SMAILHOLM by C.L. Williams

Shh! Can you keep a secret?

In wild medieval Britain thirteen-year-old Wynn Hoppringle has a big secret of the smallest kind. She has discovered a miniature village hidden close to her family home of Smailholm Tower. When tales of merciless Border raiders reach the small folk, they realise they are in danger and must seek a cure to their strange predicament. Can Wynn help her tiny friends or will the scheming King quog have other ideas? Heroes, it seems, come in all sizes.


Title : Smailholm
Author : C.L. Williams
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 248
Genre : Middle-grade Fantasy
Publisher : Matador
Release Date : January 28, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5-4 star review

Smailholm was an engaging middle-grade fantasy that was easy to read and fun to enjoy. It is a historical fantasy with olde-worlde language in small parts. I enjoyed the setting of Scotland, the differences between the haves and the have-nots and of course the Lilliput/Borrowers context of little people in a little land.

There were two protagonists in this story, a 13-year old girl called Wynn who was noblewomen-to-be living in Smailholm Tower and then short chapter interludes from Deablin. Who or what Deablin is, is revealed during the story but it was a clever connection, even though her short interjections were sometimes a little confusing. That said, the confusion was part of the story and it did build up to answers eventually.

Wynn had found the little village, hidden under the brambles, where she was a giant and they were very small. Wynn had been getting to know these folks for a few years and they had become trusted friends. At the fore of the village people were Jimmy and Jenny. Vargo, Wynn’s dog was also a key character and a sweet addition to the story.

What starts off as an interesting story becomes one of adventure, fantastical beings and unsavoury creatures. It all made for a rather fast-paced story. There were moments of reading confusion with some of the fantasy elements but the world building came and caught me up on most questions. I found the eventual Deablin answers a bit confusing and some of the beings or spirits connected to that difficult to get into. The rest of the story kept me engaged, however.

The story finished rather openly and with some elements I want to know more about and some characters I need to know about. This was a solid debut from CL Williams and I would definitely read her work again.

I need to mention what a glorious physical creation this book is. It is a small hardback clothbound book with gorgeous illustrations that really helped with the visualisation of beings in this world. The book itself is beautiful to read and own and it stands out amongst other books.

Thank you to the author for a review copy in return for an honest review.

WICKED BY DESIGN by Katy Moran

1819. Jack ‘Crow’ Crowlas, the charismatic and troubled hero of K.J. Whittaker’s first novel, FALSE LIGHTS, has married his feisty love, Hester and with their baby daughter, settled down to enjoy their new life as Lord and Lady Lamorna of Nansmornow in Cornwall.

But for Crow, trouble is never far away and as Cornwall seethes with rebellion, he is arrested for treason. Spared execution on condition that he undertakes a highly dubious mission to St Petersburg, he finds himself tangled in a snare of treachery and illicit passion, violence and sexual deceit, where not only his love for Hester, but also his relationship with his only brother, serving with the British army in Russia, will be tested to the limit and beyond.


Title : Wicked By Design
Author : Katy Moran
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 464
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Head of Zeus
Release Date : September 5, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

I feel all the things on finishing this book, so many emotions. I didn’t expect such an angsty ride but it worked so well and I’m feeling a bit wrung out from the journey.

This was an epic historical novel, epic in that it spanned continents and the storytelling was vast and deep. There is a previous book about these characters (FALSE LIGHTS) but this book isn’t marketed as a series and it stands alone perfectly. WICKED BY DESIGN was a book with two main characters but it was so much about a family and the side characters were crucial to the story. The book was written in the era of the Napoleonic wars, where France was at war with England and the Cornish people were a separate country as such. I did some quick history brushing-up through my read of this book but I kept up with things well.

Lord John ‘Crow’ Lamora was a respected figure in the recent wars and was married to Hester, a black woman, daughter of a sea captain. Their marriage seemed to have begrudging acceptance in society but Hester was not truly accepted, only tolerated for the sake of her husband and his rank. The power dynamic between Hester and Crow was everything funny, heartbreaking and empowering. What these character went through in this book can only be described as hellish but I was glued to the page.

I went from really liking Crow to absolutely detesting his behaviour whilst understanding some of it. It was so hard to watch what happened to this man, to witness it and to feel it; and feel it I did. Not only for Crow but for Hester too, talk about putting my heart through the grater! Crow’s brother Kitto was a key character who I really liked. He was a bit young and impetuous but I found myself having a soft spot for him. The dynamic between Crow and Kitto however, was a difficult one. There needs be a little mention of Nadia’s character, she was superb in her gender role. Eventually, the story took these characters from Cornwall to St Petersburg. The description was rich but not heavy and it transported me to the sights, sounds and smells.

