Thursday, 25 July 2019

The Closer I Get by Paul Burston

I was really keen to read this book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it's from Orenda, and they tend to release good uns. And secondly, because this book talks about the dangers of online relationships. Because of this blog, I spend a fair amount of time on social media. I also have two teenage sons who are never off their various devices, so it's a danger of which I'm very aware. Big thanks to the lovely Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me on to the tour, and to the always fabulous Karen Sullivan for providing my review copy.



The Blurb:

Tom is a successful author, but for the first time in  his life, he has writer’s block. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone. Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her sick father and her social media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has. When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world collapses, whilst Tom is free to live his life again, and to concentrate on writing.

But things aren’t adding up. For Tom is also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he’s powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on.

A compulsive, disturbingly relevant, twisty and powerful psychological thriller, The Closer I Get is also a searing commentary on the fragility and insincerity of online  relationships, and the danger that can lurk on the other side of a screen…


The Closer I Get is published by Orenda Books, and was released as an eBook on 11th May 2019 and as a paperback on 11th July 2019. You can purchase it from the publisher, Waterstones, Amazon UK, Amazon US and other good bookshops.


My Review:

Oh. My. Goodness. This is some book. It's dark and disturbing. And it's relevant. We all know about internet trolls, people who say vicious things about others on social media, often having never even met their target. And then there are some folk who take things a step further. To stalking online and maybe in real life too.

The story is told by both Evie and Tom, so we hear from the stalker and her victim. Each character gets their own chapters, and we switch backwards and forwards between them, which kept me both on my toes, and interested. But Evie's version of events is very different from Tom's. In fact, just about the only thing they agree on is that Evie came to one of Tom's book signings.

Everything seems obvious. Tom is a victim, and Evie is delusional, twisting the truth to fit her version of reality. But is everything as clear cut as it initially seems?

I warmed to Tom pretty much from the get go.. He is an author after all, and authors are my rock stars! But he is struggling because of all this nonsense with Evie - he can't write anything, and has become anxious and paranoid. The only person he trusts is his best friend Emma. He has pages and pages of printouts showing Evie Stokes' vicious, bullying tweets and Facebook shares. He's an innocent victim. Tom is easily relatable - I felt sorry for him, although I didn't always like the way he treated other people, but other than that, he was OK. BUT my opinion of him changed as I progressed through the book and learned a wee bit more about him.

And Evie? Evie is hard to like. She is clearly obsessed with Tom - pretty much her every thought and action is related to him, and she . She seems to be deluded, but is at as clear cut as that? There have been difficulties in her life, but it was hard to be sympathetic towards her - she's not a very nice person - and there was one huge OMG moment for me with her!

But both characters are so beautifully written. I felt I really knew them, was utterly absorbed and invested in what happened to them. I also have to mention Colin, a small player in the story but, for me at least, one who really stands out.

I found the whole story claustrophobic, chilling and compelling - my heart was in my mouth more than once. I didn't see where it was going, at all, which made the denouement all the better! There is twist upon twist in this book, so The ending was such a surprise. I still don't think I knew the entire truth, I still have questions, but that's OK. It means I'm still thinking about it now and may well revisit it.

Overall, I loved it. Dark, powerful and relevant, The Closer I Get might be a piece of fiction, but it shows the very real potential danger of online relationships, how they can be toxic, and how we all need to be vigilant in what we share on social media.


The Author:


Paul Burston is the author of five novels and the editor of two short story collections. His most recent novel, The Black Path, was a WHSmith bestseller. His first novel, Shameless, was shortlisted for the State of Britain Award. His third novel, Lovers & Losers was shortlisted for a Stonewall Award. His fourth, The Gay Divorcee, was optioned for television. He was a founding editor of Attitude magazine and has written for many publications including Guardian, Independent, Time Out, The Times and  Sunday Times. In March 2016, he was featured in the British Council’s #FiveFilms4Freedom Global List 2016, celebrating “33 visionary people who are promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights around the world”. He is the founder and host of London’s award-winning LGBT+ literary salon Polari and founder and chair of The Polari First Book Prize for new writing and the newly announced Polari Prize.


Remember to check out the rest of the blogs on the tour! 

Sunday, 21 July 2019

The Last Stage by Louise Voss

I love it when I get to take part in a tour which is all about the girls! The Last Stage is by lovely Louise Voss, and features reclusive former singer Meredith, and young police officer Gemma. The book is published by the gorgeous Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books, and this tour was organised by the always fabulous Anne Cater. So huge thanks to Anne, Louise and Karen for inviting me to take part and providing my review copy. More about Meredith and Gemma below!



