The Last Day I Saw Her – Lucy Lawrie

When lonely single mum Janey stumbles into an art workshop, she can’t believe her eyes when her left hand mysteriously scribbles a picture of two little girls and a strange message from someone called ‘Hattie’: Janey’s childhood best friend. But they lost touch after Hattie’s family suddenly moved away in mysterious circumstances.

Janey’s instincts tell her that she must finally find out what happened to Hattie, but life is already complicated enough: she’s struggling with motherhood, a custody battle over her toddler son Pip is looming, and she finds herself falling for intense art tutor Steve. And when writing appears on the walls of her flat and Pip starts playing with an invisible friend, Janey fears she’s losing her mind. Is it really a good idea to go digging up the past? As dark secrets come to light, she can’t be sure what’s real any more – or who to trust…

Moving and suspenseful, The Last Day I Saw Her is a richly emotive story of friendship lost and found, and how facing up to the past can help you find a better future.

I was sent an advance copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

I first came across Edinburgh-based author Lucy Lawrie when I reviewed her debut novel Tiny Acts of Love, which she’d written when she was on maternity leave.

I’ve been away from reviewing for a while and it seemed only right that I returned to review Lawrie’s new book, The Last Day I Saw Her, as I’m now also on maternity leave  myself -albeit mine is a lot less productive than Lawrie’s…how she found the time I have no idea. I have nothing but admiration for her. 

As adults, we enjoy reminiscing about our school days and wonder what our friends from then are doing now. Janey does just that  in The Last Day I Saw Her, reminiscing about her school friend Hattie, who mysteriously disappeared when she was 12. She accidentally takes an art class run by the dishy Steve and soon the mystery begins to unravel in ways she never expected. 

This book is very different to the light and funny Tiny Acts of Love and I don’t know if it’s because I’m a new mum who read this book as I rocked my baby to sleep various times a day, but it really got to me emotionally. It’s a thriller and keeps you guessing throughout, with some surprises along the way and although it took a few chapters to get going I found that when I was hooked, that was it. I’d sit by my baby’s crib long after she’d fallen asleep just to find out what happened next. 

It is an enjoyable (yet unnerving at times) read which shows Lawrie has talent to write different genres. Yes, there’s still a bit of romance in there thanks to Steve but it certainly isn’t the main thread. What we have is a very complicated history from not just Janey but also Hattie, Hattie’s family, their childhood piano teacher Miss Fortune (great name!) and Steve. Even with all of these different threads and histories weaving throughout the story, alongside the present day story of Janey’s battle for custody with her son Pip’s dad and his new partner, Lawrie leaves no loose ends. 

I really enjoyed reading The Last Day I Saw Her and look forward to reading more of Lawrie’s work in future. Now to write my novel while I’ve got a few weeks of maternity leave left…

If you’re keen to purchase The Last Day I Saw Her, it is out now – click the book cover at the top for more details.

Artefacts of the Dead – Tony Black

It s a dead man . . . Can’t you see someone’s put a bloody great spike through him? The discovery of a dead banker sends shock waves through the sleepy coastal town of Ayr. And it s up to DI Bob Valentine recently back on the force after his near-fatal stabbing to find the killer. But leads are hard to find and the pressure is on from an anxious Chief Superintendent who is being hounded by the media and still has serious concerns about her DI’s mental health. And as it becomes clear that there’s a serial killer on the loose, Bob Valentine must battle the demons of his post-traumatic stress, an investigation team that’s leaking like a sieve and frightening visions that might just be the key to unlocking the mystery. Valentine is close to breaking point, but can he crack the case before he cracks up?

I was sent an advance copy of this book by the publishers in return for an honest review.

Artefacts of the Dead isn’t your typical crime thriller. It’s set in the Scottish town of Ayr and if you’re local you’ll recognise a lot of places name checked by Tony Black.

The dialogue is dark, witty and gripping. It’s also very true to the West Coast of Scotland dialogue and sense of humour.

