Review of ‘Death At Castle Cove’ by Mary Grand

‘Death At Castle Cove’ by Mary Grand is set on the picturesque Isle of Wight. Susan’s life revolves around walks in the country with her dog and meeting her fellow dog lovers for strolls along the coastal paths. Her young lodger, Colette, seems to be fitting in well, after a difficult start in life. But when Colette dies in suspicious circumstances, Susan realises that her dog walking pals were the last to see her alive. She has to face the disturbing fact that one of her friends may be responsible. The local police put it all down to an unfortunate accident, but Susan is not convinced. As she looks in to the mystery, she finds out that her friends have much to hide – and one of them must have killed Colette.

I loved the Isle of Wight setting for the story. It was beautifully described and played an integral part in the mystery. I could see why Susan was so keen to stay. She was determined to keep her independence, even as her life became more and more difficult. 

Susan felt compelled to find out what happened to Colette, even when others were encouraging her to back off. She took risks, and I worried for her on more than one occasion. She put herself in potentially dangerous situations. Mary Grand ramped up the suspense perfectly. 

I especially liked how the author gradually peeled back the layers . Layers of secrets and lies. I don’t know how many times I changed my mind about who the killer was. It was so well done, and I didn’t guess whodunnit until the reveal. I really enjoyed it and plan to read more from this author in the future. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Leap’ by O.C. Heaton

‘Leap’ by O C Heaton is a sci-fi thriller, taking in the glacial wastelands of Iceland. Uma has high hopes for her LEAP device. She believes it is the answer to global warming, and tries to persuade billionaire tech giant Ethan Rae to help her launch it. But dangerous playboy Samuel Reynolds III wants it for his own nefarious plans, and the pair find themselves in grave danger. Can they save themselves, and ultimately the whole world? LEAP is too important to fall into the hands of someone like Reynolds, but it will take all they’ve got to defeat him.

I found the idea of the LEAP device enthralling. If such tech existed it would solve so many of the world’s problems. I could see why Uma was so determined to make it work for the good. From the moment she tells Ethan about it, the story is thrilling and full-on excitement. O C Heaton writes in short, impactful chapters, and this makes it all the more powerful. 

Just when you think you know where it’s going, there’s a surprise and a twist. 

It’s a thought provoking story, with so many questions. Questions many of us ask ourselves every day.  It kept my interest throughout. I found it to be well written and compelling. And I’m keen to read the next in the series. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Maid of Steel’ by Kate Baker

In ‘Maid Of Steel’, Kate Baker takes two of the most important historical events of the early part of the 20th Century, and weaves them into a beautiful story. Emma has become involved in the emerging suffragette movement in New York, and looks forward to taking part in an upcoming march in the city. But tragedy changes everything. To recover from a life-changing event, her mother sends her to their ancestral home in Ireland, hoping that the change will also curb her political leanings. Emma meets the quiet and unassuming hotelier Thomas, a man whose unhappy marriage has left him cowed. As Emma settles into life in Queenstown, she befriends Aoife and joins other women in the town as they fight for the vote. Her holiday becomes much more than her mother planned for her, and life will never be the same. 

I liked Emma. Her impressions of Ireland when she arrived took me to the early years of the century, and into the changing lives of the inhabitants of Queenstown. She found the stories told by her grandmother were a lot more complicated than she ever let on. They give her a strength and a determination to live her own life. Emma was feisty and brave and determined to fight for women’s rights. 

The growing loves story is tender and increasingly important. Life doesn’t have to be lived to a plan – especially one determined by other people. But society’s rules were hard to overcome in those days, and the strength to fight would take an enormous leap of faith. Kate Baker pitched it perfectly. 

 The story is set in 1912, and if you know the significance of Queenstown, then it will be thrilling to discover that a significant event of that year will play some part in the story. I was enthralled. ‘Maid of Steel’ was a beautifully written historical story, with an ingenious twist I definitely did not see coming.

