Identity Thief by Alex Bryant

I am thrilled to have been asked to support the launch of the new book by Alex Bryant, Identity Thief. Love Book Groups have organised a great tour that you can follow.

The Blurb

A shape-shifting sorcerer called Cuttlefish unleashes a terrifying wave of magical carnage across London. A strange family known as the River People move into Cassandra Drake’s neighbourhood. Are the two events connected?

The Author

Alex has led a largely comfortable but unremarkable life in North London, and more recently Oxford. His main hobbies as a kid were reading and sulking.

When he’s not writing, he’s performing with his improvised comedy troupe, Hivemind Improv. And when he is writing, he’s procrastinating.

Val Penny

Hybrids by Jennie Dorny

I am delighted to be involved in the blog tour for Jenny Dorny’s new novel Hybrids. Many thanks to the author @jenniedornyauthor and Kelly Lacey of @LoveBooksGroup for including me.


She sought refuge on an ocean-covered planet. She didn’t learn its codes until too late. Now she must leave to survive.

Theo’s dreams of exploring distant lands are cut short when her father betrays her.

On the run, she flees to Eridan, where Washone, the spiritual leader, is expecting her. As she is about to reach this ocean-covered planet inhabited by telepaths, she is kidnapped by a bounty-hunter. Ashta, an Eridani Savalwoman, befriends Theo, rescues her, and they land together on Eridan.

While Theo trains to become a Savalwoman – a warrior – bleak memories of past hurts relentlessly disrupt her attempts to trust herself and others.  

She is unaware of her own mental powers, so when she believes that she has been betrayed once again – this time by Ashta – she nearly destroys her friend’s mind in a fit of wounded rage that blazes across the planet.

To protect Theo from those who, like ambitious Keith of Rain Forest, would like to use her powerful mind for their benefit, Washone decides that she must leave Eridan.

Can Theo convince Washone to let her stay? Or will she have to leave her new friends and go on the run again, with no place to go?


After fleeing Gambling Nova, her home planet, rebellious and sensitive Theo Maddiogga finds refuge on Eridan. She is determined to find her place on this water-covered planet where the inhabitants are telepaths and live in symbiosis with the ocean. 
There is Ashta and the Savalwomen, a group of female warriors; Declan the charismatic Master Face Changer, alternately male and female; Nand the teenager who understands whales; and Keith of Rain Forest who wants to become a spiritual leader. And then there is Mocean, the living ocean that regulates life on Eridan. 
But, unaware of her own mental powers, Theo triggers a chain of events that disrupts Eridan’s troubled political climate and distresses Mocean. On Earth Metropolis, Jack Finch and Farren Megan, two Space Secret Services agents, investigate Eridan and Gambling Nova. When Farren discovers that their boss, the Spylady, is plotting to overthrow the federal government, he inadvertently sets into motion a trap that puts both his life and Jack’s in mortal danger. 


Jennie Dorny was born in 1960 in Newton, Massachusetts. She lives and works in Paris with her three cats. She is both French and American. She studied American literature and civilization, Italian and history of art at three Parisian universities. She wrote her Master’s thesis about contemporary Irish poetry after spending a year in Dublin. She loves words and languages, and she can spend hours exploring a thesaurus. Over the years, she has studied Spanish, Japanese, Hindi and sign language, and recently took up Italian again. She has published in French Gambling Nova (1999), Eridan (2002) and Les Cupidons sont tombés sur la tête (Mischievous Cupids gone Crazy, 2007). Gambling Nova and Eridan are partial, earlier versions of Hybrids; science-fiction novels that in many ways deal with the question of gender.

Find more at and feel free to join the club.

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Instagram: @jenniedornyauthor


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Murder in the Dark by Betsy Reavley

I have just finished Murder in the Dark by one of my favourite authors, Betsy Reavley. The story is set in and around Cambridge, England and I did enjoy the descriptions and nods to the area, as well as the tense plot.

The story begins when Tilly Edgely arrives to open up the bookshop where she works and discovers the body of her boss suspended from the ceiling, hanging by a rope around his neck. He was a lovely man, quiet, worked hard, played golf and ran the local scout troup, so who would have a motive to murder him?

DCI Barrett and DI Palmer are called to the scene and must search for a killer whose identity and motive are certainly not obvious. Of course, when they think they have the murderer in their sights, another body with no connection to the first victim is discovered.

Murder in the Dark is a gripping novel with lots of twists, turns and red herrings. It is a great read and I highly recommend it.


Betsy Freeman Reavley is the author of many crime novels. She was born in Hammersmith, London. As a child she moved around frequently with her family, spending time in London, Provence, Tuscany, Gloucestershire and Cambridgeshire.
She showed a flair for literature and writing from a young age and had a particular interest in poetry, of which she was a prolific consumer and producer.
In her early twenties she moved to Oxford, where she would eventually meet her husband. During her time in Oxford her interests turned from poetry to novels and she began to develop her own unique style of psychological thriller.

