Monthly Archives: September 2016

Book Review – A Cornish Christmas by Lily Graham

A Cornish Christmas

The Blurb

Nestled in the Cornish village of Cloudsea, sits Sea Cottage – the perfect place for some Christmas magic…

At last Ivy is looking forward to Christmas.  She and her husband Stuart have moved to their perfect little cottage by the sea – a haven alongside the rugged cliffs that look out onto the Atlantic Ocean.  She’s pregnant with their much longed for first baby and for the first time, since the death of her beloved mother, Ivy feels like things are going to be alright.

But there is trouble ahead.  It soon emerges that Stuart has been keeping secrets from Ivy, and suddenly she misses her mum more than ever.  When Ivy stumbles across a letter from her mother in an old writing desk, secrets from the past come hurtling into the present.  But could her mother’s words help Ivy in her time of need?  Ivy is about to discover that the future is full of unexpected surprises and Christmas at Sea Cottage promises to be one to remember.

This Christmas warm your heart and escape to the Cornish coast for an uplifting story of love, secrets and new beginnings that you will remember for many Christmases to come.

My Review

A Cornish Christmas was so much more than I was expecting! It is a story about the love between a mother and daughter and hope. It is a moving tale that reduced me to tears.

Ivy lost her mother five years ago and when she puts her mother’s old writing desk in her cottage she finds a mysterious postcard within the desk that is addressed to her by her mother but is not completed. That is all I want to say as I do not want to spoil the story for those who have not read it. It was originally called The Postcard and I do think this was a more apt title. The title and the blurb did not prepare me for the beauty that is inside this book, but that is also a good thing.

The characters are wonderful. I adored Ivy and her husband Stuart, who are expecting their first child after failed IVF attempts and miscarriages, and love the relationship between them that Lily has portrayed. She has really brought the village community to life with fantastic characters that you cannot help but like. It draws you in to the book completely and I had to keep reading as I cared so deeply for all the characters.

This book has a depth to it that took me by surprise. It is incredibly moving, touching and for me is a story about hope and enduring bonds. Ivy has struggled with the grief of losing her mother but the postcard she finds brings a new sense of well-being and gives her what she needs to move on with her life with Stuart and their baby. It is very emotional and Lily has written A Cornish Christmas with empathy and gentleness.

It has a magical element that even got to me and that is a testament to Lily’s writing as I am pretty cynical! I really don’t want to talk to much about the book as I want new readers to be as surprised and delighted as I was by this beautiful book.

Utterly gorgeous, poignant and beautifully written I adored A Cornish Christmas and have fallen a little in love with this book. Make sure you read this book but have a box of tissues handy!

Thank you to Lily Graham, Bookouture and Netgalley for the copy in exchange for my honest review.

Published 30 September 2016 by Bookouture.

Author Influences With Susan Gandar

I’m delighted today to be joined by Susan Gandar, author of the stunning We’ve Come To Take You Home.  She is telling us all about the books and authors who have had an influence on her.

Susan Gandar Author Picture

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?

I was the oldest in my class and the last to learn to read. Rather than helping me, giving me extra tuition, my battle axe of a teacher banished me from her class. I spent hour after miserable hour trembling out in the corridor while my fellow classmates conquered Jack and his cat. So, it wasn’t that surprising that for me, as a child, reading wasn’t a pleasurable experience. In fact it was something to be avoided. But, then, and I think it must have been in my early teens, and I can’t remember any particular book, things changed. And, now, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m at my very happiest when head down in a book.

But to answer your question! My earliest memories of reading are Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales. I suspect it was more about the pictures because the book I remember was illustrated. I adored ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ and was heartbroken when I reached the end. And then, in no particular order, ‘Ballet Shoes’, ‘The Little Princess’, ‘The Sword in the Stone’, ‘The Secret Garden’, ‘Paddington’, ‘Moonfleet’, ‘The Railway Children’ and endless Enid Blytons.

A rather conservative and somewhat worthy collection compared to the exciting range of contemporary fiction which is now available to children and young adults.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?

Yes, once I went to senior school, where I had some really excellent teachers, I fell in love with English, particularly English language. I have a memory of reading George Eliot’s ‘Mill on the Floss’ in class. Homework was to write an additional chapter for the book. I wrote it, no problem, really enjoyed the experience; the voices inside my head were clear and true. The words flowed easily. A week later my chapter was read out in class. And so it continued. I regret though that, both at home and at school, I was never ever encouraged to continue as a writer. Nobody told me of Malcolm Bradbury’s excellent Creative Writing Course which had just started at UEA. If only I had known.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?