There will be no spoilers in this review, but the book is brilliantly written and keeps you hooked throughout as you try and figure out not just whodunit but also what will happen to Bob, his career, his family, his health (both mental and physical) and his life. I found myself thinking about what might be coming next during reading and thinking about Bob and the world Black had created once I’d finished.

Artefacts of the Dead is a well written tartan noir novel with twists and turns galore. I look forward to reading more of Tony Black’s work.

If you’re keen to purchase Artefacts of the Dead, it is available on Amazon – click the book cover at the top for more details.

Tiny Acts of Love – Lucy Lawrie


Arriving home with her new baby daughter Sophie, employment lawyer Cassie opens her email to find she has 104 new messages in her inbox, all with the subject ’48 Stitches Later’.

To Cassie’s horror, her overly-excited husband Jonathan has sent a grisly blow-by-blow account of Cassie’s labour – plus attached photo – to everyone in her contacts list, including her clients!

Bizarre events follow. Amid mood swings, post-natal hypochondria and the side effects of the fated email, who saunters into her world again but her sexy, swaggering ex-boyfriend Malkie – the one who got away? !

Is she strong enough to face everything her new life has to throw at her? And will tiny acts of love be enough to help her cope with it all? Funny, perceptive and real, Tiny Acts of Love portrays the rawness of motherhood, the flipside of love and the powerful lure of paths not taken. A funny, romantic novel.

I was sent an advance copy of this debut novel by Edinburgh based employment lawyer Lucy Lawrie in return for an honest review. 

I finished the book in three days and considering I work full-time and barely have time to read at the moment  I MADE time for this book. Straight away Lucy’s writing style appealed to me, it was friendly and colloquial and a breath of fresh air after reading some tough books previously (not for reviewing purposes!)

Being Scottish I have a special interest in any books with a Scottish link and not only is Tiny Acts of Love written by a Scottish author, it is also set in Edinburgh. One thing that really made me smile is that Lucy managed to fit in the word “shoogle” – “Sophie’s body shoogled against me as she flapped her arms vigorously…” Shoogle is, incidentally, one of my favourite Scottish words, and to those who are unaware, it means ‘to shake, sway or rock back and forth.’ 

Tiny Acts of Love takes us through the first year or so of Cassie’s life as a new mother, how it affects her relationship with her husband, Jonathan, what happens when her ex reappears, how she deals with work, postnatal hypochondria, Babycraft meetings and all the other things that come her way. This might sound pretty run-of-the-mill and it is – for the best part, most of the things could happen to anyone – but that’s what makes this book so readable. Yes, I read to escape from reality, but I want it to be believable too sometimes.

With so many things happening in Cassie’s life, the pace is quick and the chapters are short, making the book very easy to read quickly when commuting. 

There are laugh out loud parts and parts that will bring a tear to your eye. Tiny Acts of Love  reiterates the fact that life isn’t always going to be exciting and we can’t always live in the past. It makes you feel like you should take each day for what it is, treasure all the small things and love those you share your life with because you just never know when it all might change. 

A warm, fuzzy debut which kept me hooked and smiling. I really look forward to reading more of Lucy Lawrie’s work and wish her all the success in the world with Tiny Acts of Love.

If you’re keen to purchase Tiny Acts of Love, it is released TODAY – click the book cover at the top for more details.

Step Back in Time – Ali McNamara

Step Back in Time

How many lifetimes would you travel to find a love that lasts forever?

When single career girl Jo-Jo steps onto a zebra crossing and gets hit by a car, she awakes to find herself in 1963. The fashion, the music, her job, even her romantic life: everything is different. And then it happens three more times, and Jo-Jo finds herself living a completely new life in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. The only people she can rely on are Harry and Ellie, two companions from 2013, and George, the owner of a second-hand record store.

If she’s ever to return from her travels, Jo-Jo must work out why she’s jumping through time like this. And if she does make it back, will her old life ever be the same again?

Having read all of Ali McNamara’s previous novels I was excited to read her new masterpiece, Step Back in Time – and masterpiece is exactly what this novel is.

