Audiobook Review: Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear narrated by Jane Collingwood

 Sweet Little Lies was an Amazon Bestseller last year, and as usual I never quite got round to reading it at the time. However, there it sat on my TBR pile along with so many others – so many books , so little time. Aha!  Audiobook to the rescue. I’m so glad I picked this novel, it’s got all the ingredients of a good crime novel – whodunnit, why, and how. However this book is not a police procedural and not a psychological thriller but is in fact a mixture of the two. Refreshing, tense, warm and funny.

I have no idea why Audible have categorised it under Self Help and How To Guides, Parenting and Families (whaaaaaat?)  as well as Thrillers …It is a thriller.

About the book: here is the blurb from Amazon.

What I thought I knew: in 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared, and Dad knew something about it. Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.

What I actually know: in 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle. Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad’s pub. Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle’s disappearance and Alice Lapaine’s murder.

My Review:

Cat Kinsella is part of a murder investigation team and this immediately places her in a compromising position when her father could very easily become a suspect in a local murder and linked to the disappearance of Maryanne Doyle. Cat’s no angel and her father is/was a bad boy, in fact good or bad no one in this story is what they seem to be and this tests Cat’s loyalties to breaking point.

The story was well plotted and the characters very believable which is a sound basis for any decent book, which this is. It wasn’t at all difficult to find myself totally absorbed by the twists and turns of this debut novel and, because of the engaging writing style, the first person perspective worked extremely well. As did the settings for the story and the dynamics of Cat’s family. I say family, but she has two families really – one by virtue of her birth and the other her work ‘family’. The title says it all, it’s packed with secrets and lies and yet Caz Frear pulls all the threads together at the end. Neat and very satisfactory. I really enjoyed this one!

The Audiobook:

Congratulations to the narrator. What a fine job especially with the number of characters she had to find voices for. None of the male voices grated on me which can, I’m afraid to say, sometimes happen when females are narrating (A personal view). This is a top quality production.

If you haven’t read or plugged in to this book yet, give it a go.


Audiobook Review: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan


The Keeper of Lost Things (Click for link to Amazon) by Ruth Hogan. Narrated by Jane Collingwood, Sandra Duncan and a mystery man.

This book deserves all the accolades showered upon it and I know I’m late to the party, but goodness me it was well worth waiting for. Brava, Ruth Hogan! This book is a gem, utterly enchanting. Can’t recommend highly enough.


I’ve worked out why I waited so long to delve into this story and it’s not merely because I’m a slow reader and will never get through the pile of books yet to be read.

When I finished listening to the last words of The Keeper of Lost Things and sighed, it all made sense. Being read to as a child, tucked up in bed, was always the highlight of my day and a good audiobook brings the same sense of contentment. Staying with the wonder of childhood as an analogy, this book is also reminiscent of the special Christmas gift that calls to us from under the tree. We leave it until last before unwrapping it, in excited anticipation of what it may bring, because it should be savoured.

The Keeper of Lost Things has been calling to me for months, and yet I resisted. I think I desperately wanted it to be that special present; the one that makes your heart lurch. Having finished it, I can safely say it is just that. I’m ordering my own paperback copy to keep. Wouldn’t want to lose this one!

About the book:

Winner of the Richard and Judy autumn book club 2017.

One of the Mail on Sunday’s ‘Best books for the beach this summer’

Meet the Keeper of Lost Things….

Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters….

What are my thoughts?

This story was thoroughly captivating, in part because of Ruth Hogan’s ability to paint magical pictures with words, but also because the story itself, despite exploring dark subjects, is such an endearing one.

How do we categorise this book? ‘Up-lit’, is the favoured term, apparently. Uplifting literature it is indeed and is a wonderfully woven tale of love, loss, redress and reconciliation all anchored in a strong sense of place, Padua, the house where the lost things are carefully kept. The composition is cleverly thought through, intelligent, competent and so true to life. Classy.

The idea for the book arose from an opening line. The first paragraph had me hooked.

Charles Bramwell Brockley was travelling alone and without a ticket on the 14.42 from London Bridge to Brighton. The Huntley and Palmers biscuit tin in which he was travelling teetered precariously on the edge of the seat as the train juddered to a halt at Haywards Heath. But just as it toppled forward towards the carriage floor it was gathered up by a safe pair of hands.

