Friday, 20 March 2020

The Girl With The Amber Comb By Linda Finlay - Blog Tour Review

I think it's safe to say we are living in uncertain times right now, and what a crazy time to be writing a book review. Crazy, but in some ways apt, as I think now is the perfect time to switch off from the news and social media when you can, and lose yourself in a book. I'm very happy to join in with the book tour for The Girl With The Amber Comb, and a big thank you to HQ Stories for gifting me a copy of the book for review.

Linda Finlay is a new author to me, but one through her seven published novels who is famed for West Country sagas based around traditional crafts, and The Girl With The Amber Comb is no exception. One of the first things that struck me as I started reading was the sense of place, and how deeply rooted the story is, in its Somerset location. I have read a lot of historical sagas, but this is the first one that I felt was really anchored in its location, and couldn't have been set anywhere else.

But it wasn't just the sense of place that made this novel for me, it was making the traditional craft a big part of the story, more than just a passing mention, or something the main character just goes off to do, sometimes.

This novel follows the story of orphan Eliza, a poor willow weaver dreaming of a more exciting life beyond her remote waterlogged cottage. When childhood friend Clem tells tales of a more exciting life along the river, the daydreamer and her 'grass is greener' philosophy embarks on a journey that is eye-opening on every level.

Eliza is portrayed as a naive and sheltered young woman and the author captures this so well. She is a character you can believe in, and while her short-lived infatuation with wealthy suitor Theo was somewhat expected, the circumstances that led to her fleeing the droves, and ending up 'caring for gentlemen' in disreputable Lavender House was not. I enjoyed the contrast between the remote withies, the slightly more bustling jailhouse environment of Lavender House, and the happy woollen mill and village. The descriptions of each and Elizas experiences of them were great to read.

For someone that got bored of historical sagas and diverted to chick-lit, Linda Finlay is a breath of fresh air in a genre that for me had got very samey. I look forward to learning more about traditional crafts and reading some more of her work. For now, I would encourage you all to stay safe and virus-free, and lose yourself in this new, heart-warming West Country tale. 

The Girl With The Amber Comb was published on 19th March 2020 by HQ Stories. Available in paperback, eBook and audio versions.




Monday, 9 March 2020

From Zero To One - Mardi Gras (single review)



With 60,000 views and counting since it's debut on January 17th, the video for Mardi Gras' latest single release is making waves, and I'm not surprised! Out of all the songs I've heard since discovering this Italian band, From Zero To One is one of the strongest, and most powerful.

Although the song has been out for a while, I have held back on doing a review because I didn't (in the best possible way) know what to write about this track, that I had a pretty instant love for. I downloaded it after first listen, turned up the volume, and hit the repeat button- which probably tells you all you need to know, but I will go on.

In 'From Zero To One' Mardi Gras has created a catchy, soaring pop/rock song, that's as slick as it is edgy. There are softer vocal moments, and a focus at the start on acoustic/piano in the mix, with the electric rock elements front and centre later on.

To add to the creativity there are some poignant spoke word parts in English, Estonian, and Italian that just strengthen this band's reputation for creating atmospheric, memorable songs. It really is a beautiful song, it makes me feel good when I'm having a bad day and has depth in the vocals and music that kept me engaged all the way through. The question is, how will they top this with their next release?

Follow Mardi Gras on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to find out more.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

A Wedding In December - Blog Tour & Review (Gifted)

Alive, Alive, Alive - this was the word that kept jumping into my head as I was reading, enjoying, and honestly losing myself in Sarah Morgan's Christmas release, A Wedding In December. Every word and scene just jumped out of the page and brought so many pictures to my mind, I think it's safe to say I am now dreaming of cosy log cabins and Aspen winters.

