Review: Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi

Nina is Not OK final jacketNina does not have a drinking problem. She likes a drink, sure. But what 17-year-old doesn’t?

Nina’s mum isn’t so sure. But she’s busy with her new husband and five year old Katie. And Nina’s almost an adult after all.

And if Nina sometimes wakes up with little memory of what happened the night before , then her friends are all too happy to fill in the blanks. Nina’s drunken exploits are the stuff of college legend.

But then one dark Sunday morning, even her friends can’t help piece together Saturday night. All Nina feels is a deep sense of shame, that something very bad has happened to her…

What I Thought:
Approaching Nina is Not OK, I didn’t really know what to expect – ok I read the blurb and have seen Shappi Khorsandi doing stand up – but would this be a jokey sort of book, or a not? Well, it is and it isn’t – there is certainly humour in it, but it is mostly dark and, in Nina’s attempt to make light of her drinking and the activities that come from it, it is in places quite tragic.

On the whole, I’ve come away from it thinking that this is a pretty important book, especially with the numerous and wide-ranging debates over binge drinking culture and the safety of young women when they have had a few more drinks than they had perhaps intended. This book addresses the issues of alcoholism, victim blaming, slut shaming and much more in a powerful and accessible way while giving us a main character that you can actually give a damn about.

I love Nina, despite her battles with her mum (as the mum now, I dread those days to come!), she has gone through such a difficult time with her volatile, alcoholic father and when she finally begins to take control of her life and what has happened to her, she shows what a strong determined young woman she is; her transformation from the girl we first meet being thrown out of a nightclub is remarkable (damp eye rating of 4 tears!).

Since reading the book, I have been recommending it whenever I can – as I said, I think it’s an important book, excellently written and tackling difficult topics with a really deft touch – a fantastic debut novel.

I was given a copy of the book by the publisher (Ebury Press), through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Jump Start Your Money Confidence by Penny Golightly

51Z5AKgMKnL._SL250_I wrote a while back about following Penny Golightly’s fab new book Jump Start Your Money Confidence and applying it to my daily life. Through one thing and another, it fell a bit by the wayside – ironically, what was happening in my life then would have probably been helped by the tips in the book, but we live and learn eh??

I’ve only recently come back to it, and have now completed the tasks set out in the book and am a little more optimistic about our financial future.

If you’ve yet to discover Penny Golightly, she runs a money advice blog, but with an emphasis on real-world advice and tips to improve your financial situation, and less on corporate advertising and comparison services. She regularly runs a ‘Tenner Week’, where the aim is to live for a week spending no more than £10 – she does it along with you and it genuinely CAN be done. It really is worth checking out her blog if you need some advice, as it is plentiful and well set out.

So what is the point of this book, you ask? All of the advice within the book is available online, but I have yet to see it all set out in this way, a clear, 30-day programme to get you thinking more about what and how you are spending, and how you can get the most out of everyday essentials, such as utilities and finance companies.

The essential part of the programme is NOT to read the whole book in one go and then go forth and enjoy more money, but rather to do each day separately and really think about the practical tasks you are asked to undertake, making sure you understand why you are doing it and what outcome would be the best for you – be that searching for a washing machine, or making sure all your paperwork is properly filed.

As I’ve said, Jump Start Your Money Confidence is a clear, easy to follow programme that aims to get you better acquainted with your own finances, and if you follow the plan as intended, you will start to see real differences in your financial situation.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan

the-last-days-of-summerShe can forgive. They can’t forget.

After ten years in the Huntsville State Penitentiary, Jasper Curtis returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters. Lizzie does not know who she’s letting into her home: the brother she grew up loving or the monster he became.

Teenage Katie distrusts this strange man in their home but eleven-year-old Joanne is just intrigued by her new uncle.

