The Five: The Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Women ~ Hallie Rubenhold

For years, there have been countless documentaries, films and works of fiction all revolving around Jack The Ripper but not one person seemed to ever seek out the truths behind the victims until recently.

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane were the five very (incorrectly) publicised victims of Jack The Ripper in 1888; all were regarded within the media as women of the sex industry, yet only one for all certainty was.

Not only does Rubenhold seek to inform us about the forgotten victims of an unforgettable killer, but also to educate us regarding the hard times and issues women of working (and somewhat middle) class faced on a daily basis. This book didn’t focus so much on their deaths but on the lives of these incredible women (and I say incredible because they truly were; while they may not have been Florence Nightingale or Mother Teresa like figures of history, their struggles and own history show us that to be born female in such a time was a true, gritty and downright bloody battle and for many a year they somewhat survived).

This is not a book posing as a hunt for the Ripper but is a book purely on the known victims and their lives as well as up until the coroners court verdicts of their deaths. This is so worth a read!

Fashion, Lies and Murder~Sibel Hodge

I’ve been an avid reader of Sibel Hodge’s latest works for a while now, and decided I’d go to the very beginning of her writing journey and work my way through all her titles. This is very different from her latest works and here’s why; this title/series (this is first of four Amber Fox adventures) is entirely made up of calamity and humour along with crime solving.

Amber is clumsy, sarcastic, has two gorgeous men lusting after her attentions and a slim waist despite her addiction to all things chocolate (don’t you just love/hate her already?!) in this first instalment of her escapades, we discover Amber was kicked out of the police force after an unfortunate (it was it well deserved?) shooting incident and is now working for her ex fiancé as a claims investigator in his insurance company. She has a gorgeous boyfriend (where for art thou Romeo?) and a cat who seems to match her sarcasm. Her first job within her more role is to snoop and find evidence of a lie within a personal injury claim, a motor theft and bug an office of a well known fashion designer. Little does she know what she’s walked in to! Enter the world of Kinky Elvis, gun-wielding dodgy washing machine owners, the most comical and clumsy mob heavies and airy-fairy physics. Not to mention her brilliantly crazy dad!

I’ll admit that at first it felt a slightly juvenile read in comparison with Hodge’s latest title (Anatomy of a Crime) and the language came across as very Americanised at times BUT it turned out to be the hilarious read I needed! I giggled and laughed my way through it and found myself relating to Amber’s clumsy ways and adoring her dear old dad and rolling my eyes at her sister!

This was well worth a read and I will be continuing with the Amber Fox series, but rather than one after the other it’ll be when I need that giggle-worthy chick-lit pick-me-up. A perfect, easy to follow quick read for a light hearted escape. Perfect for the beach or a rainy day.

Anatomy of a Crime~Sibel Hodge

Anatomy of a Crime is the latest title from the crimeariffic author Sibel Hodge and it has totally blown its genre out of the water! I was so excited and more than happy to Beta Read this title and (extremely) ecstatic to see my name at the end! Living the book lovers dream right now!

Written as podcast format with interviews from those around the case in question, we also have a few first-person narratives and perpetrator-narratives in between which are written in Hodge’s usual and descriptive style adding more of an atmosphere and draw to the characters and the story. A totally new format to me and it really does work well!

The podcast is created by Lauren Taylor who uses this series to cover what appears to be a ritualistic murder in 2017 in Blackleaf Forest. Doesn’t sound like much right now, but Lauren’s gut soon tells her that all is not what it seems and she ruffles a few feathers along the way, and that’s when the more disturbing details and truths are uncovered along with local gossip and legends. This is a book that will stay with you each time to close it for the night- I certainly felt for the character of Caris and the twists and turns are frankly riveting.

I just love how Hodge has experimented with this format and really hope we have another instalment from Lauren in the future!

