Monthly Archives: October 2016

Author Guest Post -The Hidden Side of Domestic Abuse by Jennifer Gilmour

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As October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the month opened on the blog with my review of Isolation Junction by Jennifer Gilmour (you can read my review HERE), I thought it fitting to end the month on a guest post by Jennifer. 

Domestic abuse was an issue I dealt with on a day-to-day basis in my last job and I don’t think there is enough understanding on how difficult it is to leave an abusive relationship.  The risks to women (I’m not sure if it is the same for men) increase once they leave the relationship and with the cuts to services it is often hard to find support.  The onus is often on the victim to leave rather than the perpertrator.   Domestic abuse is never a black and white issue.  I will hand over to Jennifer to talk more about this…

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The Hidden Side of Domestic Abuse

Born in the North East, I am a young, married mum with three children. I am an entrepreneur, running a family business from my home-base and I have a large readership of other young mums in business for my blog posts.

From an early age I have had a passion for writing and have been gathering ideas and plot lines from my teenage years. A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, I have amalgamated and fictionalised other survivors experiences alongside my own to write my first novel detailing the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again. I hope that in reading my debut novel, I will raise awareness of this often hidden and unseen behaviour and empower women in abusive relationships to seek help for themselves and find the confidence to change their lives.

I thought I would take the opportunity to talk a bit more about the aspects of coercive control which is almost the hidden side of domestic abuse. To give you an idea of what coercive control can include here are a few aspects: un-reasonable and non-negotiable demands, threats, negative consequences, intimidation, stalking and surveillance, cruelty, restriction of daily activities, isolating from family and friends, financial control and exploytation, extreme jealousy, possessiveness, ridiculous accusations of cheating, punishment for breaking rules, being treat or the children treat as an object, ignoring needs opinions and feelings. All aspects of power and control and if you haven’t seen the deluth model then this is will certainly open your eyes even further- http://www.theduluthmodel.org/index.htm

I remember one aspect of my own personal experience of abuse which completely changed me as a person and that was the sleep deprivation. My abuser used to wake me up at different times of the night or not allow me to go to bed when I
wanted. It sounds like this wouldn’t be a big deal right? But in actual affect if you apply this to months and years then I became seriously unwell and it was perfect for my abuser because I was often not thinking right and confused- great for making mistakes, wrong choices and not seeing what was really going on. It meant also that everything was high emotions and even if it was forced into this it meant that it felt like the end of the world on any snappy response or argument fuelled with unfair remarks and demands.

Believe it or not now after this I see the importance of sleep and other healthy aspects like being hydrated. I can now see why I felt so ill and having the emotional prison sentence on top there was no wonder it was high pressured all the time, walking on eggshells. It leads me on to say that because of this I truly appreciate life, I appreciate that I can have sleep, I appreciate that I am allowed a voice, ad identity and to be happy. However it does leave scars and even though I have my sanctuary now… there are times I need to reminded to not ask permission, to not feel unconfident, to not question my judgements and choices on every day tasks.

My novel was important to write because I found that after the relationship finally ended people didn’t understand me and in actual fact I felt like I was justifying myself as a person. I cannot explain how hard it was to go through that and be questioned when I was realising that I was a victim. The book focuses on the emotional abuse and that of coercive control and shows just how it takes a hold on someone… it tried to reflect the pressures and strains you are under and hence why its 100 reasons to leave and a 1000 reasons to stay.

The UK government are starting to see that this needs addressing and the new UK law for coercive control came out late 2015. The problem? Its so new that the training needs to be there and its so hard to prove…. everyone needs educating on this because when its 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men who are victims of domestic abuse it cannot be ignored. I personally felt like services let me down after I came out of my abusive relationship and in fact I am still paying for it financially and other ways now.

So how does my book help? Because its a fictional novel people are reading this book not to be educated but ultimately people are saying they have been educated from it and even looking at it further. It could help readers recognise their family and friendship circle and see who is being abused and who may need help. It can be passed to people who may not see that they are being abused.

