#BookReview: Good Samaritans by Will Carver @Will_Carver @OrendaBooks @annecater #SixBottlesOfBleach

 

 

About the Book

One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach.

Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans
But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home…
And someone is watching…

 

My Thoughts

I was thrilled to be offered a copy of Good Samaritans as based purely on the cover I knew this was a book that I simply had to get my hands on. I then read the blurb and knew this was going to be a brilliant read – I was so right!

Good Samaritans is told from multiple perspectives in short chapters and gradually you get a picture of what makes each of these characters tick. Hadley is suicidal and doesn’t know how to make her feelings stop. Seth can’t sleep and just wants someone to talk to (even though his wife is upstairs, he want someone else someone random to listen). One night a crossed wire leads these two characters into each other’s lives. We also get to know Ant, who actually works for the Samaritans. He began volunteering after a friend of his hanged himself while they were on holiday together. He’s clearly not coping in his own life and is desperately trying to help others in order to make himself feel better. 

Alongside this two bodies are found in separate locations in Warwickshire and Detective Sergeant Pace is desperately trying to solve the murders. He can’t see how they can be connected but at the same time both bodies have been bleached and wrapped in plastic in the exact same way. His perspective through the book was brilliant. I’m really hoping that he will show up in another novel because I found him fascinating and I’d love to know more about his past.

From the premise it initially seems like one or two of these characters are going to be good samaritans and help someone but clearly with two bodies turning up someone is not all that they seem! I was so intrigued by this and I kept changing my mind about each character and wondering whether any of them could actually be trusted. It’s such a twisted book! Its very dark at time but there are elements of humour in there, there is also a fair bit of sex but it all makes for such a brilliant thriller!

I knew from the first couple of pages of this novel that I was going to love it and I wasn’t wrong! It’s a book that grabs you from the start and it honestly doesn’t let you go until after you’ve finished reading it. There are real shocks in this book – when one character gets murdered I was so not expecting it and it actually made me gasp in surprise! It’s impossible to work out the twists and turns of this book so I suggest you sit back and just enjoy the ride! I had my suspicions about one of the characters and I was sort of right but had no idea about anything else so the end was a shock!

Good Samaritans is so dark and twisty, and it’s utterly brilliant! This is definitely going on my favourite books of 2018 list and I’m already keen to read whatever Will Carver writes next but in the meantime I highly recommend this book!

Many thanks to Anne and Orenda Books for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Good Samaritans is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

 

Will Carver lives in Reading, though his younger years were spent in various parts of West Germany. He is the author of four books in the JANUARY DAVID thriller series – GIRL 4 (UK: Arrow, 2011), THE TWO (UK: Arrow, 2012), DEAD SET (UK: Arrow, 2013) and THE KILLER INSIDE (UK: Arrow, 2013).

Carver likes to work his body as much as his mind and runs his own fitness and nutrition company, though he prefers to talk about his writing more than how he consumes adequate protein as a vegan. 

 

 

 

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#BookReview: Supernova Hangover by Emma Jones @MsEmma_Jones @Unbound_Digital @Unbounders @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Two girls meet on a train with a shared mission to have it all…

Toots Silver, a young, local news reporter from the North West, lands in London with little more than her ambition. Against the odds, she talks her way into a dream job at a celebrity magazine, riding high on a new craving for showbiz gossip.

The shimmering nightlife of Cool Britannia lures her into an exhilarating, twilight world – and an explosive affair with an A-list interviewee. But the comedown forces her to confront the soulless desires of her generation.

In New York, she’s on the trail of the defining exclusive of her age. But conflict erupts between personal integrity and journalistic ruthlessness – which might jeopardise the success that will secure her position in a looming post-millennial world.
Can you live the high-life, without it getting you down?

 

My Thoughts

I’ll admit that I was drawn to this book by the fact that Emma Jones was the editor of Smash Hits magazine – this was a must-read for me in my early teen years! I’m really pleased to say that I very much enjoyed Supernova Hangover!

Supernova Hangover is about Toots Silver, a local news reporter in Manchester who manages to blag her dream job editing a brand new magazine in London. The novel is set against the backdrop of the 90s and Cool Britannia, and Toots falls into the lifestyle of the rich and famous. She loves the life she has made for herself but soon reality begins to bite when she starts to question the integrity of what she’s doing. The novel opens with her leaving a funeral and finding all the paparazzi cameras pointing at her. It’s such a great opening because immediately I wanted to know who Toots was and why the media were so interested in her when there were clearly famous people at this funeral.

I did find Supernova Hangover a little difficult to get into at first but once I got into it I found I didn’t want to put it down. I got completely engrossed in Toots’ life and in her affair with the A-list star, and I wanted to know how it was all going to turn out for her.

Toots isn’t always a likeable character but she’s human and real and believable. She makes silly mistakes, she shows poor judgement at times and she’s not always the friend she should be to her best friend Rachel but we’ve all, albeit perhaps to a different extent, been there when we were younger. Life suddenly becomes exciting so reason and loyalty can go out of the window for a while. Toots is seduced by her new lifestyle and getting to mix with the rich and famous – I feel like I would have lost myself a bit if that had happened to me when I was her age. I loved reading about Toots even when I didn’t always like her and that’s the mark of a great character for me.

The other characters in this book can seem a little over the top at times but this is part of the joy of this book because some people really were like this in the 90s – everyone seemed to be image-obsessed and wanting to be one of the cool ones. People were riding high living a hedonistic lifestyle and believing they were invincible. Roddy, who gives Toots her big break, seems quite unreal for most of the book but at the same time I could see him as a real person. We’ve all seen people in the media who appear just like him.

I loved seeing how Toots grew as the novel progressed. She begins to find her feet and to find her voice, she wants to do more to help her family and then faces a real dilemma over whether to break someone’s trust. I enjoyed seeing her relationship with Clay throughout the novel and seeing how she grew in confidence in dealing with him. There were some really beautiful moments between them, that made me love them as a couple but then the spell would break again. Their relationship was kind of representative of the late 90s and early 00s in the end – it was amazing until it wasn’t.

I very much enjoyed Supernova Hangover – it was a nostalgia trip back to the 90s but also a really great read about fascinating characters. It captures the highs, the comedowns and is an all-round fabulous read! I loved it and I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Unbound and Anne at Random Things Tours for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Supernova Hangover is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Emma Jones is a former editor of Smash Hits magazine. As a news and showbusiness reporter, she worked for the Sunday Mirror, Mail on Sunday and the Sun. Emma became the youngest ever Fleet Street columnist whilst at the Sun. Television work includes live presenting for Channel Four and ITV. Emma’s Radio contributions range from Woman’s Hour to the Today programme. Her career has seen her interview stars including Britney Spears, George Clooney, the Rollings Stones, and Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor. Her writing also appears regularly in the New European newspaper and on Byline. She has four children and lives in London.

Supernova Hangover is her first novel.

 

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#BookReview: The Lingering by S.J.I Holliday @SJIHolliday @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #TheLingering

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About the Book

Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.
When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…
At once an unnerving locked-room mystery, a chilling thriller and a dark and superbly wrought ghost story, The Lingering is an exceptionally plotted, terrifying and tantalisingly twisted novel by one of the most exciting authors in the genre.

My Thoughts

The Lingering is a novel about Jack and Ali, who are moving to a commune that has been set up in an old psychiatric hospital. I felt that there was something a bit off about Jack and Ali as soon as I started reading this novel but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Neither of them were particularly likeable from the start but I loved finding out more about who they are and why they are at the commune. Ali is abrasive; she seems to want to fit in but at the same time doesn’t seem to want to make any effort to get on with people. Jack seems to want to make things work at the commune but he struggles with it.

The novel is told in two timelines: in the present day with Jack and Ali and the other members of the commune, and in 1955 through diary entries by a doctor who was investigating the way patients were being treated at the asylum. This makes for a fascinating read, seeing things in both timelines and wondering if one time strand connects to anything happening in the present.

I really loved the way this novel was written. There are members of the commune who firmly believe the house is haunted and one resident, Angela, is on a mission to find proof of the ghosts. I was apprehensive reading this book because I’ve lived in what seemed be a haunted house when I was younger and there were some really odd things that happened there that seemed to be without logical explanation. The clever thing about The Lingering is that it can be seen as a ghost story but it can also be seen as a novel about people who are under a lot of stress and beginning to lose their sense of reality. Some things can be explained either way and other things are so unsettling as your brain begins to mull over which it can possible be. It’s the way that ghosts can be considered a supernatural element doomed to forever be in the old psychiatric hospital, or they could be the mind’s manifestation of what people expect to experience to be in a building such as this. Perhaps the building has just absorbed all the lingering pain and sadness from an earlier time.

There is a real look at coercion and control throughout The Lingering and this was fascinating. I loved the psychological elements and discovering how a character has been coerced and why, but away from this storyline it also fitted in to how what we believe can have such an impact on how we view a situation.

There was so much more in this novel than I was expecting and I loved that it genuinely shocked me when the reveals start to come. It’s not often that I don’t see what’s coming in a novel but this one had me reeling on more than one occasion! I have to be honest and say that I don’t usually like reading scary books but The Lingering is so compelling that even when I was feeling really unnerved I just had to keep reading, I simply had to know what was going on! That’s the mark of a great book – when it keeps you hooked even when you want to hide behind the sofa!

The Lingering is a brilliant novel that has so many levels to it. There are twists and turns, and it is creepy at times but at its heart it’s a look at the psychology of what makes us think the way we do and how easily, and unwittingly, we can be drawn into someone else’s twisted web. I loved this book and I keep finding myself thinking about it even thought it’s now weeks since I read it. The Lingering is creepy, disturbing and utterly brilliant! I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Lingering is out now and available here.

About the Author

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S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a pharmaceutical statistician by day and a crime and horror fan by night. Her short stories have been published in many places and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize with her story ‘Home from Home’, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in spring 2017. She is the bestselling author of the creepy and claustrophobic Banktoun trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly) featuring the much loved Sergeant Davie Gray, and the festive serial killer thriller The Deaths of December. Her latest psychological thriller is modern gothic with more than a hint of the supernatural, inspired by her fascination and fear of ghosts. You can follow Susi on Twitter @SJIHolliday or visit her website: sjiholliday.com.

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: Perfect Bones by A. J. Waines @AJWaines @BloodhoundBook

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About the Book

Is the killer on the loose…or standing right beside you?

When art student, Aiden Blake, witnesses a gruesome attack on a London towpath, the police need him to identify the assailant without delay. But there’s a problem: refusing to leave his canal boat and traumatised by the shock, Aiden is rendered mute by the horror of the event and can’t speak to anyone.

In a desperate bid to gain vital information before Aiden’s memories fade, The Met call in Clinical Psychologist and trauma expert, Dr Samantha Willerby, giving her only seven days to get a result. When Aiden finally starts to communicate through his art, however, the images he produces are not what anyone expects and before Sam can make sense of them, another murder takes place.

With her professional skills stretched to the limit and the clock ticking, Sam strives to track down a killer who is as clever as she is – someone who always manages to stay one step ahead.

The third book in the Samantha Willerby series, Perfect Bones is a tense and creepy psychological thriller that will send your pulse racing. It can easily be read as a stand-alone novel and will appeal to fans of authors like Nicci French, Mark Edwards and Lisa Gardner.

 

My Thoughts

Firstly, I want to wish AJ Waines a very happy publication day! Perfect Bones is out today and I’m delighted to be sharing my review.

Perfect Bones is the third book in the Samantha Willerby series but it can be read as a standalone. This time Samantha is called in to help art student Aiden who is so traumatised by a crime he has seen that he’s now mute. The police need his eye witness testimony so Samantha is desperately trying to help Aiden communicate before the killer strikes again.

Perfect Bones is told in the present as Samantha works with Aiden to try and recover what memories he has of the attack, but it is interspersed with seemingly unconnected chapters of women going to mysterious meetings. It’s initially unclear how these might be connected to the main story but it keeps you hooked to find out.

I know what PTSD is like but I was fascinated to see how a psychologist works with a patient who is rendered mute from the trauma. It was so interesting to see the various ways people can be encouraged to communicate what they’ve been through. AJ Waines clearly knows this area very well and it comes through so authentically. The police aren’t so sympathetic to Aiden, in part because they are desperate to catch the killer before anyone else is harmed but it felt like there was a lack of understanding that it wasn’t Aiden being difficult when he doesn’t communicate. This all felt very believable and realistic and gave a rounded picture of how mental illness is viewed.

Samantha is such a strong character but she’s also very human. She’s sometimes a bit rash, and she occasionally goes beyond what she’s required to do for a patient and I love this about her. She’s so believable and feels like a real person to me. I loved catching up with her and I already can’t wait for the next book to see what she’s up to next!

The tension in this novel is there from the start and it ramps up as the book goes along. It was a book I didn’t want to put down once I started reading, and I kept thinking about it when I wasn’t reading. So much so that I even had a dream relating to the gruesome assault after reading this right before bed and that’s never, ever happened to me before! My brain was whirring away as I tried to work out whodunnit but I didn’t manage to figure it out so AJ Waines I salute you in keeping me guessing right to the end – it doesn’t happen very often in a book but this had me stumped!

Perfect Bones is one of my favourite crime/psychological thrillers of the year; it’s a fast-paced, engrossing novel that will keep you hooked from start to finish. I definitely recommend picking up novel (and indeed the whole series)!

Many thanks to Emma at Bloodhound Books for my copy of Perfect Bones. All thoughts are my own.

Perfect Bones is out now and available here.

I’ve previously reviewed Lost in the Lake by AJ Waines, which you can read here if you’d like to.

 

About the Author

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AJ Waines is a number one bestselling author, topping the entire UK and Australian Kindle Charts in two consecutive years, with Girl on a Train.

Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, the author now writes psychological thrillers and murder mysteries full-time, with publishing deals in UK, France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and Canada (audio books). In December 2017, she signed a UK two-book deal with Bloodhound Books.

AJ Waines has has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and been ranked a Top 10 UK Author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

The author lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband.

 

 

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: Roar by Cecelia Ahern @Cecelia_Ahern @FictionPubTeam #HearUsRoar #Roar

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About the Book

I am woman. Hear me roar.

Have you ever imagined a different life?
Have you ever stood at a crossroads, undecided?
Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to roar?

The women in these startlingly original stories are all of us: the women who befriend us, the women who encourage us, the women who make us brave. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Was Kept on the Shelf and The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, discover thirty touching, often hilarious, stories and meet thirty very different women. Each discovers her strength; each realizes she holds the power to make a change.

Witty, tender, surprising, these keenly observed tales speak to us all, and capture the moment when we all want to roar.

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Cecelia Ahern so I squealed with joy when a copy of Roar arrived at my house, along with an invitation to be part of the blog tour. I’m so happy to say that Roar exceeded all of my expectations and I completely and utterly adored it!

Roar is a collection of thirty inspiring, quirky and powerful short stories; all are written from the viewpoint of unnamed women and each examines a different facet of female experience.

I loved how the protagonist in each of the stories remains unnamed as it really allowed me to get engrossed in the story and to either remember what it was like to be in a similar situation to the woman, or to imagine how she must feel.

I think this might be the first time I’ve ever read a short story collection and loved every single story. Some affected me more than others but each one stands distinct and on its own; each story is memorable and none have become muddled in my head since I finished reading.

It’s near impossible to pick a favourite story but I think if I was pushed to choose one it would be The Woman Who Was Pigeonholed. It just really spoke to me how all the women were put in neatly labelled boxes and despite having many other elements to how they were, they were mostly judged on one trait. The ending of this story made me smile, and I could so identify with it because I have pushed from being seen as weak and disabled to being seen as tenacious and determined.

I also loved The Woman Who Was Swallowed Up By The Floor And Who Met Lots Of Other Women Down There Too. We’ve all been in that situation where we’ve done something embarrassing and just want the ground to open up and swallow us, and this story explores that. I love how we get to see what has embarrassed other women and how it makes you see that your own embarrassment isn’t that bad, and that it can be got through.

The Woman Who Walked In Her Husband’s Shoes was also incredibly powerful and is definitely food for thought. I kept thinking about this story for ages after I read it, it’s one I think everyone should read.

Each story in this collection is brilliant, and the joy of the book is that everyone who reads it will connect to something different in it depending on their own life or their emotions at the time. There is real power in this collection as a whole, but also in each individual story. It’s a wonderful book that can make you read one story and connect so closely with the character, and then the next story you perhaps haven’t had the experience but you feel like you’re standing with that woman and that you can better understand the women in your life that have had the particular experience. It feels like a book to treasure, and I know that I will read this book again and again. Perhaps when I need a boost I will return to a particular story and remind myself that I am woman, hear me roar!

I’ve already sent a copy of this book to my oldest friend and I know I will be buying copies for other people for Christmas this year. I urge you to grab a copy and read it, it really is an incredible collection!

Roar is a thought-provoking, empowering and beautifully written book and I adored every single minute that I spent reading it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Roar is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Photo credit: Matthew Thompson

Cecelia Ahern is one of the biggest selling authors to emerge in the past fifteen years. Her novels have been translated into thirty languages and have sold more than twenty-five million copies in over forty countries.Two of her books have been adapted as major films and she has created several TV series in the US and Germany.  She and her books have won numerous awards, including the Irish Book Award for Popular Fiction for The Year I Met Youin 2014. PS I Love Youwas awarded two Platinum Awards at the 2018 Specsavers Bestsellers Awards, for UK and Ireland.

Cecelia lives in Dublin with her family.

 

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#BookReview: Christmas Spirit by Nicola May @nicolamay1 @rararesources

Christmas Spirit

About the Book

It’s two days before Christmas – and Evie Harris finds herself both manless and jobless. After a chance encounter with handsome Greg (and egged on by her toy-boy-eating friend, Bea) she agrees to work at a homeless shelter on Christmas Day.
Striking up an unlikely friendship with homeless Yves, Evie begins an unwitting journey of spiritual awakening, all set against the sparkling winter backdrop of London landmarks.
A New Year’s Eve revelation is on its way . . . but will it leave Evie with a happy heart, or will she allow the pre-Christmas past to dictate her future?

 

My Thoughts

I’m delighted to be helping out on the blog tour for Christmas Spirit today and sharing my review of this gorgeous novella!

Christmas Spirit is about Evie. It’s almost Christmas and she’s utterly fed up having just split up with her boyfriend. On a night out with a friend a man asks her to help out at the homeless shelter over the festive period and Evie is persuaded to say yes; this decision changes her life!

I adored this book! First off I was utterly delighted to find that Christmas Spirit is set entirely between Christmas and New Year! I can’t help but be disappointed when there isn’t much mention of the holidays in a supposedly festive book so I can assure readers who feel like me that Christmas Spirit has all the festive feelings you could want in a novella!

I really felt for Evie throughout this book, especially around her sadness at having lost her beloved mum. I know how much harder everything feels when you no longer have a mum to turn to so I was rooting for her from the start. Breaking up with a boyfriend and not being able to call your mum makes it really tough. I was glad that Evie had such a good friend in Bea, she is such a great character and I knew she would make sure Evie was okay.

I was intrigued when Evie first met Yves; it seemed very apparent that there was something special about him but it wasn’t what I was expecting. He opens Evie’s eyes to all the beauty that is still around her, despite her loneliness and her recent break up. The way we get to see London throughout this novella is just magical.

The very end of this Christmas Spirit had me sobbing, it was so perfect and so beautiful and it just made this book really special for me. It’s made this a novella that I won’t ever forget and it will be on my list of Christmas books to re-read in the years to come.

Christmas Spirit is a beautiful, romantic and heart-warming novella and I highly recommend you grab a copy to read over Christmas!

My thanks to Rachel of Rachels Random Resources for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Christmas Spirit is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Nicola May lives near the famous Ascot racecourse with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan.  Her hobbies include watching films that involve a lot of swooning, crabbing in South Devon, eating flapjacks – and, naturally, enjoying a flutter on the horses.

Nicola likes to write about love, life and friendship in a realistic way, describing her novels as ‘chicklit with a kick’.

She has written eight novels, with Christmas Spirit being her first novella.

 

Follow Nicola May

Website – www.nicolamay.com

Facebook –https://www.facebook.com/NicolaMayAuthor

Twitter – https://twitter.com/nicolamay1

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/author_nicola/

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: The Light in the Dark by Horatio Clare @HoratioClare @EmmaFinnigan @EandTBooks #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater

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About the Book

As November stubs out the glow of autumn and the days tighten into shorter hours, winter’s occupation begins. Preparing for winter has its own rhythms, as old as our exchanges with the land. Of all the seasons, it draws us together. But winter can be tough.

It is a time of introspection, of looking inwards. Seasonal sadness; winter blues; depression – such feelings are widespread in the darker months. But by looking outwards, by being in and observing nature, we can appreciate its rhythms. Mountains make sense in any weather. The voices of a wood always speak consolation. A brush of frost; subtle colours; days as bright as a magpie’s cackle. We can learn to see and celebrate winter in all its shadows and lights.

In this moving and lyrical evocation of a British winter and the feelings it inspires, Horatio Clare raises a torch against the darkness, illuminating the blackest corners of the season, and delving into memory and myth to explore the powerful hold that winter has on us. By learning to see, we can find the magic, the light that burns bright at the heart of winter: spring will come again.

 

My Thoughts

I was drawn to The Light in the Dark as soon as I was offered a copy for review, it felt like serendipity and now I’ve read it I can say it really was the perfect book at the exact moment I needed to read it.

The Light in the Dark is a diary of the slow journey into winter – beginning with autumn and the months leading up to Christmas arriving, which brings some lighter moments, before the long, dark months that are January and February.

I used to love this time of year as the nights draw in and you can enjoy all the cosiness of closing the curtains and lighting a scented candle etc but ten years ago a very traumatic thing happened in my life and ever since then the darker nights and colder weather make me feel very down. Clare writes of an awful thing that happened on his mother’s farm at a similar time of year and while it’s completely different to my own story, it felt like it mirrored a lot of my own emotions about this time of year. The way that life is a struggle anyway for many of us as the days get shorter and then to have something terrible happen in these months somehow makes it all feel even worse. Clare captures this all so well, it brings a lump to the throat.

There’s real beauty in this book even when the subject matter is more melancholy. I loved the way you can feel the change into winter through the writing, with the break in the depressive feelings as Christmas arrives. Then there’s the long, seemingly never-ending January days, where the memories of how oppressive that month can feel at times really comes through on the page.

‘This loathsome ball of negativity, clamped to my ankle by a chain of self-loathing, follows me around. It is like being stalked by a ghoul. Turn your gaze outwards, I keep telling myself. You do not matter, other people matter, the land matters, the sky and the world. If only you would get out of the way of your own view!’

I really appreciated how open and honest Clare is about his own feelings of depression and how his work environment, and the never getting to see much daylight in the winter months, make his emotions so much harder to cope with. I could identify with so many of his thoughts at this time of year, and it helps to know you’re not the only one. This book is never depressing or maudlin though; it’s stunningly written and Clare has such a lyrical way of writing that this lifts the book through the darker moments. This book brought me such solace and it made me feel less alone in my winter melancholy.

There are so many beautiful passages in this book that evoke such wonderful imagery; Clare really does have such a brilliant turn of phrase. I highlighted quite a few paragraphs, and also found myself reading some aloud to my husband which I’ve never felt compelled to do before. This line was one of my favourites –  it says so much in so few words:

‘A solar panel farm gazes darkly at the clouds, its feet in water.’

The Light in the Dark is a beautiful, moving and poignant meditation on the changing of the seasons. It gave me solace as the nights draw in ever faster and left me with a sense of hope for the spring to come. I adored reading this book and I know it will be one I read again in the years to come. I’ll definitely be buying copies for friends and I’ll be recommending it every chance I get. It’s a beautiful book and one I won’t forget!

Many thanks to the publisher and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

The Light in the Dark is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Horatio Clare is a writer, radio producer and journalist. Born in London, he and his brother Alexander grew up on a hill farm in the Black Mountains of south Wales. Clare describes the experience in his first book Running for the Hills (John Murray 2006) in which he sets out to trace the course and causes of his parents divorce, and recalls the eccentric, romantic and often harsh conditions of his childhood. The book was widely and favourably reviewed in the UK, where it became a bestseller, as in the US.

