Book review – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, HarperCollins
The story: Eleanor’s the office oddball. She’s prim, set in her ways and very judgemental. Not yet thirty, she’s out of touch with so many things in the modern world, wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same food, and has very little understanding of how relationships work. She’s also a vodkaholic with a sinister event buried in her past connected with her overbearing and abusive mother. But an act of kindness is about to shatter the walls she’s built around herself and force her to face the past.

My review: This is one of those books you hear so much about that you wonder if it’s going to live up to expectations. Well for me it certainly did. I’m writing this review a few weeks after reading the book but it’s stayed with me as I’m sure it will for a long time. It’s very funny in places, heartbreaking in others. I loved Eleanor and found her story compelling. I’d have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone who likes character-based literary stories and can’t wait to see what Gail Honeyman writes next.

My rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review.


Struggle and Suffrage in Windsor


Today is Suffragette Day – 100 years since (some) women were given the right to vote.

After decades of campaigning, setbacks and sacrifices, 6th February 1918 must have been an incredible day. The 8.5 million newly-enfranchised women were over 30 and owned property. It would be another ten years before women were given the same voting rights as men, but it was a huge step forward.

For several months I’ve been researching for my book Struggle and Suffrage in Windsor, which is part of a series to be published by Pen and Sword celebrating the contribution made by women in different towns around the country during a period of enormous social and political change.

Windsor’s story’s unique in that it encompasses both princesses and paupers.

IMG_6687Queen Victoria kick-started Windsor’s transformation from squalid slum town to genteel tourist destination by choosing to make it her main home.

In many ways Victoria provided a role model for nineteenth century women. At only 18 years old and 4ft 11in tall, she proved it was possible for a woman to excel in a male-dominated arena.

She came to the throne amid anti monarchy demonstrations, was hissed and booed at during Ascot races after the Hastings Affair and called Mrs Melbourne by Tories, furious at her apparent Whig sympathies.

She also had to cope with a stalker, and at least seven assassination attempts.

But despite her own experience Queen Victoria was no suffragist sympathiser, saying that she was anxious to enlist everyone who could write or speak “to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of women’s rights.”

When she learned that Lady Amberley (Viscountess Russell) had become involved in the movement she said she deserved “a good whipping.”

Although as monarch Victoria was unable to involve herself in politics, it could be argued that, had she shown approval for suffragists women may have been given the vote earlier.

But her daughters, especially Louise, whose sister-in-law Lady Frances Balfour was a leading figure in the movement, did show sympathy for women’s suffrage and Queen Victoria’s goddaughter Sophia Duleep Singh would become a women’s rights activist.

IMG_6685Lady Florence Dixie
One of Windsor’s most colourful characters was Lady Florence Dixie. The first female war correspondent, she also helped establish women’s football and wrote feminist novels including Gloriana in 1890, in which women have the right to vote.

She also wrote about her adventures in Patagonia, and brought back a jaguar from her travels. (After Affums was caught eating the royal deer in Windsor Great Park he had to be put in a zoo.)

Florence held strong views on female emancipation and spoke publicly about these, arguing that women should have equal rights in marriage and divorce, equal inheritance rights and that they should be entitled to wear the same clothes as men.

Meetings and marches

From the turn of the century, support in Windsor for the suffragist movement grew, but was up against fierce anti-suffrage support. The local suffrage society started as the Windsor and Eton branch of the London society but became large enough to exist in its own right. The train line which Queen Victoria had approved made it easy for Windsor women to take part in events elsewhere including the London marches.



Regular At-home and Drawing Room meetings of the suffrage society were held in the Guildhall and private homes, and included speakers from London and abroad.

These often turned into “lively discussions” with opposition from anti-suffrage supporters such as Revd Keightley who declared that women’s suffrage would be “the thin end of the wedge.”

The hon secretary of the suffrage society, Florence Gibb of Claremont Road, frequently gave polite but robust arguments against views expressed by anti-suffrage supporters.

In a letter to the Windsor and Eton Express following a recent anti-suffragist meeting at the Guildhall, she wrote,
“The Countess of Desart said women want to be women. Exactly – that’s why we want the vote. Women are half the nation and we maintain that their view should be respresented.”

On another occasion she wrote,
“Lord Cromer says women’s suffrage has only been tried in small places for a short time. Does Lord Cromer call Wyoming’s 45 years or New Zealand’s 17 years a short time, or Australia and New Zealand small places?”

And she challenged the view that men knew better than women about politics. “What does Mr Burns know of the hunger of the expectant and nursing mother? Yet he deprives her of wages and makes no provision for her nourishment during her compulsory idleness.”

