The Siege by John Sutherland

The book begins at 16.57 hours with Lee James Connor. He is 22, lives in a first-floor bedsit in south-west London and is a follower of Nicholas Farmer, self-proclaimed leader of right-wing group Home Front, whose slogan is “Make Britain Great Again.”

The story is told from three viewpoints – Connor, Grace and Alex. Grace Wheatley is in her late thirties and a daughter of the Windrush generation. She lives about seven miles away from Lee, with her teenage son Isaiah. She’s a single mum, a teaching assistant at the local primary school and a regular at her local church.

Superintendent Alex Lewis of Kentish Town Police Station is unhappily married to Kathy and they have two teenage sons (Luke – 16 and Jack – 14). He is on the Hostage Negotiation rota that week.

The novel follows the siege that ensues. Connor’s choice of place to attack is Grace’s local church with its Refugees Welcome sign. When he goes in, armed and with a plan, there are nine people inside – Grace, the vicar Rosie Phillips, Syrian refugees Mariam and her daughter Rahel (12) and son Ittack (14), Alan and Jean Richardson (who are in their early seventies, Alan had a heart bypass six months earlier), Helen (a local youth worker of Gambian descent) and her boyfriend Jack.

We follow what happens from the three viewpoints of Connor, Grace and Lee.

It is an interesting novel, fast-paced with short chapters that make you want to read on and find out what happens. The characters are believable and I especially loved Grace, she is absolutely amazing. It’s written in real time, so holds your interest as you are following the events “as they happen” which makes you invested in it all.

One minor criticism is that the title of the novel isn’t the most inspiring. Nine Lives may have been a more interesting title than The Siege! Also I felt we didn’t really get to know Alan, Jean and Helen.

But overall, it’s a great book!

9 out of 10

Festival in Time

The novel begins in Lincolnshire in 1972, when Annette, who is sixteen, takes her younger sister Janie (13) to a music festival – the Great Western Express Festival. They meet a folk singer called Justin Christian, who is twenty-two.

The novel moves back and forward in time, with each chapter heading explaining which character’s viewpoint it is from and when. So we see what’s happening in the present, with flashbacks to the past and follow both Annette and Janie’s stories. In the present, they both move back to Lincolnshire to look after their elderly mother. Janie is single with three grown up children. Annette is also single, a musician and doesn’t have any kids. The sisters are still quite different to each other and don’t find it easy to get on at first.

Meanwhile, Justin has changed his surname to Citizen. He has two ex-wives, no kids, but a niece called Ivy. He is a successful politician, the Leader of the Opposition and a bit of a golden boy. But then one day, the newspapers print a story about him, which brings everything from his past to the present – including the festival and the two sisters.

I liked the Lincolnshire connection, as I’m Lincoln born and bred. (The Stonebow in Lincoln is mentioned. I got engaged there in 1989.) I also have previously enjoyed reading one of Tracey Scott-Townsend’s previous novels, The Eliza Doll, so I was happy to read this one – her seventh novel.

Tracey has a really good way of introducing characters and letting their actions help you make judgements about their personalities. She also describes settings very evocatively. At first, I found it slightly hard to work out who was who and how their stories would interlink, but once I had got this sussed, I really enjoyed it and read the second half of the book in a couple of hours.

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The Queen by Andrew Morton

As we all know, Queen Elizabeth II recently celebrated her Platinum Jubilee – an amazing seventy years on the British throne! I am a big fan of the Royal Family and when I heard this book by Andrew Morton was coming out, I knew I’d want to read it. However, Andrew’s book on Princess Diana was seen as rather controversial and I was a bit wary, hoping he wouldn’t find a way to discredit the Royal Family in this biography. The Mirror newspaper had already run an article in May, saying his book included “Seven Bombshells” about the Queen’s relationship with Diana. Luckily, I didn’t find any major issues with it in this respect.

A quick note about the cover – it’s absolutely beautiful! A stunning photo of the Queen surrounded by a kind of lacy pattern with crowns and tiny gold flecks like little jewels. Suitably impressive for a biography of Her Majesty in this special year.

There are also two sections of photographs inside – one section in black and white, one in colour. Again these are lovely, especially the childhood ones. Some from last year are also included, so we see all of the Queen’s decades in photographs.

The book is written chronologically so we start with a bit of family background about her parents, then a chapter on her childhood, one on her experience of World War II, meeting Prince Philip and their enduring relationship. We follow them as they have their children, through changes of Prime Minister and national tragedies like Aberfan. Into the 1980s, we have the Falklands War and two Royal Weddings. In 1992, there is the infamous Annus Horribilis, and we see how Royal marriages break up and the new generation of Royal children grow up, Prince William marrying Catherine in 2011and Prince Harry marrying Meghan in 2018.

