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12 April 2021

Book Review: The Mersey Mistress by Sheila Riley *AD gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of The Mersey Mistress by Sheila Riley ahead of the blog tour.

Right from the start, The Mersey Mistress hit me in the feels. This book truly has it all, it's a rollercoaster of emotions, and I could not put it down. I am excited to be sharing my review to help close the blog tour.

The Mersey Mistress by Sheila Riley book cover

1910 Liverpool Docks.

Ruby Swift is a hard-working, straight-talking woman of substance who does not suffer fools gladly,

But when tragedy strikes on a bitter Christmas Eve, Ruby and her beloved Archie take matters into their own hands when a trusted employee’s house is mysteriously engulfed by flames and lives are lost.

Orphaned by the fire, Ruby welcomes heartbroken sixteen-year-old Anna Cassidy, into her home and family but circumstances conspire against them and she is unable to save Anna’s twelve-year-old brother Sam Cassidy, who is sent by the Church to Canada as a Homeboy. 

Can Ruby help mend a broken heart and can these two children ever be reunited or is there another higher game in play?

Mersey Mistress takes you on a journey to another time, another place. From the banks of the River Mersey to the frozen waters of the Canadian Saint Laurence River.

Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Family, trust, kindness, belonging, love.

This story broke my heart and then filled it to bursting. Then broke it again. And refilled it. It's a bit of a ride.

There are threads of romance from the start of this story, winding together through the years. Ruby and Archie are the cutest couple ever, and their love is so strong.

Ruby has such a large heart. We are first introduced to her in the prologue, and it is pretty heart-breaking. But she pulls herself up and does her best for herself and everyone around her. She is kind and generous and properly a good person, despite what life has dealt her. She has a fiery attitude and a take-no-nonsense outlook, and it was a breath of fresh air.

What happens to Anna is devastating. Christmas Eve is perhaps the worst day of her life, what could go wrong went wrong catastrophically, and yet she is a bright spark. Although things get pretty desolate for her, I loved how she rallied and grew from her trauma.

And Sam? Oh, poor Sam. He's so positive and full of life, and honest and caring young man who doesn't deserve what happens to him. I read a lot of his parts of the  story on the edge of my seat, hoping and praying that things would work out.

The setting is vast, stretching across years and the Atlantic Ocean. I loved the contrast between the Docks at Liverpool and the open space of Canada, and I liked the contrast between Anna's home life and Ruby's business and home.

I have already read some of Sheila Riley's books under the Annie Groves name, and I will definitely be reading those under her own name.

This is a perfect read for all fans of historical saga stories, and fans of Rosie Goodwin.

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Sheila Riley wrote four #1 bestselling novels under the pseudonym Annie Groves and is now writing a new saga trilogy for Boldwood under her own name. She has set it around the River Mersey and its docklands near to where she spent her early years. She still lives in Liverpool. Her new trilogy began with The Mersey Orphan in September 2019.

08 April 2021

Book Review: Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw

Do you know how excited I was for Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw?

I love vampire stories, I grew up reading Point Horror and the Night World books, watching Buffy. This book was a total nostalgia trip and absolutely excellent.

Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw book cover

New Orleans Fang Fest, 1995.

Mina’s having a summer to die for.

Mina arrives in New Orleans to visit her estranged sister, Libby. She loves nothing more than a creepy horror movie and can’t wait to explore the city’s darkest secrets - vampire tours, seedy bars, spooky cemeteries, disturbing local myths...

Mina lands a part-time job at a horror movie mansion and meets Jared, Libby’s gorgeous housemate and fellow horror enthusiast. But the perfect summer bliss is broken when she stumbles upon the body of a girl with puncture marks on her neck, clutching a lock of hair that suspiciously resembles Libby’s.

Someone is replicating New Orleans’ most brutal supernatural killings. Mina must discover the truth and prove her sister’s innocence before she becomes the victim of another myth.

