Oh What a Brew-tea-full morning! Leafy Bean Co product review

It all started many years ago. In the early 1900s in America to be precise (so they say) but tea bags were not introduced to the UK until 1952. A famous year also because the old King died, Lizzie took the throne and I was born (in that order chronologically – not in order of importance).

@leafybeanco #leafybeanco

Tea bags were so easy and convenient, like tights and diesel trains. No tipping leaves down the sink and blocking it. No washing tannin-stained teapots and keeping the fancy Royal Worcester Evesham Gold for the police, your nan and the vicar. And no using tea leaves for fortune telling.

But here we have the best of both worlds. Proper tea in tea bags. Time for a tasting.

Brew-tea-full Morning – a black tea blend. Indian Assam Black Tea, Sri Lankan Black Tea and Chinese Black Tea. My first foray into the world of teas from www.leafybeancompany.com. What a delight. It tastes like TEA! We are so used to bland tea bags these days that we have forgotten what real tea tastes like.

My second tea was On a Chai High – a blend of Indian Assam Black Tea mixed with a variety of Spices (Ginger, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Black Peppercorns and Chilli). Yes Chilli in tea. I was a bit nervous. It smells lovely. It tastes even better with a slightly sharp aftertaste. Not for the faint-hearted. I added a dash of milk but you don’t have to. Maybe a bit too spicy for me in the end.

Named after Prime Minister Charles Grey, Earl Grey is often associated with the upper-classes and reserved for special occasions. However, such is its popularity, this delicious, fragrant tea has recently risen to fame as an ingredient, with Earl Grey flavoured cakes, biscuits, preserves and even gins and cocktails appearing in restaurants, recipes and supermarkets all over the UK. Duke of Earl Grey was my favourite initially, though I wouldn’t drink it every day because that would spoil the ‘treat’ when I do.

Undoubtedly my favourite now is Tea’s the Season – Leafy Bean’s Christmas Blend. It’s flavoured black tea with Cinnamon (plus Hibiscus, Apple, Cloves, Rosehip, Orange Peel, Cranberry, Vanilla, Morello Cherry, Blackberry and Lime Leaves). I love it. I make it with a touch of milk. It’s warm and a little bit spicy. Just the ticket. Cinnamon is a spice that is made from the inner bark of trees scientifically known as Cinnamomum. But did you know that Cinnamon has powerful medicinal properties, is loaded with antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties, can lower blood sugar levels and helps fight bacterial and fungal infections. And there’s loads more. Who would have thought.

I have also given samples to friends and family to try. In fact here is my one friend’s feedback (she’s very thorough).

THE BAGS:  They look a bit like shiny triangular gauze (similar to nylon) decorations for a Christmas tree, but are they biodegradable (very important).  There does seem to be enough room for the tea to brew inside the bag. 

GREEN TEA:  Yes, like all green teas the leaves did expand and turn green when hot water added.  I found it to be a pleasantly aromatic tea. 

TEA’S THE SEASON:  Smelt and tasted of cloves to me (not cinnamon).  Quite ‘warming’ but not something I would choose.  There’s no accounting for taste and leaves (see what I did there) more for me.

My daughter-in-law on the other hand, got to try the Pure Content-mint green tea which she loved along with the Berry Nice Indeed flavoured herbal infusion which was her favourite. Because as I am not a fan of either, it wouldn’t be fair for me to review.

So if you fancy some real tea (it’s not just tea they sell by the way) head along to www.leafybeancompany.com and try some. Toodle pip!

About the Leafy Bean Co

There’s nothing more comforting than cradling a hot drink in your hands, and there’s nothing more important than knowing where it comes from. At Leafy Bean Co they are proud that their loose-leaf teas are produced in a sustainable and fair way, and that their London café bar not only serves the best food and drink, but also serves the local community.

Visit the online shop www.leafybeancompany.com for the very best in loose-leaf tea, accessories and gifts, and discover what events and activities you can take part in.

Girl A by Abigail Dean

‘Girl A,’ she said. ‘The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.’

Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared.

My Review

To say that I ‘enjoyed’ this book would be disingenuous. It is not a story to be enjoyed. It is sad, horrific and touching. It’s a hard and brutal read at times. Having said that it is brilliantly written – the language is exquisite – but I found it very stressful to read. I was constantly dreading what ‘Father’ might do next. Would there be no light in the darkness?

If you live near me in Gloucestershire you will no doubt remember the story of ‘Britain’s most sadistic mother’ – Eunice Spry – and the three foster children who she starved, beat, tried to drown, shoved sticks and knives down their throats and made them eat their own vomit.  They were ‘tortured in the name of God.’ I met one of them in 2014. What a lovely person – I hope he has a better life than the Gracie children. Spry was jailed in 2005, after being convicted of 26 counts of child abuse. She was sentenced to 14 years, but only served seven and was released in 2014. Who would sympathise or forgive her? So why would anyone forgive Lex’s mother? I was annoyed that Bill expected Lex to visit and try to understand. At one point he says that Mother suffered too but obviously not enough to keep her out of prison.

