Tuesday, 22 June 2021


Chez Maximka, Italian comfort food, vegetarian meals

 Last week's Feast featured a recipe for summer minestrone, which made me think just how authentic Felicity Cloake's version is. I remember she totally butchered the Russian salad recipe earlier this year. As I have a couple of hundred cook books, I thought I'd do a quick research from the Italian authors. There are obviously many regional variations, so it's not easy to say which recipe could be called a classic one.

From consulting several authors, you can come to a conclusion that olive oil, onion, celery, potato, carrot, beans and courgettes are the must-have ingredients, which appear in all recipes. But then the variations sweep you away.

Julia del Croce, who is described as a Doyenne of Italian food and cookery, has a recipe for Classic Minestrone in her book Italian Comfort Food (Kyle Cathie Ltd, 2010 edition). Julia says the secret to the success of this colourful, meatless vegetable soup is the use of fresh vegetables, high quality olive oil and authentic Parmesan.

She uses a battuto, a chopped mixture of garlic, rosemary and parsley, adds a butternut squash, cauliflower florets, pasta and freshly grated Parmesan.

Biba Caggiano, author and cooking show host, comes from Emilia-Romagna. Her recipes reflect the vibrant food of her childhood. In her book Biba's Taste of Italy (William Morrow, 2001) she introduces a recipe for Minestrone Modenese which includes chicken broth, pancetta, prosciutto, tomatoes, mushrooms, Savoy cabbage and asparagus in addition to the staple ingredients. That recipe requires simmering soup for over two and a half hours.

Giorgio Locatelli (whose smouldering looks make my heart skip a beat) offers two recipes for minestrone in his book Made In Italy Food and Stories (Fourth Estate London. In his opinion, this is the best soup in the world, and who are we to argue with him.

One is a Minestrone Verde with Pesto. Giorgio says he likes to add rice to minestrone, just the way his Nonna did. Here he adds a leek, Swiss chard, courgette flowers if possible, cavolo nero, fresh peas, broad beans, spinach, chickpeas and pesto.

The second recipe is a non-vegetarian version - Minestrone with Langoustines, where you start with cooking a langoustine consommé.

Trendy Chiappa Sisters offer the version of minestrone that they eat regularly in the Chiappa household. I have a copy of Simply Italian (it's even a signed copy!) in front of me - their version of Hearty Vegetable Soup is a more simplified one in comparison to the recipes mentioned above and has a sweet potato, leek, fresh tomatoes and tomato puree, and with pastina added near the end of cooking. 

And finally, let's consult Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian (Chronicle Books, 2001) - I bought this book when we lived in the States, and I often bought Saveur magazine. They publish a recipe for Minestrone Genovese, which includes porcini mushrooms, Swiss chard, spinach. eggplants. tubetti pasta and white beans plus pesto among the other ingredients.

I didn't consult the British chefts like Jamie, Nigel or Nigella, not because I don't trust their opinions, but because I have to stop somewhere.

Basically, it's up to you, which vegetables you want to add to the main five-six. Looks like there is no definitive, undisputed recipe.

And here is the one I made yesterday. It was a rather cold, miserable rainy kind of day, when I crave soup. 



1 onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot

2 sticks of celery

1 clove of garlic

3tbsp olive oil (I used Filippo Berio)

1/2tsp Knorr rosemary and onion seasoning (optional)

2 medium potatoes

1 pot of Knorr vegetable stock

1 courgette

1 tin of borlotti beans, rinsed

3tbsp risotto rice (Gallo is my choice)

80g of fresh peas



grated cheese - I used grated mozzarella (vegetarian), but Parmesan would be more authentic

Chez Maximka

Peel and finely chop an onion, carrot and two celery sticks. This will be the base of your soffritto.

Heat the oil in a big frying pan, cook onion for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the carrot and celery, keep frying until softened. If using the rosemary and onion seasoning, add it at this stage with a finely chopped clove of garlic.

Chez Maximka

In the meantime, prep the remaining veg - peel and chop potatoes, slice a courgette.

Add the fried soffrito mix to a big pan, add the potatoes, beans and risotto rice, pour about a litre and a half of water and add a stock cube (or 1tbsp powdered stock). Cook for five minutes, then add the courgette and peas, and cook until all the veg is soft. 

In the last minute or so add a handful of chopped parsley and basil. If the soup is too thick, add more water to the pan.

This is a pretty straightforward easy recipe. You don't need to spend two and a half hours, simmering it. 

Serve hot, with grated parmesan or mozzarella on top.

This is a recipe, very similar to the minestrone my mother-in-law cooks. 

