Thursday, 21 November 2019

Violet by SJI Holliday

I'm delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour (which happily doesn't involve travelling on a train!) for Violet by SJI (Susi) Holliday. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to get involved and to Orenda for my review copy.

The Blurb:

Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.

Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.

When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.

Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel - because one of these women is not who she claims to be…

Violet was published by Orenda Books as an eBook on 14th September 2019 and on 14th November 2019 in paperback. You can purchase it from the publisher, Waterstones, Amazon UK and Amazon US.

My Review:

I am not much of a traveller, but now I seriously have the fear about it after reading this! I am never talking to anyone when I'm travelling ever again! Headphones and a book for me  from now on.

Violet is travelling on her own in Beijing, having been dumped by her boyfriend. And half her luggage has gone missing. She is desperate to get a ticket for the Trans-Siberian Express to Moscow, but is told that all the tickets have gone. Retiring to the bar to drown her sorrows she meets Carrie who is also travelling alone after her best pal had an accident. Carrie has her pal's ticket for the train which she can't be refunded for but she can transfer. After the two girls get drunk and have fun together, Carrie offers Violet her spare ticket, making no mention of payment. And thus their journey, and ours, begins.

It's hard to talk too much about the story itself without spoilers. But it gets harder to trust either girl as the journey progresses and their memories of events that take place are fractured and hazy. Violet is an unreliable narrator but it's mainly her voice we hear. She is desperate for a new friend, a really good new friend, and wants to impress Carrie. However, her behaviour isn't always appropriate and is frequently erratic. But Carrie's occasional emails to her best friend and family members are very telling. She is clearly not all she seems either.

Susi Holliday has created two great characters here and she teases us by revealing them very slowly. Initially we only know what each girl tells us about herself, and we don't always know what of that is true, but as the story unfolds we learn more about them bit by bit and can form our own opinions. Although mine changed frequently as the tale twisted and turned.

The setting on the train is claustrophobic and stifling, and certainly adds to the dangerous environment. As I mentioned earlier I'm not particularly well travelled, so I loved visiting the places in the book. They are so beautifully described, very evocative. I got really cross with Violet and Carrie for not making the most of them!

This was my first book by Susi Holliday but I look forward to reading more. I read Violet in two days. It is a detailed, intimate look at an obsessive and toxic relationship between two unreliable, possibly dangerous people and the damage done to them and those around them. The characters, whilst not particularly likeable, are really well crafted and the locations are so brilliantly described I could have been there. I really enjoyed it but will look at train journeys differently now!

The Author:

SJI (Susi) Holliday is a scientist, writing coach and the bestselling author of five crime novels, including the Banktoun Trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly), the festive chiller The Deaths of December and her creepy Gothic psychological thriller The Lingering. Her short story ‘Home From Home’ was published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Prize.

Encapsulating her love of travel and  claustrophobic settings, her latest novel, Violet, explores toxic friendships and the perils of talking to strangers, as well as drawing on her own journey on the Trans-Siberian  Express over 10  years ago.  All of her novels have been UK ebook number-one bestsellers. Susi was born and raised  in  Scotland and now divides her time between Edinburgh, London and as many other exciting places that she can fit in.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Highest Lives by Gordon Brown

Today is my stop on the Highest Lives tour and I'm delighted to be offering a giveaway - more details later on how you can win a copy of the book. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for providing the prize.

The Blurb:

In cities across North America people are dying in seemingly impossible ways. Is history s most outrageous serial killer on the loose? When LAPD Detective Sarah Tracy is secretly instructed to recruit Craig McIntyre to help her investigate the deaths, she is unaware that his mere presence can transform people s darkest thoughts into action. As Sarah and Craig hunt the murky underbelly of LA for the malevolent figure responsible for the bizarre deaths, they stumble upon the most expensive narcotic ever to hit the streets - a substance that promises something so unbelievable that users are willing to risk death to experience it. With government black ops agency head Senator Tampoline always lurking in the shadows, Craig is used to being hunted. Now he is the hunter. And thousands could die if he fails to track down the killer.

Highest Lives was published by Strident Publishing on 8th October 2019 and you can buy it from Waterstones, Amazon UK, Amazon US and other good booksellers.

