book review · dual timeline · historical fiction · romance · WWII

Book Review – The Secret Notebook

A page-turning, emotional WW2 novel for fans of Barbara Taylor Bradford, Lucinda Riley and Kathryn Hughes

A view to the past…

When Izzie Dean’s beloved nan, Molly Blackshaw, passes away, Izzie returns to the Blackpool bungalow where she grew up, to say goodbye once and for all. When Izzie’s homecoming reunites her with her first love, Justin Swift, every emotion that Izzie has repressed since the day he broke her heart comes rushing to the surface. But then an unexpected discovery changes everything.

Between the pages of the battered secret diary Molly kept during WWII, Izzie discovers a story of love, heartbreak, and the incomparable hardship of life in a world at war. Reading her grandmother’s words soon puts her own story into perspective, and suddenly Izzie realises that the only thing holding her back from happiness, might be herself. Now she just has to convince Justin that they deserve a second chance at forever…

Readers are loving The Secret Notebook:

I loved this book from beginning to end! I couldn’t put it down’ Laureen

A truly lovely, sweet and romantic story…A gorgeous, relaxing read’ Jenn

‘An excellent and heart-warming read filled with love, secrets, betrayals, and growth’ Etta

‘Made me feel very nostalgic for the place I grew up in’ Ruth

‘A great read that should be at the top of your summer book list’ Meredith

‘A beautiful story, I loved every word!’ Laura

Purchase Link

My Review

The Secret Notebook tells two love stories that despite parallel themes are separated over time. Following the death of her writer husband, Rufus, Izzie has returned to her Nan’s former home in Blackpool with whom she had a very close relationship. As she sets about doing the place up so she can sell it, she finds her nan’s notebook hidden away in her old attic bedroom. Nan Molly’s notebook is filled to the rafters with diary entries, letters, photos and a zillion other memories written during the war years and telling her love story with Jack.

Molly’s story tells of her first encounter with her eventual husband and his twin brother when they are billeted to stay at her step-mother’s B&B. From dancing to falling in love, mistaken identities to getting pregnant, her nan’s story is full of love and hope, but it’s not without sadness and drama.

As Izzie reads this, she has met up with her own first love, the man she always thought rejected her, Justin. It becomes clear the two still have feelings for each other – can they overcome the misunderstandings that affected their lives as her nan did with those in hers?

It slightly amused me that when Izzie read about her nan stepping out with Joe, she presumed him to be her grandfather – the man she’d grown up with – as opposed to his twin brother, Jack (cue the misunderstanding that changed Nan’s life for the better) Maybe it’s just me, but as an adult, I knew my grandfather’s name; Izzie didn’t seem to.

Overall, the storyline is a tad predictable, but it is sweet and heart-warming and an easy read with some great insights into the war years and life in a Blackpool B&B back then. A quick read and most enjoyable as the two stories intersect.

My thanks to #NetGalley #HarperCollinsUK #OneMoreChapter and the author #JuliaWild for my copy of #TheSecretNotebook in exchange for an honest review.

As always,

Amazon Reviewer Name
Reviewed on Amazon UK as Meandthemutts


crime · police procedural · series

Book Review – Broken Girls

Brambles catch her dress, scratch her legs, pierce her feet. To escape, she’d had no option but to go barefoot. They’d been laughing together a few minutes before, but things can change in the blink of an eye…

The woman is dark-haired and young, judging by the short red dress. Any other signs of her identity have been erased during her long wait to be found, but it’s clear she was strangled: this was a passionate and personal murder.

D.I. Bernadette Noel knows that every second counts if she is to catch this killer, but she has no leads – until the discovery that the dead woman’s rings match a stolen property report, and the rings’ owner mentions Rosa, her missing nanny.

Just when Bernie and her team think they’re getting somewhere, a shocking discovery about Rosa – and the news that another young girl has been abducted – changes everything the team thought they knew about the case.

Laura is only twelve, and her parents are beside themselves with worry – but Bernie has an additional fear. Laura’s home is right next to the woods where their murder victim was found: are the cases connected?

When Bernie notices similarities between descriptions of the man last seen with Rosa and someone Laura was messaging online, these fears grow stronger. But they still have no clear leads as to the identity of the culprit.