Chez Maximka, Italian soup recipe

If you don't have time to chop and cook soffritto, Waitrose and some other supermarkets make it easy - you can buy a pack of pre-chopped soffritto mix.

In this recipe I used a bit of Knorr rosemary & onion seasoning, which was one of the products from the last Degustabox. This handy seasoning is great for BBQs and roasted vegetables. Rosemary goes so well with a wide variety of vegetables.

You can use a bit of finely chopped fresh rosemary, if you prefer. My mother-in-law has a selection of herbs growing in pots in the balcony outside her kitchen, so she just takes a few steps from the stove and picks some basil, sage, rosemary or thyme, when she needs it in cooking.

If you cook minestrone, what are you must-have ingredients? Do you like to improvise, depending on what vegetables and herbs you have?

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Death on the Lake by Jo Allen #BlogTour

thriller set in Cumbria

 "Shared secrets allowed you to love someone for what they were, just as confession cleared your conscience. If only she had the courage to trade secrets with Robert, so their marriage could be strengthened by the knowledge they kept, the ability it gave them to save and to betray one another. Then perhaps she might not be so afraid.

Because fear, like loyalty and friendship, made you do terrible, terrible things".

Death on the Lake by Jo Allen is a traditional British detective novel set in Cumbria. This is the fifth book in the DCI Jude Satterthwaite series.

Three young people are having a jolly good time on board the boat on Ullswater. High on drugs and drunk, the twins don't notice immediately that their female companion is missing.

When a young woman, Summer Raine, is found drowned, her death appears to be a tragic accident.

DCI Jude Satterthwaite is having niggles about the manner of her drowning. While he is deeply concerned that the accident might be not what it appears, his boss categorically refuses to let him dig deeper. Her hands are tied by the powers above. There is a fraud investigation going on, and they cannot compromise it. The father of the twins, Mr Neilson is "one of several subjects of a wide-ranging, very hush-hush, investigation into fraud and money-laundering on an international scale".

Their stepmother Miranda is a sensible woman, who knows her place in the family dynamics. She has  secrets of her own.

An elderly gentleman called George is a local character, cantankerous and prickly. Living in a cottage which has a vantage point over the neighbourhood, George knows everything that goes on around him. He might be in his mid-90s, but his mind is sharp, and he's very observant. When he has a stroke, his death is explained by natural causes.

Two deaths are seemingly unrelated. They are followed by a violent murder, military execution-style. This time it is an on-and-off boyfriend of Summer, a rude bully of a man, Luke. He has been generally unliked in the dale, but who would kill him and why?!

On top of all the deaths in the dale, Jude's personal life is complicated. His current girlfriend Ashleigh is still carrying a torch for her cheating ex. Jude's also not recovered from his relationship with Becca. They are honest with each other about their feelings, but that doesn't make their relationship smooth.

They make a good working team though. "For Jude detection was all about your brain and the evidence in front of it, whereas for Ashleigh the job benefited from intuition. You needed evidence but you needed intuition too".

Jude is determined to uncover the killer which brings him into a direct conflict with his boss, and puts him in danger. 

Death on the Lake is a gripping, twisty mystery. It's a stellar ensemble of the police procedural with the intriguing storyline. 

fiction set in Cumbria


Purchase Links 


UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08XY25KBM

US - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08XY25KBM


Author Bio – Jo Allen is the author of the successful DCI Satterthwaite series of detective novels set in and around the English Lake District, where she lives. After a career in economic consultancy she took up writing and was first published under the name Jennifer Young in genres of short stories, romance and romantic suspense. In 2017 she took the plunge and began writing the genre she most likes to read – crime. In common with all her favourite characters, she loves football (she's a season ticket holder with her beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers) and cats.

Social Media Links – 

Twitter @JoAllenAuthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JoAllenAuthor   

Instagram @JoAllenAuthor

women writers

This post is part of the blog tour. Many thanks to Jo Allen and Rachel's Random Resources for my copy of the book!

police procedural thriller

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Arlington Terrace by Tracy Martin-Summers #BlogTour


"What was she going to do about her? She just wouldn't leave her alone and often frightened her. Julie was aggressive and manipulative and always managed to get her own way. She didn't care what anyone thought, had no conscience and had, on a number of occasions, been violent towards her... The unpredictable side of her nature unnerved her. She had spent years trying to shake her off but she always found her".

Arlington Terrace by Tracy Martin-Summers is an utterly chilling psychological detective thriller. 

As this is the sequel to Gordon Square, we meet again Detective Sergeant Mike Brugge and his team at Holden City Central. Although it works perfectly as a stand-alone, reading Gordon Square first would give you a better understanding of the dynamics between the main protagonists as well as reveal the horrors of the past.