Jasper says he’s all done with trouble, but in a forgotten prairie town that knows no forgiveness, it does not take long for trouble to arrive at their door…

What I Thought:
I found the initial premise of The Last Days of Summer interesting from the point of view of rehabilitation – can a convict ever really leave their past behind them and lead a productive life – but the book is less of that, and more a study of small town America and family.

Jasper returns home, not exactly welcomed by Lizzie, but with a sense from her of ‘if he can’t come home, where can he go?’. Unfortunately for the whole family, this small town has a long memory and it won’t be so easy for Jasper to fit back in.

I got the sense from Jasper immediately the he knew things were not going to turn out well for him, so by the time trouble starts showing up at the family home, he seems almost ready to get things underway. Lizzie tries her best to defend him, but it is somewhat half-heartedly – she knows that the people in their community will never forgive Jasper for his crimes.

I can’t give away too much without spoilers, but I think the most powerful thing in the book for me was trying to support my own liberal ideas of rehabilitation and ‘serving your time’ with the rights of the victims of crime and their families. How must victims and their families feel when those who have committed crimes against them arrive home and expect to carry on as normal? It’s a tricky question, which this book went some way – but not all the way, it’s impossible – to answering.

In terms of the writing, I did enjoy the descriptive language which brought the hot, American prairie to life and the ‘reveals’ were well plotted and timed very well, giving the last third of the book a blistering pace.

Overall, the book was a rewarding read, but definitely one for adults only!

I was given a copy of the book by the publisher (Penguin Ireland) in return for an honest review.

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Blog Tour: Dust by Mark Thompson

Thompson_DustEarly in life, my grandfather told me that only three things were certain: birth, death and time. And time only ticked one way; it went forward and never back. It came to be a recurring wish with me, the desire to turn back the clock, to undo what I had done. Always wishing for the impossible, my feet stuck firm in the molasses of the present, unable to shrug off decisions I had made and their unforeseen or disregarded consequences.

J.J Walsh and Tony ‘El Greco’ Papadakis are inseparable. Smoking Kents out on an abandoned cannery dock, and watching gulls sway on rusting buoys in the sea, they dream of adventure…a time when they can act as adults. The day they’ll see the mighty Pacific Ocean.

Set in small-town New Jersey in the 1960s, against the backdrop of the Vietnam war, Dust follows the boys through the dry heat of a formative summer. They face religious piety and its murderous consequences, alcohol, girls, sex, loss, tragedy and ultimately the tiny things that combine to make life what it is for the two friends – a great adventure.

But it’s a road trip through the heart of southern America with J.J.’s father that truly reveals a darker side to life – the two halves of a divided nation, where wealth, poverty and racial bigotry collide. This beautifully written debut novel would not be out of place alongside the work of Steinbeck and Philipp Meyer’s American Rust.

At turns funny, and at others heart-achingly sad, their story unfolds around the honest and frequently irreverent observations of two young people trying to grow up fast in a world that is at times confusing, and at others seen with a clarity only the young may possess.

What I Thought:
Strong, oppressive and at times melancholy, Dust put me very much in mind of Stand by Me in the feel of the writing and, although there are only the two boys in Dust, their relationship struck me as very similar to that of the boys in that story, and the central theme of a ‘coming of age’ is put across well.

I was initially drawn to the novel by the evocative cover image which, when I got really into the book, was perfect to capture the feel of a carefree summer with endless days of heat and boredom as told by central character JJ.

1960s New Jersey is vividly painted, down to the breeze off the water at the old cannery that the boys visit to smoke and cuss away from grown-up eyes, and the contrasts of their home to different parts of the country on their roadtrip is an education in those vast differences that occur in such a large country as the US. At points it’s easy to forget that this is not a contemporary novel, but the episode where the boys wander into a black neighbourhood brings it back with a jolt.

Aside from the strong relationship between JJ and El Greco, JJ forms important bonds with adult members of the community, Mr Taylor in particular, and they act as a subjective sounding board, allowing JJ to make sense of his world, a world where Vietnam and Woodstock are not just a matter for the history books.

