The Toymakers – Robert Dinsdale

The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open!

It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium.

For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical.

~Do you remember when you believed in magic?~

I have no idea how to begin my review, I have thought about this all day, how do you capture all the beauty caught between the pages of The Toymakers within a few paragraphs? How can I write about the wonderment, enchantment and Magic without revealing any spoilers? Easily, I will tell you how the book made me feel. I read The Toymakers purely after reading another blogger’s review, there was no talk of the story which made me want to read it all the more. I wanted to be enlightened.

As discussed in my latest #Bookchat post I mentioned my love of magic themed books, those that spin a fairytale around my consciousness and drag me deep into the world created by the pen of talented minds and, after reading a few in my 38 years, sadly there are very few that hit the mark. The Toymakers, however, will reside in memory palace for the rest of my days.

This is a book of such a tale that you feel you have lived a thousand years by the final sentence.

Emotionally drained was an understatement for I sat in public spaces with tear filled eyes and a constant large lump obstructing my throat as I tried to keep myself contained reminding myself I was only reading a story after all, this wasn’t my reality and didn’t affect me. Not that my reasoning with myself did any good you must understand I was far too involved with the characters and invested too much time for them not to be flickering on the edge of my thoughts when I was going about my daily (real) life.

The Toymakers was a deeply layered novel, stitched together by time and the complexity of characters, a tale of other worlds, harrowing times, hardship and despair but foremost strong unconditional love, rich deep detail and emotive writing to hold your attention, cover you in goosebumps and a really thought provoking read. This was a story of a journey a new world adventure.

I often found myself speed reading, I was impatient for the next step of the journey

I want you to read this book because you want to feel the magic, experience the elation and join the journey yourself.

I don’t want to tell you about the characters, I want you to discover them yourself

If you are chasing a heart warming story you will find it here, not without the darker times, which adds so much depth the the tale. If you want an investment into complex characters, expressive language, and remnisient writing pushing the boundaries of your imagination then this should be the next book on your pile. (just ensure you have a handy pack of tissues with you at all times)

You have to want to believe, to enjoy The Toymakers, it is a beautiful nostalgic read that rekindles childhood pastimes and play.

This story shares the solidarity behind joining forces and making the best of what you have and even when you feel wrung out and don’t want to read another word I beg of you to continue because the story is not final until the very last full stop.

I resurfaced into my reality emotionally drained yet satisfied, I had been on such a journey and had the pleasure of Robert Dinsdales company, I salute such a talented author and anticipate more of his work.

The imagination of Robert Dinsdale is outstanding and should be celebrated. Enjoy your journey into the Emporium.


The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

~ The Comb ~ The Bone ~ The Feather ~

If you want something a little kooky, off the wall and thought-provoking then The Hazel Wood is the one for you. The modern world of today and the gritty edgy world of Hinterland merge together to form a matter of fact fairytale with a plucky yet stubborn heroine and her super fan of a sidekick.

Alice is a fantastic character that lives by her own rules, follows her own path and creates her own destiny. Her mother is her only true constant in her life, one filled with travel, restlessness and bad karma. The bond between mother and daughter is the strength throughout the entire story.

The Hazel Wood was a coming of age novel from a completely new perspective

Alice was searching for herself, discovering the very meaning of her existence and at the same time trying to trust her eccentric companion Finch when she is not too sure if she would rather go it alone. The companions make a good team, and as readers, we witness the relationship flourish and the friendship grow.

Finch was a strong character for me, although evidently this was the story of Alice I found Finch played a large part in her journey, he was her grounding and support she needed when she had no idea she needed it. His personality was warm and easy-going with an interest in Alice that was heartwarming. His superfan persona was an asset to the friendship and his knowledge valuable, yet there were those moments when he appeared to be in awe of Alice, HInterland and the magic behind it all which led me to question his motives.

I enjoyed the darker edge given to the tales written by Althea, just as fairy tales were originally made to be

Relishing in the way the stories flickered in the shadows and capturing the atmospheric suspense  as we watched Alice on her journey of discovery trying to rewrite herself as she knew it rescuing her missing mother in the mix, and just maybe meeting the ‘dead’ grandmother.

If you are a fan of A R Kahler you will really enjoy this one. Not as fanciful as I anticipated it to be but a great read nonetheless.


One of Us is Lying – Karen McManus

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide. 
Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. 
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident.

On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? 

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.”

This was a very strong contender for Book of the Year for me. I devoured this read adoring it all the way.

The whole storyline, setting, scene, plot and characters screamed Breakfast Club

which I just loved and found really easy to relate to. The book was a switch your head off and enjoy read, like watching an easygoing film.

I personally found this a fantastic read and brilliant story and all go from the outset. I have recommended this several times this year and would be interested in reading more from McManus.

Good Me Bad Me – Ali Land

‘NEW N A M E .
S H I N Y.
ME . ‘

Annie’s mother is a serial killer.

The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police.