Val Penny

Death in Vermillion by Barbara Elle

Exciting Times! Thank you to Love Book Tours for bringing this to my attention. – A fab cover reveal for the new novel, Death in Vermillion (Cape Mysteries Book 1) by Barbara Elle. It sounds a really exciting read, and isn’t it a marvelous cover?

 A psychological thriller about murder among friends and enemies. 

Who can you trust?

Leila Goodfriend is laying down the bones of a painting. When interrupted by Iris, the noisy, unlikeable artist in the studio upstairs, Leila is distracted and annoyed.

When she discovers the racket was actually Iris’ dead body hitting the floor, Leila becomes obsessed: Who murdered Iris?

The other Red Barn Cooperative artists — competitive, jealous and hypocritical — are prime suspects. They all hated Iris. “An artist owes his life to his art,” Iris said.

Iris was good for a laugh. But no one is laughing now.

In this gripping mystery, new author Barbara Elle paints a clever and twisted picture of women and sisters, whose lives are entwined by a brutal murder in a charming Cape Cod town.

Alibis fall apart. Plot twists multiply. And Leila comes to a dangerous conclusion.

The Author

In her stunning debut thriller, author Barbara Elle paints a clever and twisted picture of women and sisters, whose lives are entwined by a brutal murder in a Cape Cod town. Death In Vermilion asks: Who can you trust?

After falling love with books and writing at a young age, she honed her writing chops as a copywriter at Macmillan, Doubleday Books and other publishers. Working as a freelance journalist, she’s reported on local news and personalities.

She grew up in Boston, but as an adult became a New Yorker. However, her writing draws on people and places she remembers, so Death In Vermilion is set on Cape Cod, a place of memories.

Barbara continues collecting characters and plots, often traveling the world with her touring musician husband, exploring Buddhist temples in Beijing, crypts in Vienna or Kabuki Theater in Tokyo. She always packs a notebook and a laptop.

She is currently working on Death in Smoke, the next book in The Cape Mysteries. Death in Smoke is scheduled for publication in 2019.

Heathcliff by Sue Barnard

Sue Barnard is always a safe pair of hands as an editor and an author. So, when I noticed her book, Heathcliff in my TBR pile, I shuffled the pile to get to it faster. To be honest, writing a spin-off novel about a character that appears in a classic novel is not simple. In fact, reading this kind of novel is not simple either, because I feel that my perceptions of that character will always be tinged by what the original author wrote. 

Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights has always been an enigma: was the handsome, brooding young man a victim of his abused past, or was he a diabolical person from birth? No-one really knows. But this author takes these questions into account as she portrays him in a believable way in her novel which recounts what happened to him in the three years he was missing from the story. I also noticed that her prose fits seamlessly into that of the original Wuthering Heights.

The author’s attention to detail regarding life at the time is fascinating, and improved my knowledge of history of the period. As I read the novel, Heathcliff transformed from a boy into a man, and I followed his adventures. This shed light onto unanswered questions. I thoroughly recommend this book to everyone especially fans Wuthering Heights, and aficionados of historical fiction.It is an incredibly well written book and would be an excellent read for book groups.

The Author

Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet. She was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. After graduating from Durham University, where she studied French and Italian, Sue got married then had a variety of office jobs before becoming a full-time parent. If she had her way, the phrase “non-working mother” would be banned from the English language.

Sue has a mind which is sufficiently warped as to be capable of compiling questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult “Round Britain Quiz”. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck. In addition to working as an editor for Crooked Cat/Darkstroke Books and Ocelot Press, Sue is the author of six novels: The Ghostly Father, Nice Girls Don’t, The Unkindest Cut of All, Never on Saturday, Heathcliff and Finding Nina.

She is also very interested in Family History. Her own background is far stranger than any work of fiction; she’d write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her. Sue lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

Coronation by Justin Newlands

It is a great pleasure to be part of the blog tour run by Love Books Group for the fabulous new novel Coronation by Justin Newlands and published by Matador Books. The author has kindly supplied an excerpt from the book.


This extract is from Chapter 12. It’s from the point of view of Marion, Countess von Adler. It features a seminal moment in the story. Marion is with her brother, Dieter von Bernstein, when the King’s Chamberlain pays a visit and makes an unusual request.

There was a knock at the front door, followed by a flurry of activity at the entrance.

Philip announced to a room full of excited anticipation, “Heinrich Graf von Lehndorff.”

Marion asked, “The King’s chamberlain is here?”

