Summer Reads 2018 – Part Three

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It’s been the perfect weather for reading in the garden and I’ve managed to spend these last few months whittling my list down so that I could recommend a great summer read, for my  Summer 17 Degrees Column.

In this final post of three, I’m reviewing six books that I selected from my non-fiction pile. I know plenty of people who love reading about real life on their holidays and hopefully there’s something here for you to enjoy.




Gin Made Me Do It

Jassy Davies & Ruby Taylor

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This is the only book you’ll need this summer for the hen night, birthday party or legendary barbecue that’ll have everyone talking about your fabulous cocktails for months to come. This gorgeous book would make the perfect gift, but once you’ve mixed yourself a few of its killer cocktails, you won’t want to be parted from it, I can assure you. It has a whole range of delicious summer cocktails – from a classic Bramble to some Sloe gin stunners. You’ll be bowled over by the range of botanical treats on offer here and there is genuinely something for everyone inside its beautifully illustrated pages. Whether you need to develop your palate or refine your garnishes, you’ll love experimenting with this guide to the hottest drink of the summer. By a few pages in, I was definitely reaching for the tonic to pour myself a sample. Mine’s an Aviation, if you’re asking. Cheers!

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

Michelle McNamara


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A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer – the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised California for over a decade – from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case. If you haven’t heard of this book, where have you been over the last few months? Little did I know when I picked it up, that the cold case it describes would be solved through groundbreaking DNA evidence whilst I was reading it. 12 murders, 51 rapes and over 120 burglaries is a trail of horror that’s difficult to fathom, yet this book effortlessly draws the evidence together and presents you with the key facts that puzzled cops for decades. I read this entire book in a single sitting and can’t recommend it enough; it’s just so sad that Michelle didn’t live to see him convicted. Treat yourself to this gripping read – you won’t regret it.


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First Man In – Leading From the Front

Ant Middleton

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Leaders are made, not born. By gritting his teeth and getting on with life’s many challenges, Ant Middleton has developed an understanding of what makes true leadership. First Man In describes these vital lessons to make us see that we can all aim to be that bit braver in our everyday lives. After 13 years in the military, 4 of them as a Special Boat Service (SBS) sniper, Ant Middleton himself is a walking advertisement for pushing yourself out with your comfort zone. In this fascinating book, Ant speaks about the highs and lows of his life – from dazzling military accolades to dealing with the early death of his father and ending up in prison – and draws valuable lessons that we can all use in our daily lives. You’ll be gripped by his bulletproof advice when you’re away and might be inspired to put some of his ideas into practice when you get home from your holidays. What a read.


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Rex v Edith Thompson

Laura Thompson


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On the night of 3 October 1922, Edith Thompson and her husband Percy were walking home from the theatre when a man sprang out of the darkness and stabbed Percy to death. That murderer was Frederick Bywaters, Edith’s secret lover. This is a case that is still hailed as one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British criminal history and you will definitely be shocked at how little it took to convict her. Edith’s intense love letters, considered obscene at the time, were read out at their trial in the Old Bailey and sadly they would seal her fate. Laura Thompson’s research is meticulous; she really transports you back into Edith’s world where her taste for romance and melodrama has fatal consequences. This is my book of the year so far and I’m recommending it to everyone. It’s more gripping than any fictional crime story I’ve ever read and totally unmissable. Read it now!


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Why Mummy Drinks

Gill Sims

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Mummy Drinks is by Gill Sims, author of the online sensation Peter and Jane which you’ll definitely have seen popping up in your Facebook feed over the last year or so. At 39, Mummy isn’t keen to surrender to a world of advanced yoga classes, and polite book clubs where everyone claims to be tiddly and says things like ‘Ooh gosh, are you having another glass?’ She’s not a fan of becoming one of those women who ‘live for their children’ and stand in the playground trying to outdo each other with their offspring’s extracurricular activities and achievements. If you’re not afraid of a few swears and a distinctly ‘un-mumsy’ view of the world you’ll find plenty to connect with as you read this on your sunlounger. That’s if your awful offspring give you a second’s peace, of course. With lots of laughs and a few home truths, this is set to be a massive summer hit.


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The Vanity Fair Diaries

Tina Brown


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It’s 1983. A young Englishwoman arrives in Manhattan. Summoned across the Atlantic to save Condé Nast’s famous Vanity Fair, Tina Brown is plunged into the world of the competitive New York media. She survives on her sharp wits and her ability to make the magazine her own. If you love a hefty slice of celebrity gossip, you’ll love this sensational account of life in the Big Apple during some of the most turbulent events in the 80s. In her writing about Michael Jackson, Princess Diana and Donald Trump, Brown records her private thoughts, rather than the version that went to print. Tina Brown’s writing is sharp, biting and provocative and it’s maybe just as well that many of the people we get to hear her true feelings about are no longer with us. This book will make you feel like you’re at the best, gossipy lunch you’ve ever had. Enjoy!


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I have loved finding a bumper set of 18 recommendations for you this Summer.  I try to include a range of genres and writers so that there’s something for everyone – you might find new writers to enjoy as well as old favourites here.

If you’ve enjoyed this selection, you can check out my Twitter feed  @OnTheShelfBooks to see me chatting about lots of other great reads. Have a fantastic summer and if you’ve loved any of these books, drop me a tweet.



