Tuesday, 28 March 2017

5* review The Lost Children by Helen Phifer

The Lost Children by Helen Phifer

Lizzy pulled the covers over her head. Then she realised what was being dragged behind the person with the torch. She rammed her fist into her mouth to stop herself from screaming…

For decades, The Moore Asylum was home to the forgotten children of Brooklyn Bay. But ever since a scandal forced its closure, the abandoned building has cast an imposing shadow. Until now – when an elderly man is found dead, his body strapped to a gurney... 

Detective Lucy Harwin, still reeling from a previous case that ended in the devastating murder of a mother and her child, finds herself on the trail of a killer ruthlessly fixated on avenging wrongs. 

What disturbing secrets lie within the asylum’s walls? Together with her partner Detective Mattie Jackson, Lucy begins to unearth its terrible history, and the horrors endured by the vulnerable children.

As the attacks escalate and a woman is murdered on her own doorstep, Lucy is forced into a terrifying game of cat and mouse with a twisted individual. But can Lucy stop a murderer with nothing left to lose? 

An absolutely terrifying and gripping thriller that will chill readers of MJ Arlidge, Angela Marsons and Rachel Abbott to the bone. 


I'm a huge fan of Helen Phifer's books right back to her first, The Ghost House, and have loved every one. Her writing style is gritty and natural, and I love that her background in the police force makes the books so 'real'. I have been truly terrified by some of her earlier work (the mark of a real gifted writer) and I absolutely adore this crossover into non paranormal fiction.

The Lost Children begins in 1975 in The Moore, an asylum used to house children, not insane, but not fitting normal stereotypes, no more than troubled kids. They are treated horrifically in there by the staff and we see an insight into a child that seems more troubled than most, Lizzy Clements.

Back in the present day there has been a brutal murder in the now abandoned asylum. A doctor from back in the day. It's up to DI Lucy Harwin and her team to solve it, but as the body count starts to stack up things become much more difficult, and lives are put in danger as things get personal.

I loved these characters, from the outset you can sense the camaraderie between the team and how far they will go to protect each other. Lucy's character was a particular favourite and I can't wait to read more of her story. 

The Lost Children is fast paced and really exciting, there was a few times I was practically shouting at my kindle as I saw them heading into danger, and I was pleased to find out the identity of the murderer.

Fantastic read from Phifer, I eagerly await more of this series!

About Helen Phifer

Helen Phifer’s love of reading began with Enid Blyton, before progressing on to Laura Ingals Wilder and scaring herself with Steven King. If she can’t write for any particular reason she finds herself getting itchy fingers and really irritable. She loves reading as much as writing and is also very fond of chocolate, Prosecco, The Lake District, New York, white Zinfandel wine, my children and grandchildren, my friends, porn star martini cocktails, Stephen King, watching scary films, Marilyn Monroe, Melissa McCarthy, Idris Elba, Simon Baker, Spandau Ballet, The Munsters and coffee. In no particular order.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Sin of the Father - Sheryl Browne. 5* review, excerpt and giveaway!

I'm delighted to be part of Sheryl Browne's blog tour today for:

Sins of the Father

Genre: Thriller
Series: DI Matthew Adams #2
Release Date: 28th Feb 2017
Publisher: Choc Lit (Death by Choc Lit)

A roller-coaster of a read which you won’t want to put down! Former Police DCI Stuart Gibbon

What if you’d been accused of one of the worst crimes imaginable?
Detective Inspector Matthew Adams is slowly picking up the pieces from a case that nearly cost him the lives of his entire family and his own sanity too. On the surface, he seems to be moving on, but he drinks to forget and when he closes his eyes, the nightmares still come.
But the past is the past or is it? Because the evil Patrick Sullivan might be out of the picture, but there’s somebody who is just as intent on making Matthew’s life hell, and they’re doing it in the cruellest way possible.
When Matthew finds himself accused of a horrific and violent crime, will his family stand by him? And will he even be around to help when his new enemy goes after them as well?


I hadn't read After She's Gone - the first in the DI Adams series, but was not worried as I soon got into this story (which reads perfectly as a standalone - I have however now gone back and bought the first!)

Matthew and family meet Jasmine, a college friend of step daughter Ashleigh's at a wedding. Soon we realise something is not as it seems with her. Matthew witnesses a fight with her boyfriend and escorts her home to make sure she is safe.

Events take a sickening turn and Matthew wakes up in a hotel room which is covered in blood, and no real memory of what has taken place. He soon finds out though as text messages and phone calls reach him and he knows he's in big trouble, none of which he believes is his doing.

He fights the law and the bad guys to protect his family, going to any lengths necessary, and finding out awful truths along the way, but Becky trusts him and fights to clear his name while trying to keep her family safe - something they couldn't do before.