Author Interview; Samantha Rendle

For those of you who have been following my Instagram or been reading my blog for a while, will know that I was given a freebie digital copy of The Furious Four to read prior to general release in order to have a review ready to leave on publication day. And those who know me will know that I’m not really a zombie apocalypse kind of girl, but this one I couldn’t put down! I’ve been lucky enough to do a brief interview (via e-mail-thanks Covid!) with the talented Sam Rendle, who in her own words is a “Vegan, aromantic asexual activist and mental health advocate from Bristol, UK.” As well as a digital content creator.

Q1) What made you want to sit down and write? Was there a specific occurrence in your life that triggered your creative side or is it something that’s always been present?

I’ve always loved to read and I’ve always been very imaginative. I often find myself inspired by music videos, films, other books and even dreams I’ve had, and after the latter in particular I can find myself coming up with a character or a plot in a matter of minutes. I’m not sure there was one specific thing that made me want to write; I think I’ve always just had a strong drive to create.

Q2) Some people can only write if they’ve got a perfect desk set-up or it’s the middle of the night and the world is silent so there’s a lack of distractions; or need to wait until they find inspiration. What’s your writing process? Do you need have a set routine in order to write or can you jot down your thoughts and go back to them?

I tend to write when I’m inspired. I think that’s why writing The Furious Four took so long. Like I said, I’ve always had that drive to be creative, but it’s hard to find the balance between creative projects. My video making takes priority most of the time, and sometimes my other creative projects (writing, painting, scrapbooking and sewing) are difficult to choose between and inspiration for different things will hit me at different times. I tend to sit on the sofa with my laptop and notebook when inspiration hits me to write, though. I tend to type out my novels but notes are always handwritten. That way I can have both manuscript and notes in front of me at once.

Q3) What made you write about a zombie apocalypse? It’s a very widely done subject but this has such a different feel – was it a challenge to create the characters and cliff hanger that would set the book part from others of this genre?

The initial idea came from playing my now-favourite game through for the first time. A friend bought me The Last of Us Remastered for my birthday a few years ago and I completely fell in love with it. I loved the bond between Joel and Ellie who, though not related, have an almost father-daughter relationship. I think a similar dynamic is captured among my four main characters – or at least that’s what I aimed for! The characters themselves – mainly Gabriel and Preston – were inspired by characters in the Batman New 52 comics. I love dark, complex characters with plenty of flaws and angst. I think it helps, too, that I do love making my characters suffer. It sounds awful putting it that way, but I think the greater the suffering, the greater the reward when something positive happens.

Q4) Are people and places in your everyday life inspiration for your characters and plot?

Occasionally, yes. The Sanctuary is based on a nature reserve I went to a few times as a child. I can’t remember where it was or what it was called but I remember it had a walking route where you could spot for birds. Also, though it isn’t really described all that much, the pharmacy where Preston and Beth first met was, in my head, the pharmacy attached to my own doctors’ surgery. I tend to set my writing in places I’ve been or am familiar with, but very rarely are the characters themselves based on people I know.

Q5) I didn’t know whether or not I was meant to like Preston he comes across as moody and unreliable and not much about him was really exposed until later in the book; was it your intention to keep his mental health struggles silent so as to make people aware of how such issues are stigmatised?

Absolutely. To Preston, mental illness is a sign of weakness – he’s pretty much an embodiment of the stigma. I do intend to delve deeper into his mind in future instalments and explore his struggles further, because I think it’s important to establish that even the strongest of us have our weaknesses, and that’s okay.

Q6) I love the character of Beth and how she struggled with many Gabriel at first. I think you managed to describe the struggles of motherhood perfectly. Did you speak to younger mums to aid you in writing Beth? She becomes such an amazing strong character and I was so sad to say goodbye to her- what made to decide to end her journey where you did?

Working in a local shop I tend to come across a lot of young mothers. Most of our customers are regulars so in the nine years I’ve worked there I’ve seen these mothers and their kids grow up, and I’ve often found myself wondering how I’d cope in their situation. I honestly think I’d struggle as a mum at twenty-seven, let alone ten or eleven years younger!

I got quite emotional myself when I wrote her farewell, but it made the most sense for it to happen in order for the story to progress in future instalments. The narrative, as you know, isn’t completely linear, so we might see past Beth cropping up now and then in future (or, um, past).

