The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton- Book Review

Normally I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, but in this case I find it impossible to fully express how I feel about this book without mentioning the ending. So if you haven’t read The Miniaturist yet and don’t want to know what happens then go away, read it and come back.

Let’s start with the things I really liked. The characters were compelling, flawed and real. The prose is beautiful. Jessie Burton has a gift of describing everyday things in a way that transforms them into something extraordinary. I think it is this quality that gives the entire story a feeling of surrealism. It does also mean that it starts off slightly slowly, but my advice is just to sit back and enjoy the language. The story soon speeds up.

So, what is the story? Nella, a nineteen year old bride, arrives at her new husband’s house in Amsterdam to take up residence. He is not there to greet her, instead she is met by his formidable sister, Marin, and the servants, Cornelia and Otto. It is not a warm welcome, nor does she get one from her husband, Johannes, once he returns. She is left to occupy her room and bed in solitary splendour. The only real attention Johannes pays her is when he presents her with her wedding gift- a cabinet containing a replica of the house. Nella does not like it, but after an argument with Marin she orders from a miniaturist several pieces of furniture for it that Marin will not provide her with in real life. The miniaturist duly sends these pieces, but also some others, which are strangely accurate. The rest of the story follows Nella in her new life and family, each major event finding an echo in the miniaturist’s exquisite work.

There are several twists in the story, but I can’t say any of them took me by surprise. It’s easy enough to guess that Johannes’s indifference to his bride arises from a preference for men. Also the hints dropped about Marin’s pregnancy are quite obvious. Although, I admit I didn’t guess the father! I don’t know if we are meant to guess these things or not, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. But there are some things that did…

I don’t want to be overly critical here. It was a really, really good book. But the prologue- why, oh why are authors still writing them? This one gives away the end at the beginning. It’s clear that Johannes has died, and the moment we find out he’s homosexual it’s not a far stretch to the assumption that he’s been caught and executed for it. Also, the prologue is set during his funeral, complete with coffin. But, during his execution, we are told that they are not going to bring the body back up (the method of execution was drowning) and that therefore there will be no funeral/burial. So I don’t understand what this scene is doing there? The fact that Marin isn’t there is also a dead giveaway (sorry, couldn’t resist!). I can’t help feeling that Jessie Burton has underestimated her audience.

The ending itself has no closure. Nella never gets to meet the miniaturist. Many questions go unanswered. I was left feeling unsatisfied. However, the world of The Miniaturist and the atmosphere created by it has remained with me, perhaps partly because of that. But it was the quality of the writing, rather than the story, which truly gripped me.

What did you think of The Miniaturist? Please post a comment and let me know!


Lost and Found, by Julia Blake- Book Review

Lost and Found starts off like a lighthearted romance. There’s the usual love at first sight, crackling sexual tension and unhappy misunderstandings. To be honest, this isn’t really my thing, but it was extremely well done and I enjoyed it much more than I would have expected.

Luke and Arianna are instantly likeable and I was rooting for them from the start. Also, there was some description, but not too much, and the places really came alive. Where the book really got going for me though was after the kidnapping. From then on it was one thrill after another and I loved it. I especially want to read more about Isabella! I hope that’s what the author has in store for us in the sequel.

All in all it was excellent read, with the slower pace of the beginning gradually building to a proper page turner that I finished in a few hours. I even got teary-eyed at the end. There’s something in this book for most people, whether you’re a lover of romance, action, or a little bit of both. I highly recommend picking it up.

Get Lost and Found here.

Danube Defiance- Book Review

Book Description:

DANUBE DEFIANCE, by novelist JANE GOLDEN, is an enthralling mystery about an art heist involving ancient icon art. Travel with super sleuth, Jeni, as she ventures through the antique markets in New Orleans’ French Quarter and across the ocean to Eastern Europe’s bustling city of Bucharest and the Romanian countryside. Jeni stumbles upon one clue that leads to others. Something doesn’t add up, and she gathers a few friends… an antiquities expert, a journalist, and a dashing New Orleans shopkeeper. Together, they follow a river of clues and dead bodies. But will the thieves get them first?


I’d mainly label this book as a cosy mystery, but in reality it’s a mix of things. It does have the slower pace of the cosy mystery, on the other hand there is none of the traditional list of suspects or plot twists that you would expect from that genre. It’s more of a thriller, but written in the style of a cosy mystery. I must admit to finding the solution slightly unfulfilling. But then again I often do.