Running for the Hills was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award and shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. Horatio has written about Ethiopia, Namibia and Morocco, and now divides his time between South Wales, Lancashire and London. He was awarded a Somerset Maugham Award for the writing of A Single Swallow (Chatto and Windus, 2009).

 

You can find the rest of the stops on the tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: So Here It Is by Dave Hill @Unbounders @SladeNews #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater

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About the Book

‘No Slade = No Oasis. It’s as devastating and as simple as that’ Noel Gallagher

Slade’s music and style dominated and defined the 1970s. With six consecutive number one singles they were the UK’s number one group and sold millions of records all over the world. At their peak, Slade enjoyed success and adulation not seen since The Beatles. Now, for the first time, the man whose outlandish costumes, glittering make-up and unmistakable hairstyle made Slade the definitive act of Glam Rock tells his story.

Growing up in a council house in 1950s Wolverhampton, Dave always knew he wanted to be a musician and in the mid-sixties, with Don Powell, founded the band that in 1970 would settle on the name Slade. Their powerful guitar-driven anthems formed the soundtrack for a whole generation, and their Top of the Pops performances, led by their flamboyant, ever-smiling lead guitarist, became legendary.

But So Here It Is reveals that there’s much more to Dave’s life than Top of the Pops and good times. Packed with previously unseen personal photos, the book uncovers surprising family secrets, tells the inside story of the original band’s painful break-up, explores Dave’s battles with depression, his decision to reform Slade and go back on the road and his recovery from the stroke that threatened to cut short his career.

 

My Thoughts

I couldn’t resist the opportunity to read and review So Here It Is for the blog tour as I grew up hearing Slade all the time as my Mum was a huge fan. Obviously I love Merry Christmas Everyone, and that song has been a part of Christmas ever since I was a young child, but my Mum loved everything they ever did so I feel like I know their music fairly well. I was also a huge Oasis fan back in the day so to hear Noel Gallagher say that without Slade there would be no Oasis made this book an absolute must-read for me. I’m so pleased to say that I loved it.

It was fascinating to read about Dave Hill’s early years growing up on a council estate. I was impressed that his dad was ultimately so agreeable to him joining a band and throwing everything into it. I really enjoyed reading about how Slade got together and how they became famous. It’s funny to get your head around the fact that they had songs in the charts and had appeared on Top of the Pops but Dave Hill was still living with his parents. It’s also hard to comprehend the fact that they were still doing gigs up and down the country, perfecting their craft and growing their fan base after they were deemed to be breaking through in the music industry. It clearly took a lot of very hard work to reach a level of success in the industry back then but it obviously paid off for Slade.

I really loved discovering snippets of info and interesting facts about Slade, and other bands and people they came into contact with over the years that I hadn’t heard before. It made me smile every time they bumped into someone who was either famous then, or about to be famous. It never ever felt like name dropping though, it’s written in such a way as it’s just who they happened to meet at any given time. It’s also fascinating to pick up on just how many bands have said that Slade had influence on them.

Slade had their tough times too. Dave Hill writes about the horrific accident that seriously injured drummer Don Powell and that killed Powell’s girlfriend. I knew about the accident but I didn’t realise the impact it had on Powell and how the band had to adapt to the issues it left him with. I also hadn’t realised that Slade had such a tough time trying to break America and the effect it had on their fan base in the UK while they were off in the USA. Dave Hill is very open about how difficult it was for him when Noddy Holder decided enough was enough as far as Slade was concerned. It clearly left Hill at quite a crossroads and unsure what to do next. Thankfully, he was given some good advice and he took it, and Slade continues to this today!

Dave Hill is very candid in this book. I didn’t know that his mum had struggled so much with mental illness and to read about the effect this had on him was very moving. His love for his mum really comes through, it’s obvious her illness had a profound affect on him but also that she loved him and he loved her. Hill is also very open about his own struggles with depression later on in his own life, and how he worked to get himself healthy again.

So Here It Is is a warm, candid and all-round brilliant memoir and I highly recommend it! It’d be a perfect read for Slade fans, music fans in general and actually for anyone who enjoys reading fascinating memoirs! Just go read it, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

I received a copy of this book from Unbound via Random Thing Tours. All thoughts are my own.

So Here It Is is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Dave Hill was born in a castle in Devon, the son of a mechanic, and moved back with his parents to Wolverhampton when he was a year old. He bought his first guitar from a mail order catalogue and received a few lessons from a local teacher before teaching himself to play. Although he is left-handed, he has always played right-handed. He worked in an office for Tarmac Limited for over two years before becoming a full-time professional musician.

He originally played with drummer Don Powell in a band called The Vendors, which became the The N’ Betweens. When Jim Lea and singer Noddy Holder later joined, the band renamed itself Slade.

In the 1970s, Slade were the biggest band in the UK, and went on to have 23 Top 20 hits and six number one singles. Three of these singles entered the chart at number one (an achievement that even eluded the Beatles). Released in 1973, Merry Xmas Everybody went on to sell a million copies and has charted every year since. Slade’s film Flame is still cited to this day as one of the all-time great music films. Dave’s outlandish costumes, hair styles, shoes and make up, also made Slade one of the visually defining groups of the Glam era.

After the break-up of the original band, Dave Hill has helped and supported local and national charities and eventually reformed Slade with Don Powell. Twenty-five years later, they are still regularly touring the world, playing to hundreds of thousands of fans. In 2010 during a concert in Germany, Dave suffered a stroke, from which he made a fully recovery.

Dave married his wife Jan in 1973, and they have three children and four grandchildren. They still live in Wolverhampton. In 2016, Dave turned 70, and it also marked the 50th anniversary of Slade forming.

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

So Here It Is Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Dead in Venice by Fiona Leitch (Narrated by Deryn Edwards) @fkleitch #audiobook @audibleuk @annecater ‏#RandomThingsTours

Dead In Venice Cover

About the Book

Bella Tyson is a famous 40-something crime writer suffering from writer’s block ever since a bitter divorce two years before. When a fan offers her the use of an apartment in Venice, Bella jumps at it, hoping a change of scene will have her writing again. Once there, she soon meets Will, a charming Englishman, who shows her around the city.

Enchanted by both Will and her new surroundings, Bella decides to write a supernatural murder mystery and begins researching local legends and the city’s more sinister side, including an illicit visit to the island of Poveglia, spooky former home of Venice’s asylum. Soon Bella uncovers more than she has bargained for and finds herself enmeshed in a series of gruesome real-life murders that uncannily mirror the legends she is researching.

As she and Will join forces to investigate, real life and local lore merge disconcertingly – for nothing in Venice turns out to be what seems, including Will….

My Thoughts

I jumped at the chance to be on this blog tour as I very much enjoy listening to audio books and I loved the sound of Dead in Venice, it sounded like it might be something a bit different for me. I’m so glad that I did because the audiobook more than lived up to my expectations!

Dead in Venice is about Bella, a crime writer who has terrible writer’s block and is desperate to come up with an idea for her next novel. When she gets offered an apartment in Venice she jumps at the chance and is immediately excited at the possibilities for it to spark a new idea for a novel. Soon after her arrival she meets Will and it seems as though things might be looking up for her…

I must start be saying that the narrator, Deryn Edwards, is brilliant. She really captures the mood of the novel perfectly and it very much felt like she inhabited the characters, especially that of Bella. I’ll definitely be looking out for more audio books narrated by her.

I loved how we got to see Bella’s false starts when she was attempting to come up with an opening to her novel at the beginning of this book. The way she put herself into her book and then goes off on tangents is brilliant. It brought real humour to a novel that I wasn’t expecting and I adored that.

Once Bella gets to Venice she finds herself caught up in a real life murder and this finds its way into her writing. The whole novel that Bella is writing gets swept along by the increasingly bizarre murders she finds herself in the vicinity of. It was utterly engrossing and a really different take on the thriller genre. I didn’t work out whodunnit or why but I did find myself suspicious of each of the characters as the novel progressed. I even wondered at one stage, in the same way I’ve always wondered about Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, whether it could actually be Bella committing the murders that she then fictionalises!

The murders in Dead in Venice are quite gruesome and supernatural but the novel is written in such a way, with the reader seeing it through Bella the novelist’s eyes, that it never feels too much. The fictional novelist is fictionalising it further for the reader, and I found this really clever and interesting. It is a bit creepy at times as the murders Bella encounters seem to be mirroring a book that she is reading for research but hearing how Bella reacts to the situations she finds herself in just has you desperate to keep listening to find out what might happen next. I don’t particularly like being scared or feeling creeped out but I honestly just couldn’t put this audio book down!

Dead in Venice is so brilliantly written and fully immerses the reader in the novel. I’ve never been to Venice but Fiona Leitch brought it to life in this book. As I was listening to the audio I could completely envisage the setting as if I was right there with Bella. I could hear all the sounds and smell all the smells as I was listening and I felt as if I was right there in Venice with Bella.

Dead in Venice is such a quirky, fascinating novel. I got completely and utterly lost in the novel, it was brilliant escapism for me on a day when I wasn’t feeling too well. It’s a novel full of mystery and intrigue mixed with a hint of the supernatural and a dash of humour. I listened to the whole book in one afternoon and I absolutely loved it! I’m already eagerly anticipating whatever Fiona Leitch writes next but in the meantime I highly recommend this audio book! It’s one of my favourite audiobooks of the year!

I received a copy of the audio book from the author via Anne at Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.

Dead in Venice is out now and available here.

About the Author

Fiona Leitch Author Picture

Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London, Cornwall and New Zealand she’s finally (for the moment) settled on the sunny South Coast of England, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Her Westminster-set romantic comedy, ‘Parliamentary Affairs’, was recently optioned by an up and coming LA producer, and her action comedy ‘Lost in Berlin’ was a finalist in New York’s Athena IRIS Screenwriting Lab 2017. She’s also been shortlisted for the BBC Writers Room. Her debut novel ‘Dead in Venice’ has just been shortlisted for the Audible New Writing Grant, while her short horror story ‘Tinder’ was selected for the Twisted 50 Volume 2 anthology, published Spring 2018.

You can find the rest of the stops for the tour at the following blogs:

Dead in Venice Blog Tour poster

#BookReview: The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre @classicpenguins #giveaway

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About the Book

Tessa Quayle has been horribly murdered on the shores of Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya, the birthplace of mankind. Her putative African lover, a doctor with one of the aid agencies, has disappeared.

Her husband, Justin, a career diplomat and amateur gardener at the British High Commission in Nairobi, sets out on a personal odyssey in pursuit of the killers and their motive. His quest takes him to the Foreign Office in London, across Europe and Canada and back to Africa, to the depths of South Sudan, and finally to the very spot where Tessa died.

On his way Justin meets terror, violence, laughter, conspiracy and knowledge. But his greatest discovery is the woman he barely had time to love.

 


 

On 27 September 2018, Penguin completed its nine-year project to publish twenty-one of John Le Carré’s novels as Penguin Modern Classics, making him the living author with the greatest number of works awarded this classics status. The last book to be published as part of this project is The Little Drummer Girl, which is also soon to be shown in a brand new BBC TV adaptation! To celebrate this wonderful project I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour to showcase this series of books. Today I’m reviewing The Constant Gardener and am also going to be running a giveaway where one lucky reader will win a brand new copy of this novel!

 

My Thoughts 

The Constant Gardener is one of those novels that I’ve known about, and wanted to read for such a long time so I’m delighted to have had the chance to read it for this blog tour. I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner though because I loved it; I devoured it and have been thinking about it ever since I finished reading it.

The Constant Gardener is a novel about the murder of Tessa Quayle and her companion, and the quest to discover what exactly happened to them and how it came to happen. As her husband Justin delves further into the story we find that it’s all linked to terribly unethical pharmaceutical companies and what they’re doing in Africa. It is dark and twisted, and so engrossing that you just can’t stop reading.

This is a novel that keeps the reader on their toes; it’s twisty and you find that you’re not always sure who you can trust. I kept thinking I had it all worked out and then there would be another strand of the story that got woven in and I was suddenly unsure again. It’s like a giant puzzle where the pieces gradually start fitting together and you being to see the whole picture. At times I felt like I was so caught up in the story that I was there with Justin in the heat and feeling his confusion and his thought processes as he strove to discover the truth of what had happened to his wife.

I was expecting this novel to be thrilling (and it most definitely was), I was also expecting it become a tangled web (and it did) but I wasn’t expecting it to bring up so many emotions in me as I was reading. I really came to care about Tessa and wanted to know what had happened to her, and even though we know from the start that she is dead I still wanted a different outcome for her as we learn more and more about her in the flashbacks and through things left behind. It definitely left me with the feeling that we don’t always know as much as we think we do about the people we love but that doesn’t necessarily make them, or us, a bad person.

I’ll be honest and say that while I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time, it’s been the main le Carre book that appealed to me. I think it’s partly because novels about espionage haven’t really jumped out at me before. However, after reading The Constant Gardener and absolutely loving his writing style I definitely have the le Carre bug and want to read all of his work. I have a copy of The Little Drummer Girl here and plan on reading that before the new adaptation hits the screen, and then I think I’ll go back to the beginning and read my way through all of le Carre’s work!

The Constant Gardener is gripping, stunningly written and will have you engrossed from start to finish (and beyond)!

I received a copy of The Constant Gardener from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

 

About the Author

John le Carré was born in 1931 and attended the universities of Bern and Oxford. He taught at Eton and served briefly in British Intelligence during the Cold War. For more than fifty years he has lived by his pen. He divides his time between London and Cornwall.

 

 

Giveaway!

 

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This gorgeous new paperback edition of The Constant Gardener by Penguin Modern Classics is out now and can be ordered here. Penguin Modern Classics have very kindly given me an extra copy of the novel to be given away to one of you so if you’d like the chance to win, please enter by leaving a comment below telling me why you’d like to read the book.

Terms and Conditions

The giveaway is open in the UK only and will close on 15th October at 23.59 (UK time). I will put all the entrants’ names in a hat and ask my husband to randomly pick a winner. I will contact the winner after the giveaway has ended and must receive a reply back within one week or I reserve the right to pick another winner. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties. After the book is sent to the winner I will delete the data I hold. I’m not responsible for any loss or delay of the prize within the postal system.

 

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: Perfect Liars by Rebecca Reid @RebeccaCNReid @TransworldBooks @BeckyShort1 #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater

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About the Book

They have it all. And they’ll do anything to keep it that way.

Sixteen years ago, at an elite boarding school secluded in the English countryside, best friends Nancy, Georgia and Lila did something unspeakable.

Their secret forged an unbreakable bond between them, a bond of silence. But now, in their thirties, one of them wants to talk.

One word and everything could be ruined: their lives, their careers, their relationships. It’s up to Georgia to call a crisis dinner. – she knows there’s nothing that can’t be resolved by three courses in her immaculate kitchen.

But the evening does not go as planned.

Three women walk in to the dinner, but only two will leave.

Murder isn’t so difficult the second time around…

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when a copy of Perfect Liars arrived through my letterbox as it sounded like exactly my kind of read. I’m so pleased to say that I loved this book and so was absolutely delighted to then be invited to review it for the blog tour!

Perfect Liars is a story of toxic friendship. It’s a dual timeline set in the past when Georgia, Nancy and Lila were at boarding school together, and in the present where they come together again at a dinner party organised in an attempt to smooth over the cracks.  The three women are jointly carrying a secret from their school days and are desperately trying to keep the past hidden whatever the cost.

I was drawn to Perfect Liars as soon as I first heard about it because female friendships fascinate me and reading about them always makes for an engrossing novel. There is something about the way teenage girls bond, often united in their dislike of something others are doing and how this can keep them bonded long after they’ve really stopped liking each other all that much. Negotiating relationships with women within a circle of friends can be really quite complex at times and can be a bit like treading on eggshells , and that’s without the drama that has gone on with the three women in this novel! Rebecca Reid takes the female friendships in her novel to extreme lengths but the roots of the friendship and the underlying dislike of each other was so believable and really quite true to life in many cases.

None of the characters in this book were hugely likeable but they all had complexities that meant I couldn’t entirely dislike them all of the time. I had times where I felt sympathy and understanding for aspects of their lives and at other times I wanted to scream at them to do the sensible thing. I do enjoy a novel where the characters are a real mix of complicated and infuriating at times and sympathetic at others so Perfect Liars really hit the spot for me!

I honestly couldn’t put Perfect Liars down once I started reading it. It had me hooked from the opening pages and it’s stayed in my mind in the weeks since I finished reading it. It’s such a great novel about female friendships, about the bonds that hold people together and the desperate levels people are taken to when they feel like a ‘friend’ may be about to betray them! I highly recommend Perfect Liars and I’m already excited to see what Rebecca Reid writes next!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book, and to Anne of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Perfect Liars is out now in ebook and is due to be published in paperback in February 2019. It can be ordered here.

About the Author

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Rebecca is a freelance journalist. She has a column for the Telegraph Women’s section, works for Metro Online and has written for Marie Claire, the Independent, the iPaper, The Guardian, Indy100, LOOK and the New Statesman among others.

Rebecca is a regular contributor to Sky News and ITV’s This Morning as well as appearing on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, LBC, BBC News 24 and the BBC World Service to discuss her work.

She graduated from the University of Bristol with a BA in English & Drama in 2013 and from Royal Holloway’s Creative Writing MA in 2015. She lives in Kentish Town with her husband.

You can find the rest of the tour at the following blogs:

#BookReview: Narcissism for Beginners by Martine McDonagh @MartineM_Writer @unbounders @annecater

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About the Book

Meet Sonny Anderson as he tips headlong into adulthood. Sonny doesn’t remember his mother’s face; he was kidnapped at age five by his father, Guru Bim, and taken to live in a commune in Brazil. Since the age of ten, Sonny has lived in Redondo Beach, California, with his guardian Thomas Hardiker. Brits think he’s an American, Americans think he’s a Brit.

When he turns 21, Sonny musters the courage to travel alone to the UK in an attempt to leave a troubled past behind, reunite with his mother and finally learn the truth about his childhood. With a list of people to visit, a whole lot of attitude and five mysterious letters from his guardian, Sonny sets out to learn the truth. But is it a truth he wants to hear?

 

My Thoughts

Narcissism for Beginners has such a fab cover and a brilliant title and I’ll admit that this is what drew me to the book.  I have to say that I’m so glad I decided to give it a go because it’s such a brilliant read, I loved it!

Sonny has just turned 21 and his world has just been turned on its head. He’s living with his guardian at Redondo Beach in America but on his birthday he is given some life-changing information involving money and his past, and the past of his parents. Sonny has to find the courage to travel to the UK to try and piece together the story of how he came to be and how he ended up where he is.

I went into this book knowing very little of what it was going to be about and I fell in love with the novel very quickly. Sonny is such an interesting character – he has a quirky personality and some traits that I could really identify with but ultimately he’s a really nice guy who just wants to know where he comes from.

Sonny’s guardian Thomas has hidden five letters in his bag, which slowly unveil more truths for Sonny to get to grips with. He also has a list of people that knew his parents and he decides to visit them in the order that they were involved in his family’s lives. On top of all of this Sonny is obsessed with Shaun of the Dead and really wants to make time to visit locations from the film while he’s in England.

The whole novel is told in the form of a letter to his mother and this allows us to have real insight into what Sonny is thinking and feeling as he discovers more and more truths, some of them painful and uncomfortable, about her and his father. What I loved was how he came to connect with some of the people he meets. It initially felt like Sonny was a bit of a loner and would perhaps struggle to make friends but over time to see him form bonds with some of the people he meets was wonderful.

Narcissism for Beginners was such a balm for my soul when I read it. I could really identify with some of what Sonny was going through in the sense of trying to find a place in the world when you don’t have a traditional family as such. I was rooting for him to find where he could be himself and belong in the way that I’ve found my place in the world.

Narcissism for Beginners is such a quirky, off-beat, coming of age novel that will have you rooting for Sonny and feeling all of the feelings as you progress through his story. I will be shouting from the rooftops about this wonderful book, I highly recommend it! A massive five stars from me!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.

Narcissism for Beginners is due to be published in paperback on 20th September and is available for pre-order here.

 

About the Author

Martine McDonagh Author Pic

Martine McDonagh’s latest novel, Narcissism for Beginners, is longlisted for the 2018 People’s Book Prize and in 2017 for the Guardian Not The Booker Prize. It is published in Germany as Familie und andere Trostpreise (Family and other Consolation Prizes).

Her first novel, I Have Waited and You Have Come, was described as ‘cataclysmically brilliant’ by author Elizabeth Haynes, and praised in the Guardian and Red magazine. Martine had a successful career in the music industry as an artist manager and devised and ran the MA Creative Writing & Publishing at West Dean College in Sussex.

 

You can find the rest of the blog tour stops at the following blogs:

Narcissim for Beginners Blog Tour poster

 

 

#BookReview: The Girl in His Eyes by Jennie Ensor @Jennie_Ensor ‏@BloodhoundBook

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About the Book

Her father abused her when she was a child. For years she was too afraid to speak out. But now she suspects he’s found another victim…

Laura, a young woman struggling to deal with what her father did to her a decade ago, is horrified to realise that the girl he takes swimming might be his next victim. Emma is twelve – the age Laura was when her father took away her innocence.

Intimidated by her father’s rages, Laura has never told anyone the truth about her childhood. Now she must decide whether she has the courage to expose him and face the consequences.

Can Laura overcome her fear and save Emma before the worst happens?

 

My Thoughts

Today is publication day for The Girl in his Eyes so I’m thrilled to be sharing my review and helping promote this incredible novel!  I was drawn to The Girl in his Eyes as soon as I first heard about it and am so pleased to say that it was all that I hoped it would be.

Laura is carrying the awful secret of what her father did to her when she was younger and it’s affecting her to this day. She struggles to be in the family home and is distant from her mum and brother as a result. One day she finds out that her dad is taking a young girl for swimming lessons and she realises that she may have no choice but to confront what he did to her.

The Girl in his Eyes is told from multiple perspectives: Laura, her mother and her father. I was unsure how I was going to feel reading the dad’s point of view knowing what he did to his daughter and how his mind seemed to work. However, Jennie Ensor has dealt with the issue of abuse in such a sensitive way that I found it gave balance to the novel to know his thought process (as disturbing as it was to read).

I could really sympathise with Laura and I agonised with her over what she should do about her dad. It’s all too easy to say that victims should speak out but it’s so much more complex than that. Laura didn’t want to upset the rest of her family, particularly her mum, and worried that she wouldn’t be believed because her father gives such a convincing performance as a nice, normal family man. She is trying to hard to make a life for herself now she lives away from the family home she grew up in but her anxiety every time she goes back to visit brings it all back to the surface again; it’s a wound that isn’t allowed to heal.

Laura’s mother’s viewpoint was the one that I found affected me more than I was expecting, and this surprised me. I swung from being utterly disbelieving that she hadn’t had any inkling of what her husband was doing to their daughter, to feeling a sense of sadness for her as she tried to process and re-evaluate her marriage. There is a small moment in the novel when she sees a large spider out of her eye corner  and is terrified so immediately throws a huge book on top of it and stamps it down. She then leaves it there until someone comes home and she gets them to deal with it. This moment gave me goosebumps because that was when I really understood her and felt sorry for her. It’s such a tiny moment in the book but it showed me how her mind works when it came to dealing with things she truly can’t cope with.

The Girl in his Eyes is a very prescient novel. We are in the wake of the #metoo movement and are having our eyes opened to the abuse that goes on behind closed doors. This novel is about one woman and her father but the way the novel explores how Laura is still dealing with the trauma as an adult and the choices she makes are so important for society to understand. People who have been abused and traumatised sometimes deal with it by taking control in ways that can be hard for others to understand. I very much appreciated how Ensor explores this aspect of Laura’s life.

This isn’t always an easy book to read due to the subject matter and it feels unsettling at times but it is absolutely worth reading. I wasn’t sure how I felt about reading it to start with but I ended up reading it all in one sitting, and it did make me cry in places but I’m so glad that I read it. Ensor handles the subject of child abuse so sensitively; there is nothing graphic or gratuitous in the novel; it is much more a look at how it leaves people feeling and the affect it has on people’s lives. She has done an exceptional job to confront child abuse in such an honest and real way without it ever being too much to read.