“Apparently,” Aunt Charlotte said, as if it was a common occurrence to be visited by a close confidant of the Prussian royal family. “Show him in.”

Von Lehndorff had a high, wide brow and prominent chin. A tall man with a strong, personal presence, he gave a well-practised bow and greeted them. “Ah, the lovely Marion Gräfin von Adler. We meet again, so soon after the cathedral. I am fortunate indeed,” he added, kissing the back of her hand with charm aplenty.

She blushed appropriately.

“Kammerherr, to what do we owe this honour?” Dieter asked.

“Herr von Bernstein,” he said. “I believe you are the owner of the Anna Amber Mine.”

“Yes, I am,” Dieter replied with a note of pride.

“Good, because yesterday I received this correspondence from the King,” von Lehndorff replied, fingering an envelope with his white silken gloves. “He wishes me to inquire about a large supply of amber.”

Dieter’s eyes lit up. “In what regard?”

“I will explain,” von Lehndorff said. “You will be aware that, at the opening of the century, the King’s father, Frederick I, built an Amber Room and donated it to Emperor Peter the Great of Russia.”

“It’s well known throughout Europe,” Dieter agreed. “Lothar, my father, supplied the amber for it from the Anna Mine and helped with its construction.”

“The King wishes to design and build a new Amber Room, one that is both more elaborate and greater in artistic pedigree than the original.”

“This is wonderful news,” Marion exclaimed.

Von Lehndorff stuck his chin in the air and said, “The King wishes to know whether you can supply the quantities required to build such an Amber Room?”

“I could, without doubt,” Dieter said. “Though there are several problems. Since the beginning of the war, my experienced miners have been conscripted, the shafts have caved in, the tunnels are flooded, and the Newcomen engines that pump them out have broken down.”

“Mere trifles,” von Lehndorff replied, flicking his ’kerchief dismissively. “Like every son, the King wishes to leave a greater legacy than his father’s. And he refuses to be outdone by the Russians! Miners we can find. What about the repair to the Newcoming pump?”

“Newcomen pump, Kammerherr,” Dieter corrected him.


It is 1761. Prussia is at war with Russia and Austria. As the Russian army occupies East Prussia, King Frederick the Great and his men fight hard to win back their homeland.

In Ludwigshain, a Junker estate in East Prussia, Countess Marion von Adler celebrates an exceptional harvest. But this is soon requisitioned by Russian troops. When Marion tries to stop them, a Russian Captain strikes her. His Lieutenant, Ian Fermor, defends Marion’s honour, but is stabbed for his insubordination. Abandoned by the Russians, Fermor becomes a divisive figure on the estate.

Close to death, Fermor dreams of the Adler, a numinous eagle entity, whose territory extends across the lands of Northern Europe and which is mysteriously connected to the Enlightenment. What happens next will change the course of human history…


Justin Newland writes history with a supernatural bent. His novels are The Genes of Isis, an epic fantasy set under Ancient Egyptian skies, and The Old Dragon’s Head, a historical fantasy played out in the shadows of the Great Wall of China. He lives with his partner in Somerset, England.


Add The Coronation to your Goodreads shelf.

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The Saracen Storm by J.M. Nunez

I am so grateful to Love Book Group Tors for bringing this new book The Saracen Storm by J.M.Nunez to my attention. It sounds excellent.

The Blurb

Based on historical figures and events, The Saracen Storm is the sweeping saga of one of Spain’s best-loved heroes and the role he played in the nation’s darkest period: the Moorish invasion of its lands in 711 AD.

“An intense, action-packed story that will have you hooked from the moment you start reading it.”   Readers’ Favorite

When nineteen-year-old Pelayo, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Asturias, is asked to lead a cohort of soldiers to hunt down a party of Saracen raiders, he seizes on the chance to escape the city and the scandals that have swirled around him for years. Trained in combat since he was a youth, and taught the dark arts of war by a brilliant ex-monk, he is determined to prove wrong those who say he is unfit for command. As he follows the trail of devastation left by the raiders, he discovers that Valentina, his half-brother’s betrothed, has been taken captive. The mission that he has viewed merely as an adventure now turns into a personal quest to save the headstrong daughter of his father’s closest ally from the slave markets of Arabia.

In the capital of Toledo, the sudden death of the monarch unravels old alliances, sparking a fierce competition for the throne. As the country descends into civil war, Musa ibn Nosseyr, Caliph al-Walid’s ambitious governor in Carthage, sees the Iberian nation’s troubles as an opportunity to expand the reach of the caliphate into Europe.

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

My daughter gave me three books for Christmas. They are books she has enjoyed and thought I would too. What a thoughtful present! The first of the books that I read was The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale.

The Toymakers opens in 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. The story takes place in the toy emporium. 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, their whispers begin because the Emporium is open!