The characters were believable and endearing and the writer clearly knows what she’s talking about. I would guess that perhaps she once filled the same role that Jeni, the main character in the book, occupies. I’d recommend it to fans of the fictional detectives Agatha Raisin and Daisy Dalrymple, who share the characteristics of achieving results by a mixture of luck and tenacious curiosity. Jeni very much falls into this category.

Also, if you like reading about other countries but dislike dry travel guides, this is a great way to learn about another culture without even thinking about it. It reminded me of Mary Stewart in that respect. The descriptions of Romania did slow the story down, but I enjoyed them nevertheless. All in all, it was a light but highly enjoyable read.

Rating- ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Find it on Amazon. About the Author: Jane Golden, author of SECRETS IN THE VINES and DANUBE DEFIANCE, was born with an inherent sense of adventure. The Biloxi, Mississippi native gives new meaning to tripping abroad. Experiencing international travel for the first time in her early teens, the brief jaunt stuck with her. She knew in her heart that the day-long excursion to a Mexican border town was the beginning of a lifetime of exotic journeys,which later included trips to Chile, Malawi, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Jordan, and Europe.

After practicing law for many years, she was unexpectedly thrust into the role of a diplomat wife in Eastern Europe. Much of the background material in SECRETS IN THE VINES and DANUBE DEFIANCE is borrowed from personal travel experiences, including humorous insights and unique perspectives gained upon arrival in Bucharest. Jane’s profound insights into the Romanian culture are eye-opening in both books, igniting the curiosity of the reader while providing non-stop entertainment. 

Age of the Ashers- Book Review

I don’t really know where to start with this review, except to say that I loved it. It’s one of those rare books where my tea grew cold, dinner boiled over and dirty dishes piled up in the sink until I’d finished reading it.

The core concept is familiar, though none the worse for that. A seemingly normal teen discovers she has special powers and is the only one who can change the course of history. But the setting really is unique- a fantasy land in which all the Ancient Greek myths, creatures and gods are actually real, the knowledge of which is suppressed by the country’s secretive government.

I also loved the idea of making Chloe a twin, and of the two I actually liked Damien the best. I don’t want to give too much away, but I think he had an interesting mental journey. While Chloe has no idea she’s special at first, Damien does know, deep down, but rejects it. I connected with his story most. Or maybe I just have a bit of a crush on him…

I must just mention the cleverest thing about this book. I love a moment when everything comes together and you think ‘how did I not see that before?’ Well, there is such a moment when Chloe finds out what her power is. Or there was for me anyway.

The ending to this book in NOT satisfying. Picture this- me, perched precariously on the edge of the bed, nails bitten to the quick, eyes dry and sore with staring so hard, screaming ‘noooo, that can’t be the last page,’ before frantically checking when the next in the series is due out. So I’m just warning you, you won’t be able to stop at this one.

You can find the book on Amazon.

5 Ways Not To Start Your Novel

 Earlier this week I posted the first line of my work-in-progress to Instagram, with the comment that I knew I was breaking a rule by starting my novel with the main character waking up. I asked what everyone thought and the general consensus seemed to be that I was breaking the rule well enough for it to be good. But not everyone knew that this was a rule. So, in the spirit of learning the rules so we can break them, here are some ways that my obsessive reading of articles written by agents and publishers about what gets their attention has taught me not to start a book… 

1) Waking up
It seems like such a natural place to start. Your character gets up in the morning and goes through their daily routine until something happens that throws them off. Great. Except this is a big turn off for agents and publishers. They read countless versions of morning routines. It’s boring and cliched. It doesn’t grab their attention. All is not lost though. Delete all that stuff about them waking up and agonising about their first day of work, school, interview, date, etc while they brush their teeth. Start the story at the point in which they actually do that thing instead. 

2) Dreaming 
 Starting with a dream is a lazy technique that just makes the reader feel cheated. For example  ‘Sonia teetered on the precipice, knowing she couldn’t save herself, didn’t even want to. She took a deep breath and jumped. The wind knocked the breath from her as the ground rose to meet her… Then she woke up.’ 

 See? Promising beginning that’s then ruined by the fact that, oh yeah, it’s not actually happening. And the other problem? The real beginning is actually the character waking up, which we’ve already discussed. 

3) Prologue
 Writers love prologues and readers hate them. I’m both so you can hopefully trust me when I say that prologues are an old fashioned device and generally serve no purpose other than to confuse the reader. When I see a prologue my first thought is that the writer has put it in in the hope of showing me that things will get exciting soon. Which usually means that the beginning of the actual story is slow. 