The Girl in his Eyes is an incredible novel that will really stay with me. It’s such an important novel about the lasting damage of sexual abuse but it’s so beautifully and sensitively written that you’ll find yourself utterly absorbed in the story and won’t want to stop turning the pages. I read it in one sitting because it had me gripped from the opening chapter! This is a book that everyone should read; I highly recommend it.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

The Girl in His Eyes is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Jennie Ensor lives in London and has Irish roots. During a long trip overseas she obtained a Masters in Journalism and began her writing career as a journalist, covering topics from forced marriages to accidents in the mining industry. Her debut novel BLIND SIDE was published by Unbound in 2016. In January 2018 her short story ‘The Gift’ was placed in the Top 40 of the Words and Women national prose competition. Her poetry has appeared in many UK and overseas publications, most recently Ink Sweat and Tears. She sings in a chamber choir.

 

 

You can find the rest of the blog blitz at the following stops:

B L O G B L I T Z (4)-1

 

#BookReview: How We Remember by J. M. Monaco @RedDoorBooks

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About the Book

Upon Jo’s return home after her mother’s death, she is shocked to learn of an unexpected inheritance and her mother’s diary. Jo thought she could put to rest her darker past until an entry implies the messy aftermath of an uncle’s sexual advances towards her when she was fifteen. Like the diary, Jo’s memory of events is full of gaps, but one thing is certain – she will never regain what was lost. What is the full story of what happened between Jo and her uncle? And what is the diary not telling us about Jo’s mother’s troubles with him? How We Remember traces the effects of alcoholism, mental illness and abuse on one Irish-Italian-American, working-class family. As Jo’s first-person narrative weaves together past and present stories, she creates a portrait of her family’s life and her own as she faces new decisions amidst the tragic consequences of mismanaged grief. Full of moments of light and dark, Monaco’s debut novel – set during a week that anyone would dread – provides a mesmeric narrative portraying the pain of grief, the tenuous nature of memory and the earth shattering effect that the death of the `glue’ of a family can cause.

 

My Thoughts

I have to start this review by admitting that I was initially drawn to How We Remember by the gorgeous cover! I’m happy to say that when I read the blurb it equally drew me to the novel and I was very keen to read it.

How We Remember is a novel about an Irish American family and how they deal with secrets, mental health and grief. It centres around Jo who was assaulted by her Aunty’s husband when she was fifteen and has been carrying the damage from that around with her ever since. She’s now in her 50s and her mum has died, and this has brought up a lot of memories and also discoveries about how her mum felt about the assault all those years ago.

Jo is a very successful university lecturer – she got her degree at an Ivy League college defying the odds of her working class background. I found that there were times in this book were she felt distant from me, like she wasn’t being entirely open in how she was feeling but mostly I really felt for her. I could identify with a lot of what made her who she is and was willing her on to deal with her issues and find a place of peace. Her mother’s death brings back all the pain of how her family dealt with the assault by her uncle (by marriage). No one ever knew the full story of what happened, or chose to not grasp the full story so as a result they don’t understand why it still hurts Jo so many years later.

I could really empathise with Jo over her grief for her mother. It’s so hard to be the one that has to deal with everything after a death, while everyone else does nothing under the veil of claiming not knowing how to do anything. I’ve been there and it’s hard. The family dynamics in these parts of the novel were so real for me and I really appreciated how well J. M. Monaco captured how a family can be, and how grief heightens everyone’s true personalities and feelings.  I could feel Jo’s exhaustion and despair and hoped she would come through.

I was rooting for Jo and her brother to find a way to be friends. It’s incredibly painful when you lose your parents and then the family just disintegrates. Her brother has his problems and they manifest in a different way to Jo but ultimately they’re both coming to terms with the way their lives have turned out.

How We Remember is ultimately a novel about grief for not just who we lose but for what we lose when others don’t hear and support in the appropriate way. It’s a raw and visceral novel that really gets under your skin. I highly recommend it if you love books about family dynamics.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

How We Remember is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

My writing identity is JM Monaco. Friends here in the UK tell me the surname sounds unique and somewhat exotic. Outside this little island I know this isn’t the case.

I am a fiction writer with a particular soft spot for North American fiction, probably because my formative and university years took place in the USA. While England has been my home for well over twenty years now, there’s something about the birthplace where my extended family and some friends still reside that has a strong pull. If I could, I’d spend solitary blocks of time there in a quiet lake cottage in the northeast pondering my ambiguous relationship with that landscape. I’d write up a tumultuous storm that may eventually take the shape of a draft for a novel or multiple stories, then come back to the UK where I could clean it all up in edits with my husband and children surrounding me with love and endless offers  of tea and healthy meals. As this can only happen in fantasy, here in the southwest of England, UK, is where I stay, holed up in a drafty north-facing study/writing room, often gazing out at the rain and rolling my eyes when I hear my daughter shout, ‘What’s for supper tonight?’  Reading, thinking, writing, are all interrupted with the demands of others, the good and bad, life’s routines, a bit of excitement here and there mixed with the mundane. This is where stories are born. Oh, but wouldn’t it be heaven to have that nice little place by the lake.

(Bio taken from J.M. Monaco’s blog)

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

#BookReview: Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia @MejiaWrites @QuercusBooks @ellakroftpatel

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About the Book

Ten years after a boy and his father went missing in the wilderness of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, the boy – who is no longer a boy – walks back out of the forest. He is violent and uncommunicative. The authorities take him to Congdon Mental Institution in Duluth, on the edge of mighty Lake Superior.

There, language therapist Maya Stark is given the task of making a connection with this boy/man who came back from the dead. But their celebrity patient tries to escape and refuses to answer any questions about his father or the last ten years of his life. In many ways he is old far beyond his years; in others, still a child.

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world – but at what cost to herself?

 

My Thoughts

I was beyond excited to be offered a chance to read and review Leave No Trace as Mindy Mejia’s previous novel The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman became one of my favourite books when I read it (you can read my review here if you’d like to).

Leave No Trace follows the story of Maya, a former patient of a psychiatric hospital, who is now a trained speech therapist working in the same hospital. One day a new patient is admitted and as he seems unable or unwilling to communicate Maya is assigned to him. The patient is Lucas who as a young boy went missing with his father and is now back as a young adult and everyone wants to know where he’s been and what’s happened to his father.

Maya is a fascinating character and I was intrigued by her from the start. She’s had a tough time of it as her mother disappeared when she was ten and ever since then Maya has been trying to understand why her mum left and what might have caused her to leave. I think it’s this sense of loss and not knowing that made Maya become so involved in Lucas’ case, she can see something in him that might lead her to understand how people can just up and leave. I’m always drawn to books about loss, I find it cathartic to read about characters that are searching for a lost loved one or dealing with grief so I was really drawn to Maya. I can’t imagine how it must feel to have a mum walk out and for a child to not know where she’s gone but I could really identify with the pain and the sense of loss. Mindy Mejia really does get to the heart of her character and explores what makes people who they are.

Mindy Mejia has such a beautiful writing style and, as with The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman, I found myself utterly absorbed in it.  It’s a slow burn and yet at the same time a fast read – I didn’t want to put it down once I picked it up and it flows so well. I was desperate to know if they’d get Luke well or find his dad, or if we’d ever know what happened to Maya’s mum but at the same time I was very much enjoying the writing and finding out more about these characters. It’s not about the twists and turns but the way the novel ended was still a huge shock to me!

Leave No Trace is ultimately a novel about friendship, about love and loss and about trying to find redemption and healing. I loved it and feel like it will be a novel that will stay with me. It’s compelling, atmospheric and near impossible to put down!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Leave No Trace is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Mindy received a BA from the University of Minnesota and an MFA from Hamline University. Apart from brief stops in Iowa City and Galway, she’s lived in the Twin Cities her entire life and held a succession of jobs from an apple orchard laborer to a global credit manager.

 

 

You can find the rest of the blog tour at the following stops:

Leave No Trace blog tour poster updated.jpg

#BookReview: The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks @AnneCater

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About the Book

Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t…
Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…
Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it?
What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?

 

My Thoughts

It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of Louise Beech so I was beyond thrilled when invited to read and review The Lion Tamer Who Lost for the blog tour.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is the story of Ben. He’s dreamt of going to Africa to volunteer on a lion reserve and the book begins with him having achieved this dream. It’s clear that Ben is unhappy and troubled though and that perhaps how he came to be in Africa is not how he dreamt it.

It’s also the story of Andrew. Andrew has a wish box and he truly believes in making wishes. He feels certain that if you wish for something very specific then it will come true.

I adored this novel more than I can even say! I love novels that explore the idea of fate and destiny and the idea that perhaps there is a person out there who we’re destined to meet. That the person will keep showing up in our lives until we meet at the right time. Ben and Andrew’s paths keep crossing until one day they finally get talking and they instantly click.

I loved that this book is set both in Zimbabwe and Hull; Louise Beech has such a wonderful way of really capturing a location and making it so real for her readers. I know the parts of Hull mentioned in this book really well but I’ve never been to Zimbabwe and yet each place felt equally vivid in my mind. I could smell the lion enclosures, I could taste the mud coffee in Africa and I felt like I was there.

The real beauty in this novel is in the characters. Ben and Andrew felt like real people to me and I miss them now I’ve finished reading. I loved seeing how they met, how they got together and how they fell in love. It was so beautiful. I was hoping Ben would find a way to come out to his dad, and that somehow it would all be okay.

It was incredibly moving how we see the lions in the reserve being nurtured to health and gradually gaining more and more freedom, it contrasted with the scene of lions in the circus. I couldn’t help but feel that the different stories of the lions was mirroring the times that the LGBTQ+ community have gone through. It certainly seemed to echo the pain of love and loss, of losing yourself and slowly finding yourself again that Ben goes through in the novel.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost broke my heart on more than one occasion as I was reading. I can’t bear it when people can’t accept two people who love each other just because of their own prejudices, so that made me tearful. The novel builds and builds and goes back and forth in time through Ben and Andrew’s story until we find out what happened and the way their story turns out had me sobbing my heart out. I can’t remember the last time I cried like that reading a book.

There is so much more that I could say about this book but I don’t want to risk any spoilers; this is one of those incredibly special books that doesn’t come along very often and you need to discover it for yourself.  The comparisons to Maggie O’Farrell are entirely justified – The Lion Tamer Who lost affected me deeply in the same way that O’Farrell’s After You’d Gone did. You know you have a special book in your hands when it makes you feel all of the feelings and it never, ever lets go of you even long after you’d finished reading.

I will never forget these characters or this story and I know I will revisit this book in the future. It’s such a stunningly beautiful, heart-rending read; one that will take a piece of your heart. The Lion Tamer Who Lost is now one of my most favourite books and I will be shouting from the rooftops for everyone to read it!

I received a copy of this book from Orenda Books and Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is out now in ebook and is due to be published on 20th September and is available here.

I’ve previously reviewed two novels by Louise Beech: How to be Brave and Maria in the Moon.

About the Author

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Louise has always been haunted by the sea, even before she knew the full story of her grandfather, the man who in part inspired novel How to be Brave. She lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – where from her bedroom window she can almost see the waters of the River Humber, an estuary that inspired book, The Mountain in my Shoe.

She loves all forms of writing. Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism, and a one year column called Wholly Matrimony about modern marriage.

Her debut novel, How to be Brave, was released in 2015 and got to No 4 in the Amazon UK Kindle chart, and was a Guardian Readers’ pick for 2015. This novel came from truth – when Louise’s daughter got Type 1 Diabetes she helped her cope by sharing her grandad’s real life sea survival story.

Her second novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, was released in 2016 and was inspired by her time with children in care. It explores what family truly means, and how far we will go for those we love. It longlisted for the Guardian Not The Booker Prize.

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at these stops:

The Lion Tamer Blog Tour Poster Final

 

 

#BookReview: Daisy Belle by Caitlin Davies @CaitlinDavies2 @Unbounders #DaisyBelle #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Summer 1867: four-year-old Daisy Belle is about to make her debut at the Lambeth Baths in London. Her father, swimming professor Jeffery Belle, is introducing his Family of Frogs – and Daisy is the star attraction. By the end of that day, she has only one ambition in life: she will be the greatest female swimmer in the world.

She will race down the Thames, float in a whale tank, and challenge a man to a 70-foot high dive. And then she will set sail for America to swim across New York Harbour.

But Victorian women weren’t supposed to swim, and Daisy Belle will have to fight every stroke of the way if she wants her dreams to come true.

Inspired by the careers of Victorian champions Agnes Beckwith and Annie Luker, Daisy Belle is a story of courage and survival and a tribute to the swimmers of yesteryear.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be invited to read and review Daisy Belle for the blog tour as it sounded like such a wonderful novel. I’m so happy to say that I adored every single minute that I spent reading this book and it more than lived up to my expectations!

Daisy Belle is the story of Daisy who from a very young age is fascinated by her father and older brother’s swimming ability and she wants to be a part of it all. She learns to swim at age four and is soon taking part in her father’s increasingly elaborate shows. Daisy wants to be the greatest female swimmer in the world but she gets drawn to performing and diving too – all the time widening her skills and abilities.

This novel is set in the mid to late 1800s and Daisy is constrained by the societal norms of the day but she constantly pushes at her boundaries. From being a young girl through to adulthood she doesn’t accept why she has to be treated differently to men. She does get treated really badly at times in the novel by some of the men in her life and that was hard to read. She also struggles against her mother who believes that Daisy should be home with her and doing more lady-like things such as sewing. I was really rooting for Daisy to pull through the difficult times and to be happy.

I loved Daisy, she is such a great character – so ambitious and feisty but also so human and likeable. I could identify with some of her drive where swimming was concerned as I was obsessed with swimming as a child so it made me feel nostalgic for the water.

Daisy gets to do so many amazing things in this book and I could really imagine it all; the novel actually played like a film in my head and I felt like I was right there with her. The writing is so evocative; I felt myself holding my breath during the mermaid show and I was cheering her on when she finally got to attempt to make an attempt at a record for a long swim.

I found this to be a really inspiring novel in so many ways. I don’t want to spoil the novel so I’ll be vague but something happens to Daisy later in the novel and I could really identify with her and how she felt. I’ve been through something similar and seeing her keep trying in spite of what happened was so brilliant to read. It’s a good reminder of how we should never just give in and accept what life throws at us but instead keep pushing at the boundaries, whatever they may be.

I absolutely recommend this book; it’s a book I adored so much and I know I will come back to it and read it again in the future. It’s so charming and inspiring, it feels like a book that everyone will love. Daisy Belle is a real contender for my book of the year!

Many thanks to Anne at #RandomThingsTours and the publisher for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Daisy Belle is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Caitlin Davies was born in London in 1964. She spent 12 years in Botswana as a teacher and journalist and many of her books are set in the Okavango Delta, including a memoir Place of Reeds, described by Hilary Mantel as ‘candid and unsentimental’.
Her novels include The Ghost of Lily Painter, a fictional account of the arrest and execution of two Edwardian baby farmers, and Family Likeness about the fate of ‘war babies’ born to African American GI fathers in England during World War Two.
Her non-fiction books include Taking the Waters: A Swim Around Hampstead Heath, a celebration of 200 years of outdoor bathing, an illustrated history of the world famous Camden Lock Market, and Downstream: a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames.
Her latest non-fiction is Bad Girls, and her latest novel is Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World, based on the lives of several Victorian aquatic stars, to be published by Unbound on September 1, 2018.
She is also a teacher and journalist, and was a regular feature writer for The Independent’s education and careers supplement. From 2014-17 she was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Westminster, Harrow, in the faculty of Media, Arts & Design.

Her website is http://www.caitlindavies.co.uk/

Twitter: @CaitlinDavies2

Daisy Belle Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/DaisyBelleSwimmingChampionoftheWorld/

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at these blog stops:

Daisy Belle Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Overkill by Vanda Symon @vandasymon @OrendaBooks #NewZealandNoir

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About the Book

When the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River, a small rural community is rocked by her tragic suicide. But all is not what it seems.
Sam Shephard, sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation, the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and suspended from duty, she must cast aside her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands.
To find the murderer … and clear her name.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour for Overkill as it sounded like such an intriguing novel. I do love a crime novel with a great lead character investigating the crime and I’m so happy to say that I loved this book.

Overkill opens with one of the most shocking and devastating prologues that I think I’ve ever read. Gabby is home with her baby girl when a man calls round to supposedly repair the phone line. He very soon makes it clear that Gabby is not going to get out of this situation alive but if she co-operates he will spare her daughter. We then follow Constable Sam Shephard as she investigates what is at first believed to be Gabby’s suicide but suspicions are quickly aroused that she may have been murdered.

I had goosebumps reading the opening of this book and I knew it was going to be a novel that I wouldn’t be able to put down. This is the first novel that I’ve read in a really long time that made me feel proper fear and horror at the situation a character was in; it’s such great writing that can make you have such a reaction to words on a page. For all the brutality of the prologue I needed to keep reading because the beautiful writing had me hooked.  I ended up reading this book in two sittings (and the only reason it wasn’t one sitting was because somewhere around 1am I fell asleep with my kindle in my hand!).

I love Sam Shephard! She is such a great, feisty character – she is a local woman and everyone knows her and likes her but she has her flaws. She’s passionate about her job in the police and can’t let it go when she is sure of the lead she’s following. Her emotions get the better of her at times during this novel but I could always understand why she was upset or angry and so kept on rooting for her. I believe this book is the first in a series and so I’m already very keen to see what Sam does next! I feel like Sam Shepherd could be just the character to fill the Kinsey Millhone shaped hole in my life!

There is a great sense of place in this novel. I’ve never been to New Zealand but Overkill gives such a sense of the place and I could visualise all the locations in the book. There are some great characters in this book but also a real claustrophobic feel to how everyone knows each other and nothing seems to be private. The locals are quick to close ranks but there is a warmth among them too. The moments of humour really balance the darker aspects in this novel and I very much appreciated that. Life is full of dark and light and a book that captures that is a wonderful thing to find!

I had no idea whodunnit until Sam was on the killer’s trail, it felt all the way through the book like I was along with her as she tried to put all the pieces together. I love that it kept me in suspense with all its twists and turns, and the red herrings along the way. This is such a compelling and readable book.

Overkill is fast-paced, twisty and impossible to put down! I think this might be one of my favourite crime novels of the year and I’m sure it’s a book that will stay with me. I’ve definitely found a new favourite character in Sam! This is absolutely a five star read and I highly recommend it!

I received a copy of this book from Random Things Tours & Orenda Books. All thoughts are my own.

Overkill is out now in ebook and can be pre-ordered in paperback here.

 

About the Author

Vanda’s first novel Overkill, was written while juggling the demands of a 6 month old baby and a two year old. She suspects the prologue to Overkill was written in a state of sleep deprivation induced paranoia brought about by middle of the night feeds and imagining every awful thing that could possibly happen to her family. None of them ever did. Reading that prologue still makes her cry.

A little time has elapsed and the six-month old and two-year old are now teenagers. As well as trying to raise two wonderful human beings, she has added three more Detective Sam Shephard novels to the series and written the stand alone psychological thriller The Faceless.

As well as being a crime writer, she hosts a monthly radio show on Dunedin’s Otago Access Radio called Write On, where she interviews local writers, and catches the odd international super-star if they’re in town.

And just to prove that she is a tiger for punishment, she has recently completed a PhD at the University of Otago looking at the communication of science through crime fiction – the perfect subject for a science loving crime writer. She has an undergraduate degree in Pharmacy and enjoyed a career as a community pharmacist and palliative care pharmacist before concentrating on her writing career.

Vanda has been involved with the New Zealand Society of Authors for many years, having been chair of the Otago Southland Branch. She is currently the Otago Southland regional delegate on the NZSA Board. Vanda was also the Chair of Copyright Licensing New Zealand.

When she isn’t writing, Vanda can be found digging around in her garden in Dunedin, or on the business end of a fencing foil. She has fenced since high school and still competes in national and international competitions. As well as competing she coaches, and because she likes to get involved, boots and all, is the president of Fencing South and on the board of Fencing New Zealand.

Vanda is a founding member of the Dunedin Crime Writers Association, whose raison d’etre is for its members to drink beer or wine and talk crime writing at their favourite pub.

(Author bio taken from: VandaSymon.com)

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at these stops:

Overkill Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: The Psychology of Time Travel by @KateMascarenhas @HoZ_Books

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About the Book

1967.

Four female scientists invent a time travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril…

2017.

Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future – a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady…

2018.

When Odette discovered the body she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, that strong reek of sulphur. But when the inquest fails to find any answers, she is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

My thoughts

I was first drawn to the stunning cover of The Psychology of Time Travel, it has to be one of my favourite book covers of the year, and then I read the blurb and knew this was a book I had to read! I was then thrilled when the publisher offered me a copy of the book to review and I’m so happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations!

The Psychology of Time Travel is a novel told from the multiple perspectives of the women who are either time travellers or are somehow affected by the time travelling that is happening around them. I loved this book. It starts off with the four female pioneers of time travel in 1967 and then things spread out from there. There is a real mix of characters in these women and it’s possible to see in the early days traits that will come into play later on. The one who becomes obsessed, the narcissistic one, the one who just wants to travel through time. It’s a female led book and it explores all the different facets of personality, and how power, or perceived power, affects different people in different ways.

We see one of the pioneers suffer a breakdown, and then the look into how time travel might affect a person’s mental health. It’s disturbing to see how mental illness was dealt with in the 1960s but we do get a sense of things having improved in the treatment of people in the present day. In a much later time line of 2018 we see a young woman be treated for PTSD and that fascinated me. I’ve suffered with PTSD and one of my worst symptoms was absences. I would be in a room and time would pass with me having no concept of anything in reality – I would be back in the situation that caused the trauma; it could be an hour or so at times that I lost. It was very frightening. To read about Odette experiencing this alongside reading the stories of time travel was such a great juxtaposition and a real sense of how the two situations are possibly not that far apart.

The novel was much more moving than I was expecting too and I did shed a few tears whilst reading. The idea of being able to visit people in the past who are no longer alive in the present is incredibly moving. There is a phone call later in the book that had me sobbing because I knew it was coming but I hadn’t known how it would come, and I knew how the character was feeling because there have been moments in my life where I would have given just about anything for a call like that. The exploration of how death of loved ones is for those who can just time travel back and see their loved one again in an earlier time was really interesting. Some of the time travellers become quite blasé about the death of others but some find such comfort in knowing they can go back. There is real heart in these parts of the novel.

I adored the way this book kept on rewarding the reader; it circles around in time and things you see earlier from one side, you see later from another and suddenly the puzzle fits together. It’s so clever, incredible and wonderful! This is a novel that will make you think, it will make you question your morals; at times it is a little disturbing but mostly it’s just an utterly brilliant read!

This book is so different to anything that I’ve read in a really long time and it’s definitely going to be a firm favourite of mine; I know I will re-read it. It’s enthralling and beautiful and just absolute perfection! I feel sure that this will be on my best books of 2018 come the end of the year. I highly recommend this book!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

The Psychology of Time Travel is out now and available here.

About the Author

Kate Mascarenhas is a writer of speculative fiction.

Born in 1980, she is of mixed heritage (white Irish father, brown British mother) and has family in Ireland and the Republic of Seychelles.

She studied English at Oxford and Applied Psychology at Derby. Her PhD, in literary studies and psychology, was completed at Worcester.

Over the years she has worked as an advertising copywriter, bookbinder, doll’s house maker, and social researcher. Currently she lives in the English midlands with her partner.

(Bio taken from: amheath.com)

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at the following stops:

Psychology of Time Travel- Use this banner

#BookReview: No Place Like Home by @RebeccaMuddiman @BloodhoundBook

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About the Book

What would you do if you came home to find someone in your house?
This is the predicament Polly Cooke faces when she returns to her new home.The first weeks in the house had been idyllic, but soon Jacob, a local man, is watching her.
What does he want and why is he so obsessed with Polly?
In a situation where nothing is what it seems, you might end up regretting letting some people in.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour for No Place Like Home as I’ve loved Rebecca Muddiman’s previous novels and so was certain that I would love this one. I’m so happy to say that this was a great read and I was gripped!