In terms of plot, the novel is introspective and relaxed, not driven by a surging, action-packed narrative and this definitely makes it a book to think about. As a debut novel it is really excellent.

This post is part of the blog tour for the novel, which started this week. There is still more to come from the blogs listed below. Please do take a look…

Dust blog tour

Find out more about Mark Thompson on his website.

I was given a copy of Dust by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Blog Tour: Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

Lying in WaitWe’re off on tour again today – we’re headed to Ireland to find out a little more about Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent, author of Unravelling Oliver (2014).

There is a review to follow, but I’ll just say that Lying in Wait is a really intersting character study which is, in places, really uncomfortable. The Fitzsimons family in particular are superbly written and the whole novel is compulsive reading.

I asked Liz if she would be able to give us a bit more background about central character Annie Doyle – it’s not a spoiler for me to tell you that she meets her end within the first few pages, but her influence continues very strongly in the rest of the book. There are lots of things I’d love to tell youabout Annie, but they would be spoilers, so I’ll leave it to Liz to tell you about this troubled but determined young woman.

Annie Doyle was born with what she considered a deformity, and a later botched operation left her with a cleft lip. She was incredibly self-conscious about this and would never have developed self-esteem about her appearance. In addition, although I do not say it in the book because the term wasn’t known in 1980 when the book is set, Annie had quite severe dyslexia which made reading and learning difficult. I imagine that her schooldays were tough. She inevitably became a frustrated troublemaker in order to assert herself as she felt physically and academically disadvantaged.

But Annie was a smart girl who loved her younger sister and although she might have been slightly jealous of her sister’s beauty and academic achievement, she worried that Karen might fall in to the same trap she had.

Annie, seeking attention wherever she could find it, became pregnant at sixteen. It must have made her feel special, at least fleetingly, to know that she was desired by a boy. The father of her baby, a teenager himself, did not want to know about her pregnancy.

The greatest shame you could bring on your family in Ireland in the mid 70s was to be pregnant outside of wedlock. The fathers of these babies were never held accountable but thousands of girls were sent away to Catholic run institutions where they were incarcerated until they gave birth and signed their babies away for adoption. The convents were paid by the state to keep these women until they had their babies, who were then often sold to American or English couples. In the meantime, the mostly young women were used as slave labour in laundries and factories.

Annie refused to sign the adoption papers for her child for eighteen months so when she finally did, she must have been a very broken young woman.

Returning to the family home would have been difficult as she was expected to carry on as if nothing had happened. She was expected to forget about the baby she had nurtured for more than a year. She must have been full of resentment towards her parents who allowed that to happen. So it is not surprising that once she had got over the institutionalisation, she turned to drink and drugs, thieving to feed her habit.

When respectable judge Andrew Fitzsimons caught her stealing his wallet red-handed, she thought that she would be in major trouble so she was surprised when her sob story about a sick mother worked on him and he showed her kindness. When he later sought her out, she reckoned he was a soft touch. Poor Annie was very wrong about that.

Huge thanks to Liz for this contribution, Lying in Wait is out now in multiple formats, and the blog tour continues on the lovely blogs below, so do check them out.

lying in wait blog tour

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Book Review: The High Places by Fiona McFarlane + Giveaway

I went into Waterstones the other day, specifically looking for short story collections. I asked to be pointed to the short story section – there were four books on the shelf, the rest were lumped in with general fiction. I suppose there is an argument to both having a dedicated section (easy access if you are looking for short stories) and for including short stories in general fiction (you might pick up a short story collection by a favourite author), but it did set me pondering and I’d be interested to know what you think about that.

DSC_0344This brings me neatly on to today’s review – a short story collection by Fiona McFarlane, The High Places. Before even opening the book, it’s a thing of beauty. I’m really encouraged by the amount of effort going into making books desirable pieces of art these days (Penguin Clothbound, anyone?) and although the cover designer isn’t credited in the book, it’s a really lovely thing to look at and touch.