But out of sight is not out of mind.

As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly.

A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be.

But Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water.

Good me, bad me.

She is, after all, her mother’s daughter…

This book was certainly one of the best I have read this year being such a good story.

Although we never conversed with Annie’s mum I felt we knew her well, the constant narrative running through Annie’s head was written in such detail that as readers this helped us piece together the history of the life before Annie became Milly.

Throughout the story I always held my thoughts on Milly in reserve

I wasn’t surprised with how her relationships developed and the way things shifted within the book. I wasn’t surprised by the final outcome but felt it was written incredibly well. There was always the feeling of something is just not right but without pin pointing exactly was it was keeps the reader in a unknowing state until the end of the book.

This is one of those books I highly recommend and found really enjoyable to read

Emma In The Night – Wendy Walker

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

One night five years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

Emma In The Night is a tormented read with harrowing realities and emotional draw, yet breathtakingly beautiful and delicately spun yarn by silken yarn

Never doubting that Walker had written another stunning read. I was not to be disappointed as I read her latest novel word to word, sentence to sentence and chapter to chapter. Walker writes with a beautiful presence, her characters fully formed in complexity displaying an exceptional strength of imagery.

This is a story of love, loss and revenge with a side of tension and a competitive streak thrown in the mix. A wholesome novel with a satisfying conclusion

Not every writer can hold my attention, presenting script that feels flat and bland, without the delicacy of emotive scribblings and musings from within. Walker, for me, writes with everything I need from a novel, with an understanding of each character and a depth so deep they too walk from the page and for those few days become part of the daily life and routine. Maybe I just crave a more articulate verse than most? but I praise the writing style that evokes emotion and feeling grabbing my attention and most importantly holding it firmly in place.

Walkers words lift from the page in silken strands that wrap intricately around the all consumed reader

Whilst the characters seem to all be fighting for attention within the story, Dr Winter was the character for me, she was the strength and the soul of the story becoming the saviour who helps bring this tragic tale to a close. Her side of the story slides under skin wrapping its way around the reader, tightening the binds until the anticipation is too intense, only to fall away to an amazing conclusion and outstanding finale.

I thoroughly adored her debut novel All Is Not Forgotten. I find myself living within her books, absorbed deep in the centre, too enthralled to put them down. This, is everything I need from a book.

The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir – Lesley Allen *BOOK TOUR*

A stark but uplifting story of bullying and redemption, for anyone who’s ever been a weirdo.

Almost too terrified to grip the phone, Biddy Weir calls a daytime television show.

The subject is bullying, and Biddy has a story to tell.

Abandoned by her mother as a baby, Biddy lives in her own little world, happy to pass her time watching the birds – until Alison Fleming joins her school.

Popular and beautiful, but with a dangerous, malevolent streak, Alison quickly secures the admiration of her fellow students. All except one. And Alison doesn’t take kindly to people who don’t fit her mould . . .

A story of abuse and survival, of falling down and of starting again, and of one woman’s battle to learn to love herself for who she is, The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir is Lesley Allen’s startlingly honest debut novel, perfect for fans of Rowan Coleman and Julie Cohen.

The most frightening revelation of this novel is that for someone to describe so accurately the deep-rooted level of such harsh bullying must have endured it themselves.

Lesley Allen has written a heart breaking emotive novel, with such talented writing you engage with and react to, the tales so horrific you cry for Biddy as you witness her misunderstanding and confusion around her situation and feel her pain she consumes on a daily basis.

Before Alison Flemming Biddy lived in her own existence ignorant to being different and so very unique.

The experiences bestowed upon Biddy are harsh with the naivety and vulnerability of Biddy being abused.  Her innocence is overwhelming and the reality of it is that the situation she finds herself trapped within is none of her own doing.

During parts of the story I got angry, throwing the book down and shouting outloud ‘how could they’ at my family, I was incensed that the people who could help turned a blind eye and those who tried became penalised for wanting to make a difference. Alison Flemming needed her comeuppance years before it was finally received.

I had an Alison Flemming in my childhood, my Alison came in many types and different forms and at times, even now, still raises her ugly head. Confidence is a brittle thing, something so easy to shatter instantly, after taking the slow journey years upon years to construct and build a strong place, only to be destroyed by some bitter individual with a harsh tongue and jealous approach.

Why are the Alison Flemming of the worlds be allowed to exist, what can they offer other than cruel destruction, misery, pain and fear?

I understood Biddy’s pain, I cried her hot tears and felt that lump in her throat she so desperately wanted to swallow. I know what it feels like to be stood invisible in a room surrounded by Alison Flemming clones and cronies and for those of authority to turn away, close their eyes or join the parade. All those times hearing the same repetitive drivel of ‘they are only jealous’ or ‘they feel threatened’ yet they break you to the point of worthlessness and fail to understand how someone could be jealous of the insignificant husk of a person you have now become after being brainwashed over decades of you pathetic existence.