4) Onomatopoeia 
 Bang! Crash! There’s your originality going out the window.

 I was taught this method as a way to start a story when I was at school. The problem is that it still sounds childish. Particularly if it’s something like- Briiiiing, Briiiiing went the phone on that fateful morning. ‘I wonder who that could be?’ said Harry to himself. Little did he know etc etc. Just tell us that the phone rang. You can even say urgently if you must. 

5) Setting the scene

  You’ve probably seen this done more often in films. We get a few minutes of an idyllic setting before everything goes horribly wrong. It’s a lot quicker an easier to do this in films, though. In books no one is going to be gripped by your description of tea at the vicarage or a picnic in the park. Especially not an agent or publisher, who’s attention needs to be caught at once. So cut right to the action and trust the reader to fill in the blanks. We can. If you show us a rumpled blanket on the grass with an overturned basket then we will grasp that your protagonist was having a pleasant picnic before disaster struck. 

Breaking the rules- 
 So, now we know the rules we can work out how to break them! For instance, The Hunger Games starts with Katniss waking up and going out to hunt- as she does most days. If I Stay begins with a, rather stickily sweet in my opinion, scene of the protagonist’s family interacting happily. And no doubt like me you’ve read plenty of books that start with a prologue. So the rules aren’t hard and fast. But you need to know them so you can break them well enough to get away with it. And if you can do that then that in itself may catch an agent’s or publisher’s attention. 
 I hope you found this post helpful. And if you’re curious about my rule-breaking first line mentioned at the beginning then check out my Instagram

Have You Thought About Kindle Scout? 

 Today I want to talk about a possible resource for writers (and readers) that I wasn’t previously aware of- Kindle Scout. 

 When a friend of mine told me this week that she was starting a Kindle Scout campaign I had no idea what she was talking about. Am I the only one? Perhaps everyone else in the world knows all about it. But then why is this the first time an author has told me they’re doing it? It seems like such a great idea. If, like me, you haven’t heard of it, or don’t know what it involves, read on… 

 Kindle Scout is a scheme in which you can upload details of a book you’ve written and start a campaign to have it published. The campaign lasts 30 days. During this time users of Kindle Scout can nominate your book for publication. The more nominations, the more likely your book will be selected for publication, though that isn’t the only criteria. And get this- if chosen, you’ll not only be published by kindle press, but receive a $1,500 advance, plus 50% royalties. And featured Amazon marketing! 

 This is a great thing for readers too. If a book you voted for gets a publishing deal, you will receive a free copy! And you’ll keep up to date with all the latest fiction, which is great if you’re a reviewer, or would like to be. 

 If you want more information, why not check out my friend Diana Tyler’s campaign to see how it’s done? While you’re there, please take a moment to nominate her book! All you need is an Amazon account. 

Diana’s book:

What if all the ancient myths are true? 

Why Being a Published Author Makes it Harder to Write


 My first book was published earlier this year. When I wrote it, it was with the possibility of a sequel in mind. Everyone who’s reviewed it so far has said they want a sequel. I’m going to write one. I really am. Honest. 

 So why have I only got as far as half a chapter? I didn’t have this problem with my first book. And it’s not as if I don’t know what to do with it, it’s all plotted out. Why can I not just sit down and write it? 

 I’ve come up with a few reasons: 

I know it’s going to be published. 

 When I wrote my first book, publication was a distant possibility. A dream really. So I wasn’t worrying about what other people would think of my work as I wrote. Now publication is a reality and it’s hard not to take that into account when writing. 

 I’m afraid it won’t live up to expectations. 

 What if the sequel doesn’t go the way my fans want it to? What if they’re unhappy with the character development, or which of her romantic interests my heroine chooses? Or what if they just don’t like it as much?

I’m very busy marketing my first book. 

 This is the real killer. I’ve let myself become so busy with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, my newsletter, and this blog, that I have no time for my next masterpiece! 

 I know there is only ONE SOLUTION for all of these issues. SIT DOWN AND WRITE!!!! So I’m taking a holiday at a remote Scottish island. For a week. Starting today. I won’t be blogging. I won’t be on my social media (much). I’m going to break the back of this sequel. Hopefully you’ll thank me later! Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be back in a week. 
See you then! 

An Interview with Author Krysten Lindsay Hager 

Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star, Landry in Like, Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2), and Dating the It Guy. Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton. In this interview she tells us about her inspirations, getting published and her advice to new writers. 