The Blurb:

At the peak of her career as lead singer of a legendary 1980s indie band, Meredith Vincent was driven off the international stage by a horrific incident. Now she lives incognito in a cottage on  the grounds of Minstead  House, an old stately home, whilst working in the gift shop. Her past is behind her and she enjoys her new life. But a series of inexplicable and unsettling incidents have started to happen  around her – broken china, vandalised  gardens… And when a body is found in the gardens of Minstead  House, Meredith realises that someone  is  watching, someone who knows who she is and who wants to destroy her…  A dark, riveting and chilling psychological thriller, The Final Stage is a study of secrets and obsessions, where innocent acts can have the most terrifying consequences.


The Last Stage was published by Orenda Books as an eBook on 7th June 2019 and in paperback on 11th July 2019. You can buy it from the publisherWaterstones, Amazon UK, Amazon US and other good bookshops.


My Review:

This is the first of Louise's books I have read, although The Old You is waiting patiently in my TBR pile. The prologue for The Last Stage, although short, completely creeped me out! It certainly sets the tone for what's to come.

Meredith lives a quiet life in a small cottage in the grounds of Minstead House, where she works as manager in the gift shop. She is friends with all the other members of staff, but really keeps herself to herself. But she has a secret that none of her co-workers know, only her twin brother Pete, who lives nearby on his boat. Thirty odd years ago, she was the lead singer of successful indie band Cohen, before suddenly quitting the band and disappearing from public view. Meredith has hard worked since to distance herself from her old life and maintain her relative anonymity.  But it all starts to crumble when seemingly random acts of vandalism begin happening around her before things get much, much worse...

The story is told mainly from Meredith's point of view, but there are several chapters looking at things through other characters' eyes. There is also a dual timeline as we follow the present day action, but also look back at key time in Meredith's life during the 80s and 90s, learning why a weekend at the Greenham Common women's camp proved to be a pivotal moment. And eventually we find out about the awful incident that pushes Meredith out of the public eye.

I really warmed to Meredith. Although, initially, I knew little about her, she struck me as a kind soul, who just wanted to get on with her life. But she is so scared, and jumpy, betrays her emotions easily and I really felt for her. I rooted for her throughout, really wanted her to be OK. She is beautifully written, real and vulnerable, and her pain is raw. And I loved her close relationship with Pete, the connection they have with each other.

Gemma is one of the police officer looking at the dead body found at Minstead House and wonders if there is a connection to Meredith. She is young and keen and wants to prove herself. So, when she finds out more about Meredith 's past and becomes more convinced of a link to her present troubles, she negotiates herself a key role in the investigation. Go girl! Mention must also go to fellow police officer Emad, who 's help is very useful. But I suspect that he was trying to impress Gemma just as much as his superiors!

The pace of the present day story moves relatively slowly for a large portion of the book. This isn't a bad thing, as it just added to the slightly claustrophobic atmosphere. And the flashbacks to earlier times kept my attention throughout. The pace ramps up significantly towards the end and I was shocked by the revelation - I did not see it coming at all!

This is a tale of young, crazy love, of obsession, jealousy, insane hatred and murder, and it kept me gripped throughout.

One last thing (well, three actually) I want to mention. When I had finished the book, there were three post it notes sticking out from the pages marking little things I loved:

  • Louise mentions lardy cakes! Heaven! But it reminds me I haven't had one in what seems like forever! Will need to remedy that.
  • Gemma's hatred of the phrase 'off of' as in ' ... Get some significant intel off of her...' Oh girl, I am SO with you on that! 
  • Chiaroscuro. A beautiful new word for me, with an equally lovely meaning. Need to find some way to use it now. 

These were just a few wee things that contributed to my reading pleasure.


The Author:


Over her eighteen-year writing career, Louise Voss has had  eleven novels published – five solo and six co-written with Mark Edwards: a combination  of psychological thrillers, police procedurals and  contemporary fiction  – and sold over 350,000 books. Hert book, The Old You, was a number one bestseller in  eBook. Louise has an MA (Dist) in  Creative Writing and also works as a literary consultant and mentor for writers at www.thewritingcoach.co.uk. She lives in South-West London and is a proud member of two female crime writing collectives, The Slice Girls and  Killer Women.


Please remember to check out the other blogs featuring on the tour! 