We encounter the tragic sisters, Linda and Rachel, whose mental recovery is being supervised and scrutinised by their doctors and psychiatrists. While Linda is making a good progress, her younger sister is way behind with her rehabilitation. It looks like her childhood ordeal is "too far ingrained and the effects could possibly be permanent".

Linda feels "burdened with guilt that she had survived sufficiently to go forward but Rachel was a prisoner with an indefinite sentence". She herself is ready to move on, and immerses herself in studies.

Fast forward to 2026 (that's not a typo, we are indeed in 2026). 

Mike and Mel are leaving their neighbourhood to move to a new house. He is reluctant to move away from his old haunts and mates. "Mike was a real creature of habit and didn't adjust well to change. He liked everything to stay the same. It made him feel comfortable, he knew where he was and that included people". He even turns down a detective inspector role, leading a team in Vice, as he prefers to stay in his existing role as a DS at Holden CID. 

Emma is on a three-months-long sabbatical. She grabs an opportunity to move to an apartment in Arlington Terrace, Holden. Her new lodgings are very fancy, with designer interior and racks of very expensive wine. She wouldn't have been able to afford this place, if it were not a sublet, off the record. It is a perfect solution for Emma, with no questions asked and no references requested. She had heard so much about the area, which appears posh and idyllic. 

Emma is on a tight budget, until she finds a job. Nobody knows her in the neighbourhood, she can slip in and out of her apartment unnoticed, and live incognito among the locals.

She doesn't tell anyone where she moves to, so how did Julie find her again? She's been very careful not to be tracked to her new abode. Emma is upset about Julie re-appearing in her life. "She always did this. Julie was a complete bully, a law unto herself, cared about no one but herself and Emma wished she had never met her... She had a habit of coming, stirring up trouble and then leaving again..."

We follow three different storylines, as they begin to interweave, creating an extremely dense and chilling picture.

Emma feels persecuted, she is bullied psychologically and physically, and considers a restraining order against her leach of a friend. She finally finds courage to go to the police. Mike wants to get to the bottom of what is going on here, between Emma and her so called friend. "There was something about that woman that spooked him. She had gotten under his skin and now his skin felt like it was crawling. What was it about her? Her vulnerability, her harrowing expression?... there was something else about her, something that was beginning to haunt him, he just couldn't put his finger on it..."

We follow Detective Sergeant Mike Brugge, Detective Constable Mel Brugge and Detective Sergeant Paul Osman as they are trying to unravel a crime which takes them back to the previous horrifying case.

The tension is set in motion, spiralling in wider circles as the creepy twisty storyline unfolds. I was convinced pretty many times what direction the storyline was going, but I got it wrong, the author has definitely outsmarted me. There are red herrings and twists galore, until the very last page. You will be shocked to the core.

Arlington Terrace is a cracking read, a haunting and twisty psychological thriller.

I reviewed Gordon Square earlier this year

This post is part of the blog tour for Arlington Terrace.

Many thanks to Tracy Martin-Summers, Michael Terence Publishing and Rachel's Random Resources for my copy of the book!

psychological thriller

Author Bio – 

Tracy was born in Harrow Weald, Middlesex in 1964, growing up in a loving family home. She married her first husband in 1990, has two grown up children and a granddaughter. 

She studied a variety of topics via module learning, embarking on City and Guilds and NVQ courses, ranging from a brief spell in hairdressing to administration and now works for a utility company in North West London. 

Tracy has numerous hobbies consisting of landscape painting to landscape gardening and always likes to paint the scene, even if it’s changing the colour scheme, yet again, within her home. 

Tracy has always enjoyed writing and used to write short stories for her own children's amusement but it has only been in the last few years that she has taken this more seriously and has gone on to write her first debut crime detective Novel called Gordon Square. 

Tracy Married her second husband in 2014 and now lives in Bedfordshire in a sleepy hamlet where she writes whenever she gets a spare moment. 

My website is: 

www.tracymartinsummers.co.uk and www.tracymartinsummers.com

Monday, 14 June 2021

Outdoor & BBQ Degustabox

 Summer, the warmest season of the year, is now in full swing. I love spending evenings outside in the garden. It is also a time for picnics and BBQs. I'm not the biggest fan of BBQs, as they can be pretty anti-social. Nobody likes the smell of burnt burgers wafting in their bedroom windows in the hot weather. Saying that, when I see the locals enjoying the BBQs on the beach when we visit Cornwall, I think that's a perfect location, and looks like great fun.