But back to the story. I don’t understand why the children were separated after they escaped and advised not to find each other. They were each placed with a different family and treated by different doctors and psychiatrists in different ways. They had no contact with each other for years. I am not an expert so I am sure there was a good reason but it felt like something from the 1950s. Keep them apart for their own good.

Initially I wasn’t too keen. It’s all a bit depressing with no resolution in sight. How could there be? Lex is quite hard to like initially, as is Ethan. But just over half way through I became more and more engrossed until I really couldn’t put it down. It’s written from Lex’s point of view, even the stories that involve the others. Most of it is about now – Mother has died and left Lex and her siblings the house and £20,000 which Lex wants to use to build a Community Centre. But she must get the others to sign an agreement and therefore has to contact them one by one. The story of their childhood is told in flashbacks. Mother forever pregnant, Father unsuccessful in all his ventures, descending further into madness. The children moved and then home-schooled, eventually bound, chained and starved.

I read till well past midnight, leaving only the last few pages so I wouldn’t wake up having totally forgotten what I had been reading. I kept thinking of Eunice Spry’s children and hope they have fared better. I pray they are happy.

Many thanks to #NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Abigail Dean was born in Manchester and grew up in the Peak District. She graduated from Cambridge with a Double First in English. Formerly a Waterstones bookseller, she spent five years as a lawyer in London, and took summer 2018 off to work on Girl A ahead of her thirtieth birthday. She now works as a lawyer for Google and is writing her second novel.

The Stranger Times by by CK McDonnell

There are Dark Forces at work in our world (and in Manchester in particular) and so thank God The Stranger Times is on hand to report them. A weekly newspaper dedicated to the weird and the wonderful (but more often the weird) of modern life, it is the go-to publication for the unexplained and inexplicable . . .

At least that’s their pitch. The reality is rather less auspicious. Their editor is a drunken, foul-tempered and foul-mouthed husk of a man who thinks little (and believes less) of the publication he edits, while his staff are a ragtag group of wastrels and misfits, each with their own secrets to hide and axes to grind. And as for the assistant editor . . . well, that job is a revolving door – and it has just revolved to reveal Hannah Willis, who’s got her own set of problems.

It’s when tragedy strikes in Hannah’s first week on the job that The Stranger Times is forced to do some serious, proper, actual investigative journalism. What they discover leads them to a shocking realisation: that some of the stories they’d previously dismissed as nonsense are in fact terrifyingly, gruesomely real. Soon they come face-to-face with darker foes than they could ever have imagined. It’s one thing reporting on the unexplained and paranormal but it’s quite another being dragged into the battle between the forces of Good and Evil . . .

My Review

A bit like Terry Pratchett meets The Fortean Times, this book is at times hilarious and at times too crazy for words. To be honest I prefer the parts about the newspaper and its eccentric employees to the forces of evil as I am not really into fantasy (apart from His Dark Materials). The banter in the office though, with newcomer Hannah who left her philandering husband and burnt their house down in the process, receptionist Grace, runaway Stella, and features writers Reggie and Ox is the best part. Then of course we have the dreadful and totally bonkers editor Vincent Banecroft who shoots himself in the foot with a blunderbuss and hobbles throughout the story on a crutch.

But it’s not all funny. There’s this short, fat, slap-head (not my un-PC words) American chap called Moretti going round controlling people’s minds, turning them into Were-monsters and making them do terrible things in exchange for a ‘favour’. All very Doctor Faustus and Mephistopheles. It turns out some of these people belong to the Folk. This is ancient mythology and involves immortality and such-like. There are rules though and even the Founders (no I’m not even going to attempt to explain) must respect the Accord. In the old days the Folk used to live amongst us in harmony (kind of) but now they must hide in the shadows. Apart from throwing people off buildings that is.

If you think this all sounds a bit bonkers and far-fetched, I can assure you that this is nowhere near as bonkers as it gets. A bit too bonkers for me if I am honest but I still enjoyed it massively and often laughed out loud. The retorts and one-liners are classic.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, the author and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Irishman Caimh McDonnell is a former professional stand-up comedian and TV writer who now concentrates all of his energies on his books. Born in Limerick and raised in Dublin, he has taken the hop across the water and calls Manchester his home. His TV writing work has seen him work on some of the biggest topical comedy shows on British TV and has earned him a BAFTA nomination. These days he can be found happily writing his next book in the office in the back garden, with only his dog and his imagination for company. His book I Have Sinned has been nominated for the Kindle Storyteller Award 2019. Previously, his debut novel A Man With One of Those Faces was nominated for best novel at the 2017 CAP awards.