 Although the story involves the perceptive exploration of loss, of death and of regret, the book is joyful in its humour and positivity.  Ruth Hogan’s optimistic soul shines from the pages. Well-rounded characters, who are hard not to become overly attached to, complete the component parts of what is a superb book.

The Performance: Writers and readers alike will have formed the voices of the characters and see them in their heads as they either write or absorb the words in any given book. However, experiencing an audiobook is somewhat different. We rely on the narrators to interpret the words for us and be true to the writing.  As an audiobook, the publishers/producers of The Keeper of Lost Things should be commended for taking the step of using a number of narrators. This is not an easy book to do audio justice to for the simple reason that there are intertwining stories and an important cast of characters, central to which is Anthony Peardew himself, and yet the male narrator has not been credited. Odd. He has a lovely voice, as have the other two narrators who have done a sterling job. I was completely lost in the story (pun intended).

Not wanting to spoil anything, but if you intend listening to this then I would suggest you plug your earphones in and settle down with ‘the lovely cup of tea’ to savour every moment of this story without too many interruptions. In the meantime I look forward to disappearing into Ruth’s next book, The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, which was inspired by her walks in a local Victorian garden cemetery. (



Ali Morgan



Audiobook Review: Sweetpea by C J Skuse, narrated by Georgia Maguire.

Sweetpea: (click for link to Amazon)

The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…

An innocent sounding title, but Sweetpea isn’t a book for the genteel. Take heed.  If you are easily offended, don’t have uncharitable thoughts about others, and don’t revel in inventive explicit language and ‘scenes of a sexual and or violent nature’, then this book should be avoided. Personally, I loved the turn of phrase employed by C J Skuse throughout the telling of this story, it shocked me in the most wonderful way! Superb.

Sweetpea has been Shortlisted for the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award 2018 and I’d had it on my ‘want to read’ list for a while. Having downloaded the audiobook, within minutes my jaw needed resetting. Sweetpea is told entirely in the first person and takes the form of a diary kept by a young woman whose past has had a direct and devastating impact on her personality. Rhiannon lives in a British West Country town, with her small dog and her boyfriend. She works for a local newspaper and that is where the fragile veneer of normality ends.

Rhiannon keeps a list. Each chapter begins as she recites the names on this list. The names change depending on what transgressions those individuals have committed, or on Rhiannon’s mood that day. People from work, friends who irritate or betray in some way, other road users, scum or ne’er-do-wells. I have similar lists, the difference being that I don’t often act on my dark thoughts. She does. And she loves it.

Rhiannon, the clever and insightful psychopath, is brought to life in this book by someone who understands the social pressures of being a young adult in today’s world of conforming to expectations about how they should live their lives, interact with others and aspire to the happy ever after. The need to fit in and how this cannot happen for Rhiannon is joyfully recorded using great evil expressions, deeply derogatory comments, fierce put-downs and downright revolting descriptions.

Sweetpea is hugely entertaining to listen to because the narrator ‘gets it’. She has just the right voice for the job and with her excellent timing, inflection, and ability to set the right tone of the story, it comes alive right into your ears! It was hard not to plug myself in for the whole twelve and a half hours and forget the rest of the world for a while, but in truth I rationed myself. Now, there is hole in my life which is about to be filled by another audiobook from the same author or the same narrator, possibly both …

Barry the Cactus is Dead

RIP – Barry the Cactus. He was a present (sorry Andy, sorry Charley) and now I have to confess to killing him. In the photo he looks well enough. There even appears to be a new green shoot, but he’s dead alright. He has withered and turned grey.

It was all going so well. The green growth, now deflated and wrinkled, was an exciting product of warm dry cactus-health during the summer, which I then completely undermined with my ineptitude. I’m a plant killer.

I’ve just ordered a book called ‘How not to kill your houseplants – survival tips for the horticulturally challenged.’ That’s me. In as many months I’ve killed two houseplants. Spinelli the Spider Plant shrivelled up through lack of water and I fear that Barry the Cactus was killed for the opposite reason. Please don’t tell my friend Elaine. She gave me Spinelli in good faith. She named him, for goodness sake, and in return I promised to nurture him and give him a good home in the kitchen. I couldn’t even do that.

