The Stolen Child~ Alex Coombs

The Stolen Child is the first book in the DI Hanlon series by Alex Coombs. It’s gritty, painful, full of conspiracy and closed ranks, disturbing and so very well written in to a superb crime novel.

The Stolen Child takes us on a journey full of stomach knots and sickening feelings in our guts as we first come to observe the retrieval of children’s bodies and DI Hanlon’s private theory, which she enlists the help of a close colleague to get to the bottom of while she’s being closely observed by some not-very-nice-people within the Metropolitan Police. One such observer turns out to be an ally right through to the very end. And the colleague? Well he ends up fighting for his life, something Hanlon takes exceedingly personally.

The crimes run deeper than children being murdered and their bodies dumped; these children are chosen specifically to cater for the sinister tastes of the powerful and wealthy, they are then taken in to captivity, abused, murdered and dumped with no evidence of who committed the atrocities. And this is where we’re introduced to conspiring law officials, low life thugs and general scumbags with too much money and not enough moral backbone.

The Stolen Child, to start with, was hard for me to read (most likely because it was so disturbing and as a parent I’m all to aware of the predatory nature of the world around us and how vulnerable children are) but as I began to stomach the grit slightly, and the theories and attack on a good and decent public server began to grip me, I really began to read a lot quicker and want to read ahead to find out what was going to happen next.

Even though I’ve only read the first book in this series, I have a feeling that with Coomb’s level of research combined with insane writing skills that readers are about to find themselves pulled into the Hanlon fan base and submerged in her dark world. If you can detach yourself from your own comfort zone and keep yourself calm while reading (I was so close to shouting at my Kindle several times and even considered throwing it out the window at one point!) then this is going to be one Hell of a ride.

About The Author

Alex Coombs studied Arabic at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities and went on to work in adult education and then retrained to be a chef. He has written four well reviewed crime novels as Alex Howard.

Murder: It’s All In Your Head~Cynthia Hilston

Holy sh*t! Where do I begin with this?! I LOVED this book and I was utterly glued to it! I devoured this book in a day and a half and can’t stop thinking about!

I don’t quite know how to describe it exactly, but it’s a murder spree that’s been going on for a century by one relentless, dark young woman. Helen’s story takes place in 1918 and we’re witness to the horrendous sexual abuse inflicted upon her by her father, living alongside her mother’s fear and hiding. Helen learns she has the ability to slip in to her father’s body, hoping to scare him in to stopping the abuse. Eventually Helen’s story ends in tragedy (to those on the outside looking in) however she moves in to the body of another young woman and continues her life as one long and relentless killing spree that seems to have no end in sight.

We also spend time in a psychiatric hospital and get to know two chaps, Jimmy and Randy, who are victims on Helen; she’s destroyed their lives and committed murder in their bodies, however, as Helen moves in to the body of Cassie, the two patients come together and learn of their tales. They have only a short amount of time to end this evil and stop Helen continuing her deathly body-hopping.

I honestly thought that the changes in timeline and body-hopping would be too confusing and that I wouldn’t be able to get to grips with it enough to enjoy the plot, but I was so wrong! It was easy to follow and actually made the entire story flow smoothly and add to the horror of Helen’s killing spree. The emotions of each of the characters-whether they were in their own bodies or not- were so clear that you couldn’t help but feel them yourself.

Truly an immense read and one for anyones TBR pile! It would make an amazing read for a book club!

Murder: It’s All In Your Head is available to purchase now from Amazon and available on Kindle Unlimited.

Author Biography

Cynthia Hilston lives in Cleveland Ohio and is a stay at home mum to three children (Cynthia, I salute you!) and spent 20 years dipping her toes in and out of the world of Fan Fiction (haven’t we all got that guilty pleasure?) and took a step back to create her own original piece of fiction. Cynthia’s hobbies are reading, watching Supernatural (wonder if she’s Team Squirrel or Moose?) and Outlander l. She loves her orange cat and drinking wine and coffee with her friends and gazing up at the stars (obviously in between parenting like a boss and writing a literary Queen!)

Bad Girls~Gemma Rogers

What a read! I devoured this book in two days and could not put it down! It was AMAZING! I hadn’t read much on Bad Girls or Gemma Rogers, I simple read the description sent to me by Rachel’s Reading Resources and signed myself up for a spot on the blog tour. I thought it would it would be an okay read to fill my evenings with while I leaned toward other genres, however, I was hooked and loved every page!