The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse

Carcassonne 1562: Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE. But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to get out of La Cité alive.

Toulouse: As the religious divide deepens in the Midi, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as sectarian tensions ignite across the city, the battle-lines are drawn in blood and the conspiracy darkens further. Meanwhile, as a long-hidden document threatens to resurface, the mistress of Puivert is obsessed with uncovering its secret and strengthening her power. 

My Review

The only word for a book like The Burning Chambers is epic. This is a sweeping tale of love and religious conflict and burning ambition. It’s steeped in history and while I am no expert I know that a lot of research went into this novel. It is my fourth book by this author and they are all filled with a wealth of accurate historical detail.

At times I got quite stressed reading it as I was so engrossed in the story, particularly the potential fates of Minou Joubert, Piet Reydon and little Alis that I had to keep reading to make sure they were alright. I fell asleep worrying about Alis, who is a year older than one of my granddaughters, so I kept picturing her face. She doesn’t have the halo of curly dark hair though.

The description of the bloody battles between Catholic and Huguenot in Toulouse are harrowing and brutal, and it seems unbelievable that people could be so cruel. But you only have to look at somewhere today like Israel and Palestine to realise that nothing changes (just different religions) – instead they bomb each other from a distance so they don’t see the death and destruction close hand. They don’t have to wield a sword and cut someone down in the street – old, young, whoever they hate. Anyway that’s enough of my rant – just killing in the name of God makes no sense to me. OK I said I’d shut up now.

I love Minou. She is so brave. Unfortunately she is a Catholic and Piet is a Huguenot, but their opposing religions cannot be allowed to stand in the way of their love. Minou has no idea that she is an heiress and that Blanche de Bruyere, the Chatelaine of Puivert, needs her dead so she can inherit instead. Blanche is also pregnant, but the child is not that of her late husband. The father is Vidal (Monseigneur Valentin), a scheming priest and formerly a close friend of Piet, but whose unbridled ambition will take him to the position of Cardinal by any means. I’m not sure who is worse – Blanche or Vidal.

There are lots of other characters that you will grow to love, like Minou’s feisty brother Aimeric, their father Bernard, her aunt Madame Boussay, Cecile Noubert, and Berenger. All these characters are fictitious but there are others that really existed, as did the conflicts.

If I had one criticism it would be that because the book is quite long, I had forgotten what had happened earlier when I got further into the book.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Kate Mosse is an international bestselling author with sales of more than five million copies in 42 languages. Her fiction includes the novels Labyrinth (2005), Sepulchre (2007), The Winter Ghosts (2009), and Citadel (2012), as well as an acclaimed collection of short stories, The Mistletoe Bride & Other Haunting Tales (2013). The Taxidermist’s Daughter was published in 2014.

Kate is the Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (previously the Orange Prize) and in June 2013, was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to literature. She lives in Sussex.

My 8 favourite books of 2020 second half

Earlier this year I published my Top 8 books of the first half of 2020. These are my Top 8 books of the second half of the year. There are so many more, but I have tried to cut it down.

Her Last Words by Kim Kelly

There is something very personal about Her Last Words. It feels as though the author has lived it and suffered it in some shape or form. Penny Katchinski, for instance is a Catholic Jew (as am I), and I don’t believe it’s incidental. I can’t imagine your hero would have that background unless you had a reason. I may be wrong of course, but it resonated with me in such a personal way.

For my full review click here…

The Cry of the Lake by Charlie Tyler

This book is absolutely stunning. I can’t praise it enough. I read about 70% of the book in one sitting. The story is intricately woven and at first I couldn’t quite work out what was going on, but then it just got better and better. The plot involves teenager Lily (who can’t speak or won’t speak) and her older sister Grace. Grace is out for revenge and we know the girls have taken on new identities, but what have they fled from and why.

For my full review click here…

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

I finished this book while in the car on the way to The Vyne (a National Trust place near Basingstoke) to see my 19-month old granddaughter Clara for the first time since February – and before you comment I wasn’t driving. Needless to say I was already feeling emotional.  By the end – of the book that is – I was in tears. The journey wasn’t that bad.

It is simply stunning. Unlike my usual feast of psychological thrillers and police procedurals, this book will make you laugh and cry in equal measures, though towards the end you will probably cry and cry like I did.

For my full review click here…

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Every once in a while you know you have read something special, something original, something so overwhelmingly beautiful and sad that you feel like your heart is breaking. Mirrorland is that something. Dark and unsettling, the more you read, the more you cannot imagine what the next chapter holds. It’s like holding your breath underwater, afraid to surface, yet more afraid to remain.

To say this book is fantastic would not do it justice. It’s just brilliant and amazing and every other adjective I can think of.