The Author:

Gordon Brown has seven crime and thriller books published to date, along with a number of short stories (including a story in an Anthony Winning anthology). His latest novel, Highest Lives,  is the fourth in the Craig McIntyre series. He also helped found Bloody Scotland, Scotland's International Crime Writing Festival (, is a DJ on local radio ( and runs a strategic planning consultancy. Gordon lives in Scotland and is married with two children. In a former life he delivered pizzas in Toronto, sold non-alcoholic beer in the Middle East, launched a creativity training business, floated a high-tech company on the London Stock Exchange, compered the main stage at a two-day music festival and was once booed by 49,000 people while on the pitch at a major football Cup Final.

You can find out more about Gordon by visiting his website or following him on Twitter @GoJaBrown.


I'm delighted to be able to offer a paperback copy of Highest Lives to one lucky person via my Twitter account @SuzeCM. Just head over there and follow the instructions on my pinned tweet to be in with a chance to win. The giveaway will close at 8pm on Sunday 24th November and the winner will be notified on Twitter. UK entries only, sorry. Good luck!

Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver

I'm thrilled to be taking part today in the blog tour for the unique piece of work that is Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver. Huge thanks, as always, to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my review copy.

The Blurb:

A shocking, mesmerisingly original, pitch-black thriller, which, following the critically acclaimed Good Samaritans, confirms Will Carver as one of the most imaginative, innovative and exciting authors in crime fiction.

Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But, at the same time, they leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.

That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of The People of Choice: a mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.

Thirty-two people on a train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People of Choice are appearing around the globe. It becomes a movement. A social-media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers.

The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader who does not seem to exist...

Nothing Important Happened Today was published by Orenda Books as an eBook on 14th September 2019 and in paperback on 14th November 2019. You can purchase it from the publisher, Waterstones, Amazon UK, Amazon US and other good booksellers.

My Review:

Oh gosh, where to start! I didn't read any full reviews of Nothing Important Happened Today before I read it, but I had seen lots of comments along the lines of 'OMG!' 'WTF have I just read?' and 'I can't review that!', so I knew I was in for quite a ride.

And guess what? They were all right. Nothing Important Happened Today is pretty impossible to describe. If this was a vlog post (worry not, dear reader, face for radio here) it would just be me exclaiming "Whaaaaaaattt?!", pacing the floor and throwing my hands up in despair.

This is my first Will Carver read, although I have Good Samaritans waiting patiently for me, but I'm already thinking he might be some kind of evil genius. This was unlike any other book I've ever read (and I've read a few) and I'm fairly sure you probably won't have read anything similar either.

It begins with nine people, all strangers, jumping off a bridge at the same time, having received a letter that morning staying simply 'Nothing important happened today'. They are The People of Choice. The passengers in one carriage of a passing train get the best view of this mass suicide - two of them will soon be getting a letter.

The narrator is impersonal and anonymous. The writing style is aggressive. It's blunt and directed at the reader. Short sharp chapters that just grab you. Very few of the characters are named, rather they are simply referred to by a number and a title - Poet, Lover, Nobody. We see snapshots of their lives but don't get the chance to learn too much about them before they are gone. But they are you. And they are me. I think I'm a Nobody. In between these wee glimpses we learn about cults and mass murderers, a fascinating (and well researched) history lesson.

The subject matter will mean this isn't for everyone. It's not an easy book to read but it is totally worth it when it all comes together. It makes you uncomfortable, and it's hard to say it was enjoyable as such. But it is absolutely unforgettable. It gets your head in a spin. It challenges you. It challenges your apathy. How you relate to the world around you and how much you miss. It has harsh, but relevant, things to say about social media. It's also really, really clever. And unique.

I think Will Carver's mind must be a dark disturbing place to be. But going by this, I will happily read anything he comes up with. Nothing Important Happened Today is easily one of my books of the year.

The Author:

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Retriever of Souls by Lorraine Mace

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Retriever of Souls, the first book in the DI Paolo Sterling series from Lorraine Mace. Thanks to Emma at damppebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my review copy.

The Blurb:

The first title in a dark and gritty crime series.

