#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: 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 Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon @HannahMMcKinnon #TheNeighbors

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About the Book

 

Abby looks forward to meeting the family who just moved in next door—until she realizes they’re the one couple who could expose her deepest secrets.

After a night of fun back in 1992, Abby is responsible for a car crash that kills her beloved brother. It’s a mistake she can never forgive, so she pushes away Liam, the man she loves most, knowing that he would eventually hate her for what she’s done, the same way she hates herself.

Twenty years later, Abby’s husband, Nate, is also living with a deep sense of guilt. He was the driver who first came upon the scene of Abby’s accident, the man who pulled her to safety before the car erupted in flames—the man who could not save her brother in time. It’s this guilt, this regret, that binds them together. They understand each other. Or so Nate believes.

In a strange twist of fate, Liam moves into the neighborhood with his own family, releasing a flood of memories that Abby has been trying to keep buried all these years. Abby and Liam, in a complicit agreement, pretend never to have met, yet cannot resist the pull of the past—nor the repercussions of the terrible secrets they’ve both been carrying…

 

My Thoughts

The Neighbors is a novel about how the past and your secrets always catch up with you. A couple, Liam and Nancy, with a teenage son move in next to Nate and Abby and it turns out that there is a link between Abby and Liam with unresolved issues from the past. I love books that look at relationships and secrets and this book was so readable, I didn’t want to put it down from the moment I first started reading it. Some of the things in Abby’s past are clear from the start but there are other things bubbling around that I simply had to keep reading in order to find out what else there was to know. It becomes clear that other people in Abby’s life have their own secrets and it seems that at some point all will converge.

This is one of those books where I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the main character Abby because of what happened when she was younger, even when I couldn’t condone some of her actions later in the novel. It felt like the accident when she was younger had completely undone her, it had made her into a different person and someone she couldn’t even recognise anymore. It felt like even in the present day that she’d never fully come to terms with what happened, or really figured out who she was without her brother. There were elements of this that I could empathise with – I think losing someone close who is pretty much the same age as you when you’re young does change you, it certainly did me when my best friend died when we were 20. I always felt like I lost a part of me when she died and I’ve never been able to put myself back together how I was before and I could see that it was the same for Abby.

The novel has multiple narrators and goes back and forth in time so the picture of each character is gradually built up. I felt quite unsure as to how I felt about the other characters – they all seemed to have their flaws  and I kept going from liking them to disliking them and back again but I enjoyed being kept on my toes. Everyone in this novel did feel like a real person though; the flaws and the secrets and the way they all behaved felt very believable and while I didn’t always like how they acted, it did feel so human and real.

I very much enjoyed how this novel also explores guilt, and the way different people deal with the bad things they believe they’ve done. There is a definite sliding scale of how each of us feel guilt and it was interesting how this book looks at Abby and how she has such terrible guilt for her brother that is all-consuming but it doesn’t stop her consciously making decisions later on that have the potential to really hurt people emotionally. There is also the unspoken agreement that comes to pass between Abby and Liam not to let on to their respective spouses that they already know each other when they are seemingly introduced for the first time. I was interested to see how that played out in the subsequent chapters to see how each of them felt about the lie by omission.

There was a sense running through this book of fate and destiny – that there are people we’re destined to meet, and a course that we may well be on regardless of what we do to change things. Abby could have behaved differently than she did in the present day but it felt like she still had one foot firmly in the past and fate was pushing her towards the way her life might have been if the accident hadn’t happened. I always find the idea of fate fascinating, I’m never sure whether I believe in it or not but sometimes life takes you on a path with a series of events that makes you wonder occasionally.

There are elements of this book that I saw coming and others that caught me completely off-guard, which was great. I like a book that makes me start to feel comfortable and then pulls the rug out from under me and The Neighbors definitely did that.

The Neighbors is a domestic suspense novel that is very gripping, full of tension and a whole rollercoaster of emotions; I definitely recommend it!

 

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

The Neighbors is out now!