Once you get past the look, the stories themselves are unique, not conforming to a certain length, format or setting. The collection moves from the UK, to Australia, to Greece, to a Pacific Island, and each serves to show circumstances from a different angle. In my favourite story ‘Unnecessary Gifts’, for example, the build up – narrated by Philip, the father of two boys – leads you to believe that something terrible and irreversible is going to happen to James, his youngest child. The tension is palpable in the story, but what you expect is not necessarily what happens. All of the stories have an element of this, but it is superbly done in this instance.

Full of atmosphere, in which the heat of the drought-ridden outback leaps off the page, The High Places is a memorable first collection which has definitely prompted me to read Fiona McFarlane’s debut novel, The Night Guest.

Since I have banged on about how lovely this book is, I’ve decided to treat you all by giving away a copy. Just retweet the pinned tweet on my Twitter feed to enter…

I received a copy of The High Places from Sceptre Books in return for an honest review.

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Blog Tour: Lawless and the Flowers of Sin – Pride

We’re on a blog tour today, and celebrating publication day of Lawless and the Flowers of Sin by William Sutton. All the stops on the tour will focus on an aspect of ‘Sinful London’ – today we’re looking at Pride…

Hello, hello, I’m William Sutton, author of Lawless and the Flowers of Sin, due out in July with Titan Books. To celebrate, I’m touring blogs sharing my sinful thoughts.

London Pride: The Flash Gent’s Guide to Swinging (18)60s London

Places and books are crucial in The Flowers of Sin and Lawless & the Devil of Euston Square. Yet how much the city has changed, and how much our reading taste changes.

Who do we think of as epitomising mid-Victorian times? Dickens and Bronte. The Great Exhibition and Albert Memorial? These may be memorable, but they are like the peaks of mountains glimpsed from afar.

Those who write of London must push closer, through the mists of time, in order to clamber on to the shoulders of these giants and gaze down into the full mountain range. To discover the rookeries, the lost rivers, the old estates, the hidden histories which still shape everything from streets to stations to skyline. I listed many sources and contemporaries here, but let all bow in homage to Lee Jackson’s inimitable, Judith Flanders’ The Victorian City and Peter Fryer’s Private Case, Public Scandal.

I’ll give the briefest biog of hidden and vanished buildings; the books I’ll leave you to discover for yourself.

Five naughty night spots in Victorian London:

Argyll1. The Argyll Assembly Rooms (also Argyle).

Started with music, dancing, and drama; ended up a place to meet prostitutes.

2. Casino de Venise (The Holborn). 

“Immense mirrors, velvet-covered sofas, handsome carpets.” Music, magnificence, madams, mistresses.

3. Kate Hamilton’s.

The non-pareil brothel. Under Leicester Square, ruled by Kate, twenty stone, quaffing champagne constantly. (London in the Sixties, 1908)
4. The East End: Ratcliffe Highway: “Very little beauty abroad…but a certain innate delicacy, not the artificial refinement of the West End, but genuine womanly feeling”. Nearby Ship Alley… “is full of foreign lodging-houses”. Inscription on blind tells you which nationalities are welcomed. (London Labour & the London Poor, Henry Mayhew)

5. T***f***d Street (surely Titchfield Street?). To these rooms rented by the hour, the priapic Walter (see below) brought not only married women but girls so young that the taxi-driver overcharged him in disgust. (From 1849-65, 6.5% of female admissions to one venereal hospital were under sixteen.)

Five Rotund Attractions in Victorian London

1. Burton’s Colosseum.

Panoramas: eg the view from the top of St Paul’s, painted on the inside of a dome. 
East side of Regent’s Park, demolished 1874.