The novels which I find most satisfying are usually those that are a mix of different genres. Which are the ones that publishers and bookshops often avoid as they fail to fit, neatly, onto any particular book shelf. But I do definitely lean towards historical fiction, literary rather than popular, which is also what I’m writing – at least at the moment.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?

I’m happiest when writing a strong storyline so maybe it would be crime? Although I have to admit it’s not a genre I would read out of choice. I admired Anne Buist’s ‘Medea’s Curse’. It’s deeply rooted in contemporary reality and leaves you guessing until the very last page. Michael Russell is another crime writer I admire. ‘The City in Darkness’, his third Stefan Gillespie novel, is due out October this year. Michael’s style is far more literary than Anne’s and his storylines are set just prior to the Second World War. If I could write something which had a little of both, a bit of Anne and a bit of Michael, that would be great. But I don’t see it happening – at least not right now! And then there’s Rom Com. I’d love to have a go but the prospect of coming up with an idea as original and as intelligent, and as hilarious, say, as Graeme Simsion’s ‘The Rosie Project’ is, to say the least, somewhat daunting.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?

I have read hundreds, possibly even thousands, of books, fiction and non-fiction. And pretty much each and every one must have influenced me in some way – whether as a writer or as a person. But I particularly remember David Almond and most particularly ‘Skellig’. I love David Almond’s very sparse but poetic style combined with that huge imagination. And all his books have such a wonderful sense of place.
And then there’s Meg Rossoff. I’d never read any YA until I picked ‘Where I Live Now’ off an adult fiction shelf in a High Street bookshop. It introduced me to a style of writing, open, honest and actually quite brutal, even upsetting, I’d never come across before.
And Susan Hill. Her First World War novel – ‘Strange Meeting’ – is a particular favourite. If you had to read one novel about that particular time, that particular war, then that would be the one I would recommend. Along with Sebastian Barry’s ‘A Long, Long Way.’
But it was Marghanita Laski’s ‘The Victorian Chaise-Longue’, a book given to me many, many years ago by my mother, which really helped when I was writing the slips, from one life to another, in ‘We’ve Come to Take You Home’. The blurb on the back of my Penguin 1962 edition says, ‘In this short, eerie novel … a young mother who is recovering from tuberculosis falls asleep on a Victorian chaise-longue and is ushered into a waking nightmare of death amongst strangers.’

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?

Anne Tyler, Susan Hill, Ian McEwan, Rose Tremain, A.S. Byatt, Rachel Joyce, Sebastian Faulks, Sebastian Barry, Kate Atkinson, Salley Vickers, there are so many authors it’s impossible to list them all.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?

Anthony Doerr’s ‘All the Light We Cannot See’, a hauntingly beautiful page turner, set in France and Germany during the Second World War, which manages to be epic in narrative scale but, at the same time, emotionally focused and deeply intimate. I just loved and admired everything about it, enough to really want to give it a second read.
Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)

It was while I was working as Script Consultant on ‘Casualty’ that we decided to focus an episode on organ donation, specifically looking at it from the donor and the donor’s family point of view. Plus the experiences of the doctors and nurses trying to get a family to agree to donation. Sam Snape researched and wrote the script – ‘Living Memories’.
Less than six months later, I found myself sitting beside my unconscious mother, in the back of an ambulance, blue lights flashing, siren blaring, as it weaved its way through the traffic towards the nearest hospital. When the ambulance screamed to a halt, the back doors opened and I found myself staring into the faces of the A & E department’s crash team, what had been TV fiction became a living reality.
Two hours later, my mother was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit with a suspected brain haemorrhage. One hour later the diagnosis was confirmed. This is pretty much what Sam goes through in ‘We’ve Come to Take You Home’ only the parent is her father rather than her mother. A nurse in the intensive care unit asked me to take my mother’s hand. I couldn’t. The same happens to Sam. But, unlike me, Sam is given a second chance.

About Susan Gandar

My father, John Box, was a film production designer, working on ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Dr. Zhivago’, ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘A Man For All Seasons’ and the musical ‘Oliver’. (Click here for more on John ) Our house was always filled with people, usually eccentric, always talented, invariably stroppy, discussing stories. My mother put my father’s four Oscars to good use as toilet roll holders, doorstops and hat stands.

A major chunk of my childhood was spent loitering around on film sets. Who needs an ‘English education’ when you have the polystyrene-coated streets of downtown Moscow, ten miles outside of Madrid, to explore?

But then the years of ‘Who Will Buy My Sweet Red Roses’ came to a rather abrupt end. Reality knocked on the door in the guise of the Metropolitan Line to Shepherds Bush and the BBC. Working in television as a script editor and story consultant, I was part of the creative team responsible for setting up ‘Casualty’. I became known for going after the more ‘difficult’ stories at the same time successfully racking up viewing figures from 7 to 14 million.