Summer Reads 2018 – Part Two

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It’s been the perfect weather for reading in the garden and I’ve managed to spend these last few months whittling my list down so that I could recommend a great summer read, for my  Summer 17 Degrees Column.

In this second post of three, I’m reviewing six books  in a category I’ve called Drama & Darkness – there’s genuinely something here for everyone no matter what kind of thrills and chills you enjoy on your Summer hols…



The President Is Missing
Bill Clinton &  James Patterson


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And now for something completely different. This is sure to be a runaway bestseller this summer-  a tale about a missing president told by… former POTUS, Bill Clinton in a unique collaboration with bestselling writer James Patterson. This exciting and innovative book combines the best of both worlds: its an insider’s story of exactly how the White House works, coupled with the narrative power of a writer at the top of his game. This gripping novel describes a terrifying three days in the corridors of power. Amid an international crisis, the President vanishes into thin air whilst his enemies are planning an attack of unprecedented scale on America. Uncertainty and fear grip Washington. There are whispers of cyberterror and espionage and a traitor in the cabinet. The President himself is even called into question as this fast-paced and gripping thriller thunders to a nail-biting conclusion. This unmissable collaboration is going to be a summer sizzler.

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Jade Sharma

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If you enjoy a book that breaks the mould, then you’re going to love Problems by Jade Sharma. Probably not one for sharing with your easily-shocked friends, but if you’re looking for a dark, provocative and edgy summer read then you’re going to love Maya and her no-holds-barred revelations. Just like Irvine Welsh in the 90’s, Sharma’s novel is in turns both hilarious and harrowing. Maya is having an affair with her married lecturer, is struggling with an eating disorder and her overdue dissertation and is hooked on heroin. Maya is a bit like Marmite: you’ll certainly have a strong response to her as she confronts you on the page with her caustic one-liners. Sharma is a performance poet and her lyrical and sharp turn of phrase is strikingly original and extremely clever.  If you want your fiction to challenge you and your narrator to shock, then you’re going to love Problems. Stash it in your beach bag and enjoy.


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Fault Lines
Doug Johnstone

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You know that I always like to include a Scottish read in my column and this one is a cracker. Doug Johnstone has created an alternative Firth of Forth – with a volcanic island right in the middle of it. Surtsey is planning an assignation with her married lover Tom on the River Forth’s volcanic island The Inch when she discovers his dead body. Fearful of their affair coming to light, she decides to say nothing about her dreadful discovery – but it’s all too late. Someone knows exactly what’s been going on. This novel hurtles on at a cracking pace as we start to see the cracks appear in her life. You’ll be gripped by Johnstone’s twists and turns as you try and work out what exactly Surtsey has got herself caught up in and how it will all end. A thrilling and intelligent summer read that you won’t be able to put down.


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Steve Cavanagh



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The killer is on the jury. The question is why? If you love a courtroom drama, then you’re going to absolutely love Th1rt3en which takes the entire genre and turns it on its head in an unforgettable way. Normally in a courtroom novel, the bad guy is right there in the dock but this novel is something very different. In Th1rt3en, Joshua Kane has been rumbled. Someone knows that the real killer isn’t the man on trial and time is ticking by all too fast whilst Kane hopes for a quick conviction so that he can escape scot-free. This is a rollercoaster of a ride.  Make sure you apply plenty of sunscreen before you start as once you begin, you won’t want to tear yourself away. I love Steve Cavanagh’s writing and if you’ve not discovered him yet, you’re in for a treat. A sharp, clever and twisty tale that I couldn’t put down.


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The Outsider

Stephen King

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When an eleven-year-old is found murdered in a local park, reliable eyewitnesses accuse the town’s popular sports coach, Terry Maitland.  Shockingly, DNA evidence confirms that the crime was committed by well-respected coach  Maitland. Horrified by the brutality of this killing, Detective Ralph Anderson, whose own son was on Maitland’s team, orders his arrest in a very public spectacle. But there is a problem: Maitland has a cast-iron alibi. And their investigation confirms that he was definitely out of town. As the full horror begins to emerge, King’s gripping tale of unbearable suspense winds tighter and tighter, holding you in its grip until its nail-biting conclusion. A man cannot be in two places at the same time. Or can he? This is another five star read from Stephen King; I guarantee you won’t be able to look up until you’ve finished it.


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Something in the Water

Catherine Steadman

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Erin is a successful filmmaker and fiance Mark is a handsome and successful investment banker. At the start of this novel, this golden couple seem to have it all until Mark loses his job. They go ahead with planning their dream honeymoon to Bora Bora and that’s where things begin to get sinister. Their scuba diving trip uncovers something in the water which they decide to keep under wraps. After all, if nobody knows about their discovery, there can’t be any consequences – or can they? Their silence sets in motion a terrifying chain of events where you’ll be on the edge of your seat, waiting to see if your darkest suspicions were correct. I’d love to see this one on the big screen: I’ve already cast the main characters so you’d better read it fast before it gets snapped up. This is a breathlessly tense beach read that you’ll be recommending to everyone.


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Summer Reads 2018 – Part One

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It’s been the perfect weather for reading in the garden and I’ve managed to spend these last few months whittling my list down so that I could recommend a great summer read, for my  Summer 17 Degrees Column.