Having lived through the last fifty-odd years of the Queen’s reign, I was most interested by the earlier chapters. For example, I didn’t realise Buckingham Palace had been hit by a bomb in World War II or that there were suggestions of sending the Royal Family to Canada to keep them safe, which the King rejected very strongly.

I also found it fascinating to see how the young Princess Elizabeth was brought into public life in preparation for her future role. She attended her father’s coronation in 1937 aged eleven and then in 1940, aged fourteen, she made her first radio broadcast addressing the children of the Commonwealth. I always think it is interesting to watch the young Royals these days, like we saw during the Platinum Jubilee events, as they start to attend more official events as they grow older, especially Prince George, third in line to the throne.

The chapters in The Queen are long (often twenty to thirty pages), but they contain just the right amount of detail. The book is full of information, and I usually only read one chapter at a time, to give me chance to absorb all I had learnt. I found it all fascinating and a really good read. I also felt it was a fair portrayal of events, as far as I could tell and I was reassured to read the long list of references at the back of the book, showing the sources that Andrew Morton has used. It has been well-researched, and I enjoyed the biography very much.

9 out of 10

@andrewmortonuk @omarabooks #Ad #Gifted #lovebookstours

Sing Like A Canary

  • Purchase link:
  • Genre:  Crime
  • Print length: 315 pages
  • Age range: This is an adult book but suitable for mature teens age 16+
  • Trigger warnings: No
  • Amazon Rating: 5*

About Sing Like a Canary

Retired police officer Marjorie Pierce is on her way to Lanzarote to track down her old informer, Billy McKenzie. Billy ended Marjorie’s career, and she needs an explanation; an apology.

Present and past soon collide when gangsters Eric and Mick Maloney turn up on the island with revenge in their veins, and Marjorie has to race against the clock to get to Billy before the brothers.

But who is complicit and who can be trusted… and who really betrayed Marjorie all those years ago?

A multi-layered mystery packed with suspense, Sing Like A Canary is the fifth book in Isobel Blackthorn’s Canary Islands Mysteries Series, and can be enjoyed as a standalone even if you haven’t read other books in the series.

About the author

Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific novelist of unique and engaging fiction. She writes across a range of genres, including gripping mysteries and dark psychological thrillers.

The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey received an Honorable Mention in the 2021 Reader’s Favorite book awards. A Prison in the Sun was shortlisted in the LGBTQ category of the 2021 International Book Awards and the 2020 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. Her short story ‘Nothing to Declare’ was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019. Her dark thriller A Legacy of Old Gran Parks won a Raven Award in 2019. The Cabin Sessions was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award 2018 and the Ditmar Awards 2018.

Isobel holds a PhD in Western Esotericism from the University of Western Sydney for her ground-breaking study of the texts of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey. Her engagement with Alice Bailey’s life and works has culminated in the biographical novel The Unlikely Occultist and the full biography Alice A. Bailey: Life and Legacy.

Isobel carries a lifelong passion for the Canary Islands, Spain, her former home. Five of her novels are set on the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. These standalone mystery novels are setting rich and fall into the broad genre of travel fiction.

Isobel has led a rich and interesting life and her stories are as diverse as her experiences, the highs and lows, and the dramas. A life-long campaigner for social justice, Isobel has written, protested and leant her weight to a range of issues including asylum seekers and family violence. A Londoner originally, Isobel currently lives in rural Victoria, Australia.

How To Save A Life by Clare Swatman

The book begins on 13th December 1991 in London, where we see the same scene from the viewpoints of the two main characters Ted and Marianne. Ted has had enough of life and is planning to commit suicide by jumping off Waterloo Bridge. Marianne has just had the evening from hell and – still dressed in her fairy costume from the party – comes across Ted and persuades him not to kill himself.

Ted is twenty-two and kips on his friend Danny’s sofa. Marianne is twenty and still lives with her parents. They both have difficulties to deal with, they are both hurt, damaged from previous events in their lives. You immediately feel sorry for them and see they are good people at heart, so you root for them to end up with a happy ever after.

The book is written from Ted and Marianne’s viewpoints and covers a period of twenty years. It isn’t a predictable romance story, it’s more about following these two people who have had an impact on each other from their dramatic first meeting and seeing how things change for them during these years. Neither of them forget Bridge Man and Fairy Girl as the years go by.

