A Blog A Day: Let’s Talk About Lacey Flint…

Despite adding a post on my favourite women in crime, I didn’t include Sharon Bolton and her detective Lacey Flint. The reasons for this are many, but the biggest one is that she deserves a full post of her own!

I came across Now You See Me, the first of S. J. Bolton’s (as she published then) Lacey Flint books, quite by chance, as part of a prize package but once I had started reading, I literally didn’t put it down until I was done. It’s an overused phrase to show enthusiasm for a book, but I was completely blown away by the clever and unashamedly gruesome plot, based on the Jack the Ripper case, and also by a heroine who is not all she appears.

Lacey is excellent at her job, but she isolates herself from her colleagues for reasons which become apparent as this and the further three books explain. She goes about the process of living her life quietly and with a minimum of fuss, until Mark Joesbury comes into her life.

Although each of these books is a very clever mystery thriller, there is a thread that runs through them, and that is the relationship between Lacey Flint and Mark Joesbury. They are clearly attracted to each other, both scared to take a leap because of their emotional baggage but, in between the utterly gripping cases that they work together, there are some real moments of tenderness between the two, moments where you can’t help hoping the author will give them a little shove!

Having said that, however, I did note in a previous review that perhaps having them get close to the point of sleeping together might change the dynamic too much, but that is a matter of personal opinion I suppose…

Currently, the Lacey Flint series sits at four books and three short stories (one of which was a pre-order exclusive), with no plans from Sharon Bolton to return to it at present, which I think is a real shame.

Now You See Me is currently priced at 99p for the Kindle version, and if solid, twisty crime fiction is your thing, you will very much enjoy it.

Do check out Lacey Flint – if you wanted to buy the whole series of novels today (at time of writing) from Amazon, it would set you back less than £6. It’s an absolute steal for such brilliant, and re-readable books…

To find out more about Sharon Bolton, you can check out her website.

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Book Review: Artefacts and Other Stories by Rebecca Burns

That dandelion. A flash of stubborn yellow in a dark box of space. It had promised sunshine but had tasted sour.

Artefacts.

A dandelion.

A mayfly.

A family, bereft.

Items and mementos of a life, lived hard and with love, or long, empty, bitter. In these sharply drawn and unflinching short stories, Rebecca Burns unpicks the connection between the lives we live and what we leave behind.

What I Thought:

I have a mixed relationship with short stories, in that very often I am left wanting more, needing more of a resolution for the characters but, having read Rebecca Burns’ collection, The Settling Earth, and enjoying it thoroughly, I was reassured that Artefacts and Other Stories would not leave me in such a predicament!

While the first collection I mentioned looked at people and their reactions to the environment in which they find themselves, Artefacts looks at the things we leave behind us, the objects and traditions that inspire love, hate, fear and that have a story long after we are gone.

I felt myself most drawn to the stories depicting the aftermath of the First World War, purely because of my own interests and family history, but it was interesting to see the war from the point of view of the men who fought – so often the histories are written by officers and historians, who have no real experience of warfare and the everyday soldiers never get their say. This is beginning to change with documentaries like Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old, so it’s great to see more in print.

Not all of the stories in the collection are historically based, being set in a number of times and places and into the present day, with Mayflies of Apollo being bang up-to-date. This, I think, leads to a richer collection as there is something there to suit many tastes and also introduce things like historical fiction to those who might not select it at first glance.

As I have said, short stories often leave me wanting much more, but this collection seemed to strike the right balance. It is interesting to note that Rebecca Burns has also written longform fiction, in the novel The Bishop’s Girl, which I also look forward to reading.

To find out more about Rebecca Burns, you can check out her website.

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Book Review: Bookworm by Lucy Mangan

When Lucy Mangan was little, stories were everything. They opened up different worlds and cast new light on this one.

She was whisked away to Narnia – and Kirrin Island – and Wonderland. She ventured down rabbit holes and womble burrows into midnight gardens and chocolate factories. No wonder she only left the house for her weekly trip to the library.

In Bookworm, Lucy brings the favourite characters of our collective childhoods back to life and disinters a few forgotten treasures poignantly, wittily using them to tell her own story, that of a born, and unrepentant, bookworm.

What I Thought:

What a lovely book! As one who was most often found with her head in a book, Bookworm is like the membership manual to a club of people like me!

It was an absolute delight to read Lucy’s own memories of the books she read, and see which I also found, but which had passed me by. As I seem to be a similar age to Lucy too, a lot of what she wrote about her childhood years applied so much to me, that it was lovely to reminisce.

From Narnia and Enid Blyton to Geek Girl, so many old and new childhood books get a mention (including my beloved Trebizon series by Anne Digby), and Lucy is completely unashamed in her passion for books. I remember well adults saying ‘ooh, you’ve always got your head in a book’ like it was a bad thing, and I never understood this insistance on being outside at playtime, when a beanbag in the library was MUCH more my style…

Rather handily, there is a reading list for each chapter at the back of the book, so you can see just how many amazing children’s books you have missed in your life, but it’s well worth going back in – although they’ll sadly never be the same as an adult.

This is a very short review, but I’m not sure what else I can say about this book, except read it. If you’re one of us, read it and you’ll have hours of happy memories. If you’re not one of us, read it and you’ll understand us just a little bit more!

Lucy Mangan is a journalist and columnist. She was educated in Catford and Cambridge. She studied English at the latter and then spent two years training as a solicitor, but left as soon as she qualified and went to work much more happily in a bookshop instead. She got a work experience placement at the Guardian in 2003 and hung around until they gave her a job.  Lucy now writes a regular column for the newspaper as well as features and TV reviews there. She has written for most of the major women’s magazines, including Grazia, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan, and has a weekly column in Stylist magazine. She was named Columnist of the Year at the PPA Awards in 2013.