I'm a bit sad to have finished the book now, but excited to join in the blog tour and hopefully introduce some new people to Sarah's books. I'm like a moth to the flame when it comes to Christmas books, I browse the shelves and want them all (despite a slightly big reading pile at home), but Sarah Morgan is a new author to me, so I started reading with no expectations or assumptions. I think this made reading A Wedding In December an even better experience.

The story follows the White Family: Maggie the mum, who is unsatisfied with life and work and on the verge of divorce, Nick the adventurer and university professor, and daughter Katie the exhausted doctor. They are all heading to Aspen with inner turmoil and secrets to hide, en route to youngest daughter Rosie's whirlwind wedding. The chapters are titled and divided Maggie, Katie, and Rosie, which confused me a little to start with, but it just seemed like a way to switch perspective as the story seamlessly moved forward.

There is love (of the new and rekindled kind) lust, and maybe a voyage of self-discovery or two, with some clever moments of tension in between. The White family has Christmas traditions just like many of us and it's that mix of Christmas traditions old and new that I think a lot of people will enjoy and relate to.

 If some of the scenes were in an episode of a soap opera, I might have made a few comments predicting what was coming on screen, but in the pages of A Wedding In December, the slight sense of predictability didn't matter. The setting, and what it brought out of the characters as they opened up, was handled really well and kept me engaged throughout.

It's a page-turner with a few twists and turns, but there was just one thing missing. With a book so
visual and descriptive as this one, I just wanted to breathe in the fresh mountain air and smell the scent of pine cones as I read! Now if Santa could just be nice and leave the rest of Sarah Morgan's books underneath our Christmas tree that would be great!

Have you read this novel already? Why not head to social media and use the hashtag #AWeddingInDecember to share your thoughts.

A Wedding In December is out now published by HQ Stories and you can find out more about Sarah Morgan here. This review copy was gifted by HQ Stories for this blog tour, but all opinions are my own.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Elaine Everest - The Teashop Girls Review *gifted

I don't know about anyone else but my love of historical fiction goes up and down, and when it's down it's normally because I am bored, finding too many similar themes and places, and not much originality in the books I'm reading. Recently I was *gifted a copy of The Teashop Girls a new novel from Elaine Everest, and things are looking up.

I was skeptical before I started reading, expecting something along similar lines to Elaine's Woolworths Girls series, just in a tearoom, not a shop. Although there was a touch of familiarity about it, there was also quite a collection of interesting characters that really made this story stand out.

It's always the quiet ones you have to watch, and Mr Cardew is quite possibly the quietest of them all. He is barely mentioned in the novel, let alone suspected for the secrets he hides, so for me, it's a bombshell moment when those are revealed.

It's an unexpected piece of writing, in a time when we are well used to being able to predict what comes next, or at least read speculation from characters in the story. This is a novel with more interesting characters than I expected, and more action too.



Mr. Cardew, before his fall from grace, was a resident of Seaview Guest House, a place many of the interesting characters, such as Polish-born Anya, and fisherwoman Mildred calls home. It's run by Flora with help from her daughter Rosie and provides a comforting backdrop to the action.

The Lyon's teashops where Rosie and her friends worked was another key focus of the plot, although I think this was the only slight downfall in an otherwise excellent novel. I wanted to feel immersed in the world of Lyon's teashops, just as I did with Woolworth's in Elaine's other novels, but it just didn't happen for me.

Apart from that, I was fully engaged with the plot with no temptation to skip pages, and enjoyed the amount of action in every chapter. There are no page fillers here,  just a....?
a somewhat aspirational love interest, so if you revelled in the movie star boyfriend in The Butlins Girls, then look out for Captain Hargreaves.

Have You Read Any Of These?


The Teashop Girls is out now, published by Pan Macmillan. Many Thanks to the publishers, Elaine Everest, and ed pr for the opportunity to review this novel, it's been a great read. Apologies also for the delay getting this up, I got swallowed up into an all-consuming freelancing black hole, but I'd rather read and devour every page, and put up the review how I want it to be. Find out more about the Pan Macmillan roster here.