#BookReview CHRISTMAS WITH THE SURPLUS GIRLS by POLLY HERON @Polly_Heron



ABOUT THE BOOK


Nancy Pike is out of her depth. A pupil at the Miss Heskeths’ school for surplus girls, she’s blundering through her lessons and her job placements. She never wanted to leave her beloved pie-shop job, but she knows she needs to better herself. Her only joy is getting to know the children at St Anthony’s orphanage. And working for Mr Zachary Milner twice a week.

Zachary’s new business is off to a flying start. Alone in the world since the death of his brother, he’s determined to do well for the both of them. And Nancy’s presence has brought a little sunshine back into his life. But when she makes a terrible mistake that puts his livelihood in jeopardy, he has no choice but to let her go.

As Nancy struggles to find a way to make it up to him, she must also try to make this Christmas the best the orphans have ever seen – or risk losing yet another chance to help her family. As she battles the prejudices around her, and her own fear, can she bring a little Christmas cheer to the orphanage, and maybe even to Zachary Milner?


PUBLISHED BY CORVUS

PURCHASE LINK


Amazon £7.64

WHSmith £6.55

MY REVIEW

The Surplus Girls are back with a fabulous festive offering (can be easily read as a standalone!), and it was just wonderful to be back with old friends again to see what life is throwing their way and how acts of support and compassion carry them all through, amidst some twists and turns.

This book features the story of Nancy, but does feature previous characters so it’s always brilliant to catch up with their lives and see how things are panning out – especially when there’s good news to be shared!! sshhh no spoilers!

Nancy is a great character as she is fairly settled working at the local pie shop, but her father wants more for her so she is sent to the local business school, run by Miss Hesketh, and it’s fair to say she doesn’t settle in too well! But life begins to fall into place for her when she is given a job at the local orphanage and she really shines as a young woman amongst the children. I fell in love with Nancy as she is one of those characters who always gives of her best, even if things don’t always work to plan!

There’s always a villain to despise in this series, and the character to boo in this story is another evil creation! The supporting cast of characters always help bring a great depth to the story and add so many layers of interest to the goings on of the time and issues that people were facing.

The real strength of these books are the characters and the empathy you feel for them on a number of levels. They were all doing their best for their families despite the many pressures of the day and it really brings home that warm feeling as you read their tales and it’s just another wonderful addition to a super series!

★★★★★

#BookReview THE SURPLUS GIRLS’ ORPHANS by POLLY HERON @CorvusBooks @SusannaBavin

ABOUT THE BOOK

Manchester, 1922

Molly Watson has had enough. Engaged for the last three years to a penny-pinching pedant, she finally decides she’d rather be a ‘surplus girl’ than marry a man she doesn’t truly love. Aware of the need to support herself if she is to remain single all her life, Molly joins a secretarial class to learn new skills, and a whole world opens up to her.

When she gets a job at St Anthony’s Orphanage, she befriends caretaker Aaron Abrams. But a misunderstanding leaves them at loggerheads and damages her in the eyes of the children she has come to care about so deeply. Can Molly recover her reputation, her livelihood and her budding friendship before it’s too late?

PUBLISHED BY CORVUS

AUTHOR WEBSITE

PURCHASE LINKS

AMAZON


MY REVIEW

The second book in The Surplus Girls series, and another brilliant storyline that centres around the women after the war and the expectations that were placed on them by their family and society, no matter what their own hopes and dreams were!

Molly is the main character in this book and she has a spirited story to tell. She is back working at the local sweet shop and engaged to a man whose behaviour will leave you aghast as it did me! But it was the respectable thing for her to do, to tow the line, to marry, to become a mother.. so when Molly decides she wants more for herself it really is frowned upon.

I loved her determination so she sets out to improve her education and prospects and ends up working at the local orphanage, where a whole other set of emotional circumstances let you see another side of life at the times. The story of some of the children -especially Danny – is enough to break your heart and as Molly spends more time with them, along with Aaron the caretaker, they open others’ eyes to the plight of these children and to ‘think outside the box’, so to speak, in how to get through to them and make their lives better.