You can connect with Lucy on Twitter.

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A Blog A Day: My #YALC Top Tips

I am thrilled to be attending YALC again this year and, as I’ve been to this fantastic event several times, I thought I’d put together a few of my top tips to ensire you have a great event.

  1. Luggage

When you arrive at YALC, you might notice many people walking around with wheely cases. These people are not rushing to catch a train at the end of the day, these people have been to YALC before, and have wisely chosen to carry their books in this manner. Tote bags are ACE, but the straps do cut in somewhat when you’re buying many of the lovely books on offer.

2. Post-It Notes

It’s a great idea to mark up all your books in advance for signing with post-it notes with your name on – it saves the publicists a job, if you want your book dedicated by an author, and you can always reuse them the following day (if your note doesn’t get stolen by an author who keeps them all to get ideas for character names).

3. Hydrate

Bring as much water with you as you can stand to carry. Drinks at Olympia cost a fortune, and the taps in the bathrooms are too low to accommodate a normal drinks bottle. Similarly, food costs bomb there, so bring what you need with you.

4. Chill Out!

There is a chill out area at YALC, but the seats fill up quickly, so any perch on the floor is good. There is plenty of floor space to sit, and it’s a good idea to sit when you can, in signing queues, for example, and the panels give you a great place to sit, plus an interesting talk to listen to!

5. Timetabling

The YALC programme is positively rammed with signings, talks and workshops. You might have loads of stuff you’d like to go to, but you probably won’t be able to do it all. Make a wishlist of things you MUST go to (V. E. Schwab signing for me, to name one), and then a secondary list of things that would be great, but not essential.

6. Look Around

There are some great books and swag items to buy and grab at YALC, so make sure you take a look at the publisher stalls. They also very often have competitions and special events, so loads of chances to have fun!

7. Book Swap

There is usually a book swap at YALC – take along a book, and find yourself a new one! I usually take one or two books along to swap, and keep checking back until there is something there that I fancy, and sometimes you find a real gem.

8. Keep An Eye Out…

The green room for LFCC is (usually) up on the YALC floor, so every so often an uber-celeb might stroll through. Try and stay calm. Last year everyone saw Jason Momoa. I saw Steven Seagal – go figure!

9. Enjoy!

As a book person, you will never be more among your people than you are at YALC – enjoy the experience of getting to know some great bookish people, bloggers, authors, publicists and take time to process it all. You will have YALC hangover when you go back to real life, but take solace in the fact you’ve had an amazing few days and have loads of new books to read!

Me and my Booksy Ladies at YALC 2018
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Blog Tour: Summer at the Kindness Cafe by Victoria Walters

Welcome to Brew, a cafe where kindness is almost as important as coffee… almost!

Abbie has fled London and the humiliation of not being able to make rent after being made redundant. Her sister, Louise, unlucky in love, has thrown herself into her career at the local hospital. And Eszter, who has travelled from Hungary with her daughter Zoe, is hoping to fulfil her husband’s dying wish: to reunite his family.

This summer, three very different women are inspired by the random acts of kindness written up on the Kindness Board at Brew, and decide to make a pact to be kinder to others and to themselves.

Can a little bit of kindness really change your life? Eszter, Abbie and Louise are about to find out!

What I Thought:

I am very much into romance at the moment. The more I see in the news about the current state of the world, the more I find myself turning to the certainty of happy endings! That is by no means a spoiler of Victoria Walters’ excellent Summer at the Kindness Cafe as, without it, it would NOT be romantic fiction, and it’s the getting to the happy ending that is the important part.

Set in the fictional town of Littlewood, in the height of a warm and balmy summer (can’t help looking out at the rain mournfully as I write this!), three women find themselves touched by kindness through one small cafe.

Abbie’s arrival from London is a last resort, as she has been made redundant, can’t afford to live in the city anymore and is running from a broken heart. Her sister Louise offers her a place to stay while she also quietly nurses her devastation from a relationship break down.

As she loudly arrives at Brew, a cafe at the heart of Littlewood she also meets recently widowed Eszther and her daughter Zoe, who have come to Littlewood to heal a family rift.

Brew sounds like a lovely little place, and it’s fundamental to the town and its residents. The big feature of it is the Kindness Board, where people can write thank you messages for acts of kindness and or reunite with lost items. Louise’s story is kicked off by the Kindness Board and it features a lot throughout the book. It’s a really lovely idea and, although it could seem twee anywhere else, it fits in beautifully with the feel of the book here.

Of course there is romance, with a Lord and a vet looming large, but will the course of Louise and Abbie’s lives run smoothly when ex-boyfriends, job offers and fear of rejection rear their heads? I think you could probably guess but, as I said, getting there is the fun part, and this book really IS fun.

You can really feel the heat of a summer’s day coming off the page, and the various descriptions of Littlewood and the countryside around it bring the place to life. The featured Huntley Manor is also vividly described and you can almost imagine yourself there at times.

I don’t want to give away any more details, but suffice to say that this is a very enjoyable summer romance, and it’s definitely recommended for your summer reading lists!

Summer at the Kindness Cafe is published by Simon & Schuster.

To find out more about Victoria Walters and her books, you can check out her website. Otherwise, why not connect with her on Twitter?

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of Summer at the Kindness Cafe. Why not take a look at some of the blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content?

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