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The Dark Room By Sam Blake

The Dark Room‘The Dark Room’ is the latest book by Sam Blake.

Rachel Lambert leaves London afraid for her personal safety and determined to uncover the truth behind the sudden death of a homeless man with links to a country house hotel called Hare’s Landing. New York-based crime reporter Caroline Kelly’s career is threatened by a lawsuit and she needs some thinking space away from her job. But almost as soon as she arrives, Hare’s Landing begins to reveal its own stories – a 30-year-old missing person’s case and the mysterious death of the hotel’s former owner. As Rachel and Caroline join forces, it becomes clear that their investigations are intertwined – and that there is nothing more dangerous than the truth…

Is there no end to Sam Blake’s talents? When she’s not writing gripping crime thrillers set in rural Ireland, she’s also known as Vanessa O’Loughlin creator of Writing.ie and organiser of the epic Murder One Crime Festival, an annual literary crime festival bringing in some of the world’s finest writers who have their readers gripped with their suspenseful and gory tales.
 
Although I know Sam/Vanessa from attending the events and chatting at events, ‘The Dark Room’ is actually the first book that I’ve read by her.
 
The story starts off with a mysterious person, posting a letter who’s identity and contents of the letter is not revealed. The story then follows on from the perspective Irish natives Caroline and Rachel. Caroline has come to Hare’s Landing Hotel to escape the drama from her job in New York, a successful journalist, her work has come under fire and she’s taking some time to reflect, whilst film location scout Rachel has come to Ireland for a break. After her boyfriend Hunter, was injured in a hit and run and the barge they live on was ruined in a robbery, she’s retreated to Hare’s Landing for some respite but also to try to solve some mysteries about a homeless man called Alfie Bowes that Hunter was working on a documentary with. Both Caroline and Rachel become close friends when they realise there are many mysteries about the hotel.

From the whispered hushes about the former owner called Honoria Smyth who took her own life. The hotel is filled with reminders of the glamorous author and the constant disapproval from the house keeper called Mrs Travers, who dislikes the women’s interest in the history of the opulent surroundings.

The story is riddled with mystery and suspense and as the women delve deeper into the hotel’s history, they begin to see connections to old and new disappearances. The story is set in a small seaside town called Glencurragh and it makes for interesting and insightful reading as the women adjust to being the gossip of the town.

I genuinely loved this story, it’s fast paced, gritty and has so many clever twists riddled throughout that keeps the reader on their toes. Both Caroline and Rachel are great leads, both with a passion for problem solving and curiosity for knowledge and occupied with Rachel’s dog called Jasper, they were a tremendous trio.

A well crafted crime novel combined with small town gossip and a luxurious hotel that’s steeped in history, ‘The Dark Place’ is a chilling and gripping story that’s has menace and suspense dripping from each page in this atmospheric tale.

You can buy ‘The Dark Room’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Art Of Creativity By Susie Pearl

The Art Of Creativity ‘The Art Of Creativity’ is the latest book by self help coach Susie Pearl.

After 20 years working with some of the most creative people on the planet, writer and business coach Susie Pearl has unearthed the habits of highly creative people and takes you on a journey to unlock your own inner stream of creativity. Over the course of this easy-to-follow guide, you will learn to take risks with your inner artist, ignore critics, release blocks and get into daily creative habits in order to build better projects, ideas and artistic collaborations, and unearth creative solutions and innovations.

One of my resolutions for this year was to write and complete a story. I’ve written 2 completed stories that unfortunately came to nothing and my desktop is littered with starts, middles and ends of ideas that transpired to nothing.

This helpful book which was a short and quirky read, was filled to the brim offering advice and insights on how to improve your creativity, harnessing it through mind mapping, journaling and meditation as well the simply basic needs of a healthy diet and good sleep.

I found this book to be a really useful tool and came at the right for me, as I’m struggling with my own writing, not the idea creation side but the finding time to right and the stepping out of my comfort zone and approaching people looking for feedback.

Sue helps address these issues in a friendly and relatable manner, offering guidance with useful exercises that encourages the reader to flex their creativity minds and to take a step further with their life desires. The book also includes useful tools and apps, that will help the reader with mind mapping, journaling and I found myself throughout the book noting down app names to use.

This vibrant book was a great information outlet and I think it will also be one that I’ll regularly be returning to for reference. With facts, exercises and achievable goals, ‘The Art of Creativity’ is a fantastic motivational tool for people who want to embark on a new project and are uncertain as to where to begin.

You can buy ‘The Art Of Creativity’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Secrets In The Snow By Emma Heatherington

Secrets In The Snow‘Secrets In The Snow’ is the latest book by Northern Ireland author, Emma Heatherington.

As the winter snow falls on the small Irish village of Ballybray, Roisin O’Connor and her young son, Ben, are saying goodbye to their beloved neighbour Mabel Murphy. Mabel lived a bold and colourful life, but the arrival of her brooding nephew, ‘blow-in’ Aidan Murphy, just makes life more complicated for Roisin. However, in one final act of love, a message arrives from Mabel that changes everything. And as winter turns to spring and the cold snow melts, the secrets both Roisin and Aidan are hiding must be revealed at last…

The story is seen through the narrative of Roisin, who’s recovering from the death of her elderly neighbour and best friend called Mabel, who took Roisin and her little boy called Ben under her wing who moved to Ballybray to start their new lives. Mabel’s favourite nephew has returned to Ballybray for the funeral. He’s a successful business man in New York, who’s struggling with life. Mabel can see that both Roisin and Aidan are struggling with their lives and sets them on a series of tasks to help them get back on their feet as well as unite them in their grief.