No Place Like Home is the story of Polly who has recently moved in to her new home and she is so excited to have a place that is all hers where she can feel cosy and safe. She has quite a dull life working an office job and keeping herself to herself but she’s also coping with her mum being recently moved to a nursing home due to a stroke. She visits her regularly and finds the situation really stressful and tough. On top of this she soon notices that a man keeps standing outside her house and staring in at all hours of the day and she is increasingly annoyed and then unnerved by him. Polly isn’t sure how to handle the situation but then things begin to escalate and she has to do something!

This novel is so twisted! It starts off like I expected it to as we get to know Polly and see how her life is and how she deals with Jacob watching her but as the situation escalates the novel becomes increasingly thrilling. The way this novel goes back and forth in time really heightens the tension as we begin to form a picture of how Polly ended up with Jacob obsessively watching her. I became more and more unnerved as the book went on but I could not put it down! It drew me in and kept me reading until the small hours of the morning because it reached a point where I couldn’t sleep until I knew how this book was going to end.

This is a hard book to review because you’re best going into it not knowing much more than it says in the blurb so I’m keeping this vague on purpose. The main thing you need to know is that this is a brilliant psychological thriller that will keep you on your toes all the way through. It’s a novel that will have you wondering how far you, or someone you might know, would go for what they want! I highly recommend it!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

No Place Like Home is out today and available here.

 

About the Author

Rebecca Muddiman is from Redcar and has lived there all her life except for time working in Holland where she lived on a canal boat, and in London, where she lived six feet away from Brixton prison. She has a very boring day job, a degree in Film and Media and an MA in Creative Writing. In 2010 she won a Northern Writers’ Time to Write Award and the Northern Crime Competition in 2012. She is the author of two previous novels: STOLEN and GONE. She lives with her boyfriend, Stephen, and dog, Cotton, in a semi-detached house which they have christened ‘Murder Cottage’.

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

B L O G B L I T Z (4)

#BookReview: Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly @PaulaDalyAuthor ‏@TransworldBooks #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Haven’t we all wanted to pretend everything is fine?

Jane doesn’t like confrontation. Given the choice, she’d prefer to focus on what’s going well, the good things in life.

But when her husband, Leon, is brutally attacked in the driveway of their home, in front of their two young children, Jane has to face reality. As he lies in a coma, Jane must open her eyes to the problems in her life, and the secrets that have been kept from her, if she’s to find out who hurt her husband – and why.

Maybe it’s time to face up to it all. Who knows what you might find . . .

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Paula Daly so I jumped at the chance to take part in this blog tour for her new novel, Open Your Eyes!

Open Your Eyes begins with Jane and her husband Leon bickering about having to go to his mother’s house on his birthday; one of those silly rows that we’ve all had at one point or another. Their neighbour, who they have a long-running mild dispute with, comes over to moan about something and Jane goes in the house to get the beer they’ve forgotten. What happens next is utterly shocking – something happens to Leon and this family’s world is turned upside down.

Jane suddenly finds herself having to pick up the pieces of what’s happened while also trying to keep her children’s routine as normal, but at the same time dealing with the aftermath and coping with the fear she’s left with. Some of her decisions were odd to me but I know how your mind is thrown into utter disarray when something so shocking happens to someone in your family.

I loved all the references to writing in this book. Leon is a successful traditionally published author while Jane is a writer who is still looking for a publishing deal. She feels a bit belittled by her husband’s success but is determined to keep going. There is an element of her feeling diminished as a writer due to her husband’s success and I felt like this spread out into other parts of their life together. This all plays such a brilliant and unexpected part in this novel and I loved that element of it. Jane isn’t a confident woman and she hates confrontations of any kind but as the novel goes on she finds her voice and her ability to face up to the situations grows.

There are so many people to suspect in this book so it keeps you on your toes as you’re reading. As the book progresses and Jane and the police dig deeper into Leon and his history there are more and more potential reasons for what happened to him and more people who may have wished him harm. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t work out what had happened and I loved that I was in suspense until all was revealed. This book has such a brilliant ending; it’s definitely one that I’ll remember!

I raced through Open Your Eyes; it’s a compulsive read that will keep you up at night thinking ‘just one more chapter…’ until you turn the final page at 2am because you will get so drawn on that you simply won’t be able to rest until you know whodunnit and whydunnit! I loved this book and I highly, highly recommend it!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Open Your Eyes is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Paula Daly is the critically acclaimed author of five novels. Her work has been sold in fifteen countries, shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year award, and her books are currently being developed for television. She was born in Lancashire and lives in the Lake District with her husband, three children, and whippet Skippy.

 

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#BookReview: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena @sharilapena @ThomasssHill

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About the Book

We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.

 

My Thoughts

I love Shari Lapena’s writing so I was thrilled to be invited to take part in this blog tour for her brand new novel, An Unwanted Guest! And I’m so happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations!

An Unwanted Guest is such a thrilling read! It begins with various people arriving through a bad snowstorm to Mitchell’s Inn, a beautiful hotel in a very remote location. As the guests begin to settle in for a relaxing weekend away the weather really begins to close in. Then what appears to be a fatal accident occurs and suddenly the guests are trapped and there’s a killer among them!

I’m going to start by saying that I read this novel in one sitting over an afternoon during this glorious hot weather and the writing was so good that I could sense the snow and I could feel the icy cold weather emanating from the pages. I was gripped from the beginning and got completely lost in the book. It really took me back to my early teenage years when I devoured Agatha Christie’s novels, usually reading one in an afternoon curled up in a corner hoping not to be disturbed by anyone.

An Unwanted Guest is an Agatha Christie-type locked room (or hotel in this case) mystery and it is so well done. From the minute the guests drove up to the Inn I was mulling over their character and wondering who was going to be in peril and who the killer might be. I did think I’d worked out who the killer was and although I was on the right lines I was never absolutely sure who it was and I didn’t see the ending coming at all!

This is such a compelling and gripping thriller; to have such a confined setting and a small group of characters but still to keep the excitement and the reader guessing all the way through is no mean feat. The tension builds from the start and as the book progresses I found myself increasingly on the edge of my seat wondering if anyone was going to get out of the situation alive!

An Unwanted Guest is so gripping, thrilling and completely unputdownable: I loved it so much! I finished reading it a couple of weeks ago now and I still keep thinking of it, I think it’s going to be hard to be beat for one of my favourite reads of the year come December!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

An Unwanted Guest is out now in ebook and hardback and available here.

 

About the Author

Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller. Her second thriller, A Stranger in the House, has been a Sunday Times and New York Timesbestseller. Her third book, An Unwanted Guest, is out in 2018.

 

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#BookReview: Do No Harm by L. V. Hay @LucyVHayAuthor @OrendaBooks

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About the Book

Till death do us part…

After leaving her marriage to jealous, possessive oncologist Maxwell, Lily and her six-year-old son have a second chance at happiness with headteacher Sebastian. Kind but vulnerable, Sebastian is the polar opposite of Maxwell, and the perfect match for Lily. After a whirlwind romance, they marry, and that’s when things start to go wrong…
Maxwell returns to the scene, determined to win back his family, and events soon spiral out of control. Lily and Sebastian find themselves not only fighting for their relationship, but also their lives…

 

My Thoughts

I read Lucy Hay’s previous thriller, The Other Twin, last year and loved it (you can read my review here if you’d like to) so I was excited to be invited to read Do No Harm for the blog tour and immediately said yes!

This book is so gripping! I picked it up and it grabbed me from the start. It starts with Lily’s wedding day; she’s marrying Sebastian who seems to be a lovely man and the total opposite to Lily’s ex-husband Maxwell. There is a sense from the start that there is someone around the couple who has horrible intentions but you don’t know who or why. The obvious suspect to begin with is Maxwell but the book takes you on such a twisty journey and you’ll be constantly re-assessing who you suspect and who you can trust!

The chapters alternate between Lily and Sebastian’s perspectives, and in between there are short sections from someone who seems to have malicious intentions but creepily we don’t know who it is. This is such a great way of building tension and it had me suspecting nearly everyone in this novel and my thoughts on who was doing all the horrible stuff to Lily and Sebastian changed so many times. Ultimately, I did stick with suspecting one person and I was right but I didn’t work out how or why they did what they did. I’m sure I only worked it out in the end because a long time ago I had someone in my life who did something that this person did so my gut was screaming at me that the character was not to be trusted.

This book is a really compelling read. It’s such a great psychological thriller but it’s also such a well-written and well-researched book about the lengths and the ways that people will go to to manipulate and harm others. It’s very prescient with the gaslighting; the making people doubt their own thoughts and memories of things, and it gave me chills at times. The tension builds and builds as the novel progresses and at one point I was literally on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen!

Lucy Hay is a brilliant writer; The Other Twin was the first novel I read by her and it was so good but Do No Harm is even better so I’m already excited to see what Lucy writes next! Do No Harm is a sophisticated, disturbing and an utterly unputdownable psychological thriller! I urge you to grab a copy and read it right away!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Do No Harm is out now and available in ebook and paperback here.

 

About the Author

Lucy Hay author photo

Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin(2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama ScreenplaysShe lives in Devon with her husband, three children, six cats and five African Land Snails.

 

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#BookReview: The Afterlife of Walter Augustus by Hannah M. Lynn @HMLynnauthor #WalterandLetty

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About the book

Walter Augustus is dead. His current state of existence has become a monotony of sweet tea and lonely strolls and after decades stuck in the Interim — a posthumous waiting room for those still remembered on Earth — he is ready to move on. Only when he is forgotten by every living person will he be able to pass over and join his family in the next stage of the afterlife. At last the end is tantalizingly close, but bad luck and a few rash decisions may see him trapped in the Interim for all eternity.

Letty Ferguson is not dead. Letty Ferguson is a middle-aged shoe saleswoman who leads a pleasant and wholly unextraordinary life, barring the secret fortune she seems unable to tell her husband about. However, when she takes possession of an unassuming poetry anthology, life takes on a rather more extraordinary dimension.

 

My Thoughts

Today I’m absolutely delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Hannah Lynn’s The Afterlife of Walter Augustus.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Afterlife of Walter Augustus as it sounded like a book that is different to my usual reads. I’m so happy that I got the chance to read it though because I adored it.

The Afterlife of Walter Augustus follows two characters – Walter and Letty. Walter died a long, long time ago but he’s stuck in the interim part of the afterlife, which is where the deceased stay for as long as someone on earth remembers them. Walter just wants to be forgotten so that he can move on to the afterlife to be with his wife again. Letty is very much alive. She works hard, and lives a frugal existence with her husband. Letty is keeping a big secret though, and on top of that she one day acquires a poetry collection and this leads to her becoming a problem for Walter.

This book is wonderful: it had moments that made me smile and moments that took my breath away. There is a part of this book where two people meet in the athenaeum and I had to put the book down because I was crying so much. They were cathartic tears though. I really loved Hannah’s take on the interim afterlife and what it might be like for people who have passed on. I waiver on what I believe but I’d never really considered an interim and it really made me think. I often think of my lovely mum, and sometimes I can smell her perfume and for a brief moment it’s as if she is right there. It was weird to contemplate the idea of someone being stuck somewhere because they are remembered on earth but as I got further into the novel and met other characters I got great comfort from that. Walter is almost the exception in the interim – he is remembered many, many years after death because of a quirk of fate that made him a published author in his lifetime.

The Afterlife of Walter Augustus is a perfect blend of beautifully moving and very amusing. It is witty and charming, and a wonderfully heartwarming read. I highly recommend this book; it’s a five star read!

The Afterlife of Walter Augustus is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Hannah Lynn was born in 1984 and grew up in the Cotswolds, UK. After graduating from university, she spent ten years as a teacher of physics, first in the UK and then around Asia. It was during this time, inspired by the imaginations of the young people she taught, she began writing short stories for children, and later adult fiction. Her first novel, Amendments, was published in 2015, her latest novel, The Afterlife of Walter Augustus, is out July 2018. Now as a teacher, writer, wife and mother, she is currently living in the Austrian Alps.

You can find Hannah on the following platforms:

Twitter: @HMLynnauthor

Facebook: HannahLynnAuthor

Goodreads: Hannah_M_Lynn

 

Hannah Lynn is running a fabulous giveaway at the moment (until 31st July) where you can enter to win a Kindle Paperweight and a copy of The Afterlife of Walter Augustus! Find the giveaway here!

 

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#BookReview: A Patient Fury by Sarah Ward @sarahward1 @FaberBooks #APatientFury

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About the Book

When Detective Constable Connie Childs is dragged from her bed to the fire-wrecked property on Cross Farm Lane she knows as she steps from the car that this house contains death.

Three bodies discovered – a family obliterated – their deaths all seem to point to one conclusion: One mother, one murderer.

But D.C. Childs, determined as ever to discover the truth behind the tragedy, realises it is the fourth body – the one they cannot find – that holds the key to the mystery at Cross Farm Lane.

What Connie Childs fails to spot is that her determination to unmask the real murderer might cost her more than her health – this time she could lose the thing she cares about most: her career.

 

My Thoughts

I read and loved the first book in the DC Connie Childs series when it was first published and knew it would be a series I continued with. A Patient Fury is the third book in the series and I found it near impossible to put down once I started reading.

A Patient Fury begins a few months after the events of A Deadly Thaw with Connie back at work and a sense of the team being a little disjointed as the dust settles. I have read all three books in the series and would recommend doing the same but A Patient Fury could be read as a standalone as the main story is self-contained within the novel. In this book the team are called to a suspicious house fire where three people, Peter Winson, his wife Francesca and young son Charlie have died. The novel is predominantly told from Connie’s perspective but we do also get chapters from Julia, the adult daughter of the Peter. It also covers the present day and there are a few chapters from the past set around a mysterious disappearance.

I love Sarah Ward’s writing. I suspected who was behind the fire very early on but then there are twists and turns throughout the novel and I kept questioning myself. I felt like I was along with Connie as she doubted the working assumptions in the investigation that were made by the rest of the team. The main suspect in the story where the police are concerned made for an interesting story, but it was Connie’s suspicion that I was believing in. She isn’t convinced that it’s a murder suicide and thinks that someone else is involved but it’s proving it that is the problem. I was willing her on not to give up it because I was sure she was on to something but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it either. I loved the way I felt so involved in the novel, it’s a brilliant writer that can do that to this degree.

I really enjoyed seeing the development of Connie’s character in A Patient Fury, and to see how what she’s been through has affected her. It really does enhance the reading of the novel to know her back story and to be rooting for her. She’s a flawed character but she is so fiercely determined that you can’t help but be on her side.

The title of this novel is so perfect and fitting; the way the secrets and lies are uncovered as the plot moves along and we see how people are reacting in the present day – the undercurrent of bitterness and anger which all builds and builds somewhat patiently to fury.

A Patient Fury has quite a few red herrings, and just when you think you have the case solved, there is a reveal that has you questioning yet again in the most brilliant way. Each twist in this book is believable, and  the novel just builds and builds to the brilliantly chilling ending. I finished reading this book a week ago and I still keep thinking about it. I highly recommend this novel (and the series as a whole!).

My thanks to Emma Welton of damppebbles tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

A Patient Fury is out now and available in paperback and ebook from here.

 

About the Author

Sarah Ward

Sarah Ward is the author of three DC Childs novels, In Bitter Chill, A Deadly Thaw and A Patient Fury set in the Derbyshire Peak District where she lives. The fourth in the series, The Shrouded Path, is out in September. On her website, Crimepieces (www.crimepieces.com), she reviews the best of current crime fiction published around the world. She is a judge for the Petrona Award for Scandinavian translated crime novels. Sarah was a 2015 Amazon Rising Star and A Patient Fury was The Observer’s Thriller of the Month in 2017.

Find Sarah on the following links:

Twitter:https://twitter.com/sarahrward1

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

Sign up to Sarah’s newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bHNGHX

 

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Author Kate Vane shares her thoughts on memory in today’s post! #BrandNewFriend @k8vane

 

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Kate Vane, author of Brand New Friend, to my blog. Kate is sharing a fascinating post about memory and how easily things can become mixed up in our heads.

 

Messing with my memories

One of the genres I love to read, but would hate to write, is historical fiction. I love the way that the best authors make the world of the past come alive, saving me the trouble of doing all the reading and research and weighing up the merits of the various sources.

However, I thought I would have no difficulty in setting the flashbacks in Brand New Friend in eighties Leeds. After all, I was there. But drawing on your memories is not as straightforward as it first seems. 

We mix things up. Each time we retrieve a memory, we potentially corrupt it, throwing in new details, erasing others, while being convinced by the veracity of what we recall. I found this when I came to fact-check my own head. A song that I thought was part of the soundtrack of my student days in Leeds was actually released a couple of years later. Conversely, I had forgotten that pound coins came out a couple of years earlier. 

I had one scene where two of my characters each go to the bar with their own pound note. When I checked, both notes and coins were in circulation at that time so I decided not to change it. I thought it was a nice image – and it showed the characters didn’t want to be stuck with each other after they had bought their drinks! 

Facts can be verified but it’s more tricky to regain the mindset of 30 years ago. What was it like when we didn’t have mobile phones? Most of us didn’t even have landlines in our student houses. You went to a pay phone if you had to call someone. Your friends lived close by so you mostly just went round to see them, and probably stayed for the afternoon or the evening. Money was scarce but time seemed limitless.

If you arranged to meet someone in a pub and they didn’t turn up, you just went home. You didn’t have that exhausting process where people send you texts every five minutes to make minor refinements to the arrangement (or even more absurdly, to tell you that they are progressing towards your agreed rendezvous exactly as planned). 

You only owned a few albums and played them to death, because they were relatively expensive, and you taped them and swapped tapes with people. If you really liked someone you made a compilation. If you knocked out the small squares on the top of the cassette it stopped you recording over it, but if you changed your mind, you could put tape over the holes. 

Although the characters and the story are fictional, I did draw on certain locations. For example the shared house where Paolo lives has the same layout as one of the houses I lived in. Like the characters in the book we spent a lot of time in the living room listening to music, and some of our friends were musicians and used to bring their instruments round and play. 

Now, when I try to picture how we were back then, the room seems really crowded. There are the people who were actually there, whose features have faded over time, and there are figures of characters from the story, who are newer and therefore more vivid. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between the two. 

Beware of drawing on your memories because, like one of those home tapes, you are in danger of overwriting them!

 

About Brand New Friend

Brand New Friend by Kate Vane

Friend. Liar. Killer?

BBC foreign correspondent Paolo Bennett is exiled to a London desk – and the Breakfast sofa – when he gets a call from Mark, a friend from university in eighties Leeds. Paolo knew Mark as a dedicated animal rights activist but now a news blog has exposed him as an undercover police officer. Then Mark’s former police handler is murdered.

Paolo was never a committed campaigner. He was more interested in women, bands and dreaming of a life abroad. Now he wonders if Mark’s exposure and his handler’s murder might be linked to an unexplained death on campus back when they were friends. What did he miss?

Paolo wants the truth – and the story. He chases up new leads and old friends. From benefit gigs and peace protests, to Whatsapp groups and mocktail bars, the world has changed, but Mark still seems the same. 

Is Mark the spy who never went back – who liked his undercover life better than his own? Or is he lying now? Is Paolo’s friend a murderer?

Buy from Amazon: https://mybook.to/brandnewfriend

 

 

About Kate Vane

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Kate Vane writes (mostly) crime fiction. Brand New Friend is her fourth novel.

She has written for BBC drama Doctors and has had short stories and articles published in various publications and anthologies, including Mslexia and Scotland on Sunday.

She lived in Leeds for a number of years where she worked as a probation officer. She now lives on the Devon coast.

You can find Kate at the links below:

Website: https://katevane.com

Twitter: @k8vane

Facebook: /k8vane

 

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#BookReview: Let Me Be Like Water by S. K. Perry @_sarah_perry @melvillehouse

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About the Book

Holly moved to Brighton to escape her grief over the death of her boyfriend, Sam. But now she is here, sitting on a bench, listening to the sea sway… what is supposed to happen next?

The solitude she had so craved leaves her feeling wrecked. Stranded. But after she meets Frank, the tide begins to shift. Frank, a retired magician who has experienced his own loss but manages to be there for everyone else. Gradually, as he introduces Holly to a circle of new friends, young and old, all with their own stories of love and grief to share, she begins to learn to live again.

 

My Thoughts

This book… oh, this book! I’m going to say right now that my words in this review can’t do justice to this book but I’ll do my very best…

Let Me Be Like Water is a beautiful and moving novel about a young woman, Holly, who moves to Brighton after her boyfriend’s death. She is clearly struggling and lost but then she meets Frank, an older man who is full of magic; he takes Holly under his wing and introduces her into his circle of friends.

I love the way the novel is told in vignettes and they alternate between the present and the past. In one moment we’re seeing Holly’s memories of her life with Sam, and then we see how she is now and what is happening in her life.

The parts of this book about Holly’s relationship with Sam leading up to what happened were heartbreakingly moving. How one moment we get to see their sheer joy and happiness, and another we see Holly’s utter heartbreak and pain. It reminded me of After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell in the way a single sentence has the power to take your breath away, or to make you stop reading for a minute because you can’t see through your tears. In my experience it’s rare to find a novel that really shows how grief is in all it’s visceral rawness, and without it ever being mawkish but Let Me Be Like Water really does get it.

‘What I want to know, Sam, is will I ever run out of things I wish I could tell you? Things that sit in my fingertips that you’ll never get to read there. What about the things you know would make me laugh? Are they really just gone?’

I really appreciated how this book follows the seasons, starting in Autumn, and takes the reader through the journey of grief: from those initial weeks when you can barely function to the point when you start to feel human again but are missing your loved one so much that it hurts. There is such delicacy in the way this novel is written, and such power in that delicacy.

‘I’m starting to miss you in a new way that feels like I’m being ripped into little pieces and hurled hard in your direction, only for the wind to pick up all the bits of me and fling them the opposite way.’

The sea is a character in its own right in this novel; the ebb and flow of the tides, the fierceness and the calm, mimics grief in many ways. Holly is drawn to the sea as she tries to work through her pain, and attempts to find a way to live without Sam. Sometimes she wants to curl up inside the sea, other times she throws stones and shouts but the sea is that permanent thing that is always there. A bit like grief: you learn to live without someone but you never stop missing them.

There is a real warmth and heart in this book too. Each of the people that Holly gets to know in Brighton is wonderful, they’re all unique and each of them helps to hold Holly up, as she helps them too. This side of the novel really felt so soothing and healing; to see that Holly was grieving but still accepted and loved by her new friends was wonderful. I especially adored Frank. I loved his magic tricks, but also how his very being seemed magical. He had had his share of pain in life and managed to channel it into reaching out to others who need someone.

‘I often see people sitting in their cars just watching the water,’ Frank said. ‘It makes me want to climb in there with them. I’m sure most of them are fine, but I always wonder if they’re sitting there because they’ve got no one to be outside with. I don’t think people should be alone by the sea’.

There is so much of life in this book. We see honest explorations of relationships, and of the things that make each of us human, each of the characters’ pain and insecurities. There are amusing moments, alongside the sadness, and we see the full spectrum of life in all it’s idiosyncrasies. Perry really does capture how life is in this novel. Let Me Be Like Water leaves the reader with some hope but it doesn’t magically fix everyone’s problems, and I adored it even more for that.

This novel broke my heart, but it also gave me joy: It’s a very poignant novel, and it was cathartic to read. It is so beautifully written that I read it all in one go, even as I had tears streaming down my face. The writing is poetic and stunning; I really don’t have the words to explain how much I adored this novel. This is my favourite book of the year so far and, to be honest, I don’t think anything will knock it from the top spot. Let Me Be Like Water has taken a piece of my heart; it is absolutely a five star read for me and I simply don’t have enough superlatives to describe it! Just go buy it and read it, you honestly won’t regret it!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Let Me Be Like Water is out now and available in hardback and ebook here!

 

About the Author

SK Perry © Naomi Woddis copy

S. K. Perry is a fiction writer and poet from Croydon.  In 2013 she was long-listed for London’s Young Poet Laureate and was Cityread Young Writer in Residence in Soho in 2014. Her writing has taken her all around the world leading creative writing workshops that develop emotional literacy, and explore mental health, memory, and healing from violence. She qualified on the Spoken Word Education Programme in 2015 with a distinction in the Goldsmiths Writer/Teacher MA, and is involved in mentoring young poets’ collectives in Hackney, Glasgow, and Tegucigalpa. She lives in London

Her first novel, Let Me Be Like Water, was shortlisted for the Mslexia Award and will be published by Melville House.