With few options left, and time running out, she makes a desperate plan to trap the predator. But any mistakes will mean another innocent life lost…

A gripping crime thriller with a nail-biting climax. If you like Angela Marsons, Val McDermid or Cara Hunter, you’ll love Joy Kluver.

Readers can’t get enough of Joy Kluver:

Wow!! Just wow!!… This book is brilliant! More than brilliant, amazing!!!… Absolutely gripping, addictive and captivating… I was absolutely hooked from the first page to the last. I had a complete shock at the twists… Love, love, loved all the characters!!!… I would love to see this made into a movie.’ Bookworm86 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I read it in a few greedy gulps…It gets a very easy five stars from me… gave me goosebumps as I was reading it… If you haven’t yet started this series, then you really need toTop stuff!’ Hooked From Page One ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

More red herrings than an Agatha Christie will have you burning the midnight oil… When the killer was identified my jaw hit the floor. I couldn’t have been more shocked if the perpetrator had been Bernie herself.’ Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

That ending! Talk about a twist you won’t see coming!… This is such an addictive series… I don’t know how I’m going to make it until the next one comes out!’ Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Impossible to put down. I downloaded it this Monday morning, and by evening, I had finished. The rollercoaster was intense, the twists and turns unexpected, and the element of surprise insane… gripping read.’ Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Twisted, intense and heartbreaking… Once you start this book you just can’t put it down! Out of all the books that I have read this year none of them shocked me as much. There was one twist that I literally was yelling and screaming at the character!!!’ Heidi Lynn’s Book Reviews ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

‘I am blown away by this book, the twists and turns are mind-boggling!… BRILLIANT… If I could I would give it more than 5 stars.’ Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Brilliant… had me eagerly turning the pages as I not only wanted to know more about the crime but also about the investigating team… I adored this… A story that takes a dark turn, has several surprises and kept me on my toes.’ Vonnibee ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Purchase link

My Review

The author’s first book, Last Seen, left me with great expectations for book 2, and boy did she exceed them. I read this in two sessions, not wanting to put it down. Doesn’t happen often!

Broken Girls is one of those police procedurals in which you get a in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the investigation team, and Bernie Noel’s team is one you can have absolute faith that they’ll solve the crime in spite of all the obstacles thrown at them. They have tenacity as well as personality.

Broken Girls begins with the gruesome finding of a young woman’s body, her face unidentifiable and extracting DNA impossible. Even when they finally get a whiff of her identify, things go all kinds of crazy leaving them virtually back at square one. But Bernie is nothing if not determined; she will get justice for the victim. Once again she is aided again by her fabulous team, including the very welcome return of DS Doug Anderson and they turn over ever stone despite the intrusion of her boss DCI Worth, aptly nicknamed Worthless – a selfish, petty man who feigns interest if only to protect himself and his forthcoming retirement.

Out of work, Bernie’s private life has its ups and downs and the atmosphere between her and Doug Anderson brings its own extra zing to their working relationship. The book’s ending – once the case is closed – is sure to stir things up deliciously for book 3.

Joy Kluver is an author I’ll be following from now on, and if you enjoy excellent crime dramas, then be sure to get this series.

As always,


book review · thriller & crime

Book Review – Mummy’s Little Secret

So, who is Daisy Kilbride?

Four little words can ruin a life.

When Jess meets five-year-old Daisy and her mum, Morag, in a local London park, they seem a perfectly happy and loving pair. Until Daisy whispers four little words that send ice seeping down Jess’s spine…

She’s not my mum.

Determined to save Daisy, Jess becomes obsessed with unearthing Morag’s secrets. As she digs ever deeper, her friends and family start to question her own increasingly paranoid behaviour…

Four little words can end a life.

But Jess knows what she heard and she’s certain the fear in Daisy’s eyes was real. Of course she isn’t imagining things… Or is she?

Mummy’s Little Secret is a nerve-shredding new psychological thriller from the author of The Missing Children Case Files – perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter and C.L. Taylor.

Purchase Link

My Review

Mummy’s Little Secret is a story that raises a lot of questions as you race through the pages. From page one, you’ll wonder why Daisy would whisper those words She’s not my mum to a strange lady in the park (Jess). You’ll wonder why Jess then takes it all so seriously, especially after the little girl’s mother, Morag, approaches too and tries to be friendly, going so far as to suggest Jess’s daughter Grace might enjoy a play-date with Daisy before school starts for both of them.