In this first post, I’m reviewing six books I’ve called Days of our Lives – there’s genuinely something here for everyone and I really enjoyed all six of these fantastic Summer reads,



The Lido 

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I absolutely loved The Lido. It’s a warm and uplifting read that will genuinely draw you in and make you feel part of Rosemary and Kate’s world as they campaign together to save their beloved Lido. When the Brixton that she’s loved all her life starts changing in front of her very eyes and after the loss of her husband George, potentially losing the Lido means much more to Rosemary than mere conservation. To her, community and belonging somewhere is more important than making money and she passionately wants to preserve such a special place. The friendship between these two women of 86 and 26 is a joy and you’ll be totally rooting for them to succeed in their scheme. I loved hearing Rosemary’s memories of The Lido – where she’s been swimming for over 80 years and you will too.  This is the perfect poolside treat and would make a fabulous movie one day too. You heard it here first!

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Grace After Henry

Eithne Shortall

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This book is everything that a holiday read should be – warm-hearted, filled with characters that you care about and unexpectedly funny too. Grace’s bereavement is brought vividly to life in this novel and we see the full effect it wreaks on her as everyone else’s life goes on, uninterrupted all around her. Grace has to learn to survive after her sudden and tragic loss and several unexpected developments along the way.  It deals with loss by allowing us to live through it with Grace and experience all the stages of grief that she has to wade through right alongside her. It is written with sensitivity, intelligence and a wonderfully warm sense of humour and I can’t wait to read more by Eithne Shortall. If you’re heading off somewhere lovely this summer, Grace after Henry is the perfect book to pack – it not only packs an emotional punch, it will also make you laugh so hard at times that you’ll spill your afternoon cocktail. I *might* know someone who actually did…


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Dear Mrs Bird

AJ Pearce

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Funny, quaint and very moving, Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce is a tribute to the power of friendship and the Blitz spirit that inspired us to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On.’ Set in World War II, Emmy’s ambition is to become a Lady War Correspondent and when she spots an ad in the newspaper she seizes her chance. Instead, she finds herself typing letters for the indomitable Henrietta Bird, renowned agony aunt of Woman’s Friend magazine. Mrs Bird has very firm ideas about ‘unpleasantness’ and Emmy toes the line at first, but it’s wartime and letters about ‘going too far’, separation and death keep flooding in. Emmy’s decision to defy Mrs Bird and write the column for a new generation of readers makes for a quirky read with fabulous characters and a modern twist. There are some really poignant moments too as Emmy learns the hard way that it’s easier to give out advice than take it. A five-star vintage read.


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Oh My God What A Complete Aisling

Emer McLysaght &  Sarah Breen

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Aisling’s ‘romantic holiday’ is a total disaster: she spends it waiting impatiently for a proposal with a heavy heart as she realises that it is just not going to happen. Ever. Cue a dramatic breakup and the start of a whole new life for country girl Aisling in the bright lights of Dublin. Aisling’s world will be familiar to readers of Marian Keyes and it’s no coincidence that she loved this book too! I totally fell for Aisling; she’s my favourite fictional character this year. I think that what I love about her is that she is uncompromisingly herself throughout the novel – regardless of what life throws at her. Aisling’s journey of discovery is one you’ll be quoting to your friends and begging them to read too. You’ll have a good laugh talking about Aisling and thinking of all the ways you’ve been like her. We definitely all know an Aisling and you’ll definitely not forget her if you read about her adventures this summer


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Never Greener

Ruth Jones

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“The One that Got Away” is something that so many people can identify with. In her debut novel Never Greener, actress Ruth Jones – better known as Nessa from Gavin and Stacey – explores what happens when your past catches up with you.  When Kate was twenty-two, she had an intense affair with a married man, Callum, which ended in devastating heartbreak. Seventeen years later, Kate is a successful actress, married to Matt and mother to gorgeous Tallulah. The past, it would seem, is well and truly behind her. But then Kate and Callum meet after all these years and have to make a devastating choice: to walk away from each other again or risk finding out what might have been. Second chances are a rare gift in life. But that doesn’t mean they should always be taken. This is an unmissable and thought-provoking read which I’m sure you’ll be seeing everywhere this summer.


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The Vanishing

Sophia Tobin


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If you’re a fan of a Historical drama, you’ll absolutely love Tobin’s The Vanishing and you’ll lose yourself in its pages as you race towards its tense and unforgettable climax. Annaleigh Calvert arrives at White Windows on the remote moors to take up a position with the mysterious Twentymans: brooding Marcus and his sister Hester. She soon finds out that her plans for escaping life in London have been complicated rather than simplified by her sudden escape to Yorkshire. This dark and unsettling gothic read has been described as being perfect for fans of The Miniaturist and it definitely has the same claustrophobic and otherworldly atmosphere. This gripping slice of modern gothic will be sure to transport you far away in time and place from wherever you’re reading it and its sense of place will stay with you long after you’ve closed its final page. Atmospheric and haunting, you’ll absolutely love this compelling Victorian thriller.


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The Hour of Separation

March 1939

Estelle is the headstrong daughter of Fleur, a Resistance legend who disappeared during the Great War, supposedly killed while helping Allied soldiers to escape.