Outdoor & BBQ is the theme of the latest Degustabox.

Degustabox is a monthly food and drink subscription box. It's an excellent way of discovering new products which have only just appeared in the shops, or those which have been around for a while but you haven't had a chance to try them yet.

Thanks to Degustabox, I have found new favourites to add to our shopping list, including some products which I probably wouldn't have tried otherwise.

Each time the monthly box arrives, its contents are a total surprise. You get a good selection of foods and drinks.

If you haven't tried Degustabox subscription box yet, and would like to have a go, I have a £3 off discount from your first box (and you can unsubscribe any time), just use code DKRLN when placing an order.

What did we get in Outdoor & BBQ Degustabox?

subscription food box, Chez Maximka

Rowntree's Dessert Pastilles (£1.29)  are new vegan-friendly dessert flavoured fruit pastilles, inspired by classic desserts Mango Sorbet, Cherry Bakewell, Apple Crumble and Blueberry Pie. Every sharing bags contains a selection of these four flavours. They are very chewy, pretty and sweet, and will make a lovely decoration for cupcakes or cakes.

Nutritional information: 16.5g of sugar and 95kcal per serving of 7 sweets; contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.

Available in all major supermarkets.

Chez Maximka, vegan sweets

Hershey's Cookies'n'Creme bar (£0.89 for a 40g bar) is a white chocolate candy with cookie bits. This chocolate bar is one of the classic American flavours. 

Nutritional information: 524kcal and 48g of sugar per 100g.

Available in all major supermarkets.

Chez Maximka, US chocolate in the UK

Not Too Naughty/Telstar Cookies (£0.50 per single or £10 for 25) are delicious mini cookies, produced in Yorkshire. These lovely nibbles are a great accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee.

Nutritional information: 30% less sugar, no artificial sweterners, colours or preservatives and 88kcal per mini pack.

Available on Amazon.

Chez Maximka, cookies with less sugar content

My personal favourite was the chocolate flavour. Don't they look pretty?!

Chez Maximka

Brioche Pasquier Brioche Rolls (£1.50) is a traditional French product, well-known and much loved since 1936, when Gabriel Pasquier first opened his boulangerie.

They are soft and light, and rather lovely. Eat them with a bit of butter and jam, or make a delicious bread and butter pudding.

Available in Tesco, Ocado, Sainsbury's, Co-Op and Budgens.

Chez Maximka

Graze Cocoa Vanilla Protein Oat Bite (£1 for a single 30g bite or £2.49 for a multipack of 4). If you're looking for a healthier sweet treat, this bite contains 45% less sugar. Very handy to carry in a bag for when you're out and about and are feeling peckish.

Find more information at graze.com/nutrition.

Available in all major supermarkets.

Chez Maximka

Graze Smoky Barbecue Crunch (£1 for a 31g punnet or £2.99 for a 104g sharing bag) is a tasty snack of BBQ-flavoured peas, crunchy corn chips and chilli corn. I love savoury Graze snacks, and buy them often as a little treat for myself. 

Nutritional information: 139kcal and 1.9g of sugar per punnet.

Available in all major supermarkets.

More savoury snacks - Hippeas Chickpea Tortilla Snacks (£1) - are a brand new addition to the range. They are made from chickpeas and packed with plant-based protein. They are vegan, gluten free and contain nothing artificial. No MSG, palm oil free, a source of fibre.

We received a packet of Chilli Kicks flavour, which gives just the right amount of heat.

If you like your tortilla chips extra spicy, add a spoonful of pickled jalapenos ( we love Santa Maria's jalapenos with pineapple).

Average values: 202kcal per 40g serving and 1.5g of sugar.

Available at hippeas.com and Amazon, Booths, Boots, H&B, Planet Orgaic, Sainsbury's and Waitrose.

Chez Maximka

Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spray (£3) adds a delicious flavour and fruity aroma to a big variety of dishes, from salads to marinades, from pasta to baking. I use spray oil for greasing the cake tins.

Made using only 100% extra virgin olive oil and no additives, this spray is propellant free, using only pure air to dispense evently the right amount of oil. 

Available in Ocado and Amazon.

Chez Maximka

Knorr Rosemary & Onion/Tomato & Garlic seasoning (£1.80 for 30-35g) is another product, handy for BBQs and oven bakes. Use it for a tasty, no added salt dish. It will enhance roast potatoes or sweet potatoes, aubergine slices and many other vegetables. Add to a stew, soup or pasta for an extra delicious flavour.

You should receive one of 2 items in the box.

Available in 4 different flavours at Tesco.

