives in Switzerland.

The Shadow Bird is Ann’s debut novel. Her second novel, The Double, will be published by Legend Press in 2021.

Twitter: @GosslinAnn

#Blogtour Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce #RachelJoyce @DoubledayUK @annecater #RandomThingsTours #MissBenson’sBeetle

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce Doubleday July 23rd 2020

Book Synopsis

It is 1950, two unlikely women set off on a hare-brained adventure to the other side of the world to try and find a beetle, and in doing so discover friendship and how to be their best of themselves. This is quintessential Joyce: at once poignant and playful, with huge heart and the same resonance, truth and lightness of touch as her phenomenally successful debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Britain, post Second World War. I n a moment of madness Margery Benson abandons her sensible job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. She is going to travel to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist.
Enid Pretty, in pink hat and pompom sandals, is not the companion she had in mind. But together they will find themselves drawn into an adventure that exceeds all expectations. They must risk everything, break all the rules, but at the top of a red mountain they will discover who they truly are, and how to be the best of themselves.
This is a novel that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story but it is also about what it means to be a woman and a tender exploration of a friendship that defies all boundaries.

My Review

To say that I loved and adored Miss Benson’s Beetle would be an understatement, I could sing its praises to the high heavens and I will be urging anyone and everyone to read.

What was to like? I have to say the characters, Miss Margery Benson and Miss Enid Pretty, two polar opposites who somehow travelled to the other side of the world, had the most amazing adventure and made a few discoveries about themselves along the way were the stars of the story.

Miss Benson was your typical spinster, large, unfashionable, who lacked self worth, believed the worst about others and herself, and needed that one event to kick start a rebellion and determination to search for a rare golden beetle. As Joyce unravelled her childhood, you felt an overriding sense of sorrow, of a life on hold, and an intense loneliness that emanated from Margery. You could see her internal struggle, her unwillingness to open up, to let another person close, afraid of the hurt and rejection it could unfurl.

Her madcap idea to travel to New Caledonia, felt like her time to shine, to search not only for the golden beetle but also to find out just who she was.

From the assistant interviews, to the mass stockpiling of spam and toilet paper her preparations to travel were at times hilarious, until Joyce ramped up the humour to another level with the arrival of Enid Pretty.

Oh how I loved this character, from the tight fitting pink travel suit, to the blonde coiffed hair, Enid Pretty was a truly inspired creation from Joyce. The images she conjured were beyond anything I have encountered in a long time and I absolutely adored her. Enid came with her own hang ups, and a glorious hint of mystery, a woman who was fleeing from something, but had the most wonderful heart and soul.

The relationship between Margery and Enid was like an never ending roller coaster, from Margery’s exasperation to Enid’s ability to sweep away any negativity, and her street wise commonsense approach that got them out of a few tight spots and encounters.

For all the humour Joyce also injected a more serious side, a side that saw Margery slowly unravel, but in a good way. Joyce used Enid brilliantly as the person who forced Margery to confront her past, to reassess who she was, but also opened up the possibility of friendship, of love not only for others but also herself.

Their journey to New Caledonia was full of incident, the rejected assistant Mr Mundic, fast on their heels, wrapped up in his own hallucinatory hell, as his war experiences pushed his mental state to the limit. It added that extra bit of drama, as you second guessed his purpose and also the consequences of his actions.

The island of New Caledonia was its own wonderful character, the tropical weather, the landscape and the expats that viewed Margery and Enid with such derision.

Their determined search for the elusive golden beetle was suffused with danger, and storms but it also cemented their friendship. The subsequent events were both heart warming and heartbreaking, as Joyce plied us with a myriad of emotions. One minute I was smiling, the next my heart would sink, and I wanted nothing more than for those two glorious characters to have a wonderful, happy outcome.

Joyce’s narrative was brilliant, the imagery superb, Margery and Enid the most amazing creations. In fact the novel is ripe for a drama series, and it would be interesting to see which actors would suit the roles of Margery and Enid.