Whether you have heard of coercive control/emotional abuse or not… this is a book you want to read. It is written by myself, a survivor, and it reflects personal experiences of my own and other women’s. Abbie has written a review and alongside this here are what others thought about my novel: ”This book I was not able to put down” “A hugely important book!” “A very gripping and interesting read” “Thank you Jennifer for highlighting this issue and hopefully inspiring women to break free from emotional abuse”
“A fictional account of an every day unacceptable issue”

Website: www.isolationjunction.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/isolationjunctionbook

Twitter: www.twitter.com/JenLGilmour

Amazon Author Profile: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jennifer-Gilmour/e/B01LZDKOC7/ ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1476440427&sr=1-1

Paperback: http://tinyurl.com/honkrok

Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/jo8rtpn

A huge thank you to Jennifer for taking the time to highlight some of the issues around domestic abuse.

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Blog Tour – A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone **Review**

Absolutely thrilled to be hosting my turn on the A Suitable Lie blog tour.  Michael J Malone has written a cracking book.  Read on to find out what I thought of it.

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The Blurb

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive.  Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love.  Then he meets Anna.  Fiesty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match…and she loves his son like he is her own.  When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems.  Desperate for that happy-ever-after, he ignores it.  A dangerous mistake that could cost him everything.

A brave, deeply moving, page-turning psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie marks a stunning departure for one of Scotland’s finest crime writers, exploring the lengths people will go to hide their deepest secrets, even if it kills them…

My Review

A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone is a gripping read that I found incredibly difficult to put down. Michael has twisted the domestic noir genre on it’s head and done it in an intelligent, sympathetic and moving way.

The story follows Andy a single father who meets Anna and after a whirlwind romance marries her. Anna, however, is not what she seems. What follows is an all absorbing story that keeps you reading late into the night and a moving tale about one man‘s experience of domestic abuse. It does not always make for comfortable reading however this is important to the story.

The characterisation in A Suitable Lie is fantastic. Using first person narrative and told through Andy’s perspective the reader really gets into Andy’s thoughts and feelings…you completely go on his journey with him. What I loved is that although Anna is essentially an un-likeable character who displays despicable behaviour Michael, later in the novel, shows her more human side. It is also a depiction of what the impact of childhood trauma can be and the wider impact it has in the future, as Philip Larkin once said ‘They f**k you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.‘ Towards the end of the novel I felt a degree of empathy towards Anna and will be interested to hear if other readers felt the same.

The mix of emotions that Michael portrays throughout the book are intelligently written and shows an acute understanding of the subject. He perfectly captures the difficulty of loving the aspects of the person that are good while struggling to make sense of their abusive behaviour and the lies you tell yourself that keep you involved in the relationship. The complexities of this situation are put across with empathy. Along with the gripping story line this is a very character driven book and this makes it all the more compelling.

A Suitable Lie is an accurate portrayal of how domestic abuse effects male victims – the emotional torment they go through and the impact on their self-esteem which takes a different form to the impact it has on a woman’s self-esteem. The reasons they cannot tell anybody about what is going on in their relationship are different to reasons a woman can’t and is very much wrapped up in their feelings of masculinity and the fact they won‘t be believed. The manipulation tactics used by Anna highlight the added difficulties a man has in seeking help as the authorities are not ready to accept that a man can be the victim of domestic abuse at the hands of a female. It certainly made me think about all the issues involved, an aspect I always love in a book.

Michael has written an evocative, dark and emotional novel that also works as a compelling psychological thriller. I really liked hearing the man’s perspective in this issue. It is unflinching at times in it’s descriptions of the abuse and I sat reading with my jaw wide open. Michael took me into a realm I hadn’t before even begun to imagine. Well written, with great pace and a shocking yet moving story, A Suitable Lie is a fantastic book that needs to be added to your TBR list. Although a work of fiction, I would hope that this book goes somewhere to highlight the issues in this unfortunately unseen area of domestic abuse.

A huge thank you to Michael J Malone and Karen at Orenda Books for my copy.
Published 15 September 2016 by Orenda Books.

You can purchase your copy HERE.