Friday, 19 July 2019

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

I am thrilled to be closing off the tour for The Chain. Hang on, though - does that mean I'm breaking it? Gulp.....

I'd seen some rave reviews so was keen to dive in. Huge thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to take part, and to the publisher for my review copy, which I received via Netgalley.



The Blurb:

VICTIM.
SURVIVOR.
ABDUCTOR.
CRIMINAL.
YOU WILL BECOME EACH ONE.

* * * * *

YOUR PHONE RINGS.

A STRANGER HAS KIDNAPPED YOUR CHILD.

TO FREE THEM YOU MUST ABDUCT SOMEONE ELSE'S CHILD.

YOUR CHILD WILL BE RELEASED WHEN YOUR VICTIM'S PARENTS KIDNAP ANOTHER CHILD.

IF ANY OF THESE THINGS DON'T HAPPEN:
YOUR CHILD WILL BE KILLED.

YOU ARE NOW PART OF THE CHAIN

* * * * *

"YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST.
AND YOU WILL CERTAINLY NOT BE THE LAST."


The Chain was published by Orion on 9th July 2019 and you can buy it from Waterstones, Amazon UK, Amazon US and other good bookshops.


My Review:

I was really looking forward to reading this. There has been lots of hype about The Chain, but I tried to go into it with no expectations.

The premise is fantastic. Single mum Rachel's teenage daughter Kylie is snatched off the street. She receives a phone call telling her she needs to kidnap a child herself, and when that child's parents kidnap a further victim, then Kylie will be released. There is also a ransom to be paid by each family. If she deviates from her instructions, or tries to break the chain, Kylie will die.

I remember the whole thing around chain letters back in the day. Personally, I didn't worry about breaking the chain, but I know plenty did. But when it involves children? Woah, that's a whole different ball game.

I think this is probably a book you read differently, depending on whether you're a parent or not. I am a parent, and I think I would do pretty much anything for my kids. But in a scenario like this? Murder? This book certainly makes us question what we would actually be willing to do for those we love.

I really felt for Rachel, and the predicament she finds herself in. It's interesting how quickly she settles into what she needs to do - things that a day or two earlier she would have found horrific. Unsure that Kylie's dad Marty would help without going to the police, she calls on ex brother-in-law Pete for support.

She has to research her own potential targets, and whilst this is, of course, a work of fiction, I think there's a definite warning here about over sharing information on social media.

There are two distinct halves to this book. At the beginning, it mainly focuses on Rachel and her frenzied actions trying to get Kylie back. The pace is fast and punchy. The second half starts slower as we learn a bit more about the entity that is The Chain. But again, the pace speeds up as we head for the explosive finale.

There were tons of things I really liked about this book - original, interesting,  sinister, dark, fast paced, intriguing, full of jeopardy and thrills. But it left me with unanswered questions which I would love to have answered. But a great read, regardless.


The Author:


Adrian McKinty is a crime novelist from Belfast, Northern Ireland.

His books have won the Edgar Award, the Anthony Award, the Ned Kelly Award and the Barry Award. Adrian is also a two time Dagger nominee and shortlistee for the Theakston Crime Novel of the Year.

He studied law at Warwick University and philosophy at Oxford University before emigrating to New York City in the mid 90s.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Fear in the Lakes by Graham Smith

Having enjoyed this series so far, I am delighted to be sharing my review of this, the third book featuring DC Beth Young. Huge thanks to Noelle Holten at Bookoutre for inviting me, and providing my review copy, which I received via Netgalley.



The Blurb:

A case with no leads.
A victim with no enemies.
A killer with no conscience…

When Detective Beth Young is called to investigate a victim with multiple broken bones, nothing prepares her for what she finds. James Sinclair is fighting for his life, and Beth can’t shake the idea that the nature of his injuries suggest someone with a personal grudge against him.

But James’s devastated wife Laura insists that her kind, softly-spoken husband is a man with no enemies. She was the one with the fiery temper, but James was so calm, she’d never once managed to provoke even a cross word from him in their eight year marriage. And he was the same with everyone – she can’t name one person who might want to hurt him.

But she knows virtually no details about her husband’s childhood or his life before he moved to the Lake District as a young man, and Beth feels sure that the key to finding James’s attacker is hidden in the secrets of his past. Who was he really? And what is the significance of the coded messages that Beth finds hidden on his laptop?

Then two more bodies are found in one of the deep, picturesque lakes that the area is so famous for, exhibiting similar injuries to the ones James Sinclair suffered. How are they connected? And how many more people are at risk?