Brought up believing that sex is the devil's work, a killer only finds release once he has saved his victim's souls. Abiding by his vision, he marks them as his. A gift to guide his chosen ones on the rightful path to redemption.

Detective Inspector Paolo Sterling is out to stop him, but Paolo has problems of his own. Hunting down the killer as the death toll rises, the lines soon blur between Paolo's personal and professional lives.

Retriever of Souls was published by Accent Press on 13th December 2018 and is available from BlackwellsWaterstonesAmazon UK, Amazon US, Google Books and other good booksellers.

My Review:

DI Paolo Sterling and his team have a nightmare of a case on their hands. Prostitutes in the fictional town of Bradchester are dying, murdered by a seemingly sadistic killer who is confident enough to leave DNA at the scenes.

The killer believes he is doing God's work. Having had a deeply unhealthy relationship with his strict Catholic mother, he thinks he is saving the souls of these women. In fact he knows he is, because God is guiding him in what he does. He is excited by his work and finds relief after he has killed, leaving his evidence on each victim.

The story point of view alternates between Paolo and the killer, and we learn more about both men. Paolo was instantly likeable. Also Catholic, he's a stand up guy with a strong sense of right and wrong. He has a good team around him but struggles to bond with his new DS Dave Johnson. Outside of work though, Paolo's having a tough time. Separated from his wife and not seeing much of his daughter, he is desperate to get his family back together. But I loved that he is a Terry Pratchett fan - the man has good taste!

We learn about the killer's background, his childhood and parents' relationship, the things that started to shape him into the man he has become. And we see him out on the hunt for victims and what he does for them. And we see his conflict with the gift he gives them and the guilt he feels for doing it.

The story is detailed and fast paced, full of great characters and throws up some red herrings. Swapping between Paolo and the killer's viewpoints kept things interesting and I read this quickly, wanting to know what happened next.

I've found that religion tends to feature in a fair few crime thrillers and it's not always easy to keep things fresh. But for me, Lorraine Mace has done that. Yes, religion features heavily, in the main storyline and beyond, but this is balanced out by a healthy dose of logical reasoning and some really clever and interesting science stuff. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Author:

Born and raised in South East London, Lorraine lived and worked in South Africa, on the Island of Gozo and in France before settling on the Costa del Sol in Spain. She lives with her partner in a traditional Spanish village inland from the coast and enjoys sampling the regional dishes and ever-changing tapas in the local bars. Her knowledge of Spanish is expanding. To stop her waistline from doing the same, she runs five times a week.

When not working on the DI Sterling series of crime novels, Lorraine is engaged in many writing-related activities. She is a columnist for both Writing Magazine and Writers’ Forum and is head judge for Writers’ Forum monthly fiction competitions.

A tutor for Writers Bureau, she also runs her own private critique and author mentoring service.

Author Social Media Links:


Thursday, 7 November 2019

Candy Canes and Buckets of Blood by Heide Goody and Iain Grant

Having read and enjoyed previous books by Heide and Iain (including Snowflake), I was delighted to get the chance to read this one through the Reviewers' Request Group at THE Book Club on Facebook. Thank you to the admins of that group and to the authors for my review copy. 

The Blurb:

Christmas is a time for families to come together.

Guin Roberts can’t think of anything worse than visiting a Christmas market with her new family. Guin is perfectly happy with her own company and doesn’t want that disrupted by her wisecracking stepbrother and his earnest mum.

Their Christmas celebrations are invaded by a sleigh full of murderous elves. And it doesn’t matter if they’ve been naughty or nice — these elves are out for blood.

Can the family band together to survive the night? Or will Santa’s little helpers make mincemeat of them all?

Candy Canes and Buckets of Blood was published by Pigeon Park Press on 21st September 2019 and you can purchase it from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

My Review

I love Christmas, but I'm not one for schmaltzy seasonal books and films - Die Hard is my Christmas movie! But give me murderous Christmas elves and I'm right there! 