Q7) This is a self-published title; talk me through this process-did you need to find a proofreader and artist for the cover? How long did it take to go from your computer to e-copy? Will there ever be a physical copy? Because I really want a copy for my shelf!

I actually did send TFF to a couple of literary agents, but unfortunately it was rejected. However I was desperate to get the book out there in one way or another, and I’d heard of self publishing on Kindle before, so I did a little research into the process and decided I’d take that route. I have a good friend with a degree and some enviable writing skills of his own, and he did a little proofreading for me – I think you’ll find his name in the acknowledgements at the end of the ebook – and then I went about looking for a cover artist. At first I contacted a lovely lady who designed a book cover for me in the past, but her work was a little (ahem, a lot) over budget at the time, so I turned to Fiverr. I was a bit sceptical at first – it felt too good to be true – but I found a wonderful artist who did a fantastic job of making a cover for me. She kept me up to date on the whole process and it was such a good experience, so I’ll definitely be commissioning her again.

Q8) The Furious Four is clearly not going to be a stand-alone book; when can we expect the next instalment? I’m so eager for Gabriel to meet his paternal family and I’m not sure if it’ll be a good thing or a bad thing (knowing that his grandfather and father pretty much caused the apocalypse!)

As I said, inspiration irritatingly comes and goes for me. But you’ll be pleased to know I am (*looks*) sixty-eight pages into the first draft of the next book! It’ll feature new characters as well as much-loved existing characters, and we’ll get a broader look into post-apocalypse 2025. I’ll let you in on a little secret though: I’m also working on another book, so keep your eyes peeled for that, too!

It was amazing to work with Sam on this interview and to read her book, I’m so enthralled to see what happens next and follow her works as an author.

If you want to follow her social media, check out the links below.

The Furious Four is available on digital download now here red

Continue reading “Author Interview; Samantha Rendle”

The House We Grew Up In ~ Lisa Jewell

“When a tragedy breaks a family apart, what can bring it back together?
The Birds seem to be the perfect family: mother, father, four children, a picture-book cottage in the country.
But one Easter weekend, something happens – something so unexpected, so devastating, that no-one can bring themselves to talk about it.
The family shatters, seemingly for good.
Until, years later, they are forced to return to the house they grew up in, and to confront what really broke the family apart…”

I really liked this book; it seemed a little confusing at times with present-ish day emails at the start of each chapter but I really liked following each member of the Bird family and found myself getting so frustrated at them at times and then really emotional at others. Having a hoarder within my own family, I truly understood the frustrations and concerns of the Bird children, and also wanting to keep memories and hold things close to me meant I also had a slight insight in to their mothers way of thinking.
We worth a read!!

The Baby Trap~Sibel Hodge

The first books I read from Hodge were Murder mysteries and crime thrillers so for me this was a total change of genre and pace as well as writing style.

The book flowed well and was full of humour and light hearted for the most part despite the underlying theme being infertility (a heart ache for many unfortunately). The narrative was good and I loved the various characters (the hippy, the evil stepmother, the loving dad, and the ever loving, humour-filled and sensitive husband).

I laughed and I felt misty-eyed, I empathised and I yearned for Gina’s end goal. I was so excited for their trip of a lifetime and wriggled with utter glee on the last few pages.

This book was so well written and clearly a personal touch contributed deeply to the characters narrative and journey.

Overall I really enjoyed it. It was a real shift from what I’m used to from Hodge being one of her earlier titles, but I’m really enjoying exploring her earlier stuff just as much as her latest thrillers!

Dear Evan Hansen

I liked this book in general and it was a good read BUT the scenarios and characters could be really frustrating! They’re mostly teenagers so that’s to be expected I guess! But the whole time I read it I was wishing Evan and Connors social and communication skills were more confident and clear- that would have avoided a lot of tricky situations but then again if they did that there wouldn’t be a book! Originally a stage production and turned in to a book I’m thinking it’s only a matter of time before it’s a film. Not sure I’d be first in line to see it but I’ve heard good things about the musical.