Beth knows she is in a race against time to hunt a vicious killer who is both elusive and incredibly dangerous. A killer who knows what James did in the past. Who likes to be one step ahead. But who – if they realise they’re being hunted – might come for Beth next…


Fear in the Lakes was published by Bookoutre on 12th July 2019 and you can purchase it here


My Review:

I have followed this series from the beginning, and you can read my reviews of Death in the Lakes (previously titled The Silent Dead) and A Body in the Lakes by clicking on the titles. I love Beth Young, and was delighted to see her back in this third adventure.

The victim of the first crime Beth has to investigate has suffered such horrific injuries, it's amazing he's still alive. But his life will be dramatically different and much harder going forward. The expertise of pathologist Hewson is called upon, and the discussion he has with Beth about the nature of the injuries made me quite queasy. The perpetrator is clearly very skilled at their craft. As is the author.

Nothing that Beth and the rest of the team learn about James Sinclair, the victim, moves them any closer to a solution, and when two other bodies are discovered with similar injuries, the waters just get murkier.

It's so great to see Beth back. I love her respectful but sparky relationship with her boss, Zoe O'Dowd. Her superior has recognised Beth's unique 'sideways-thinking brain' and the way she often sees things differently from others. And her talents are definitely called on here. And I have always enjoyed her exchanges with Hewson.

It's great to see some developments in Beth's personal life - I so want her to be happy! And there is also some movement in her overarching storyline - I'm really interested to see where that goes in future books.

The writing is great, with a fabulous cast of characters. They are very accessible, and very human, flaws and all. The pacing is great, moving towards a shocking denouement. This is probably my favourite in the series so far, so I'm really looking forward to seeing where Graham takes Beth next!

The Author:



Graham Smith is the bestselling author of four explosive crime thrillers in the Jake Boulder series, Watching the Bodies, The Kindred Killers, Past Echoes and Die Cold. Watching the Bodies spent over two weeks at number one in the Amazon UK chart and Amazon CA charts. Graham is also the author of the popular DI Harry Evans series and has collections of short stories and novellas. His latest novels with Bookouture are set in Cumbria and the Lake District, featuring DC Beth Young.

He is the proud father of a young son. As a time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland. 

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer for the well-respected review site Crimesquad.com since 2010.

When not working, his time is spent reading, writing and playing games with his son. He enjoys socialising and spending time with friends and family.

Author Social Media Links:




Sunday, 14 July 2019

The Reunion by Guillaume Musso (translated by Frank Wynne)

I have loved having the opportunity to discover new foreign writers in translation, and today is my stop on tour for The Reunion by French author Guillaume Musso. My thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me on the tour and to the publisher for my review copy, which I received via Netgalley.



The Blurb:

'IMMENSELY SATISFYING... HAD ME TURNING THE PAGES WELL INTO THE NIGHT' Harlan Coben
'EXTRAORDINARY' Sunday Times

Welcome to a school reunion you won't forget.

FRENCH RIVIERA, WINTER 1992

On a freezing night, as her high school campus is engulfed by a snowstorm, 19-year-old Vinca Rockwell runs away with Alexis, her philosophy teacher.

No one will ever see them again.

FRENCH RIVIERA, SPRING 2017

Formerly inseparable, Thomas, Maxime and Fanny - Vinca's best friends - have not spoken in twenty-five years. But when they receive an invitation to their school reunion, they know they must go back one final time.

Because there is a body buried in that school...

...and they're the ones who put it there.


The Reunion was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on 11th July 2019. You can purchase it from Waterstones or Amazon.


My Review:

As I mentioned above, Musso is a new author to me, so I am grateful that this has been published in English, translated from the original French by Frank Wynne.

I have never been to a school reunion. I'm not sure how I would feel about going. Anxious probably, but considerably less nervous than Thomas is here! But it's not the reunion itself he's worried about, but the news that to mark the 50th anniversary of The Lycée International Saint-Exupéry, it is to be redeveloped and the existing gymnasium building knocked down. Because Thomas and his friend Maxime hid a dead body in the walls of the gym.

As both his parents had been staff members at the lycée, Thomas had not only attended the school, but lived there too. And during his time there he met Vinka Rockwell, and fell hopelessly in love with her, which he has never really moved on from, even now, 25 years later. But Vinka never loved Thomas as anything other than a friend, until she disappeared one night in 1992, apparently having run off with one of her tutors.