Molly is a really wonderful character, especially in the era the story is set in. She has a belief in herself and she doesn’t just want to settle for the norm! She wants choices and a future and seeing how others perceive her because of these decisions is quite enlightening and makes you cheer her on even harder!

A wonderful read and highly recommended!

★★★★★

My thanks to the author and publisher for the advanced reader copy, in return for a fair and honest review.

#BookReview THE TEMPLE HOUSE VANISHING by RACHEL DONOHUE #TheTempleHouseVanishing @ThePigeonHoleHQ

ABOUT THE BOOK

Twenty-five years ago, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl and her charismatic teacher disappeared without trace…In an elite Catholic girls’ boarding-school the pupils live under the repressive, watchful gaze of the nuns. Seeking to break from the cloistered atmosphere two of the students – Louisa and Victoria – quickly become infatuated with their young, bohemian art teacher, and act out passionately as a result. That is, until he and Louisa suddenly disappear.Years later, a journalist uncovers the troubled past of the school and determines to resolve the mystery of the missing pair. The search for the truth will uncover a tragic, mercurial tale of suppressed desire and long-buried secrets. It will shatter lives and lay a lost soul to rest.The Temple House Vanishing is a stunning, intensely atmospheric novel of unrequited longing, dark obsession and uneasy consequences.


PUBLISHED BY  CORVUS


PURCHASE LINKS


Amazon  £12.99

hive.co.uk  £10.55

whsmith  £10.65

MY REVIEW


I read this via the Pigeonhole app.

This was a dark, unsettling slow burn of a read that really explores the complexities of obsessive love and teenage girls. How growing up can be so tangled and traumatic, and how the art of love can cloud the judgement of those involved.

The story centres around a school where a teacher and young student went missing 25 years ago and the scandal has never really died down. So when a journalist gets the chance to investigate the story a little deeper, even she isn’t prepared for what she’s about to find out.

The story is also told from the viewpoints of the girls from the elite Catholic boarding school – Louisa and Victoria – who were involved at the time with the art teacher Mr Lavelle and his influence on them and other girls under his ‘charge’. This was always the unsettling part of the story for me – a teacher taking advantage of his position, knowing full well that the young girls were battling with their own identities and feeling vunerable. The more you read into the story though, the more you understand just how vindictive and manipulative that teenage girls can be!!

With the mystery into the whereabouts of the teacher and student being told slowly, we get to hear how the events affected everyone then and now – how they were seduced by personalities, probably in rebellion to the strict rules imposed on their day to day life at the school. This art teacher gave them the chance to express themselves more – some may have just taken that a little too literally!

I did find the ‘to and fro’ way of story telling a little confusing at times, and that may have affected my ability to connect more with these characters. They came across as quite heartless and that made it difficult to bond with them, but maybe that was their age showing and it was all just a front to save themselves from hurt. They were quick to put up walls to protect themselves when needed and that was how they dealt with the world around them. None of them wanted to appear vunerable as others would have taken advantage of that fact.

The viewpoint of the journalist was an interesting aspect – she had a vague connection with one of the girls and the area so that helped her delve a little deeper than others had gone, and she often seemed shocked by what she found out. Looking back at life at the school between the girls just goes to show how vicious young women can be – girls are evil!!! But they thought they were in love! They were deluded and their powers of rational thought had long gone so the consequences often proved to be more brutal than they should have been.

An interesting study of characters and a brooding read!


★★★

#BookReview THE SURPLUS GIRLS by POLLY HERON

ABOUT THE BOOK

After the loss of war, can there be hope for the future?
Manchester, 1922.

Belinda Layton is a surplus girl. One of the many women whose dreams of marriage perished in the Great War, with the death of her beloved fiancé, Ben. After four years of mourning, she’s ready to face the future, even though Ben’s family is not happy to see her move on, and her own only cares about getting hold of her meagre factory wages.