Christa, an only child, longs to break free from the constraints of London suburbia and fantasises about the ethereal Belgian heroine who saved her father.

When Estelle comes looking for the truth about the mother she believes deserted her, an intense friendship grows between the two young women. Estelle invites Christa to De Eikenhoeve, her family’s idyllic country estate. There, Christa encounters Estelle’s two brothers – brooding, tempestuous Robbe and dependable, golden-haired Pieter – and during that long hot summer, passions run high. When war breaks out Christa is forced to return home, but not before she has done something she will regret for the rest of her life.

Christa arrives back in England a changed woman, while Estelle decides to follow in her mother’s footsteps and join the Resistance. Little do they dream that Fleur was betrayed by someone close to them and that the legacy of this betrayal will have heartbreaking consequences for them all.

Huge thanks to Rebecca Gray over at Orion for sending me a review a copy of The Hour of Separation by one of my favourite writers, Katharine McMahon. I am so delighted to share my review here as I absolutely loved this fascinating portrayal of wartime passions, hidden secrets and betrayal.


If you read my blog at all, you’ll know that I love a bit of a tale where it sends me diving off into a tailspin of ‘research’ into the real story behind the novel after I finish a good read – and The Hour of Separation was definitely one of the most fascinating in terms of what I found. It’s so interesting to uncover a very different story of the Resistance and its ripples through the generations – seen through the eyes of an ordinary girl going through some extraordinary experiences.

Katharine McMahon is a writer at the top of her game; if you’ve read and loved The Rose of Sebastopol or The Crimson Rooms you’re in for another treat: this is top-class wartime fiction with strongly realised characters and an emotional punch – If you haven’t read it yet, you definitely should. It’s one of the most human wartime novels I’ve ever read and I really found it hard to ‘decompress’ from the world that she recreates for us after finishing it.

I love the way that in all of her novels there is a skilful balance of foreshadowing and suspense of what is to come so that we feel the balance subtly shift and change as we read, wondering what the ramifications of each decision the characters make will be. Estelle is someone who you will follow keenly as you await her decisions and think closely about what you might have done in similar circumstances.

I hate giving spoilers about such an engrossing read; instead, I’ll praise Katharine McMahon’s deft characterisation that has us pulled along with Christa and experience life at de Eikenhoeve for ourselves. This is human history at its finest – making us see the war not as a list of events but a succession of relationships, decisions and human frailties that accumulated in tragedy for thousands of people. I learned a lot about the ‘ordinary’ cost of war and exactly how it affected the lives so many people  – far more than I have done in many of the factual articles and films I’ve seen and this is testament to the research and detail woven into the novel which really brings this complex period to life for us.

Katharine McMahon is equally impressive conjuring up the French Resistance as she is in recreating the complex social stratification of de Eikenhoeve and the diverse settings in the novel give this novel an epic feel – I kept wondering who I’d cast if I was making a film of The Hour of Separation and imagining it coming to life on the big screen was hugely satisfying. If you loved Atonement, All The Light We Cannot See or The Nightingale you’ll absolutely love the wartime setting of this book and if you love the human side of history you’ll definitely be caught up in this very human tale of truth, deception and consequences just as much as I was.

I absolutely loved the evocative description and lyrical language in this novel and got swept up in the story so much so that I didn’t want to leave. The portrayal of women inThe Hour of Separation is another aspect of this novel that really stood out for me and I loved the way that Christa and Estelle such complementary characters. The way that their lives intersect leaves the reader asking themselves probing questions about the reasons we make decisions and if we are being as honest with ourselves as we think we are at some of the critical times in our lives…

I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it’s an intelligent, immersive and atmospheric read that really draws you in and holds you tight until you’ve turned the final page. Treat yourself to a copy here

Doesn’t it look just gorgeous in my #OnTheShelfie ?


Writer On The Shelf

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Katharine McMahon is the author of 10 novels, including the bestselling The Rose of Sebastopol, which was a Richard and Judy pick for 2007.

Her evolving theme is drawing astonishing women from the shadows, and revealing passionate and extraordinary lives, even at times when to be different and powerful risked everything if you were female. All her fictional characters have foundations in real historical characters.

She has experience as a teacher and trainer and has been fortunate to serve on the Sentencing Council of England and Wales, and the Judicial Appointments Commission, as a magistrate. She has run Guardian Masterclasses on historical fiction and has newly been appointed Education Projects Manager for the Royal Literary Fund.

Check out Katharine’s Website here 

Fatal Inheritance Blog Tour


1948: an English housewife trapped in a dull marriage escapes to the South of France to claim a mystery inheritance. But rivals to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge, and now they want her out of the way …

She didn’t have an enemy in the world… until she inherited a fortune

London 1948: Eve Forrester is trapped in a loveless marriage, in a gloomy house, in a grey suburb.

Out of the blue, she received a solicitor’s letter. A wealthy stranger has left her a mystery inheritance but in order to find out more, she must travel to the glittering French Riviera.

Eve discovers her legacy is an enchanting villa overlooking the Mediterranean sea and suddenly, life could not be more glamorous.

But while she rubs shoulders with film-stars and famous writers, under the heat of the golden sun, rivals to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge. Rivals who want her out of the way.