 

About the Author

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I was born in 1971 in Manchester, UK to British & Swiss parents. A year later they moved my older sister and I to Switzerland. Rather unsurprisingly I love mountains, chocolate and cheese… or mountains of chocolate and cheese, and my sister, of course.

After finishing commercial studies in Geneva, I worked as a PA for DuPont. A year later I moved to Neuchâtel and became the Purchasing Manager for an ultra-cool company that made motors for industrial and space applications.  Finding myself lacking in theoretical knowledge, I returned to university, studying part-time for a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. And then a friend of a friend introduced me to another friend who’d started up an IT recruitment business. Over the next fifteen years I rose through the ranks to become CEO.

Things outside of work were hardly boring. A chance encounter back in the dark ages of the Internet in 1999 led me down the aisle with Rob, my Canadian rock, five months later. Actually it was exactly ten weeks after we met face-to-face at the Saint John airport in New Brunswick, Canada – and we’re still married. True story. Our first son was born in 2003, followed by identical twin boys just sixteen months later, so I’m heavily outnumbered. In 2010 we all moved to Oakville in Ontario, Canada.

Maybe it was the failed attempt at a start-up company, or the fact I suddenly found myself in my forties, but one morning I decided to follow my oldest passion, started writing, and never wanted to look back. I write fiction for adults and dabble a little in kid-lit. Sometimes I think I’ll never have enough time to get all of the ideas out of my head and on paper. I also have a soft spot for short stories and mud runs. I love mud runs… hey, wait… that’s another story I could write…!

(Author Bio and Photo taken from: HannahMaryMcKinnon.com)

#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: 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

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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.

 

 

 

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

BAD SISTER blog tour

 

#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

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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

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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: 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)

 

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

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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)

 

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

TWBTU Blog tour

 

#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: Last Seen by @lucyclarkebooks + guest post about beach hutting! @HarperCollinsUK

Today I’m very excited to be on the blog tour for Lucy Clarke’s brilliant new novel, Last Seen! I’m sharing my review with you later in this post but first a wonderful guest post, with some gorgeous photos, from Lucy herself!

 

LUCY CLARKE ON BEACH HUTTING

Lucy Clarke has grown up spending her summers in a beach hut. The stretch of beach where her family hut stands became the inspiration behind the setting in LAST SEEN. Here she shares some insights and photos about beach hut life.

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The setting for LAST SEEN was closely inspired by the summers I’ve spent in a beach hut. Our family have owned a hut since I was eight years old, and the friends I made during those first few summers are still – twenty-five years on – some of my closest friends. We grew up crashing through waves on body boards, or playing cards huddled in someone’s hut as the rain lashed down. I actually met my husband at the beach; his family owned the hut next door and I used to moon around on the shoreline watching him windsurf!

Now that many of us have children of our own, a new generation of little sandy-toed urchins are being introduced to the beach. Sharing a hut with our 2.5 year-old and a 9 month-old, has its own challenges (breakfast at 5am, anyone?), but their sheer excitement about a day spent at the beach is hard to beat.

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LAST SEEN is peppered with real details and observations from my own experiences of hut life – like crabbing from the jetty when I was a child, or digging a sand hole for my bump when I was pregnant. Although most of my beach hut memories are happy ones, like in any close-knit community there can also be conflicts and secrets and tragedies. In LAST SEEN I wanted to juxtapose the beautiful, remote setting of the sandbank with the darker threads that weave between Sarah and Isla’s friendship. (Thankfully though, all the events in the novel are entirely fictional!)

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I wrote much of the novel from our beach hut. It’s my very favourite place to write as I work so much better when I’m off-grid (I leave my laptop behind, turn off my phone, and write by hand). Sunny days are incredible, of course, but blustery, rainy ones hold a certain allure when the beach empties and the only sounds are rumbling waves or a whistling kettle.

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We spend much of our winters travelling, but come summer, there’s nowhere we’d rather be than in the beach hut. Like Sarah remarks in LAST SEEN, ‘What brings us back here, summer after summer, is that the beach hut unites our family . . . we step out of the rush of our normal lives and live outside-in, letting the rhythms of the weather and tides rule our days.’

