Sunday, 24 May 2015


My Thoughts on this story of decisions and fate ......


Published:  21 May 2015
Publisher:  Simon and Schuster

Amber was three when a car crash stole her mother's life.  She doesn't remember the accident, but a stranger at the scene has been unable to forget.  Now, almost thirty years later, she's trying to track Amber down.

Amber, meanwhile, is married to Ned and living on the other side of the world in London.  When her father has a stroke, she flies straight home to Australia to be with him.  Away from her husband, Amber finds comfort in her oldest friends, but her feelings for Ethan, the gorgeous, green-eyed man she once fell for, have never been platonic.

As Ethan and Amber grow closer, married life in London feels very far away.  Then Amber receives a letter that changes everything.

'Before your mother died, she asked me to tell you something .....'

Blinding sunshine
A bend in the road
What became of the little girl with the sun in her eyes?

Amber and Ethan were best friends in school in Australia until Amber went travelling, met her future husband Ned, and settled down in London.  Now she's come back home to visit her dad who's had a stroke and her old feelings for Ethan come back to her.

Amber's marriage is not all that rosy, she's jealous of Ned's female boss and sometimes feels that they're having an affair.  Could she find happiness with Ethan or is he really the same man she fell in love with all those years ago?
What were Amber's mother's last words and are they significant in Amber's life?

The writing flowed smoothly, told from Amber's perspective, I felt that I got to know her very well and could understand how her mind worked, how she was confused and didn't know real from fantasy at times.

The story is full of emotion, told beautifully and is sure to delight existing fans of Paige Toon and anyone looking for a new author who can tell a story with warmth and skill.

A very enjoyable read that I would recommend highly.


Thanks to Dawn at Simon & Schuster for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Available to buy from - -

Sign up to 'The Hidden Paige' at
Say hi on Twitter @PaigeToonAuthor

Sunday, 17 May 2015


My Thoughts on this First World War Spy Thriller .....

THE STAR OF ISTANBUL ( A Christopher Marlowe Cobb thriller)

Published:  14 May 2015
Publisher:  No Exit Press
Pages:  369  (Paperback)

Source:  Real Readers

It is 1915 and Germany has allied itself with the Ottoman empire, persuading the caliphs of Turkey to declare a jihad on the British empire. War correspondent Christopher Marlowe Cobb has been tasked to follow Brauer, a German intellectual and possible secret service agent suspected of holding information vital to the war effort.
As they travel on the Lusitania’s fateful voyage, Cobb becomes smitten with famed actress Selene Bourgani. Cobb soon realizes that this simple actress is anything but, as she harbours secrets that could add fuel to the already raging conflict. Surviving the night of the infamous German U-Boat attack, Cobb follows Selene and Brauer into the darkest alleyways of London and on to the powder keg that is Istanbul. He must use all the cunning he possesses to uncover Selene’s true motives, only to realize her hidden agenda could bring down some of the world’s most powerful leaders.

Having not read the first of the Christopher Marlowe Cobb thrillers, I wasn't sure what to expect from this spy story, but, though mention was made of his earlier adventure, I think that this is a book that can be read on its own, and I didn't feel that I'd missed too much of his back story. Having now enjoyed this, I may go back and read The Hot Country at some time.

Under his cover as a famous War Correspondent 'Kit' Cobb has been asked to follow a suspected agent of the German Secret Service on the ill-fated ship The Lusitania but becomes distracted by a beautiful actress.  He is shocked to discover that she is not what she seems to be.....who's side is she on?

Cobb is an interesting character, he misses nothing, he's smart about reading people, being a pretty good reporter, but is not so smart about women, a fact he readily admits as he becomes smitten with the enigmatic Selene Bourgani.

The writing is very detailed, which I really enjoyed reading, it moves along at a brisk pace, it's never boring, involving intriguing characters who are well-developed, clever twists, full of danger, this is a very good exciting espionage thriller.


Available to buy from

Author Robert Olen Butler can be found at his website:
On twitter:  #starofistanbul

Sunday, 10 May 2015


My Thoughts on the third cosy mystery in the Cherringham series .......