For my full review click here…

The Thriller Collection by Alan Gorevan

This is just so good. I only meant to start the first story and ended up reading the first two back to back until well gone midnight. If I hadn’t had to get up early I’d have read the third one straight after.

I loved all three stories – probably a toss up between the first and the last as to which is my favourite. One event in the middle one was too upsetting to put it at the top. The author might guess what I mean. I look forward to reading more of his work.

For my full review of all three stories click here…

The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Bjorg AEgisdottir Translated by Victoria Cribb

What can I say. This is just brilliant. I read it over three days while visiting my son – mostly while travelling to and from (no I wasn’t driving – again see Miss Benson’s Beetle above – I often read while travelling) and at bedtime. Everything about it is exciting, chilling, scary, I could go on with a list of adjectives. It’s the perfect police procedural but there is also so much more.

The Creak on the Stairs also gives us an insight into Iceland’s character, its history and the cold, often bleak weather, which create the backdrop for this thrilling story. I loved it.

For my full review click here…

When the Music Stops by Joe Heap

When the Music Stops is so unique, so different, that it left me reeling. The story takes us through the ‘seven stages of woman’ (inspired by Shakespeare’s seven stages of man in As You Like It *) – from Ella’s life as a child in Glasgow and her first experience of losing someone close to her when she was still a child, to now, when she is old. She is on a boat. It is starting to sink and is gradually filling with water. Ella is 87 and alone apart from a baby which she discovers in a room which has been turned into a nursery. The baby is very young and needs looking after.

Towards the end I was totally overwhelmed and had to take a break or I would have started crying and not been able to stop. Writing this review made me cry. It is rare for a story to have such a profound effect on me and make me feel so happy and sad at the same time. This is one book I will definitely read again (and I almost never do that).

For my full review click here…

Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski

It’s six o’clock in the morning. I awoke at five and had to finish this book. So many thoughts in my head. I was compelled to get up and write this review. For me this was more than just a story. It was my heritage.

Let me explain. My father was Polish. He left in 1939 at the age of sixteen having joined the army (lying about his age as many did) to fight for freedom. He was taken prisoner to Russia and after two years escaped and came to England where he joined the RAF Polish Squadron. He was unable to return for political reasons I won’t go into. In 1978 it was safe for my father to return so I went with him.

Reading this book brought it all back to me. Of course I cannot identify with Ludwik’s sexuality and his love for Janusz or his pain, but the sadness of the politics resonates with me. The book is so beautifully written – a love story tinged with the desperation of so many people’s plight.

To read my full review click here…

My two craziest and most original books of 2020 part 2

My most original of the first half of the year was The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde (takes some beating) but I struggled to have just one in the second half. So here are my two:

Purple People by Kate Bulpitt

Should we turn criminals purple so everyone can see who they are? This book is original, hilarious, wacky and current. 

For my full review click here…

How could I leave this last one out!

Cooking for Cannibals by Rich Leder

Oh my goodness! This is like nothing I have ever read before. Hilarious, shocking, funny, dark and gross – what a ride. Not for the faint-hearted it includes murder, torture, rats, nudity, orgies, drugs, more rats, cannibalism, sex, torture and more….

For my full review click here…

The Burning Girls by C J Tudor

An unconventional vicar moves to a remote corner of the English countryside, only to discover a community haunted by death and disappearances both past and present–and intent on keeping its dark secrets–in this explosive, unsettling thriller from acclaimed author C. J. Tudor.

Welcome to Chapel Croft. Five hundred years ago, eight protestant martyrs were burned at the stake here. Thirty years ago, two teenage girls disappeared without a trace. And two months ago, the vicar of the local parish killed himself.

Reverend Jack Brooks, a single parent with a fifteen-year-old daughter and a heavy conscience, arrives in the village hoping to make a fresh start and find some peace. Instead, Jack finds a town mired in secrecy and a strange welcome package: an old exorcism kit and a note quoting scripture. “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.”

The more Jack and daughter Flo get acquainted with the town and its strange denizens, the deeper they are drawn into their rifts, mysteries, and suspicions. And when Flo is troubled by strange sightings in the old chapel, it becomes apparent that there are ghosts here that refuse to be laid to rest.

But uncovering the truth can be deadly in a village where everyone has something to protect, everyone has links with the village’s bloody past, and no one trusts an outsider. 

My Review

Oh my God what a brilliant book. To say I couldn’t put it down is no exaggeration. Especially at the end with so many unexpected twists and reveals I’m exhausted. One in particular I NEVER guessed – or maybe I wasn’t concentrating hard enough.

Reverend Jack Brooks has been asked to leave her parish in Nottingham under a cloud and move to a remote village in East Sussex. The chapel she is taking on has a chequered history from the eight martyrs burnt at the stake 500 years ago to the mysterious suicide of the previous vicar. However, these are just some of the mysteries the small village of Chapel Croft has to offer. And Jack has more than her own share of secrets which she is determined to keep hidden.