Alone in paradise, Eve must unlock the story behind her surprise bequest – before events turn deadly…


When I was invited to take part in the Blog Tour for Fatal Inheritance, I literally jumped at the chance as I loved A Dangerous Crossing so much! When I met up with fellow Scottish Bloggers for lunch earlier in the summer, Joanne aka @portybelle and I were in full agreement that we couldn’t wait to savour it in the sunshine and it was top of our packing piles for our summer hols. I loved Joanne’s review which kicked off the tour – and you can read it here

I had the pleasure of reading this fantastically atmospheric summer read in beautiful Bristol and the Cotswolds but I soon forgot my real surroundings and was transported to the Riviera and the golden sun reflecting off a gorgeous pink villa and its mysterious inhabitants…

Eve Forrester – like the second Mrs de Winter in Rebecca – is a quiet and unassuming main character who feels out of place and insignificant amongst the dazzling and wealthy company she finds herself in once she travels to the south of France to investigate the inheritance she has been left by a wealthy and mysterious stranger. This is a fabulous device for allowing us to see this golden cast of characters from an outsider’s perspective as we see them through Eve’s eyes. I found this a wonderful way to immerse the readers fully in this glittering world – we see them from an outsider’s perspective with our faces pressed against the glass of their ‘fabulous’ world and just as Eve starts to see the dazzle begin to wear off, so do we as we delve beneath the surface of their wealthy and privileged lives.Image result for a fatal inheritance

Eve’s ghastly and dry as a stick husband, Clifford is a fantastically well-drawn character and we can feel his sanctimonious disapproval as Eve sets off unaccompanied to the dissolute atmosphere of the Riviera to see exactly what she has been left. Eve’s unhappiness starts to fall away into the distance as she begins to fall in love with the Riviera and its memorable cast of inhabitants. Once she’s rubbing shoulders with writers and movie stars her dull post-war life back home and her loveless marriage seem like a dream and the shimmering summer heat of the Riviera draws her further into its intricate web of relationships and allegiances. It reminded me of the best kind of summer period reads – like The Talented Mr Ripley and The Camomile Lawn – which draw you into their period and immerse you in the world of their characters.

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Gloria the movie star who befriends her and the worldly writer Sully who provides her with an insider’s glimpse into the murkiness that lurks just beneath the surface of their ‘fabulous’ facades were two of the stand-out characters for me as they seemed perfectly drawn and really allowed me to imagine what life was like for this very select crowd after World War II had ended. The Lester family were also vividly drawn and definitely taught Eve that even the most privileged of lives have their sorrows to seek and that their enviable lives are perhaps less enviable than she at first imagined.

This is an atmospheric, colourful an satisfying read that really came to life for me – I send a happy hour at least on our rooftop terrace in Bristol, trying to imagine who I’d cast in A Fatal Inheritance – the movie! and it would honestly make my day if I found out that there was to be a two-movie deal with this and A Dangerous Crossing appearing on our screens. I love Rachel Rhys/ Tammy Cohen and can only suggest that if you haven’t had the chance to read all her books that you rush out and treat yourself immediately! If you are looking for an escapist and hugely evocative summer reading experience then look no further as I’m already calling this my read of the summer. Treat yourself to a copy here

My thanks must go, once again, to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. Fatal Inheritance was published by Doubleday on 26th July and I know that it’s going to be a big summer hit. Doesn’t it look just gorgeous in my #OnTheShelfie? That cover is a work of art in its own right…IMG_4352.JPG.jpeg

Writer on the Shelf

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RACHEL RHYS is the pen-name of a much-loved psychological suspense author. Fatal Inheritance is her second novel under this name. Her debut – Dangerous Crossing a Richard and Judy bookclub pick – was published around the world. Rachel Rhys lives in North London with her family.

No Further Questions – Blog Tour


The compulsive thriller from the Sunday Times bestselling author. You’d trust your sister with your life. But should you?
The police say she’s guilty.
She insists she’s innocent.


She’s your sister.
You loved her.
You trusted her.
But they say she killed your child.


Who do you believe?
We all have those writers, don’t we…
The ones that as SOON as we hear that they have a new novel coming out that we actually cannot wait to get our hands on it and just know that you’re going to devour from cover to cover in as few reading sessions as you can possibly manage. Gillian McAllister is one of those writers for me
McAllister likes to make sure that we totally identify with the thorny moral dilemmas that her characters find themselves in – if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Everything But The Truth or Anything You Do Say then you really are in for a treat.
All of her books feature women who you will definitely recognise – in situations that you will think ‘there but for the grace of God go I…’  and I think that’s what makes me connect with them so much – they make you think that sometimes your ordinary and safe little life could turn upon its head in the blink of an eye – and for Martha and her sister Becky this is definitely the case
This novel would be just perfect for a reading group as any group of readers will definitely form opinions about the characters and the choices that they’ve made because we all bring our own experiences and what we think we might have done in the circumstances. As far as I was concerned, I was on holiday in the gorgeous Cotswolds and could not tear myself away from the fate of baby Layla. I’m sure you’ll feel really sorry for me as I lounged for the afternoon in the gorgeous gardens of The Close Hotel in gorgeous Tetbury, desperate to see if my theory was correct and turning the pages faster and faster as I neared the nail-biting conclusion.
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    This novel does have a pretty harrowing subject at its heart: the death of an infant and Gillian McAllister never shies away from the horror of this situation, despite the sensitive treatment of such a delicate and emotional subject matter. Layla’s short life and sudden death are vividly portrayed and the range of voices in the novel makes us see this situation from many dimensions which really worked for me. I loved the explanation at the end of this novel, where Gillian explains walking and talking with her dad in order to bring this cast of characters to life and I have o say – she really does manage to make this set of characters live and breathe on the page.