Miss Benson’s Beetle will undoubtedly be one of my books of the year. Absolutely brilliant!

I would like to thank Doubleday for a copy of Miss Benson’s Beetle to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Music Shop and a collection of interlinked short stories, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Her books have been translated into thirty -six languages and two are in development for film. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book prize and longlisted for
the Man Booker Prize. Rachel was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards ‘New Writer of the Year’ in December 201 2 and shortlisted for the ‘UK Author of the Year’201 4. Rachel was a Costa prize judge and
University Big Read author in 2019.
She has also written over twenty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Bronte novels. She moved to writing after a long career as an actor, performing leading roles for the RSC, the National Theatre and Cheek by Jowl. She lives with her family in Gloucestershire

#Blogtour If Looks Could Kill by Olivia Kiernan @LivKiernan @RiverrunBooks @QuercusBooks @MillsReid11 #IfLooksCouldKill

If Looks Could Kill: Innocence is nothing. Appearance is everything. (Frankie Sheehan 3) - Frankie Sheehan (Hardback)
If Looks Could Kill by Olivia Kiernan Riverrun July 23rd 2020

Book Synopsis

DCS Frankie Sheehan is experiencing a crisis of confidence – having become wary of the instincts that have led her face-to-face with a twisted killer and brought those she loves into direct jeopardy.

She is summoned to the rural Wicklow mountains, where local mother of two, Debbie Nugent, has been reported missing. A bloody crime scene is discovered at Debbie’s home, yet no body. Not only is foul play suspected, but Debbie’s daughter, Margot, has been living with the scene for three days.

Aware her team cannot convict Margot on appearances alone, Sheehan launches a full investigation into Debbie Nugent’s life. And, before long, the discrepancies within Debbie’s disappearance suggest that some families are built on dangerous deceptions, with ultimately murderous consequences.

My Review

You can always rely on Olivia Kiernan to deliver a cracking crime novel, and If Looks Could Kill definitely didn’t disappoint.

DSC Frankie Sheehan was back, her trusted sidekick Baz by her side as they investigated the disappearance of Debbie Nugent. Kiernan took us away from the bright lights of Dublin to rural Ireland, to Wicklow, a town where everyone knew everyone business or so you thought.

You loved the contrast in policing styles as Sheehan and her team swept in to the quiet, low tech, slowness of a rural police station. It’s Sargent Alex Gordon happy to tag along, to get involved, the crime seemingly straightforward, almost locked away. But this is a Kiernan novel, simple and straightforward not something you would associate with her.

She threw questions at Sheehan, little seeds of doubt, as we were submerged into a dangerous web of gang crime, and opposing family factions.

What was the connection, where was Kiernan taking Sheehan and us, the reader?

You were never quite sure who was telling the truth, where the leaks were, and there was the faint tang of corruption that didn’t seem to go away.

Sheehan was like a dog with a bone, relentless, determined in her need to discover the truth. You loved her intelligence, her ability to read people to put the varying clues and strands together, to put herself on the line, even if that meant failure.

Kiernan pulled us along, moved us into Sheehan’s headspace as you moved in step with the investigation, the fear tangible, as the need for answers hastened your reading. You read as the various characters manoeuvred themselves into position, the need to protect others and ultimately themselves. I loved the interplay between Sheehan and Sargent Alex Gordon, the cat and mouse games she played with the various players, as she placed herself in imminent danger.

The latter parts had you on the edge of your seat, Sheehans nerves pulled as tight as string as she did what she did so well, going out on a limb, willing to take a risk.

Kiernan’s narrative was as brilliant as ever infused with intelligence, the plot lines never over done, but based in reality, the use of poetic licence done with great skill.

I always feel hugely satisfied after reading Kiernan’s novel and Kiernan should feel equally satisfied and happy that this reader thoroughly enjoyed If Looks Could Kill and cannot wait for the next instalment.

I would like to thank RiverEun for a copy of If Looks Could Kill to read and review and to Milly Reid for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

Who is Olivia Kiernan?