Nairn's Spicy Oatcakes Cheese & Smoky Chipotle (£1.50) - No cheese board is complete without Nairn's oatcakes. If you like your snacks on the spicy side, give these oatcakes a go. Delicious with a generous piece of crumbly Cheddar or soft Brie. Don't forget some grapes or fresh figs, and your lunch is sorted!

Chez Maximka

Hellmann's Fat Free Vinaigrette Salad Dressing (£1.65 for 210ml bottle) is a healthy salad dressing with only 7kcal per tbsp. Add a dash of zingy flavour to any vegetable salad. It's made with a classic combination of herbs, garlic and red pepper.

I used it with roasted sweet peppers and beet, it was delicious. 

Available at ASDA, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Co-Op and Morrisons.

Whitworths Protein by Nature Mexican Spicy Grains (£2) is a new vegan product. These spicy grains are naturally nutritious, 100% vegan and packed full of 20g plant protein. Containing all 9 essential amino acids, the pouch is ready under 2 minutes. It contains no added flavourings or preservatives.

Ingredients include cooked grains with soya protein, red pepper, tomato and chilli.

If you're not sure what to make with it, how about a fajita with guacamole, or chilli non carne?

Available at Tesco, Morrisons and Ocado.

vegan protein, Chez Maximka

And now it's the turn of the drinks, presented this month by Pip Organic Sparkling Lemon (£1.50) - a refreshing blend, not from concentrate organic fruit juices and sparkling water, containing no added sugar or sweeteners. At under 75kcal, this drink counts as one of you five-a-day. 
It is a very zingy drink.
It will make a lovely base for a lemonade-based cocktail as well.

Available from Abel & Cole, Amazon and Ocado.

Chez Maximka

And finally, Echo Falls Strawberry & Pink Pepper Rose Seltzer (or Blueberry & Hibiscus Rose Seltzer) (£1.80). The new Echo Fall rose seltzers (4.5% ABV) come in at 69kcal per can and are available in 3 flavours. A great summery drink.

Available at ASDA and independent stores.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

The Winter Song by Saurav Dutt #BlogTour

books about grief, Chez Maximka

"I suppose you'd like to know how I'm doing. I feel fit, I still have energy, I still have resolve. I have a feeling I'll be seeing you soon though, maybe you'll come to me as my eyesight is failing, or when my breathing becomes laboured. Maybe you'll just appear one day in my palm as a butterfly. "

The Winter Song by Saurav Dutt is a story of loss and grief, love and forgiveness. It is a moving and deep tale of self-discovery. 

The narrative is slow-moving and unhurried. We follow the main protagonist, John Perera, as he sets off on a long journey. Just three days before John's wife Asima died of cancer, she asked him, "If you love me, John, then why don't you do something grand, something beautiful, something that proves it?"

It is a challenging request. "He would walk from their home in Simla, through the unfolding trails of pine, deodar, and oak forest, across the muttering expanse of imposing Himalayan peaks, through the villages and forests. For miles and miles, until he came to the Buddhist temple in Spiti that his wife came to when she prayed for a wonderful husband..." 

And thus John sets off on a spiritual journey, travelling on foot, and using this time of solitude to reflect on his past, his family and relationships with both his late wife and son. He walks in the biting chill, exhausted physically and mentally. En route John meets people, who help him re-evaluate his own life, understand his shortcomings and missed opportunities, and ulitmately "feel safe in the embrace of the present".

He also comes to re-assess his difficult relationship with their only son, who was a drug addict. When Jimmy died, John didn't allow himself to grieve properly, shutting all his feelings away, because his son was the greatest disappointment of their lives. He died a lonely death, having falled off a cliff while being high on drugs. How do you come to terms with a death of your child, especially in such circumstances?! 

This journey is not just about the promise he made to Asima, but also about uncovering the truth behind the dark death of their son.

As he explains to his friend and colleague at school where he works, "I told her I would walk from our home to there to prove how much I love her. Because I never said it enough while she was alive".

John's regret of not saying often enough how much he loved his wife while she was still alive would resonate with many of us. Looking back at the family members and dear friends whom we lost, how often did we tell them how much they meant to us?! That guilt never really goes away.

The writing is poetic and elegant, evocative of the landscapes of the Himalayan countryside, with its scents and colours. "A shimmering wind carried the heat and dust to their faces, perfuming the distance between them with the luscious scent of cardamom, rose, and tightly ground cumin".

The narrative moves from the present to the past, via long-forgotten memories, which resurface during the journey. 

Will John reach his destination? Will he find the answers he seeks?

The Winter Song portrays the dynamics of family love and loss. It is an elegiac tale of grief, sadness but also hope.