 

 

About the Book

Seven years ago, two boys went missing at sea – and only one was brought to shore. The Sandbank, a remote stretch of coast dotted with beach huts, was scarred forever.

Sarah’s son survived, but on the anniversary of the accident, he disappears without trace. As new secrets begin to surface, The Sandbank hums with tension and unanswered questions. Sarah’s search grows more desperate and she starts to mistrust everyone she knows – and she’s right to.

Someone saw everything on that fateful day seven years ago. And they’ll do anything to keep the truth buried.

 

My Thoughts

I’ve been a big fan of Lucy Clarke’s writing ever since I first read The Sea Sisters so I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to read and review her new novel, Last Seen for the blog tour! I have to say that Last Seen absolutely lived up to all of my expectations and I loved reading it!

Last Seen is predominantly a look at female friendship and how one decision can unwittingly set a relationship on a different course, one that you really don’t want to end up on. Sarah and Isla have been friends since they were younger, and Sarah has supported Isla through some of the hardest moments of her life. But then Isla decides to go travelling and what happens back home changes everything in a seemingly subtle way but as they appear to move on that one thing looms large throughout the book.

The reason I fell in love with The Sea Sisters was because of the way Lucy Clarke writes the relationship between women and Last Seen made me emotional for these two friends in the same way. Neither one of these women is perfect and neither is always likeable but they always felt like real people to me. I could see their flaws, and their issues and I liked them all the more for it. The detail is wonderful too – I smiled to myself when Sarah describes how someone from her past smelt of Dewberry shampoo. I must be a similar age to Sarah because I remember Dewberry so very well!

Sarah and Isla end up pregnant at the same time when they’re both still young and they look forward to bringing their boys up together. Sadly, things don’t work out like that when one summer, the year they turn ten, the boys go missing at sea and only one is found alive. This sets in motion a chain of revelations, guilt and jealousy that will affect these people forever.

This book so twisty, I genuinely couldn’t work out what was going to happen in the end. I had many suspicions as I was reading but all turned out to be wrong. It’s very rare for me to not be able to work out the ending of a thriller but this one got me and I loved it all the more for that. The end when it comes makes perfect sense and it sends you reeling but it’s so good!

This book is beautiful and twisty and utterly engrossing! I couldn’t put it down – I literally read it in one sitting. I highly recommend that you grab a copy of Last Seen for your summer reading, you definitely won’t regret it!

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

 

About the Author

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Novelist, traveller, and fresh air enthusiast, Lucy Clarke is the author of four novels.

Lucy graduated from university with a first class degree in English Literature, but it wasn’t until she was on a six month road trip across the US and Canada, that she decided she’d love to be a novelist.

Many twists and turns later, Lucy’s debut novel, The Sea Sisters, was published (HarperCollins, 2013). It was a Richard & Judy Book Club choice, and has been published in over ten countries.

Since then she has released three more novels, A Single Breath (HarperCollins, 2014), The Blue (HarperCollins, 2015), and most recently Last Seen (HarperCollins, 2017).

Lucy is married to a professional windsurfer, and together with their young children they spend their winters travelling, and their summers at home on the south coast of England. Lucy writes from a beach hut.

(Bio taken from Lucy Clarke’s website)

 

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

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#BookReview: Making Space by @SarahTierney @sandstonepress #MakingSpace

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About the Book

Why do we hold onto things we don’t need? And let go of the things we do? Miriam is twenty-nine: temping, living with a flatmate who is no longer a friend, and still trying to find her place in life. She falls in love with Erik after he employs her to clear out his paper-packed home. They are worlds apart: he is forty-five, a successful photographer and artist and an obsessive hoarder still haunted by the end of his marriage. Miriam has an unsuccessful love life and has just got rid of most of her belongings. Somehow, they must find a way to reach each other.

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when I was offered a copy of Making Space to review because it sounded like exactly my type of book. Regular readers of my blog will know I love books, both fiction and non-fiction, about dealing with clutter so you can imagine how excited I was about reading this novel!