Weirdly, the ‘Mother-in’law’s tongue’ plants that I re-potted are doing astoundingly well – just like the real thing. Indestructible.

‘Killed anyone recently?’ I’m often asked with a wry smile. Writing crime thrillers isn’t easy, you know, but killing off characters is part of the job. I derive great pleasure from dispatching a nasty human individual. Very therapeutic. However, woe betide the crime writer who involves animals in any form of danger, torture or worse. This is an absolute ‘no-no’.

So, where do I stand with killing plants? I need to know because I think it’s only fitting that I remember the lives of Spinelli and Barry by immortalising them within the plot of my current work in progress. Not in the form of a plant  torturing scene, you understand, but as a feature, a bit part.

Maybe I could inflict damage on someone who deserves it via assault with a  cactus. Make Barry a hero. Strangle someone with a spider plant … Maybe not. I’ll give it some thought.

In the meantime, I’ll make sure I read that book when it arrives and try not to do any more damage to innocent house plants and you can shake your head at the peculiar workings of my mind, realising that this is how writers come up with original plot lines. Sad really.

Barry the Cactus is dead. Long live Barry the Cactus.



Review of audiobook Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh narrated by Adam Sims

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

Narrated by Adam Sims

Highly recommended! Five big stars out of five from me.

A bit about the story:

Thirteen has a clever premise as clearly outlined in the tag line. The killer is on the jury. This isn’t a spoiler in any way it is the hook that prevents you from putting down the book or switching off your bluetooth headphones. The blurb says it all.

‘Hollywood actor Robert Soloman stands accused of the brutal stabbings of his wife and her lover, but he is desperately pleading that he had nothing to do with it. This is the trial of the century, and the defence want Eddie Flynn on their team.

The biggest case Eddie has ever tried before, he decides to take it on despite the overwhelming evidence that Robert is guilty. As the trial starts, Eddie becomes sure of Robert’s innocence, but there’s something else he is even more sure of – that there is something sinister going on in the jury box.

Because of this, he is forced to ask: what if the killer isn’t on the stand? What if he’s on the jury?’

What’s it like to listen to?:

Being as English as  afternoon  tea, I usually stick to British narration. Usually, but not always by any means. This book had been calling to me for some time but as I now write crime thrillers to supplement my pension, – I was going to say that I write ‘for a living’ but that would be lying – I often listen to an audio book while doing the gardening and other household tasks. The garden furniture needed attention and so, as I put brush into jar of teak oil, I plugged in to Thirteen and, my goodness, what a treat.

The story makes use of first person to give the perspective of Eddie Flynn, defence lawyer with a great backstory. I think this draws the reader/listener in to the suspense more than if third person had been used throughout. Cleverly, Steve Cavanagh serves up the rest of the deliciously descriptive dastardly tale in the third person. His research into the workings of the law and of the jury selection process allows those of us unfamiliar with US judicial systems, a chance to understand the ins and outs of the plot. Intelligent stuff.

The characters drive the plot. Eddie Flynn is a delight. Flawed, human, bright and sharp witted. I liked him a lot. Happy to invest. The twisted antagonist, Kane, is a work of  art with depth of psychological damage as well as intelligence and motives that make sense.

What leads me to conclude that this thriller works so well as an audiobook is the narration. Adam Sims understood the story, the characters and he brings them to life. His accents don’t grate and I for one prefer a male narrator when it comes to female voices rather as opposed to a female attempting male voices.  This audio book is a credit to all involved. If you like courtroom dramas, crime thrillers with a psychopath at the heart of the story, suspense and twists a plenty, then you’ll love this. I did.

Alison Morgan  


How to Plot a Murder: A Workshop with “MorgAn and MorgEn”

  On Saturday 6th October #BedfordLibraries boldly kick-started #LibrariesWeek with a creative workshop entitled ‘How to Plot a Murder’. Now, considering that the theme of this year’s Libraries Week is “wellbeing” this seemed a little contradictory, unless you were there at the time. If you were, you would have spent most of the morning with a smile on your face.