This post if part of the blog tour for The Winter Song. Many thanks to Saurav Dutt and Rachel's Random Resources for my copy of the book!

books about grief

Purchase Links 

UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Winter-Song-Saurav-Dutt-ebook/dp/B08NFD2ZNS


US - https://www.amazon.com/Winter-Song-Saurav-Dutt-ebook/dp/B08NFD2ZNS 

Author Bio  

Saurav Dutt is an Author, Political Columnist and Human Rights Campaigner. A journalist in three continents, his acclaimed debut novel 'The Butterfly Room' explored issues of domestic violence and homophobia within South Asian communities and has been showcased alongside leading political figures and human rights campaigners. His work for human rights and charity campaign work has taken Dutt to speaking engagements at the WEF, IKWRO, IWN, Houses of Parliament and TEDx. After exploring the issue of psychological abuse and domestic violence in 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' Dutt was commissioned by a major Hollywood production house to pen the official novelization of the major motion picture 'Tiger' (starring Golden Globe winning and Academy Award nominated actor Mickey Rourke) and he commemorated the centenary of the infamous Amritsar Massacre in India with 'Garden of Bullets: Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh' which was featured in TIME magazine. TIGER is the biographical account of Parminder Singh Nagra, a trailblazing Sikh boxer who fought successfully for the right to compete in the ring with his beard, an essential part of his faith. A syndicated political columnist, Dutt writes for the International Business Times, The Times of Israel, Human Events, and American Herald Tribune. He has featured on CNN, GQ, Huffington Post, Business Insider, BBC television and radio, RT (Russia Today), Press TV, Sky News, and more. He has been shortlisted several times for the Asian Achievers Awards and Asian Me

dia Awards. He resides in the United Kingdom, Los Angeles, and India. 

books about grief and bereavement

Social Media Links – @sd_saurav on Twitter 

Chez Maximka, books about grief and bereavement

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

The Web They Wove by Catherine Yaffe

psychological thriller

 Summer is here, and do we even dare to hope that we might have a holiday after all? For me a week of holidays in Cornwall always equals a stash of new books. Some readers reach for a holiday romance paperback, some opt for a gritty psycholigical thriller or a police procedural crime story. 

The Web They Wove by Catherine Yaffe is a chilling murder mystery. A perfect holiday read, if you fancy something twisty and absorbing.

The Web They Wove 

Not all killers are who they first seem.. 

The mutilated body of a young female is found in a popular recreation ground in Leeds city centre. DI Ziggy Thornes and his team are at once assigned to close the case. 

With little to no forensic evidence left at the scene at first Ziggy struggles to put the pieces together. When a second body turns up in the same place, Ziggy starts to feel the pressure from his bosses and the media as fear spreads through the city. 

Realising that victims have been held captive prior to their deaths, Ziggy delves deeper and relentlessly chases down every lead, taking him close to breaking point. 

When the investigation leads him dangerously close to home, will time run out before the tangled web of evil he’s uncovered destroys everything he holds dear? 

psychological thriller

Purchase Links 

UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Web-They-Wove-Tangled-Book-ebook/dp/B0937K58PF

US - https://www.amazon.com/Web-They-Wove-Tangled-Book-ebook/dp/B0937K58PF/ 

Author Bio – 

Catherine Yaffe is a full-time writer of crime novels, based in the North of England. The Web They Wove is Catherine’s second novel and continues the theme of questioning how well we know those around us. Her debut novel ‘The Lie She Told’ in October ‘20 was received with widespread acclaim, and so far, has gained over 50 five star reviews across Goodreads and Amazon. 

women authors

Social Media Links – 



psychological thriller

Monday, 24 May 2021

The Walls of Rome by Robert M. Kidd (review + #giveaway)


novels about Hannibal's army, Chez Maximka

historical books set in Rome

"This was a mongrel army, bound together by two things: a desire for plunder and a sworn hatred of Rome. Hardly lofty sentiments, but when spiced with Carthaginian silver, more than enough to draw contingents from every nation around the Mediterranean for this, their great march on Rome".

The Walls of Rome by Robert M. Kidd is a thrilling historical military adventure set in 218BC.

The novel tracks real historical events, as seen through the eyes of Sphax, a 17-year-old Numidian who escapes slavery and runs to join the Hannibal's army. Sphax was only seven, when he witnesses a brutal murder of his parents. For ten years he's been a slave in the Roman household. 