    Martha’s decision to employ her sister as a nanny in a snap decision is definitely a life decision that comes back to haunt her and it is touches like this that will make you totally believe in her  – sibling relationships in all their complexities, the multi-layered love that we can have even once romantic  relationships are officially ‘over’, knowing when someone is ‘the one’, the guilt we all experience as working parents, our helplessness in the face of the current refugee crisis.                                        JILL                                                                                                                                                       These are all issues that many of us will have dealt with, experienced for ourselves or mulled over for hours over a glass of wine with our friends and this is the reason why I love these books so much – they totally feel real and we feel like we are right in there living life right alongside the characters who talk like we do and go through the same difficulties that so many of us have to deal with every single day. If you are looking for a gripping read this summer that will pin you to your deckchair, think about your own relationships and question the way that society deals with guilt and blame in emotionally charged cases like this then look no further. This has been my page-turner of the summer holidays far – I’m just gutted that I’m going to have to wait so long for her next book now.                                                                                                                                                                                                Treat yourself to a copy here and see if you can solve the case of Layla’s mysterious death for yourself – you won’t regret it.



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Thanks so much for Jenny Platt at Penguin Books for inviting me onto the blog tour – I absolutely loved No Further Questions and think that it looks absolutely amazing in my #OnTheShelfie IMG_4109.JPG.jpeg

Writer On The Shelf

Gillian McAllister has been writing for as long as she can remember. She graduated with an English degree and lives in Birmingham where she now works as a lawyer.
Her debut novel Everything But The Truth was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. Anything You Do Say followed in January 2018 and was both a kindle and paperback bestseller.

You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @gillianmauthor.

The Language of Secrets – Blog Tour


Detective Esa Khattak heads up Canada’s Community Policing Section, which handles minority-sensitive cases across all levels of law enforcement. Khattak is still under scrutiny for his last case, so he’s surprised when INSET, Canada’s federal intelligence agency, calls him in on another potentially hot-button issue. For months, INSET has been investigating a local terrorist cell which is planning an attack on New Year’s Day.

INSET had an informant, Mohsin Dar, undercover inside the cell. But now, just weeks before the attack, Mohsin has been murdered at the group’s training camp deep in the woods.
INSET wants Khattak to give the appearance of investigating Mohsin’s death, and then to bury the lead. They can’t risk exposing their operation, or Mohsin’s role in it. But Khattak used to know Mohsin, and he knows he can’t just let this murder slide. So Khattak sends his partner, Detective Rachel Getty, undercover into the small-town mosque which houses the terrorist cell.

As Rachel tentatively reaches out into the unfamiliar world of Islam, and begins developing relationships with the people of the mosque and the terrorist cell within it, the potential reasons for Mohsin’s murder only seem to multiply, from the political and ideological to the intensely personal.

Ausma Zehanat Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a specialisation in military intervention and war crimes , and it shows – though she wears her learning lightly. This gripping, fascinating and harrowing read never feels like a lecture or a series of facts in search of a story – it makes you think deeply about a wide range of topical issues whilst keeping you absolutely wrapped in its narrative and it is definitely one of  Ausma’s strengths as a writer that we never feel as if her research has merely found its way into a novel.

Having enjoyed The Unquiet Dead so much, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of The Language of Secrets as I loved the setting and the main character – the enigmatic Esa Khattak. I spend the summer in Canada quite often and I loved literally following in Esa’s footsteps in trying to solve these fascinating cases.

When we hear that Esa has suffered the loss of an old friend, Mohsin Dar, it’s intriguing to wonder what made them lose touch and speculate about their connection and how it might be linked to the murder. It’s no surprise that Esa’s skills in subterfuge are called upon and he is asked to ‘launch’ a spurious murder investigation in order to try and find out more about the mysterious death and possibly get to the bottom of his old friend’s shadier connections along the way.

I hate spoilers, so I don’t want to dwell too long on the plot of The Language of Secrets – suffice to say that the skilful way that Khan weaves the murder and detective team of Khattak & Getty with the infiltration of a terrorist cell is superbly done and remains convincing throughout. I know at times it can feel like the fictional world is saturated with male/ female detective teams with complicated back stories but this is a pleasing alliance with two very different points of view which collide pleasingly and create plenty of room for their relationship to develop (hopefully) in subsequent adventures as they solve these complicated Canadian crimes together.

Reading this last week when friends in Toronto had to cancel a college reunion because of terror threats about a car ramming in downtown Toronto made this novel feel all the more real and definitely made it come to life for me as I delved deeper into the hidden world of Mohsin Dar and discover what being an informant can really mean.


I loved the way that this novel wove many threads together – a convincing detective story, a consideration of modern terror cella and their impact on society, an examination of friendship and the impact it can have on our lives in a much wider way than we might have anticipated – and I also enjoyed the references to Arabic literature throughout the novel that definitely made me resolve to read more texts in translation this year and expose myself to writing from other cultures and countries on a more regular basis.