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Blog Tour – Her Last Breath by JA Schneider *Author Guest Post*

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for JA Schneider’s thrilling new novel Her Last Breath with a guest post from the lady herself…

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Do you love your characters? By J.A. Schneider
If you don’t love your characters, all of them, you’re done. The book will be a weary slog, and the reader will find it boring.
That includes every character, from the protagonist to the mysterious or the downright awful. On many levels it’s the characters we dislike or suspect that propel the drama; the word drama means conflict. What would Peter Pan be without Captain Hook?
What I try to do, draft after draft, is go deeper and deeper into each character. Every gesture and utterance should help to make them come alive, even if they try to dissimulate. That involves a lot of Chekhov’s rule about “Don’t tell; show.” Picture a scene where one character enters a room, upset, telling a second character that something sad has befallen someone they used to know. And the second character just says, “Oh?”
One word, and we know that that character is shallow, uncaring. Maybe worse.
Dialogue helps enormously. It reveals not just character, but also how that person relates to others. In writing Fear Dreams and Her Last Breath, I loved creating colorful, highly intuitive NYPD Detective Kerri Blasco. Kerri has her pain and demons but she deals with them – days, anyway – showing courage in battling her superiors when necessary, and then wise-cracking, or showing sympathy, or just being a regular person with her share of minor bad habits. (Her purse is usually stuffed with candy and hurriedly ripped off candy wrappers.) She also loves her partner, Sergeant Alex Brand, who is also her boss, but she has no problem giving him a hard time when she feels charged with conviction. I had fun portraying the interaction between these two. For example, the following scene:
Kerri was on the floor. Alex Brand paced and wouldn’t sit and was trying not to get annoyed.
“Prints are prints,” he groused, stepping around her head as she lay on her back waving a steak knife.
“Yes but.” She was adamant, her knife making stabbing motions as she drove home her point. “Those prints are upside down. Mari Gill was lying on her back when someone wrapped her hand around the knife. You don’t see it? Look at the screen again.”
He did. Stopped pacing near her black Reeboks and bent to his open laptop. The screen was split in half, the left side showing Gill’s ID’d fingerprints large, the right side showing them on the knife three inches up from the blade. He scowled at the image on the right while Kerri on the floor insisted that nobody stabbed like that – you need to grip closer to the blade.
“Sloppy,” she said, laying the knife down, frowning up at the ugly fluorescents. “Somebody was nervous and sloppy, wrapped Gill’s hand wrong around the handle.”
Buck Dillon, another homicide detective, was meanwhile bending to Kerri offering to get a pillow since the squad room floor was hard, and Jo Babiak, Buck’s partner, thought it was funny and kneeled to capture the moment on her phone.
Alex wasn’t laughing. They’d managed to catch four hours’ sleep up in the crib, now they were back at it, and he felt lousy. Kerri on the other hand was hyped about the Jackie Vic murder and debating again with him. She knew it only bothered him a little that she was so often right, but hell, when something grabbed her like this, fuhgeddaboudit. She shrugged off lost sleep and got all bursting with insights that escaped others. Alex was sergeant in charge, but Kerri was younger, less burned out…not that he’d ever had her uncanny intuition.
If he didn’t adore her, he’d be pissed.
Inner monologue is also important. Like voyeurs, we get to read a character’s thoughts, and what better way to make him or her real? In the following scene it’s late. Kerri and Alex are exhausted, going over evidence, and Alex is starting to get cranky. That’s okay with Kerri; she knows he’s a good man and a terrific cop with flaws like she has, and at the moment he’s digging through her purse looking for something for his headache.
“Have they dumped Gill’s phone LUDs yet?” he asked
“No, says here Verizon’s giving them a hard time.”
“Of course they are, they love screwing with us.” From her bag Alex was irritably pulling out candy wrappers and more candy wrappers and two unwrapped Milky Ways. “Christ, my head. Where’s your Advil?”
Kerri smiled, couldn’t help it. It was bitch and moan time, which was a big part of their relationship because they knew each other’s pain. They’d both been through divorce…and twenty-two weeks into her pregnancy, Kerri had lost her baby. Another week or two and her little girl could have lived! She still cried a lot. Alex had his bad moments too, but he was the one usually giving comfort during their nights together. Her place was way up on West One Hundred and tenth; his was ten blocks away on West Twenty-fourth, in the city’s Chelsea section, so they usually slept there. And shared secrets, shared each other’s load.
“You shouldn’t eat all this crap,” Alex was muttering, tossing out a Snickers and a Hershey’s with almonds.
“Shut up. Besides you it makes me happy.”
“Me and junk food. How romantic.”
In that paragraph starting with “Kerri smiled,” we get not just her backstory but who she is emotionally. She becomes really human, and we identify with her.
Dialogue, inner monologue, and action: the three elements that can make your characters likeable to the reader – but to achieve that, they must first feel wonderful to you the author.
Of course, I haven’t even touched on Mari Gill, the case the police are investigating, the woman who woke in a strange apartment next to a murdered man, and can’t remember the night before. The characters in Mari’s life – estranged husband, friends she suddenly doesn’t trust – and Mari herself are all mysterious characters that pulled me on and wouldn’t let go. I hope the reader will feel the same.