This was a well written and gripping thriller from Sheryl Browne. It had me on the edge of my seat and wanting to shout instructions to help them through the pages. I love how versatile Sheryl is as a writer, and how she engages her readers within the lives of her characters. I was rooting so much for Matthew and family from the start.

The ending was so poignant and sad, Matthew's character shining bravely through, it really made the story for me. Well done, Sheryl on a fantastic read!


Matthew woke abruptly, hurtled from sleep by a nightmare he thought would never end. Sweat saturating his face, pooling in the hollow of his neck, he pulled himself upright and squinted against the thin trickle of sunlight filtering through the slatted blinds at the window. His first thought was that he had a hangover the size of an airdrome. His second, that they had no blinds at their bedroom window.

Easing his legs over the edge of the bed, a wheeze rattling his chest and nausea gripping his stomach as the room revolved in sick-making revolutions around him, his gaze went instinctively to the bedside table. His inhaler was there, the blue curative he carried with him, lined up neatly alongside his phone. Disorientated, Matthew blinked hard. His vision was blurred. His memory? Where the bloody hell was he?

A hotel room. Functional, he registered. Scanning his surroundings, he noted the fire instructions pinned to the door, the ancient fire extinguisher on the wall, the dusty circa nineteen eighties carpet. A shithole. Matthew closed his eyes and swallowed against the acrid taste in the back of his throat, then almost had a heart attack as his phone rang, loud and shrill, screeching through his brain like an express train. Scrambling around his mind for some recollection of what had happened the night before, he came up with nothing that was tangible, his tenuous thoughts seeming to slip away, like sea filtering ineffectually through sand. He had a few grainy, grey memories: Jasmine, the apartment, tastefully decorated. The painting, abstract colours intermingling. Coffee. Dripping. Shoes, clacking, like the ominous slow tick of a clock. One shoe. A stiletto. Connor …? Had he been there? Here? Matthew squeezed his eyes shut, tried desperately to remember. Natalie? Christ, no.

His phone rang again, sharp, insistent. Becky, it had to be, and Matthew had no clue what to say to her. Attempting to control his escalating panic, to regulate his breathing, he let it ring and reached for his inhaler instead … and then stopped dead.

Seeing the crimson stains on his hand, Matthew’s heart somersaulted in his chest.
Dried blood, he registered, trying hard not to let the panic, now gripping his gut like a vice, cancel out logical thought. Old blood. His? How old?

Bringing both palms shakily to his face, he examined them. They were ingrained with the stuff. He flipped them over. His knuckles were bruised. Right hand. Sweet Jesus, what had he done? Disentangling himself from the duvet, Matthew scrambled to his feet, then quelling the nausea now clawing its way up his windpipe, he checked himself over. Deep wheals ran vertically down his chest. Four. Matthew swallowed hard. Checked his limbs. Found scratches on his arms. His neck, too. He could feel those, raw and sore.

His pulse rate ratcheting up, he yanked the duvet back. More blood. Too much. Stark against the grey-white of the sheets. Trying desperately to keep a lid on his emotions, he turned, stumbling towards the bathroom, where he leaned over the toilet and vomited the sparse contents of his stomach.

Standing unsteadily, Matthew clutched the sink hard for support. Deep gouges on his cheek, he noted through the mirror, then flinched as a flashback hit him head on: Jasmine, smiling, her eyes, flat and emotionless. Her fingernails trailing down his face, his torso. Her touch had been light. She’d inflicted no damage. So how? Who? Natalie? A fresh image assaulted him, Natalie lying next to him. On top of him. Had he? No! His gaze straying to the wall behind him, Matthew’s legs almost gave way. There were blood spatters on the tiles. Perspiring profusely, he dragged an arm over his forehead. Irregular, splattered all over the walls. Christ, this couldn’t be happening.

A terrifying scenario unfurling in his head, Matthew willed himself to turn to the bath. His hand visibly shaking, cold trepidation snaking the length of his spine, he steeled himself to reach for the mould-stained shower curtain, hesitated, and drew it back.

A tap dripped, slowly, steadily. Each drip echoing distortedly around the room, sounding like a nail being driven into his coffin. He registered the watery trickle of blood washing over the carcass of a spider wedged in the plughole.
No body.

Wilting with relief, Matthew turned away. Taking several slow breaths, he grabbed a towel from the rail, whilst simultaneously reaching for the sink tap, and then stopped, his head screaming, his instincts colliding. If he cleaned himself up, he’d be destroying evidence. If he ran … Matthew stared hard at himself in the mirror. More images assailed him, disjointed memories. Surreal, foggy recollections. He’d been here with two women. Jasmine and Natalie. Matthew knew that much. Thought he did. And every indication was that one of those women had been badly injured, or worse, possibly by him. If he was going to call this in, and terrified though he was, his conscience told him he had to, he couldn’t wash. He needed to. The smell in the room was cloying. A woman’s scent. It was all over him.