Published:  13 Feb 2014
Publisher:  Bastei Entertainment

Just two weeks to go before the Cherringham Charity Christmas Concert. Choir rehearsals are in full swing. Then the worst thing happens: Kirsty Kimball, one of the singers, is found dead from a severe allergic reaction to one of the home-made rehearsal cakes. Jack is pulled in to help bolster the depleted choir - and soon he's convinced that Kirsty's death was no accident. Sarah agrees, and quickly the two of them are immersed in the jealousies, rivalries and passions of Cherringham's Rotary Club choir ...

Here we are again in the small town of Cherringham meeting up with Jack and Sarah, this time getting involved in the mysterious murder of gift shop owner Kirsty in the midst of preparations for the annual Christmas concert. Everyone at the choir knew of her allergy but who would want her dead, and now everyone of them was a suspect as Jack goes undercover and joins their number.

Between Sarah's flirty conversations with one of the suspects, Jack's no-nonsense approach with another, they begin to discover plenty of secrets among the choir members.

I really enjoy following how this unlikely partnership carry out their investigations, they are both so different but it all comes together nicely and neatly in the end.

The plots are not complicated, they're clever, and short, and the authors pack a whole lot of storyline into this series.

In this story, though, I didn't feel that I got to know Jack and Sarah any more than in the other two stories, the emphasis was on the other characters, which I enjoyed, but I hope that in the next mystery "Thick as Thieves" we learn a little more about them.

If you haven't read any of them I would recommend them highly, if you like your crimes cosy then check them out.  Here are my reviews in order:

Cherringham:  Murder on Thames

Cherringham:  Mystery at the Manor

Also check out this brilliant guest post that the authors recently gave to Carole's Book Corner.  It's a fascinating insight to the series beginnings.


About the Authors

Co-authors Neil Richards and Matthew Costello are known for their script work on major computer games. The Cherringham crime series is their first fictional transatlantic collaboration. Matthew has written and designed dozens of bestselling games including the critically acclaimed The 7th Guest, Doom 3, Rage and Pirates of the Caribbean. He is also the author of a number of successful novels, including Vacation (2011) and Beneath Still Waters (1989), which was made into a movie. Neil has worked as a producer and writer in TV and film, creating scripts for BBC, Disney, and Channel 4, and earning numerous Bafta nominations along the way. He’s also written script and story for over 20 video games including The Da Vinci Code and Starship Titanic, co-written with Douglas Adams, and consults around the world on digital storytelling.

Friday, 24 April 2015


My Thoughts on this beautiful, moving story .........


Paperback Published:  17 July 2014
Publisher:  Hodder & Stoughton

Imagine if you couldn't see ...
couldn't hear ...
couldn't speak ...

Then one day somebody took your hand and opened up the world to you.

Adeliza Golding is a deaf-blind girl, born in late Victorian England on her father's hop farm.  Unable to interact with her loving family, she exists in a world of darkness and confusion: her only communication is with the ghosts she speaks to in her head, who she has christened The Visitors.  One day she runs out into the fields and a young hop-picker, Lottie, grabs her hand and starts drawing shapes in it.  Finally Liza can communicate.

Her friendship with her teacher and with Lottie's beloved brother, Caleb, leads her from the hop gardens of Kent to the dusty veldt of South Africa and the Boer War, and ultimately to the truth about the Visitors.

Hop-pickers in Kent in the 1900's

This book is beautiful.  I adored this story of Adeliza and how she changed from this 'wild animal kept in a tame house' where the servants found her unsettling and didn't want to be alone with her.

Told by Liza herself, I really felt as if I knew what was going on in her mind, her frustrations, how she hurt herself and the people around her just so she could feel something and be taken out of her dull existence for just a little while.  The writing was incredibly descriptive.

Her life was totally transformed when she met Lottie who gave her life meaning, she gave her hope, a future and. most importantly of all, a wonderful friendship.  I felt very emotional when Liza first learns that shapes make words.