The aim of the workshop was to have creative fun exploring the basics of planning out a cosy mystery, a whodunnit. We weren’t sure quite how many people would take the time to buy a £1 ticket (to cover the cost of refreshments), let alone who would turn up on the day, but the response was overwhelming. An additional few tickets were made available at the last minute to account for the demand. Extra chairs were found and late arrivals were squeezed in at the back.

With support from librarian Ben Woodfine, as well as editor, author, competition judge and all-round dynamo creative writing tutor Morgen Bailey, we entertained the packed room with an ambitious programme and enticed attendees to explore the hidden depths of their imagination to come up with inventive ways of committing the ultimate crime. We challenged them to consider motive and opportunity, setting, a cast of possible suspects and the need for research. Before doing that, however, we set the tone of the morning by giving out a recipe to work to, as follows:

Recipe for The Cosy Murder Mystery

Place 2lbs of ‘death-in-mysterious-circumstances’ and one tiny pinch of gory into a well-defined setting.

Add 6 – 8 possible suspects.

Stir well.

Check time of death.

Fold in a detective with experience and half a pint of detective sergeant. (If unavailable, can be substituted by a sleuth with high IQ)

Place under spotlight for several chapters exploring possible means, motive and opportunity.

Melt together, several splashes of humorous banter, community reaction and revelations about suspects.

Season with a sprinkling of red herring – to taste. (Note: can cause intolerance if overused).

Pour this into the other ingredients and mix well.

(Note: Never add profanity, sex or extreme violence.)

When baked, the story should be realistic and all loose ends tied up.

If the mystery has not been satisfactorily solved, start again/tweak/revise/ or seek advice from an editor.

Judging by the round of applause, the thanks we received, and the comments, it seems we achieved what we set out to:

“Thank you ladies – Morgen and Morgan- great team. It was an informative and fun workshop. I met some lovely writers and also got inspiration for a character to kill off!”

“Really interesting morning , loved it . Thank you both.”

“Amazing content. Great atmosphere and opportunity to participate in discussions. Good hand-outs.  £1? Would have paid £5.” 

“More please, more, more, more. Been looking for a group for ages, would love some regular crime writing workshops and a writing group.”

What did Morgen and I learn?

One: There are keen readers and writers out there who are desperate to absorb as much as possible about the art of writing.

Two: Some people may look sweet and innocent but they have twisted minds. 

    Three:  Humour is a great tool for teaching.
    Four:  Being an author is as much about giving back as it is about selling books.

A big thank you to Ben for organising,

 and especially to Morgen for giving her free time to join me:

The Serial Dater's Shopping List: a laugh out loud comedy about the highs and lows of dating by [Bailey, Morgen]

Click here for her latest book




Fictional Character begs for his life.

 ‘My name is Barney Ribble, my given name is Kevin but no one ever calls me that. I exist only inside the imagination of Alison Morgan and on the pages of two books, so far. I’m not the main character, but I still matter and if you don’t open those books then I fade away into the distant memory of everyone who once read about me.

Not only do I cease to live, but my mates, and my sense of humour all lie hidden, waiting for you to breathe life into us again. Fair enough I swear a bit, but apart from that there’s nothing to dislike. Now my old mucka Konrad Neale, he’s a different case in point. The flash git has got himself into a spot of bother a time or two and no mistake. Check out The Camera Lies, you’ll see what I mean. Bloody hell. Psychopath central. What she wasn’t capable of isn’t worth mentioning!

Then get your nose into a copy of Stench. When I try to help young Rory Norton because everyone thinks he’s killed the woman they found under his floorboards,  I ask for Konrad’s help but no … he manages to make matters worse.

Next? You’ll have to wait until January. Of course I know what happens in Fat Chance, but I’m not telling you. I’ll remind you nearer the time, how about that?

The Importance of the Blurb

  Once the cover catches the potential reader’s eye they check the blurb on the back cover of the book. I do. And in the first sentence or two I have to be hooked or I’m off to check out another book.

Tricky. Tricky for the reader looking for that next escape into a story, tricky for the author and publisher trying to promote their book.