Yes I understand Biddy all too well and nobody deserves to be treated in such a way.

The anger I felt was real, that old enemy of frustration reared his ugly head once again, never doing me any favours, and tying me in knots as I read page upon page of relentless bullying from some nasty piece of work who deserved a very hard smack.

Biddy’s life is not always so lonely, we are introduced to Terri, who is the guardian angel that Biddy needs.

The relationship slowly developes and grows over time, fragmented and disjointed but worthy of the invested time spent in the end. Terri is Biddy’s saviour, the one to teach her how to appreciate herself, believe in herself and undo the many years of brainwashing she had so frequently received.

The final chapter had me in tears, covered in goosebumps and with every hair standing on end.

I made a disgrace of myself on public transport but for Biddy it was worth it. She became my hero.

This is an excellent book, a very poignant story and very real. It is emotive and thought-provoking and uncomfortable at times but very worthy of your interest. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

From the Author; Living with the Character

My novel is about a girl who is mercilessly bullied from the age of ten until a catastrophic event removes her from the grip of her bullies five years later. Biddy is a loner. She gazes at the world from the outside in, observing life from a distance, but not actively participating in it. Her mother abandoned her, her father is a social recluse, she has no friends, and she lives in fear of Alison Flemming, the girl who bullies her on a daily basis.

I, on the other hand, have an amazing family, a wealth of wonderful friends, and live a busy, active, full-on life. And I have never been bullied, at least not in the way that Biddy is. Not even close. Oh, over the years, I’ve encountered many an Alison-type character, experienced intimidation in the workplace, and was frequently teased as a child because of my curly hair. But that’s the height of it.

Many people who read the book ask if Biddy is me. She isn’t. In fact, our curly hair is the only thing we have in common. But sometimes I feel that I know Biddy better than I know myself. I’ve lived with her inside my head for many years now, ever since she popped up in a short story and quietly, but firmly, demanded my attention. It took me a long time to tease her story out, but that’s how Biddy is.

We’ve been through a lot together: financial pressures, two house moves, the death of my father, the on-going fall-out from the breakup of my marriage, and, most notably for Biddy, a publication false-start when a deal I received for the book eight years ago fell through at the eleventh hour. She tolerated my apathy during the times when, poleaxed by grief after losing my dad and floored by the collapse of the first publishing deal, I thought I would never write again. She didn’t complain when I set her aside and began to slowly write some other material, and she welcomed me with open arms when I decided to tweak her story, and try again. And when I was at the lowest point in my life following my marriage breakup, she gave me back my dream of publication, just when I needed it most.

Since the day we heard that Twenty7 Books were going to publish the book, Biddy has been a permanent feature in my life. I talk about her daily, I write about her, I even find myself talking to her sometimes! She has changed my life, and I’m elated that this time, the publication ending has been a happy one. The day I held the book in my hand for the first time was the second best day of my life – the first belongs to my 18-year-old baby girl. And now my book baby has taken flight. Biddy’s story is finally out there for the readers of the world to make of what they will. It’s a nerve wrecking time! I hope they like her. Actually, I hope they love her just as much as I do.



Don’t You Cry – Mary Kubica

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she’s the person Quinn thought she knew.

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.  

As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under Pearl’s spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end.

I adore the work of Mary Kubica, my favourite was always Good Girl, for being so different yet this, Don’t You Cry won hands down!

Just before starting this book I read a review that stated not much had happened yet the story was keeping him hooked. It was the writing, I totally agreed because even though there wasn’t a fast pace hanging on the edge of your seat beginning there was something so very hypnotic and seductive in the writing that held me captive and left me hanging onto every word.

I was enthralled by Dont You Cry with time standing still as I read page by page becoming deeper submerged under its spell

The characters made this story for me. Two stories of two different lives all joined together. Even those who only play the minor parts, the sub characters if you will, are strong and meaningful within the story. Alex Gallo appealed to me more than anyone. His heart warm and nature caring and such a beautiful boy. His relationship with Ingrid is so heart warming and how without the knowledge of doing so they continue to support each other, look out for each other and understand what it feels like to be lonely.

This soothing tale wraps itself around you joining you on the journey to find Esther whilst at the same time treads carefully along the eggshells of the life that Alex leads and his mysterious companion the lady he nicknames Pearl. As thought patterns are pulled this way and that the story changes yet again and just as you think you have worked it all out…you realise you were wrong all along.

This isn’t a book of red herrings, it doesn’t lead you to suspect individuals it sends you on a journey of companionship, friendship, self discovery and the powerful emotion of unconditional love and what you would do to protect that love.

Certainly a ‘keeper’ a ‘must read’ and a definite ‘recommend’ read this book and allow it to seep into your pores, absorb into your blood stream and savour the story thereafter.

A beautifully written novel with an excellent, unforeseen conclusion and a cast of perfectly developed characters.

This book certainly makes my top ten for 2016. Such a remarkable one that it is.