I was totally engrossed and had no idea of how the story would evolve, it was a surprise to be taken from hop-pickers to oyster beds, and then to the midst of the Boer War, but in a good way.

This was a very entertaining read, a unique and inspiring story, a ghost story, a coming of age story, all beautifully told with fantastic imagery.

This is one of my favourite books that I've read this year.


About the Author:

Rebecca Mascull lives by the sea in the east of England with her partner Simon and their daughter Poppy.  She has previously worked in education and has a Masters in Writing.  The Visitors is her first novel.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015


My Thoughts on the 12th novel in this popular series ......


Published:  26 March 2015
Publisher:  Doubleday

London is under siege. A banking scandal has filled the city with violent protests, and as the anger in the streets detonates, a young homeless man burns to death after being caught in the crossfire between rioters and the police.
But all is not as it seems; an opportunistic killer is using the chaos to exact revenge, but his intended victims are so mysteriously chosen that the Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to find a way of stopping him.
Using their network of eccentric contacts, elderly detectives Arthur Bryant and John May hunt down a murderer who adopts incendiary methods of execution. But they soon find their investigation taking an apocalyptic turn as the case comes to involve the history of mob rule, corruption, rebellion, punishment and the legend of Guy Fawkes.
At the same time, several members of the PCU team reach dramatic turning points in their lives - but the most personal tragedy is yet to come, for as the race to bring down a cunning killer reaches its climax, Arthur Bryant faces his own devastating day of reckoning.

The Burning Man is the 12th book in the wonderful Bryant and May series.  
Arthur Bryant and John May are both senior detectives in the Peculiar Crimes Unit, which performs a unique invisible service, to prevent public disorder......and to investigate peculiar and unusual crimes.
This time, morale is low in the unit, their budget's been cut and they've had some bad publicity from a disgruntled tabloid hack.  It's also pretty quiet until a banking scandal breaks and riots break out in the City, and people are being killed in mysterious and horrific ways. 
As usual, Bryant and May bring their own unique style of investigating to the crimes.  Bryant is quirky and 'insensitive to the etiquette of small talk, a mobile time capsule' and May is a bit of a ladies man. 
The plot moves along at a steady pace, the two detectives sparking off each other, sometimes quite funny, sometimes sad, and I really liked both of them and their different way of working.
Plenty of twists and turns all make this a very readable novel which I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend.

Special Thanks to Sophie at Transworld for sending me this book.

Saturday, 4 April 2015


My Thoughts on this brilliantly moving debut novel ......


Published:  5 March 2015
Publisher:  Atlantic Books
Pages:  304

S.S. Obersturmfuhrer Paul Meissner arrives in Auschwitz fresh from fighting on the Russian Front.  After being badly wounded, he is fit only for administrative duty and his first and most pressing task is to improve flagging camp morale among the officers and the enlisted men.  
He sets up a chess club, which thrives as under-the-table bets are made on the results of the games.  
When Meissner learns from a chance remark that chess is also played by the prisoners, however, he becomes intrigued by the rumour of a Jewish watchmaker who is 'unbeatable'.
A deeply moving novel about an impossible friendship between a Nazi and a Jew, The Death's Head Chess Club challenges us to consider what might be the very limits of forgiveness and what might be the cost of a lifetime of bitterness.

I have to confess that if I saw this book on the shelf at my local bookshop I would walk straight past it.  The name and the picture would not appeal to me at all.  And when I was asked to review this book for RealReaders I was not sure if I would like it or not.

But if you're like me I would urge you to pick it up, look at the blurb and take a chance at reading something amazing, you won't be disappointed.

This is the story, mainly, of three men, the 'watchmaker' and Jew Emil Clement, former SS officer and now priest Paul Meissner and Willi Schweninger who worked in the Propaganda Ministry during WWII.

Going back and forth in time between 1943/44 and 1962, the three men are at a Chess Tournament in Amsterdam when their paths cross.  Was it fate that they should meet or divine intervention?