The reunion brings Thomas back to Antibes from New York, and he and Maxime are forced to confront some difficult memories and hard truths. They are responsible for the body in the gym which will soon be uncovered. As they await their fate, Thomas decides to try to find out the truth about Vinka. But they are not the only people with secrets.

It's hard to say much more about the story without giving away spoilers. It twists and turns all the way through. I kept thinking I had a grasp of what was going on, but then lost it as the story veered off again. I was exhausted by the end!

Written with a dual timeline of today, and the night Vinka disappeared 25 years ago, there is a claustrophobic feel  about the tale as the cast of main characters is small, and most of them appear in both time lines. The majority of the story is written from Thomas' point of view, but there are sections looking at the story through the eyes of some of the other players. It's hard to pick a stand out character as this is very much an ensemble piece, but I was drawn to Fanny, a long time friend of Thomas. And I gained a lot of respect for Richard, Thomas' father, towards the end of the story.

Finding out the truth about Vinka might well come at a cost. This is a complex and intriguing tale of guilt, unrequited love, jealousy, revenge, murder and loyalty. An interesting character piece, it took me a while to get into it, but I enjoyed it once I got there.


The Author:


Guillaume Musso was the number one bestselling author in France in 2011 and 2012. Born in 1974 on the Cote d'Azur, he knew from an early age that he wanted to write novels and to touch the largest possible number of people.

In 2004, 'AFTERWARDS' was published in France by XO Editions and was an immediate bestseller and established a loyal following for his unique brand of storytelling which blends romance, adventure, suspense and the supernatural. It was later made into a film starring John Malkovich, Evangeline Lily and Romain Duris.

Since then, with every one of the six novels which have followed, his loyal readership has grown significantly, making him the most widely-read author writing in French today. His stories have universal central themes: missed opportunities, second chances, the passage of time, lost love and redemption.

Cop drama 'WHERE WOULD I BE WITHOUT YOU?' and romantic thriller 'THE GIRL ON PAPER' are now available for the first time in English published by Gallic.


Do check out the other blogs taking part in the tour! 



Thursday, 11 July 2019

A Breath on Dying Embers by Denzil Meyrick

I am just thrilled to sharing my review of A Breath on Dying Embers on its publication day! Happy publication day Denzil! I have had the pleasure and privilege of meeting Denzil Meyrick on several occasions - in fact, he's led me astray in a couple of them! Well one anyway... pretty sure I led myself astray the other time... Sorry, I digress. He's absolutely lovely and wickedly funny, which definitely comes across in his writing.



The Blurb:

Longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize 2019.

When the luxury cruiser, hastily renamed Great Britain, berths in Kinloch harbour, the pressure is on DCI Jim Daley. The UK Government are taking a high-powered group of businessmen and women on a tour of the British isles, golfing and seeing the sights, as part of a push for global trade. But when one of the crew goes missing, and an elderly local ornithologist disappears, will the pressure become too great?

The arrival of a face from the past, sends Daley’s world into a tailspin. And the lives of the passengers and crew of SS Great Britain, as well as the country’s economic future are in jeopardy. DS Brian Scott comes to the fore, and replete with a temporary promotion, is once more - most reluctantly, in his case - back at sea.

Daley faces a life and death struggle, but is this his last throw of the dice?

A Breath on Dying Embers is published by Polygon today and is available to buy from the author's website, Waterstones, Amazon UK, Amazon US and other good bookshops.


My Review:

This is seventh book in the DCI Daley series, and to mark its release, publisher Polygon has reissued the whole series with brand spanking new covers. Featuring photographs by Raymond Hosie, they are all stunning, as you can see:


I came to this book having only read the first couple in the series. The only reason for this has been lack of time, and I can't wait to start again at the beginning and work my way through them. But I hadn't realised what an impression Jim Daley and Brian Scott had already made on me - meeting them again in this book was just like seeing old friends - delightful. There is clearly lots I need to catch up on in the intervening four books, some of which is referenced here, but I was absolutely able to enjoy this book in spite of this, as everything I needed to know was explained.

A cruise liner full of important business folk from all around the world has arrived in Kinloch, and it is important that the town and it's inhabitants make a good impression. Which involves Daley putting in a dress uniform for the first time in some years... But a crew member goes missing, and then an older local man too, and some of the well made plans start to unravel a bit... And there have been sightings of a white van that no one recognises in the hills. On top of all this, Jim has to confront one or two things happening at home, and Brian has to step right out of his comfort zone...