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. Cathy who at 16 and pregnant answers a newspaper add to work in Papa Jack’s Emporium, she sees it as her chance to escape from entering the home for young mothers. 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, this one is truly magical. The Emporium is more than just a shop it is a place where children dreams come true and adults are transported back to a time of ease and innocence.

In The Toymakers, the author allows you to marvel at the wonderfully magical sounding toys and then suddenly we are brought tragically to the raging War that is going on and how it effects the employees. So whilst we have magical realism we experience a dark shift with the tale and the way war affects the young men who live through it, and the Emporium itself but The Toymakers still leaves you completely spellbound.

The Author

Robert Dinsdale was born in Northallerton, North Yorkshire in 1981 and went on to study at the University of Leeds.

The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing was a recent book at our village book group. I had never read anything by this author, but recognised her name as a respected author.

The book is very short, a novella, rather than a novel. It tells the story of Harriet and David Lovatt, and their family. As parents of four children, they have created an idyll of domestic bliss in defiance of the social trends of late 1960s England. So much so that I found the first part of the book rather dull.

The reader is told how, around them, crime and unrest surge, the Lovatts are certain that their old-fashioned contentment can protect them from the world outside all this changes at the birth of their fifth baby, Ben. He is gruesome and goblin-like in appearance, insatiably hungry, abnormally strong and violent, Ben has nothing innocent or infant-like about him. As he grows older and more terrifying, Harriet finds she cannot love him, David cannot bring himself to touch him, and their four older children are afraid of him. 

The plot is simple and told chronologically by an omniscient narrator: Harriet and David want to fill their enormous house with a huge family. They have four beautiful blond, blue-eyed, rosy cheeked children in quick succession, in between hosting popular house parties at Christmas, Easter, and the summer holidays. Then Ben is born. This is a horror story exploring what happens when a monstrous child is born to a perfect family. When there is no way for everyone to be happy and safe, who must sacrifice what, and observing how the parents make decisions and choices.

I found The Fifth Child increasingly interesting as the story progressed. I did not accept that everything the reader was told about Ben could have been unnoticed by the doctors Harriet saw and the teachers at his school. That made me increasingly question the accuracy of Harriet’s fears and observations, whilst also feeling bad about not believing her, when she already felt so judged. I didn’t believe Ben is a subhuman “throwback”, changeling, troll, or even an alien as Harriet often says. Although he’s hyperactive and shares some traits with autistic people, his issues are not actually defined.

This is not a book that will suit everybody, but it is interesting and quite different from anything else I have read. It made for good discussion in our book group.

The Author

Both of her parents were British: her father, who had been crippled in World War I, was a clerk in the Imperial Bank of Persia; her mother had been a nurse. In 1925, lured by the promise of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). 

In 1937 she moved to Salisbury, where she worked as a telephone operator for a year. At nineteen, she married Frank Wisdom, and later had two children. A few years later, feeling trapped in a persona that she feared would destroy her, she left her family, remaining in Salisbury. Soon she was drawn to the like-minded members of the Left Book Club, a group of Communists “who read everything, and who did not think it remarkable to read.” Gottfried Lessing was a central member of the group; shortly after she joined, they married and had a son.

Val Penny

Never Somewhere Else by Alex Gray

I have found a few of Alex Gray’s more recent books a bit disappointing. However, I know she can write excellent novels, so when I found this earlier book, Never Somewhere Else, on sale, I picked it up, only to discover that this is the first book in the author’s DCI Lorimer series and I enjoyed it.

DCI William Lorimer has been tasked with the unenviable job of unmasking a vicious killer who has mutilated and scalped three women leaving their bodies to be discovered in St Mungo’s park, Glasgow, Scotland. These are gruesome murders, with the antagonist keeping the scalps as trophies, reminiscent of the 1800 battles of the Native Americans.

To help him understand the mind of the perpetrator he requests the services of psychologist Sol Brightman. Lorimer is a detemined DCI who instils trust in the officers under his command. His wife, Maggie, is an English teacher. She finds his routine annoyingly unpredictable and she never knows what time to expect his presence at home…if at all. 

Ultimately, it takes a homeless man to find the connections among the victims, and Dr. Brightman finds himself lucky to have survived an assault with his hair intact. When a news reporter and his photographer start turning up and releasing confidential information, DCI Lorimer goes ballistic and more people die.

This is a gripping debut to the series and I am really glad to have caught up with it, all be it belatedly. If you enjoy tartan noir and good crime fiction, Never Somewhere Else is well worth a read.

The Author

Alex Gray was born and educated in Glasgow. She worked as a folk singer, a visiting officer in the DSS and an English teacher. She has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers Constable and Pitlochry trophies for her crime writing.

Val Penny