A strange tradition in Chapel Croft is known as the ‘burning girls’ where twig effigies are thrown on a bonfire every year to ‘celebrate’ – is that the right word – the burning of the Sussex Martyrs. Apparently if you see the burning girls, they are trying to tell you something and trying to protect you.

Now those familiar with the town of Lewes, also in East Sussex, will know about the town’s tradition of holding the largest and most famous bonfire night in the UK. Every year on 5th November, it is held partly to celebrate Guy Fawkes night and partly to commemorate the memory of the seventeen Protestant martyrs from the town burned at the stake for their faith during the Marian Persecutions.

But back to the story. Jack’s daughter Flo has been forced to leave her friends behind in Nottingham and is not happy. Till she meets Lucas Wrigley – a strange boy with a neurological condition called dystonia which causes sudden twitching and involuntary movements. A perfect target for the village bullies, as is newcomer Flo.

But is Wrigley the innocent boy Flo thinks and hopes he is? Why is everyone so in awe of wealthy, farm-owner Simon Harper and why does youngest daughter Poppy turn up covered in blood? And what happened to two missing girls Joy and Merry who disappeared thirty years ago – supposedly they ran away – and were never seen again?

All this but other threads too including an abusive childhood and a killer released from prison.

There is no let up in this story. No time to relax. The excitement is incessant. I absolutely loved this book. Murder, jealousy, supernatural hauntings – just up my street.

Some of my family live in East Sussex and I didn’t recognise Lewes as a kind of flowery-dresses-and-joss-sticks middle class Glastonbury or Eastbourne as a town with grey seas. I guess it’s a matter of perception.

Many thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter.

She left school at sixteen and has had a variety of jobs over the years, including trainee reporter, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, ad agency copywriter and voiceover.

In the early nineties, she fell into a job as a television presenter for a show on Channel 4 called Moviewatch. Although a terrible presenter, she got to interview acting legends such as Sigourney Weaver, Michael Douglas, Emma Thompson and Robin Williams. She also annoyed Tim Robbins by asking a question about Susan Sarandon’s breasts and was extremely flattered when Robert Downey Junior showed her his chest.

While writing The Chalk Man she ran a dog-walking business, walking over twenty dogs a week as well as looking after her little girl.

She’s been writing since she was a child but only knuckled down to it properly in her thirties. Her English teacher once told her that if she ‘did not become Prime Minister or a best-selling author’ he would be ‘very disappointed.’

The Chalk Man was inspired by a tub of chalks a friend bought for her daughter’s second birthday. One afternoon they drew chalk figures all over the driveway. Later that night she opened the back door to be confronted by weird stick men everywhere. In the dark, they looked incredibly sinister. She called to her partner: ‘These chalk men look really creepy in the dark . . .’

Old Hobb’s Christmas Adventure by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

No pantomime this Christmas? No live show to go to? Well never mind. Cat on a Piano Productions have recorded this gem just for you.

Emily is a spoilt, greedy child. Her mother is a right snobby cow. Poor old Styles – their ‘man’ – gets no love or respect, even at Christmas, He just gets to carry the shopping.

Totally overloaded with things that Emily wants wants WANTS! they spot a homeless man selling stories. Having finished telling a story to a plant, he is now telling one to a fly. But Emily wants a story NOW and so she must have one. The fly can wait.

But the storyteller doesn’t want their money. What he wants is their lives. And the story is not exactly what they expected.

Listen now to Hobb’s Christmas Adventure on Spotify (you can also listen on other platforms) to find out just what happens when Satan wants to be Santa. It’s hilarious (though I did shed a tear at the end).

Written by Chris Meekings
Directed by Emmeline Braefield
With Rebecca Daines
Kaitlin Howard
Rob Keeves
and Henry Douthwaite

The music is all performed by Amicantus Choir, led by Maddy Evans

About Cat on a Piano

Cat on a Piano Productions produce and edit feature films, sketches and radio plays.

Their latest project is called @Theatrephonic, a podcast of standalone radio plays and short stories performed by professional actors. You can catch Theatrephonic on Spotify and other platforms.

And if you really enjoyed Hobb’s Christmas Adventure, listen to Theatrephonic’s other plays and short stories and consider becoming a patron by clicking here…

The Other Mrs Miller by Allison M Dickson

Two women are watching each other

Phoebe Miller isn’t sure when the rusty car started showing up in the cul-de-sac she calls home, or why its driver would be spying on her. What could be interesting about an unhappy housewife who drowns her sorrows in ice cream and wine and barely leaves her house?