2. Park Square Diorama.
Panoramas such as Mt Etna during an eruption. “Judicious introduction of light… the acme of art.” Later a Baptist Chapel. Today part of ISH hostel. (Mogg’s Visitor’s Guide, 1844)

3. Burford’s Panorama, Leicester Sq.
Panoramas eg Moving Pictures of the Siege of Sebastopol. Today Notre Dame De France Roman Catholic Church, with Cocteau murals.

4. Wyld’s Great Globe, 1851-62, middle of Leicester Sq.
The globe inside out: climb the stairs to view the continents.

5. British Museum Reading Room, 1857.
Brilliant use of space, opening books to the wider public (approved by Principal Librarian of course).

Five sensational advances

Building Sewers1. Sewers. 
Joseph Bazalgette’s extraordinary plan ended cholera epidemics, intercepting filth flowing into the Thames and pumping it out east. Only now updated, 150 years on.

2. The Embankment. 
Bazalgette again, converting ramshackle slums into gleaming carriageways fitted with gas, hydraulics, water, sewer and District Line.

3. Metropolitan Line.
The. First. Underground. Train. 
Ever wondered why it’s so often called the Metro, from Paris to Petersburg?

4. The Crystal Palace.

A prism of light and space, celebrating international culture and commerce.

5. Broadmoor.
Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum was not a perfect solution then (as Broadmoor Hospital remains today), but it was an enlightened step toward treatment of direly damaged people.

Five sensational books

Lady Audley’s Secret, Mary Elizabeth Braddon
The Notting Hill Mystery, Charles Warren Adams
The Female Detective, Andrew Forrester
The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
The Disclosures of a Detective, Sergeant William McLevy (1861)

See also The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, one of the great London books. Ian Rankin discovers exactly why Stevenson set it in London rather than his own Edinburgh.

Five books of slang

1. The Slang Dictionary (the Vulgar Words, Street Phrases, and “Fast” Expressions of High and Low Society), John Camden Hotten
2. The Vulgar Slang, Francis Grose
3. Passing English of the Victorian Era, J Redding Ware
4. Green’s Dictionary of Slang, Jonathon Green
5. Google ngrams can be used to check any phrase’s use through the ages

Lee Jackson’s VictorianLondon has excellent slang lists.

Five books any self-respecting erotobibliomaniac would want

1. My Secret Life, ‘Walter’
2. Lady Bumtickler’s Revels, Anonymous (John Camden Hotten?)
3. Rosa Fielding, or the Victim of Lust, Anonymous
4. Madame Birchini’s Dance, Henry Thomas Buckle (“published by Lady Termagent Flaybum”)
5. The New Ladies Tickler; or Adventures of Lady Lovesport and Audacious Harry, Edward Sellon

See also Matthew Green on Victorian erotica on Londonist, Jonathon Green and his exemplary Timelines of Slang.

Wow – lots of background reading to get stuck into there, and you all know I like to read! Huge thanks to William for this post, and happy publication day for Lawless and the Flowers of Sin. To find out more, take a look at or look William up on Twitter.

This blog tour continues to look at some more of London’s sinful past, so do check them out this week…


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Exclusive Extract: We and Me by Saskia De Coster

Morning all! Today I am hosting an extract of Saskia De Coster’s novel We and Me. I’ve just finished reading it, so there is a review to follow, but as a bit of background, it’s an originally Flemish novel, translated by Nancy Forest-Flier and introduces the Vandersanden family, living in luxury seclusion in an exclusive community in Belgium and shows us their very personal family and individual dramas.

I’ll save the full synopsis for the review, but I do have the extract below to tempt you…

9789462380615Stefaan longs for a place of his own for keeping his music, his tools, and his heirlooms in order. He demands a hobby room. ‘A hobby room?’ Mieke sputters. ‘Are you going to start inventing hobbies?’ When he tells her about the old tools from his parents’ farm and how he wants to polish them, Mieke becomes more receptive to the idea. ‘You mean a shed, a junk shed?’ Stefaan gets her blessing for his hobby shed, to be built at the back of the garden. Before he even has a chance to consider his plan from a broader perspective, she has gone ahead and consulted with Elvira, her good friend and arbiter of taste, and drummed up an architect and a construction firm. An official from environmental planning also shows up, who is pleased to receive a fat tip. For Mieke, a new project has presented itself on which she can direct her energies.