Source: Purchase

5 Word Review: Family, vampires, horror, belonging, love.

This book? It's bloody brilliant.

From the very first page, I was in love with everything about Mina's story.

I love the messy family relationships, Mina and Libby have a lot of resentment for each other, they clash, but there is still some love deep down. At times it reminded me a lot of me and my sisters, because put us in a stressful environment and there will be a clash. Maybe some hair pulling. Regardless, I loved the slow build of their relationship back up, the desperation not to lose each other again, the sadness and reluctance to talk about their past.

There is an element of romance, and although there is a small age-gap that made me feel a teensy bit squiffy, I was here for it. If they were all just a couple years older I wouldn't have any issue at all, and I loved the chemistry. It was a pretty slow burn but once it got going *sigh*.

The writing feels kind of timeless - this could be happening at pretty much any time in the past 100 years, the plot is not constrained by technology, and I don't think it would change too much if it were set 30 years later. And I loved it. I loved the small hints and clues and the nostalgia about the setting. Whether it was bath pearls or Opal Fruits, I was misty-eyed for my childhood. I even looked out the Night World books once I finished, does anyone else remember counting down the millennium reading them and then there never being a tenth book?

As I read, I couldn't stop myself from tabbing out quotes or scenes that hit me particularly hard. If I'd annotated this book I wouldn't be able to reread it, and I ended up using an entire packet of page tabs. It was worth it.

I loved Mina's passion for vampires and all things horror. This book will give you an excellent TBR and have your watchlist full. It will probably also have you wanting to dress up as a horror character.

In terms of horror, this book did give me a pretty vivid nightmare when I was working on my review and a quote feature post (next week, guys), but I wouldn't say that it's especially gory. The action is very Buffy-esque, it has that fantasy element to it, and I found it easy to disconnect from the horror as I was reading and focus more on the feelings and psychological side of what was happening. Even if there is A Lot of blood and some pretty grisly murders.

A small thing that I thought was very clever was the whispered contrast of Whitby and New Orleans, how Mina's world in New Orleans was so vastly different from the grey and drizzly North of England, even if we barely saw her home. And that they are both places filled with vampire lore? Loved it.

Mina and the Undead was so, so good. It reminded me of why I love horror, even if I am a total wimp. Mina's passion for all things scary is contagious, and she was the perfect protagonist for the story.

I am desperate for a follow up. I want to know what happens next So Badly, and I'd happily read stories of their exploits at the manner for the fun of it. I want to see where they go from here after that wild ending.

05 April 2021

Book Review: American Surgeon in London by Lynne Marshall

As soon as I finished the previous book in the 200 Harley Street series I picked up American Surgeon in London by Lynne Marshall. This is a series that is definitely easy to race through.

American Surgeon in London by Lynne Marshall Medical romance Mills & Bon

Plastic surgeon Mitchell Cooper used to have it all...

But when his life collapsed, he and his little daughter Molly moved to London to rebuild their lives – and Mitchell sealed off his damaged heart.

Yet after one star-studded night with fellow surgeon Grace, Mitchell finds himself daring to live again! 

Only Grace is hiding painful secrets of her own…

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Source: Purchase

5 Word Review: Family, love, belonging, acceptance, .

Content Warnings: Medical procedures.

American Surgeon in London starts with a magical night that had me grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

Grace is a fantastic, layered character. I loved her insecurities, the parts of herself she wanted to keep hidden, her passion for her job. Also I'm pretty jealous of the apartment she stays in!

Mitchell is pretty bitter and guarded, although he tries to hid his emotions. He feels a bit jaded at times, but it absolutely makes sense once you learn his story. And he is devoted to Molly.

Molly was such a bright spark! As much as the small child was a side character, her scenes were so sweet. She'd a kid that's been raised right, despite her past, and she really came to life on the page. She felt so real.