Emily Wilding
The closest university to Windsor is Royal Holloway college, on the edge of Windsor Great Park, where Emily Wilding Davison was a student. She later became a key member of the militant WSPU and was imprisoned in Strangeways for throwing rocks at Lloyd George’s carriage. She went on hunger strike but was subjected to force feeding. In 1913 she died after being trampled by the King’s horse at Epsom.


Suffragette activity in Windsor included setting fire to pillar boxes and an arson attack on a house during the same night that a church in Wargrave was burned down. Windsor Castle had to be closed to visitors in 1913 because of the threat of attack by suffragettes.

There’s so much more! I’ll be doing other posts on this subject during this centenary year but for the full story please look out for the book later this year, and other titles in the series.

Book review: the woman in the window by AJ Finn


The story: Anna Fox was until recently a happily married mother and successful child psychologist. Now she’s an agoraphobic, classic movie-obsessed, heavy drinker who fills her day by chatting on an online forum and spying on her New York neighbours.

Staring into the house opposite, she witnesses a murder. But when she reports the crime to the police things take a bizarre turn, forcing her to question what’s real and what isn’t. Battling to prove her version of events, Anna doesn’t know who to trust.

My review: This book was given to me by a friend because she was sure I’d love it. That, coupled with the hype the book’s received made me slightly nervous in case I ended up being disappointed and judging it unfairly. But the first chapter pulled me in and I stayed reading late into the night.

There are lots of references to films in the book, especially Hitchcock’s 1950s film Rear Window in which a similar Peeping Tom situation backfires. If you’re one of those people who thinks that plot has been overused, and especially if you didn’t like Gone Girl or Girl on the Train then I have to say you might be

But if you’re a fan of domestic noir, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a taut, twisty, nightmarish tale which zips along and which has some refreshing differences. Even though I saw some of the twists coming I had to keep reading. Highly addictive!


The Woman in the Window is published by HarperCollins



Author Visit – Val Penny, author of Hunter’s Chase

IMG_6541Today I’m super excited to have Val Penny as my guest. Her Edinburgh-based debut detective story comes out on 2nd February. Erin Kelly, author of one of my favourite books ever, The Poison Tree, as well as the Broadchurch series says it’s “A gripping debut novel about power, politics and the importance – and danger – of family ties. Hunter Wilson is a compelling new detective and Val Penny is an author to watch.” Endorsements don’t come much better than that!


The story: Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city, and he needs to find the source, but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course.

Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder, but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: Detective Constable Tim Myerscough, the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable Sir Peter Myerscough.

Hunter’s perseverance and patience are out to the test time after time in the first novel in the Edinburgh Crime Mystery series

You can buy it here

Find out more at the online launch party on 2nd Feb here

Q &A

Hello Val, what can I get you today?

I would like a nice slice of coffee and walnut cake, perhaps with a latte to wash it down. That would be lovely, thank you.

My favourite cake! What are you reading at the moment?

I have just finished reading Daisy in Chains a psychological thriller by Sharon Bolton. It was excellent and, although I read a lot of thrillers, the reveal was not obvious. I really enjoyed it.

Adding it to my TBR list. Who is your hero (real or fictional)?

My fictional hero is probably Lee Child’s character, Jack Reacher. He is a one-man vigilante who constantly strives to right wrongs. My real-life heroine is my mother. She served in the navy during the second world war and found herself bringing up my sister and me as a one parent family, long before that was fashionable. In both endeavours she did a very good job, though I say so myself! She is now 91 and crocheting furiously for her first great-grandchild. That generation was made of stern stuff!

If you could invite just two authors (alive or dead) to dinner who would they be?

I have no doubt which authors I would invite to dinner, one would be Winston Churchill. In between being a journalist and serving as a politician, including Prime Minister, he wrote 51 books – before there were computers. I want to know how he did that! I would also invite Mark Billingham. I really enjoy his Tom Thorne crime novels, but he is also a stand-up comedian and very easy to talk to. I think, if Churchill became overly pompous, Mark could lighten the mood

Sounds a great evening. And how would you describe your perfect day?

My perfect day would be spent by the sea, preferably walking the beach on the West Coast of California near Pebble Beach with my husband our daughters and their partners. I enjoy being close to the sea and family is very important to me. After a lovely walk, perhaps we could all stop by and have a delicious meal in a family Mexican restaurant. I am sure we would talk the night away.

Wonderful – I love the sea too. What superpower would you choose?