A chain reaction is unavoidable. Now that Papa’s getting a hobby shed, Sarah wants a pond. Stefaan is dead set against this ‘ridiculous’ idea and blocks it with a well-considered argument: ‘Out of the question. You like cats, don’t you?’

‘Yes,’ says the unsuspecting prey.

‘Cats drown in ponds,’ Stefaan points out.

‘Squirrels dip their dirty, germ-infected tails in them and infect the whole biotope,’ Mieke chimes in. A pond is kitsch and kitsch is the bastard child of style and class. Before you know it there’ll be a gnome with a fishing pole on your lawn or a stone frog with a little crown on his head. No, nip it in the bud, that nonsense.

Mieke supervises the work on the hobby shed with heart and soul. Putting up an extra outbuilding―her father would have been proud to see her carrying out this ancient Flemish custom. It’s thanks to her eagle eye and the managerial capacities mastered by every housewife that within scarcely three weeks a miniature house is erected in the back garden with hot and cold running water, electricity, a desk, a sturdy workbench, and a whole battery of tools on the fibreboard walls. Gutters lead the rainwater from the roof to the cistern, and the tiles on the floor form a fleur-de-lis pattern.

The evening of the project’s completion, Mieke makes an exception and lets Stefaan drink two glasses of red wine instead of the customary ration of one. For inexplicable reasons she tears into him in bed that night, demanding sex twice without any fuss or wheedling, as if they were a couple of kids―or at least that’s how Stefaan imagines that kind of sex to be: turbulent, awkward, deeply satisfying. For a moment the thought flashes through his mind that maybe he’s made a new child, but he knows that those days are gone forever.

Stefaan is reborn the first evening he sets a ladder against the outer wall of his hobby shed and climbs up on the roof. He knows that from now on things can only get better. No more valleys, only peaks. Although peaks are also valleys standing on their heads.

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Blog Tour: Where is Emma Butler’s Life Plan? by Julia Wilmot

Morning all, a treat for you today, as I host a stop on the blog tour for Where is Emma Butler’s Life Plan? by Julia Wilmot. We’ve got an exclusive extract and a sneaky giveaway at the bottom of the page, but first, what is this book about, anyway??

IMG_1729Emma Butler doesn’t know it but she is about to get bit more angelic help than she was banking on. Someone has messed up, or have they?

It appears that Emma is about to be ‘recalled’ to heaven but has completed none of the tasks she had set herself for this life time. They must be completed before she is recalled and time is running out. Arch Angel Gregory decides to take over. He will be her Guardian Angel to ensure it all gets done.

There’s a lot to do and a very short time to do it in. Gregory is determined that it will all be completed by hook or by crook. But where does that leave free will and what about Jack who has been chosen to be Emma’s love interest? How will this impact him? Jack and Emma have no idea what is going on, but it’s not going to be plain sailing.

And so on to our extract – don’t forget the giveaway below…

The Office of Life Plan Compliance was situated at the end of a long corridor. The place was massive. Huge screens, showing the daily activities of people on earth, covered the walls. The screens were being monitored by teams of angels. Generally this office only got involved if there was some controversy or complication regarding a life plan. The pictures on the screens were changing rapidly, controlled by the angels who were sitting at terminals scanning through one picture after another as they looked for the one that they wanted to monitor. They had huge files in front of them and were cross-referencing current activity against the pre-birth plan. They appeared to be working very fast. On some of the monitors the relevant guardian angels appeared, almost like foreign correspondents, ready from their locations to answer any queries that the office had. The room was a hive of activity, with its flashing screens and gentle buzz of angelic conversation. Everyone appeared fully engaged and focussed.