(Author bio taken from here)

 

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#BookReview: Tubing by K. A. McKeagney @RedDoorBooks @kamckeagney

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About the Book

Polly, 28, lives in London with her ‘perfect-on-paper’ boyfriend. She works a dead end job on a free London paper… life as she knows it is dull. But her banal existence is turned upside down late one drunken night on her way home, after a chance encounter with a man on a packed tube train. The chemistry between them is electric and on impulse, they kiss, giving in to their carnal desires. But it’s over in an instant, and Polly is left shell-shocked as he walks away without even telling her his name.

Now obsessed with this beautiful stranger, Polly begins a frantic online search, and finally discovers more about tubing , an underground phenomenon in which total strangers set up illicit, silent, sexual meetings on busy commuter tube trains. In the process, she manages to track him down and he slowly lures her into his murky world, setting up encounters with different men via Twitter.

At first she thinks she can keep it separate from the rest of her life, but things soon spiral out of control.

By chance she spots him on a packed tube train with a young, pretty blonde. Seething with jealousy, she watches them together. But something isn’t right and a horrific turn of events make Polly realise not only how foolish she has been, but how much danger she is in…

Can she get out before it’s too late?

 

My Thoughts

Tubing is about Polly, who one night has a random and unplanned sexual encounter with a stranger on a tube and this leads her into an initially thrilling but ultimately dark world. This is a thriller but it’s different to anything else I’ve read.

Polly is already a damaged soul and the world she gets into initially forms an escape for her. She is in a settled relationship but feels stifled by her partner and his close relationship with his sister, and she can’t seem to find the thing that would make her feel whole. She has a decent job but begins to let things slide as she becomes quite obsessed with finding the man she encountered on the tube. Polly does make some silly decisions and she was hard to like a lot of the time but there was something intriguing about her, and about why she becomes so fascinated by the world of tubing that made it impossible to not read on.

As Polly’s fixation with the man from the tube grows she finds herself in an increasingly scary situation. One day she witnesses something that is terrifying and soon finds herself spiralling into paranoia and anxiety. The book really ramps up the tension from this point on as you feel really unsure how much of her how she feels is just paranoia, or whether she really is in danger or if it’s even a mix of the two.

For the first half of this book I felt it was more focused on the erotic aspects and I was wondering if this is a book that I would classify as a thriller but the second half of the book was so fast-paced, intense and disturbing that it most definitely is a thriller. It got to a point where I just couldn’t put this book down as I just had to know how it was all going to end. The denouement of this novel was not what I was expecting, which I really appreciated. I do love it when a thriller surprises me!

Tubing is a book I’d recommend to anyone who is looking to read a dark, disturbing thriller with a sexy side to it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Tubing is out now and available here!

 

About the Author

K.A. McKeagney studied psychology in Bristol before completing a Masters degree in creative writing at Brunel. She won the Curtis Brown prize for her dissertation, which formed the basis of her first novel Tubing. She has worked in London as a health editor writing consumer information as well as for medical journals. Her writing has been commended by the British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards.

She is currently working on her second novel.

 


 

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#BookReview: The Man on the Middle Floor by Elizabeth S. Moore @LizzyMoore19 #RedDoorBooks #TMOTMF

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About the Book

Despite living in the same three-flat house in the suburbs of London, the residents are strangers to one another. The bottom floor is home to Tam, a recent ex-cop who spends his days drowning his sorrows in whisky. On the middle floor is Nick, a young man with Asperger’s who likes to stick to his schedules and routines. The top floor belongs to Karen, a doctor and researcher who has spent her life trying to understand the rising rates of autism. They have lived their lives separately, until now, when an unsolved murder and the man on the middle floor connect them all together. Told from three points of view, The Man on the Middle Floor is about disconnection in all its forms; sexual, physical, parental and emotional. It questions whether society is meeting the needs of the fast growing autistic section of society, or exacerbating it.

 

My Thoughts

Well, I went into reading this book expecting it to be a fairly straightforward novel about a murder in a block of flats but I was wrong. The Man on the Middle Floor is so much more than that; it’s very hard to categorise the book but it is definitely a page turner!

Nick lives alone on the middle floor. He has Asperger’s Syndrome and is trying to maintain an independent life, he’s always looking for ways to add things to his routine without it becoming overwhelming. Tam lives on the ground floor and has recently lost his job in the police force so is struggling to find his place in the world. Karen lives on the top floor. She is a woman who is so engrossed in her research work on autism that she filters out everything else around her, including her own children. The lives of of the three people become intertwined as the novel goes on and it took a much more macabre turn than I was expecting!

Whilst this book is about a murder, it is also just as much about people and how we all have our ways of dealing with what life has thrown at us. There is a real feeling that Elizabeth Moore feels passionately about autism and that this was the catalyst for the novel. She deftly explores what makes us ‘normal’ and how easily people can become derailed from the acceptable norms of behaviour in society. We get to see the murder and what led to it happening but we also see how people turn to each other for comfort when it’s not how they’ve previously behaved. The focus seemed to centre on Nick as I was reading but it’s actually Karen that has stayed in my head more since I finished reading. She seemed to be so cold to her own children and in the way she sacrificed everything and everyone for her career but then couldn’t see the wood for the trees. I can’t condone her behaviour but at the same time part of me wonders how she is now (even though I know she’s not real).

Nick is the character that stands out the most whilst reading this novel though and the plot centres around him, the man on the middle floor. I don’t know a huge amount about autism, although I have read books about it in the past, but it seemed clear to me that Nick had a lot of problems in his life and that these contributed a lot to his obsessive behaviour rather than it seeming that all of his actions were just down to his autism. I could see where his need for order and calm came from, and had an understanding of that as someone who has had mental health issues in the past.

I really liked the way the book isn’t just about a character with autism and that is focused on three very different people who just happened to live in the same building but perhaps had more in common than they would realise. Karen has all but abandoned her children for her career, something which society still frowns upon and finds hard to accept. Tam is a man who is a bit lost and who seems to be looking for companionship and perhaps a family, which can often be portrayed as something that stereotypically more woman want than men. And Nick just wants order and calm, and to be allowed to just be without outside intrusion which is again something that others can find hard to understand. This novel really shows how we all have our problems and that whatever it is that makes one person’s life difficult may not actually be that dissimilar to what someone else experiences, albeit perhaps in a different way.

From the opening chapter of this novel I really wasn’t sure what I was reading but The Man on the Middle Floor certainly had me hooked from start to finish and I read it in just two sittings!  The novel really does hold a mirror up to the reader’s perceptions and leaves you really thinking about how we determine what normal is. If you like novels that are a bit different, that make you think and defy genre then this is the book for you; I certainly recommend it!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

The Man on the Middle Floor is out now and available in ebook and paperback from here!

 

About the Author

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Elizabeth S. Moore has worked as a journalist since she won the Decanter Young Wine Writer of the Year at seventeen. She has written columns and articles on restaurants, politics, South Africa and all things foodie. She comes from a family that has given her a lot of writing material and is currently finishing her second book, having written the first after completing the Faber Write a Novel course and being approached by fourteen agents after reading an excerpt of her novel to industry professionals. Elizabeth lives in London with her South African husband and has three daughters and a son as well as two lazy Labradors.

(Bio taken from: ElizabethMoore.com)

 

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#BookReview: Wheelchairs, Perjury & The London Marathon by Tim Marshall @AuthorightUKPR ‏@Authoright

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About the Book

The top wheelchair athletes of today enjoy the same high-profile exposure and admiration as their able-bodied counterparts. This has come about partly through wheelchair participation in mass fun-running events such as the Great North Run.

Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon charts disability sports pioneer Tim Marshall MBE’s journey from the rock-climbing accident which left him paralysed, to becoming a trailblazer for wheelchair racing.

The fun-runs of the 1980s enabled wheelchair road-racing to flourish, and Marshall took part in marathons and half-marathons where wheelchairs were welcome to compete. This did not, however, include The London Marathon, from which wheelchairs were banned for the first two years. This is the story of how this prohibition was overturned, told from the competitor’s point of view. Tim and many others campaigned for the inclusion of wheelchairs in The London Marathon in the face of huge opposition from the organisers.

Finally, in 1983 the efforts of sportsmen and women, the press, the Greater London Council and members of parliament resulted in a breakthrough just ten days before the 1983 marathon, which at last agreed to wheelchair participation.

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to read and review Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon for the blog tour as it’s a subject that is really close to my heart. I’m partially paralysed from a spinal cord injury in my neck and whilst the nature of my injury means I can’t self-propel in a wheelchair I’m always inspired by people who have pushed society to accept wheelchair users.

Tim Marshall suffered a spinal cord injury whilst rock climbing as a young man but he never lost his passion for life and taking part in sport. After his initial recovery period he undertook a research trip in America to look at how sports for wheelchair users was being approached and this led him to attempt to set up more opportunities for wheelchair users in the UK. This ultimately led to him pushing for there to be a wheelchair race within the London Marathon. The opposition that he faced is utterly staggering, I had to put the book down at a couple of points just in sheer shock at some of the responses he got from the event organisers.

Even though Marshall’s fight for a wheelchair race within the London Marathon is over thirty years ago now it was still shocking to read that one of the reasons for refusing him entry is because they didn’t want it to turn into a ‘multi-purpose jamboree’! I was gobsmacked reading this because the London Marathon allows fun runners in all their glorious outfits and yet it was the thought of serious athletes who happened to be wheelchair-bound that would throw the race into some kind of disrepute. I’m still reeling from this now. The organisers continued to give Marshall different reasons as to why wheelchair racers couldn’t be included each time he contacted them; all of them utterly unfounded.

The book also covers things like how wheelchair athletes came to have the more sporty wheelchairs that we’re used to seeing today as initially they were racing in their ordinary, every day chairs which were not dissimilar to the self-propelled wheelchairs you see people using today (although a lot heavier than we have now). I’d never really thoughts about how hard it would be to race in a chair like that with the wheels being straight and the high chance of your hand getting caught between your wheel and the wheel of the chair alongside you, or the lack of support for your body. I found it so interesting to read how sporting wheelchairs came to be and how the adaptations slowly came to be accepted by the racing associations.

Marshall’s passion to gain parity for disabled athletes and his determination to tell his story in the most accurate way possible really comes through in this book. I enjoyed the level of detail in the sharing of what remained of his correspondence with people relevant to his struggle, and to see how wheelchair racers were eventually accepted as part of the London Marathon.

I am so grateful for people like Tim Marshall because it is through them that society begins to shift its standpoint on how it views disabled people. Seeing the response in recent years to the paralympics, for example, and how nations have got behind their disabled athletes has been incredible. I will be watching the London Marathon this year with renewed appreciation of just how much perseverance it took to get wheelchair athletes racing alongside everyone else.

Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon is such an interesting read. It encompasses how Marshall discovered wheelchair sport, then onto how he, along with others, fought, and won, the right to race in the London Marathon. This is a fascinating, inspiring and important book. I really enjoyed reading it and it’s one I definitely recommend.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

Wheelchairs, Perjury and the London Marathon is out now in paperback and ebook from here!

About the Author

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Tim Marshall was born in 1946 and gained an M.Sc in Statistics from the London School of Economics, working at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris before taking up a position at Birmingham University. His lectureship in the Medical School followed by his appointment as Associate Professor in Epidemiology and Public Health ended with his retirement in 2006. He has enjoyed a lifelong love of sport including wheelchair racing, skiing and sailing.

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#BookReview: Her Mother’s Daughter by Alice Fitzgerald @AliceFitzWrites @AllenAndUnwinUK

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About the Book

1980: Josephine flees her home in Ireland, hoping never to return. She starts a new, exciting life in London, but as much as she tries, she can’t quite leave the trauma of her childhood behind.

Seventeen years and two children later, Josephine gets a call from her sister to tell her that their mother is dying and wants to see her – a summons she can’t refuse.

1997: Ten-year-old Clare is counting down to the summer holidays, when she is going to meet her grandparents in Ireland for the first time. She hopes this trip will put an end to her mum’s dark moods – and drinking.

But family secrets can’t stay buried forever and following revelations in Ireland, everything starts to unravel. Have Josephine and her daughter passed the point of no return?

My Thoughts

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Her Mother’s Daughter as I  very much enjoyed reading this novel.

Her Mother’s Daughter opens in 1997 with ten year old Clare excitedly awaiting going to visit her mum’s family in Ireland. She crosses off the days on her calendar as each day passes and is increasingly curious about meeting her grandparents. The timeline then goes back to 1980 and focuses on Josephine, Clare’s mum, as she leaves Ireland and her family behind. She moves away out of desperation to escape something and to try and create a better life for herself. Through the two timelines we get to see what has made Josephine the way she is, and also the impact it has on her daughter.

I’m often drawn to novels about mother and daughter relationships and always find them emotional so I was expecting this to be a novel that I would get engrossed in and would enjoy reading but I didn’t expect it have such a big impact on me. Alice Fitzgerald really shows the way that the things we do or say around children, or things that were done or said around ourselves as children, can cause such damage without us really being aware.  Clare is such a sweet girl but the way she takes on board her mother’s obsession with food and repeats the things she says without really fully understanding what her mother meant was shocking to me. It made me want to weep for her when each time she got to eat treat food she was constantly thinking of her hips and whether her thighs were chubby. There is also occasional use of a particular swear word that was really jolting because it’s the way Fitzgerald uses the word in the novel that made it so shocking and so sad at the same time. Out of the mouths of babes as they say.

The thing really broke my heart in this novel was the way that Clare so badly wants to make her mum happy, and Josephine so badly wants her daughter to love and adore her and yet they miss the mark somehow. Josephine is so damaged by her own childhood that she feels the need to be perfect and yet can’t seem to attain it, it’s always out of her reach and she can’t let herself settle for good enough. She also wants to compensate by helping her daughter be perfect but Clare is a child and children can’t be moulded to that degree – and in trying to make her perfect it has potential cause more harm. Clare actually becomes the mother to Josephine, and is also constantly moderating her behaviour to try and prevent her mum losing her temper or getting upset. It’s so sad to see a child so young already having to live on such a knife edge.

Josephine was hard to like when reading things from Clare’s viewpoint but as Josephine’s background and the reason for the pain she carries is revealed it felt impossible not to have sympathy for her. It doesn’t excuse how she treated her children but I still had compassion for her. The writing in this book really conveys the way that people can harm their children without realising purely because they are so damaged themselves, yet Fitzgerald also gives a real sense of hope that the chain can be broken. I very much appreciated this because it’s all too easy for us to blame who we are on who brought us up but we can break free of that and we don’t have to keep making the mistakes that were made by others before us.

Her Mother’s Daughter is beautifully written; it really draws you in and keeps you engrossed all the way through. I actually read it in one sitting because I just got so absorbed in it. It’s a heartbreaking novel but it does leave you with a real feeling of hope. I definitely recommend this book!

Many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and Allen and Unwin for sending me a copy of the book and inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author

Alice Fitzgerald

Alice Fitzgerald has worked as a journalist for six years. She has been published in literary journals, online at Refinery29 and Hello Giggles and in magazines including Hello!. Her Mother’s Daughter is her debut novel. Born in London to Irish parents, she now lives in Madrid.

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#BookReview: The Long Forgotten by David Whitehouse @d_whitehouse @EmmaFinnigan @PicadorBooks

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About the Book

When the black box flight recorder of a plane that went missing 30 years ago is found at the bottom of the sea, a young man named Dove begins to remember a past that isn’t his. The memories belong to a rare flower hunter in 1980s New York, whose search led him around the world and ended in tragedy.

Restless and lonely in present-day London, Dove is quickly consumed by the memories, which might just hold the key to the mystery of his own identity and what happened to the passengers on that doomed flight, The Long Forgotten.

 

My Thoughts

I’m going to start my review by saying how beautiful the cover of The Long Forgotten is, it really is gorgeous. Initially I saw the flowers and was drawn to looking at it some more and then I noticed the white whale that comes to play a small but also huge part in the story. It feels like a work of art and the more you look at it the more you notice, and it all connects so beautifully with the novel you’re about to read.

This novel itself is incredible! I picked it up early in the evening and I read from start to finish without taking a break because I simply couldn’t tear myself away from it. Everything about this book is incredible – the writing, the plot, the characters and it’s one that I know will stay with me.

The Long Forgotten is a novel about memories but it is also a quirky, mystery novel that will have you completely and utterly engrossed. The novel is told in two time strands. In one there is Dove who is a lonely man who one day starts remembering things that he knows never happened to him. This leads him to try and find out where these memories are from. In the other there is Peter who also seems lonely until one day he finds a love letter in a botany book at the library and it leads him on a quest to travel and find the flowers mentioned.

The Long Forgotten found me at just the right time. I’ve been having a big clear out in my home and have been pondering whether if I get rid of certain items I might end up forgetting the memories attached to them. So a novel all about memories and how we remember, how things become fixed in our memory really captured my imagination. This book explores the fallibility of memory too. When Dove firsts experiences the strange memories he seems to just know that they’re not his memories, but how? It’s as if somewhere in us we know when something is not our memory but at the same time are so prone to forgetting events from our own lives. Where do the lost memories go? Is someone else remembering them, or their own version of them? It felt at times that even though the plane crash that this book is hinged on was real within the novel that it was also a metaphor for how memories can just disappear and seemingly be gone forever.

I knew I would love the story around memory as soon as I read the synopsis for this book but I didn’t expect to love the exploration around the flowers and plants as much as I did. It was fascinating to read about these extremely rare plants, most of which I’d never heard of before, and to be with Peter on his journey to locate them all and to see them in the flesh. His story had echoes of Dove’s where Peter’s friend Hens, who encourages him to go find the plants, ends up stealing stories from him in order to attract women. This left me wondering about how some people do steal stories from others in order to make themselves seem more interesting, but how sometimes things we think about can become blurred in our own minds to the point that it’s possible to not immediately remember that a story isn’t yours, that it actually happened to someone else. I’ve been on the receiving end of someone telling a story of mine to me and genuinely thinking it was theirs and it was such a weird situation. I definitely felt an echo of this within The Long Forgotten.

This novel is full of strange connections and unexpected coincidences, which make it very quirky, yet it always felt believable. At times it was almost surreal in how the dots joined together but there was such heart throughout the novel that it was wonderful to turn the final page and see how it was all so skilfully woven together (even though getting to the end of the book did leave me feeling bereft at finishing it).

The Long Forgotten is a very quirky, incredibly moving and stunningly beautiful novel that will linger in your memory long after you’ve finished reading it. I know it’s one I won’t forget and even though it’s only March I feel absolutely certain that this will be in my top books of 2018! I urge you to go buy a copy and read it right away, you absolutely won’t regret it!

My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours, Emma Finnigan and Picador for sending me a copy of this book and for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Long Forgotten is out now and available in hardback and ebook from here.

 

About the Author

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I have written three novels. The first, BED, was published in 2011 by Canongate in the UK and Scribner in the US.  It won The Betty Trask Prize 2012. The movie rights were optioned by Duck Soup and Film 4.

The second, MOBILE LIBRARY, was published in January 2015 by Picador in the UK and Scribner in the US. It won the Jerwood Fiction Prize 2015 and the TV rights were optioned by Duck Soup and Channel 4.

The third, THE LONG FORGOTTEN, will be published by Picador in March 2018.

I currently have a number of TV projects in development.

I have written for lots of newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, Esquire, The Times, The Observer Magazine, Sunday Times Style and many more. I’ve won awards for journalism from The Times, The Evening Standard, the PPA and the PTC. I am the Editor-at-Large of ShortList magazine.

(Bio taken from: DavidWhitehouse.com)

 

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#BookReview: We Were The Salt Of The Sea by Roxanne Bouchard @RBouchard72 @OrendaBooks @givemeawave #saltofthesea

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About the Book

As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man’s heart in knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he’s thrown into the deep end of the investigation. On Quebec’s outlying Gaspé Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen’s wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It’s enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky…

My Thoughts

I’m going to be honest here and say that it was the stunning cover that first drew me to We Were The Salt of The Sea and after reading the blurb I knew I had to get my hands on the book as soon as I possibly could. I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to take part in the blog tour and I’m very happy to say that the novel more than lives up to the cover design.

This is a novel that straddles genres and that made it such a refreshing and gripping read for me. It’s in large part a crime novel; a woman, Marie Garant, is found dead in the ocean and the new detective Morales is pulled in to investigate. It’s also a mystery novel with an outsider, Catherine Day, turning up looking for her birth mother and trying to find herself in the process. It can even be described as a love letter to the sea, it’s clear that the author has a love of the ocean herself and it comes through so beautifully in her writing. I swear I could smell the ocean and the fishing boats as I was reading, I could hear the sea waxing and waning throughout the novel – the sea is as much a character in this novel as the people are.

You go to sea because it’s the only door that opens when you knock, because it keeps you awake at night. Every time you step ashore and into the crowd, you feel how different you are. You feel like a stranger. You go to sea because you’re a drifter among others and you only feel at home in the silence of the wind.

There is a real insular feel to Gaspé, the locals pull together and seem bemused by the outsiders that come to make a home there. There are some real characters in the village and I loved how they spoke. There are two people in particular that have a quirk of speech – one says the same word every time he speaks and the other uses a sentence whenever he is wound up about something. This brought the book to life because this is how real people speak, we all have our little quirks in our speech and it’s one of the things that makes getting to know new people so fascinating. I loved the way that I was new to this place and these people just as detective Morales was so I felt I was there with him trying to figure out how to get through the barriers to the real people. It felt like it was hard work for Morales at times but I was willing him to persevere because it seemed to me like he would find a way to be accepted given time.

It did feel like some of the characters in this book, particularly the women, were eluding me. We hear various people’s stories about Marie but everyone seems to remember her differently, and Catherine is enigmatic from the start. We know why she is in Gaspé but we never really get to know her; her and Marie are the essence of the story but they are impossible to grasp. I didn’t fully get a handle on who they really were but it was clearly how it was meant to be and it’s as if these two strong women were born of the sea and were always destined to go back there. Maybe they were part of the sea in some ways and as such were not meant to be really truly known, perhaps just like the salt of the sea itself.

Cyrille said that all truths were ever-flowing and elusive. Those who went to sea knew that anything atop the waves was forever breaking up and reforming. Differently. He said that the wind, the current and the ocean swell were insatiable; that you could never be too careful, even on a glassy sea. What was true in the here and now would make a liar of you not ten minutes later. He said the only reason we exist was the every-shifting lie that is life.

I didn’t expect this book to move me as much as it did. Novels that have mothers and daughters always get me but there was more than that in this book that brought a lump to my throat. I came to adore Cyrille and found his wisdom and his courage in facing what had to be faced really moving. I find that I’m still thinking of the novel and the people days after finishing it and even though I know these were characters in a book and not real people I can’t help hoping that Cyrille and Catherine both found peace in their very different ways after the end of the story.

This didn’t ever feel like a novel in translation for me, the story just flowed and was never jarring so I have to mention how wonderfully David Warriner has translated this book into English. I marked so many paragraphs that stood out to me as utterly beautiful and I know I’ll want to go back and read them from time to time.

I very much enjoyed We Were The Salt of the Sea; it is mysterious and lyrical and utterly stunning. I can’t wait to read more by Roxanne Bouchard. I highly, highly recommend We Were The Salt of The Sea.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for sending me a copy of the book and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

We Were The Salt of the Sea is out now in ebook and is due to be released in paperback on 30th March!

About the Author

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Roxanne Bouchard reads a lot, but she laughs even more. Her first novel, Whisky et Paraboles, garnered an array of prestigious awards in Quebec and caught the attention of British researcher, Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani, of the University of Westminster, who saw for herself how Roxanne weaves poetry and geography together to delve into her characters’ intimate worlds.

About the Translator

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David Warriner translates from French and nurtures a healthy passion for Franco, Nordic and British crime fiction. Growing up in deepest Yorkshire, he developed incurable Francophilia at an early age. Emerging from Oxford with a modern languages degree, he narrowly escaped the graduate rat race by hopping on a plane to Canada – and never looked back. More than a decade into a high-powered commercial translation career, he listened to his heart and turned his hand again to the delicate art of literary translation. David has lived in France and Quebec, and now calls beautiful British Columbia home.