It’s a bit Sliding Doors in places – missed opportunities and what if they had done that or said this instead of what actually happens. This begins right at the start when Marianne gets a taxi away from the bridge Ted was planning to jump off. The next day, they both regret not finding out each other’s names or contact details. There were many times when I was shouting at the book, because it’s so frustrating when they just miss each other!

There is a theme of relationships here – with friends and with parents. Ted has a great relationship with his best mate Danny while Marianne has her lovely friend Lance (a girl called Alison – Lance is a nickname). While Ted’s parents are largely absent from his life, Marianne’s are constantly present, as she lives with them.

I loved the characters straight away as they do feel real, they aren’t the kind of characters you find in some books who already have it all, they are struggling. I also enjoyed the way we were invested in both stories and it didn’t follow any of the predictable paths some novels go down. It never felt inevitable that Ted and Marianne would end up together (and I’m not telling you either!), so it was a surprise throughout which keeps the reader interested to see what their fates are.

My only small criticism is that with seeing both viewpoints, some of the scenes are recounted twice, which becomes a bit repetitive.

But overall, it’s a lovely book with amazing characters and I would definitely read more of Clare’s work.


How To Save A Life

One night in December, twenty-two year old Ted Green makes his way to Waterloo Bridge determined to end his life. Lonely, despairing and utterly hopeless, it seems the only choice to make.

That same night in December, Marianne Cooper is running away from a party. Having found her boyfriend in a passionate clinch with someone else, Marianne can’t get away fast enough. But as she makes her way along London’s South Bank, a figure catches her eye on top of the bridge.

Then she sees him, a man ready to jump.

When Marianne saves Ted’s life, this night in December becomes one they’ll never forget, but as Ted watches Marianne leave in a black taxi, all he can think is he should have asked her name.

In a story spanning twenty years, join Ted and Marianne as they navigate life’s twists and turns, joys and heartbreaks, while all the time wondering – will fate ever bring them together again…

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Author Bio –

Clare Swatman is the author of three women’s fiction novels, published by Macmillan, which have been translated into over 20 languages. She has been a journalist for over twenty years, writing for Bella and Woman & Home amongst many other magazines. She lives in Hertfordshire. Before We Grow Old, was published in January 2022.

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Why My Bedside Tables Are Full Of Books

I often post photos of my bedside tables on Twitter (@KarenLNHollis) because I love looking at people’s book collections and enjoy the conversations that follow – Ooh read that one first! Oh I have a lot of those books too! My TBR is bigger/smaller/on the Kindle. Love chatting bookish things with bookish people.

But I LOVE my bedside table book piles, I really do. They’re not an eyesore to me or an accident waiting to happen (fingers crossed! But what a way to go!). They’re my comfort blanket. Let me explain…

Three years ago, I split up with my ex. Basically he was spending all the time down the pub, so one night, I went there at 2am and told him to come home. He was humiliated in front of his mates! (Awww, bless him.) Well, he’s a stubborn bugger and wasn’t impressed with that. The next day, he drove me and our son to my mum’s house in Lincoln and we’ve been there ever since.

Now this isn’t about our relationship, it’s about books. We moved here with just a car load of essentials (with only a few hours warning) so I just brought one book, the book I was reading – The Perfectly Imperfect Woman by Milly Johnson.

I have since explained to Milly how important this book was to me. My whole life (and that of my son!) had been turned upside down. The only constant was this gorgeous book which really helped to get me through the worst of times.

A couple of months after settling in to my mum’s house, I found the nearest two charity shops and bought a load of novels, which I put on my bedside table. It was starting a feel a bit more like home.

Since then, I have had my books from my “old life” returned to me. The three of us had over 1000 books between us then. But most of those are in Mum’s garage and pretty much all the books in the house are ones I have bought in the last three years.

The bookcases here are full and the piles on my bedside tables are far too high and numerous, as you can see… (Enjoy the photos below!)

But, books make me happy. I know I’ll never run out of something to read. You know the way you always want to carry a book in your bag, just in case you’ve got ten minutes to fill… or you make sure you’ve got enough books for your week’s holiday… Yes, it’s like that.

So it may be a bit weird, or a bit obsessive, or whatever. But it makes sense to me and let’s face it, these books don’t desert me for the pub or chuck me out after eight years!

Just One Day – Spring by Susan Buchanan

Louisa is married to Ronnie and they have three children – Genevieve (12) and her younger siblings Aria and Hugo. At the start of the book, a new beagle puppy has just arrived for Gen. At the same time, Louisa’s brother-in-law Travis has hired a man called Caden as his sous chef. Caden and Louisa have previously shared a romantic kiss a few weeks earlier and they are shocked to see each other again.