He's subjected to vicious beatings and mistreatments, and he makes an oath to himself that his time will come. "That sacred oath was burnt into his soul just as painfully as the fugitivus had been branded into the flesh of his forearm after the last time he'd run away. He would have his revenge, and if the rumours of invasion were true, he might have the opportunity to take revenge on the entire stinking cesspit that was Rome".

On a trip to the master's estate, Sphax takes his chance and kills his master, stealing his horses, weapon and money. He knows he will be hunted down as a suspected murderer and has to disappear without leaving a shred of evidence behind him. His plans of escape are rather vague, he dreams of joining Hannibal's army which is marching on Rome. But how can he find it? "Hannibal and the war with Carthage was the talk of Rome... On one eavesdropped occasion, Numidian horsemen were mentioned and his heart suddenly swelled with pride. Rome was rattled and scared".

On the way to find Hannibal's army, Sphax rescues Fionn, a slave girl from beyond Gaul. She wants to go north and find her people. Fionn becomes a resourceful caring companion on a long, arduous journey.

"He felt nothing but rage coursing through him now. These Romans cheated, robbed, murdered and ensalved... For the first time he felt the thrill of going to war. Rome would answer for his slavery and the murder of his parents. He would be avenged. Why wait for Hannibal and his Carthaginians? His own war on Rome was about to begin".

Destiny brings Sphax to Hannibal's army, where he's taken under the wing of general Maharbal. He joins the Numidian cavalry, the finest horsemen in the world.

From the crossing of the great Rhodanus river (Rhone), Sphax travels through the lands of the Gaul to the highest pass in the Alps. The march of the army is truly epic. It was one of the major events of the Second Punic War, and "one of the most celebrated achievements of any military force in ancient warfare. Hannibal managed to lead his Carthaginian army over the Alps and into Italy to take the war directly to the Roman Republic bypassing Roman and allied land garrisons and Roman naval dominance (see Wikipedia)".

The action scenes are panoramic, vivid and compelling. 

I can't say I have quite warmed up to the main protagonist. Sphax is too impulsive and quite immature, depsite all the hardship he has endured. He's well-educated for being a slave, which raises a question, just how much free time he had to be able to be fluent in languages and learn about history from another slave. Sphax's too easily accepted into the Hannibal's army, and would they have really entrusted him with an important diplomatic mission, when he's totally green behind the ears when it comes to warfare?! He's lacking prudence and subtlety. Even Hannibal himself describes him "as unpredicatble as a throw of dice".

The Walls of Rome combines the drama of epic battles with the meticulous research of the historical period. The novel provides a lot of detail related to the life of the army, its strategy and tactics, weapons and combat training, as well as mundane aspects of life, like food and clothes, tents and campfires.

Robert M Kidd has an expansive knowledge and understanding of men at war, battlegrounds and warfare. 

I found it a riveting story. Some of the names were familiar from reading SalammbĂ´ by Flaubert many years ago, but this was not a historical period I am well familiar with. I have recently received the second novel in the Sphax series, and if this historical period is of interest for you, keep an eye on my book review by the end of June.


Purchase Links 

UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Walls-Rome-believe-climbed-Hannibal-ebook/dp/B08MQMRDMM

US - https://www.amazon.com/Walls-Rome-believe-climbed-Hannibal-ebook/dp/B08MQMRDMM

Author Bio – Robert M. Kidd

When Cato the Censor demanded that ‘Carthage must be destroyed,’ Rome did just that. In 146 BC, after a three year siege, Carthage was raised to the ground, its surviving citizens sold into slavery and the fields where this once magnificent city had stood, ploughed by oxen. Carthage was erased from history.

That’s why I’m a novelist on a mission! I want to set the historical record straight. Our entire history of Hannibal’s wars with Rome is nothing short of propaganda, written by Greeks and Romans for their Roman clients. It intrigues me that Hannibal took two Greek scholars and historians with him on campaign, yet their histories of Rome’s deadliest war have never seen the light of day. 

My hero, Sphax the Numidian, tells a different story!

When I’m not waging war with my pen, I like to indulge my passion for travel and hill walking, and like my hero, I too love horses. I live in Pembrokeshire, West Wales.






historical fiction set in Rome

This book review is part of the blog tour.

Many thanks to Robert M. Kidd and Rachel's Random Resources for my copy of the book.

historical novels set in ancient Rome

If you enjoy military historical fiction, you have a chance of winning a copy of A Hostage of Rome (Book 3).

Giveaway to Win the A Hostage of Rome (Book 3) to be dedicated to the winner, & a signed dedicated copy too (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –

Worldwide entries welcome.  

Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  

The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. 

If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. 

Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  

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This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  

I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Please note that this giveaway is running through a series of blogs taking part in the blog tour.