In Bad Girls, we meet Jess who returns to her hometown after a four year prison sentence, and for her probation period has to work in an industrial laundry company among numerous other ex-convicts. We learn that not all is as it seems, and her parole officer supplies similar looking girls to the owner of the business for his own pleasures. Sickening.

We also come across Karla, another ex-con with a secret behind her interest in Jess, and slowly her secrets unravel all the while Jess’s new found freedom is on the line.

Bad Girls is written in the first person narrative and is insanely good, my heart was racing for most of it and also broke for Jess, her family and long time friend. But toward the end, there were other characters, ones that you weren’t meant to like on first impressions, that I had really warmed to abs really felt for. This was intriguing and thrilling and also had an air of real-life relevance to it surrounding how “bent” the parole system can be. Rogers has done a truly amazing job and taking a crime, covering it up and supporting is justification in order for a good ending.

About the Author

Gemma Rogers lives in West Sussex with her husband and two daughters as well as Buster, the worlds most handsome Bull Dog (he’s a heart breaker guys!). Rogers wrote her first novel Stalker in 2019 and in 2020 released two other titles; Payback and Reckless. Bad Girls is her fourth novel and has signed with Boldwood Books to write another four books between 2021-2023.

Bone China~Laura Purcell

A woeful tale of Consumption, china sets and fleeing your past. Bone China is set across two close timelines; Hester Why and Louise Pinecroft and comes together to end in one step away from a cliff.

The past timeline sees how Louise Pinecroft came to Movoren House and we learn how the majority of her family was devoured by Consumption leaving herself and her physician father behind.

The second timeline shows us Hester Why and her reasons for fleeing her previous employment. This is when Hester and Louise’s stories become one. With chapters alternating between Hester and Louise’s pasts and their joined present, we get a story of folklore and superstition.

Bone China is the third of Laura Purcell’s novels and, personally, the one that’s lacking. Despite it being well written and the timeline set out clearly, the ending was somewhat “thinner” and felt watered down compared to Purcell’s previous two novels-something I have found in a few Stephen King novels; almost as if the author got bored of the character and/or plot and shrugged off all previous hard work and efforts in order to break away from the book and their boredom. Which is sad for me as a reader because I know Purcell has this incredible gift to transport her readers in to the pages and feel a bit short-changed.

Purcell’s new novel, The Shape of Darkness, will be released in January 2021 and I’m excited for its release BUT I do worry maybe this novel will have another weak ending, so I can only hope that Purcell had too much energy for a big finish in Bone China and placed it in to her latest work.

The Colour Monster~Anna Llenas

Meet the Colour Monster; a little monster with a jumbled up whirlwind of feelings all tangled up inside of him, that is until a friend takes him by the hand and helps him sort though each of his colours and placing them in jar. These aren’t just ordinary colours though-they’re feelings! And Colour Monster needs to un-jumble them in order to understand them.

Each colour represents a feeling

I fell in love with The Colour Monster whilst at work and it’s such a beautiful story and explains feelings in a way that children can understand and visualise in their own minds, allowing them to explore their own feelings and those of the people around them in a fun and easy to digest way.

The story starts off with the Colour Monster being in a jumble of colours and emotions, his friend taking his hand and sorting the colours in to jars and exploring each colour and the feeling it represents, for example, yellow is the colour for happy like the sunshine, green is for calm like the leaves on trees and red is for anger and hot like fire. In the end, all of Colour Monsters colours/feelings are in jars on a shelf so he can see all his colours/feelings and knows what they are.

I helped my daughter make her own colour jars.

Author Biography

As a parent and an early years practitioner, The Colour Monster is a wonderful book as well as a highly supportive resource which supports emotional development with strength. It’s also useful for colour recognition and basic numeracy. I enjoyed the story as a parent and enjoyed watching the effect it had on my own child as well as those in my care. It was lovely to see and hear children using the colours to describe how they were feeling and was a joy to engage with them in their exploration and learning journey.

You can purchase The Colour Monster from a wide range of retailers now.

Author Biography

Anna Llenas was born in Barcelona. She graduated in Advertising and Public Relations at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, with a diploma in Graphic Design. Llenas has collaborated with other authors as an illustrator. The Colour Monster picture book is her first as both author and illustrator. (Taken from the Templar Publishing website)

Velvet & Me; Funny/Beautiful/Dark

Long exposure over 20seconds

A few moons ago, I hit the LIKE button on a picture belonging to Velvet Cole of Velvet Image, we had a natter on and off and out of the blue came up with most wonderful of whirlwind of ideas, and then we decided to get an indoor photo shoot organised so Velvet could work on her computer magic and explore her more creative side. For me, it was dream!