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#BookReview: All Her Starry Fates by Lady Grey @starryfates #starryfates

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About the Book

In all her starry fates, grey explores how the otherworldly relates to the everyday— with poems about love, loss, memory, inheritance, and belonging.

 

My Thoughts

I’ve always enjoyed reading poetry but have got out of the habit of picking up poetry collections in more recent years so I was thrilled when Anne Cater of Random Things Tours offered me the chance to read and review All Her Starry Fates for the blog tour.

I was expecting to enjoy reading this collection, and I really, really did,  but I wasn’t expecting it to speak to me in the way it did. I found part one of the collection really connected with me and I found I had to stop and really think about each poem before I moved on to the next one. There is one poem in particular that I haven’t stopped thinking about: ‘was i too hard on myself / or / not heart enough / – question’. I love the play on the sound of hard and heart and how they seem similar, but also how it makes you think about how hard you are on yourself and whether there was any heart there. There is a real theme of isolation and loneliness, and of trying to find the courage to seek your place in the world and it seemed to reflect so many of my own emotions at the time I was reading. It brought me a lot of solace.

I really enjoyed how for the most part the poems were free flowing without a set structure. Most of the poems don’t have a title at the top of the page but a lot of them do seem to have a short title, which also becomes a small conclusion, at the end of a poem. Some of the later poems do have titles at the top of the page, which made it feel like the characters throughout the poems were showing themselves more, were becoming more confident and I loved that.

Parts one and two seem to be more an exploration of feelings whereas the poems in the third part seem to be telling more of a story which encapsulate the emotion from the earlier poems. It felt to me like the people expressing their thoughts in the early poems could be the people whose stories where being told in the later poems. The following two parts are a mix of story and emotion, which brings the whole collection together. There is a real cohesion through the parts of this poetry collection: it feels like the collection as a whole is a musing on the things in between that matter to us and about finding where we belong. The themes of finding a place where you fit definitely runs throughout. There were poems that felt they were about a lover, others about a child; some were musings on life in general – the happy and the sad. All seem to be about being who you are: finding the courage to be yourself and not letting others bring you down or affect you.

All Her Starry Fates is a poetry collection that I would recommend to everyone as it’s very accessible but also has a real depth to it that can be enjoyed on many levels. I adored this collection and am so pleased that I had the chance to read it; it’s a book that will really stay with me and I know I will return again and again to these beautiful poems. I highly, highly recommend this collection.

 

All Her Starry Fates is out now in ebook and print and available here.

This blog tour was organised by Anne Cater at Random Things Tours. I received a free copy of the ebook. All thoughts are my own.

 


 

 

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#BookReview: Meeting Lydia by Linda MacDonald @LindaMac1 #blogtour

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About the Book

When Marianne comes home from work one day to find her husband talking to a glamorous woman in the kitchen, insecurities resurface from a time when she was bullied at school. Jealousy rears its head and her marriage begins to fall apart. Desperate for a solution, she finds herself trying to track down her first schoolgirl crush: Edward Harvey. Even thinking his name made her tingle with half-remembered childlike giddiness. Edward Harvey, the only one from Brocklebank to whom she might write if she found him.

 

My Thoughts

I really enjoy listening to audio books, it means I can still read when my body doesn’t allow me to hold a print book or my kindle, so when Anne Cater from Random Things Tours offered me the chance to listen and review Meeting Lydia I jumped at it! I was drawn to the gorgeous cover and was intrigued by the premise of the book.

Meeting Lydia is about a woman in her mid forties, who is sent into a tailspin when she finds her husband talking to a younger, attractive woman. This coincides with Marianne suspecting she may be starting the menopause, and with her daughter about to go off to university so she begins to feel that she is unravelling.

I’ll be honest and say that I did find it a little difficult to get into this book as I couldn’t initially place the timeline, possibly because I was listening to an audiobook and couldn’t easily flick back the pages to figure it out. Once it dawned on me that this is set in the early 2000s I was fine from there on in. Marianne, encouraged by her daughter, decides to join Friends Reunited so see if anyone from school is on there. She becomes quite fixated on finding Edward, a boy she didn’t know well at school but that she had felt an affinity with. When she finds him they begin an online friendship reminiscing about school days and slowly building up a picture of their lives now. I loved the book as it got further into this relationship because it felt like I was in Marianne’s head and could really understand her better. She seemed to fantasise about what she would say to Edward and things became a little blurry as to what she had actually emailed to him and what she had only thought about saying to him. She almost has a fantasy life in her mind and I could really understand how this gave her escapism from her own mundane life.

The novel explores how Marianne feels about her school days. She was bullied at school but never spoke about it to anyone, and yet now she is going through a confidence crisis it seems like how she felt as a child is now haunting her. All the insecurities that came from not feeling good enough as a child are an echo of how she feels now as she reaches mid-life. This really connected with me, it’s easy to dismiss what happens when we’re children but sometimes the things that we couldn’t talk about then can re-emerge at vulnerable points in our adult lives.

Marianne wasn’t easy to like in the beginning of this book, she seemed quite unable to express her feelings to her husband and yet somehow holds this against him. There is also the way she is a bit hypocritical in being annoyed about his friendship with a woman and yet she has stared an online flirtation with a man. I feel like the book really did explore her thoughts and feelings as it went on and I grew to really have sympathy and a much better understanding of her. As I got further into the book I began to wonder if Edward really existed in the present day or if the whole thing was just a fantasy that she needed to escape the way she felt her life becoming undone. I think there is an element of this being left to the reader’s interpretation and I really liked that. I think we’ve all wondered about people from school and in the days before Facebook it was much harder to reconnect and to find out what had happened to old friends so you could only wonder what became of them.

I ended up really rooting for Marianne, and for her to open up to her husband and for them to try and fix their marriage. I believed Johnny when he said he wasn’t having an affair, it really did feel like Marianne’s insecurities about her changing body and her feeling older had built things up to be more than they were. I can sympathise but always believed that an honest conversation with her husband would go a long way to her finding happiness with him again.

I really enjoyed this audio book and have to mention the narrator, Harriet Carmichael, who really enhanced the experience of listening to this book – she really brings Marianne to life in a way that feels exactly right.

Meeting Lydia is a really interesting exploration of what it is to reach middle age and to wonder what might have been, to wonder if what you have is all there is; it’s a book about the insecurities that can hit at various points in life but especially as you begin to see yourself getting that bit older. Linda MacDonald writes with sensitivity and a delicate hand, yet is unafraid to tackle the issues of middle age. I recommend this audio book!

I received a copy of this book from Audible via Anne Cater at Random Things Tours. All views are my own.

Meeting Lydia is out now as an audio book, ebook and paperback!

 

About the Author

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Linda MacDonald

Linda MacDonald was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria. She was educated at the local grammar school and later at Goldsmiths’, University of London where she studied for a BA in psychology and then a PGCE in biology and science. She taught in a secondary school in Croydon for eleven years before taking some time out to write and paint. In 1990 she returned to teaching at a sixth form college in south-east London where she taught psychology. For over twenty-five years she was also a visiting tutor in the psychology department at Goldsmiths’. She has now given up teaching to focus fully on writing.

Her four published novels Meeting Lydia, A Meeting of a Different Kind, The Alone Alternativeand The Man in the Needlecord Jacket can each be read independently but are also a series. A fifth part is at the embryonic stage.

 

About the Narrator

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Harriet Carmichael

I’ve always loved doing voices.  I grew up with Radio 4 being on constantly in the background. Somehow the voices and accents broadcast over the years soaked in. And now I do voices. Or if you ask my agent, I’m a “voice artist”.

For the last seven years I’ve spent most of my days in front of a microphone: as myself; as seven-year-old boys; talking baboons; angsty teenagers (usually American); androgynous talking cats; Glaswegian Grannies; the cast of The Archers

After university I trained at The Oxford School of Drama and then acted mainly with touring theatre companies – some brilliant, some not so… I had a lot of fun, but once I started doing voiceovers in warm studios with good coffee, being on the road lost some of its appeal.

And the voice can do much more than people think. Tone, timing, pitch and accent can all vary depending on the job. From commercials and corporates to cartoons, computer games and audiobooks, it’s a brilliant job and, really, I owe it all to Radio 4.

 

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#BookReview: An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth @Wildfirebks @colettemcbeth #blogtour

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About the Book

MOTHER. WIFE. POLITICIAN. LIAR.

THEN: How far did she go to conceal the truth?

Politician Linda Moscow sacrificed everything to protect her son: her beliefs,
her career, her marriage. All she wanted was to keep him safe.

NOW: What will she risk to expose the lies?

When the voices she silenced come back to haunt her, Linda is faced with
another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line…

An Act of Silence is about the abuse of power, the devastating effects of keeping the truth buried, and the lengths a mother will go to save her child.

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Colette McBeth so when I heard about An Act of Silence I knew it was a book that I had to read and I’m really pleased to say that it more than lived up to my expectations.

An Act of Silence is told from the viewpoint of quite a few characters, which I found really interesting: the way their stories go back and forth in time and are layered on top of each other made the unravelling of the story utterly fascinating and near impossible to put down. Linda is a former MP who resigned in disgrace a few years previously and is now writing a book. Her son Gabriel is a famous comedian who has been accused of murder and just wants his mother to believe that he’s innocent.

I’ll be honest and say that I thought this book was going to be about how a mother tried to cover up what her adult son had done but it is so much more more than I even expected. Seeing the story through both Linda and Gabriel’s eyes really gave such an insight into why they are the way they are with each other. I felt sorry for Gabriel at times for the way his mum just didn’t seem to show she cared but then we’d see her point of view and I could understand more. This novel goes on to be a wider look at child abuse and it makes for difficult reading at times; there are moments that really got to me but I never felt that I needed to stop reading and I put that down to how well written and how well researched this book is.

This is a book that explores what good and bad are, and whether both traits can exist in one person. It explores power and the people who abuse it. The real heart of the book though is in each act of silence. The perpetrators in this book kept quiet because it meant they got away with it, but the interest for me was in the victims and how they kept silent because they thought they wouldn’t be believed. Then later they just didn’t want to have to cope with the fall out of speaking out. Seeing the story from multiple perspectives really gives you pause for thought in this book, and it really made me think.

An Act of Silence is a tense, atmospheric thriller that will really get under your skin. It builds and builds and reaches a point where you feel like you can’t breathe, and you just simply have to know what the outcome is going to be. It’s a very powerful novel that will give you pause for thought, and it’s one that will really stay with me. I highly, highly recommend this book!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley.

An Act of Silence is out now in paperback and ebook!

 

About the Author

Colette McBeth Author Pic

Colette McBeth is the critically acclaimed author of psychological thrillers, Precious Thing and The Life I Left Behind. Her new book, An Act of Silence, about a mother faced with an impossible choice to save her son, is now available in paperback.

Colette was a BBC TV News television correspondent for ten years during which time she covered many major crime stories and worked out of Westminster as a political reporter. Prior to that, she was a news editor for Sky News.

Colette is a member of Killer Women, the female collective of crime writers.

(Author bio taken from: colettemcbeth.co.uk)

 

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#BookReview: Trust Me by @ZosiaWand ‏@HoZ_Books #blogtour


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About the Book

Who can you trust if you can’t trust yourself?

Twenty-seven-year-old Lizzie has a great relationship with her teenage stepson, Sam, even though they could pass for brother and sister.

When Sam becomes sullen and withdrawn, Lizzie starts to suspect that something sinister is going on at school. But no one believes her and then suspicion falls on Lizzie herself…

Trust Me is an absorbing, suspenseful and thought-provoking thriller tat asks if you can ever really trust anybody, including yourself.

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when the publicist for this book contacted me to ask if I’d like a copy to review as it sounded like such an interesting book, and also it’s set in a part of the country I know well so that caught my attention too! I’m so pleased to say that this book lived up to all of my expectations and was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down!

Trust Me is Lizzie’s story; she’s a 27 year old woman who has moved to Cumbria for a job and ends up staying when she gets into a relationship with an older man. He has two teenage children, who end up moving in with them a short notice without Lizzie ever having met them before. The novel starts a while later when Sam, who is 17, is still living with them. He and Lizzie have always had a good relationship but Sam’s behaviour begins to change and only Lizzie really notices how much he’s changed.

I found this book really engrossing from the start because I had the sense early on that something was a little off about Lizzie’s relationship with Sam. She is only ten years older than him, so closer in age to him than his father who she is in a relationship with. Lizzie wants to look out for Sam and she wants to feel like they’re friends but as a result of this she occasionally behaves in ways that made me want to grab her and pull her out of the situation – she definitely has wobbly judgement at times.  Lizzie does seem to side with Sam over her partner on occasion and I found that a little odd but at the same time I can see how she just wanted to keep the peace in her home, and also to let Sam know he was welcome there. It did feel sometimes like she was trying to gain the attention of Sam but then mostly she was so kind and wanting to help him that I figured she was just naive.

From the blurb I did wonder if this book might end up being a little predictable in the way the relationships would go but it wasn’t at all. I really enjoyed how this book slowly unfolded and the way it made me think as I was reading.  The lines are blurry in a few of the relationships in this book and that was my favourite aspect of reading it. In the age we live in now with blended families it’s common for people to live with their partner and children from an earlier marriage and that makes this book very prescient. I can see how it could be hard to know how to deal with someone else’s children when you’re not trying to replace their mother, you’re too young to be their step-mother and too old to be their sister. Lizzie just wants a happy home for all the family.

Lizzie is quite naive in other aspects of her life too. She meets a new friend and immediately has too much to drink, even though she doesn’t like alcohol or being drunk, and she confides way too much when it’s someone she’s only just met. The woman seems to be looking to make a friend and Lizzie, who spends most of her time with her husband and his friends who are all a lot older than her or with Sam, is over the moon to have a friend closer to her own age. I was suspicious of this new friendship quite early on but couldn’t put my finger on why – I swung from thinking it was about showing how silly Lizzie was to behave in the way she was with Sam, to thinking the new friend was not to be trusted. I’m naturally quite a wary person so this book had my suspicion levels up high!

I also have to mention that the writing in this book is beautiful, it just flows so wonderfully. The way the Lake District is written about is excellent too, you get a real sense of the setting and it feels like a place you have been to and know. It’s not often that a novel really captures the essence of a place and I very much appreciated that in this book.

This book really explores the boundaries that society thinks we should have and also our own personal belief about what our boundaries should be and I found that fascinating. It’s so easy to see how one person thinks they are genuinely just being warm and friendly and another person can believe that you are flirting with them and wanting more from the relationship you have.

Trust Me is a family drama with a psychological thriller element and it felt really refreshingly different to anything I’ve read in this genre for a while. I enjoyed it so much! I was hooked from start to finish and actually read it in one sitting, staying up way past my bedtime, because I simply had to know how it was all going to turn out in the end! I highly recommend this book and I’m already eagerly anticipating whatever Zosia Wand writes next!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Trust Me is out now!

 

About the Author

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Zosia Wand is an author and playwright. She was born in London and lives in Cumbria with her family. She is passionate about good coffee, cake and her adopted landscape on the edge of the Lake District. This is her first novel.




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#BlogTour: Bad Sister by Sam Carrington #Extract @AvonBooksUK @sam_carrington1 @sabah_k

 

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Sam Carrington’s brand new novel, Bad Sister and I have an extract from the book to share with you all!

 

Extract from Bad Sister

Connie sat back, forcing her shoulders down into their natural position. ‘So, now he’s dead?’

‘Yes, that’s right. Three days following his escape. His body was dumped outside the prison gatehouse this morning.’

‘Well, that’s unfortunate for him, I guess. So what’s any of this got to do with me? Why are you here?’

‘Well, that’s the interesting part.’

Nothing about the case so far was in the slightest bit interesting as far as Connie was concerned. She didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Her upper body slumped. What the hell was coming next?

‘Eric Hargreaves’ body has been mutilated, the type and detail is not being disclosed for obvious reasons, but let’s just say it’s been done in a . . . particular way—’

‘And you think I can help establish the type of person who would do this, give you some clues as to their motive?’

DI Wade scrunched her face a little and gently shook her head. ‘I’m sure you could help with that, yes, but we’re calling on you for a different reason at present.’

Connie’s stomach dropped. ‘Oh?’

‘You see . . .’ DS Mack took over. ‘On closer inspection it was noted he had something written on his hand.’ He paused, a smile playing at the edges of his mouth. He was enjoying dragging out the details; making Connie squirm. She rubbed at the raised red mark that was still on her wrist. It was stinging. She closed her eyes to block out DS Mack’s smug face. Although she couldn’t remember where she’d seen him before, she hoped after this that she’d never see his face again.

‘Am I meant to guess?’ Her tone sharp.

DS Mack shifted sideways slightly in his seat; his feet kicked the corner of her desk. He reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled out a see-through evidence bag containing a photograph. He held it out towards Connie between the thumb and forefinger of each hand.

She blinked rapidly a few times, then frowned.

She stared at the words: ‘CONNIE MOORE’ written in black on the palm of the bloody, grey-tinged hand.

Connie’s face tightened.

‘It’s a conundrum for us, too,’ DI Wade said. ‘But we’re hoping you’ll be able to shed some light on it?’

 

About the Book

 

Then

When flames rip through their family home, only teenager Stephanie and her younger brother escape unhurt. Brett always liked to play with fire, but now their dad is dead and someone has to pay the price.

Now

Psychologist Connie Summers wants to help Stephanie rebuild her life. She has a new name, a young son and everything to live for. But when Stephanie receives a letter from someone she’d hoped would never find her, Connie is forced to question what really happened that night. But some truths are better left alone . . .

Gripping, tense and impossible to put down, Bad Sister will have fans of Sue Fortin, B.A. Paris and Linda Green hooked until the final page.

 

About the Author

SamCarrington

 

Sam Carrington lives in Devon with her husband and three children. She worked for the NHS for 15 years, during which time she qualified as a nurse. Following the completion of a Psychology degree she went to work for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. Her experiences within this field inspired her writing. She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist.

 

 

 

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#BlogTour: Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke @serpentstail

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Attica Locke’s new novel Bluebird Bluebird and I have an extract from the book to share with you.

 

Extract from Chapter 3 of Bluebird Bluebird

He went by his mother’s first, ’cause he’d been promising her he would. She knew he was staying in Camilla, only a few minutes’ drive from her place, and she knew he was staying scarce. Bell Callis lived on the eastern edge of San Jacinto County, down a red dirt road lined with loblolly pines and Carolina basswood, their branches licking the sides of Darren’s truck. Through the trees, he could make out the black tar roofs of his mother’s neighbours, the small lean-tos and shotgun shacks in the weeds. Nearby, somebody was burning trash, the sour smoke from which wafted across the front end of Darren’s truck, a familiar scent of hard living. Past a bend in the road, Darren nodded at his mother’s landlord, a white man in his eighties named Puck, who let Bell rent a snatch of land around back of his place. He gave Darren a wave from his front porch, then went back to staring at the trees, which is how he spent most of his days. Darren made a left turn onto the property, then followed the twin tire tracks in the dirt and wild grass that led to his mother’s trailer.

She was sitting on the concrete steps in front of the mobile home, smoking a Newport and picking nail polish off her big toe. She had a beer at her feet, but Darren knew better. The real shit was in the house. She looked up and saw the silver truck carrying her only son, but there was nothing in her drably indifferent expression to suggest that she’d been calling him nonstop for the past four days.

“You look skinny,” she said when he climbed out of the truck.

“Right back at you,” he said.

She was only sixteen years older than he was, and they shared the same length of bone in their arms and legs—they were lanky, whippet-thin but for the muscle Darren had built up in his torso and legs and the pad of fat around her hips Bell had managed to hold on to when every other inch of her seemed to have shrivelled in retreat, bested by time. He’d never met his father. But his dad’s older brothers, William and Clayton, were barely five feet eight inches tall.

In flesh, at least, Darren was all Callis.

“When was the last time you went to the store, Mama?”

Mama never failed to soften her.

They hadn’t met until Darren was eight years old, before which his curiosity about his birth parents had been limited to stories about his father, the more swashbuckling the better—even though Darren “Duke” Mathews hadn’t done much in his nineteen years besides knock up a country girl he’d fooled around with once or twice and then die in a helicopter accident in the last doleful days of Vietnam. His mother had been a curiosity that felt as removed from his real life as the distant Caddo Indian in the Mathews bloodline. She was Miss Callis for the first few years, then Bell when he got to high school and college. But sometime after he hit forty, the word Mama shot out as if it were a stubborn seed lodged in his teeth all these years that had finally popped free.

“I got some sausage and beans on the stove in there right now,” she said, picking up the can of Pearl lager; you could still buy single cans of it at the bait-and-tackle shop next to the resort cabins on Lake Livingston, where Bell worked as a cleaning lady three days a week. “You hungry? Want me to fix you a plate?”

“I can’t stay, Mama.”

“Course you can’t.”

She stood on her bare feet then, waving off the chivalrous reach of his hand. She downed the beer and turned for the screen door to her trailer. “But you’ll stay for a drink, I know that much.” She wobbled a little on the top step before opening the screen door and disappearing inside. Darren followed, entering the two-room trailer, the floors of which were covered in matted putty-brown wall-to-wall carpeting.

“How many you in for today?” Darren said, glancing at his watch.

If it was more than eight drinks before noon, he’d have to take her car keys and walk them down to Puck’s place for safekeeping, a move that both mother and son would resent, albeit for different reasons. “I’m enjoying myself ” was all she said, sinking into the thin cushion resting on top of the L-shaped banquette that lined part of the living room and kitchenette. She was a fifty-seven-year-old woman who’d been an alcoholic most of her adult life, a fact

that had confused Darren as a teenager and scared the shit out of him as an adult. Bell lifted a little bullet-shaped bottle of Cutty Sark and sucked on it like a nipple. They sold the little airplane size bottles for fifty cents at the bait-and-tackle shop, and Bell had them lined up on the window ledge like a loaded clip of rifle shells.

 

About the Book

9781781257678

When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules – a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. But when his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders—a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman—have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes – and save himself in the process – before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt. A rural noir suffused with the unique music, color, and nuance of East Texas, BLUEBIRD, BLUEBIRD, is an exhilarating, timely novel about the collision of race and justice in America.

 

About the Author

Attica_Locke

Attica Locke’s Pleasantville was the 2016 winner of the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. It was also long-listed for the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction, and made numerous “Best of 2015” lists. Her first novel, Black Water Rising, was nominated for an Edgar Award, an NAACP Image Award, as well as a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was short-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Her second book, The Cutting Season, is a national bestseller and the winner of the Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. A former fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmaker’s Lab, Locke has worked as a screenwriter as well. Most recently, she was a writer and producer on the Fox drama, Empire. She serves on the board of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.

(Bio taken from: AtticaLocke.com)

 

#BookReview: Snow Sisters by @CarolLovekin @Honno #BlogTour

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About the Book

Two sisters, their grandmother’s old house and Angharad… the girl who cannot leave.

Meredith discovers a dusty sewing box in a disused attic. Once open the box releases the ghost of Angharad, a Victorian child-woman with a horrific secret she must share. Angharad slowly reveals her story to Meredith who fails to convince her more pragmatic sister of the visitations until Verity sees Angharad for herself on the eve of an unseasonal April snowstorm.

Forced by her flighty mother to abandon Gull House for London, Meredith struggles to settle, still haunted by Angharad and her little red flannel hearts. This time, Verity is not sure she will be able to save her…

Two parallel coming of age stories – one tragic, the other holding out the hope of salvation.

 

My Thoughts

I read Carol Lovekin’s novel Ghostbird last year and it now has a very special place in my heart. It was my favourite book of 2016 and is now my go-to book when I’m in need of solace so you can probably imagine just how much I’ve been looking forward to Snow Sisters. I was thrilled beyond words when I was invited to read an advance copy for the blog tour and I’m so happy to say that it exceeded all my (very high) expectations!

Snow Sisters is the story of Verity and Meredith Pryce. Verity is the elder sister and seems to be more grounded and more sure of how her future might look whereas Meredith is much more whimsical. She can’t seem to see a future beyond where she is now at her beloved Gull House surrounded by magic and fae.  Slowly Meredith realises she is being visited by the ghost of Angharad, a girl who lived in the house a hundred years ago.