The Blurb

A chilling psychological thriller about a woman caught between two men…Mari Gill wakes to horror in a strange apartment next to a murdered man, and can’t remember the night before.  Accused of murder, she feels torn between her husband, a successful defence attorney, and a mysterious, kind man who wants to help.  Can she trust either of them – or even her friends?  Detective Kerri Biasco battles her police bosses believing Mari is innocent…but is she?

A heart-stopping psychological thriller, perfect for fans of Alfred Hitchcock.

Her Last Breath is out now and you can purchase a copy HERE.

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Blog Tour – The Mountain In My Shoe by Louise Beech *Review*

I am so pleased to be one of the hosts on the blog tour for The Mountain In My Shoe as this is a truly wonderful book and Louise Beech is an incredibly talented writer.

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The Blurb

A missing boy, a missing book, a missing husband.  A woman who must find them all to find herself.

On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she’s leaving, he doesn’t come home.  Neither does Conor, the little boy she’s befriended for the past five years.  Also missing is his lifebook, the only thing that holds the answers.  Bernadette must face her own past, her husband’s secrets and a future she never dared in order to find them all.

Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain In My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family…and just how far we’re willing to go for the people we love.

My Review

‘I reckon family are like the sun and when they leave you get so cold your teeth chatter.’

Every now and again I read a novel for review and it is so utterly perfect and beautiful I literally find it difficult to write the review. The Mountain In My Shoe by Louise Beech is one of those books. I knew by the end of chapter seven that this would be a book that stayed with me for a very long time.

On the night that Bernadette decides to leave her domineering and abusive husband he goes missing. Conor, the child she has befriended through a voluntary organisation has also gone missing as has his life book. What follows is a story about family, loss, love and coincidences.

Louise has pitched the prose perfectly, it is exquisitely written and reflects the voices throughout the book incredibly well. Narrated in the first and third person and interspersed with extracts from Conor’s life book the characters shine through and jump from the page. I found myself completely wrapped in the lives of Bernadette and Conor and really caring about the characters.

The Mountain In My Shoe has at it’s core a mystery – what has happened to Conor and Richard – but it’s heart is a story about one of the things that matters to us most as human beings…the family. How our family experiences shape the person we become, how that, expected to be safe and nurturing, unit can let us down but also that we should never give up hope. Louise has written with accuracy about the looked after children system within the UK and how it can fail and damage the most vulnerable children in society, despite the good intentions of those working within it. She has not, however, berated the front line staff caught up in this endless bureaucracy and often impossible constraints instead portraying them as the caring individuals they tend to be.

As I stated earlier this is also a story about coincidences and hope. It has an almost philosophical tone to it in places and is a book to be read slowly and pondered over. Add to this Louise’s stunning prose and what you have in your hands when holding and reading this book is a real work of art.

The Mountain In My Shoe really spoke to me and at times made my heart ache. This is a book that resonated deep within my soul and moved me to the point I had to wait several days before I could put my thoughts about it to paper. It is poignant, profound and perfectly crafted…an absolute must read.

Thank you to Louise Beech and Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books for my copy.

Published 30 September 2016 by Orenda Books.

You can purchase The Mountain In My Shoe HERE.

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Author Influences with Sue Moorcroft

Really excited today to be joined by Sue Moorcroft, author of contemporary women’s fiction, and she is telling us all about which authors and books have inspired her.

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

A lot of Enid Blyton – Famous Five, Secret Seven, Adventures. Before that, when I was into Brer Rabbit and Noddy and Big Ears my mother got so fed up of reading to me that she used to tape record herself when she read aloud so I could listen while she did something else – home made audio books! I moved on to boarding school stories, especially The Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent-Dyer and pony books such as those by Ruby Ferguson. I remember some obscure titles such as Tol the Swimmer and Smiley Hits the Road. I was reading adult authors by the time I was nine.