Two of my many selves

I’m not the most confident of people, and I’m not the most photogenic of people, but I’m ballsy enough (stupidly and eagerly brave enough for the non-British readers!) to give anything a go! So when I had a message one night asking how I felt about photographing with fire, my answer was sure! But only as long as my eyebrows remain intact! during our studio shoot we chatted, laughed, talked about ideas, learnt how to count slowly for long exposure shots (harder than you think with a camera involved!) and even managed to take some photos! I LOVED the time in her studio and planning an outdoor shoot (yes with fire. And smoke!) and the ideas we threw at each other.

Just a couple of crazy creatives throwing ideas and books around

I’ve witnessed Velvet’s wedding photography skills first hand and she’s even photographed my daughter when she was much younger (safe to say my daughter is a LOT more photogenic and much prettier than me!) so I felt comfortable with the whole process. Velvet was kind enough to share one of her favourite photographers/artists with me and she has now become a firm favourite of mine too. Velvets other work is just phenomenal and I’m so proud to be supporting this wickedly creative side of her and I simply can’t wait to get out and get snap happy again with her!

Artist Gemma Schiebe has recently collaborated with Velvet

Photography is an art form that is appreciated by many but also underestimated. I’ve seen so many amazing and jaw dropping portraits (of Velvet and other photographers) over the years but only now have I come to fully understand the process and the work that goes behind these incredible images. I can barely even work the camera on my phone or my computer so I really can’t even begin to imagine how deep the ocean of knowledge any photographer has! I feel very lucky being a part of Velvets project and can’t wait to see what she does next and can only hope to be involved and witness her growth in person

Velvet took some immense portraits of friend Angharad
Indoor and outdoor self portraits of Velvet Cole

Scavenger Art~Lexi Rees

I was sent this by the author via Rachel’s Random Reads in exchange for a review and I can certainly say that it was the most fun my daughter has had indoors for a while!

Owing to poor weather, busy schedules and darker evenings, during the week we decided to work our way through the first section with bits we could find in the house. The book is aimed at 5+ and my daughter is 3 and a half (the half is extra important you know!) so rather than drawing, we found items and took photographs of them and talked about them.

The currently much loved Knick knacks of my three and a half year old

I was hoping to take the book in to work to try out with some older children, but due to Christmas crafts being the main focus and then another county-wide closure, sadly I didn’t get the opportunity BUT I know it’ll be a big hit when we’re able to get around to it!

The book is in 8 sections; My House; My Stuff; Outside; People; Faces and Bodies; Nature; Eating; Birds, Insects and Animals. The aim is to fill each of the 9 boxes on the sections accompanying pages with drawings that match up to the subject (for example, in the My House section is a page on books and you’re asked to draw your favourite book covers or the different places where books are kept in your house. So my daughter and I went on a hunt for some of our favourite books, stacked them up in a big pile and talked about why we chose them-it really got us both thinking and talking).

This is when I realised that her favourite book is a copy of Terry Pratchett because “the monkey is funny!”

Owing to the various sections of the book, as a mum and a childcare professional myself, I find this to be the perfect resource for families and groups of children alike; if you have a fussy eater you can head to the Food section to get your child talking, thinking, handling and trying foods in order to do the activities. For the Outdoors section you get a chance to introduce children to parts of the outside world they may not have been exposed to yet. The topics will feed curious minds and start up conversations you couldn’t imagine having with young children, making it a truly valuable book which I feel belongs in every home, setting and office which focuses on children.

Author Biography

Lexi Rees was born in Scotland but now lives down south. She writes action-packed adventures brim

full of witch-doctors, fortune-tellers, warriors and smugglers, combining elemental magic with hints

of dystopia. She also writes fun activity books for children.

Her fantasy adventure, Eternal Seas, was awarded a “loved by” badge from LoveReading4Kids. The

sequel, Wild Sky, is available now.

She’s passionate about developing a love of reading and writing in children and, as well as her

Creative Writing Skills workbook, she has an active programme of school visits and other events, is a

Book PenPal for three primary schools, and runs a free online #kidsclub and newsletter which

includes book recommendations and creative writing activities.

In her spare time, she’s a keen crafter and spends a considerable amount of time trying not to fall off horses or boats.