Making Space is about Miriam and Erik. Miriam is in her late twenties, single and still flat-sharing with her friend from uni. Erik is in his forties and struggles to deal with all the stuff he’s collected to use in his art. His daughter wants to move in with him so he urgently needs to at least clear out a bedroom for her. Miriam is sent to help re-organise Erik’s papers as part of her new office job, and the relationship that builds between these characters is fascinating to read. Both have issues that on the surface seem not at all alike but as we get to know more about these two people it becomes apparent that they have more in common than we see at first.

Erik sees himself as a collector, which is interesting because seeing his house through Miriam’s eyes we know very quickly that he is a hoarder, that he cannot bear to let things go. Once I knew this about him I was intrigued – I wanted to know if he genuinely felt he was collecting things or if he knew he had a problem but just didn’t want to face up to it. It made me feel claustrophobic as Miriam explores Erik’s home for the first time – all those books, magazines and cuttings stacked up everywhere with barely any room to walk through. It also made me remember how I have been in the past. I grew up with a family member who collected newspapers and books – it was confined to one room and as a child it felt like a treasure trove but as an adult it was stifling. My own ‘collecting tendencies’ have been a bit much in the past but as I always spread my books through the house, and so it never seemed so bad.

‘The answer wasn’t rational, I knew that. He collected because he had to. It was a compulsion not a choice.’

Miriam seems to be the polar opposite of Erik – she is renting a tiny flat with a friend and has ended up with the smallest room and yet her friend still manages to make her feel like she’s a guest in her own home. Miriam decides on a whim to pack up nearly all of her belongings and take them to the charity shop with barely a backwards glance. Her reason was that she felt like it.

‘I didn’t want what they stood for anymore […]. I was just sick of it. I was sick of myself’.

There is a real poignancy running throughout this novel and I loved that. I soon came to feel that Erik’s hoarding was likely a reaction to what his childhood had been like, and that made me understand him more. Later we find out that it’s more complex than that and that just adds to the depth of his character. Then there are moments when Miriam has so few clothes left that she’s having to put the washing machine on most days, and when her flatmate comments about the electric bill Miriam laughingly retorts to her that ‘You have a boyfriend. I have my washing’ before realising how tragic that sounds. Miriam is lonely, she is trying to get by in life unable to find the thing that will make her happy. Miriam and Erik are each protecting themselves by either having too much stuff around them, or too little – it feels like comfort and safety but in reality it’s dragging you down when you’re either imprisoned by your belongings or untethered by your lack of things. They both need to find some middle ground.

The further you get into this book the more the title begins to gain meaning. Miriam is making space in her room but actually it’s more about her trying to find herself and her place in the world. Clearing out all of her belongings leads her to things that she might otherwise have not done but it also makes her feel cast adrift and a bit lost for a while. Erik needs to make space in his home for his daughter but his problem is more to do with him needing space in his head. Miriam’s need to get back a postcard that her father had sent her when she was little, and what she does with it towards the end of the book was so moving to me. Her realisation about her need for space, but also her need to let people into her life makes for a really fascinating read. As space is made, or in some cases un-made, by each of these characters, the more they become able to allow people and opportunities into their lives.

This is such a beautiful novel about how we can’t help but bring the pain of our past into the present. It’s about finding your place in the world in whatever way you can. It’s about learning to be okay with who you are. It’s about letting go of the endings and making space for new beginnings.

When I was offered this book I knew I was going to enjoy it, but I didn’t realise just how moving the book would be, and how much it would come to hold a place in my heart. I loved every minute that I spent reading Making Space and it’s one of my favourite books of this year so far.

I highly recommend making space on your bookcase for Making Space. It’s out now and the ebook is currently on offer this week for just £1, which is an absolute bargain for such a wonderful novel.

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

 

About the Author

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Sarah Tierney is a graduate of the MA in Novel Writing at Manchester University, and her short story, ‘Five Miles Out’, was made into a short film by the acclaimed director Andrew Haigh. Sarah has worked as a journalist, editor and copywriter. She lives in Derbyshire with her husband and daughter.

(Author bio and photo taken from: SandstonePress.com)

 

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

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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:

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#BookReview: The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull #blogtour @rebeccamascull @HodderBooks

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About the Book

In Edwardian England, aeroplanes are a new, magical invention, while female pilots are rare indeed.