I feel that this story very quickly brought on the intimacy. After fun and innocent the night they shared it was easy to watch the rapport build between them and the trust start to flow. And when they finally came together? It was excellent.

This was probably my least favourite book so far in this series, but it was still an excellent read. I just didn't like Mitchell's (understandable) qualms and hypocrisy when it comes to plastic surgery. 

Next up, The Soldier Prince by Kate Hardy.

01 April 2021

Series Crackdown 11.0 Readathon Prompts and TBR

Series Crackdown is a readathon where you attempt to read those unread series on your bookshelf, between Friday 2nd of April to Sunday 11th April. Sign-ups are open until Monday 5th of April, so there's plenty of time to join in.

I'm going to be using this readathon to try and tackle the books on my shelves that I already own and have not read yet, and as I'll be dipping in and out of series of all lengths (and standalones too) I'll be joining the Beasts team lead by Charlotte.

This time, there is even a reading challenge on The Storygraph to help you keep track! It means I don't have to make my own spreadsheets and charts (although who am I kidding, I will be).

Series Crackdown 11.0 Readathon Prompts

The Prompts

One book can tick off up to three prompts, and I'll be using the Team Read The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon to fulfill three of them. Because fantasy, has gorgeous maps in it, and is first in a series.
  • A book about mental health
  • POC Author
  • Children's Book
  • Featuring a key worker
  • Multiple POVs
  • A book released a year ago
  • Featuring communication technology


Honestly I think I'm gonna wing it mostly! I have set out three books that I'd like to tackle, the last book is anyone's guess. Here are the books and the prompts they fit.
  • Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw
    • A book about mental health
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
    • Author of colour
    • A book released a year ago
  • The Soldier Prince by Kate Hardy
    • Featuring a key worker
  • Perfect On Paper by Sophie Gonzales
    • LGBTQIA+
    • Featuring communication technology

As you can see, I'm only hitting four of the prompts, so take a look at my TBR on The Storygraph and recommend something to fit, I beg of you.

Sprint Schedule

One thing I love about this readathon is that there are daily sprints in the evening to help you get your reading done. I also love that there are chances to earn extra Moo Points by taking part, and there are sometimes flash prompts and sprints to join in with too.

Series Crackdown 11.0 Readathon Sprint Schedule

Will you be taking part?

31 March 2021

March Bookish Wrap Up

Some of the titles mentioned in this post have been provided to me for free these will be shown with a *.

It's been a long time since I did a monthly wrap up, but I really enjoy reflecting back on what I've read and I love reading other people's wrap ups. So here I am!

I now have all of the super handy stats from The Storygraph to help me put this together, and I admittedly spent a lot of time just looking at the pretty charts.

March 2021 Bookish Wrap Up stats

March Bookish Wrap Up

March was a err... Weird month. I read a lot, especially romance. I am absolutely loving reading romance at the moment, it brings my heart so much joy to read those happy endings. I also tried to read some more non-fiction, but I generally find it hard going and managed 3 non-fiction audiobooks. Recommendations are appreciated!

Books Read: 18
Pages Read: 5880
Average Rating: 4.21
Most Read Genre Romance

Books I Read

Eight Pieces of Silva by Patrice Lawrence
Wedlock by Wendy Moore
The Language of Kindess by Christie Watson
The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore *
The Island by C.L. Taylor *
The Princess Trap by Talia Hibbert
The Single Mums' Book Club by Victoria Cooke *
How to Make a Plant Love You by Summer Rayne Oakes

Books I Added To My Shelf

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth
This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria
The Scarlet Harvest by Kate Ashbrook *
Not Our Summer by Casie Bazay *
Midnight Jewel by Richelle Mead
The Endless Skies by Shannon Price *
A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow *
Red Tigress by Amelie Wen Zhao
Where the Road Leads Us by Robin Reul *
Perfect On Paper by Sophie Gonzales *
The Mersey Mistress by Sheila Riley *
Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley *
Bone Crier's Dawn by Kathryn Purdie
The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia *
Red Sky Burning by Teri Terry *
The Single Mums’ Book Club by Victoria Cooke *
Nellie's Heartbreak by Rosie Clarke *

Books I'm Currently Reading

Red Sky Burning by Teri Terry *
Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
Midnight Jewel by Richelle Mead

Book Events I Attended

Fantasy Worlds: Ben Aaronovitch, Namina Forna & Patrice Lawrence
Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw Launch

What did you read in March?
What are you reading now?