Only one knows why

When a new family moves in across the street–the exuberant Vicki, who just might become the gossipy best friend Phoebe’s always wanted, and her handsome college-bound son, Jake, who offers companionship of a different variety–Phoebe finds her dull routine infused with the excitement she’s been missing. But with her head turned she’s no longer focused on the woman in the car. And she really should be…

The Other Mrs. Miller serves up a delicious brew of dark secrets and stunning plot twists that will keep you captivated until the very last page.

My Review

As one of my fellow Pigeons commented The Other Mrs. Miller is ‘a book of two halves’. The first half is about Phoebe, a bored and almost agoraphobic, wealthy housewife, whose ghastly father Daniel has just died. A highly successful businessman. he was also a sexual abuser and his victims are just beginning to emerge from the woodwork. No wonder Phoebe is virtually in hiding. Her husband Wyatt is a therapist, but struggles with their own marriage and they are on the verge of breaking up.

Then a new family move in across the road. Vicki instantly becomes Phoebe’s new best friend, but not as ‘best’ as her gorgeous 18-year-old son Jake. He pops over to do the gardening and other favours. Think Desperate Housewives here. Vicki is married to Ron, a disgraced neurosurgeon, who has fled California following two negligence law suits. Lovely. Almost forgot – most of them drink themselves into oblivion. Must go with the territory.

But the most interesting plot-line for me is the blue car claiming to belong to a delivery driver for Executive Courier Services that is always always parked across the road and the mysterious woman who sits there. Is she watching Phoebe? And if so why?

The second half of the book focuses on Nadia. This is her story. Personally (probably because I found Phoebe so irritating) I preferred this half of the book. Nadia has secrets – lots of them – and she is clever and devious. Can we trust her? Can we trust Wyatt or anyone for that matter? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

I loved it even though the second half was at times ridiculously far-fetched. But that’s fiction for you.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Allison M. Dickson is the author of several well-reviewed independently published novels and short stories covering everything from horror and sci-fi to suspense.

Patch Work: A Life Amongst Clothes by Claire Wilcox

A linen sheet, smooth with age. A box of buttons, mother-of-pearl and plastic, metal and glass, rattling and untethered. A hundred-year-old pin, forgotten in a hem. Fragile silks and fugitive dyes, fans and crinolines, and the faint mark on leather from a buckle now lost. Claire Wilcox has worked as a curator in Fashion at the Victoria & Albert Museum for most of her working life. Down cool, dark corridors and in quiet store rooms, she and her colleagues care for, catalogue and conserve clothes centuries old, the inscrutable remnants of lives long lost to history; the commonplace or remarkable things that survive the bodies they once encircled or adorned. In Patch Work, Wilcox deftly stitches together her dedicated study of fashion with the story of her own life lived in and through clothes. From her mother’s black wedding suit to the swirling patterns of her own silk kimono, her memoir unfolds in luminous prose the spellbinding power of the things we wear: their stories, their secrets, their power to transform and disguise and acts as portals to our pasts; the ways in which they measure out our lives, our gains and losses, and the ways we use them to write our stories. 

My Review

A beautiful memoir but quite frustrating at times. It is a mixture of the author’s life working at the museum, mainly in Fashion at the V & A, interspersed with short vignettes about her family and life. Some of these were very moving and I must confess I found these more interesting than the museum stories, (though I particularly liked the part about Freda Kahlo which was quite heart-breaking). It’s very strange because I studied Fashion at The London College of Fashion in the 1970s so these extracts should have resonated more with me than they did.

The reason I found the book frustrating is because the family stories are not in chronological order and her friends and family members are not named. Sometimes I wasn’t sure what was happening.

But I think for me the main problem was that I am very busy at work and with Christmas, so I was a bit rushed. If I was reading on a sunny day in the garden, sipping a cocktail and listening to Classic FM, I would have enjoyed it more. However it is a beautifully written book, the language is poetic and descriptive. I think I may read it again one day when I have more time.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

The Lies of Our Fathers (The Barnabas Trilogy Book 2) by Jonathan Mark

Antioch 1098. A Crusader knight saves the lives of a Muslim family.
A city under siege by the army of the First Crusade. Sickened by the slaughter of Muslims, an English knight rescues a family and helps them escape. In the midst of battle he discovers a holy secret. When the tide is turned and the Crusaders find themselves besieged within the walls of Antioch, the same Muslim family must risk their lives to save the English knight.

#TheLiesOfOurFathers @jonmark1956 @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours Facebook @damppebblesblogtours 

Ankara 2000. An ancient bible is discovered.
An original version of the Gospel of Barnabas, supporting the Islamic view of Jesus and suppressed by the Christian church for centuries, is discovered by Turkish police in an anti- smuggling operation.