Then, Belinda joins a secretarial class and a whole new world opens up to her as she quickly finds herself drawn to beguiling bookshop owner Richard Carson. But after all the loss and devastation she has experienced, can she really trust him with her heart?

PUBLISHED BY CORVUS

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK

hive.co.uk

Whsmith 

MY REVIEW

This is the first in a trio of sagas set in the 1920’s and what a way to start! Full of inspiring female characters and a great way to look back at a time in history when women were being written off as ‘surplus girls’ as they’d lost their husbands or fiancees in the Great War.


Belinda is the surplus girl, who is in her 4th year of grieving for her beloved Ben. As she reaches her 21st birthday she is finding life tough working at the mill, under the extremely creepy and vile Mr Butterfield, and starts to want a little more from life. All her plans for life with Ben are gone, so she wants to start taking care of herself and signs up for a secretarial course which promises to give her more of a future and won’t need to rely on anyone else.


Running the secretarial course are Patience and Prudence, 2 more wonderful characters, who come up with the brilliant idea of training young girls, in a way to ensure they don’t lose their house. They’ve seen how things are difficult for these young women and I just loved how smart/devious (!) they were in getting their plans put into action!


As Belinda begins a work placement in a local bookshop, she gains so much confidence in herself and is beginning to see there might be a life after Ben, although she is still very much beholden to people around her – her own family rely on her financially, and she never shirks from that responsibility, and Ben’s family are still very much grieving and expect her to keep doing the same without realising that she cannot grieve forever.


I really enjoyed the issues within this story – the pressures and expectations women were having to deal with at the time in history and how difficult times led people to desperate measures. The women in this story were some really impressive characters who were very hardworking and didn’t let situations get on top of them.

★★★★★

My thanks to the author and publisher for the advanced reading copy in return for a fair and honest review.

#BlogTour The Serpent’s Mark by S.W.Perry #bookreview #randomthingstours #TheSerpentsMark @CorvusBooks @swperry_history

Extremely delighted to be the latest stop on the fabulous blog tour for THE SERPENT’S MARK by S.W.PERRY – my thanks to the author, publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for putting it all together and letting me be part of it all to share my thoughts!

ABOUT THE BOOK

A smart and gripping tale of conspiracy, murder and espionage in Elizabethan London, ideal for fans of CJ Sansom, Rory Clements and SG MacLean.

Treason sleeps for no man…

London, 1591. Nicholas Shelby, physician and reluctant spy, returns to his old haunts on London’s lawless Bankside. But, when the queen’s spymaster Robert Cecil asks him to investigate the dubious practices of a mysterious doctor from Switzerland, Nicholas is soon embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens not just the life of an innocent young patient, but the overthrow of Queen Elizabeth herself.

With fellow healer and mistress of the Jackdaw tavern, Bianca Merton, again at his side, Nicholas is drawn into a dangerous world of zealots, charlatans and fanatics. As their own lives become increasingly at risk, they find themselves confronting the greatest treason of all: the spectre of a bloody war between the faiths…

Published by Corvus Books

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK  £11.74

hive.co.uk  £11.69

Goldsboro Books – signed, first edition £14.99

Praise for The Serpent’s Mark

“No-one is better than S. W. Perry at leading us through the squalid streets of London in the sixteenth century.” – Andrew Swanston

“The writing is of such a quality, the characters so engaging and the setting so persuasive that, only two books in, S.W. Perry’s ingeniously plotted novels have become my favourite historical crime series.” – S G MacLean

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

S. W. Perry was a journalist and broadcaster before retraining as an airline pilot. He lives in Worcestershire with his wife.

MY REVIEW

Nicholas and Bianca are back and I adored spending time with them both again as they’re thrust into the world of espionage, conspiracy and murder once more!  Set in the 16th Century, the sights and sounds are brought thrillingly to life by the writing of S.W.Perry and I’m already eager to escape back into their world if this fabulous series continues!