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

Yes, and Ioved it, especially when we wrote stories. I couldn’t believe I could get good marks for making stuff up. A teacher told me when I was ten that one day there would be books on the shelf with Sue Moorcroft on the spine. I’m not sure why I’m so pleased to prove him right because he was a horrible old troll.

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

I do read a lot in the genre in which I write. I used to read a lot of crime as well but that’s largely fallen by the wayside, now, though I do love romantic suspense (and am not really clever enough to write it). I read a few biographies, also. I have a two- or three-book-a-week habit and I don’t watch much television.

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

I don’t know that I would because I love what I do. If my life depended upon writing something else I’d probably try an historical. I have written a handful of short stories set a few decades ago.

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

I never needed encouragement. I never stopped writing, right from school days. I just didn’t try and get published until I was good and ready. There are so many fantastic authors who have given me pleasure throughout my life and I’d say they all influenced me.

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

Not really – I read so many authors. What does trigger a pre-order moment in me is when there’s a new book due in a favourite series. It’s such a lovely surprise when I turn on my e-reader one day and it’s there.

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

All too many! The Troubleshooter series by Suzanne Brockmann is a prime example. She writes so bravely, using a global stage on which no subject seems to difficult for her to tackle, then she makes a sizzling love affair central to the plot.

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

Yes, but obliquely, usually. The premise of my May 2017 book, Just for the Holidays, came from a friend’s holiday from hell. I asked if I could borrow the situation but I wrote my own story to go with it. In The Christmas Promise I made Ava hate Christmas because I’m not it’s greatest fan and I wanted to show that there are people for whom the Season is no fun. I’m looking forward to Christmas this year, though, having a Christmas book out!

A huge thank you for taking part.

Thank you very much for inviting me onto your lovely blog!

About Sue Moorcroft

Award-winning author Sue Moorcroft writes contemporary women’s fiction with occasionally unexpected themes. A past vice chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and editor of its two anthologies, Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles, writing ‘how to’ and is a creative writing tutor. She’s won a Readers’ Best Romantic Read Award and the Katie Fforde Bursary.

Sue’s latest book The Christmas Promise is out now on Ebook and out in paperback and audiobook on 1st December.  You can buy a copy HERE.  Look out for my review in November!

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Connect with Sue

Website: www.suemoorcroft.com

Blog: www.suemoorcroft.wordpress.com

Facebook: sue.moorcroft.3
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/SueMoorcroftAuthor
Twitter: @suemoorcroft
Instagram: suemoorcroftauthor
Google+: google.com/+Suemoorcroftauthor
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/suemoorcroft
Amazon author page: Author.to/SueMoorcroft

Review – Moondance by Diane Chandler

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The Blurb

Bittersweet, at times funny, and always emotionally raw, this is by far the most moving and honest novel you’ll ever read about IVF and it’s impact on a marriage.

How can you long for someone who doesn’t exist?

Cat has always been in control of her life.  Happily married to Dom, but flying high as a political lobbyist, she dismisses his idea to start a family…until she herself is ready.

But what is it is then too late?

Complex and selfish, intelligent and open, if she is to exceed in having that elusive child, Cat must battle through gruelling fertility treatment and the emotional strain it places on her marriage.  By her side, Dom, easygoing and ever the optimist, finds that he too risks been run ragged by their journey.

Both are forced to come to terms with their longing for a baby against the blitz on a relationship tested like never before.

By the winner of The People’s Book Prize for Fiction 2016.

A rare, raw, engaging fictional account of the traumas of infertility told with frankness and humour.

My Review

Moondance is the moving story of one couples journey through IVF and the impact it has on them individually and as a couple.

Cat and Dom are a successful couple who appear to have it all. Beneath the surface, however, there is the heartbreak of being unable to conceive and Cat’s difficult childhood. Moondance is told in first person narrative by Cat and switches between the past and present focussing on their lives now and when they first met. Diane has perfectly immersed the reader fully into the lives of Cat and Dom so you feel as though you know them inside out and are with them every step of the way on their journey.

I’m not sure how I felt about Cat during the book. Diane has created a character who is, at times, rather unlikeable, as humans often are. This did not though detract from the empathy I felt for her and all credit goes to Diane for managing to pull this off.