I loved everything about this book! The main storyline is very current, very now and potentially very real. In addition, it has obviously been well researched.

The descriptions of Kinloch and the surrounding area are beautiful. I have never visited Campbeltown, on which fictional Kinloch is based, but this and the previous books I've read, I would love to go.

But this is really a book about people. Meyrick understands people, what makes them tick, how they relate to one another. And it is so obvious in his writing. There are some fabulous characters - Hamish and Annie stand out, as does Brian's wife Ella. But key to the story is the relationship between DCI Jim Daley and DS Brian Scott. It's lovely to see such obvious affection between two men. And I had forgotten how funny Brian Scott is. (He has a Twitter account, did you know? Find him at @DSBrianScott1 - he's well worth a look). The conversation he and his wife Ella have with business folk on the cruise ship about wind power had me laughing out loud. But my favourite funny exchange is between Brian and Jim very early in the book, and I can safely share without spoiling anything:
   BS: 'Is that one o' they euphoniums?'
   JD: 'Euphemisms. And no, it's not.'

Of course, it's not all fun and games. There is an awful lot of serious stuff going on as Daley has to confront various issues in his personal life. This means Scott has a much more active role to play in the story, and a pile of extra worries. The main storyline builds steadily to a shocking and surprising (to me, at least) conclusion. And the end of the book? Oh my. Denzil Meyrick is playing with our emotions...

A fabulous read and one I heartily recommend. I can't wait to catch up with the series, and I'm so excited about what's coming next.


The Author:



Denzil Meyrick was born in Glasgow and brought up in Campbeltown. After studying politics, he pursued a varied career including time spent as a police officer, freelance journalist, and director of several companies. He now lives in Loch Lomond side with his wife Fiona.

Beginning with Whisky from Small Glasses, then The Last Witness, Dark Suits and Sad Songs, The Rat Stone Serenade, and Well of the Winds, the DCI Daley series have all become Scottish Crime bestsellers. Whisky from Small Glasses reached number 2 in the UK Kindle store in 2016.

An anthology of short stories, One Last Dram, was published in late 2017.

The Daley series to date have all been number one bestselling UK audiobooks on Audible. DCI Daley number 6, The Relentless Tide, was one of the Scotsman newspaper's books of 2018. Number seven in the DCI Daley series, A Breath on Dying Embers, is longlisted for the Bloody Scotland McIlvanney Prize 2019 and available on Kindle and in print now!!

Author Social Media Links:

Website: https://denzilmeyrick.com
Facebook: Denzil Meyrick Author
Twitter: @Lochlomonden

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Curveballs

Sometimes life throws you a curveball. Well, it has me anyway.

Many of you will know that I recently had a short stay in hospital. Nothing serious, but I'm still not great and I'm off my work. But I started struggling a bit way back in November, when I began to feel abnormally tired. I went to fabulous book events, but often didn't have the energy to write about them, even though I really wanted to - which reminds me, I must at least collate my photos together and post those up. The fatigue got worse, and I was working, eating and sleeping, but nothing much else. I work with visually and hearing impaired people, in a job I absolutely love, and need to be very alert and aware. A month or so ago, I realised I was too tired to even do that effectively, hence my current enforced time off. One or two other symptoms appeared which led to my brief time in hospital.

Not much has changed. I still have the same symptoms and feel pretty rubbish. What has changed is that, after a slew of tests, I know there is nothing wrong with me. Physically. It would seem that, and I only know this because I have sought help, my brain and body are saying something along the lines of 'OK, enough is enough. You need to stop, relax and you need to make some changes to move forward.'

This has come as a huge shock and, if I'm honest, a bit of a kick in the teeth. I've had an up and down few years, with a few mental health issues and a fair degree of stress, but I worked really hard last year, and had got to a point where I felt better mentally and emotionally than I had for a long, long time. And then this.

Those of you who suffer from migraines know that they often  occur when you allow yourself to relax a little. Apparently, something similar has happened to my body, which is where I am now. My GP described it as hitting a reset button, and I need to take a look at my life to see if there is anything I can do to make sure I don't end up here again. During other treatment I'm having, I was described as 'heart sore'. I need to learn to relax properly. To put myself first sometimes. Hell, I even need to learn to breathe properly.

Is there a reason I'm telling you all of this? I don't know, really. I'm writing this (but will be posting it later) on a train down to visit my folks for a week of R&R, because you're never too old to be spoiled by your parents (for those of us lucky enough to still have them). I'm going to rest and relax as best as I can. And think.