There is a slow start to this book as the scene is being set of the changing times of Elizabethan England – the history, the politics, the religion – and all this against the backdrop of Dr Nicholas dealing with the grief that has consumed him after losing his family.  When he is summoned back to London he has to explain his conduct to Robert Cecil , who sets him out to ‘investigate’ an overseas physician and with the distrust of foreigners that was gripping the country at the time, this request doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary for Nicholas, although he is well aware of Cecil and his dodgy background.

Bianca has been continuing to live and work in London while Nicholas had gone to ground, and she’s now a licensed apothecary but the appearance of a cousin from overseas, and a brutal attack on him brings her back into trying to figure out what he might have been involved in and has her in the thick of the action.

The strength of these  characters is that they can conduct their own investigations independent to one another, but still combine their inquisitiveness when needed! They trust one another implicitly and that clearly comes through when they’re facing tough and bleak times.

I loved the attention to detail throughout, the look behind the politics of the time and the lengths people would go to get their own way for what they saw as the greater good.  It was rather graphic at times too which just added to the reality of the brutal treatments used at the time by those with rather unpleasant intentions.

An intoxicating, gripping,  and thrilling piece of historical fiction – more please!!!

★★★★★

#BookReview The Silver Road by Stina Jackson #TheSilverRoad

About the book

Three years ago, Lelle’s daughter went missing in a remote part of Northern Sweden. Lelle has spent the intervening summers driving the Silver Road under the midnight sun, frantically searching for his lost daughter, for himself and for redemption.

Meanwhile, seventeen-year-old Meja arrives in town hoping for a fresh start. She is the same age as Lelle’s daughter was – a girl on the brink of adulthood. But for Meja, there are dangers to be found in this isolated place.

As autumn’s darkness slowly creeps in, Lelle and Meja’s lives are intertwined in ways, both haunting and tragic, that they could never have imagined.

Published by Corvus

Purchase Links

hive.co.uk £10.55

waterstones £12.99

W H Smith  £9.35

MY REVIEW

I found this to be a totally absorbing and haunting story that was so deftly written that you could really sense the tension and angst of the characters throughout.

Lelle is a teacher and father who is haunted by the disappearance 3 years ago of his beloved daughter who he’d dropped off on The Silver Road to catch a bus – she never did and nobody has seen her since.  His desperation to find his daughter has caused the breakdown of his marriage, but he refuses to give up and constantly drives round the local area looking for clues or a suspect.

Meja is a young girl who has moved to the area with her mother Silje, but Meja is more sensible and responsible than her mother is and that pressure is getting to her, so when she is shown interest and kindness from Carl-Johan, whose family live nearby, her head is turned and all she can think of is him.  It’s not long before she moves to where his family are – and to say they’re a little odd is putting it mildly.  They are survivalists and trust nothing the government or authorities say, and they’re very happy to live in this closed off world.  Even Meja has to give up her phone when she moves in with them.

Lelle is Meja’s teacher so they form a bond through school and he can’t help to feel protective towards her especially when her own mother doesn’t seem to bothered.  Maybe he feels he needs to look out for Meja because he couldn’t do more for his own daughter.  He feels frustrated at the police for not investigating her disappearance more and lives in a constant state of alert – his only purpose is to find out what has happened to his daughter.

From the setting to the storyline, I found this story to be one that was both beautifully written and well staged.  It was never rushed or too elaborate, and the slow burn of a couple of storylines really put doubt in your mind as a reader as to what could have happened and how such a disappearance affects the family left behind and the lengths some may go to in seeking out the truth.  A fascinating and gripping read.

🌟🌟🌟🌟

I read this via The Pigeonhole app

#BlogTour A Sacred Storm by Theodore Brun #GuestPost #ASacredStorm

sacred cover

Hugely delighted to be the latest stop on the Blog Tour for this stunning book! My thanks to the author, publisher and Anne of Random Things Through My Letterbox for giving me the opportunity to take part!  And it is also a pleasure to be hosting a guest post where the author will share his five favourite books! A topic that always gets those of us of a bookish nature excited and worried as to what books make the final list!!