I went on to develop various projects for both the BBC and the independent sector. The period I enjoyed most was working with Jack Rosenthal, a wonderful writer, on the series ‘Moving Story’ – ‘That’s a situation, a good situation, but now you need to make it into a story.’

Martin, my husband, was made an offer he couldn’t refuse and we left England to live in Amsterdam. ‘Ik wil een kilo kabeljauw, alstublieft’ will, if all goes well, buy you a piece of cod – I decided to concentrate on my writing rather than my Dutch pronunciation.

Links

susangandar.com

Twitter @Susan_Gandar

Facebook

Amazon author page

We’ve Come To Take You Home is out now!

You can read my review here!

We've Come to Take You Home

A huge thank you to Susan for taking part!

Review – Christmas Under A Cranberry Sky by Holly Martin

Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky

This year there’s a bit of a Bookouture Christmas going on here at Bloomin’ Brilliant Books and this is the second Christmas book of theirs  I am reviewing in the run up to the festive period. 

The Blurb

This year spend a wonderful Christmas on Juniper Island, where love can melt even the iciest of hearts…

Piper Chesterfield lives a glamorous life travelling the world and reviewing the finest hotels.  She calls nowhere home, she works alone and that’s how she likes it.  For long ago Piper decided that to protect her heart she should lock it away.

So when Piper’s next assignment brings her to the newly opened Stardust Lake Hotel for the festive season, the last person she expects to face is Gabe Whitaker, the man who broke her heart so completely she could never love again.

But Piper isn’t the only one who has been frozen in time by heartbreak.  Gabe hasn’t forgotten the golden-eyed girl who disappeared from his world without a trace.

Now fate has reunited them on Juniper Island, can the magic of Christmas heal old wounds? And can this enchanting town be the one place Piper can finally call home?

Curl up with this gorgeously romantic tale and let the glistening snow and the roaring fires of Stardust Lake Hotel get you in the festive spirit this Christmas.

My Review

Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky is the first book in the A Town Called Christmas series and it is just divine. Lost love, the longing for a family and a place to call home against the backdrop of Juniper Island at Christmas all make for a gorgeous read!

I’m not a particularly romantic girl but I adored the tale of Pip and Gabe, childhood sweethearts who haven’t seen each other for 12 years, finding each other and falling in love again. Holly has created wonderful characters and I adored Pip, Gabe and Gabe’s daughter Wren. I really felt for both Pip and Gabe as they were separated due to a misunderstanding and both find it difficult to trust again. Gabe is an all round lovely man and I found the relationship between him and his daughter really heart-warming.

Leo the gang leader, reprobate Shetland pony is bloomin’ brilliant and I could just see him strutting about leading his gangster ponies and he put a huge smile on my face.

The descriptions of Juniper Island make for an enchanting read. With ice castles, reindeer, husky puppies, glass igloos, the Northern Lights and lashings of snow it really is magical and I got totally drawn into the setting and the story. It is total and utter escapism and I loved been transported into their world every time I sat down to read. I really wish I could visit the wonderful place Holly has created! Holly has captured the essence of all that is wonderful about Christmas and her writing style draws you into the book immediately.

Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky is the epitome of Christmas. It is sparkling, delightful and quite simply the perfect festive read. If you need an escape from it all during the madness that is Christmas, spend some time reading this book.

Thank you to Holly Martin, Bookouture and Netgalley for the copy in exchange for my review.

Published on 22 September 2016 by Bookouture.

Author Influences With Tracey Sinclair

This week the lovely Tracey Sinclair is joining me to talk about her author influences.  Author of Bridesmaid Blues and the Dark Dates series, Tracey tells us about her favourite books and authors.

Tracey Sinclair author pic
Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?

I read widely – and often wildly inappropriately – when I was young, so don’t have a memory of reading many children’s books, but I liked a lot of sci-fi (interestingly, ‘hard’ sci-fi, which I hardly ever read now, such as Robert Heinlein, and Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat books), and I loved superhero comics – which I still do.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?

I was – and I loved it! I wrote stories from a very young age, and I loved being given things to read.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?

I do think you need a familiarity with a genre to write it – we’ve all read terrible books by so-called literary authors who decide they can ‘improve’ on a genre but actually don’t understand it! I’ve read pretty much every genre, as I have quite catholic tastes, so I feel quite comfortable writing in most of them, though I think I’d struggle with the hard science of really good speculative fiction, and I am way too lazy to do the kind of research historical novels require. I’d also struggle not to swear, which probably means I should give children’s fiction a miss. I really admire genre writers, though – I think they tend to be very underrated, especially if they are women, but it takes a lot of skill to make something read like it was easy to write.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?