Olivia Kiernan is an Irish writer. In a previous life, she completed a diploma in anatomy and physiology then a BSc in Chiropractic before she succumbed to the creative itch and embarked on an MA in Creative writing. In 2015, she began writing Too Close to Breathe, a crime thriller that was published in 2018 and features Dublin detective, Frankie Sheehan.

The second in the series The Killer In Me was called a “captivating new thriller” by the Wall Street Journal, “a high-stakes noir page-turner” by Bookpage.com and “a nail-bitingly good read” by Mystery Scene. The third in the DCS Frankie Sheehan series will be released July 2020.

#Blogtour To Dare by Jemma Wayne @writejemmawayne @Legend_Press #ToDare

To Dare_High Res cover.jpg
To Dare by Jemma Wayne Legend Press July 1st 2020

Book Synopsis

Veronica and her wealthy husband George are unpacking boxes, hoping a fresh start in their newly refurbished Victorian terrace will help them heal from a recent trauma.
Next door, Simone returns to her neglected council flat. Miserable and trapped, she struggles to take care of her children under the watch of her controlling husband Terry.
When childhood friend Sarah re-enters Veronica’s life, things are thrown even further off balance. As tensions in their own lives rise, the painful memory that binds them threatens to spill into their present.
Three lives collide in this story of family, inequality and revenge.

My Review

I absolutely loved To Dare, with its fantastic characters, themes and a narrative that was just brilliant.

So what about the characters? Veronica, married to George, well off, a teacher who lacked the one thing she most desired, a child. Straight away Wayne made us feel empathy, an empathy that only deepened as their luxury refurbished home soon became beset with nightly loud music, and noise from their new neighbours.

Yet, as we know, people are not always as they sermon the surface as Wayne gave us a glimpse into a woman who endured an unhappy, lonely childhood. Way e managed to grasp Veronica’s need to belong somewhere, to have that closeness of a normal everyday family, not one where parents left you in boarding school or supposed friends during holidays. We saw Veronica’s flipside, manipulative, and bitchy as she pushed her supposed best friend to her limits.

Sarah seems to have it all, perfect upbringing, perfect husband and children, yet Wayne a woman who harboured a deep psychological hurt and grief one that threatened to upend everything she had.

Wayne’s interactions between Veronica and Sarah were superb, from childhood friends to their renewed relationship in adult life. You could feel the palpable tension, the sceptisim each had of the other, the fear felt by Sarah as opposed to the jealousy and need to destroy from Veronica.

But Wayne didn’t stop there as she threw in another character, Veronica’s neighbour Simone. She was everything Veronica and Sarah were not, downtrodden, trapped in an abusive controlling relationship, unable to protect her two children. Hers was a past of drug abuse, of making do, unable to see a way out of her predicament. I loved how Wayne used her as a tool within the novel, the conscience that sat on Veronica’s shoulder, that diverted attention, that events slowly spun around.

As each of the three women alternately told their story you couldn’t help but become completely immersed, your mind whirling as you tried to work out how each would find peace and closure on their present life’s.

To Dare was a brilliantly, intelligent read and one I will remember for some time to come.

I would like to thank Legend Press for a copy of To Dare to read and review and to Lucy Chamberlain for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to a participate in the blogtour.

Who is Jemma Wayne?

Jemma Wayne.jpeg

Jemma Wayne is the author of two previous novels: After Before and Chains of Sand. She has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and shortlisted for both The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize and the Waverton Good Read Award.

Jemma’s journalism has appeared in The Spectator, National Geographic, The Huffington Post, The Evening Standard, The Independent on Sunday, Red Magazine, The Jewish Chronicle and The Jewish News, among others.

Born to an American musician father and English mother, Jemma grew up in Hertfordshire and lives in North London.

Twitter: @writejemmawayne

#Blogtour Spirited by Julie Cohen @julie_cohen @orionbooks @Leanne_oliver1 @annecater #RandomThingsTours #Spirited

Spirited by Julie Cohen Orion July 9th 2020

Book Synopsis

Three women carry unspeakable truths in their heart. At what cost will they find their freedom?