Lovers Esther and Dave are hoping to marry soon, but their kids haven't met yet. So Esther and her 16 year old son Newton are going to spend Christmas with Dave and his daughter Guin, who is 10, to see how they all get along. After picking up Esther and Newton from the station, the soon-to-be family head off to spend the afternoon at a local Christmas market before moving on to Dave's house. But this isn't like any other Christmas market, and the team spend the rest of the book trying to outwit and outrun hundreds (at least it seemed that many) of blood thirsty elves. 

This is the kids' story. Newton is adorable, probably gentler than most teenage boys, he loves his mum and his visits to his local stable. He is a sweet boy, who does his best to make people, particularly his mum, happy and keep their spirits up. But when pushed into a corner, he proves to be very resourceful. I loved Guin. She's an unusual child, without many friends, so she makes her own from wire, tin foil and the like and has deep philosophical discussions with them. Of the four, she's the most level headed and inventive in trying to get the family out of their predicament. Although Dave and Esther deserve a mention for their 'elf-stabbing tractor fender'. 

This is such a funny story, but with loads of complete gross out moments. It's full of blood, body parts, gloop and violence - it's not for the faint hearted! But it's delivered with a hefty dose of humour. The story, as I've come to expect from these authors, is more than slightly bonkers, but I mean this in the best possible way! It's hugely creative and I loved the nod to various action movies. And the elves know the term 'Bobby Dazzler'! I laughed out loud at that.

My copy (eBook) had a few typos in it, but hopefully these have been picked up and remedied now. Those aside, I loved this book - definitely my kind of Christmas story!

The Authors:

Heide inflicts unsuitable content upon the world by whatever devious means she can find. She is, with Iain Grant, co-author of the Clovenhoof series, the Satan-in-suburbia comic novel and several other books set in the same world. Heide lives in North Warwickshire, England with her husband and children.

Iain Grant is an author of short stories and novels, ranging from contemporary literature to fantasy and horror. His short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. He is perhaps best known for the Clovenhoof comic novels co-written with Heide Goody. Iain’s solo work includes children’s books, thrillers and a steampunk omnibus, “The Gears of Madness”.

Monday, 4 November 2019

I Can See The Lights by Russ Litten - Cover Reveal

Today, I am delighted to be taking part in the cover reveal for a beautiful collection of poetry coming early next year from Wildpressed Books.

But before I do that, here are all the details.

The Blurb:

The prose poems in I Can See The Lights are earthy and raw, but also incredibly sensitive. It’s pretty much guaranteed that more than one of them will bring you to tears. Characters are vividly brought to life, and stark but warm environments evoked in a down to earth, yet almost painterly manner by Russ Litten’s uncompromising voice.

Tales of home, of un-belonging, of strife at sea – of a northern city’s beating heart. Told in a mesmeric, stripped-down tone, this collection is a work of genius.

I Can See The Lights will be published in February 2020 by Wildpressed Books.

The Author:

Russ Litten is the author of the novels Scream If You Want To Go Faster, Swear Down, Kingdom and the short story collection We Know What We Are.

As one half of the electronic storytelling duo Cobby and Litten, he has released three spoken word/electronica albums My People Come From The Sea, Boothferry and Pound Shop Communism.

He has written for TV, radio and film and has worked as a writer in residence at various prisons and youth offender units. I Can See The Lights is his first poetry collection.

And, finally, after all that, here's what you've been waiting for...
The Cover!

I'm sure you'll agree  it's gorgeous, atmospheric and evocative. Really looking forward to reading this collection.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen (translated by David Hackston)

For my last Orentober post (for this year anyway) I am delighted to share my review of Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen to close off the blog tour, together with Jane Hunt. Thanks, as always, to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me, and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my review copy.

This was my first book by Tuomainen, although I have three others in my teetering TBR pile. I'd heard Antti speak at an Orenda Roadshow in March, and knew he was a very funny man (with an excellent taste in shirts!), but I wasn't sure what to expect from the book. Now I've finished it, dear reader, I can tell you Little Siberia is a dark delight.

The Blurb:

Fargo  meets Nietzsche in this atmospheric, darkly funny thriller by the critically acclaimed author of The Man Who Died and  Palm Beach Finland. A huge Finnish bestseller, Little Siberia topped both literary and crime charts in 2018, and has gone on to sell rights in 24 countries.