One change that will be happening is that I'll be doing less blog tours going forward. I won't be reading any less (heavens forbid), and I'll still be blogging regularly - you don't get rid of me that easily - but I'll be doing more for pleasure. Now please don't get me wrong - I love taking part in blog tours. I've discovered lots of wonderful new authors and books. But I tend to say yes to far too many and put myself under pressure, and end up reading to deadlines, which makes it more of a chore. So I will be meeting all my existing tour commitments, and then taking on less.

This piece is also for everyone who might be in a somewhat similar situation to me. Stressed, anxious, trying to fit everything in. Know that it's OK to say no, to stop, to rest, to take time for yourself. And do it now - don't wait until it affects you physically.

That's all for now. Thanks so much for all your support - your comments, your likes, shares and retweets. You're all fabulous.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

The Unmaking of Ellie Rook by Sandra Ireland

It's my stop today on the blog tour for this brilliant book by Sandra Ireland. It's the first of hers I've read, but Bone Deep is waiting patiently in my TBR pile. I've also had the pleasure of spending time with Sandra (over lunch at the House of Bruar in Perthshire) and can happily tell you she's absolutely lovely. Huge thanks to the gorgeous Kelly Lacey from Love Books Tours for inviting me, and to the publisher for my review copy.



The Blurb:

A single phone call from halfway across the world is all it takes to bring her home . . . ‘Ellie, something bad has happened.’

Desperate to escape her ‘kid from the scrapyard’ reputation, Ellie Rook has forged a new life for herself abroad, but tragedy strikes when her mother, Imelda, falls from a notorious waterfall. Here, according to local legend, the warrior queen Finella jumped to her death after killing a king. In the wake of her mother’s disappearance, Ellie is forced to confront some disturbing truths about the family she left behind and the woman she has become. Can a long-dead queen hold the key to Ellie’s survival? And how far will she go to right a wrong?


The Unmaking of Ellie Rook was published by Polygon on 5th July 2019 and it you can purchase it from Waterstones, Amazon and other good bookshops.


My Review:

A change from my usual straight crime for this interesting family drama.

Ellie Rook comes from a tinker family. Her father runs a scrapyard, her mother is from fairground folk. Long time family friend Shelby lives in the yard in his gypsy caravan. There's never been much money to go around and Ellie's clothes were often worn out, and a little bit grubby. The family kept themselves to themselves and the other kids took the mick out of the tinker's daughter. But her life was rich with folk tales told to her by her mother, particularly about Finella, the warrior queen she was named after, who disappeared in a local forest.

Keen to escape her upbringing, as soon as she's able she moves abroad and forges a new life for herself, seldom visiting home. Until her mother goes missing from the exact same spot as Finella in the legend, and Ellie has to come back.

It was really interesting to see the family dynamic. Ireland picks up on the most mundane things to explore relationships within the group, sometimes as simple as making a coffee. Ellie's father Lawler is a rigid man, who expects things a certain way, and when his wife isn't there, he expects Ellie to slip into her role, her place in the kitchen, so his routine isn't spoiled.

As the townsfolk rally round the family to help, which isn't always welcome, Ellie reconnects with an old boyfriend, and interspersed with the present day narrative are flashbacks to her childhood and teenage years, where we learn more about her and her family.

As well as Ellie, Shelby was a standout character for me. Clearly immensely fond of Ellie, he has been parked up in the yard for so long, he's part of the family. A man of few words, when he speaks it's worth listening. Also Piotr, a decent, kind young man in a difficult situation. But Offshore Dave is horrible (but well written)!

This tale is very character driven, and the whole cast is beautifully drawn, even the most minor players. As the story progresses, and the search for Imelda continues, we learn more and more about the family members, as does Ellie herself. The atmosphere gets darker and more oppressive , as secrets are revealed, right up until the perfect denouement. I let a out a little cheer then.

I was completely engrossed in this book and read it in a couple of days. It's intelligent, engaging with a palpable sense of dread. It's fascinating study of a dysfunctional family, of secrets, heartbreak, control, fear and love.  I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading more of Sandra's work.