Mine~Alison Knight

I was so pleased to be a part of this blog tour, but unfortunately my review is a lot later than it should have been. I didn’t want to post a review based on how much I had read when it was my turn to publish as this book deserves so much more than that.

Mine is based in London in 1968 and we are educated in the ways of office, sexual and social politics. Lilly, the leading lady, has been an evacuee in the countryside and upon her return went to work in a factory as a seamstress but takes herself off to night classes in order to learn to become a typist. She literally works her way from a sewing girl up to a cashier in a solicitors firm in the city-this is where we actually meet her and pick up the story.

Lilly and Jack have been married twenty years, their eldest daughter is an unmarried, teenage mother living at home (unheard of and rather scandalous still in those days) and their youngest daughter is still in her primary school years. Jack works as a chauffeur and his brother is married to Lilly’s life long best friend. It should be a very happy scenario despite the scandalous teenager. But it is not.

The one thing Jack didn’t count on is his wife out growing him and their marriage (which, let’s face it, does happen all too often still) and we see Jack observing his wife becoming distant. While the one thing Lilly didn’t count on, is her undeniable and silent crush on her boss Leonard being reciprocated; a chance evening at the ballet and one small out-of-the-office job see this pair embarking on a passionate and wild affair where hearts are broken and lives are lost. Without giving too much away, it was tense and incredible and also very sad.

Normally a plot wrapped around a steamy affair isn’t my cup of tea (I’m no prude but romance isn’t for me right now and sex is just so off the table it’s unreal, and frankly, I could really do without the details) BUT the line that sold this title to me was “no happily ever after” and it clicked that this wasn’t your typical romance or office affair. And reading the end notes from Knight after the last chapter, it really hit you in the stomach that actually the story you just read was someone’s life and their experience.

Like I said, I don’t want to give too much away or spoil the book, but it seemed utterly complete when the very last pages were turned and it’s important, in fact, it’s vital to read the author note-but don’t be tempted to read it before the book or it’ll give away the plot!

They say never to judge a book by its cover, but the cover by picture of this actually lured me in somewhat and I avoid review pages like the plague when I’m presented with a read that may pique my interest, so I felt like this was going to be menacing, filled with crime and thrilling (like most of the books I’ve read this year) however it was not menacing, filled with crime nor thrilling (in the mystery sense) and I did have the occasional eye-roll moment (not because it was boring but because affairs are just eye-roll inducing to me) but it was still a bloody good read and I’m very glad I made the time to work through it! And all I have to say is well done Alison Knight. You are truly amazing.

Author Biography

Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.

In her mid-forties, Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.

Alison co-manages Imagine Creative Writing with author Jenny Kane. She teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats for writers as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.

Mine is available for purchase now at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats. Those with Kindle Unlimited membership can read it for free.

The Corset~Laura Purcell

This is the second of Purcell’s novels I have read and it has certainly taken my breath away-even more so than The silent Companions did!

Dorothea, or Dotty, lost her mother at young age to an illness she didn’t understand as a child. She has undertaken the charitable role of being part of a board which oversees the funding and raising of a woman’s prison and often visits prisoners with keen interest to fuel her hunger for knowledge within the science of Phrenology (the process of observing and feeling the skull to determine a person’s psychological attributes) and it is within this role that she meets Ruth Butterham- a seamstress apprentice turned house maid who is condemned for murder by accusation and by her own admission.

And so Ruth’s own sorrowful tale is told and we see her bullied in school, taken out of education to financially support her family as it grows only to then heart achingly and suddenly diminish, on to an “apprenticeship” where she and the other girls are abused in the foulest of ways, we see Ruth fight for the life of her only true friend only to lose the battle, we see someone Ruth could have loved marry another and then we follow her journey as she tries to live freely and seek revenge in the slowest of ways.

The book also allows us to see Dotty’s journey- her love for police constable David, her love for her father who loudly believes that she is becoming an embarrassment owing to being 25, unmarried and dallying with science and all things looked down upon in decent society (the same belief he had of her mother’s path) and a future engagement of bother herself and father.

It isn’t until the last few chapters when Dotty allows us to acknowledge that events weren’t Ruth’s fault and we see the court trial that we put together the pieces of Dotty’s own puzzle alongside Ruth’s. And by the time the reader fully understands and has the whole picture, it’s too late for Ruth and the future of Dotty is not known to us as the book ends on a cliffhanger.