This novel is so breathtakingly beautiful. Carol Lovekin has such a wonderful way of writing that draws you right in and makes you feel like you’re right inside the story she is weaving. From the very beginning of this book it felt like magic had been cast on me and I was living this life with these girls. The novel is very ethereal and otherworldly at times with the presence of Angharad and the sense of magic around Gull House, and at it’s heart it’s also a gorgeous and moving story about the bond between two sisters.

She was made from air and impulse and she hung a fishing net outside her bedroom window to catch falling stars.

This is very much a novel about spirited women and girls who are trying to find their way in life, and also the ways in which so many women can find themselves sidelined in their own lives and made invisible like a ghostly presence. I loved that we saw flashes of spirit in Angharad in 1879 but then heartbreakingly life beats her down to a point where she can no longer find a way back, but those earlier moments of spirit really made me think of Meredith, and Allegra to a degree. Allegra is very single-minded and when she decides on a path in life she follows it at all cost regardless of the people around her. She is a mass of contradictions – she mocks Verity’s growing interest in feminism and yet will have a go at her because she is too passive in life. Meredith seemed like such an emotionally fragile girl in the early part of this book and it seemed that when Angharad first appeared to her that her spirit might overtake Meredith and overshadow her completely as Meredith seems to retreat into herself and begins to fade away. In the end it felt like the two girls, one hundred years apart, seemed somehow destined to come together, to converge, to try and make things right.

She leaned on her handlebars afraid she might cry. It isn’t that children don’t understand adult feelings or motives. They understand them only too well. It’s because children don’t have the words their powerless. I want my mother to be superior to us, the way mothers are supposed to be.

This novel is also very much about mothers and daughters and the relationships that run through the generations. Angharad’s mother seemed to believe what her daughter told her in the words she couldn’t say and yet she was unable to stop what would happen to her. She was a prisoner of her time, of her situation and of the men around her. Allegra Pryce appears to be really cold-hearted towards her oldest daughter, perhaps because she reminds her so much of the girls’ father who left her, but as the novel went on I found myself more intrigued by her. I think she was a damaged soul who just couldn’t find the solace that others could, she was a lost spirit herself and seemed to always be looking for a home, just like the ghost of Angharad. It felt like Allegra had spent her adult like searching for a man who could give her the love and adoration her father had given her up until his death, as once he died she just floundered and has been floundering ever since. Even as an adult she seeks to blame her mother for leaving her, and the anger seems too much for her to cope with but she’s like a small child looking for someone to notice her, to notice her pain. I just wanted her to step up and not hurt her children irreparably due to her being so blindsided by her own needs but I could understand that she was possibly just too broken.

Whilst I felt sympathy for Allegra, I couldn’t help but be angry at the way her inability to deal with her emotions wrought damage on her daughters, and her selfish nature hurt them both very badly. I adored the relationship Verity and Meredith had with their Grandmother though – she was more a mum to them and was the person who did the nurturing they both needed. All the magic that is woven around the garden at Gull House also felt like it was literally there but was also a metaphor of love and security that Nain had invested in the girls. It reminded me of how safe I always felt with my lovely Nan.

The bond between Verity and Meredith was wonderful to read. I loved the way that Verity was more grounded in reality but was happy to being the person her sister needed her to be. She allowed herself to be open to the idea of Angharad because her sister was so adamant that she was real and needed their help. It was also lovely to see how Meredith loved her sister just as much and while knew that she was her mother’s favourite she never once used that against Verity. These two girls have such a strong bond and it felt like they would get through anything together. It gave me such a sense of hope that things might just work out okay in the end, in the future long after this novel has ended. This quote brought such a lump to my throat because it says everything you need to know about Verity’s love for Meredith:

My sister never doubted the presence of magic and when she was five years old she told me she could grow flowers from her fingertips. Her solemn conviction was such, I half believed her.

This is a novel that almost defies genre – it’s part mystery, part ghost story and part family drama; it’s a novel about people trying to find their place in the world and it’s magical and lyrical and heartbreakingly beautiful. Snow Sisters is a novel to savour; it’s a story to really take your time with and to give yourself the chance to really appreciate what an incredible story it is. I turned the final page of this novel feeling like my life had been enriched in so many ways.

Snow Sisters is a stunningly beautiful novel that will weave it’s magic around you and it will hold you in its spell until long after you’ve finished reading it. I don’t think this book is going to let me go for a very long time, and I really don’t want it too. I want to stay held in the magic of that special garden in Gull House. I know that this will be a novel, like Ghostbird, that I return to time and time again and I can already say for certain that Snow Sisters will be on my top books of the year list! Go buy a copy right now, I promise you won’t regret it.

I received a copy of Snow Sisters from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Snow Sisters is out now!

 

About the Author

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My name is Carol Lovekin. I’m a writer of stories, a feminist & a flâneuse. I’m published by Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press. My first novel, Ghostbird was published in March 2016. It was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2016 and in the same year was longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize.

Snow Sisters, my second novel, was published on 21 September 2017. It has been chosen by the Welsh Books Council as their October Book of the Month (for independent shops.)

My stories concern the nature of magic and how it threads through the fabric of our lives. I explore possibilities: the fine line between the everyday and the world of enchantment. They are also firmly rooted in reality. I write about family relationships: how people, women in particular, respond to loss and how they survive. My books are set in Wales, where I’ve lived for decades: a place whose legends and landscapes inform my writing.

I write because I can’t tap-dance on a tightrope. Or juggle. And because I’d like to leave something attached to whatever exists after I’m gone. And where publishing is concerned, I’m the living proof that it’s never too late. If you have written a story you feel passionate about, one you believe in, persevere and don’t give up.

 

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#BookReview: Lost in the Lake by A.J. Waines @AJWaines ‏

Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for A.J. Waines new novel, Lost in the Lake!

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About the Book

She came at first for answers…now she’s back for you

Amateur viola player Rosie Chandler is the sole survivor of a crash which sends members of a string quartet plunging into a lake. Convinced the ‘accident’ was deliberate, but unable to recall what happened, she is determined to recover her lost memories and seeks out clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby.

But Rosie is hiding something…

Sam is immediately drawn to the tragic Rosie and as she helps her piece the fragments together, the police find disturbing new evidence which raises further questions. Why is Rosie so desperate to recover her worthless viola? And what happened to the violin lost in the crash, worth over £2m?

When Rosie insists they return to the lake to relive the fatal incident, the truth about Rosie finally creeps up on Sam – but by now, she’s seriously out of her depth…

A stand alone novel (and the second book in the Dr Samantha Willerby series), Lost in the Lake is a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat Psychological Thriller that will leave you glancing over your shoulder.

My Thoughts

I was drawn to Lost in the Lake from the moment I saw the atmospheric cover and I’m happy to say the novel itself more than lives up to it!

Lost in the Lake is the second in the Dr Samantha Willerby series but can be read as a standalone, which is how I read it. Sam is a fascinating character – she clearly cares about her work and her patients but struggles to balance this with keeping the right distance. Rosie is a woman who had a very traumatic childhood and has recently been in an accident and has come to Sam wanting help to recover lost memories of the crash. What builds from here is an edge of your seat, very fast-paced novel!

Sam is still coming to terms with the loss of one of her previous patients in difficult circumstances and is also trying hard to build a relationship with her sister, who is recovering from mental health issues. I felt for Sam throughout this book – she’s clearly a a bit lost in her personal life and seemed very lonely. She has good friends but they all seem to be moving on with their lives while she’s stil trying to figure out what she even wants. She feels for Rosie and wants to help her but it’s quickly clear to the reader that all might not be as it seems with Rosie.

I loved the way that as this novel builds there is a sense of Sam becoming undone as Rosie’s manipulative side begins to show itself. I found it fascinating how Sam starts to worry about her own state of mind and you really get a sense of how fine a line it can be between good mental health and mental illness. It made me feel really on edge and yet compelled to keep reading as I wasn’t sure how this was all going to end for Sam.

The work Sam does with Rosie to try and help recover her memories was really interesting. I’m always intrigued by books that cover topics like this, having suffered with PTSD myself, and Lost in the Lake was particularly fascinating in the way it makes you think about memory and the way we remember things – Rosie had a traumatic childhood and she feels abandoned but you get the sense that perhaps she wasn’t left behind in the way she thought she was, yet it has already become enmeshed in her and made her the person she is now. It leaves you wondering about whether there was a possibility that if Rosie had had the right support when she was younger if she might have turned out differently as an adult.

I also loved the central mystery in the book about what caused the crash and what the past might have to do with it. Knowing about Rosie’s past, and seeing her manipulative side from the very beginning of the book, I was immediately distrustful of her story of what she claims to remember about the accident but I couldn’t foresee how it was all going to turn out. It had me racing through the book keen to find out, and I wasn’t disappointed!

Lost in the Lake was my first A.J. Waines read but it absolutely won’t be my last! I’ve already bought her previous novels and will be reading them very soon. I highly recommend this one!

Lost in the Lake is out now!

I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author

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AJ Waines has sold over 400,000 books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, she is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and USA (audiobooks).

Her fourth psychological thriller, No Longer Safe, sold over 30,000 copies in the first month, in thirteen countries. AJ Waines has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and ranked a Top 10 UK author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). She lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband. Visit her website, blog, on Twitter, Facebook or sign up for her Newsletter.

 

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#BookReview: Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks #BlogTour

 

Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech!

About the Book

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Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’ Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything. Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

My Thoughts

I read Louise Beech’s first novel, How to be Brave, last year and it was my top book of the year. I still find myself thinking about the characters and the story. So you can imagine how much I’ve been anticipating Maria in the Moon and I’m so happy to say that this completely exceeded my high expectations!

Maria in the Moon is so beautiful and incredibly moving. There are two strands to Maria in the Moon – the book is predominantly set in the aftermath of the horrendous floods that hit Hull in 2007 and focuses on Catherine. On being interviewed for the Flood Crisis helpline Catherine realises that she can’t remember a single thing from the year she was nine. This sets her mind in a spin as she begins to think back over points in her childhood to try and remember anything from that year. Catherine has had a difficult life – her father died when she was young, as did her Nanny Eve and she doesn’t have an easy relationship with her Mother which makes it all the more difficult for her to find out about her past.

I adored this novel; it is simply stunning and so powerful! I found I could really identify with Catherine. There are parts of her story that were really hard for me to read, coming a bit too close to my own experiences, but the writing is so beautiful that I had to keep reading through my tears. I was willing Catherine to remember what happened and for her to be able to come to terms with all aspects of her childhood. As Catherine begins to have strange fleeting flashes of what she thinks might be her memories there is a sense that you know what it coming before she does and the tension that builds in the novel from there is palpable.

‘When you’re nine,’ he’d insisted. When you’re nine. He died when I was eight.’

I sympathised such a lot with Catherine over the losses she’d experienced in her life. It’s such a difficult thing to not only to lose a parent but to lose how your life may have been if they had lived longer. The death of a parent changes how people see you, and how you see them, and it breaks some things in a way that they can’t be mended. Sometimes you get lucky and find a new normal with people and sometimes you just lose. I was willing Catherine on to find a new normal with the people left in her life to the point that I wanted to reach through the pages and tell the people around her to listen to her more. Louise Beech captured this so well, with such compassion and empathy in Maria in the Moon.

‘The image made my throat ache. He was perhaps the age my father would have been if he’d lived; I felt a pang of affection.

The part of the novel that focuses on the floods was so vivid and realistic. I lived in Hull during the floods that this novel centres around and whilst my home wasn’t affected, quite a few friends of mine were badly flooded. It was an horrendous time for people and Hull seemed to get forgotten about during that time and the city was left to fend for itself. Louise captures this so incredibly well, there were moments reading this that just took me right back there. All the skips in the street, all the ruined furniture, the people not knowing what to say to each other – it was heartbreaking. It genuinely feels that for anyone who hasn’t seen the devastation of flooding with their own eyes will really have a sense of how it feels after reading this book.

I have to just mention that I loved the references to places in Hull that I remember going to back in the day – the Christmas night out in Sharkeys in the novel brought back some fond memories for me. It’s so nostalgic reading a novel that is set in a time and place you have lived, and it gave me that weird sense of maybe having passed Catherine around there somewhere. Maybe in another time.

‘Without strong foundations, no external beauty can survive. Paint can only hide so much before the memories crawl out of the woodwork.’

Louise Beech has such an incredible way with words – she constructs sentences that really get you in your gut. There were many moments when I was reading this novel that I had to stop and take a breath but then I was compelled to get back to it. I loved the way Louise weaved the grief Catherine feels for her father in with the loss she feels about her home being so damaged in the floods. There is a part where she talks about her dad’s coat being like a cape to keep her safe but someone got rid of it after he died, and how she looked for that safe feeling but could never find it. It’s how she feels now about her water-logged home – that sense of her home being the cape that her dad allowed her to buy, to keep her safe, and now it’s broken and she can’t live there for a while. She doesn’t know if she will ever feel safe, and it’s clear she’s displaced and lost and grief-stricken all over again. We bought our house with the inheritance from my mum and because of that our home has taken on so much more meaning, so I really felt for Catherine.

Forgiveness and acceptance play such a big role in this novel – the issues are very sensitively dealt with and you can see all of the ways we all try to make sense of the things that have happened to us. For Catherine there was the way she had to deal with her childhood and the way she had to deal with her present and while they seem very different they are actually very similar. She chose to try and fix the brokenness by volunteering for the flood crisis helpline and actually this becomes the thing that breaks her down but leads to a sense of possibility.

This is a novel that is still lingering in my mind days after I finished reading it – it’s one that I actually don’t think will ever leave me and to be honest I don’t want it to. This is one of those very rare and very special novels that will make you feel all of the feelings, it will take hold of you and it won’t let you go. It’s an absolutely stunning novel and I highly, highly recommend Maria in the Moon!

Maria in the Moon is out now!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

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Louise has always been haunted by the sea, even before she knew the full story of her grandfather, the man who in part inspired novel How to be Brave. She lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – where from her bedroom window she can almost see the waters of the River Humber, an estuary that inspired book, The Mountain in my Shoe.

She loves all forms of writing. Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism, and a one year column called Wholly Matrimony about modern marriage.

Her debut novel, How to be Brave, was released in 2015 and got to No 4 in the Amazon UK Kindle chart, and was a Guardian Readers’ pick for 2015. This novel came from truth – when Louise’s daughter got Type 1 Diabetes she helped her cope by sharing her grandad’s real life sea survival story.

Her second novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, was released in 2016 and was inspired by her time with children in care. It explores what family truly means, and how far we will go for those we love. It longlisted for the Guardian Not The Booker Prize.

Maria in the Moon is out now.

(Bio taken from: LouiseBeech.co.uk)

 

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#BookReview: The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin @emmdib ‏@HoZ_Books ‏#blogtour

 

 

Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin and am sharing my review!

 

About the Book

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When Caitlin moved from London to New York, she thought she had left her problems behind: her alcoholic father, her dead mother, the pressure to succeed. But now, down to her last dollar in a foreign city, she is desperately lonely.

Then she meets Jake. Handsome, smart, slightly damaged Jake. He lives off-grid, in a lakeside commune whose members practise regular exercise and frequent group therapy. Before long, Caitlin has settled into her idyllic new home.

It looks like she has found the fresh start she longed for. But, as the commune tightens its grip on her freedom and her sanity, Caitlin realizes too late that she might become lost forever…

 

My Thoughts

I can never resist books about cults, there is something about them that intrigues me and terrifies me in equal measure so I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to read and review The Room by the Lake. I had high hopes for this novel from the moment I first saw the stunning cover and I’m so happy to say that it didn’t disappoint!

Caitlin lost her mum to cancer a year ago and has struggled to come to terms with the complicated relationship they had had due to her mother’s schizophrenia. She’s also now struggling with her dad’s alcoholism and just feels like she has nowhere to turn. One night it comes to a head with her dad and she finds herself running away, getting on a plane and being in New York. I know that summarising this it may seem a bit far-fetched but in reading you really do feel for Caitlin. I remember when my mum died of cancer and I was just so lost. I didn’t want to be where I was and I had nowhere else to go. I was lucky in that fate seemed to intervene in a good way in my life and I met my husband later that year and life began to get better. Reading this novel made me blood run cold at times because I wanted to run away in those initial months and it’s scary to think how easily vulnerable young people can get manipulated by monstrous people who seem kind.
I knew from the synopsis of this book that life was going to take a scary turn for Caitlin but when she meets Josh at a party I couldn’t help but hope he would be a force for good in her life. I wanted him to help her. Instead Caitlin is manipulated and taken to a house in the middle of nowhere, which on face value seems like a beautiful location to relax and recover from what she has been through. The place where Caitlin ends up is a cult but as with all cults she had no idea what was happening and very soon she finds that this lifestyle works for her. Until things begin to take a darker turn.

The people at the house Caitlin is taken to all seem very enmeshed in the running of things. They’re polite but distant to Caitlin at first but soon things begin to close in on her. The way the group eat and exercise seems to Caitlin as like a boot camp that may help her but it’s really a means of control. Something is a bit off about this place and it’s only when Caitlin begins therapy that the sinister atmosphere really begins to ramp up. It’s scary how quickly people can gain control over others by starting with small things and preying on our fears.

I thought The Room by the Lake was really cleverly done in the way that it is about a cult, which is fascinating, but it felt to me that it was more about Caitlin’s fear of her mother’s mental illness, and even more so her deepest darkest fear that the same thing could happen to her. I know from personal experience how terrifying it is when you think you’re losing your grip on reality so to have grown up with a parent who had a mental illness must heighten that to another level. The cult played on her fears and heightens them in such a cruel way. I honestly felt that Caitlin was healthy prior to ending up in the cult, she was grieving for her mum and she was so lonely. She just needed a good friend who she could trust who would make time to support her and to let her talk about her fears, and this is how she was pulled  into the cult. These people were the only people that she felt would listen to her. There are moments in the early part of the novel that could possibly be interpreted as the beginnings of Caitlin being mentally unwell but I felt it was grief. I think when grief is complex it is harder to work through and it seemed to me that Caitlin was just utterly mired in darkness – she’d hit her limit of what she could cope with and couldn’t take anymore. I could identify with how lost she felt, and how alone, and scarily for me I can see why she got caught up in the cult. This book gave me chills at times as I could see some of my younger self in Caitlin. 

I did begin to feel really unnerved by the various methods the cult used to exert control over Caitlin, it made me wonder if she would ever recover or if this might, ironically, end up being the thing that triggered mental illness in her. I keep finding myself wondering about her ever since I finished reading the book, she feels like a real person to me even though I know this is a work of fiction. Emma Dibdin’s writing really does get under your skin (in the best possible way!).

This is a novel that builds and builds all the way through. I read this in two sittings (and that’s only because I started reading late at night and I had to get some sleep but I picked it back up again in the morning!) as the writing just drew me in from the first page and it held me to the very end and beyond.

The Room by the Lake is a fascinating, intense psychological suspense novel that I highly recommend. It’s one of those books that really gets under your skin and haunts your thoughts. This will be a book that stays with me for a long time to come, I’m so glad I had the chance to read it and I’m already eagerly antipating whatever Emma Dibdin writes next!

The Room by the Lake is out now in Hardback, Audio and eBook.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

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Emma Dibdin is a journalist who writes about television and the arts.  She has been an editor at Hearst for four years, and her work has appeared in EsquireMarie ClaireHarper’s BazaarCosmopolitanTotal Film, and Indiewire.  Born and raised in Oxford, she currently lives in New York City.

(Bio taken from unitedagents.co.uk)

 

 

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#BookReview: The Way Back to Us by @kaylangdale @HodderFiction @JazminaMarsh

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Kay Langdale’s brand new novel, The Way Back to Us!

 

About the Book

Cover Since their youngest son, Teddy, was diagnosed with a life-defining illness, Anna has been fighting: against the friends who don’t know how to help; against the team assigned to Teddy’s care who constantly watch over Anna’s parenting; and against the impulse to put Teddy above all else – including his older brother, the watchful, sensitive Isaac.

And now Anna can’t seem to stop fighting against her husband, the one person who should be able to understand, but who somehow manages to carry on when Anna feels like she is suffocating under the weight of all the things that Teddy will never be able to do.

As Anna helplessly pushes Tom away, he can’t help but feel the absence of the simple familiarity that should come so easily, and must face the question: is it worse to stay in an unhappy marriage, or leave?

 

My Thoughts

I’m going to start by saying that I’m a huge fan of Kay Langdale’s novels – the first one I ever read was Her Giant Octopus Moment and I adored it. I can say, with absolute honesty, that The Way Back to Us is her best yet! I read this in one sitting, I just didn’t want to put it down for a minute.

The Way Back to Us is a novel about a family of four who are still coming to terms with the fact that the youngest child, Teddy, has SMA – a rare genetic disorder that has changed all of their lives.

Anna, Teddy’s mum, gave up her career the very second Teddy got his diagnosis. There is a moment where she shares how she felt at that time and I felt so emotional as I was reading it. I don’t have children but I have lived through that horrendous life-defining moment where you know your world has moved on its axis and your life is forever changed. Anna becomes fiercely protective over Teddy – she’s become obsessive about cleaning and keeping him safe from germs but she’s utterly devoted to him and fights so hard for his right to attend a normal school. I could totally identify with her desire to stop germs coming into the house – I was the same when I was a carer to my mum as she went through chemo as part of the palliative care. It’s partly a need to protect your loved one but it’s also a way of having some control over the desperate circumstances you find yourself in. I felt such empathy for Anna, I wanted to reach through the pages and hug her.

Tom is Teddy’s dad and he is now the sole bread winner for the family and so is very focused on his work. When he gets home he rushes to his children to greet them but Anna is often distant with him and he doesn’t understand why. As a reader you have an all-seeing eye and can spot what is happening but these characters are mired in the situation and can’t see the wood for the trees. Tom clearly loves his children, and his wife, but when Anna seems to always be snapping at him to be careful with Teddy it’s easy to see why a work colleague starts to catch Tom’s eye. The situation they’re in is not an excuse to think about cheating but it’s so apparent that Tom loves his family – he just feels redundant as Anna is so focused on what needs to be done, and Tom is focused on work that there never seems to be time for them to sit and just talk about how they feel.

Isaac is Teddy’s older brother and he is such a wonderful child. Kay Langdale has the writing so spot on in that Isaac always comes across as a child but he is so perceptive, he can’t always understand what is going on with his parents but he picks up on the mood and the atmosphere. He is so caring towards his mum, he is really tuned in to her feelings and wants to do anything he can to help her. He tries to soothe her at times by trying to look on the bright side, and he takes care of himself to take some of the responsibility off her shoulders. The thing I loved most about Isaac though was his relationship with Teddy. He is so careful not to hurt him but at the same time is determined to help him try to do normal, fun things. There is a moment when Isaac tries to help Teddy learn to hop, which is impossible as Teddy can’t even stand unaided, but the amount of pure love and joy in both boys in that moment radiates from the page. I adored that moment and it makes me smile every time I think of it.

The novel is set in the present but we get the back story as the characters, particularly Anna, mulls over how she got here. As we learn about how Teddy was diagnosed  the language Anna uses in her own thoughts is so telling – there is a moment when the doctor explains how her genes and Tom’s led to Teddy having SMA and Anna ponders about other men she had relationships with and how their genes might have mixed differently but then she thinks of Tom ‘who carried it undetected towards me’. She doesn’t really blame Tom but it’s an undercurrent, a thing that can’t be said in their marriage – it shows her anger and her sadness that this has happened to them, to their child.

The clever way the story is built on in each chapter, with more layers and depth as we see other points of view ,is brilliant. Kay Langdale deftly shows how each person feels and what they think but how they often just can’t say it because their own pain holds them back, and they fear making things worse. It feels so real as you read this novel – the missed chances between Anna and Tom took my breath away at times, I was willing them to find a way to really communicate with each other. My heart broke when Tom tried to recreate old times with Anna  by fantasising on what they could spend his bonus on, he was trying so hard and I loved him for it, but Anna’s first words are how they could use the money to help Teddy, which is totally understandable, but it broke the spell of the moment. My heart was breaking for them both at this point.

I won’t give any spoilers but there is an incident with a kite in this novel and it’s in the aftermath of that where we really come to understand why each member of the family is the way they are. The mix of sheer joy from one, sheer terror from another, the misplaced fear and the worry from the other two is palpable. We learn so much in this part of the novel and it’s the point when it felt like make or break for this family and I was really hoping they would find a way to move toward each other again once the pain and anger subsided.