I would choose the super power of invisibility. That would allow me to investigate settings for my novels even more easily.

What is your favourite tipple?

I don’t drink alcohol very often, but when I do, I like an ice cold craft gin with Fever-Tree tonic and dressed with a wedge of fresh lime, rather than lemon.

If you could be a fictional detective who would you choose?

I think it would be hard to beat Agatha Christie’s Poirot. His powers of deduction and attention to detail are delightful. The same is true of Sherlock Holmes, but Arthur Conan Doyle’s books are much harder to get through.

When did you start writing and what got you started?

I have enjoyed telling stories since I was a little girl, but there was a specifiac trigger to my novel writing. I began writing my first novel when I was being treated for breast cancer. I had taken early retirement and was beginning to wonder how I had ever had time to work when I received the unwelcome diagnosis of breast cancer. As my treatment proceeded, I started to blog about my experience. My writing here still receives considerable attention: I found my treatment very tiring and had little energy to do anything but read, so I started reviewing the books I read on have always enjoyed reading crime fiction and I began to think that, as I had the time, I would try my hand at writing a crime fiction novel. It was not an easy task, and it took a lot longer than I thought it would, but the result was Hunter’s Chase.

What’s the best piece of advice on writing you’ve been given?

Peter Robinson, who writes the DCI Alan Banks crime thriller series gave me the best advice very early on in my writing journey. He said there was no such thing as writer’s block. There are people who write and people who make excuses. His way of dealing with a reticence to write on a particular day is to work on something different for a while and then move back to your main project. He is right, it works.

And finally, what are you working on next?

Only last month, I heard from my publishers, Crooked Cat Books, that they have accepted the sequel to Hunter’s Chase: Hunter’s Revenge . I am working on that now with a view to getting the novel edited and subsequently published during August or September 2018.

Thanks so much for answering my questions Val and congratulations on the book – I’m really looking forward to the launch of Hunter’s Chase.

Thank you for having me on your blog today, Katy. I really enjoyed the visit.

About The Author

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballet dancer or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels.

Author contact details

Friends of Hunter’s Chase –


Book review – Foxtrot in Freshby by Awen Thornber


Paperback £5.99, kindle £1.99, KU ASIN B0776SKHMM, publisher: Crooked Cat Books

I was drawn to this book by its gorgeous cover but as soon as I started reading I got pulled into the story and devoured it in one go.
When dance teacher Gina Pendleton throws her cheating boyfriend out of the house she has to find a way of paying the bills. She decides to turn her love of dance into a business and starts offering lessons in her home but in doing so angers the owner of the established dance school nearby. Strange things start happening and it seems Gina’s being targeted by thieves and vandals. When she meets Chris Jackson she finds herself falling for him as well as his dance steps – but Chris has a secret. What’s he hiding and dare she trust him?
An intriguing, engaging, uplifting light read, peopled with believable characters with plenty of conflict.





Author Visit – Susan Roebuck

Today’s visitor has set her new novel in beautiful Portugal where she lives.

Forest Dancer is set in the magical forests just outside Lisbon, Portugal. It is a story that fans of Polina will enjoy with characters that are genuinely flawed yet decided on bringing out the best in themselves. Flora Gatehouse has just recently lost her father, but she has also suffered a devastating blow in her career; her failed audition that sees her moving to a small cottage in Lisbon, Portugal, the only inheritance left to her by her father. Follow her story as she embraces the life of a small village with its dark secrets, and falls for the forest ranger, Marco. But can she totally become part of this little hamlet and can she ever reconnect with her dream to become a principal ballerina?

Thank you Katy for inviting me to your coffee shop today. Could I have a small black coffee please with just a drop of milk in it? (Here in Portugal it’s called a pingado)

Certainly – that’s a new word I’ve learnt today! Now my first question is, who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Ha! This is a good one. I’d have quite an explosive dinner party with these people I think:

1. Jesus Christ (I’d invite him for obvious reasons – and I’d make sure there weren’t 13 people at the table)
2. Stephen Fry because he’s such an intelligent and witty person – and I’d love to hear what he has to say to Jesus and vice versa.
3. Oscar Wilde because I think he’d either have a huge argument with the two above or just be very interesting to listen to.
4. William Shakespeare to hear what he has to say about the world today and if he can give me any writing pointers. I also love the way he makes new expressions up (that later become integrated into the language) and perhaps he’d share a few.
5. I was going to say Cleopatra but I think she’d put a damper on things. So I’ll go with Marilyn Monroe instead because I want to know what really happened to her and I also think she’ll flirt beautifully with everyone at the table (except me, of course!).
6. Kit Harrington because I can flirt with him (probably won’t do me any good, but I can try)
7. Terry Pratchett because he’d join in all the conversations and probably take the mickey out of some of them. I hope he brings Nanny Ogg along too because I’d like to hear about her cook book.
8. Betty Davis and Joan Crawford – I might learn some lessons in bickering.

