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.


#BookChat – the reader diaries- all things magic

It appears I am on the hunt for enchantment just now, finishing The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert and beginning The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale.

How do you feel about magical themed stories? I admit I am a The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern through and through and nothing else has come close…until now, Robert Dinsdale has stolen my heart this week and wrapped his magic around my soul.

I am speed reading to read what happens next and where the adventure takes us! I also really enjoyed The Clockwork Angel (which I MUST read again) and do have the following ones in the series to read (I just need a refresher) by Cassandra Clare, although I must admit these are massive tomes of literature to plough through. A couple of other fanciful tales I recommend are The Woodcutter by Kate Danley and The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly.

The most recent read for me was this little beauty below, I mean, that cover! You can catch up on my review of the edgy gritty fairytale here

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

Before this week I had never heard of Robert Dinsdale, now I am hooked on his every word, this is a work of art and I am only 37% in. I adore this set of characters and the emporium is simply a delight. Have a read and see if you fancy giving it a try….

Do you remember when you believed in magic?

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.

If you interested in reading something a little bit different I can recommend The Immortal Circus Series and Caraval to try. What have been significant magical reads for you and why? share your thoughts!







The Mistake I Made – Paula Daly

We all think we know who we are.

What we’re capable of.

Roz is a single mother, a physiotherapist, a sister, a friend. She’s also desperate.

Her business has gone under, she’s crippled by debt and she’s just had to explain to her son why someone’s taken all their furniture away.

But now a stranger has made her an offer. For one night with her, he’ll pay enough to bring her back from the edge.

Let me ask you this – would you make the same mistake as Roz Toovey?

The Mistake I Made was my introduction into the world of Paula Daly, after reading the first couple of pages I knew I was in for a winning read, the style being so easy reading and flowing.

Roz Toovey is the main character of the story, yes, she was the one who made the mistake and she narrates the novel to the reader. I enjoyed the way she presented herself, realistically, normal and believable. Roz was an everyday person trying and desperately failing to make ends meet.

When you really hit rock bottom do you honestly know what you would agree to? desperation and destitution can distract from the reality of what is perceived to be right and wrong and Roz was right in the thick of things. Scott came along as an opportunity for a way out, a release if you will with an ‘easy’ solution that would make life easier for Roz and her Son. Roz would have done whatever it took for the happiness of her Son. Her life was extremely hard and with a disgruntled and worried young child about the become harder being given an opportunity for an escape route was a silver lining.

Scott Elias, wealthy, powerful, and very married is another strong character in the story but not necessarily a nice one. He was not really my cup of tea and portrayed as the ‘man who always gets what he wants’ character, selfish, spoilt, spiteful and peevish. He plays his part very well, until things do not go as he wants them too, this is when we see his ‘other’ side.  His character is written very well and again believable.

As I was nearing the end of the story it hit me with full force what was happening and why

That moment of ‘oh god can it really be’ and ‘it really was’ which although my instinct was correct this didn’t ruin the story just added another layer of tension and disgust.

I found myself reading faster and faster over the last two chapters willing the characters to behave how I wanted, wishing the story to take a sideways shift I didn’t want to read the inevitable, I didn’t want that end result and luckily I wasn’t disappointed.

I closed the book with a cheesy smile across my face

I gave The Mistake I Made 5 stars because it caught my attention, was written in a very realistic way with wholesome characters and an unpredictable ending.

I would recommend the work of Paula Daly and would most certainly read another of her novels

For an easy read and an absorbing, switch your head off style of book I suggest you give this one a try.



Eveyln After – Victoria Helen Stone

Evelyn Tester is sleepwalking through her suburban life—until a late-night phone call startles her awake. Her husband, a prestigious psychiatrist, has been in an accident. And he isn’t alone.

Suddenly Evelyn’s world isn’t as tidy as she thought. And in the midst of it all is Juliette, not only her husband’s secret lover but also his patient. If news of the affair were to get out, it would ruin more than just Evelyn’s marriage. Although it’s a bitter pill for Evelyn to swallow, protecting her family means staying silent—even if, as she begins to discover, the night of the accident has consequences far more dangerous than the unmasking of an affair.

But the more Evelyn learns about Juliette’s picture-perfect life—complete with a handsome, unsuspecting husband—the more she yearns for revenge…and satisfaction. Her growing obsession fuels her rage, burning away her complacency. What will be left of her after it flames out?

I REALLY enjoyed this book. I loved the journey Stone took the reader on, full of intrigue, betrayal and passion.

I found myself completely enthralled and drawn into the story

The prose, the writing and storyline were magnificent, how we heard a before and after point of view really strengthen the story and kept the reader engaged. I was constantly rooting for Evelyn, even when she was in the wrong. I cheer on Evelyn even in her wrong doings which throughout all she had been reborn and found a newer more confident version of herself loving and appreciating her womanly drive once again, albeit from the wrong situation but regardless she is on fire and thriving. It is so easy to become lost and insignificant as the years drift by.