The Way Back to Us is at its heart a novel about how people cope when life throws a massive curveball at them. It’s a look at relationships – between a married couple, between parents and their children, and between siblings – that is so raw and honest that at times you need to pause and take a breath. The plot of this novel is very moving but it’s more a look at the characters, and they are such well thought out characters. The way Kay Langdale makes you feel sympathy for everyone in this family is so cleverly done – it would be easy to make Anna the good guy and Tom the bad guy in the marriage but that never happens. Instead, through the layering of the perspectives we just see the reality of their lives in its raw and honest state. There is heartbreak in this novel, and honestly I shed quite a few tears whilst reading, but there is beauty and joy too.

This novel is incredible and so beautifully written. I can’t stop thinking about these characters – they feel like real people to me. This is such an emotional novel – at times it’s heartbreaking but it really is such a stunning read. Kay Langdale is a master of crafting novels that feel so true and real, she really gets under the skin of her characters and makes them feel like people you know – I’m sure that these characters will have a hold on me for a long while to come. This is absolutely Kay Langdale’s best work to date and I am certain that The Way Back to Us will be one of my top books of this year – I’ll be recommending it to everyone! Go buy a copy now, you won’t regret it!

The Way Back to Us is out now.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

I was very lucky that I got to interview Kay Langdale when her previous novel, The Comfort of Others, was published so you can read more about her here if you’d like to.

 

About the Author

Kay Langdale © John Cairns

Kay Langdale was born in Coventry, England.

From a young age she loved to read and to write.

She attended Bedford College, London University, graduating with a first class degree in English Literature and then went to Oxford University where she completed a doctorate on Samuel Beckett’s prose fiction. She briefly taught twentieth century literature at St Edmund Hall, Oxford before beginning work as an account handler and copywriter at a brand consultancy.

She is married to a South African entrepreneur, with whom she has four children who are now mostly grown. Kay divides her time between their homes in Oxfordshire and Devon.

Now writing her eighth novel, Kay also works as an editor for the charity The Children’s Radio Foundation which trains young broadcasters in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

When not writing Kay enjoys running, ballet barre, yoga, swimming, coastal walking, learning Italian, cooking and reading. Always reading.

(Bio taken from: KayLangdale.com)

 

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#BookReview: Her Deadly Secret- @Christi_Curran #WhatsHerSecret? @KillerReads @HarperCollinsUK

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Christ Curran’s brand new novel, Her Deadly Secret!

About the Book

Her Deadly Secret by Chris Curran

A FAMILY BUILT ON LIES…
A dark and twisty psychological thriller, in which a young girl is abducted and her family is confronted with a horror from deep in their past.
A young girl has been taken. Abducted, never to be seen again.
Joe and Hannah, her traumatized parents, are consumed by grief. But all is not as it seems behind the curtains of their suburban home.
Loretta, the Family Liaison Officer, is sure Hannah is hiding something – a dark and twisted secret from deep in her past.
This terrible memory could be the key to the murder of another girl fifteen years ago. And as links between the two victims emerge, Joe and Hannah learn that in a family built on lies, the truth can destroy everything…

 

My Thoughts

I read and enjoyed Chris Curran’s previous novels so I was thrilled when I was invited to be a part of the blog tour for her new book, Her Deadly Secret. I was expecting great things and I’m so happy to say that it lived up to my expectations!

Her Deadly Secret is told from the viewpoint of two families. Joe and Hannah have just found out that their missing teenage daughter Lily has been murdered and are trying to find a way to cope whilst also being under the police spotlight. Rosie is happily married to Oliver but she still struggles to copy with the loss of her older sister many years ago. From the beginning I was suspecting a link between these two families but as the revelations start coming I was stunned!

I was very quickly invested in these characters, especially Joe, who is trying so hard to hold everything together as his wife falls apart. I also felt for Rosie as she dealt with the minefield of her father being back in her life after many years, and her mother’s acceptance of him. As much as I liked these two characters and generally was on their side, this novel does get so twisty that there were moment when I questioned my judgement of them.

This is a novel filled with secrets and lies, and eventually the house of cards starts to collapse as the truth begins to come out. I loved how some people were outright lying in their own selfish interests to cover their tracks but others were keeping secrets in order to try and protect others from the hurt of what they had believed at the time. This novel really does show the harm that can be done when people keep quiet in order to try to prevent loved ones from being hurt, even if it’s done with the best of intentions.

I raced through this novel in one sitting as it just grabbed me from the first chapter and kept me gripped, and needing answers right to the very last chapter! I thought I had it all figured out on more than one occasion but I have to admit that the final piece of the puzzle was just out of my grasp, which I loved as it’s nice to have a shock that you didn’t see coming in a thriller!

Her Deadly Secret is engrossing, twisty and when you think you’ve got it all figured out the rug will be pulled from under you all over again! I definitely recommend this novel!

I received a copy of the book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author

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Chris Curran lives in St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex. Her first two psychological thrillers, Mindsight and Her Turn To Cry, were both Amazon bestsellers. She also writes short stories one of which was recently shortlisted for the 2017 CWA Margery Allingham award. Her latest novel, Her Deadly Secret, is published as an ebook on July 21 st 2017 and a paperback in August.

 

 

 

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following blogs:

BLOG TOUR- Her Deadly Secret (1)

#BookReview: The Other Twin by L. V. Hay @OrendaBooks @LucyVHayAuthor #TheOtherTwin

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About the Book

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her? Taking the reader on a breathless ride through the winding lanes of Brighton, into its vibrant party scene and inside the homes of its well-heeled families, The Other Twin is a startling and up-to-the-minute thriller about the social-media world, where resentments and accusations are played out online, where identities are made and remade, and where there is no such thing as truth.

My Thoughts

I’ve been eagerly anticipating The Other Twin for weeks now and I’m so pleased that when I finally got to read it that it exceeded my expectations!

This is a psychological thriller but it is also so much more than that. It has twists and turns running throughout the book that will keep you on your toes until the very end when all is revealed, but it also is a very prescient look at very relevant issues in society at this moment. There is a lot about grief, about mental health and about the struggles facing the LGBTQ+ community. It’s also a look at the way we live our lives versus the way we present ourselves online – the novel takes India’s blog, and to a lesser extent the comments she receives on her posts, and shows how she was trying to explain her life to others while still concealing the reality and depth of what she was going through. I think so many people will relate to this in a variety of ways.

The novel is told predominantly from Poppy’s viewpoint but we also get a few chapters interspersed that are obviously important to the plot but we don’t know who the people are in the early part of the novel. This really helps to build tension and such a sense of uneasiness as you wonder how this will fit in to what happened to India. I was guessing for most of the book and whilst I did work it out before the reveal, I was still so on edge because by that point I was anxious that something really awful might be about to happen.

I didn’t really like any characters in this book (not that this matters at all because the story is so good) as most people seem to be focused on their own lives and there wasn’t a lot of warmth in any of them. Having said that, I did find Poppy’s grief and concern for what might have led up to her sister’s death palpable at times. It does lead her to make some strange, and sometimes downright stupid decisions that could potentially put her in danger, as she digs deeper into her sister’s life but I found her actions believable because of her grief and shock and that desperate need to know. I really felt for her because being estranged from a family member who then dies before any kind of reconciliation can happen must be so hard to come to terms with. Poppy did grow on me as the novel progressed and as she began to see what had been happening in the lives of the people around her, and as the tension really begins to ramp up, I was on the edge of my seat hoping that she would get through this unscathed.

I thought it was great that this book is set within a place that is generally known to be accepting of the LGBTQ+ community but that it also really explores what it is to have a family that doesn’t accept who you are. It must cause such a pain and conflict within to not be allowed to be who you are with the people who are supposed to love and accept you. The repercussions of this within the novel are enormous and it made me so angry  and so sad. I do love when a novel makes me feel such strong emotions for the characters and The Other Twin certainly does that.

I also love the title of this novel. When I read the synopsis for this book and saw that two of the characters are twins I assumed that the novel would predominantly be about them, and much of the novel does pivot on the these two and the way they see things and the way they behave but there seems to be so much else to this title. By the end of the novel it had me wondering if the title was also actually a play on the way people have two sides to them, which also ties into the idea of our real self and the self that we feel we have to, or are able to, present to the world. The cover design also played into this for me as when you wipe away steam on glass you may see the person standing on the other side or you may see a reflection of yourself.

This is a dark, disturbing and twisty suspense thriller, which also explores real and current issues in our society in a very honest, intelligent way. It grabbed me from the opening chapter and I’m not sure that it’s really let me go even now, days after I finished reading it. It’s hard to believe that this is a debut because it’s such an accomplished novel. I highly recommend The Other Twin! Already I can’t wait to see what Lucy V Hay writes next – I know I’ll be first in line to buy it though!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

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Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin (2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. She lives in Devon with her husband, three children, six cats and five African Land Snails.

 

You can follow the rest of this fabulous blog tour at the following stops:

Other twin blog tour poster new

 

#BookReview: Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf @hgudenkauf @HQstories #blogtour

 

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Not A Sound by Heather Gudenkauf and am sharing my review!

About the Book

‘I’m going to die tonight. But I won’t go quietly.’

Amelia Winn has a lot of regrets. She regrets the first drink after she lost her hearing. She regrets destroying her family as she spiralled into depression. Mostly, she regrets not calling Gwen Locke back.

Because now Gwen is dead. And as Amelia begins to unearth the terrible secrets that led to Gwen’s naked body being dumped in the freezing water, she realises that she might be next.

But how do you catch a killer when you can’t hear him coming?

 

My Thoughts

I’ve read and enjoyed Heather Gudenkauf’s novels in the past so I was looking forward to reading Not A Sound and I’m so happy to say that it lived up to my expectations.

Amelia Winn is a really interesting character and I got really engrossed in her journey throughout the book. Her life was torn apart when she was injured in a hit and run accident that left her profoundly deaf. This caused her life to spiral into depression and a problem with alcohol as she tried to cope, which led to her marriage breaking down. I had such sympathy for Amelia and was very invested in this novel and wanting her to be okay.

Amelia has dealt with what happened to her by cutting herself off from her old life, she no longer speaks to her old friends and spends most of her time alone with her hearing dog Stitch. They enjoy going paddle boarding together but one day this turns into a nightmare when Amelia discovers the body of an old friend of hers in the water. This sets in motion a train of events that will put Amelia’s life and sanity on the line all over again.

I liked that Amelia responds to what happened to her friend by immediately wanting to find out what happened to her. It gives Amelia a focus that is much needed in her life and whilst it comes from sad circumstances it does give Amelia a new direction.

This novel had me on the edge of my seat at times as Amelia begins to dig deeper into who might have killed Gwen. The fact that she is deaf really heightened the emotion in this book because I felt like I could hear things that she couldn’t, even though I was just reading words on a page – this is how invested I became in her story! It really does give such an insight into how life is for someone who is deaf – the difficulty Amelia has with phone calls for example and whilst her phone transcribes speech into text you can’t get the subtleties of meaning from a written translation of speech. There are times when Amelia doesn’t know if someone is being sarcastic, or sad or angry and it added to the story to be put in the shoes of someone who experiences the world differently to me. I’m disabled and know what it is to be paralysed and to have part of my body no longer feel like it is a part of me so I felt like I had some understanding of Amelia’s struggles, but even so I have no idea what it must be like to be unable to hear and I felt like this novel really gave me an insight.

This is a lighter thriller but still absolutely a novel that will keep you hooked all the way through to the end. I read it in just two sittings as I simply had to know how it was going to end. On more than one occasion I was sure that I had it all worked out but I never managed to completely put it all together and I like that it kept me guessing.

I loved Amelia and Stitch and really believe that there is potential for this novel to be turned into a series – I would be first in queue to buy the next novel if that happened!

This is Heather Gudenkauf’s best novel to date and I highly recommend it!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

About the Author

Heather Gudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf is the Edgar Award nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence, These Things Hidden and Not A Sound.

Heather was born in Wagner, South Dakota, the youngest of six children. At one month of age, her family returned to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where her father was employed as a guidance counselor and her mother as a school nurse. At the age of three, her family moved to Iowa, where she grew up. Having been born with a profound unilateral hearing loss (there were many evenings when Heather and her father made a trip to the bus barn to look around the school bus for her hearing aids that she often conveniently would forget on the seat beside her), Heather tended to use books as a retreat, would climb into the toy box that her father’s students from Rosebud made for the family with a pillow, blanket, and flashlight, close the lid, and escape the world around her. Heather became a voracious reader and the seed of becoming a writer was planted.

Heather Gudenkauf graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages and continues to work in education as a Title I Reading Coordinator.

Heather lives in Iowa with her family and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading and hiking. She is currently working on her next novel.

(Bio taken from: www.heathergudenkauf.com)

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

NOT A SOUND blog tour graphic

Find out what @EmilyBenet’s ideal hen party would be! #TheHenParty #BlogTour

Today I’m thrilled to welcome the wonderful Emily Benet back to my blog! Emily’s brand new novel, The Hen Party is out now and to celebrate Emily has told me all about her perfect hen party!

My Ideal Hen Party

Call me a party pooper but in my ideal hen party there are no rubber willies. Not dangling around my neck, not shooting up like a rocket from a hair band and not fixed to the end of my straw. I’m not that bothered about a sash either! Forget the L plates, at 33 years old I’ve only just learned to drive. The last thing I want to be reminded of while I’m trying to have a good time is my fear of driving alone!

In my book, the hens win a one-week holiday in Mallorca and are filmed for The Hen Party reality TV series. It sounds pretty great but the director has her own agenda and the hens themselves are keeping secrets from each other. I definitely wouldn’t want my hen party broadcast on national television and I’d only want my best friends around me.

In my ideal hen party the schedule would be very relaxed. I’d escape to an alpine cabin in the mountains and the day would begin with a swim and a picnic at the nearby river. Yep, I know it sounds a bit Enid Blyton, but hey, I love ginger beer… especially when mixed with rum. Although, I think cava suits the scene better. In proper glasses too. There would be a delicious spread. A lot of cheese. That bits important. A LOT OF CHEESE. And olives. I love olives.

It has to be sunny. We’ll go for a wander through the forest and all the wildlife will come out to meet us like in Snow White. Rabbits, hedgehogs, deer, maybe even a friendly bear. I love wildlife documentaries but would never have the patience to wait days on end for the perfect snap.

Back at our cabin, we’d have an Argentine-style barbeque with lots of red wine. The barbeque would turn into our bonfire which we’d inevitably end up dancing around to all our favourite tunes, because miraculously the signal will work perfectly for Spotify.

When the fire has gone out, we’ll lie on our backs and look up at the stars. I won’t have to pretend to see a shooting star like I did when I was little, because there will be so many. We’ll reminisce about the good times and have a good laugh at ourselves.

In short, my ideal hen party would be drama-free, unlike my book, The Hen Party!

 

 

I’ve previously interviewed Emily (you can read that here) and reviewed her last novel #PleaseRetweet, which I loved and highly recommend (you can read that here).

About the Book

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Film Director, Kate Miller, is in serious trouble. The entire cast and crew of the reality TV show The Hen Party has gone missing while filming in Mallorca. To make matters worse, the network boss has just flown in and will be arriving any minute to check up on her production.

Kate thinks it’s all her fault. She hasn’t exactly been following the guidelines.

But if she is to blame, why were the hens arguing among themselves? And why is the groom-to-be calling her in tears?

Kate doesn’t know the half of it. The hens have their own secrets and it’s only matter of time before they all come tumbling out.

A party of eight arrive on the island, but not everyone’s going home.

 

About the Author

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Emily is an author and award-winning blogger. Her debut book, Shop Girl Diaries, began as a blog. Her second, Spray Painted Bananas, racked up a million hits on the online platform Wattpad and  led to a 2 book deal with Harper Collins which led to social media comedy #PleaseRetweet. Her latest book, The Hen Party, is set in Mallorca where she lives with her husband and writes for abc mallorca magazine.

 

Universal Link:  https://books2read.com/u/b5Oyq7

My website: www.emilybenet.com

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/EmilyBenetAuthor

Twitter: @EmilyBenet

 

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

Hen Party-Summer Blog Tour

#BookReview: The Things We Thought We Knew by @MahsudaSnaith @ThomasssHill @doubledayuk

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About the Book

Ravine and Marianne were best friends. They practised handstands together, raced slugs and went into the woods to play.

But now everything has changed.

Ten years later, Ravine lies in a bed plagued by chronic pain syndrome. And her best friend Marianne is gone.

How did their last adventure go so wrong? Who is to blame? And where is Marianne?

 

My Thoughts

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of The Things We Thought We Knew for a little while now so I was thrilled when the publisher offered me an ARC to review recently. I’m so happy to say that this book was even more incredible than I was hoping it would be and I loved every minute that I was reading it.

I initially wanted to read The Things We Thought We Knew because I was fascinated to read a novel where the main character suffers from chronic pain, as it’s not something that is often found in novels. Mahsuda Snaith examines, in such a sensitive way, the complexities of pain – the way that pain can be physical and very real, and yet have roots to it that are emotional. I suffer with severe pain due to my spinal cord injury so am really drawn to books that explore pain in any way. In this book the character does recover early in the story but it’s the exploration of the reasons for her pain that moved me deeply. It takes a gentle hand to explore this without patronising people, like me, whose pain is unlikely to ever be better, and I really admire that in this book. Ravine ends up pretending about her physical pain but because I could see the other pain she was in I genuinely always felt sympathy for her – the physical pain that was real at one stage in her life became the only way she could block out the pain of her friend being gone.

‘There isn’t a constellation for pain, but if there were it would sweep over half the sky and be connected by a hundred stars.’

I was immediately drawn into the intrigue as to where Ravine’s best friend Marianne had gone. The novel opens in the present day and Marianne and her family have been gone from next door for a long time. Yet Ravine is in a state of limbo wondering where her best friend has gone. The picture of the childhood friendship of these two girls is gradually built up and I very much enjoyed reading this part of the book. It’s heartbreaking knowing that something pulled the two girls apart – the mystery of this had me hooked but it was more the way Ravine wrote about Marianne, a friend she clearly adored. These two girls had such a bond and Ravine lost herself when Marianne went away, and this affected me so deeply. This quote actually made me cry, it’s so poignant:

‘Even as a child I knew my life was rooted in yours. How am I meant to carry on when the roots have been pulled out?’

This is a coming-of-age novel about finding your place in the world, and about coming to an understanding of why people are the way they are. I really enjoyed reading about Ravine’s childhood as an asian girl growing up on a council estate in Leicester. The way it’s a multi-cultural city and yet a child can still stand out as being different because of the way her family express their beliefs, for Ravine it’s the way her mother dresses, and the way she has her dress. Ravine compares herself in childhood to her best friend Marianne, whose family is also asian but they dress in jeans and t-shirts and so fit in better. There are many memorable characters who live near Ravine, who are all so richly-drawn – even the ones we only hear about, such as the old lady across the landing from Ravine’s family. There is a real sense that everyone has their own problems to deal with and gradually through the book we get to see this. Ravine as a child, and then as a teenager stuck in her bedroom, doesn’t get to see the subtitles of why people are the way they are but we, the reader, really see the pain in what some people have to live through.

Ultimately though, this is a novel about memories; it’s a look at how we can, through no fault of our own, remember things differently than they were; it’s a look at how sometimes we choose to delude ourselves because the truth is just too painful to bear. It’s a novel about how we  protect ourselves from the most painful parts of life, it’s about how we survive when the worst thing we can imagine happens. It’s also a look at whether redemption ever comes, whether someone should suffer for what they’re perceived to have done or whether the pain they feel inside is enough punishment. Ravine’s pain is very, very real – some of it is physical and some of it emotional but all of it is real and she has spent a more than half of her life hurting. I was rooting for Ravine all the way through this novel, and she’s someone I absolutely won’t forget any time soon.

‘Memories pretend to leave you but they’re always there. Always ready to catch you off guard, to remind you that life is never as simple as what you happen to be dealing with at the time.

There is always the past, waiting to pounce.’

This novel is stunningly beautiful for so many reasons – the gorgeous writing and the wonderful turns of phrase, the brilliant and complex characters, and for the most heartbreaking descriptions of pain, in all its forms, that I’ve read in a long time. Very occasionally, if you’re really lucky, a book will come into your life at exactly the right moment and it will break your heart but then it will mend it again and make you feel so much better; this is that book for me. I am sure that this novel will be in my top books for this year, it’s definitely one I will remember and think about for a long time to come.

The Things We Thought We Knew is out now and I highly recommend you grab a copy as soon as you can!

I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

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Mahsuda Snaith was born in Luton and brought up on a Leicester council estate.  She is a writer of novels, short stories and plays, and is the winner of the SI Leeds Literary Prize 2014, Bristol Short Story Prize 2014 as well as a finalist for the Mslexia Novel Competition 2013.  Mahsuda leads creative writing workshops at De Montfort University, has performed her work at literary festivals and has been anthologised by The Asian Writer, Words with Jam and Closure: Contemporary Black British Stories.

Mahsuda’s first novel is The Things We Thought We Knew. It will be published by Transworld in 2017 in the UK.

(Bio taken from: http://www.watsonlittle.com/client/mahsuda-snaith. Author photo taken from twitter.)

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following blogs:

The Things We Thought We Knew Tour Poster

 

Paul E. Hardisty on Claymore Stryker | Reconciliation of the Dead #blogtour @OrendaBooks

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Today I’m thrilled to be on the Orenda blog tour for Reconciliation of the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty. Paul has written a brilliant guest post about the evolution of Claymore Stryker for my stop.

 

The Evolution of Claymore Stryker

In the opening scene of my new novel, Reconciliation for the Dead, the lead character, Claymore Straker, is in Maputo, Mozambique, considering his future. It is 1997, and he is on the run, again. The events of the last few years (described in the first book of the series, the CWA Creasy New Blood Dagger shortlisted The Abrupt Physics of Dying, set in Yemen during the 1994 civil war; and the second book, The Evolution of Fear, set largely in Cyprus and Istanbul in 1995) are behind him now, but still raw in his memory.

He has just finished testifying to Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, having returned to South Africa for the first time since being dishonourably discharged from the army and sent into exile over fifteen years earlier. Over three days of testimony, Clay takes us on a journey into the darkest chapter of his country’s history, revealing the horrifying events that led to him abandoning everything he was raised to believe in. It is 1980, Clay is a young paratrooper, fighting on the front lines in South Africa’s war against the communist insurgency in Angola. On a patrol deep behind enemy lines, Clay is confronted by an act of the most shocking brutality. It will change him forever. Wounded in battle, struggling to make sense of what he has witnessed, Clay tries to uncover the dark secret behind those events, and what lies hidden in apartheid’s murky core.

For fourteen years, Clay tries to forget the past, buries it deep. But as the years go by, his post-traumatic stress worsens. Then, working for an oil company in Yemen, everything starts to unravel, and the horrors of war come flooding back. As civil war erupts, he meets Rania LaTour, a French journalist. She becomes the dominant influence in his life. In the face of the terrible injustice he witnesses, he must decide whether to act, or turn away and abandon his friends. Later, in Cyprus, increasingly beguiled and influenced by Rania, he recognises his need for absolution, and realises that he must go back and tell the truth about what happened all those years ago in South Africa. Only then, he believes, will he find a measure of peace, and perhaps become the man Rania deserves.

As the series continues into its fourth, and quite possibly final, instalment (The Debased and the Faithful, due out in 2018), Clay continues to evolve as a person. In a way, I consider the series more a fictional biography in four parts, than a traditional crime series. The situations into which he is thrust, into which he drives himself, are the direct consequence of the events and the people that have shaped him. Each exerts its own unique influence, and together, combine to make him the person he is destined to become.  How it will all end, I don’t quite know yet. All I know is that Clay’s journey is not over, and is about to get a whole lot more difficult. Rania’s too.

 

About the Book

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Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier.

It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make. Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed.

Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.

About the Author

Paul Hardisty

Canadian by birth, Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia with his family.

You can find Paul on twitter: @Hardisty_Paul

(Bio taken from Orenda Books website)

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the stops on the poster below:

Reconciliation for the Dead Blog Tour poster