blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: And Then There’s Margaret – Carolyn Clarke

Marriage and midlife can be difficult. But when you add a controlling, manipulative and self-absorbed mother-in-law into the mix, things can get worse-much worse. Toxic, even.

When Allison Montgomery’s beloved father-in-law and long-time confidant passes away, her mother-in-law, Margaret, ‘temporarily’ moves in. From rearranging the furniture and taking over the kitchen, to undermining and embarrassing Allie at every turn, including funding her daughter’s escape, throwing a hissy fit at the mall, and publicly equating Allie’s glass of Chardonnay to full blown alcoholism, Margaret turns Allie’s life upside down causing her to bounce between a sincere desire to support her grieving mother-in-law and an intense urge to simply push her out of the nearest window.

Feeling annoyed, trapped and even a little childish, Allie struggles to avoid a complete meltdown with help from her fearless and audacious best friend, a plan for reinventing herself and enjoying a second act, and, yes, a few glasses of Chardonnay. Along the way, Allie discovers the reasons behind Margaret’s attitude toward her all these years. Does it help? Maybe…

My thoughts: I am very grateful my mother-in-law is nothing like Margaret, because Margaret is a nightmare. Actually, my grandmother is very much like Margaret. Constantly criticising, cleaning up around you while you’re still eating (she once washed a plate while I was still half a sandwich shy of finishing) and just completely out of control.

Allie can’t work out how her late sainted father-in-law managed with Margaret, and now she’ll never know. It doesn’t help that her husband Hank is next to useless at standing up to his strident and overbearing mother.

But somehow they’ve either got to get along or one of them will kill the other. Margaret is almost always in Allie’s house (change the locks!) and always looking for something to criticise. But as the family mourn the patriarch, might there be something else going on with Margaret?

Funny and highly observant of life’s idiosyncrasies, Allie and Margaret dust themselves off for battle. And we’re along for the ride.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Great Silence – Doug Johnstone

Read my reviews of the other books in this series; A Dark Matter and The Big Chill

Keeping on top of the family funeral directors’ and privateinvestigation businesses is no easy task for the Skelf women, and when matriarch Dorothy discovers a human foot while walking the dog, a perplexing case presents itself. Daughter Jenny and grand-daughter Hannah have their hands full too: the mysterious circumstances of a dying woman have led them into an unexpected family drama, Hannah’s new astrophysicist colleague claims he’s receiving messages from outer space, and the Skelfs’ teenaged lodger has a devastating experience. Nothing is clear as the women are immersed ever deeper in their most challenging cases yet. But when the daughter of Jenny’s violent and fugitive ex-husband goes missing without trace and a wild animal is spotted roaming Edinburgh’s parks, real danger presents itself, and all three Skelfs are in peril. Taut, dark, warmly funny and unafraid to ask big questions – of us all – The Great Silence is the much-anticipated third instalment in the addictive, unforgettable Skelfs series.

Doug Johnstone is the author of twelve previous novels, most recently The Big Chill (2020). Several of his books have been bestsellers and three, A Dark Matter (2020), Breakers (2019) and The Jump (2015), were shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions over the last decade – including at a funeral parlour ahead of writing A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for over twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three solo EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh. Follow Doug on Twitter and visit his website.

My thoughts: the Skelfs are back in their third outing and I am thrilled. This series just gets better and better. This time there’s a big cat on the loose, stray dead people feet, more funerals to direct, more crimes to investigate. Awful Craig has returned to cause more havoc in his family’s lives, but Jenny’s on his case. Hannah is helping a future colleague who thinks aliens are messaging him – or that someone’s playing a mean prank. Dorothy is looking into the feet Einstein finds in the park and the jaguar who seems to be living there. Indy’s grandparents have come over to see her, surprise, which means digging up the past, and Abi’s past is coming after her too.