My favourite character was most certainly Evelyn but I must say I adored Noah

The connection between the two is delicious and the antics they got up to even more so, I wanted a happy ending, I desperately wanted them to be. Noah is the man Gary can never be and would never even try to be. Evelyn deserved Noah and they both deserved happiness.

What I found the most interesting aspect is that the control her husband held was crippling yet Evelyn had no idea how much so until her world was shattered by his betrayal. Her journey begins with the night when she is jolted from sleep to come to the rescue and from there how he lies to cover his tracks. Evelyn has a lot to discover.

I also very much appreciated the artistic aspect of the story, giving it an extra depth and providing a further connection

Evelyn After for me was a brilliant story, and originally presented with an air of suspense where the reader has no idea how things will end up. It discusses long-standing relationships, marriage, aging insecurities and the relationships with children. It leaves bare that not everyone is as happy as they portray to be to the outside world.


An Off-Piste Christmas – Julie Houston

The last thing Harriet Westmoreland wants is Christmas away from home, particularly when skiing, snow, heights and freezing her backside off are on the menu. While her own family, together with her best friend Grace’s, are soon whizzing down ridiculously high and scary mountains in the fashionable Italian resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo, Harriet is stuck in the remedial class on the nursery slopes unable, it seems, to remain vertical.

Tired of trying to stay upright in the dunces’ class, Harriet decides to overcome her fear of heights and take her bruised body off to explore the refugios in the magnificent Dolomites above Cortina. And maybe catch a glance of George Clooney, rumoured to be in town… But what happens next triggers a totally unexpected avalanche of events which proves that, for friends Harriet and Grace and all their families, Christmas really is a time for little miracles…

This was the first Christmas read of the season for me and not my usual genre either.

I absolutely adored this grab your attention festive novella and giggled my way through from one page to the next!

I loved the lighthearted way it was written especially about subjects not very lighthearted and maybe even close to home for some. The humour that rolled off the pages, softening the reality of heartfelt situations was very well-played and added that extra joviality to the storyline bringing the characters to life.

This was the first story I have read by Houston with this being the first introduction to the characters but how they shone, bold and bright from the pages.

Very well-developed and loveable, with those who were not so loveable being realistic and dramatic, over the top if you will, yet you can sympathise and laugh hoping you never find yourself in one of those situations and certainly not with those people. At some point in our lives it is inevitable we will!

There were very real aspects of the story that struck a chord with me. The mother – daughter relationship and the spilling of home truths, the feelings about the marriage of Nick and Harriet and the standing up to the overbearing mother and saying your piece! that I especially enjoyed.

The very best thing for me was that this Christmas story was a realistic read, not a soppy rom com affair with a fairytale ending

It felt real and relatable, crazy, manic and a little off the wall but all in such a great way. Thoroughly enjoyable and a superb little read to get you ready for Christmas.

Moondance – Diane Chandler *BOOK TOUR*

Today is my turn for hosting the book tour for Moondance by Diane Chandler. I am delighted to feature her here.

IVF could create a baby but could it also destroy a marriage?

Cat has always been in control of her life. Happily married to Dom, but flying high as a political lobbyist, she dismisses his desire to start a family … until she herself is ready.

But what if it is then too late?

Complex and selfish, intelligent and open, if she is to succeed in having that elusive child, Cat must battle through gruelling fertility treatment and the emotional strain it places on her marriage. By her side, Dom, easygoing and ever the optimist, finds that he too risks being run ragged by their journey.

Both are forced to come to terms with their longing for a baby against the blitz on a relationship tested like never before.

Bittersweet, at times funny, and always emotionally raw, this is by far the most moving and honest novel you’ll ever read about IVF and its impact on a marriage.

This book is utterly beautiful. Raw, honest and totally open. We feel the emotional journey that Cat is on, we feel every disappointment, suffer her pain and cry along with her.

Cat is a remarkable woman with an iron drive who has so much love for the elusive baby she so desperately wants to create.

Reading Moondance made me reflect on my own pregnancies, making me cherish how lucky I was to naturally conceive, which sometimes I think can be taken for granted, It also a very and honest and open insight to the whole procedure of IVF and what couples really do go through from start to finish showing the complexity and heartbreak of the journey behind closed doors.

The journey itself is an emotional bind with so much to do in preparation and so much waiting and hoping for a positive outcome. Cat was a very resilient character indeed.

I was especially interested in how the IVF process affected her husband. It was very interesting to hear from the male perspective and learn about his discomforts and feelings within the journey too. He played a strong character and even though he didn’t behave as the reader would naturally expect he was still a likeable soul.

Moondance is a wonderful, yet emotional, read with a ‘real’ plotline and an excellent storyline.

The characters feel real and together tell their amazing story. I congratulate Chandler on such an excellent read.

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.