Here’s a little more about the book!

Forged in fire. Bound by honour. Haunted by loss.

Published by CorvusHardback, £17.99

June 2018 | Historical Fiction

A brilliantly conceived Viking epic set in eighth-century Sweden.

8th Century Sweden: Erlan Aurvandil, a Viking outlander, has pledged his sword to Sviggar Ivarsson, King of the Sveärs, and sworn enemy of the Danish King Harald Wartooth. But Wartooth, hungry for power, is stirring violence in the borderlands. As the fires of this ancient feud are reignited Erlan is bound by honour and oath to stand with King Sviggar.

But, unbeknownst to the old King, his daughter, Princess Lilla, has fallen under Erlan’s spell. As the armies gather Erlan and Lilla must choose between their duty to Sviggar and their love for each other.

Blooded young, betrayed often, Erlan is no stranger to battle. And hidden in the shadows, there are always those determined to bring about the maelstrom of war…

‘A masterly debut. … If Bernard Cornwall and George RR Martin had a lovechild, it would look like A Mighty Dawn. I devoured it late into the night, and eagerly await the sequel.’

Antonia Senior on A Mighty Dawn

 ‘Evocative prose and the brutality of the Viking world, it’s all here, woven with a deft touch into a tremendous tale.’ Giles Kristian on A Mighty Dawn

Purchase Links

Amazon UK  –  £14.58

Hive.co.uk  –  £13.35

Book Depository  –  £14.58

theo

Theodore Brun studied Dark Age archaeology at Cambridge, where he graduated with a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology and an MPhil in History.  He also rowed in the Boat Race for the university.  Professionally, Theodore qualified and worked as an arbitration lawyer, in London, Moscow, Paris and finally Hong Kong.  In 2010, he quit his job in Hong Kong and cycled 10,000 miles across the whole of Asia and Europe (crossing 20 countries) to his home in Norfolk. Theodore is a third generation Viking immigrant – his Danish grandfather having settled in England in 1932.  He is married and divides his time between London and Norfolk. Sacred Storm is his second novel.

 Praise for Theodore Brun

‘[The first of a] very fine historical, fantasy series.’

Nudge on A Mighty Dawn

‘Weaving together history, fantasy and myth like the Norns twining the threads of fate in A Mighty Dawn, Brun has created an excellent debut and a top quality read.’

The Tattooed Book Geek on A Mighty Dawn

‘A truly impressive debut that hints at a much larger story still left to be told. This novel has the potential to be an epic tale to rival the sagas of the ages.’ The Eloquent Page on A Mighty Dawn

‘Brun has a knack for describing combat… Very much in the vein of Bernard Cornwell’s Warrior Chronicles, a warrior’s battles are never done, at least, not whilst he still possesses the strength to swing his sword.’

Bookbag on A Mighty Dawn

And now over to Theodore for his Five Favourite Books!!   

 

1) A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: Best opening and ending of any book I’ve read. With my favourite scene as well. I first encountered this as an audiobook cycling across China. I wept like a child at the ending. 

 

2) Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Pure genius. I’m the middle of three brothers. This family scarily resembles my own. I found so much wisdom in this book. I first read it when I was living in Moscow, which helped. 

 

3) Flashman in the Great Game by George MacDonald Fraser: A brilliant story. GMF has undoubtedly the most original and entertaining voice I’ve ever read. The Flashman series sparked my love of history, and also gave me the first glimmer of a pipe-dream: that one day I would like to write. 

 

4) The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton: This book is dynamite and an incredible achievement. An outline of history that no one has matched. 

 

5) The Bible: I’ve read it several times. There’s a reason they give this away on Desert Island Discs. You can never come to the end of it. It reads you. 

 

sacredtour