Iran 2005. A son hunts his terrorist father.
Richard Helford, MI6 agent, is searching for his father, a wanted terrorist. A search for the truth will take him from the Greek islands to the deserts of Iran, via Turkish occupied Cyprus. Embroiled in the bloody rivalries of Iranian politics, could his father be guilty of a murder that hurts Richard to the core of who he is? Richard must find the secret of the Crusader knight and the proof that the Gospel of Barnabas is not a forgery. Or will the assassination squads from the CIA and Mossad get there first?

What are The Lies of Our Fathers? The second novel in the Barnabas trilogy.

My Review

We begin with the story of Robert de Valogne in 11th century Antioch. This was the time of The Crusades. Robert kills a Muslim man who is going to kill him first in front of the man’s family. The wife is called Akila and he decides to rescue her and save her and her children from being slaughtered. Robert is tired of the killing and no longer believes in the Christian Crusade. He converts to Islam and marries Akila.

Now it is 2005 and we are following the story of Richard Helford, an MI6 agent who is trying to uncover the truth about the original Gospel of St Barnabas, which Christians have tried to suppress for centuries as it shows Islam as being as important as Christianity (correct me if I’m wrong). I have to admit that it all started to get a bit complicated at this point.

Richard’s girlfriend Becky is pregnant with his child, but in spite of having no involvement in politics, she has joined a women’s Islamic movement called Words of the Faithful run by Nadia, whose husband was killed for funding terrorism. Richard’s father David is also involved but on whose side? It is all very mysterious.

Everyone wants David dead but Richard manages to meet him in Crete, just before he disappears again. Everyone also seems to be after a couple of religious artefacts taken by Robert de Valogne from a dying priest, but this is no Indiana Jones. In comparison The Last Crusade is like Enid Blyton. (Apologies to Harrison Ford.)

The story then travels to Northern Turkish-occupied Cyprus, back to England and on to Iran where Richard seems to be kidnapped, beaten, blown up and imprisoned numerous times by all sorts of different political or religious factions. I gave up trying to work out who was who.

Each time someone kidnaps him, they tell him a different story but who is lying and who is telling the truth? I had no idea most of the time. Who can we trust? Can we trust Nadia or someone called Amira who is a double agent or any of the Iranian soldiers? I can’t pretend to understand what was going on much of the time but I did learn a lot about Islam, about the differences between Sunni and Shia and about the Crusades. Maybe if I had read the first Barnabas book The Last Messenger it would have been clearer. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the book. I tried to go with the flow and revel in the adventure without getting too involved in the politics. And I have huge admiration for the phenomenal volume of research that the author must have undertaken to write this story.

Many thanks to @damppebbles for inviting me to be part of #damppebblesblogtours

About the Author
Jonathan Mark worked for nearly forty years in the City of London financial district, he retired early to pursue his long held ambition to write novels.  He shares his time between Essex and Cornwall and travels around the world to research material for his books.

To kick start his writing career he completed an MA in Crime and Thriller writing at City University London. At the time, this course was the only creative writing MA in the country which focused on commercial crime fiction. The Last Messenger was the novel submitted to complete the MA.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jonmark1956 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jonathanmarkwriter 

Website: https://jonathanmarkwriter.com/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jonathanmarkwriter/ 

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jonathan-Mark/e/B072HCBT1F/ 

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3kWZwIn 

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/35Wd8Q3 

Fae Child by Jane-Holly Meissner

When eight-year-old Abbie Brown discovers a quiet pool of water while wandering through the woods behind her Oregon home, she wades out into it and discovers she’s not alone. A wild-haired boy in green stares at her from the other side of the water. Mesmerized, Abbie reaches down to him and is yanked underwater.

#FaeChild @hanejolly #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours

She emerges on the other side as an unwelcome visitor to the Otherworld, the land of the Fae, with only the boy Foster to guide her. Back in Oregon, a changeling lookalike has taken her place, bonding with her mother while her father, hiding a secret of his own, views the “girl” with suspicion.

In the courts of the Fae a truce has long been in place between Winter and Summer. What havoc might a human child wreak in the careful machinations of beings older than time? And to what lengths will Abbie’s father go to get her back?

My Review

Such a lovely book. If you are a fan of C S Lewis or Tolkein, then you will adore this tale of Elves and Fairies, changelings, wolves and other mythical folk. It’s whimsical and mystical and full of just enough excitement for eight year olds upwards without being too scary.

Abbie is a sweet child. At eight years old, she loves the outdoors, taking her shoes off and wandering into the forest with her Jack Russell Sammy. I have a 16 year old Jack Russell so Sammy is now officially my favourite dog in a novel – ever.

On one such occasion she is looking into the water when she is surprised by an Elven Boy and pulled into an another world – the Otherworld. It is here that she discovers that the boy is called Foster with whom she must travel to find her way back. Along the way she encounters another human called Charles, his companion Nadiene who is really a wolf and a Winter Elf called Gwyn. It’s a dangerous journey and not to be undertaken lightly but Abbie has no option if she wants to get home to dad Dan and mum Fiona.