So far I’ve done contemporary fiction, romantic comedy and urban fantasy so I’d like to have a go at hard sci-fi, and crime.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?

I can’t think of anyone who encouraged me as a child, which was when I started writing – I think it was just a more amorphous love of books and stories – but certainly there are authors whose style influenced me: I lived in Glasgow for a long time, and a lot of my influences when I was writing there were Scottish contemporary authors like A L Kennedy.

In terms of how I write now, I’d say my influences on the romantic comedy side were Marian Keyes – since she has a bit of an edge – and on the paranormal side, Jim Butcher. Most of my influences are actually from TV or film: Bridesmaid Blues was influenced by While You Were Sleeping – the plots have nothing in common, but the film’s honest sense of urban loneliness really appealed to me, and I think a lot of romantic books gloss over that. Dark Dates was heavily influenced by self-aware, snarky, smart shows like Buffy, Supernatural, The X-Files and early Vampire Diaries.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?

Loads! I love a series, so Lee Child, John Connolly, Ian Rankin, Tess Gerritsen, Rob Thomas’ Veronica Mars spin-off books, Jim Butcher, Dennis Lehane, Donna Leon, JK Rowling (also as Robert Galbraith). Previously Terry Pratchett was my absolute must buy. I cried when he died!

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?

Oh, god, so many! Despite my love of a good series, probably those exquisite standalone novels that seem to come along every few years. I remember, for instance, reading Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – which I loved so much I literally told strangers to buy it – and I ached to be able to write something so moving and beautiful.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)

Ha, ha! Well, let’s just say me and my friends are a constant source of inspiration – but I try to avoid straight copying, in case they get offended or I have to kill them off…

About Tracey Sinclair

Tracey Sinclair is an author and freelance editor and writer. Her books include the romcom The Bridesmaid Blues and the Dark Dates/Cassandra Bick series, the latest of which, Angel Falls, is out now.

www.darkdates.org

Twitter @thriftygal

Facebook

Amazon author page

Angel Falls is out now!

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A huge thank you to Tracey for spending time with Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today!

 

Blog Tour – Little Kitty the Cat Burglar by Caterina Longtail *Review and Giveaway*

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I’m absolutely delighted to be taking part in the Little Kitty the Cat Burglar blog tour.  A great book for children all sold for a great cause.  Without further ado I will tell you more about the book, my review and details of the giveaway.

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Release Date: 5th September 2015
Little Kitty wouldn’t exactly call herself a cat burglar. She just likes to bring back the occasional gift for her humans… A lovely story for younger readers and adults alike – perfect for reading together. Beautifully illustrated by Catie Atkinson and designed by Rachel Lawston.

WHATS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE BOOK?
The book was written by a group of authors who donated their time free of charge. Each author wrote a chapter of the book. 100% proceeds of the sale of the book are donated to Alzheimer’s Research UK. The authors are: Suzan Collins, Tottie Limejuice, Jo Wilde, JB Johnston, Lucy Rayner, Ros Lyons, Ann Bowyer and Tracy Terry. Together, they became known as Caterina Longtail! The book was edited by Jaine Keskeys.

ABOUT ALZHEIMER’S RESEARCH UK

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Check out Alzheimer’s Research UK http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/

‘We are the UK’s leading research charity aiming to defeat dementia. We power world class studies that give us the best chance of beating dementia sooner.
Our pioneering work focuses on prevention, treatment and cure. We are energising a movement across society to support, fund and take part in dementia research. We aim to empower people across all generations through greater understanding of dementia. Together we have the power to defeat dementia.’
‘Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but there are other types of dementia too. It is possible to have more than one type of dementia at the same time. Alzheimer’s is sometimes seen with vascular dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies. You might hear this called ‘mixed dementia’. (all info taken from Alzheimer’s Research UK website).

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My Review

Little Kitty is a cheeky scamp that young children will adore and parents will enjoy reading with them.

Left at home while her owners go on holiday, Little Kitty the Cat Burglar tells the story of what Little Kitty gets up to while they are away. The authors have captured the essence of the cat wonderfully – independent, clever and proud of her looks Little Kitty is mischievous but gets away with it by looking cute, children will delight in Little Kitty’s escapades and how she manages to eventually save the day for her neighbour despite being only a petite cat.

The descriptions are lovely and I adored the illustrations throughout the book. I could imagine reading this out aloud, doing the different voices of the characters and getting totally involved in the story.