I could really relate to Louisa and how she was juggling so many things and not getting enough time for herself. I loved how realistic all the children are and I was pleased to read about Gen’s gymnastics, as that’s a big interest of mine too!

I enjoyed the humour in the book and the lovely relationship between Louisa and her sisters Wendy and Joanna. Animals are always a delight in books and the puppy is adorable, as well as their older dog Bear.

It’s an easy book to get into and an enjoyable read. You are interested in Louisa’s home situation straight away from the first chapter and want to know more. I enjoyed her dilemmas and wondering how everything was going to be solved. I hadn’t read the previous book in the series, but it really didn’t matter as I could follow everything without any problems.

Just One Day – Spring

Mum-of-three Louisa thought she only had her never-ending to-do list to worry about, but the arrival of a ghost from the recent past puts her in an untenable position. Can she navigate the difficult situation she’s in without their friendship becoming common knowledge or will it cause long-term damage to her marriage?

When a family member begins to suspect there’s more to her relationship with the new sous-chef than meets the eye, Louisa needs to think on her feet or she’ll dig herself into a deeper hole. But the cost of keeping her secret, not only from her husband, comes at a high price, one which tugs at her conscience.

With everyday niggles already causing a further rift between Louisa and husband Ronnie, will she manage to keep her family on track whilst her life spirals out of control? And when tragedy strikes, will Ronnie step up when she needs him most?

For fans of Fiona Gibson, Holly Martin and Jill Mansell.

Purchase Link –

Author Bio – Susan Buchanan lives in Scotland with her husband, their two young children and a crazy Labrador called Benji. She has been reading since the age of four and had to get an adult library pass early as she had read the entire children’s section by the age of ten.

Susan writes contemporary fiction, often set in Scotland, usually featuring travel, food or Christmas. When not working, writing, or caring for her two delightful cherubs, Susan loves reading (obviously), the theatre, quiz shows and eating out – not necessarily in that order!

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A Colourful Country Escape by Anita Faulkner

In a rainy Manchester, Lexie Summers (27) has just pawned her jewellery to pay her rent. She hopes this means her boyfriend Drew won’t find out about her money problems. But then she sees her boyfriend looking at rings with another woman!

Desperate for a new start, and with no money, Lexie drives off in her orange VW camper van (Penny) and travels to Tewkesbury. She arrives at the imposing Nutgrass Hall for her job interview at Carrington Paints, where she meets Cory Carrington and his older, colder brother Ben. When she discovers Ben’s mother is trying to marry him off to a rich woman by the end of the year, Lexie isn’t quite sure what she’s let herself in for…

The settings are lovely in the book. I loved the Downton Abbey-style Nutgrass Hall with its scary peacocks and wonderful housekeeper Mrs Moon. I also loved Lexie’s camper van – I mean, we all love those, especially in orange! And this one has history and a sentimental value for Lexie too.

Lexie herself is a really great character, I warmed to her from the first page. She feels a bit inferior, slightly out of place, not quite good enough – and we can all relate to that. She has kind of drifted along in life and now realises she has to look after herself, get a job and earn some money. We cheer her on all the way in her endeavours! She’s such a sweetheart, you can tell that from the first chapter when she gives money to the donkey sanctuary! You want her to have everything in life, including the perfect man, especially after the way her horrible ex treated her.

Anita Faulkner has a lovely natural writing style. She uses beautiful similes (“the moment stretched out before her like a lazy cat” was one of my favourites) and clever touches which elevate her writing above many others. You notice her gorgeous use of words throughout, and fun imagery, which enhance the novel.

It’s also very funny. Lexie’s younger sister Sky provides a lot of laughs, for starters. There’s also a lot of visual humour like Lexie’s first encounter with the peacocks at Nutgrass Hall.

I love the way the romance develops, it feels really genuine and not too “perfect” like a Hollywood movie, but something that could actually happen to an “ordinary” person, which is my favourite kind of romance. I loved all the goings on in the London trip, for example and could really visualise all the sights and sounds and understand Lexie’s confused feelings. The dialogue is excellent too.

Despite this being Anita’s debut novel, it feels very professional – like it has come magically off the pen of a long-established romcom star name like Milly Johnson or Jenny Colgan. It is original but polished, beautiful and witty and I will definitely be pre-ordering her future books.

Oh and I NEED the recipe for Mrs Moon’s lavender shortbread!