As they share drinks and meals together, over time, they start to tell their stories, and we realise how they are all linked.  Their stories started slowly, but gradually we learn what happened at Auschwitz as Emil was the 'unbeatable' chess player who's games became, literally, a matter of life or death and I couldn't put it down.

This is a story of hatred, unlikely friendship, unspeakable cruelty, forgiveness, healing, redemption, guilt and, of course, chess.

Overall, a moving and thought-provoking debut novel that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend.

*Just as an aside to this story, several years ago I went to Birkenau and Auschwitz.  I saw the train tracks, the watchtower and the wooden huts at Birkenau.  I visited the museum at Auschwitz, the sign that read 'Arbeit macht frei' (work makes you free) looked at the photos of the prisoners, their suitcases with their names on - all unaware of the horror awaiting them.  It was a humbling experience, very similar to the feeling I had after finishing this book.*

Tuesday, 31 March 2015


My Thoughts on the second in this fun cosy crime series .......


Published:  10 March 2015

With a storm brewing in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the Killer WASPs head south to Palm Beach, Florida. And what could be better than fabulous friends, Lilly Pulitzer beachwear, frozen cocktails, and high-society drama?
Kristin Clark and her basset hound, Waffles, are ready to escape the doldrums of winter to bask in the warm Florida sun and dine at her friends' new restaurant, Vicino. But when a rival restaurant undergoes an HGTV makeover and attempts to steal Vicino's spotlight and its patrons, the town is abuzz with gossip, and Kristin and her friends—Bootsie, a nosy reporter; Holly, a chicken nugget heiress; and Sophie, the soon-to-be ex-wife of a mobster—have parties to attend.
Everything is going swimmingly in the glitz and glamour of Palm Beach until a bad batch of clams threatens to shut down Vicino and their vacation for good. When it becomes clear that the clams may be more than an innocent mishap, the ladies must unravel the mystery before there are deadly consequences.

This is the second in the Killer WASPS crime series, the first one I reviewed here but you don't need to have read that to enjoy this one.
I really enjoyed being in the company of Kristin and her quirky friends again, and this time she's very luckily been whisked away to stay in heiress Holly's rented villa in South Florida.  Once again, there is a mystery or two to be solved while she's there. 
Someone tries to run down Holly and Jessica, the manager of the new and trendy Vicino's restaurant, where it appears that someone also wants the restaurant out of business by trying to poison one of the areas's most influential diners and sabotage the air-conditioning.
Luckily, Jessica's friends Kirsty and Bootsie, in between eating, drinking and shopping decide to do a little sleuthing.
There were shady dealings, double dealings, lots of Gucci, Hermes, Valentino being worn, together with lies and deceit all neatly wrapped up in this mystery which I loved!
About the Author
Amy Korman is a former senior editor and staff writer for Philadelphia Magazine, and author of Frommer's Philadelphia and the Amish Country. She has written for Town & CountryHouse BeautifulMen's Health, and Cosmopolitan. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family and their basset hound, Murphy.
Check out her website

Saturday, 21 March 2015


My Thoughts on this tale of conspiracy, coffee and Calumny Spinks .......

Published:  April 2014
Source:  NetGalley

In 1688, torn by rebellions, England lives under the threat of a Dutch invasion. Redheaded Calumny Spinks is the lowliest man in an Essex backwater: half-French and still unapprenticed at seventeen, yet he dreams of wealth and title.

When his father’s violent past resurfaces, Cal’s desperation leads him to become a coffee racketeer. He has just three months to pay off a blackmailer and save his father’s life - but his ambition and talent for mimicry pull him into a conspiracy against the King himself.

Cal’s journey takes him from the tough life of Huguenot silk weavers to the vicious intrigues at Court.

Calumny Spinks, a 'long-limbed red-haired Frenchy gawk' is the narrator of this novel and we follow his journey, after a tragic incident, from a small town in Essex to the big city of London where he becomes involved in conspiracies, coffeehouses and silk weavers.

He has a gift for mimicry, is bright and quick-witted and the young ladies seem to love him! In trying to repay his father's debt he uses his wits and his smooth tongue but this all leads him into dangerous situations and dangerous men.