27 March 2021

Book Review: High Heels in the Highlands by Liz Hurley *AD gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of High Heels in the Highlands by Liz Hurley ahead of the blog tour.

Not me on another fictional trip to the highlands! Once travel is allowed I have money saved especially for a stay and all of these highland romances are making me even more excited for it.

High Heels in the Highlands by Liz Hurley had me weirdly aching for the Gretna Green services and all of the tourist tat, I am definitely buying myself a tartan blanket.

High Heels in the Highlands by Liz Hurley book cover

Clementine’s swapped a London flat for a Scottish castle – but will she get her fairytale ending?

After discovering they were heirs to an enormous fortune, the lives of the five Hiverton sisters have never been the same. 

While oldest sister Ariana settles in Norfolk, Clementine heads up to the remote Scottish Highlands to move into the castle that forms part of their estate. Not bad for a girl brought up scrabbling for money in a tiny house in East London…

However, Clem quickly finds out that Ruacoddy Castle is falling apart, the neighbours – especially grumpy young farmer, Rory - are suspicious of her and the eccentric housekeeper, Ottoline, is still in residence.

But as Clem finds herself growing closer to the village community, even growing closer to Rory and forming an alliance with Ottoline, she realises that life in the Highlands might just be the change she needed. 

She just needs to find out if Manolo Blahnik make wellies…

Take a trip to the gorgeous Scottish countryside with this utterly feelgood, romantic and hilarious read – fans of Jenny Colgan, Holly Martin and Cressida McLaughlin will love this!

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Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Family, secrets, art, love, scenery.

Oh, take me to the highlands. Take me to Ruacoddy Castle.

High Heels in the Highlands is an excellent and truly laugh out loud romantic comedy. Reading it feels a bit like watching a Working Title film, with that picturesque look on the world. Whether it was London, a remote locked-in pub, or an ancient castle, I could picture everything perfectly.

I loved the vast, sprawling family, and I want to read a story about them all! This is the third book in the Hiverton series although they can absolutely be read as standalones and out of order. I will definitely be keeping an eye on Liz Hurly so that I can read about each of the five sisters and the future of their immense estates. I'm particularly excited to hopefully read more about Paddy, who I think is the subject of the second book, as I am intrigued by her.

This book plays a lot with classism and rich versus poor. It's even a major plot point in a very creative way, and I love how the author explored it. There are delves into the duties of landowners, the prospects of people in remote communities, and how a name isn't everything. It was beautifully done.

Clem has a massive change in scenery from the first pages to the last - and not just the scenery around her. I loved the character development, and how as much as she started off brash and confidence, she mellowed quite a bit as she found her place and her people and a pace of life to suit her. I loved her enthusiasm about everything she cares about.

Is it weird that one of my favourite characters was a side character? Otto is A Lot and I loved her for it. She's had a hard life, with hidden thrills and lots of heartbreak, yet is fiercely loyal and supremely talented. I loved every moment of Otto and Clem clashing, and I loved how their relationship developed beyond begrudging respect.

I have to say that I took a fancy to the main romantic interest Rory from the off, even if Clem wasn't so enamoured. He's rough and ready and kind and generous, he's unafraid of hard work and doing what needs to be done, and is genuinely nice. Sweet Rory.

I will absolutely be reading every other book in this series. If they're even a fraction as funny as High Heels in the Highlands I'll be roaring with laugher.