When did you start writing?

I’ve loved coming up with storylines since I was a little kid. I was always scribbling story ideas down and my fifth grade teacher told my parents she thought I’d be an author one day. I started writing more seriously in college and grad school. I was already writing for a newspaper during that time and I’d try to find time to work on book writing.

What was the first thing you ever had published?

I published short stories and essays and articles in magazines, newspapers, and online sites, but my first book was for preteens called, True Colors (Landry’s True Colors Series: Book One).

How did you end up with your current publisher?

I was in an online group for freelance writers. We motivated each other to find new places to publish articles and essays and a few of them were writing books as well. Two of them were with my first publisher and they were both happy there, so I filed that name in the back of my mind. Honestly, freelancing is such a great way to being as an author because you build a platform and learn how to handle things like having your work in public and dealing with reactions/criticism, etc.

What’s your writing fuel of choice? Tea, coffee, neat whisky?

Pepsi! And I do like a cup of tea at the end of the day.

Where do you write?

I moved a few months ago and now I have a new office—I just got bookshelves and was able to get my old books out of storage. I do a lot of my admin stuff and blog posts while watching the news in my living room.

What do you like to read?

I was just organizing my bookshelves and realized I own a lot of non-fiction! I have more fiction on my Kindle. I like biographies, YA, middle grade, new adult, contemporary novels, classics, mysteries, and I read all sorts of non-fiction like health books, self-help, Christian books, and current events.

Is there a particular author who has inspired you?

Several inspired me, but Paula Danziger, who wrote middle grade and YA, was the one who made me feel I was meant to make a career out of this. I read a bio on her and I saw some parallels with why she wanted to write for teens and my own feelings.

What advice would you like to pass on to new writers?

A lot of people ask me this and tell me their writing professors/teachers/mentors tell them they need to start publishing articles, etc. before they begin trying to get a book published and that’s a great idea. I was told to do this as well and not only do you build up your platform and get people to see what you can do, but you get experience in so many ways—exposure, clips for your bio, and experience dealing with public reactions.

Tell us about your latest book. What’s it about and what was the inspiration behind it?

Dating the It Guy is about a high school girl named Emme who winds up dating the son of a well-known senator. She goes through a lot of self-doubt as she watches his perfect ex-girlfriend trying to get him back and not feeling good enough for his new crowd. It’s a book about love, family, and learning to be yourself.

Where can we buy your book?



Amazon paperback:

Amazon UK Kindle:

Amazon UK Paperback:

Barnes and Noble:

Barnes and Noble Paperback:




Another ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review! 

 Victoria’s Victorian Victory is a charming, old fashioned novel set in Victorian times and reminded me very much of the writings of L.M. Montgomery, the Lark Rise to Candleford series and the Flambards trilogy by K.M. Peyton.

 Extremely well written, the novel is nicely paced with well developed, believable characters and a strong plot line. The author has obviously researched the period thoroughly, because the details were absolutely spot on, adding so much depth and authenticity you could almost smell the fresh cut hay and hear the mooing of the cows.

 Victoria’s Victorian Victory is about 14 year old Victoria Bloom, whose life is turned upside down after the death of her father. Expecting her older brother to take up the challenge of running the family farm, things take a turn for the worse when her brother Charlie is seduced away by the bright lights of London, leaving Victoria and her family to cope alone, with the rent due, a harvest to get in and the very real prospect of the workhouse looming before them.

 However, Victoria is not a girl to take adversity lying down and I think her character is one of the book’s main strengths. Almost modern in her thinking and outlook, Victoria is determined her family will keep their home. Not only that, she is convinced she can make the farm thrive and become more prosperous than ever.

 In this age of “kick ass” futuristic heroines, all in love with vampires or werewolves, it was a refreshing change to read a book where the heroine was just strong minded and independent because that’s her character. Not because she has super powers, or a destiny to fulfill, but just because her sheer grit, determination and stubbornness will never let her admit defeat. In Victoria’s eyes, an obstacle is there to be got around, and get around them she does. Often with a cheek and inventiveness that had me chuckling.
If there is one tiny flaw with the book, it’s that it ended too abruptly, leaving me wanting more of Victoria and her family. I am hopeful that the author has a sequel in mind as there is definitely, in my opinion, far more of Victoria’s tale to be told.

 All in all, a thoroughly lovely book, highly recommended.

Thanks to Julia Blake for this wonderful review of my baby! 

If this sounds like your sort of book then you can find it here on and here on