When shy Della Dobbs meets her mother’s aunt, her life changes forever. Great Auntie Betty has come home from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, across whose windswept dunes the Wright Brothers tested their historic flying machines. Della develops a burning ambition to fly and Betty is determined to help her.

But the Great War is coming and it threatens to destroy everything – and everyone – Della loves.

Uplifting and page-turning, THE WILD AIR is a story about love, loss and following your dreams against all odds.

My Thoughts

The Wild Air is a wonderful novel, it drew me in from the prologue and had me captivated right through to the final page. This is the story of Cordelia (Della) Dobbs who knows that her place in life is to help her mother until such a time that she marries and has children of her own to raise. Della loves cycling and mending her bike and is fascinated by how things work. So when her Great-Auntie Betty arrives from America and introduces Della to kite flying and later aeroplanes it seems her life might be about to change beyond all recognition.

This book is so much about female ambition and determination and I loved that: from feisty, no-nonsense Great-Auntie Betty to her niece Della whose quiet desire to fly planes slowly becomes a real possibility. I so enjoyed seeing Della’s confidence slowly grow – it was lovely to see her find her voice, to begin to tentatively step forward and ask for what she wanted, to stand her ground. Even Della’s mum quietly admits to a long ago desire to achieve in a man’s world but it was something that she just couldn’t push ahead with. It means she has a real understanding of her daughter’s desire to achieve her dream though and she’s always very supportive of Della.

I’ve always been interested in the history around women pilots – I grew up near Hull so was always fascinated by Amy Johnson. Della felt like a real person to me, I absolutely believed in her – her sheer joy of flying planes just shines throughout this book and I was rooting for her all the way. It’s hard to imagine just how difficult it must have been for women in the Edwardian era to find a way into such a male-dominated arena. Della is referred to by one newspaper man as ‘little Della Dobbs’, which is so demeaning for an adult woman who is accomplishing so much in her field. It was also totally believable but still really quite shocking that some of the women who came to see Della were less than impressed with her achievements and were more interested in ‘the arrangements for [her] undercarriage’ – i.e. whether she still wore a corset! I really enjoyed reading about this obviously very well-researched time in history and about the women who paved the way for women pilots like Amy Johnson.

I have to mention one of the male characters in this book too. I loved Dud, he is such a great man and I loved his gentle nature and his enthusiasm for Della’s ambition to be a pilot. He believed in her from the day he saw her flying a kite and he never waivered in his belief in her. It was hard to read about what happened to him during the war, but again this was so beautifully and sensitively written – it really moved me.

The writing in this book is so beautiful and very evocative. My heart was in my mouth as Della gets her first taste of flying – I swear I could hear the propellers and could taste the engine oil. I was holding my breath as I willed her to get it right, to show the men on the ground exactly what she was made of. The moment she feels the wind in her hair for the first time, I could have been up there with her. The sheer magical joy just emanates from the page, it’s fabulous!

Rebecca Mascull really evokes what it was like to live in an era where flying was new and scary and exciting. This novel brought to life the way it must have felt to people to see these flying machines for the first time, and then for people to see female pilots in a time when women were expected to marry and raise a family, and not to have ambitions to have a career in any way equal to a man. The Wild Air is a beautiful, captivating novel and I highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this book from Hodder via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Wild Air is due to be published on 4th May by Hodder & Stoughton and can be pre-ordered now.

About the Author

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Photo taken by Lisa Warrener

 

Rebecca Mascull is the author of THE VISITORS and SONG OF THE SEA MAID. She has previously worked in education, has a Masters in Writing and lives by the sea in the east of England.

(Bio taken from: Hodder)

 

 

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at the blogs below:

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#BookReview: Loving the Life Less Lived by @GailMitchell42 #blogtour @RedDoorBooks

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About the Book

An essential companion for anyone dealing with mental illness.
Like many people, Gail Marie Mitchell battled with anxiety and depression for many years, finding it exhausting, stressful and demoralising at times.