In Victorian England, Viola is an amateur photographer struggling with the grief of her father’s death and the sterile atmosphere of her marriage to her childhood friend, Jonah. When she discovers a talent for capturing ghostly images on camera, Viola comes to the attention of a spirit medium, and a powerful attraction between the two women is sparked… As each woman puts herself at risk, secrets are brought to light that will change their lives forever.

Driven by passionate, courageous female characters Cohen explores themes of sexuality, gender and prejudice, firmly establishing her as one of our best storytellers.

My Review

There was so much to Spirited it was hard to know where to start. What I will start with is the characters, Viola and Henriette, two women in Victorian England, where men ruled the roost, knew what women needed and what they should doing.

Viola, grief stricken after her Father’s death was fragile, vulnerable and what better place for her to find solace, comfort and stability than marriage to childhood friend Jonah. But what if Jonah was also troubled, nursed a heartache he could confide in no one. Cohen left us in no doubt of their sense of duty to Viola’s dead father, to carry out his wishes, but portrayed a marriage that whilst it had love, had no passion as Viola and Jonah pushed a wedge between them, pulled further and further apart. You could sense their need to maintain respectability as they made a new home on the Isle of Portland.

I have to confess they frustrated me, but I knew it was the Victorian way and it wasn’t until Henriette’s arrival that I knew somehow Cohen would make us and them begin to question their situation.

Henriette was the complete opposite to Viola, outgoing, colourful, a woman who defied the confines of the society she lived in. Did I like her? Not at first, as Cohen described her humble beginnings, from poverty, life as a maid, who used her intelligence and a need to better herself, to attain what the people she served had got.

Henriette’s occupation as a spiritualist I found extremely interesting, and Cohen had obviously done her research. The trickery, the intense feelings and ambience she created were brilliant as were the reactions of her audience. You had to ask yourself if you agreed with her motives, her wilful deceptions, and it wasn’t until she encouraged Viola to restart her photography and a chain of events that you had the sense there was something more than mere financial gain for Henriette.

Cohen cleverly used her narrative to unravel her characters, and you silently cheered as Viola became stronger, more resilient as she realised she didn’t have to settle for what she had, that happiness could be hers. Henriette seemed to find something she had always found lacking, and I found I began to like and indeed admire her.

What I didn’t like was the stuffy attitude of the men, men out to safeguard their own standing, determined to put women in the corner, destroy their reputations at any cost. And it wasn’t just England, as through the eyes of Jonah, Cohen transported us to India, and the lack of education denied to women, their place very definitely in the home.

Themes of British imperialism, the need to quash the culture of those it ruled, the disrespect and sheer self importance were stark, and made you feel slightly ashamed.

Cohen didn’t stop there, the realities of forbidden love, of same sex love drifted in, never in your face but subtle and understated.

How would it all unravel, what would be the outcome for Viola, Henriette and Jonah. Would Victorian society quash their rebelliousness, their feelings or would they be brave and strong and fight for what they truly wanted?

All questions Cohen answered in a novel that featured wonderful characters, interesting thought provoking themes and a compulsive immersive narrative that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I would like to thank Orion for a copy of Spirited to read and review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.

About the author

Julie Cohen grew up in the western mountains of Maine. Her house was just up the hill from the library and she spent many hours walking back and forth, her nose in a book. She studied English Literature at Brown University and Cambridge University and is a popular speaker and teacher of creative writing, including classes for the Guardian and Literature Wales. Her books have been translated into fifteen languages and have sold over a million copies; DEAR THING and TOGETHER were Richard and Judy Book Club picks. Her most recent novel is the critically acclaimed LOUIS & LOUISE. Julie lives in Berkshire with her husband, son and a terrier of dubious origin.
You can find Julie on Twitter: @julie_cohen or you can visit her website: http://www.julie-cohen.com.