The story flows perfectly and I would not have realised each chapter was written by a different author if I did not know.

A delightful book that children will enjoy and parents will enjoy reading to them.

GIVEAWAY
Click on the link to win a paperback copy of the book –

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4be03017193/

A huge thank you to the authors and Brooke Cottage Blog tours for the copy of Little Kitty the Cat Burglar in exchange for my review and for allowing Bloomin’ Brilliant Books to take part in the blog tour.

Review – Buy Buy Baby by Helen MacKinven

Buy Buy Baby

The Blurb

What Price tag would you put on a baby?

Set in and around Glasgow, Buy Buy Baby is a moving and funny story of life, loss and longing.

Packed full of bitchy banter, it follows the bittersweet quest of two very different women united by the same desire – they desperately want a baby.

Carol talks to her dog, has an expensive Ebay habit and relies on wine to forget she’s no longer a mum following the death of her young son.

Cheeky besom Julia is career-driven and appears to have it all.  But after disastrous attempts at internet dating, she feels there is a baby-shaped hole in her life.

In steps Dan, a total charmer with a solution to their problems.

But only if they are willing to pay the price, on every level…

My Review

‘For every woman who is unhappy with her stretch marks, there is another woman who wishes she had them.’

I’m so pleased I had the opportunity to read Buy Buy Baby for review as I just loved it. This is the first novel I have read by Helen and she is now firmly on my list of go to authors. Buy Buy Baby is refreshingly different and I could not put it down.

Carol and Julia are two very different characters, yet I could relate easily to both of them. They are both wanting the same thing – a baby – and yet it effects them in such different ways. Carol has been a mother, but motherhood was taken from her following the death of her son. Her marriage has broken down and her chances of having another child seem impossible. Julia has spent most of her adult life concentrating on her career and is now pushing on forty. Discovering her long term partner did not want children, she finds herself single and the chance of motherhood seems to be slipping from her grasp.

As the women’s stories gradually unfold, you find your views on their predicament change and evolve, but despite this I had a great affection for both of them. Helen touches on some difficult issues and yet she manages to mix this with wicked humour and this book had me both laughing and feeling sad. The first line is fantastically funny and immediately drew me into the book and the lives of Carol and Julia.

Dan appears charming on first appearance but as the book progressed I did not know how I felt about him, and I still find myself pondering over this. The issues he raises really makes you think – how far would you go to get something you are desperate for and what are the repercussions of this? This is a cracking read for a reading group as I found myself pondering it for days afterwards!

I had no idea how this book would end and was compelled to keep reading to discover the fates of the women and the decisions they made. It is totally gripping and all absorbing.

Buy Buy Baby is a fantastic book that has the perfect blend of serious issues with fantastic humour. Helen’s writing will strike a chord with any woman (or man) whose dreams of having a child has been taken away from them. It made me think and contemplate issues that I hadn’t thought about before yet it never felt maudlin. Absolutely brilliant!

A huge thank you to Helen MacKinven and Cranachan for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

Published 7 July 2016 by Cranachan Publishing.

 

Blog Tour – The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards *Review and Giveaway*

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Absolutely thrilled to be hosting my turn on the blog tour for The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards.  You can read my review and I have the opportunity for two readers to win a copy of this smashing book!!

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The Blurb

It was the job she had dreamed of since childhood.  but on her very first day , when an unnerving encounter drags up memories Sophie Greenwood would rather forget, she wonders if she has made a mistake.  A fatal mistake.

What is her ambitious young assistant up to?  And what exactly happened to Sophie’s predecessor?  When her husband and daughter are pulled into the nightmare, Sophie is forced to confront the darkest secrets she has carried for years.

As her life begins to fall apart at work and at home, Sophie must race to uncover the truth about her new job…before it kills her.

 My Review

‘Welcome to the madhouse”

I have been reading Mark’s books since my pre-blogging days and have always enjoyed them so I could not wait to read The Devil’s Work. Oh boy, I have to say that, in my very humble opinion, this is his best yet! It grabs hold of you instantly and does not let you go until the very end.

After time out from work to start a family, Sophie thinks she has landed her dream job at Jackdaw publishing house, however, she has joined the publishing house from hell!!! The throw away ’welcome to the madhouse’ comment from a member of her new team becomes creepily prophetic as the story progresses..

Narrated by Sophie, we follow her day to day personal life and work life with flashbacks to her university days with her friends Jasmine and Liam. Mark has created a great character in Sophie. She is down to earth and extremely likeable. However, suspicion abounds throughout the book and at one point I did wonder if Sophie was an unreliable narrator as, at times, I questioned if the things were really happening – is it merely a series of coincidences? – or if she was slowly losing her grip on reality. That is just one of the wonderful ways that Mark builds up the suspense in The Devil’s Work.