The sights and sounds of 17th century London are brought to life with vivid descriptions of the workshops, hawkers, tradesmen, chandlers at their craft and silk weaving. This is an England where people meted out their own kind of justice, without fear of retribution, where a man could kill another man with his sword and be thought a hero but to kill another man with a pistol he would be thought a murderer. "If thou fight with pistols and win, law will call thee murderer. But to kill a man in a swordfight is no crime in English law".

There is so much packed into this clever novel, with twists and turns, romance, double dealings, murders, fears of an impending war and friendships, but it also has a soft side, especially the relationship between Calumny and his father which changed throughout the story.

The author has obviously done his research into silk weaving, boats on the Thames and 17th century pistols. My only criticism would be that some of these descriptions were so long that I found my mind wandering reading them.

Overall, a really enjoyable fast-paced novel with memorable characters and a memorable storyline. Looking forward to the next chapter in the life of mister Calumny Spinks.

The author's website
Follow him on twitter: @thebittertrade

Friday, 13 March 2015

Guest Post and Giveaway for Cosy Crime Series: Cherringham: A Lesson in Murder

Today I am part of the tour for the latest in the cosy crime series Cherringham: A Lesson in Murder and on my blog today I am thrilled to feature a Guest Post from the authors, Matthew Costello & Neil Richards on how the series began, together with a fabulous Giveaway!


And on the Eighth Day… The fictional village of Cherringham has grown faster than a gold-rush town since Matt and I invented it two years ago, sitting outside a Cotswolds pub in the autumn sunshine, sipping our pints of Marstons and making up stories. We were in the Cotswolds to research our new crime series about an ex-NYC cop Jack Brennan and local single mum Sarah Edwards who team up to solve all kinds of murder and mystery together. We wanted the series to be set in the very heart of the real Cotswolds, with all the variation of housing, class, industry, tourism, locals, that the area offers. But we also needed a village that had the Thames flowing through it - because Jack lives on an old Dutch barge. And we had a problem. We’d spent a week driving everywhere – but no single town or village fitted the bill. The perfect stretches of the Thames didn’t have quite the right village – and the perfect villages were miles away from the Thames. So we decided to invent our own Cotswolds town. What could be easier or more fun? We decided to use one village that we both loved for the core geography – then we took a couple of other villages and grafted them on. All we had to do then was pick up our favourite stretch of the Thames (complete with barges, medieval bridge and weir) and lay it in a delicate curve in the meadows below. And what writers could resist the opportunity to build a whole community from scratch? A market square and a set of medieval stocks? It shall be so! A charming little pub with a great landlord that not only does terrific food but always has a quiet table at the back whenever you need one? Voila! A police station with just one cop, who’s genial enough but no great shakes at solving murders? Put it there! Next step was to give our little village a name. At first it was going to have the suffix ‘on-Thames’ but then we decided to call the whole series ‘Murder on Thames’ so that had to change. For a while we ran with Sheringham, which has an evocative ‘olde Englande’ sound to it but our market research (wives and families) responded that everybody knew there already was a Sheringham in Norfolk… So then in a moment of genius (or to be more truthful a moment of sheer chance) we realized what Chippenham, Cheltenham, Chipping Norton, and Chipping Camden all had in common – and came up with the name Cherringham. And Cherringham worked so well – it actually became the title of the whole series. ‘Murder on Thames’ then became the title of the first book. But – back to creating our story world. Even then – right at the beginning – we also knew we’d have to map our village. If we didn’t – then as co-writers we’d quickly lose track. Matt lives in New York – I live in England – and we write our books across the Atlantic, across time zones: it was vital that we saw exactly the same geography, the same layout. Especially in a crime novel where sometimes the plot itself depends on the movement of characters across the landscape, the distances between homes and crime scenes, the relative location of suspects and victims… We knew our fictional Cherringham had to be laid down with as much logic as a town planner would apply when creating a new community from scratch. It started as a few scribbles on a pub napkin: “Here’s the High Street. And here’s where Sarah lives. So… down here must be the road that leads down to the river. And here’s Jack’s houseboat – half a mile north from the bridge? Which way does the river flow? Hmm – let’s put a loop in it... Sarah’s mum and dad – they have a place half a mile down-river. And let’s put a pub here on the crossroads. What shall we call it? The Ploughman’s. Oh and here’s Huffington’s – the coffee place – near the market square and the church. Here’s the primary school, and here’s…” And so on and so on… Until now our map of Cherringham is so big, so comprehensive, that it has to be drawn on a flip-chart sheet. We’ve created streets, businesses, chicken farms, studs, shops, stores, restaurants, farm shops, cafes, pubs, hotels, offices. We’ve set up Mothers and Toddlers Groups, a choir, a Cherringham Historical Society, the local drama group, an opera club, a whole church congregation, bell ringers. We’ve invented cops, solicitors, priests, electricians, plumbers, tyre-fitters, parish councillors, teachers, immigrant workers, kitchen porters, school pupils, cricketers, footballers, a tennis club, runners… And we know all their names and addresses and relationships (the secret ones too). Little did we know when we started that Cherringham would grow into a vibrant, functioning community. Now – two years later – we have just returned from another week staying in the Cotswolds to storyline the final episodes of Season Two. We stayed in the heart of a village which – secretly - is the heart of Cherringham. And all week long we kept catching each other out referring to the village as Cherringham – suggesting eating at the Ploughmans, or a meal at The Spotted Pig, or tea and scones at the Hobbit CafĂ©. Or wanting to bump into Tony Standish our friendly solicitor. Or Alan the cop. Or Sarah’s dad Michael. Or the Buckland sisters who run the toll bridge. Or Pete Bull the plumber… All of whom are so very real in our minds. But, sadly, are only fiction. The trouble with making up a fictional world is – you end up wanting to live there. And you really miss it when you’re away. Neil Richards Co-creator – with Matt Costello - of ‘Cherringham’