Chez Maximka is hosting a Rafflecopter gadget for free for the purposes of book promotion, and has no access to the collected data. I'm not responsible for the selection of the winner or dispatch of the prize.

Good luck!

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Wednesday, 19 May 2021

A Knot of Sparrows by Cheryl Rees-Price #BlogTour


thriller set in Wales

"...he watched a knot of sparrows darting in and out of the hedgerow. They kept together as they foraged for food. They reminded him of the people he had encountered during this investigation. Alone they exuded sadness, yet they were bound together by grief. Could they have drawn strength from each other, found a common purpose and a way to alleviate their pain?"

A Knot of Sparrows by Cheryl Rees-Price is the fourth standalone tottle in the DI Winter Meadows series. This police procedural crime thriller is a gripping page-turner.

We watch a sinister voyeur who follows his victim on the way home late in the evening. He wants to see fear in her eyes, the humiliation. In his eyes, she deserves it. He can't stop thinking about how many people she has hurt, and the anger is bubbling in his chest.

Stacey Evans was an obnoxious teenager, who enjoyed humiliating the others. One of the victims of her bullying has committed suicide. 

When Stacey is found dead in the field, violently murdered, there is a pretty long list of people who would want her dead. But did she deserve to die?

DI Meadows takes on the murder case. One of the possible clues left by the perpetrator is a short message left on Stacey's body - REV17. "The writing looked too neat to have been done when Stacey had been alive and probably struggling, Meadows thought. It now appeared ominous under the harsh lights. Black against pale skin. A coldness crept over him, the killer was making a statement".

Stacey has had a busy love life. Is it possible that this murder is committed out of jealousy? Is it one of her exes or the wronged wife who's found out about her husband?

As every suspect is ruled out from the enquiry, Meadows is forced to reassess the situation. New markings with religious references are appearing, and when another body, of a missing local GP, is found, it's clear the villagers know more than they want to share with the police. The disturbing trace of evil is going about.

"The village suddenly felt claustrophobic in the darkness, as if the inhabitants were in on a secret and conspiring against him".

What are the locals at Gaer Fawr hiding? Will Meadows and his team be able to uncover the truth before another victim is claimed? "We need to move fast. The killer or killers are out for vengeance and could already be planning their next move".

Meadows is a likeable detective, with a great empathy for the victims. "Every single case Meadows worked on had left a mark in some way. He couldn't help the compassion he felt for those who found themselves the victim of a crime. Sometimes that compassion stretched to those who had been driven, fuelled by grief and anger, to commit crime".

"He found it difficult to turn off his emotions; he sometimes wished he'd become desentisied to seeing violent death, but it was emotion and cruelty of life that drove him to find the guilty and to somehow redress the balance".

I was a bit suprised that the investigation team didn't immediately click on the religious origins of the references left on the victims. I thought that would be pretty obvious. Checking the Bible would have been my first idea, but then I've probably read and watched too many thrillers and crime books.

A Knot of Sparrows is a tightly-plotted, twisty psychological thriller, which makes you think. How far would you go to punish a bully? By humiliating your enemy do you not diminish yourself? Does revenge bring you any consolation?

thriller set in Wales

A KNOT OF SPARROWS is the fourth standalone title in a series of murder mysteries by best-selling author Cheryl Rees-Price. It will appeal to fans of David Pearson, L J Ross, John Dean, Joy Ellis, and Pippa McCathie.  

The full list of books is as follows:  





Cheryl Rees-Price is also the author of the standalone thriller BLUE HOLLOW.  

All of these books are FREE with Kindle Unlimited and available in paperback from Amazon.  

Purchase Links   

UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08XQS6219/  

US -  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08XQS6219/  

Author Bio  

Cheryl Rees-Price was born in Cardiff and moved as a young child to a small ex-mining village on the edge of the Black Mountain range, South Wales, where she still lives with her husband, daughters and cats. After leaving school she worked as a legal clerk for several years before leaving to raise her two daughters.
Cheryl returned to education, studying philosophy, sociology, and accountancy whilst working as a part time book keeper. She now works as a finance director for a company that delivers project management and accounting services.
In her spare time Cheryl indulges in her passion for writing, the success of writing plays for local performances gave her the confidence to write her first novel. Her other hobbies include walking and gardening which free her mind to develop plots and create colourful characters.

police procedural crime thriller

Social Media Links –   

The Book Folks | Facebook  

Cheryl Rees-Price | Facebook  


This book review is part of the blog tour. Many thanks to Cheryl Rees-Price, The Book Folks and Rachel's Random Resources for my copy of the book!

thriller set in Wales