The Skelfs (I include Indy, Abi and Archie in this too) are a tough bunch, but they treat all of their clients, living and dead, with kindness and respect. From young women who die suddenly to old women who can’t understand why their children are so awful. They’ve had to be resilient themselves but they know that not everyone has the support and love they share.

Honestly, this is just such a brilliant series, full of black humour (the best kind), interesting characters, crazy plots and as it might be made into a TV series, I was also playing fan cast as I read it, trying to work out who I’d like to see play the Skelf women. Any ideas? I think Lily Tomlin would make a great Dorothy, that Californian hippy in Edinburgh vibe would suit her. Or Dame Judi Dench – she could definitely pull it off. Nicola Walker as Jenny maybe or Laura Fraser, but I’m stumped on Hannah and Indy. Some gorgeous up and comers perhaps. Let me know your ideas.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Wit and Wisdom of Hilda Ffinch – Juliet Warrington*

England, 1940. With Adolf Hitler and his henchmen goose-stepping about the place and ranting for the Fatherland on the far side of the English Channel, the villagers of Little Hope in deepest, darkest Yorkshire, are doing their very best to Keep Calm and Carry On. It isn’t always easy though, even with the best of intentions. There are evacuees to deal with as well as nightly air raid warnings and suspected fifth columnists. Worse still, there’s a dire shortage of spotted dick and knicker elastic.

But help is at hand! Enter Mrs Hilda Ffinch, horrendously rich and terribly bored lady of the manor who takes it upon herself to step into the role of Agony Aunt at the local newspaper.

Unshockable, unshakable and completely devoid of any hint of tact whatsoever, Hilda soon has the villagers flocking to her banner as she dishes out her own unique brand of gin-fuelled advice.

What could possibly go wrong?



JULIET WARRINGTON was born on a small (and now totally defunct) RAF station in the Libyan part of the Sahara Desert, some 30 odd miles from the Egyptian border. Constantly on the move as a child due to her dad’s job, she grew up in Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Cyprus and London. Long-term friendships were hard to form without internet and mobile phones and so books became her constant companions. She lived in Limassol with Lorna Doon, Aylesbury with Tom Sawyer and hid The Scarlet Pimpernel in the garden shed in Uxbridge on more than one occasion. She currently resides just outside Wrexham, in North Wales.

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My thoughts:

Hilda Ffinch is determined to give the letter writers of Little Hope her unfiltered, unvarnished opinions. She can be very abrupt and lacks all tact, but there’s lots of innuendo to be found in the problem pages of the local newspaper.

Reminiscent of seaside postcards of yore, there’s a refreshing lack of fuss and plenty of straightforward, no nonsense “advice” to be had in Hilda Ffinch’s Agony Aunt column.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

films, movie night, netflix, reviews

Random film review: Sisters

I thought that I’d share my thoughts on random films I watch late at night on Netflix. First up Sisters starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

I have no recollection of this being released in cinemas but that’s pretty common as I don’t go very often.

In the film Fey and Poehler play sisters who return to their childhood home to clean out their (frankly enormous – it has 2 double beds) bedroom as their parents have sold the house.

It is very silly, they decide to throw a legendary party inviting all their old friends, who conveniently still all live locally even though Fey and Poehler don’t.

There are some very funny moments that made me laugh very loudly and some unnecessarily cringey ones (poor Ike Barinholtz) that could easily have been cut.

The film also plays like a who’s who of funny American women with Samantha Bee, Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon and a host of others popping up. An almost unrecognizable Dianne Wiest plays the mum.

Good points: funny, would definitely pass The Bechdel Test.

Bad points: #filmsowhite the only people of colour are some heavily stereotyped Korean nail salon workers. Fey does seem to struggle with POC in roles (she’s the film’s producer too). That really unnecessary gross out scene with Poehler and Barinholtz.

Worth watching? Yes for celeb spotting and the funny bits as well as the sisterly relationship which real life pals Fey and Poehler portray well.

Stars: 🌟🌟🌟