As well as frustrating at times, it was also raw and emotional. I found myself really feeling sympathy for Connor’s family as well as for Evan; both misunderstood teenagers who feel alone in their worlds. It made my heart hurt to read about Connors parents, especially his mothers attempts to build a rapport with a Connor which was based on a purely fictitious friendship.

Fans of the stage show may or may not like this book (not like when you watch the film first and find the narrative of the book lacking and vice versa) BUT 13 Reasons Why fans will enjoy

The Bones Of You ~ Debbie Howells

The Bones of You is a Murder mystery I wasn’t convinced by at first, but quarter of the way through I needed to know more, half way through I thought I had it figured out, three quarters of the way through I was frustrated and wanted to know more, and finally, by the end I was in tears.

When 18yr old Rosie goes missing, it’s put down as one of those things, a “she’ll turn up” pre-uni blip. When she’s found dead all manner of skeletons are discovered by The reader as Rosie takes you on a notorious journey of heart ache, self hatred and sheer torture which ultimately leads you to her killer and then on to her happiness.

I’m glad I stuck with this book as my last few choices of (physical and not kindle) books have been a bit of sluggish struggle but hopefully this means I’ll be back on to the winning streak of good reads!

This one to read for anyone who needs a crime with a truth that totally blindsides them. If Debbie Howells’ other novels are written in a similar format then I’ll be looking forward to reading more of her books.

Trust Me ~ Anna Ryan

Firstly I need to get something off my chest; the by-line is “you think she’s a bad mother, but is she a killer?” And I don’t like it one bit. Within the last few pages there’s a conversation that states people can get away with murder but they can never get away from it, and I feel

That THIS should have been the by-line as it would have likely changed my thoughts on my dragging feet when it came to finishing this book.

It was well written and my heart went out to Mercer for having lost the people she loves the most and then feeling that she has to cover the Ashlyn Bryant trial. I was frankly enraged when Mercer found her home being invaded by this young woman in order to write a true crime novel.

As time went on I literally wanted to shake Ashlyn; it really felt like she was giving Mercer the run around and leading her merry dance in all the wrong directions. Then after the 3/4 mark, I did wonder if Mercer would actually give Ashlyn the clean slate she desperately and eagerly wanted, only to discover Ashlyn was guilty all along and had actually gotten away with murder.

Not long after that, I thought maybe Ashlyn was innocent? And maybe Katherine wasn’t a very nice friend to Mercer at all. Didn’t believe for a second that Joe was involved in any way-it just didn’t read right to me; as if it was a blatantly obvious red herring with a sign above its head saying “I’m too much of a weak link and unbelievable to be true”.

The ending was perfect, and I feel that if the by-line was different then I wouldn’t have felt so restless reading this book at the moments I did. The characters were good and Mercer was a strong lead (despite her grieving and loss) and Ashlyn was written so well that I thought her an awful villain and the worst type of young woman to ever become a mother. Georgia annoyed me a bit as she couldn’t seem to put her finger on the pulse in the courtroom so was a bit of a miss for me (but I think I’d be the same if it were me in her shoes).

Overall it’s worth read and worth sticking with. I’d be interested in reading more of Ryan’s titles in the future.

My Lovely Wife ~ Samantha Downing

Anyone who loves a plot twist that’s big enough to have you literally unable to sit still while you read then this is for you!!!

It starts with a regular husband and wife living in a regular house with two regular children but takes a sinister turn and suddenly Mr & Mrs Regular become Mr & Mrs Murder-For-Fun (?!) but soon find they are each involved in the others game of cat and mouse.

At first I thought it was all down to the husband and the wife wanting to support, love and please him by going along with a simply irregular, dangerous and crazy plan to keep their marriage exciting. But soon I found that it wasn’t the wife going along with the husband at all.

Twists and turns are abundant in this thrilling read? It made it on to the Richard and Judy 2019 list and, although a lot of the Amazon reviews are pretty damming, I found I couldn’t put it down!