Being a fan of time travel books, movies and TV shows it seemed that Step Back in Time would be right up my street, particularly when there’s a music theme that runs through it.

Straight away this reminds me of one of my favourite ever TV shows, Life on Mars, where DCI Sam Tyler is hit by a car in 2006 and finds himself back in 1973, with the music of the 70s (including lots of David Bowie) helping to tell the story, but that’s where the similarities end.

Ali McNamara cleverly weaves a compelling storyline through five decades – with characters changing, disappearing and reappearing – and ties any loose ends up wonderfully at the end. It actually gave me that “Aha!” moment when it all started to come together.

Step Back in Time has a Beatles theme, rather than David Bowie, and it is Ali’s best book yet! There are some fantastic characters and you can’t get bored for a minute as the decade and characters themselves are constantly changing.

No matter your age, you will love this story and find yourself reminiscing of your own moments in the decades featured. If you choose to read anything other than Christmas books for the next five weeks, make sure Step Back in Time is at the top of your list!

If you’re keen to purchase Step Back in Time, click the book cover at the top for more details.

There’s More to Life Than Cupcakes – Poppy Dolan

More to Life than Cupcakes cover

Ellie Redford has a husband, a job and a home. According to the rest of the world, it’s baby o’clock already. Shame life doesn’t come with a recipe…

Ellie knows that starting a family with lovely husband Pete would be an amazing adventure. Pete would make a brilliant dad and she’d have an excuse to eat shed loads of Cherry Bakewell. But Ellie’s bestie would rather she was up at 3 a.m. with a bottle of Malibu, not formula. And with redundancies looming, Ellie’s boss isn’t exactly going to throw her a shower if she disappears for a year, with pay.

While Ellie juggles her feelings (and everyone else’s) as competently as a drunken clown, she finds herself signing up for a baking class, alongside the young, free and sizzling hot Joe. As they work buns and shape tarts, is there more to their friendship than a shared appreciation of Paul Hollywood?

Ellie’s soufflés may be rising, but her personal life is one big soggy mess. If she doesn’t make a decision soon, she may just lose everything that matters to her. Maybe it’s time to take off the pinny and face up to the truth: there’s more to life than cupcakes…

Poppy Dolan takes us through the tangled life of Ellie as she works out whether having a baby will make things all better or ruin her social life, her career and her love life all in one fell swoop.

High points for Ellie include a meeting with Paul Hollywood, though in rather embarrassing circumstances, a once-in-a-lifetime work opportunity and flirtations with a hot young baker. Low points come courtesy of a disastrous wedding cake, other cakes which refuse to rise…oh and tensions between friends and her husband.

At times you feel like saying to Ellie “get a grip!!!” as she uhms and ahhhs once again, but the story keeps you interested enough to turn the pages even through the self-centredness of the main character. Poppy Dolan really is a great story-teller. The subject matter may alienate a lot of readers who aren’t at the ‘baby stage’ or those who may feel that it’s really not that big a decision. However, regardless or your personal situation this book is worth a read for the well-written characters. Yes, Ellie frustrated me, but that shows the talent of the writer that her character could get under my skin so much.

There’s More to Life Than Cupcakes shows that even in the world of chick-lit there are some serious decisions that have to be made and it’s not all fun, games, sponge and icing.  What does Poppy eventually decide? You’ll have to read to find out.

If you’re keen to purchaseThere’s More to Life Than Cupcakes, please click the book cover at the top for further details.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers for an honest review.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton – Caroline Smailes

Arthur Braxton

Arthur Braxton runs away from school. He hides out in an abandoned building, an old Edwardian bathhouse. He discovers a naked woman swimming in the pool. From this point on, nothing will ever be the same.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is a book unlike any I’ve read before. I was hooked from the start. What keeps the reader’s interest is how the story is told in various voices and styles, you certainly seem to gain a more rounded understanding for each character this way.