The Author:


Sandra Ireland was born in Yorkshire, lived for many years in Limerick, and is now based in Carnoustie. She began her writing career as a correspondent on a local newspaper but quickly realised that fiction is much more intriguing than fact. In 2013 Sandra was awarded a Carnegie- Cameron scholarship to study for an MLitt in Writing Practice and Study at the University of Dundee, graduating with a distinction in 2014. Her work has appeared in various publications and women’s magazines. She is the author of Beneath the Skin (2016) and Bone Deep (2018), and her third novel, The Unmaking of Ellie Rook is published this month.


Thursday, 4 July 2019

St Benet's by David Blake

I'm thrilled to be closing off the blog tour for St Benet's, David Blake's follow up to Broadland, his debut crime thriller published earlier this year. But thanks to the lovely Sarah Hardy at Book on the Bright Side Publicity and Promo for inviting me on the tour and the equally lovely author for providing my review copy.




The Blurb:

THE DEBUT CRIME THRILLER SERIES OF THE YEAR!
"Wow! Even better than Broadland!" Anna Burke

A girl thrown from a church tower, a man sacrificed to Satan, and a priest murdered at the hands of the Devil.

When the body of an old man is found lying in the ruins of St Benet’s Abbey, his throat cut, a knife resting in his open hand, DI John Tanner and DC Jenny Evans are given no choice but to accept a ruling of death by misadventure.

But when the body goes missing from its tomb, after a priest is found nailed to a cross, and another impaled on a stake, everything begins to point back to the murder of a teenage girl, thrown from the top of a church tower, some forty-three years before.

Set within the mysterious beauty of the Norfolk Broads, this fast-paced British detective series is a murder mystery with a slice of humour and a touch of romance, one that will have you guessing until the very end, when the last shocking twist is finally revealed.

St. Benet's is a totally addictive gripping crime thriller, the second in a chilling series of serial killer books, ones which will rapidly convert followers of L J Ross, Faith Martin, Joy Ellis, Damien Boyd and Helen H. Durrant into David Blake devotees.


St Benet's was published by Black Oak Publishing on 26th June 2019 and you can purchase it here.


My Review:

Regular followers of this blog will know I'm a huge fan of Blake's comedy Space Police series. But crime fiction is my go to genre, so was hugely excited when David decided a change of direction was in order, and his first crime thriller, the start of a new series was published earlier this year. In Broadlands we were introduced to DI John Tanner and DC Jenny Evans.

St Benet's follows almost straight on, after just a couple of months have passed, from the end of Broadland. It would be helpful if you'd read that, but you don't need to have to enjoy this one.

Tanner has settled into his role in Norfolk Police, his boat is moored on the Broads and he's decided to make it his permanent home. Oh, and his personal life has taken a turn for the better, so life is pretty good for him.

And then a body turns up. On the altar of a ruined church. It appears that the man has either been sacrificed or sacrificed himself for something. And he's a disgraced Catholic priest. It's a mess, and opens a huge can of worms that gets Tanner into serious hot water with his new boss, and a high up member of the Catholic church.

It's great to see Tanner again. He's a great character, very likeable and relatable, and well aware he's punching well above his weight on the relationship front. I love that when he's got something in his head, he has to go with it until it reaches its conclusion. Like many of us, he doesn't always think before he speaks, and upsets a fair few people in his quest for the truth. I'm glad Jenny's still around too after they became friends in Broadland. She's young, capable and determined. I love the easy rapport between her and John, and their gentle joking with each other.

There are lots of other colourful characters, all brilliantly drawn. And the countryside around the Broads, and the churches, both complete and ruined, are beautifully, and atmospherically, described.

The story is well paced, with plenty of action and jeopardy. The story is sufficiently complex to keep the attention, and I didn't guess the outcome, which was quite shocking (the ending, not me not guessing!) and explosive. Although not included in the blurb above, elsewhere this book is described as 'cozy crime'. It's a label I disagree with, but I understand why it's there. However, the murders in the story are anything but cosy. Actually, they're some of the most gruesome I've read for a while. And the crime scenes are described quite graphically, so be prepared.

So for me, it definitely wasn't cosy. It was a complex, dark, sinister tale of hatred and twisted revenge, with some lighter moments to add relief along the way. In my opinion, this is an improvement on Broadland, and I loved every minute of it. Very much looking forward to the next instalment in the series. 


The Author:



David Blake is a full-time author living in North London. To date he has written fourteen previous books along with a collection of short stories. His fifteenth, St. Benet’s, is the follow-up to his debut crime fiction thriller, Broadland.

When not writing, David likes to spend his time mucking about in boats, often in the Norfolk Broads, where his crime fiction books are based.


Author Social Media Links:



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