I LOVED this book and literally read until my eyes couldn’t take anymore, then went to bed and read more the following day and the day after until the last page was turned. Everything about this book enthralled me, enticed me and absorbed me in to the pages. The writing style was just perfect- we had chapters from Ruth’s point of view written as if she were speaking or writing to Dorothy, and we had chapters from Dotty which were written in the present tense as events unfolded. The perfect mixture of explaining the past of one girl and living the present of another. The plot was easy and enjoyable to follow, the language was understandable and descriptions of people, places, sounds and smells were so good it was as if you were right there alongside the characters.

The first book of Purcell I read was The Silent Companions three years ago. I liked the book a lot but found it very eery, and enough so that it gave me a singular nightmare (the second book ever to do so) when I didn’t expect it to! It made me a little nervous of picking up The Corset, because really in 2020 I could do without the added extra nightmares and disrupted sleep! But I’m so very glad that I did because while this book had far less of the frightening and obvious variety of the supernatural, it was just floating on the surface and when I reached the end, I realised I had been reading a thriller and more of a murder mystery than a paranormal scare fest.

I hadn’t planned on reading Bone China (Purcell’s other novel) however I now feel that I simply must and urgently! This was the perfect book to showcase Purcell’s skills and I simply can’t wait to see what she brings us next!

The Dark Chorus~Ashley Meggitt

Oblivio salvationem Angelis opperitur Oblivion awaits the Angel’s salvation

Beautiful, dark, and horrific. You’ll need your A-game for concentration and thinking for this one.

Where to start with this one?! I was offered to read this via Rachel’s Random Reads (if you don’t already know of her or her social media, then as an avid reader and blogger or budding novelist you need to look her up! Total game changer!) and hadn’t long finished a spooky book challenge and felt in a bit of a slump-with my ever expanding TBR list I was feeling a little overwhelmed and my reading mojo was taking a nose dive. I almost handed the book back and put my hands up in epic failure BUT how glad I am that I didn’t! I’ve never been so curious or enthralled before!

The centre of the book focuses around the Boy-we never learn his name and that may seem frustrating (and it is at first) but you soon just accept this lad has no name. You learn that he sees things that other do not-souls-and can look into a person to see if they are good (colourful souls) or bad (tar black souls) and can also see if a persons soul is passed the point of return (when considering if they can become “good”).

The Boy is an orphan, born in an asylum and raised within the care system, and knows nothing of a typical family. He’s wanting so desperately to find his mother’s soul that he leaves the care home and goes on to live in the abandoned asylum carrying out his soul-catching ritual night after night until he finds her. Only when he does and makes an attempt to place her in a host body, it just isn’t right-his mother isn’t at home in her host, and so he ends the hosts life and is subsequently caught and taken to young offenders detention.

As the Boy is highly intelligent and other worldly, he sticks out like a sore thumb and is soon targeted. However an unlikely alliance forms with Makka (who we slowly learn actually has a heart of gold despite rough around the edges and quite handsy!) who takes on the role of lead protector and opens up a whole new world to the Boy and introduces him to the world of double decker buses, the London Underground and patterned carpets in vans. They two boys also come crashing in to the world of Vee-a girl who has been abused at the hands of a father who should be protecting her but instead passed her around like an object in order to make his own gains.

The three form a real bond and while Makka and Vee have their own journeys in to revenge for their hurts, and they work through them together as a whole. And eventually the Boy places he most precious and beloved jar in to the hands of Dr Eve Rhodes (the jar being his mother’s soul).

Dr Eve Rhodes is a fantastic character with a unique sight of her own which she grew to reason with abs cover over by becoming a psychiatrist. She is the main voice of reason in the entire book and soon finds herself reaccepting what she would see as a child and becoming the keeper of the Boy’s mother’s soul.

The plot is strong, the scenarios are graphic and frankly bloody, racist and of a sexual nature, but the story is damned good! Most of the adventure is from the Boy’s narrative with other chapters looking in on key characters from time to time , which allows the reader to see what’s going on in other places and times, leading to more depth to the story itself and other characters. There are parts where your heart breaks and aches (when you see one of the characters discover tears for the first time) and there are also parts where you can’t help but laugh (looking at the carpet pattern in vans and wondering if patterns on seat coverings are the same in other parts of the Tube), parts where you recoil (burnings and bodies) and parts where you feel anger (abuse and racism).

This is an exceptional read that just seems to have it all in one book! Really worth the time and effort and I really hope there’s a follow on where we see how Dr Eve Rhodes and the Boy’s mother live and go about their life while waiting for the Boy to be ready and his mother to be released.