Sometimes the story is told from Dan’s point of view. There is a lot we don’t know about him. In fact Abbie knows nothing at all about who or what he really is. And while Abbie is trying to get home, Dan is organising her return by invading the Otherworld. This is dangerous for him as we the reader, and eventually Abbie will discover. In fact Abbie is not what she seems either.

I love Fae Child and can’t wait to read it to my granddaughters. They are a bit young yet at six and four but it won’t be long. In fact the eldest will be able to read it to her sister in a while.

Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours.

About the Author

Jane-Holly, an Oregon based writer, has been scribbling stories into notebooks and online for most of her life. She squeezes in time for her four kids, date nights at the movies with her husband, and explaining her first name to everyone she meets. She believes that, if creativity is directly correlated to how messy your house is, she might just be one of the most creative people on the planet.

Publication information

Pub date: December 15, 2020

Format: Fae Child will be in print and ebook:


You can preorder both through the publisher’s website:


Cooking for Cannibals by Rich Leder

Fountain of youth? More like murderous medication!

Carrie Kromer pushes the boundaries of science, not her social life. The brilliant behavioural gerontologist’s idea of a good time is hanging out with her beloved lab rats and taking care of her elderly mother and the other eccentric old folks at the nursing home. So no one is more surprised than Carrie when she steals the lab’s top-secret, experimental medicine for ageing in reverse.

#CookingForCannibals @richleder @LaughRiotPress @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours Facebook @damppebblesblogtours 

Two-time ex-con Johnny Fairfax dreams of culinary greatness. But when his corrupt parole officer tries to drag him from the nursing home kitchen, the suddenly young-again residents spring to his defence and murder the guy—and then request Johnny cook them an evidence devouring dinner to satisfy their insatiable side-effect appetite.

As their unexpected mutual attraction gets hot, Carrie and Johnny find themselves caught up with the authorities who arrive to investigate the killing. But even more dangerous than the man-eating not-so-senior citizens could be the arrival of death-dealing pharmaceutical hitmen.

Can Carrie and Johnny find true love in all this bloody madness?

Cooking for Cannibals is a dark comic thriller with a heaping helping of romance. If you like fast-paced plots, unconventional characters, and humour that crosses the line, then you’ll have a feast with Rich Leder’s wild ride.

My Review

Oh my goodness! This is like nothing I have ever read before. Hilarious, shocking, funny, dark and gross – what a ride. Not for the faint-hearted it includes murder, torture, rats, nudity, orgies, drugs, more rats, cannibalism, sex, torture (did I already mention torture?), even more rats – have I left anything out? Don’t think so. And all served – tattoo-boy Johnny Fairfax style – with panache-in-a-burger and a huge helping of dark humour.

I love the rats. I know I probably shouldn’t and most people hate them, but I love their little rat faces and their little rat feet. And the way Carrie adores them and kisses them on their little rat noses. She calls them her Greek Gods. Just the ones with the super powers that is. Bit like the geriatrics at the Copacabana Rest Home (except she doesn’t kiss them on their little wrinkled noses), who have not only turned back time but become lithe and gorgeous, sex mad and with a lust for devouring human flesh. Carrie gave them a pill that did this. She stole it and everyone wants it back including Sikorski the scientist who developed it.

Now everyone is after her – from the drop-dead gorgeous ‘fixer’ Eduardo Wolf to the pyromaniac ‘cleaner’ Constantine ‘Tino’ Antonov, from the Matrix twin cops to Johnny’s larger-than-life parole officer. Looks like there is only one way out. Kill ’em, cook ’em and feed ’em to the residents. I don’t know why I’m laughing. It’s really not funny – well actually it’s hilarious.

Many thanks to @damppebbles for inviting me to be part of #damppebblesblogtours

PS I don’t think Amazon will approve this review – I may have to leave a few things out.

About the Author

Rich Leder has been a working writer for more than three decades. His credits include 19 produced movies—television films for CBS, Lifetime, and Hallmark and feature films for Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Tri-Star Pictures, Longridge Productions, and Left Bank Films—and six novels for Laugh Riot Press.

He’s been the lead singer in a Detroit rock band, a restaurateur, a Little League coach, an indie film director, a literacy tutor, a magazine editor, a screenwriting coach, a wedding guru, a PTA board member, a commercial real estate agent, and a visiting artist for the UNCW Film Studies Department, among other things, all of which, it turns out, was grist for the mill.  

He resides on the North Carolina coast with his awesome wife, Lulu, and is sustained by the visits home of their three fabulous children.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/richleder 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRichardLeder/ 

Website: https://richleder.com/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rich_leder/ 

Purchase Links:

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3dK15Hy

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3nObXrZ

Publishing Information:Published by Laugh Riot Press on 14th January 2021