The word “blurb” seems quite modern but apparently it derives from back in the early 1900’s. An American writer by the name of Gelet Burgess wrote a comic book to be given away at a book festival. On the cover he featured a Miss Belinda Blurb as a spoof, mocking the type of cover design popular with publishers of serious novels at the time.  A marketing ploy, the name Blurb caught the attention of the press who asked what it meant. Burgess apparently said it described ‘self praise and making a noise like a publisher’.

Belinda Blurb, queen of promotion.

Without the blurb how do we know, at a glance, what a book is about?

What constitutes a good blurb? It’s more than a brief description. The opening must be precise and captivating. Who and what is this story about? Sounds simple until you have to write one. Try creating an opening blurb line for ‘Robinson Crusoe’.  Robinson Crusoe a headstrong young man In the year … or Based on the true story of Alexander Selkirk …. or … Robinson Crusoe survived the shipwreck only to find himself on a deserted island…

We want to hear more, but then there’s the question of how much more ? What is the hook? Will he find a way off the island? How will he endure the loneliness? 

A good blurb entices the reader further by ensuring this is the book they are looking for. A story of adventure, of human determination and ingenuity.

The final shove towards the till or that BUY button is to compare your book to one that already sells millions. If you enjoyed Treasure Island then this book is for you. Or words to that effect, without being patronising, or sounding like a second hand car dealer. This is difficult.

Get it right and it can increase book sales. I’m no expert, but I suggest checking out people who are if you are an author and especially if you self-publish.

The blurb, not just a load of blah blah blah.

Book Review

A.B. Morgan’s Reviews > White Chrysanthemum

White Chrysanthemum


A.B. Morgan‘s review

Sep 10, 2018  ·  edit

White Chrysanthemum

Goodness me! It is a long time since a book has haunted me emotionally in the way this one has done. I cannot stop thinking about it.

White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht is a beautifully written book which is set to the backdrop of a little known part of recent history. Until I read this book and was fortunate enough to listen to the author speak at a summer literary festival, I knew nothing of the “comfort women” – young girls wrenched from their homes and families in Korea to be used as commodities by the Japanese army to service their soldiers during the second world war. Indeed I had only vague knowledge of Korea’s troubled past.

The author uses the power of fiction to tell the story of two sisters whose lives are forever changed by war and cultural devastation. The language used is simple yet somehow poetic and completely draws the reader into the determined struggle of the two main characters. It is told in the third person present and alternates between time periods with such ease that the reader is driven to turn the pages and follow the path the two sisters take.

There were times when my heart ached, tears welled up and when I sought a quiet place not to be disturbed in order to disappear into the book. If Mary Lynn Bracht never writes another novel she can rest easy,this one is an immense credit to her writing ability and her commitment to tell the story of the women so badly wronged. Highly recommended.


Confessions of a Writer: part 1

I shouted at the radio in my car yesterday. Depeche Mode were playing and I was singing along as I drove to the nearest supermarket, forced into a shopping trip because of severely depleted supplies.

‘Words are very unnecessary. They can only do harm …’

I hadn’t paid much attention to the lyrics of this particular song before and I was cross at the insinuation. ‘What crap,’ I said to the windscreen. Then I took the time to listen to the full chorus and, all at once, felt a sense of deep shame at having misunderstood. Taken out of context, the words I had focussed on sent a negative message, but listen to the full lyrics of Enjoy the Silence and it is a beautiful song about the power of touch.

When I reached the supermarket the song was firmly stuck in my head as I wheeled the trolley through to the checkout. I was humming away as I packed the bags, only stopping to laugh aloud as I read another set of words which I immediately took out of context because of the way they were written.

A piece of cardboard had been attached to the security posts at the exit. It had been handwritten in bold, black, marker-pen with the words-


My strange writing brain engaged gear and,  as I finished reading, was already wondering at the inequality between being a basket and being a trolley. Trolleys had it good. They could go outside. Obviously a couple of baskets had decided to make a run for it and the basket police had taken remedial action without waiting for head office approval.

I sang as I walked back to my car, ‘Words are very unnecessary. They can only do harm.’ Especially if you happen to be a basket in a supermarket.

What lesson did I learn?     For writers and readers alike, context is important.