Tomorrow would be a better day. She would follow her parents' example and find the fun in every bad moment.
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24 March 2021

Book Review: Home on Folly Farm by Jane Lovering

I was provided with access to a free copy of Home on Folly Farm by Jane Lovering ahead of the blog tour, but as I'm a massive Jane Lovering fan I already had the book and the audiobook pre-ordered and so did not take up that offer.

If you haven't heard me fangirl about this author before then check out some of my previous posts about best authors and favourite books. Because I fully stan Jane Lovering. Home on Folly Farm was an instant hit for me, and an easy five stars.

Home on Folly Farm by Jane Lovering book cover

Escape the rat race by heading to the Yorkshire Moors in Jane Lovering’s funny, warm and magical new novel.

Needing an escape, Dora swapped city living for life as a shepherdess on her grandad’s Yorkshire farm. More than a decade later Dora is still there, now farming the fifty acres and caring for the one hundred rare sheep by herself. She never hears the call of the city, but instead relishes the peace and simplicity of life on the Moors.

When Dora’s glamorous but quarrelsome sister Cass, her teenage nephew Thor and his handsome tutor Nat, turn up for an unexpected and unreasonably long stay, life on the farm is thrown into chaos. Cass brings with her unwelcome memories from the past, and of someone who once stole Dora's heart. 

Dora takes refuge in the comforting routine of the farm, the sheep never allowing her too much time to dwell. But, as the seasons change, the snow starts to melt, and as lambs begin to fill the fields, Dora can’t keep hiding in the hills. Because even though she’s trying, Dora can’t run away from a love that never really let her go…

Let Jane Lovering whisk you away to the beauty and serenity of the Yorkshire Moors, far away from the noise of the city. Just right for fans of Emma Burstall, Holly Martin and Kate Forster.

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Source: Purchase

5 Word Review: Farm, sheep, family, secrets, forgiveness.

Content warnings: Miscarriage, drug abuse.

The first lines of this book pack a bit of a punch - straight in there with the dry humour that I love from this author. We meet the main character Dora elbow-deep in a sheep while her polished sister Cass looks on in disgust, and honestly that sets the tone for the whole book. It was an excellent start and I was hooked straight away.

Dora and Cass clash. They couldn't be more different from each other, and I loved it. I have two sisters myself, and sometimes we can wind each other right up. I loved the messy relationships, the conflicts, the resentment, and the slow rebuilding after so much distance. I loved the exploration of sibling relationships, and the ending was beautiful and enlightening for the characters in that respect.

Thor is a spark of youthful energy, a stark contrast to the adults around him. It was great to see two sides of him - the twelve year old trying to make it as a Youtuber, and the twelve year old delighting in the novelties of farm life.

Then we have Nat, who harbours a pretty big secret. I loved the build of attraction between Dora and Nat, their secret shared history, the passion that sparked between them. I loved how Dora's defence was snark and the back-and-forth banter that ensued.

I loved the setting. The farm is that kind of romantic-idyllic that isn't really all that in real life. And I freaking loved it. The remoteness made the tension more tense, the things that could go wrong added an edge of anxiousness to the story, even as the beautiful scenery had me sighing. I love being up on the moors and dales and this book brought up such vivid imagery that I could almost forget it had been over a year since I last saw such a vast sky.

This story is an absolute joy. There's something about Jane Lovering's writing that soothes your soul (yea, even with Vampire State of Mind) and makes you feel whole and content at the end. Home on Folly Far was no exception and I'm only sad that I can never read it for the first time again. It's definitely one I'll reread.

I did dip into the audio book a few times and Rose Robinson does an amazing job narrating the story. I loved how she did different voices for each of the characters, and how that brought them even more to life.

Someone who's never lived without money can't understand what it's like to have to check, check and triple check before you spend, and she'd been bankrolled by our parents all her life.

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