Terrorism isn’t a topic that I’m normally drawn to but his novel never allows you to forget is that that this actually happen all the time Although this is a novel, the events that you are reading about have definitely happened to many people, many times and I think that Khan balances this fine tissue of truth and fiction perfectly. No one reading this book could possibly come away unscathed by it and it’s been a hard book to follow as I find myself continuously thinking back to it and thinking about the way that ideologies can be used to distance us from other people rather than join us more closely together in mutual understanding and I think that this novel really promotes the idea that there is far more that connects us than separates us.

The Language of Secrets is definitely one of those novels that stays with you long after closing its final page and one that I will definitely be recommending to my friends – it packs a powerful emotional punch; educates just as much as it entertains and makes you wish that you could step into the world of Khattak and meet his friends and colleagues for yourself. If you enjoy an immersive and intelligent will ask you to think about your own attitudes and examine the way that you think about your own culture and its preconceptions then you will love this book as much as I did.  I can’t wait to see what Rachel Getty and Essa Khattak do next. I’m a sucker for a great detective pairing and the relationship between these two characters will undoubtedly make you feel like they’ve stepped right off the page and you’re following the trail of the terrorist cell right alongside them.

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Writer on the Shelf


Ausma Zehanat Khan’s debut novel was The Unquiet Dead, published by St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books, and winner of the Barry Award, the Arthur Ellis Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Novel.  She is also at work on a fantasy series, to be published by Harper Voyager, beginning October 2017. The Bloodprint is Book One of the Khorasan Archives.

A frequent lecturer and commentator, Ms Khan holds a PhD in International Human Rights Law with a research specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. Ms Khan completed her LL.B. and LL.M. at the University of Ottawa, and her B.A. in English Literature & Sociology at the University of Toronto.

Formerly, she served as Editor in Chief of Muslim Girl magazine. The first magazine to address a target audience of young Muslim women, Muslim Girl re-shaped the conversation about Muslim women in North America. The magazine was the subject of two documentaries, and hundreds of national and international profiles and interviews, including CNN International, Current TV, and Al Jazeera “Everywoman”.

Ms Khan practised immigration law in Toronto and has taught international human rights law at Northwestern University, as well as human rights and business law at York University. She is a long-time community activist and writer and currently lives in Colorado with her husband. (bio from the author’s site)


Thank you so much to No Exit Press and the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me on this Blog Tour in return for my unbiased and honest review.


The Emperor of Shoes Blog Tour


Alex Cohen, a twenty-six-year-old Jewish Bostonian, is living in southern China, where his father runs their family-owned shoe factory. Alex reluctantly assumes the helm of the company, but as he explores the plant’s vast floors and assembly lines, he comes to a grim realization: employees are exploited, regulatory systems are corrupt and Alex’s own father is engaging in bribes to protect the bottom line.

When Alex meets a seamstress named Ivy, his sympathies begin to shift. She is an embedded organizer of a pro-democratic Chinese party, secretly sowing dissonance among her fellow labourers. Will Alex remain loyal to his father and his heritage? Or will the sparks of revolution ignite?

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I thoroughly enjoyed this tale of Alex Cohen, a young American living in China, where his father runs a shoe factory which Alex finds himself running for him.  Alex is young enough to question the status quo when he arives and realises that the ethics of this factory are somewhat questionable and the ethical problems go much deeper than he might initially have suspected. This is definitely a novel to make you think and I frequently had to put it down To mull over some of the ideas in it. Alex is put into several challenging scenarios and it made me think hard about what I myself might have done in the circumstances.

In this factory, the workers are clearly being exploited, any laws that actually do exist are corrupt and only intermittently applied and Alex uncovers the fact that his dad has been using bribery to make sure that his interests are protected. The next time you buy a pair of summer sandals for a fiver, I challenge you not to think about the workers in this book, after reading it for yourself. It’s not that it makes for unpalatable reading, just that it rattles you out of the state of convenient amnesia that we can all suffer from at times. I found myself really thinking hard about the ways that we can all turn a blind eye to things that might not suit our narrative and Alex isn’t alone in finding out that it’s more complicated to stand up for what you believe in than you might think.

When Alex starts to find a mysterious and compelling attraction for a  seamstress called Ivy, his complicated feelings start to grow even more discomfiting. She is linked to a pro-democratic Chinese party, and is working undercover to spread news about the way that their rights re being exploited to the other workers. Alex is torn between his own feelings of discomfort and moral unease and his loyalty to his father’s legacy as this compelling novel unfolds.


IMG_3886.JPGI was reading this beautifully crafted novel in a gorgeous valley in the Cotswolds, but I could definitely feel myself being transported to a hot and dusty factory through the power of Spencer Wise’s prose. I found Alex an interesting character and whilst I was fascinted by the situation that he found hinself in,  I found myself looking at him almost at arms length and I wondered if this was part of the novel’s cleverness: Alex definitely finds it hard to connect with people and this sense of distance was something I felt as I read about his experiences and doubts in this novel.

The Emperor Of Shoes is a well crafted and thought provoking read which definintely held my interest as we see Alex being tested in almost every sense – professional ties, ethical ties, family ties and emotional ties are all pulling him in different directions and its hard at times to watch the way that Alex’s situation unfolds. If you want to know how he resolves this unenviable situation, you’ll have to read it for yourself...