Arthur is 16 years old and life isn’t going so well for him. His mum ran off, his dad drinks too much and school is hell, particularly since he was tricked by the girl he fancied and more of him than he bargained for was now all over Facebook.

After going a walk to calm down, he finds himself drawn to the local swimming baths, The Oracle, but this place has a lot of history and mystery surrounding it, as Arthur soon finds out.

I don’t want to give too much away but inspiration from Greek Mythology (one of my favourite things) runs throughout and your emotions will be put through the wringer. We’ve all been a teenager at some point and know how it feels when you just want to be loved and accepted. All of the main characters in this story, Arthur, Laurel and Delphina are all very different but want just that. Each of them have been through their own personal tragedies too, but don’t think for a moment this lends to a depressing book, far from it. It’s tragic, yet uplifting. 

I genuinely didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this, I finished it a few months ago now and it is still so vivid in my mind, and I know it deserves a re-read when I get a chance.

Even better is the fact that the movie rights have been snapped up, I for one can’t wait to see how it translates on the big screen.

If you don’t want to read a fluffy, funny, sentimental easy read but instead want something that grabs you, beats you up a bit before letting you go and stays in your mind long after…read The Drowning of Arthur Braxton.

Kudos to Caroline Smailes for having the guts to be original and thought-provoking in her writing, this book most definitely will be added to my ‘favourites’ list.

If you’re keen to purchase The Drowning of Arthur Braxton, please click the book cover at the top for further details.

The Bad Girls’ Club – Kathryn O’Halloran

Bad Girls' Club

When Imogen, Juliette and Beth are seated together at a wedding, they have nothing in common but their resentment of the bride, Poppy. A risque prank draws them together and they decide to form the Bad Girls Club – a last ditch effort to free them from the shackles of keeping themselves nice.

The Bad Girls’ Club is a ‘girl power’ story about three girls determined to spice up their lives (Apologies for the Spice Girls references) after they meet at the worst wedding ever.

Imogen, Juliette and Beth are all very different characters and initially it seems like the group of new-found-friends doesn’t work, but it does. Over time the girls get to know more about each other, they forget about their hang-ups and they become true friends and as a reader you see that growth. How does it happen? Well, all through a grown up game of dares.

The girls were all fed up with their own lives for various reasons from their weight, to lack of job satisfaction, to being unhappy in a relationship. Most readers will empathise with at least one of the girls. They decide to take matters into their own hands and set dares for each other at their weekly meetings, causing them to realise that life is more fun when you’re bad.

The Bad Girls’ Club is erotic chick-lit. Having avoided the Fifty Shades of Grey books, I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy this book, but it was so well written that the sex scenes seemed like a natural progression of the story and I actually enjoyed every part of it.

Although I enjoy chick-lit, some books can seem rather ‘samey’ but I never really knew where The Bad Girls’ Club was going to go next…such a refreshing change.

I loved the ending and the book seemed to be over in a flash because I couldn’t put it down.

The Bad Girls’ Club is Kathryn O’Halloran’s debut novel and what a fantastic start! I genuinely look forward to reading more from her in future.

If you’re keen to purchase The Bad Girls’ Club, please click the book cover at the top for further details.

Winter Wonderland – Belinda Jones

Winter Wonderland

Imagine waking up in a snow globe…
That’s how travel journalist Krista feels when she arrives in magical Quebec to report on Canada’s glittering Winter Carnival…
Over ten sub-zero days Krista’s formerly frozen heart begins to melt as she discovers an enchanting world of ice palaces, husky dog-sledding and maple-syrup treats galore. And then she meets Jacques, a man as handsome and rugged as he is mysterious…
The two share a secret that could bond them forever, but can they find a way to break through the protective layers around their hearts to warm up this winter wonderland?
…let the snow-spangled adventure begin

I’ve been a fan of Belinda Jones since I read her first novel Divas Las Vegas in 2001. I love travel, I love romance, I love drama and I love comedy. Belinda combines all of these in her books and that’s what’s kept me coming back and reading each new book she has written over the years. 