I loved it. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Outcast’ by KJ

‘Outcast’ by KJ is a whirlwind of a fantasy adventure story, with lashings of lovely romance thrown in. Talented metalworker, Rhiannon Clarke I having a terrible week. Her identity is stolen and there are some decidedly dodgy thugs on her tail. When she falls through a portal at the back of the laundromat, her week is about to become a whole lot stranger. The land of Bruela is definitely not Melbourne, and the inhabitants insist on renaming her Sevich. Her talent for manipulating metal make her important to them and she must decide if going back home is what she really wants. Especially since she has feelings for Ori, a princess of the realm. 

I liked the world building. It was impressive, and not at all stuffy. There were medieval elements, but it was built on, and the imagined universe was cleverly constructed. Although this was a love story, it was also a fantasy adventure.

With her usual irreverent and down to earth style, KJ took the reader on quite a ride. Sev didn’t take herself seriously and the humour really added to the story. The parallels to some pertinent issues of our time impressed me, and I found the novel thought-provoking. A very enjoyable read.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Stolen Ambition’ by Robyn Nyx

‘Stolen Dreams’ by Robyn Nyx is set in the world of Mexican drug cartels, where escaping the clutches of the drug lords is a dream to which few can aspire. Luca Romera has been betrayed and finds herself trapped on a drug farm, with little prospect of a free life. Marissa Vargas, the beautiful and kind daughter of the cartel boss, has her own reasons for wanting out. But freedom seems just as elusive for her. As the pair become entwined in a fight for survival, they must rely on each other, and hope that they can flee before anyone finds out. Will their growing feelings for each other be enough to keep their dreams alive? And will they ever break free from the desperation and fear of life under Marissa’s evil father?

We can always rely on Robyn Nyx to ramp up the tension, and this story was no exception. The suspense was immense and I couldn’t put it down. She pitched the fear of living under the drug lords perfectly. It was brutal and scary, and individuals meant nothing to those making money from their labour. I could feel the sense of hopelessness in those forced to toil in the fields.

The relationship between Marissa and Luca was intense, emotional, and so passionate. It‘s the best written love story between any of her characters. I’ve read all of her books so far and this tops them all. It felt so real and immersive from the start. Being forced to share a plan for escape pulled the women together, but the attraction was already there, and grew stronger as they fought to survive the carnage.

I also appreciated the various ‘Easter Eggs’ scattered throughout the story. If you’re a fan of lesfic, you’ll pick up on those quickly. A brilliant story I can see myself going back to again and again. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Murder At An Irish Bakery by Carlene O’Connor

Set in County Cork, ‘Murder In An Irish Bakery’ is the ninth in this series, and a very welcome addition. Garda Siobhan O’Sullivan is asked to keep an eye on a reality baking show taking place in an old mill in town. Excitement amongst the villagers peaks when it is revealed a very famous celebrity baker will be taking part. But it’s not all sweetness and light, when the competition show a ruthless determination to win. When one of them dies on day two, Siobhan and her husband, Garda Macdara Flannery, are called to investigate. Can they find out who is behind it all – and can they solve it before anyone else dies?

One thing is sure about this book – you’ll get hungry reading it. I couldn’t help but crave something sweet every time I picked it up. The bakery descriptions are yummy. 

Carlene O’Connor has a wonderful light touch, bringing humour into all of her stories. She weaves a great mystery, making her readers really think. There’s kindness too, and a family feel. I love that Siobhan’s family are part of the story – and the many villagers and colleagues.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘The Lady Of The Loch’ by Elena Collins

‘The Lady Of The Loch’ by Elena Collins is a dual timeline story, set in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. The year is 1307, and King Edward’s army is rampaging through Scotland, murdering and thieving as they try to capture Robert The Bruce. Kitchen maid Agnes flees one of the castles taken over, hoping that the Lord and Lady of Ravenscraig Castle will give her shelter. Dreams of love and a future seem attainable when she spots a handsome young warrior swimming in the nearby loch. But his loyalty to The Bruce may keep them apart as the country fights for independence.