What a brilliant guest post! Thank you so much for this insight into the series beginnings.

I love this series and have read the first two books

If you love cosy mysteries, especially ones set in small english villages, then I would urge you to check out this series. They are not huge blockbusters, they're relatively short stories that you could devour in one sitting, packed full of fabulous characters, great plotlines, all in a wonderful setting.


Cherringham: A Lesson In Murder
Matthew Costello and Neil Richards

Nothing ever happens in the small Cotswold village of Cherringham, making it the perfect place to retire to – or so ex-NYPD Detective Jack Brennan thought. But before long, local web designer and single mother Sarah Edwards had convinced him to help her investigate a suspicious suicide. Since then, he and Sarah have solved mysterious deaths, unlikely accidents and perplexing robberies. “Peace and quiet” never really suited Jack anyway…

Cherringham is an ongoing “cosy crime” eBook series, that launched in December 2013 and features unlikely sleuthing duo Sarah and Jack. Released in monthly episode, it is written by award-winning game and TV writers UK-based Neil Richards and US-based Matthew Costello in a transatlantic collaboration – which mirrors that of Jack and Sarah. The new series, released from March, launches with A Lesson in Murder, in which the two are asked to investigate the violent death of a popular teacher at Cherringham Girls School.


Co-authors Neil Richards and Matthew Costello are known for their script work on major computer games. The Cherringham crime series is their first fictional transatlantic collaboration. Matthew has written and designed dozens of bestselling games including the critically acclaimed The 7th Guest, Doom 3, Rage and Pirates of the Caribbean. He is also the author of a number of successful novels, including Vacation (2011) and Beneath Still Waters (1989), which was made into a movie. Neil has worked as a producer and writer in TV and film, creating scripts for BBC, Disney, and Channel 4, and earning numerous Bafta nominations along the way. He’s also written script and story for over 20 video games including The Da Vinci Code and Starship Titanic, co-written with Douglas Adams, and consults around the world on digital storytelling.


1st Prize – Winner written into a Cherringham episode plus an ecopy of the book
2nd Prize – ecopy of the book

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