Sophie’s work colleagues are also brilliantly executed. There is the complete mix of characters you would expect to find in an office which brings the story to life and, as said above, you don’t know who can be trusted.

Mark’s descriptions add to the eerie tone of the book, the Jackdaw building is straight out of a gothic horror –

‘…the Jackdaw building loomed into view, towering above the other buildings on the Holborn street…red terracotta with arched windows and pointed turrets that stretched towards the clouds that scudded low across the sky.’

Immediately you are creeped out and have an uneasy feeling before Sophie has even entered the building. Add to that the chilling things her daughter, Daisy, says this is one hell of a scary book. It takes quite a bit to scare me but The Devil’s Work even scared me during the day!

There are twists and turns around every corner and in true Mark Edwards style the ending left me reeling.

Superbly sinister, crackingly creepy The Devil’s Work is bloomin’ brilliant! I devoured this book in a couple of days and couldn’t shake it off for a couple more days. Highly recommend this book but warn you not to read it if you’re home alone!

Thank you to Mark Edwards, Rachel at Midas PR and Thomas & Mercer for the copy in exchange for my honest review and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Published 13 September 2016 by Thomas and Mercer.

About Mark Edwards

Photo Mark Earthy www.earthyphotography.co.uk This image is protected by Copyright

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which terrifying things happen to ordinary people.  His first solo novel, The Magpies (2013), reached the No.1 spot on Amazon UK as did his third novel Because She Loves Me (2014).  He has also co-written various crime novels with Louise Voss such as Killing Cupid (2011) and The Blissfully Dead (2015).  Mark grew up on the south coast of England and started writing in his twenties while working in a number of dead-end jobs.  He lived in Tokyo for a year before returning to the UK and starting a career in marketing.  As well as a full-time writer, Mark is a stay at home dad for his three children, his wife and a ginger cat.

Giveaway!!!

I have two paperback copies of The Devil’s Work to giveaway.  To enter leave a comment describing your job from hell.  The giveaway will run until Wednesday 21st September 2016 and winners announced on Thursday 22nd September.

NB.  UK entries only.  I will need to contact the winners via email to gain address and pass on to Rachel at Midas PR who will send the books out.  Email addresses will not be used for any other purpose.

Good Luck!!!

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Review – Untouchable by Sibel Hodge

Untouchable

The Blurb

A conspiracy.  A cover up.  And a whistle-blower who knows too much.  You think you know who to trust? You’re wrong.  And the truth may kill you…Untouchable is a chillingly dark psychological thriller from the no.1 bestselling author of Look Behind You.

-Inspired by real UK police investigations, this book contains scenes which some readers may find disturbing –

It’s Maya and Jamie’s anniversary, and she waits with excitement for him to return home for a celebratory dinner.  There’s a knock at the door.  It’s the police.  Jamie has been found hanging in a local wood.

His death is ruled a suicide, but Maya doesn’t believe Jamie would take his own life.  Something isn’t right.  Someone has broken into her house.  Someone is watching her.  And someone has gone to great lengths to cover up what Jamie was doing before he died.

Maya’s grief turns to suspicion, and as she begins to investigate the weeks leading up to Jamie’s death, her trail leads her to a place known as “The Big House” and the horrific secrets within.  Secrets people will stop at nothing to keep hidden.  People linked to the heart of the Establishment who think they’re Untouchable.

Now Maya has a dangerous decision to make.  How far is she prepared to go to reveal the truth?

My Review

 ‘It’s what the Establishment – the System – has become. It’s not there for the people’s need, rather to serve the elite.’

It has taken me a few days to be able to write this review as I needed some time to consider Untouchable and process what I had read and how it made me feel. This is, for me, always the sign of a great book. Untouchable is part fast-paced psychological thriller and part political and social commentary.

It all starts when Jamie does not return home after work on the evening of his and partner Maya’s anniversary. When the police arrive and inform Maya that Jamie’s body has been found and he has committed suicide, Maya knows that this can’t be true. What follows is her uncovering of the disturbing truth and been drawn into a world she never imagined existed that will totally shatter all her beliefs about the society we live in.

Told in first person narrative, in the first part by Maya and Jamie, the second part by Maya and the third part by Mitchell, you get totally drawn into the characters, their thoughts and feelings. The first part is interesting as Jamie is deceased and his narrated chapters take us back to the past, it is kind of like we are being spoken to from beyond the grave, however, in part two it all becomes clear.