Then the story switches from Jess’s viewpoint to Morag’s, and you’ll wonder why Morag is so sensitive about Jess’s reaction to them in the park. And if you’re not convinced by then, the remaining chapters told in alternating viewpoints will have you hooked as they lay the foundations in a before – now – after set of scenarios.

In the before chapters, you’ll see Jess and Morag wallow in uncertainty and paranoia, constantly questioning the other woman’s actions, words and motives. Each woman carries a plethora of issues that have taken their toll on how they live their lives currently, not to mention their mental state. Jess lost a child and was left wheelchair-bound after an epidural during the birth hit a nerve. She’s struggling to cope with losing her child, her mobility, her job and her very essence. Morag has had to move frequently to keep her family safe, the why comes later, but she is clearly afraid of being found and is wary of everyone, but especially Jess. At times, the paranoia on the part of both women is off the scale, maybe even to the point of being beyond belief, however the explosive twist at the end more than makes up for it.

In the now chapters, you’ll see Detective Mike Ferry investigate a bloody murder. Here both women seem to be involved, one covered in blood at the scene of the crime, the other reporting a crime. So, who’s the victim here? There may be more than one.

In the after chapters, you see the impact of that murder on Jess and Morag’s lives. Will they be able to move forward, or does a life in prison await?

Mummy’s Little Secret is a pacy read, and you won’t want to stop until all those questions are answered. The plot builds to a tense ending, as suspicions escalate and the path to the truth is convoluted.

Thanks to the author, M.A. Hunter, to the publishers at HarperCollins, U.K. & One More Chapter, and to NetGalley for my copy of this thrilling read.

As always,

Reviewed on Amazon UK as Meandthemutts
blog tour · book review · drama · familial abduction · thriller

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Stolen

Stolen

You thought she was safe. You were wrong…

Alex knows her daughter would never wander off in a strange place. So when her three-year-old vanishes from an idyllic beach wedding, Alex immediately believes the worst.

The hunt for Lottie quickly becomes a world-wide search, but it’s not long before suspicion falls on her mother. Why wasn’t she watching Lottie? 

Alex knows she’s not perfect, but she loves her child. And with all eyes on her, Alex fears they’ll never uncover the truth unless she takes matters into her own hands.

Who took Lottie Martini? And will she ever come home?

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stolen-Tess-Stimson-ebook/dp/B08S78F7W2

US – https://www.amazon.com/Stolen-Tess-Stimson-ebook/dp/B08S78F7W2

Author Bio

Tess Stimson is the British author of ten novels, including top-ten bestseller The Adultery Club, and two non-fiction books, which between them have been translated into dozens of languages.

Her first “proper” job after graduating from St Hilda’s College, Oxford (where she read English) was as a news trainee with ITN (Independent Television News). She reported and produced regional and world stories, travelling to hotspots and war-zones all over the globe.

In 2002, she was appointed Professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Florida and moved to the US. She now lives and works in Vermont with her husband, Erik, their three children, and (at the last count) two cats, three fish, one gerbil and a large number of bats in the attic.

Social Media Links

Twitter: @tessjstimson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Tess-Stimson-106964301384

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tessstimson/

My Review

Alex Martini will admit she wasn’t sure about having children but after Lottie’s birth, she knows she could never be without her, even if Lottie is one stubborn little minx from the get go. Honestly, I love their relationship, it’s refreshingly accurate (and watching safely from the sidelines, the toing and froing of the their exchanges made me laugh and cry at the genuine nature of their bond.) And so, when the worst thing that could possibly happen to a parent happens, I was rooting for Alex that her daughter be found quickly and safely.

All around are quick to judge Alex’s parenting skills: Why wasn’t she more attentive? How could she mistake another blonde-haired child in a crowded room for her child? What kind of mother leaves a three-year-old on her own and retreats someone secluded with a male guest, a stranger nonetheless? Ouch! The attacks on her character are brutal. But what is more brutal is that Lottie isn’t found quickly and Alex must return to her old life and try to move on.