Normally her books take place in sunny locations – Vegas, Capri, California, Venice, Latin America, etc, etc (oh how I envy her). However, Winter Wonderland, as you could probably tell from the title, takes place in a…well…wintery location…Quebec to be exact.

As a journalist who used to dream of earning a living travelling the world and writing about exotic locations, the character of Krista appealed to me from the get-go.

Krista is unlucky in love and vows to stay away from men for this trip. However, a Belinda Jones book is not a Belinda Jones book without romance, and thankfully romance finds Krista, in the form of the handsome and mysterious Jacques.

Winter Wonderland is magical, romantic and certainly sells Quebec as a great holiday destination! The Winter Carnival sounds amazing, and if there are cute huskies and cute men…what more could a girl want in a holiday?

As it had been so long since I’d read one of Belinda’s books, I raced through it in an evening, though at the same time never wanted it to end as I was enjoying being back in the world of Belinda and her characters.

Belinda’s next book combines travel with cakes…need I say any more? It will be out in February 2014 and will definitely be added to my ‘To Read’ list.

If you’re keen to purchase Winter Wonderland, please click the book cover at the top for further details.

It’s International Chick-Lit Month!

I love chick-lit as much as I love chocolate and to celebrate International Chick-Lit Month, I’m going to read only Chick-Lit for the whole of May.

Apologies if you are awaiting me writing a review or reading your book which isn’t Chick-Lit but I promise I’ll get to it as soon as I can.

In the meantime, if you are a chick-lit writer and have a book you’d like me to review, let me know and I’ll do what I can to read and review it this month. Either contact me via Twitter @lilmsliterature or email 

If you’d like to know more about International Chick-Lit Month, visit the official website

Dream On – Terry Tyler

Dream On

Dave Bentley was born to be a rock star. He believes he’s a reincarnated Viking warrior, too…

When Dave forms his new band, Thor, there are plenty of sleepless nights for Janice, his on-off girlfriend and mother of his son. Not only must she deal with the thrills and spills of life as a hardworking single mum, but also the imminent return of singer-songwriter Ariel Swan, Dave’s one true love.

Poor Janice. Dave is still the love of her life.

Ariel Swan returns to small town life – and Dave’s heart.

She and her friend Melodie (whose ambition is to be “a celebrity”) enter a TV talent competition, so Dave and the rest of Thor decide to make the most of the opportunity for possible fame and fortune, too. This adventure brings about big changes in the lives of all of them – none of which Dave could have anticipated.

One member of Thor even ends up on The Jeremy Kyle Show…

Dream On is the story of Dave Bentley, a dreamer who thinks he is destined to be a huge rock-star, regardless of his responsibilities.

When he has the idea for a new band, Thor, he focuses on his band hitting the big-time and neglects his duties as a father and boyfriend.

We are taken through the rollercoaster lives of Dave, the rest of Thor, Janice (Dave’s on-off girlfriend and mother of his son, Harley) and Ariel (Dave’s first love, who also has an ambition to make it as a singer-songwriter). I was desperate to keep reading to see what happened to them all. In the quest for fame, someone or something has to give.

There are so many popular culture references throughout the book and I found that almost every character reminded me of someone I knew – from the wannabe rock-star, to the single-mum, to the womaniser, to the bimbo celeb wannabe, to the talented good-looking one that’s misunderstood – this made it all the more interesting for me to read.

Terry Tyler is a fantastic storyteller. Using conversation to tell the story can be tricky but Tyler does it so well that it feels like the most natural way to tell the story and I can’t imagine reading it in any other way. There are no unnecessary descriptions of the smallest things, just constant action.

The story ends with a cliffhanger. I was not disappointed with a cliffhanger ending, I just wanted to read the next book NOW…

…and thankfully I can because Tyler has just released the sequel, Full Circle.

I very much enjoyed this story of dreams, love, ambition and the choices life throws at you. I look forward to reading more of Tyler’s books, starting with Full Circle.

If you’d like to buy Dream On, it is available now on Kindle. Please click on the cover image for further information.