Maya is dealing with her grief and her frustration that nobody believes that something has happened to Jamie as she knows he would not have taken his own life. Sibel writes with acute understanding of how grief affects you and you cannot fail to be moved by Maya’s emotions –

‘Everything seemed impossible – breathing, walking, standing – and yet somehow I put one foot in front of the other, even though my world crumbled a little more with each step.

I got completely wrapped up in Maya’s journey and all that she was going through. Maya is stuck in a situation in which she is grappling with so much more than just grief, her very life is at risk, and there is very little that can help her. I got incredibly emotionally involved with Maya and desperately wanted a positive outcome for her, I felt all of her frustration about not being believed and her need for vengeance.

Jamie’s story is difficult to read, heart-breaking, moving, disturbing and sadly a reality for many children. Sibel has clearly researched the subject that effects him meticulously and she writes with an understanding and empathy which this issue needs.

As I stated earlier, this is also a political commentary and highlights how if you have enough money and power you can get away with literally anything. Those in power are able to use their position to abuse and use the vulnerable members of society and institutions will close ranks in order to protect themselves amongst a justice system that is essentially flawed. Untouchable, for me, is a kind of modern day 1984. Although a work of fiction, Sibel has written about issues that for many are a reality.

Untouchable kept me gripped throughout with twists and turns, likeable characters and an incredibly moving storyline. It is written with intelligence and empathy and highlights the sad realities of the society we live in. It is disturbing, not easy to read at times and will shake you to your core, but, in my opinion the story line is an important one to get out there.

A huge thank you to Sibel Hodge for the copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Published on ebook on 18 July 2016 by Wonder Women Publishing Limited.

Published in paperback on 17 September 2016 by CreateSpace.

Author Influences With Kathleen McGurl

I am really happy to be joined today by Kathleen McGurl, author of The Daughters of Red Hill Hall, who is going to tell us about her author influences. 

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Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
Enid Blyton! I read everything by her I could get my hands on. Also loved CS Lewis (Narnia books), Arthur Ransome (Swallows and Amazons) and Noel Streatfeild (Ballet Shoes).

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
Yes, I was pretty good at it. I was an all rounder and good at most things. I enjoyed writing stories. However, sadly I did not have a very good English teacher at school, so gave it up in favour of sciences at 16.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I will read most genres, but tend to prefer historical and I absolutely adore dual timeline novels. So yes, they’ve had an impact, as it’s dual timeline novels that I write!

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I would write pure historical novels, because I love them. But at the moment I’ve no plans to change from the dual timelines.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
No one particular author. I always intended to become a writer one day, and it was only ever a question of when I’d actually sit down and start writing. I did try to start a novel when on my first maternity leave but then the baby was born and he had different ideas about how I should spend my time. So it all went on hold until my children were school age.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Yes, Kate Morton, Kate Atkinson, Katherine Webb. Love them all!

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Anything by the above three writers! I love the way those three authors can weave a story with such amazing, beautiful prose. If I had to pick one, it’d be Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. What an amazing idea for a novel!

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Not especially, although I’m inspired by all sorts of things, so tiny snippets from real life can make their way into my novels. But I try to make sure that people and events are fictional enough that they could not be recognized.

About Kathleen McGurl

Kathleen McGurl lives in Bournemouth with her husband and sons.  She always wanted to write, and for many years was waiting until she had the time.  eventually she came to the bitter realisation that no one would pay her for a year off work to write a book, so she sat down and started to write one anyway.  Since then she has published several novels with Carina UK and self-published another.  She has also sold dozens of short stories to women’s magazines, and written three How To books for writers.  She works full time in the IT industry and when she’s not writing, she’s often out running, slowly.

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Links

kathleenmcgurl.com

Twitter @KathMcGurl

Amazon author page

The Daughters of Red Hill Hall was published on 14 April 2016

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A huge thank you to Kathleen for joining me today!

*Author Q&A* With Caroline James

 

AUTHOR CAROLINE JAMES (PROFESSIONAL PROMO SHOTS 14.08.2015)

I’m delighted to be joined by the lovely Caroline James, author of the Coffee, Tea… series today.  She has agreed to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions I have for her,,,

When did you start writing and what/who encouraged you to start?

I started writing seriously five years ago. I always wanted to write but never thought I was good enough, having hated school I didn’t realise the importance of education till later. I’d had a story in my head for years and came to the decision that if I didn’t write it, I’d go to my grave wondering what might have been. So, with this in mind, I glued my bum to the seat of a chair and began my first novel.

What is your writing process? Do you have a plot outlined that you follow or do you write and see where it takes you?