He had to call Becky. Trying to keep calm, to not give into his urge to run from the room and keep running, Matthew headed back to the bedroom, where his phone had been ringing constantly. Whatever had happened, she needed to hear it from him first. He needed to tell her … Tell her what? Something’s happened, but I don’t know what? I think I’ve been set-up but I have no idea why? I might have had sex with someone but it wasn’t intentional?

No! Disbelieving, Matthew gulped back an immediate deep sense of shame. 


About Sheryl...

Heartache, humour, love, loss & betrayal, Sheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy, heart-wrenching fiction. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and shortlisted for the Best Romantic e-book Love Stories Award 2015, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.
Recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer, Sheryl’s contemporary fiction comes to you from award winning Choc Lit.

Author Links



Monday, 13 March 2017

5* review: One Last Wish by Ella Harper

I am delighted to be part of the One Last Wish blog tour. This is a really special book and a definite keeper for me...

How would you cope if your child became terminally ill?
Rosie and Nate had the perfect relationship. But they struggled to cope with the devastating news their daughter Emmie has incurable cancer. It feels like their world – and their relationship – has come crashing down.
They must do everything to support their little girl, but can they stop their marriage falling apart?
Unbeknownst to her parents, Emmie is on a mission. She is determined to make them see what brought them together in the first place – and make them fall in love all over again.

The story of Nate and Rosie, and predominantly little Emmie grabbed me from the heartbreaking beginning, and left me feeling bereft - yet uplifted, and thoroughly satisfied with the beautiful, so utterly poignant ending.  

Nate and Rosie are left reeling when they discover their daughter's brain tumour is inoperable. They are told she will die, but not when. It could be months or years. As Emmie's life progresses the couple begin to drift apart, the things they withhold from each other out of protection become the things that threaten to drive them apart, and Emmie can see what is happening. She feels guilty and unsettled, worrying that if, when, she dies, her parents will be left on their own and no longer together - along with her helpers she devises a plan to make them rekindle their love.

What a wonderful story this was, told with sensitivity, researched well and with well developed characters that were interwoven into the tale seamlessly, I loved them all, however frustrated I was with Nate and Rosie for not opening up to one another, but my true favourite was Dr. Tom, if all children suffering any problems at all could have a counsellor like him - the world would be a happier place for them.

It tore at my heart strings and I was in floods of tears at the end in a way I haven't been touched since Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper, and Jojo Moyes Me Before You. But don't despair, the ending was uplifting and filled with promise.

One Last Wish by Ella Harper is published by Canelo on 27th February (£1.99 February)

Author Twitter: @Ella__Harper  [double underscore]
Publisher Twitter: @Canelo_Co
Hashtag: #OneLastWishBook

Many thanks to Bethan at edpr for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Guest post...Stories within The Gingerbread House by Kate Beaufoy

I'm delighted to welcome Kate Beaufoy today to share with us...

The Stories within The Gingerbread House. 

Once upon a time …

For people like you and me, dedicated readers from the moment we mastered our ABCs, those four words are among the most magical in the world. From Grimm’s fairytales to Tales of the City, from Neverland to Necropolis, we crave stories as a sugar addict craves Krispy Kremes. We lurk in libraries and haunt second-hand bookshops and follow threads on online book forums until we find our fix. Sometimes these once-upon-a-times end happily ever after, sometimes they end in tears. But the biggest concern of all is the way the story’s told.

For many years I worked as an actress in a television soap opera. It was a hugely successful once-weekly drama that brought in massive ratings. And then the powers-that-be in the production office decided that they no longer wanted the series to be story driven. They wanted it to be issue driven. Suddenly, characters whom the viewing public had invited into their sitting rooms every Sunday evening, and whom they had grown to know and love, became alcoholics or stalkers or adulterers overnight. There was no preamble - no story behind what made them do what they were doing - they just underwent an arbitrary personality transplant according to whatever psychological foible happened to be the issue-du-jour. Ratings, unsurprisingly, slumped.

An eminent writer proclaimed recently that story is unimportant in his novels. For him, style is more important than content. Reader, I gasped! Story? Unimportant?!! The power of storytelling should never be underestimated. For me, story is everything. It’s what keeps the pages turning, it’s what makes us binge-watchers, it’s what kept poor Scheherazade alive, for heaven’s sake!