But of course she can’t. She keeps “seeing” Lottie everywhere … until one day, on the Tube, she is adamant that her daughter is in a passing train. Getting people to believe her, however, is no easy matter. Poor Alex has no choice but to follow her heart alone … and investigate for herself. There are a multitude of twists and turns that lead her to her destination, some of which seem soooo unlikely that you just have to trust the author and run with it. Believe me, it’s worth suspending belief for a while as the ending is dramatic, edge-of-the-seat stuff that you won’t regret waiting for.

Highly recommended if you enjoy a quick, pacy, breathless ride of a story with all the feels.

As always,

Reviewed by Meandthemutts on Amazon UK
Contemporary Romance · humour · mystery · self discovery · Spain

Book Review – The Spanish House

The Spanish House

One bizarre to-do list to earn her inheritance. One Spanish summer. One huge family secret.

‘⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ An absolutely delightful and captivating read!’ – Lucy Coleman, bestselling author of Summer in Andalucia

Juliana makes a modest living as an ‘ethnic’ TV/film extra – even though the only connections with her Spanish heritage are her cacti, Spanish classes, and some confused memories of a Spanish mother she hasn’t seen since she was seven.

When her beloved Uncle Arturo offers her the chance to discover her roots while housesitting his coastal home in a quiet corner of Andalusia, Juliana can’t believe her luck. Especially when he reveals that the house will be hers if she fulfils ten life-enhancing ‘Conditions’ within 90 days.

Redecoration of the house and a visit to the old film studio where her mother used to sew costumes seem ridiculously simple tasks for such a wonderful reward. But little does Juliana realise that there are family secrets and inherited rivalries awaiting her in sunny Spain, and the condition that she has to ‘get on with the neighbours’ – who include a ruggedly handsome but moody artist – may be harder than she thinks.

The perfect escapist read for fans of Rosanna Ley, Jo Thomas and Sue Moorcroft.

The Spanish House is gorgeous romantic escapism that you won’t want to miss!’ Holly Martin, bestselling author of Sunlight Over Crystal Sands

WoW! This book was simply a joy to read!‘ Reader review

‘Loved this enjoyable book!’ Reader review

It was funny, cute and intriguing‘ Reader review

‘This is the first novel of Cherry Radford that I read and it was beautiful … One cannot resist wishing to visit Spain after reading this splendid book … The story is heartwarming’ Reader review

‘A wonderful book, that I would recommend to anyone‘ Reader review

‘A light and heart warming read set in a beautiful location’ Reader review

‘I could not put this down, it was my first book by this author and wish I had found her a while ago. Fantastic writing, fantastic plot development and I just loved the main character’ Reader review

‘This was my first Cherry Radford book and it was a beautifully written story. The description of Spain made the reader feel like they were there with Juliana’ Reader review

‘A great summer read!’ Reader review

‘This is a great book! Well written, complex storyline with various moving parts … Would so recommend this amazing read!‘ Reader review

‘Absolutely loved this sweet romance … So glad I came across this’ Reader review

‘It’s just right for a summer read … although it would be delightful to spend time in Spain in the middle of the winter!’ Reader review

‘This was such a gorgeous read!!!! I really enjoyed the plot and the writing style was gorgeous!! The character build up is fantastic and I couldn’t put it down’ Reader review

Purchase link

My Review

Sometimes a book title will call out to you. The Spanish House did that to me, no doubt because of where I live and how I got here. I can’t seem to resist a story set in my adopted country! The fact that I’m familiar with Almería and can visualise the descriptions only added to my enjoyment.

It was comforting and entertaining to take a step back and read about Juliana’s experience of doing up her Uncle Arturo’s house in San Rafael. Her encounters with the local and non-locals alike felt so realistic; I loved her “stream of consciousness” outpourings as she ummed and ahed over how to ask certain questions, wondering whether her vocabulary was as effective in Spanish as she intended. But more than that I loved the relationships she built with her dear uncle, with Josemi next door and even with his “Miserable Bag” of a mother.

Conflict came in the form of a family secret (I’m not giving any spoilers here!) that initially angered her but then helped her understand who she was. Why it seemed inconceivable that a parent would hold back such information, in the end Juliana benefitted in so many ways. Her life changed forever, and for the better. What felt like betrayal of trust eventually became an explanation, an understanding and her future.