I have a good idea of the story and start with a synopsis of what is in my head then begin. Once I get going and the characters start to form and find their way I let the process flow. I don’t know where they might want to take me but the important thing is to get it down and edit later.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it?

All the time, I hate it. I have to frog-march myself to the lap top, stop making excuses and write. It doesn’t matter what I write, once it starts I find I am back in the groove. Writing long hand in a note book can help too. Just sit with an empty page and write whatever is in your head and keep writing till you fill the page – suddenly the writing will start to flow again and you’ll soon be back on track.

Can you give us a brief outline of a day in the life of Caroline James?

Oh Lord… I’d like it to sound all glamorous and exciting and in a previous life it very often was. I represented many celebrity chefs and would often be jumping on a plane with them, off to fabulous events from TV to festivals and international shows. At the moment I do consultancy work which is hospitality related so my working day might be:

I get up very early, make cup of tea and spend some time writing at my ‘writing desk’. Change of position and am now in front of my ‘working desk’ where I’ll open email, make calls, arrange appointments and do whatever is needed with whatever consultancy I am working on. At some point in the day I’ll grab a bite to eat and lots of coffee. Some days I am away and may overnight, depending on where the consultancy work is. I always like to get home and in the evening and will cook for whoever is around then go for a walk or bike ride and clear my head. If there is time I’ll go back to my writing for a while. I’m quite late going to bed and may watch something recorded on TV like First Dates or Poldark, or catch up with a good book to change subject in my head before I sleep. Brandy in a hot chocolate and I’m away with the fairies.

How did you go about getting your books published and how long did it take?

I’m both traditional and indie published and both processes are similar. The actual writing is never as long as the editing and marketing can be terribly time-consuming too.

What first inspired you to write the Coffee, Tea series?

It was an event in Cumbria, the Appleby Horse Fair, which is an annual event and has been taking place for over 300 years. The locals hate it and would like it stopped and having experienced it first hand when I had a pub in Appleby and later a country house hotel, I could see both sides of the argument. I felt I had to write about it and out of this two characters developed, Jo and Hattie. Once they were in the books readers kept asking what happened next to them and so the series continues…

Jo and Hattie are two quite different characters and yet they gel together so well. How did you come up with their personalities and develop their characters?

The characters were initially an amalgamation of people I had known when I lived in Cumbria but as I began to write them they formed lives of their own and seemed to fictionally take off. You are absolutely right – they are very different people but their common denominator is that they care, about people and about life and circumstances throw them together to deal with it.

In Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean & Me, your descriptions of Barbados really bring the place to life for the reader. Why did you choose the Barbados as part of the setting and have you been?

I’ve spent a lot of time in the Caribbean over the years and the islands fascinate me, especially Barbados. There is a history that is little known that goes back to the first settlers, it is very controversial but still alive and kicking today. Perhaps I’ll write about that one day. Barbados is a beautiful island of contrasts and I wanted to share this with readers. There is the calm and breathtakingly beautiful west coast with white sand, turquoise sea and gentle breezes contrasted sharply by the east coast which has Atlantic tides crashing to the shores and a rugged and wild coastline. I find the east coast very spiritual, a good place to be. There is an expression that Bajan’s say, “My Belly-Button Buried in Barbados,” and once you have experienced it you will understand why it pulls you back.

Jo and Hattie go through some difficult life events in Coffee, Tea the Caribbean & Me and you write about these with real sensitivity. Have any of these issues been drawn on from personal experience?

I think you’d have to have led a very sheltered life not to have reached my age without some ups and downs and I have had my fair share. So it is natural to pull on my own experiences and those of people I observe. It is what makes a life interesting and the good times make sense of the bad.

And finally, when can we expect to see what is happening next with Jo and Hattie?

Well, they have set up a new business in Cumbria called Boomerville. Jo’s hotel is now a retreat for those over fifty who aren’t ready to settle for slippers and senility in the closing years of their lives. Boomerville has a great deal to offer its residents from pottery and baking to clairvoyance and spiritual experiences with a shaman and to be honest I wish it was real because I’d be booking myself a very long stay there! Boomerville will be published in Spring 2017.

Thanks for your fabulous questions Abbie and for hosting me on your lovely blog.

Happy reading! Caroline xx

You can buy copies of Caroline’s books by clicking on the titles –

Coffee, Tea, The Gypsy and Me

9780957378209[221666]

Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean And Me

9780957378292[221665]

A huge thank you to Caroline for taking part in the Q&A, really looking forward to the next instalment in Hattie and Jo’s lives!

You can read my review of Coffee, Tea, The Caribbean And Me here!