That would be an amazing evening. I love the idea of asking Shakespeare for writing tips! If you could spend a day with a fictional character who would it be and what would you do?

Bilbo Baggins from LOTR. I’d love to be in a little village with cottages built out of the hills and where everyone knows each other and helps each other out. I’d go exploring and maybe ask Bilbo to take me to see Tom Bombadil in the forest (because I love forests).

I had a feeling you did! Where do you write? What would your ideal writing room look like?

I write in a spare bedroom which we use as an office. It looks out over the point where the mighty Tagus River meets the Atlantic Ocean and I can watch the cruise ships and tankers coming in and out of Lisbon harbour. Ideally, I’d like the office to myself but I share it with my husband (don’t tell him that).


That sounds an idyllic location although I fear I’d spend most of my time looking out of the window. Do you ever get writer’s block, Sue? And if so how do you deal with it?

People say there is no thing as writer’s block and that we just run out of ideas. This may, in part be true, and when I come to a shuddering halt I know I’ve got to go off somewhere and do something else. It may be for a day or longer, it depends. But I don’t push it (unless I’m on a deadline) and ideas will always come rushing back.

Another point is that if you have any stress of some kind in your life (health or family etc.) then you might have to admit you can’t write. I’ve experienced this and I think my mind was too full of the problems I was facing. Again, we have to be kind to ourselves and just wait for things to calm down. I suppose our minds are like computers – there’s just so much you can pack into the memory at one go.

Finally, I do believe that writers, in general, lack self-worth (I’m not saying every one of them, but some – myself included). Sometimes I avoid getting down to work because I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to write a word. In this case it’s worth forcing it because I’ve found that if I make myself write, the words come tumbling out.

I find that too. If you just write the first words that come into your head, knowing you’ll delete them afterwards, it can help you get into it. What would you say is the best thing about being a writer?

You can work at home to your own timetable. If you’re a creative person with lots of ideas, it’s an outlet for them.

And the worst?

Getting a fat bottom! Getting a “writers’ hump” because I spend too much time at the computer. Having to promote my work. I’m the world’s worst salesperson and all I want to do is write, but if I don’t tell the world about my work, how’s it going to know about it? Knowing the difference between telling the world about my work and spamming the life out of everyone.

Ah, I know just what you mean – it’s such a tricky balancing act, isn’t it? Thanks for coming along today and very best of luck with your book.

Thank you for having me today, Katy.


More About Sue
I was born and educated in the UK (I am British!) but now live in Portugal. I’ve been an English teacher for many years with the British Council and also the Portuguese civil service where I developed e-learning courses.

My first love is, of course, my husband, my second writing, and my third painting. And now I have time to be able to indulge in all three.

“Forest Dancer” is my fourth novel, the second in the Portuguese series – the first called “Rising Tide” which is set in a small fishing village on the Alentejo coast. 2018 will see the third in the series: “Joseph Barnaby”, which is set on the island of Madeira.

Forest Dancer (paperback and ebook) on Amazon :





Book review – The Heart’s Invisible Furies, John Boyne


Published by Random House UK, Transworld, Black Swan

ISBN 9781784161002

An absolutely amazing book that I found completely absorbing. It’s powerful, heart-wrenching and in several places had me laughing out loud. In 1945 sixteen year-old Catherine Goggin is cast out of her parish in rural Ireland by the priest for being pregnant. She starts a new life in a new place, giving up her baby to a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun. Cyril is constantly reminded as he grows up that his parents are only his adoptive parents and that he’s “not a real Avery” – but then who is he? The only certainty he feels is his love for his best friend Julian but that’s not only illegal – to admit his feelings would be to risk everything.

There’s so much more to come as we follow Cyril up to the present day through his relationships, bereavements and a crime, living in Amsterdam and New York and then back in Ireland. Throughout the story there are tantalising near-miss encounters between the two main characters who are unaware of their connection –  will they ever find out?

I found all the characters plausible and especially loved Cyril. The dialogue is wonderful, exposing people’s bigotry, hypocrisy and breathtaking lack of self-awareness.

I’d thoroughly recommend this book. My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for a copy of the book which I was under no obligation to review.

My rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️