A man with dark thoughts on his mind is racing along the remote snowy roads of Hurmevaara in Finland, when there is flash in  the sky and something crashes into the car. That something turns about to be a highly valuable meteorite. With  euro signs lighting up the eyes of the locals, the unexpected treasure is temporarily placed  in a neighbourhood museum, under the watchful eye of a priest named Joel.

But Joel has a lot more on his mind than simply protecting the riches that have apparently rained down from heaven. His wife has just revealed  that she is pregnant. Unfortunately, Joel has strong reason to think the baby isn’t his.

As Joel tries to fend off repeated and bungled attempts to steal the meteorite, he must also come to terms with his own situation, and discover who the father of the baby really is.

Transporting the reader to the culture, landscape and mores of northern Finland, Little Siberia is both a dark crime thriller and a hilarious, blacker-than-black comedy about faith and disbelief, love and death, and what to do when bolts from the blue – both literal and figurative – turn your life upside down.

Little Siberia was published by Orenda Books as an eBook on 17th August 2019 and in paperback on 17th October 2019. You can buy it from the publisher, Waterstones, Amazon UK, Amazon US and other good booksellers.

My Review:

A man is driving his car at breakneck speed - with amazing skill, considering he's drunk and still drinking - towards a stone wall, when a meteorite tears through the car roof and lands on the passenger seat beside him. How's that for the opening of a book?

The Finnish town of Hurmevaara is small and quite isolated - the nearest police station is an hour away. It's also very, very cold, going as low as -23 degrees! I'm moaning about being chilly at 8 degrees so I can't even imagine -23! There are a few days before the meteorite is to be taken to London for analysis, and rumours abound that the rock could be worth a million euros. A team of volunteers is put together to guard it at night in its temporary home of the town museum. On the first evening local pastor, and ex military chaplin, Joel Huhta is on guard duty when there is a bungled attempt to steal the meteorite. He has just learned of his wife's unexpected pregnancy, and resolves to keep the meteorite safe - singlehandedly - and also solve the mystery of Krista's pregnancy.

It's the start of a very eventful few days for Joel. He views everyone with suspicion. And actually, many of the townsfolk are not terribly likeable so it's easy to be suspicious of them, but they're definitely colourful and fun to read. I particularly liked the grocer, with his 'tasty greetings' for Krista - at 7.30 in the morning!

Joel is such an interesting character. As Karoliina (more later) says he's 'pretty cool for a pastor'. The events in the book shake his faith in God, but it doesn't seem to have been that strong beforehand. There are sections of the book that are quite introspective as Joel mulls issues, often deep, over in his mind. We see him at his work (I'm worried he wasn't getting enough sleep!) and he actively encourages his parishioners to question things. He doubts the value of prayer. His almost daily sessions with the man preparing for the end of the world were a highlight for me, not so much for Joel. But he's a good, principled man, who loves his wife very much, but has been rocked to the core by her news.

Karoliina is also fascinating. A barmaid at the Golden Moon Night Club which seems never to close, she's beautiful, mysterious and very possibly dangerous. And she arouses feelings in Joel that a pastor just shouldn't have.

The writing is wonderful and vivid. I picked out a phrase that made me smile, and another that tugged at my heartstrings:

'The smell of an aftershave made from garlic and toilet cleaner...'

'The bruise takes the most direct route to my heart, wrenching my chest open...' 

This is a dark crime caper, laced with equally dark humour and full of fascinating characters. The scenery and the weather are both integral to the story. It was easy for me to picture the scenes as the writing is so evocative. But it's also full of philosophical and religious questions, and looks at what's really important to us. It has real heart. I loved this quirky book and as soon as I get a chance, those other three Antti Tuomainen books will be moving further towards the top of my TBR pile.

The Author:

Finnish  Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when  he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. In  2011, Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded  the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted  for the Glass Key Award. Two years later, in  2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen  the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen  was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died  (2017) became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh  Awards. Palm Beach Finland (2018) was an immense success, with The Times calling Tuomainen  ‘the funniest writer in Europe’.

Violet by SJI Holliday

I'm delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour (which happily doesn't involve travelling on a train!) for Violet by SJI (Susi...