In the present day, twins Zoe and Leah take a chance to change their lives. A job at Ravenscraig Castle is exactly what Leah has been looking for, and Zoe is determined to support her sister. But why doesn’t anyone last working there? Is the rumour of a ghost scaring them off? The women shrug off the stories, and plan to make a success of the opportunity. But the pervading sadness surrounding the castle affects them too. Will they be able to fix a centuries old wrong and bring peace to the castle again?

I enjoyed the supernatural nature of the story, which is subtle and doesn’t overpower. Leah and Zoe feel the intensity of the ghostly sadness and despair, and slowly they realise they may be able to make a difference. It was spooky at times, but it was not scary. 

The dual timeline works well, as it takes us back and forth between Agnes’s life in the 14th century and the present day. Agnes’s life was hard and brutal. She witnessed the horrors of war and could only hope that peace would prevail. That she could find love and make plans for the future was admirable. 

Leah and Zoe’s life plodded along with little excitement. The job at the castle gave them both a chance to experience a different life. It also brought them into the sphere of new people, and that’s exactly what they needed. 

There was a slowly teased out mystery for them to solve as they grew accustomed to their new life. There was tension and suspense, but the overall feeling was of love and determination. A lovely read.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Out of Human Sight’ by Sophie Parkes

‘Out Of Human Sight’ by Sophie Parkes is the story of northern mill worker Millie, and her family, as they struggle with tragedy and its aftermath. When Millie walks in on a bloody scene in her grandfather’s pub, her life is changed forever. Voyeurs come from all over to see where the grisly double murder took place, and the notoriety becomes too much for Millie to bear. 

When charismatic Johnny Barkwell shows an interest in her, Millie jumps at the chance to forget her troubles. His plan to leave for The Canadas and a new life is not what she wants, but women were expected to obey their husbands, and she has no choice. Life on a coffin ship is hard, and surviving in the New World is no easier. Millie will need all the strength she can muster to survive. 

This was a story of resilience, perseverance and sheer grit. Many aspects of Millie’s story would be familiar to many women in the early 1800s. But Millie suffered in ways that few could imagine. The horrors she witnessed, and not knowing who carried out the murders, would haunt her. But she was determined. She needed to know, even if others would rather she move on. She was a strong young woman, and I admired her. 

The historical detail was impressive, and I found myself immersed in the poverty and desperation of the time. It took an amazing amount of courage to survive weeks of hunger and deprivation on a ship. The danger for women was always there too, as they fought to evade the clutches of would-be attackers. 

‘Out Of Human Sight’ was a beautifully written mystery, but was also the story of a brave young woman who refused to be cowed. I loved it.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘The Lumberjills’ by M W Arnold

I’m delighted to be a part of the Blog Tour for ‘The Lumberjills’ by M W Arnold. Stories about the experiences of real people fascinate me, and I learned so much from this novel. I did not know women worked in the forestry service then.

‘The Lumberjills’ is a heartwarming story set during the Second World War. A group of dedicated women join the forestry service in North Yorkshire in 1942, determined to help the war effort. It’s a hard job and one that brings its own dangers. The horrors of war are brought home to them every day, and they will need friendship to get through. 

There’s a camaraderie between the women, and this is so important to their ability to carry on. There’s a genuine feeling of the time and place in history that works so well in this story. MW Arnold shows the pain and unexpected consequences of war. 

There is a strong sense of community and family, and how vital these are when you never know what will happen next. Or when you’ll see someone again.

I enjoyed reading their story and look forward to more from this author. I was given this ARC for review. 

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Review of ‘How To Write A Winning Fiction Book Outline – Cozy Mystery Fiction Workbook’ by Hackney & Jones

This is the second of this series of workbooks that I’ve tried and I must say I’m very impressed.

I have found this particular one so helpful in planning out a cozy mystery novel. The authors have thought of everything. They take the reader through the themes to consider, the most common names, locations and events in a cozy mystery and how to outline your story.

I found the chapter by chapter and scene by scene planning the most useful. It has taken away the mystique behind outlining a novel. I can see me using this and the others in the series again and again.