Writer On The Shelf


Spencer Wise was born in Boston in 1977. He holds a BA from Tufts University, an MA in fiction from The University of Texas, where he was a James Michener Fellow, and a PhD in Creative Writing from Florida State University. Wise is currently a Visiting Lecturer at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he is at work on his second novel, Holderness.

How Far We Fall Blog Tour


I am delighted to be the final blogger on this fantastic Blog Tour for How Far We Fall, the latest novel from author of Daughter –  Jane Shemilt. Many thanks to Jenny Platt at Michael Joseph for inviting me to join the tour and to the publisher for providing an advance copy for review. I’m an English teacher ‘by day’ and once I knew that this was a reimagining of Macbeth, I couldn’t wait to read it…


The perfect couple

Meeting Albie gave Beth a fresh start – a chance to leave her past behind. Now she has her new husband; an ambitious, talented young neurosurgeon.

The perfect marriage

Their marriage gives Beth the safe haven she’s always wanted – with just one catch. Albie has no idea of the secrets she’s keeping. He doesn’t know that years ago, Beth had an affair with Ted, the boss helping Albie’s star ascend. Nor that the affair’s devastating ending will have consequences for their own future.

The perfect storm

So when Ted’s generous patronage begins to sour, Beth senses everything she’s built could crumble. And she sees an opportunity. To satisfy Albie’s ambitions, and her own obsessive desire for revenge . . .

She’ll keep her marriage and her secret safe.

But how far will the fall take them?


“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes” 

Macbeth, or The Scottish Play, is my very favourite of all Shakespeare’s creations and so I was totally intrigued to see how Jane Shemilt would transform Dunsinane and bring these bloody deeds into the present day.

I think it’s a bold move to take such a well loved tale and let loose your imagination  on it, but rest assured, I loved the way that I could inhabit both storylines at the same time – like a Magic Eye picture so that I could enjoy the new story whilst seeing all the way that it intersected with the original

The novel replaces the Macbeths with Beth, Albie and Ted. Beth is a theatre nurse who used to work with neurosurgeon Ted. The two of them had an affair which ended badly. Ted Is a great character, like many top doctors, he has somewhat of a god complex and is fascinating to second guess. Our third member of the “cast” is Albie. Albie is Being groomed as Ted’s successor and this is true in more ways than one as he also falls, like his predecessor, in love with Beth. Are you following so far? Good.

Just like the original, Jane Shemilt weaves a tale full of darkest revenge, soaring ambition and searing betrayal. Ted succeeds in making us detest his Machiavellian manoeuvres, but every plot has to have a “baddie” and Ted might not be the only one to watch in this gripping read…If you haven’t seen the Modern day Macbeth with James McAvoy as the chef, then you definitely should. I enjoyed comparing the characters in my head and looking for the parallels.

As things develop in this ménage a trois, your loyalties and certainties might very well shift, just as they do in Macbeth and you might also think about what you yourself might be prepared to do in the name of ambition. This is well depicted in the novel and hard to discuss without spoilers – all I can say is you’ll be engrossed and if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to put it down unless your husband says something like “Is this a gin I see before thee?” And pours you a long cool drink so you can continue to read it in the sunshine.

Jane Shemilt’s “Daughter” was a great read that I’ve tweeted about previously- but I loved How Far We Fall far more.  I really got absorbed in their world whilst loving the Scottish connections and the parallels with Shakespeare’s best tragedy. It’s interesting to read it with that mindset: that a tragedy has to contain a fall from grace through a vulnerability and I feel that this idea is woven into  the plot seamlessly. If we were pushed hard enough, How Far would we be prepared to go to protect our own position. This would be a good book group read as it would definitely provoke lots of discussion.

I was lucky enough to be reading this in a gorgeous converted Shepherds hut in the Cotswolds where I could give it my undivided attention and I think that this added to my enjoyment. In a Shakespeare play, you feel this rising action as you move inevitably to the denouement and this is how I got to experience How Far We Fall, by reading it from cover to cover in one day. This would make a fabulous holiday read as long as you’re not shy about reading descriptions of operations and you’ll love the way that the characters come to life before your eyes and seem so real as you immerse yourself in their world. This is a well crafted and clever novel that takes a classic and adds an original touch. I loved the way that it twisted itself around you and held you in its grip until you found out its conclusion. I’m left wondering what’s next for Jane Shemilt? I’d love to see her take on another favourite, Othello, but I’ll just have to be patient and keep my fingers crossed. Maybe I can get three witches to predict it?

I Have added a photo of my gorgeous  reading retreat below. I Can absolutely recommend it for a cool and relaxing reading afternoon. A good soak in the hot tub afterwards with a pink  gin was the perfect finale after this fab summer read. You should definitely buy yourself a copy to enjoy this summer.


Writer On The Shelf


While working as a GP, Jane Shemilt completed a postgraduate diploma in Creative Writing at Bristol University and went on to study for the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa, gaining both with distinction. Her first novel, Daughter, was selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club, shortlisted for the Edgar Award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and went on to become the bestselling debut novel of 2014.

She and her husband, a professor of neurosurgery, have five children and live in Bristol.