Katy Moran took me from page one and battered emotions out of me all along the way, right up until that last line. I felt dangled on a string, I wanted to lash out at the characters sometimes but all I can say is that her writing, her story made me feel. This is a historical fiction with some romance but more historical fiction than anything, I highly recommend it.

Thank you to Head of Zeus for this finished copy to review (the hardback is beautiful).

UNTOUCHABLE by Jayne Ann Krentz

Quinton Zane is back.

Jack Lancaster, consultant to the FBI, has always been drawn to the coldest of cold cases, the kind that law enforcement either considers unsolvable or else has chalked up to accidents or suicides. As a survivor of a fire, he finds himself uniquely compelled by arson cases. His almost preternatural ability to get inside the killer’s head has garnered him a reputation in some circles — and complicated his personal life. The more cases Jack solves, the closer he slips into the darkness. His only solace is Winter Meadows, a meditation therapist. After particularly grisly cases, Winter can lead Jack back to peace.

But as long as Quinton Zane is alive, Jack will not be at peace for long. Having solidified his position as the power behind the throne of his biological family’s hedge fund, Zane sets out to get rid of Anson Salinas’s foster sons, starting with Jack.


Title : Untouchable
Author : Jayne Ann Krentz
Series : Cutler, Sutter & Salinas #3
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 308
Genre : Romantic Suspense/Thriller
Publisher : Piatkus, Little Brown UK
Release Date : October 29, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

I received this book in the post, I hadn’t requested it and I made the mistake of picking it up to see what the first few pages were like. It turned out that picking it up wasn’t a mistake because about 50 pages later I was fully immersed in the story.

UNTOUCHABLE is a romantic suspense, more thriller in my opinion with shades of the supernatural. In lots of ways this book was out of my comfort zone with themes of hypnotism and lucid dreaming but colour me surprised when I just went with the flow and enjoyed the story.

The main character, Winter is a lone wolf, moving around and new to the small town. Her neighbour and fellow cabin-renter, Jack was also Winter’s meditation client. Jack was something else with some weird skills that some might call flaws. The story started with a bang and the fast moving events were basically what dragged me into the story. In fact, the whole book was fast paced and I enjoyed the thrills and unknown bends in the road.

This book is actually the third in a series of connected characters (brothers) but it stood alone perfectly well. I read this without any disadvantage of not reading the others but I do find myself curious enough to go back and read them.

If I have any critique it is that I would have liked to get to know Jack and Winter a little better as individuals. As a couple, I would have also appreciated a bit more emotional connection but as with some suspense books, the story was told over a relatively short period of time as events unfolded. This was my first book by Jayne Ann Krentz and I would definitely seek her out again.

Thank you Little Brown UK & Piatkus for this finished review copy.

SARONG PARTY GIRLS by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

Just before her twenty-seventh birthday, Jazzy hatches a plan. Before the year is out, she and her best girlfriends will all have spectacular weddings to rich ang moh – Western expat – husbands, with Chanel babies to follow.

As Jazzy – razor-sharp and vulgar, yet vulnerable – fervently pursues her quest to find a white husband, the contentious gender politics and class tensions thrumming beneath the shiny exterior of Singapore’s glamorous nightclubs are revealed. Desperate to move up in Asia’s financial and international capital, will Jazzy and her friends succeed?

Vividly told in Singlish – colourful Singaporean English with its distinctive cadence and slang – Sarong Party Girls brilliantly captures the unique voice of a young, striving woman caught between worlds. With remarkable vibrancy and empathy, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan brings not only Jazzy, but her city of Singapore, to dazzling, dizzying life.


Title : Sarong Party Girls
Author : Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 320
Genre : Contemporary, chick-lit
Publisher : Allen & Unwin
Release Date : August 1, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★


I’m going to be rather brief in my review on this one because it was a struggle to be engaged or stay engaged with this read. SARONG PARTY GIRLS feels initally like a light read with vapid characters, I could see quite quickly that that most of the characters were deeper than first glance but I struggled nonetheless to make connections with them.

Singapore life for the rich and entitled was like many that of the young and rich in other cities but with a different cultural landscape. These women were aiming to secure a white, western man but all did not go to plan. The tale completely immerses the reader from the first page in Singlish – a patois of the region which although was comprehensible, it was difficult to get lost in the words or story because I was constantly trying to make meaning and connections between words.

Overall, this read wasn’t for me.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the review copy.