5 stars *****



Anita Faulkner

Published by Sphere | 9th June 2022 |
Paperback Original | eBook available | £7.99

The debut novel that you won’t be able to resist falling in love with. Heart-warming romance and a breath-taking countryside escape – this is the PERFECT summer read.

Falling in love isn’t always so black and white . . .

When vibrant but penniless Lexie is dumped by her posh boyfriend who is looking for a more financially suitable match, she decides to pack up her beloved orange campervan Penny in search of a new path. Stumbling upon a vacancy at a family-run paint company in the Cotswolds, Lexie believes she’s found her perfect match . . .

Lexie arrives at Nutgrass Hall, home of Carrington Paints, but it seems that owner Benedict Carrington is less than impressed with her arrival, and Lexie realises she’ll have her work cut out for her if she’s to convince stuffy “Beige Ben” to trust her with rescuing his out-of-touch business. But Ben has more on his mind than just the company – his mother is determined to find him a suitable wife worthy of carrying the Carrington family name, or she’ll take the business from him.

As Lexie sets to work on injecting some life colour into Carrington Paints, Ben allows himself to be set up with Tewkesbury’s finest ladies. But the more time the pair spend together, the more they realise their feelings for each other aren’t so black and white. Will Lexie be able to brighten into Ben’s colourless world before it’s too late?

‘A heart-warming and uplifting romance – the perfect summer read!’

ANITA FAULKNER writes warm and fuzzy romcoms from her upcycled bureau in the south west of England. She grew up sniffing books and devouring stories. And she insists it was perfectly normal to squirrel boxes of pretty stationary that felt far too magical to actually use. She’s accumulated a brave and patient husband and a strong-willed little boy who brighten up her world.

For further information please contact Natasha Gill | | 020 3122 7413 | @_natashagill on Twitter

The Little Bookshop by the Sea

The Little Bookshop by the Sea by Eliza J. Scott

(The first book in the Welcome to Mickleway Bay series)

The novel is set in the seaside town of Micklewick Bay on the North Yorkshire coast, where Florrie Appleton (32) works at The Happy Hartes Bookshop. All readers will relate to the wonders of a bookshop, so it’s a lovely setting for this story.

The characters are lovely, well-written and very believable. I love Mr Harte, Miss Davenport and Florrie’s group of girlfriends she hangs out with – Jasmine, Stella, Maggie and Lark. Every good novel has a dog in it and this one features Gerty, the lovely black Labrador who lives at the bookshop with Mr Harte. There’s also a very yummy romantic lead…

The book is mainly a romance novel (though every romance has lots of other bits to it) and we begin the book knowing Florrie is dating Graham, though they seem more like friends than lovers. When a mysterious stranger talks to her outside the bookshop, she finds him very attractive. Could this be the start of something? But then a tragic event happens, which means romance is the last thing on Florrie’s mind…

There are lots of things going on in this book, plenty to hold your interest and keep you reading. The level of “bedroom activity” is perfect for me (i.e. behind closed doors) and Florrie is such a lovely character, you’re rooting for her all the way through and hoping she gets the happy ending she deserves.

A lovely, feel-good book.

9 out of 10


The Little Bookshop By The Sea

Welcome to the Happy Hartes Bookshop in Micklewick Bay on the beautiful North Yorkshire Coast!

The Happy Hartes Bookshop has been a part of bookworm Florrie Appleton’s life as far back as she can remember. From the evocative smell of the books, to working alongside her beloved Mr H and his black Labrador, Gerty, there’s no wonder she calls it her happy place.

Living in a town she loves, with her family and group of close-knit friends nearby, life is sweet. Until one dreadful Monday morning, when everything is turned upside down and things are changed forever.

Devastated, Florrie finds herself thrown into an unexpected situation with handsome stranger, Ed Harte, owner of a pair of twinkly navy-blue eyes and a smile that has the knack of making mischief with her insides.

Despite being fresh out of a relationship, Florrie quickly finds herself falling for him, but she’s torn, reluctant to give her heart to someone who seems intent on not sticking around.

While her heart’s doing battle with her head, Florrie soon finds herself privy to a secret with Ed involving a heart-wrenching twist they could never have imagined.

Will love find a way to bring them together, or are they destined to go their separate ways?

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Author Bio – Eliza lives in the North Yorkshire countryside with her family. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found with her nose in a book/glued to her kindle or working in her garden, fighting a losing battle against the weeds.

Eliza is inspired by her beautiful surroundings and loves to write heartwarming romance stories with relatable female characters. Her books will always have a happy ending.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @ElizaJScott1

Instagram: @elizajscott

Facebook: @elizajscottauthor



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