Realising that this approach to her condition was futile, Gail chose a different approach: acceptance.

Taking control in this way removed some of the pressure and enabled Gail to focus on developing coping strategies, creating the tips and tools that are included in this empathetic and practical book.

Gail focuses on the positive aspects of her condition, showing how a person living with mental illness is so much more than the label that society puts on them. She found acceptance empowering, enabling her to live her life to the full. Perhaps not the life she had planned, but one that is happy and fulfilling and that she loves. She is Loving the Life Less Lived.

By sharing her experiences and describing what she learnt from them as well as the resulting coping strategies, Gail has created an essential companion for anyone dealing with mental illness and their family and friends.

My Thoughts

When I was offered the chance to read and review this book for the blog tour I agreed for two reasons. The first being that I want to read more non-fiction this year and it was nice to be offered a non-fiction book for review. The second and main reason though was because I have suffered with PTSD in the fairly recent past, and I had clinical depression many years ago so always feel like I can offer an insight into books about this illness.

Loving the Life Less Lived has two elements to it weaved together throughout the book.  The parts of the book that I enjoyed the most were the Toolbox ideas. Gail has compiled, in bitesize chunks, all the things that have helped her through her depression and anxiety over the years. Some are rooted in CBT and structured to help in recovering, others are hints and tips that will help sufferers who just need help to get through that day, or moment. I would recommend the toolbox sections to anyone who is suffering at the moment, and also to anyone who has a loved one who is going through depression and anxiety for ideas on how you can help support them.

The other part of the book is more of a memoir detailing Gail’s journey through her depression. This was harder to read, possibly because I’ve been through it and it reminded me of those dark days, but it does show the reality of what living with depression is like. Gail is incredibly honest throughout this book and I applaud that. She doesn’t sugarcoat how she felt in the situations life has thrown at her and I think it’s important to be open when writing a book like this.

Gail talks about the seemingly insurmountable goal her mum set her in giving her a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. Her mum told her that she would one day get herself better and to see the bridge in person, and this was at a time when Gail could barely leave her own house, but whilst that goal was too big to even contemplate Gail was able to work on much smaller steps that were on the way to potentially reaching the big goal. She talks about the gradual recovery from depression and then the relapses that followed but ultimately Gail does regain a level of mental health. So whilst this book doesn’t shy away from the dark depths of depression it does give a sense of hope. It’s important that books of this nature do paint a realistic picture but also that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

As I wrote earlier, I would recommend this book to anyone who is going through depression and/or anxiety, or to anyone living with someone who has depression and/or anxiety, in particular for all of the Toolbox ideas.

Thank you to Red Door Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Loving the Life Less Lived is due to be published on 26 January and can be pre-order here

 

About the Author

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I’m a writer and I live with mental illness. Those two facts are the main motivation behind this website but they are only a small part of who I am and what my life is about.

I say I live with mental illness, I don’t suffer from it, I don’t battle with it (although for many years I did until I learnt the futility of the fight). I was first diagnosed with depression twenty five years ago and have been variously diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and depression ever since.  At times I manage my condition well using a toolboxof resources that I have discovered and developed over my lifetime. At other times I crash and burn, I have left upwards of ten jobs due to my mental health issues and spent many months and years on and off of benefits, hiding in my house unable to face the world or complete even the most simple tasks.

I have always been a writer, maybe not published, maybe not successful, but since the earliest age I have written poems, stories and articles in an attempt to make sense of this confused and broken world we live in. This led me to write Loving the Life Less Lived.

That’s not all about me – I qualified as a Chartered Accountant, I have worked as a Secondary School Teacher, I am a member of Mensa I have travelled around Europe, the Middle East and North America. I have taught in the favelas of Brazil, I am married, I am a fairy Godmother I am so much more than a medical label given by psychiatrists and GPs. I am not cured – but I am at present relatively stable. I work as a bookkeeper/accountant, write in my spare time and enjoy life to the full. It isn’t the life I planned, it is The Life Less Lived and it is immeasurably more than I could ever have asked for or imagined. 

(Bio taken from the author’s website: lovingthelifelesslived.com

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