The Gingerbread House, my new novel, is narrated by a fourteen-year-old called Katia. Stories are the crux of her being; she tells them over and over - classics like The Little Mermaid and Alice in Wonderland and Charlotte’s Web - all the stories she remembers from her childhood. She curls up with them the way people curl up with Netflix, to escape from the harshness of the real world.

Being so young, Katia has not had the rich life experiences of her mother, Tess or her grandmother, Eleanor (doyenne of the Gingerbread House), both of whom have a deep well of life-stories to draw on. Eleanor is suffering from dementia - an issue that has been much-discussed in the media lately. As Eleanor’s carer Tess has - in addition to the stresses of the job - her own problems. She has been made redundant, she is depressed, she is reaching for the wine bottle at inappropriate hours of the day …

So far, so issue-driven, you might say. But the first draft of this novel was written ten years ago, before complications arising from the ageing demographic had become headline news, before ‘wine o’clock’ had become synonymous with alcohol abuse, before the plight of carers nationwide had been highlighted by mainstream programmes such as Woman’s Hour.

The original rough was written in the form of a memoir, with no intention to publish. But then Katia came into my head, and told me that she would take over the narrative because she knew it needed a more cohesive structure. And so the story became one woven of three threads with three protagonists: Tess, Eleanor and Katia.

I knew Tess’s story because I had lived it; I knew Eleanor’s because I had witnessed it. But I didn’t know Katia’s until the very end of the book, when it took me so wholly by surprise that it made me weep.

The Gingerbread House is not an ‘issue-driven’ book. It was written in a spirit of tenderness at a troubled time. It was fuelled by a sense of bewilderment at how unfair life can be, and how comedic, and how very, very bizarre. As Alice says in Lewis Carroll’s children’s classic, half laughing through her tears because it all seems so ridiculous: ‘If I wasnt real, I shouldnt be able to cry.’

The Gingerbread House by Kate Beaufoy is published by Black & White.

Kate Beaufoy has an MA in French and English literature from Trinity College, Dublin.  She began her career as a professional actor – winning a Dublin Theatre Festival Best Actress award – before becoming a fulltime writer. As Kate Thompson she has had a dozen novels published, including the Number One bestseller The Blue Hour, which was shortlisted for the RNA award.
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Kate’s novels have been translated into French, German, Greek, Italian, Czech and Dutch, and are available as audio books. She has contributed to numerous newspapers and magazines in Ireland and the UK, written and broadcast for RTE, and is regularly invited to participate in literary events across the media.

As Kate Beaufoy her first historical novel – the critically acclaimed Liberty Silk – spent four weeks on the Irish Times bestseller chart.  Another Heartbeat in the House – was shortlisted in the popular fiction category in the Irish Book Awards 2015. Inspired by William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, it tells the story of the woman who became governess to his children and who may have been the prototype for literature’s most enduring and engaging heroine, Becky Sharp.
Kate lives some of the year in Dublin and some on the West coast of Ireland. She is an advanced-level scuba diver, a wild swimmer, a keen practitioner of Bikram yoga, and the fond keeper of a bewitching Burmese cat.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

5* review: Carole Matthews Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses

Christie Chapman is a single working mother who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn. It can be tough just getting through the day but Christie has always found comfort in her love of crafting and any spare time she has is spent in her parents' summerhouse working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed birthday cards to personalised gifts, Christie's flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it's not long before opportunity comes knocking. All of a sudden Christie sees a different future for her and Finn - one full of hope and possibility, and if the handsome Max Alexander is to be believed, one full of love too. It's all there for the taking.
And then, all of sudden, Christie's world is turned upside down.
Christie knows that something has to give, but what will she choose? Will she give up her dreams and the chance of real love? What price will she pay for doing the right thing? 

Christie's tale is one not dissimilar to most women, she works too hard, commutes too long and doesn't get to spend enough time with her son, Finn. She's been single for five years after splitting with her childhood sweetheart, Finn's dad, and copes admirably alone...but she's lonely and fed up.

She has her crafting to keep her occupied at nights and it brings in some pin money to top up her wages from her job as a legal PA, but she'd like to be able to give Finn more, especially her time.

A situation arises where Finn needs her more than her work, but she risks the bills not being paid. She gets her big break at the wrong time and the balls she is juggling threaten to fall down around her.

You can always count on Carole for a wonderful, warm and uplifting read. This book brought me more pleasure than anything I have read for a while, it also left me wanting desperately to become a crazy crafting lady and searching Hobbycraft and The Range for a starter cardmaking kit!

I loved the characters in this book so much, the relationship between Finn and Christie is wonderful and Christie's parents were literally the best ever. It left me with such a warm glow, it has to be my absolute favourite of Carole's to date. 

I urge you to read it!

Many thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review