Anthony, whose own office was busy enough, was always overwhelmed by the amount of activity that took place in this department. The office was primarily engaged in spot-checking life plan compliance. This involved going through someone’s pre-birth plan and assessing how closely their lives were following the path they had chosen. No wonder the office was so busy. Pre-birth planning was of course a simple task for most souls. While they rested in heaven between lives they would spend some time sitting with a group of wise elders, reviewing past lives and successes and lessons that had been learned. On the basis of what had already been achieved they would come to a conclusion as to what it would be good to explore in their next foray on earth. Sometimes they might want to continue with a particular area where it was felt more work was needed, or maybe a decision might be made to work on a different area and to ‘rest’ certain issues in the next lifetime.

Making the pre-birth plan was the easy bit. The tricky bit was that as soon as people were born, all memory of the plan was erased. Luckily most people bobbed along in the right direction, given a slight nudge every now and again by their guardian angel. But then there were those who managed to deviate almost completely from the path, and despite all angelic gentle nudging, nothing seemed to get them back on track. This office would then decide if anything else should be done to help. After all, free will was an important, albeit controversial, element of the plan.

Anthony stood at the entrance to the office and looked in wonder for a moment at the level of gentle activity that was taking place. His reveries were broken into by the angel in charge, who came over and welcomed him warmly.

‘Anthony, greetings. How lovely to see you. Is there anything I can do to help or are you just checking up on us?’

Anthony smiled at the other angel.

‘Tobias, I’m sure if you needed checking up on it wouldn’t be me that was sent, and anyway I can’t imagine this super slick operation ever gives any cause for concern.’

Tobias chuckled and bowed his head humbly.

‘Thank you, Anthony. Then is there anything I can help you with?’

Anthony lowered his voice.

‘I wonder if we could have a word privately?’

As a Supernatural fan, any talk of Angels is a big plus, so I can’t wait to get stuck in to this book. If you’d like to win one of three copies available, then just fill in the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!

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Book Review: The Ways of the World by Robert Goddard

162800901919. The eyes of the world are on Paris, where statesmen, diplomats and politicians have gathered to discuss the fate of half the world’s nations in the aftermath of the cataclysm that was the Great War. A horde of journalists, spies and opportunists have also gathered in the city and the last thing the British diplomatic community needs at such a time is the mysterious death of a senior member of their delegation. So, when Sir Henry Maxted falls from the roof of his mistress’s apartment building in unexplained circumstances, their first instinct is to suppress all suspicious aspects of the event.

But Sir Henry’s son, ex Royal Flying Corps ace James ‘Max’ Maxted, has other ideas. He resolves to find out how and why his father died – even if this means disturbing the impression of harmonious calm which the negotiating teams have worked so hard to maintain. In a city where countries are jostling for position at the crossroads of history and the stakes could hardly be higher, it is difficult to tell who is a friend and who a foe.And Max will soon discover just how much he needs friends, as his search for the truth sucks him into the dark heart of a seemingly impenetrable mystery.

What I Thought:
As a book, The Ways of the World is right up my alley – crime thriller with a distinctly historical edge. As book one in the Wide World trilogy, it’s quite clear from the start that there are far too many threads to be wound up in one book alone, and it is left very open to accommodate the remaining books. This is fine for me, seeing as I picked the book up long after all three had been published, and didn’t have to wait, but I can see that it might have been annoying initially.

The historical research on the setting, Paris in 1919, is well done, but without shoe-horning every last bit of it into the text (which is a bugbear of mine) and the action is pretty much non-stop. James Maxted is very cocksure and some aspects of his character did grate a little, but I wonder if this was perhaps intended, as he is very young and sure of himself, particularly having survived the war, maybe that’s what makes him so gung-ho.

As I said, there are lots of little intrigues, some of which were definitely not tied up neatly at the end of book one, so I’m interested to see how the action in books two and three compares.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review.

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