Sweetly written this book is a tender story of new beginnings and friendships. Roisin is a lovely leading lady, she’s kind but insecure having come from a troubled marriage which resulted in the death of her husband. Although shes’s recovering from years of abuse, anytime that she feels free and happy in herself, memories of her abusive husband come back to haunt her. She’s a creative spirit, who found not only a friend in Mabel but also a maternal figure as she never had a proper mother/daughter relationship.

Like Roisin, Aidan is struggling with the death of Mabel and finds solace in Ballybray away from the hustle of New York and his unhappy life.

As Mabel send them on series of adventures informing them of her old life and sharing her stories, the pair of them become close friends and see a connection in each other. Both of them are a fork in their lives and Mabel’s videos are the only constants in their lives.

Emma’s writing is sweet and warm-hearted conjuring up vivid imagery of the small Irish village and the descriptive fashion sold in the vintage shop were Roisin works. Both Aidan and Roisin are lovely characters and it’s sweet reading their interactions as they tentatively embark on their new friendship creating new memories. Mabel is also a great addition to the story with her vibrancy and lust for life. Whilst Ben adds an element of innocence to the story with his sweet nature.

‘Secrets in the Snow’ is a warm-hearted story that is perfect to curl up with during these cold winter nights.

You can buy ‘Secrets In the Snow’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Push By Ashley Audrain

The Push‘The Push’ is the debut novel by Ashley Audrain.

The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life. But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn’t right. I had always known that the women in my family aren’t meant to be mothers. My husband Fox says I’m imagining it. He tells me I’m nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child. But she’s different with me. Something feels very wrong.

‘The Push’ is Michael Joseph’s most anticipated book of 2021, a dark and chillingly crafted story about motherhood and love goes wrong.

The story is seen through the narrative of 3 generations of women, Cecelia, Etta and Blythe as they experience motherhood for the first time and they wait for the influx of emotions of love and care and are instead left with nothing. They retreat, they become cold and become completely different to the person they were before the babies.

The story is primarily seen through the narrative of Blythe who’s own mother had struggled with motherhood and Blythe is determined to be the perfect mother when her own baby is born. But her daughter Violet is the total opposite to what she expected with a vicious, cold and nasty streak that makes Blythe fearful of her and guilty and frustrated that she’s unable to have a close relationship with her daughter. When, when Blythe has a son, she is overjoyed at the second chance with motherhood and embrace it wholeheartedly, aware that in the background, Violet is watching closely.

‘The Push’ is a chilling and an uncomfortable read. It’s delves deeply into motherhood and the impact of the difficult children and the fear that something bad is going to happen. Throughout the book, it’s riddled with tension and unease as Violet connects with her father and grandparents but constantly pushes Blythe making her doubt her own sanity as well as capability as a mother. Ashley has created a compelling book with intriguing and unsettling characters that made it impossible to put down. The book also slightly reminded me of ‘Good Me, Bad Me’ by Ali Land, which is another fantastic debut. The perspectives of the different mothers throughout the years was a clever addition to the story and kept the reader on their toes, as you piecing the story together.

A book that delves into the insecurities and expectations of motherhood with an unravelling protagonist that makes for sympathetic and gripping reading, ‘The Push’ is a stunning debut that is well worthy of the hype and publicity behind it and was also my first read book of 2021.

You can buy ‘The Push’ from Amazon and other good bookshops.

The Unwrapping Of Theodora Quirke By Caroline Smailes

The Unwrapping Of Theodora Quirke‘The Unwrapping Of Theodora Quirke’ is the latest book by Theodora Quirke.

Theodora Quirke has no reason to be merry. It’s bad enough that she has to work on Christmas Eve but now there’s a drunk bloke dressed as Santa and claiming to be St Nick hanging around outside her flat. Given he’s professing to be the giver of Christmas miracles and nearly 2000 years old, she’s wary. Things get even more weird when St Nick insists he’s there to save Theo. And with the next St Nicholas Day somehow fast approaching, he’s even got a plan that’ll change her life forever. It all seems pretty straightforward, apart for one awkward fact: Theodora Quirke doesn’t actually need saving.

Just before Christmas I read this book and it gave me a warm feeling and get into the festive spirit.

The story is about Theodora Quirke who’s at a crossroads in her life, after her boyfriend and best friend suddenly died leaving her completely alone. Disheartened and full of despair, she’s at a low when St. Nick turns up at her doorstep. Even though, he looks like Santa Claus, he’s not and he’s there to save her life and bring her on a journey of her life and the significant moments that made lasting effects on her life. Meanwhile, Dottie Smith who is the founding member of Spitfire Saint Nicholas Umbrella Collective, who is convinced that Saint Nick performs miracles on 6th December and she’s one of the miracle receivers.

This ie a heartwarming story that is both inventive and creative and pulls the reader in from the start with the dysfunctional character. It’s hard not to connect with Theodore, she’s fiery and fun who’s lost without her boyfriend in her life. Having lost her mother and lived her life in uncertainty, Gabriel was the only constant in her life and when he’s taken away from her, her life falls apart and she questions her place in the world. St Nick is a great character, he’s witty and flamboyant but is also at a crossroad in his life and wants an opportunity to live his life for himself.

A story of magic and hope, this book was a joy to settle into and was filled with Christmas cheer. But as well as being as being witty with sweet and nostalgic references to ‘A Christmas Carol’, this book was a tender story that explored the ugly hardships of the world with a fierce protagonist who’s determined to save Christmas.

You can buy ‘The Unwrapping Of Theodora Quirke’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.