Her uncle’s “to do” was super specific and yet vague – she should visit the site where her mother worked on the set of Once Upon a Time in the West, a Western made in Spain years before her birth. She should visit all the beaches, and get along with the neighbours. None of the tasks seemed too onerous, yet they were indeed very random. However, Uncle Arturo was a wise man, mending bridges that Juliana didn’t even know existed, let alone that they’d been broken in the past.

As she went about the task of painting the house, replacing bits and pieces, and making it into a home, it was evident she would have to inherit the place. But, of course, it was not as straightforward as that, especially when he ex threw a huge spanner in the works and put her one true romantic relationship in jeopardy. Would she be able to fix that mess? And how could she live in the house if not?

A lovely story about family, friends, memories and being true to yourself. Set amidst stunning scenery within a village of fun, lively and believable characters. Evocative and dramatic, quirky and hugely entertaining. A great read for a rainy day – although there aren’t many of those here! 😉

As always,

Reviewed on Amazon UK by Meandthemutts

blog tour · book review · historical fiction · Renaissance Italy · series

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Devil’s Tune

The Devil’s Tune

Carlo Gesualdo, prince, composer and murderer has his wife and her lover killed in Naples in 1590. The wife’s maidservant,Laura Scala, witnesses the events and vowes to avenge her mistress.

The princess, Donna Maria d’Avalos, rescued Laura in Sicily after she had been raped at the age of thirteen. Laura devotes her life to her saviour and after the murders she spends years of her life trying to be revenged on the musical prince.

The scene moves from Sicily to Naples and Venice, back to Naples and finally to the New World. Laura believes she is carrying a curse. Everyone she becomes involved with appears to suffers misfortune and death.

A Jewish girl in the Venetian ghetto is kidnapped and sold into the Sultan’s harem, Laura’s daughter is placed in an orphanage without her knowledge, the artist Caravaggio uses Laura as a model and meets a tragic end.

Three beautiful pearls given to Laura by her mistress play a part in the story. Is Laura really cursed – or is it her connection with the murderous prince who dabbles in the occult?

A gypsy woman is burned at the stake, a Venetian gondolier meets a mysterious fate and Laura becomes a skilled herbalist and poisoner by default before the story ends in the New World. The background to these  events is the strange and compelling music of Gesualdo.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Devils-Tune-Italian-trilogy-ebook/dp/B07CQ8FDP3

US – https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Tune-Italian-trilogy-ebook/dp/B07CQ8FDP3

Author Bio

Frances Kempton is a reclusive writer fleeing from the clutches of Jane Austen.

She has an obsession with Italy.

This is the first book in an Italian trilogy.

My Review

The Devil’s Tune is narrated by Laura Scala, the maidservant and confidante of Donna Maria, Prince Carlo Gesualdo’s wife. When her mistress is brutally murdered alongside her lover and child, Laura is so overwhelmed and abhorred by the act that she swears to exact vengeance on behalf of her mistress no matter how long it takes. As such, her own life is tainted by her hatred of Gesualdo and the promise she has made.

The author has created a vivid picture of how Laura might carry out her revenge, taking the readers through Naples and Venice as she keeps track of her prey. Gesualdo is obsessed by his music creations, seemingly oblivious to the effect of his decisions upon others. Laura is not the only person to dislike him, and understandably so. It was easy to root for Laura, even though she had murder in mind, especially given the impact her promise had on her own life. She’d experienced rape as a young girl and was wary of any romantic encounter, though she did eventually marry and have her own child. Sadly, her husband died and the mother-in-law from hell inflicted yet more tragedy on poor Laura. While Gesualdo seemed invincible, Laura lost everything and had to start over yet again. Nonetheless, her promise to her mistress was never far from her mind, despite the constant and never-ending obstacles that came her way.

Did she keep her promise? Did she find happiness again? The Devil’s Tune answers all of those questions while taking the reader on an indulgent, albeit vivid and brutal, tour of Renaissance Italy. An enthralling and captivating story with a resilient leading lady and a lot of heartbreak. As this is the first in a trilogy, I look forward to reading the next in the series.

As always,

Reviewed as Meandthemutts on Amazon UK