This is an honest and unflinching look at all the emotions that are involved when a couple are unable to conceive. The jealousy that arises when those close to you get pregnant, the feelings of regret over having waited too long to try for a child and the misdirected blame and anger. It is raw and deeply moving and the impact on Cat and Dom’s marriage is accurately portrayed. I really hoped that their relationship would survive. For Cat the pursuit of a child becomes all consuming…will this be to the detriment of her marriage?

Moondance also highlights the different experiences of IVF and the loss of a child for the woman and the man. Focus tends to be on the female while sadly the man is forgotten, and this is the case for Dom.

Diane has written about a difficult subject with empathy, insight and honesty and Moondance is an extremely emotional read. This book is touching and had me in tears at various points and left me feeling wrung out. A great and poignant story about the desperation felt for something you want so badly and can’t have that seems to come so easily to others and the grief you can feel over the loss of what, or who, might have been. Highly recommended and would be a great book for a reading group.

Thank you to Diane Chandler and Blackbird Digital Books for the advance copy in exchange for my review.

Published on 1 November 2016 by Blackbird Digital Books.

You can purchase a copy of Moondance HERE.

Review – Bloq by Alan Jones

Bloq

The Blurb

A gritty crime thriller.  Glasgow man Bill Ingham waits in the city’s Central Station to meet his daughter, returning home from London for Christmas.  When the last train pulls in, and she doesn’t get off it, he makes a desperate overnight dash to find out why.  His search for her takes over his life, costing him his job and, as he witdraws from home, family and friends, he finds himself alone, despairing of ever seeing her again.

My Review

Bloq by Alan Jones is a dark, gritty thriller that takes you on one hell of a journey. Bloq is also the story of a father’s love for his daughter and the lengths he will go to for her.

It starts with a brilliantly gruesome prologue which leaves you with so many questions you can’t help but read on and then leads straight into the story of Bill Ingham who has gone to meet his daughter at Glasgow train station, however she does not turn up. Alan draws on every parents worst nightmare and what follows is a thrilling yet moving story of a father’s search for his missing child.

Alan has created a fantastic cast of characters and has managed to write a book that is both unnerving and yet rich in emotion. Bill is a highly likeable character, and I felt my heart breaking for him as he desperately tries to find his daughter, discovers that he knew nothing about what her life in London was actually like and all that he has recently been through prior to his daughter’s disappearance. Carol, Bill’s daughter, is the somewhat naïve young woman who has had a sheltered upbringing and is drawn to an exciting and what she views as glamorous lifestyle. I love a book that is strongly character based and Alan has created this.

Bloq is well paced and the narration works brilliantly. He seamlessly moves between past and present to gradually unravel the truth ensuring that you are reading until late into the night as you cannot put the book down! The tone has a darkness about it which fits perfectly with the seedy underbelly we, as the reader, are drawn into. As the story twisted into directions I did not see coming I was left holding my breath while frantically turning the pages.

Bloq has everything you could want from a crime thriller. It has a depth to it with characters that evoke empathy, the perfect amount of seediness and grit that results in a dark and sinister read and one hell of a storyline that twists and turns. Absolute brilliance!

A huge thank you to Alan Jones for the copy of Bloq in exchange for my review.

Published 1 April 2016 by Ailsa Publishing.

Purchase a copy of Bloq HERE.

Publication Day Interview With Christie Barlow

I’m bloomin’ excited today to have an interview with the brilliant and lovely Christie Barlow.  Her latest novel Lizzie’s Christmas Escape is out today and I wish her a very happy publication day.  Without further ado I will crack on with the interview –

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Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? How did your writing journey begin?
My journey has been incredible. It is like a dream! Once hitting my mid-life crisis after wholly dedicating my life to the care of my children, they asked me what I wanted to do. “I always wanted to write a book,” I found myself answering. And so the idea was born.
Who encouraged you to finally take the plunge and write your first novel?
My gorgeous children encouraged me, Emily, Jack, Ruby and Tilly.
How do you go about writing your books? Do you have a set time of day in which you write and aim to produce so many words?
My writing routine is very similar each day. I start the day by ambling across the fields with my best pal Woody. He is a mad cocker spaniel. Once we return home, I usually switch the kettle on, fire up the computer and then eat my body weight in anything sugary while writing. I aim to write between 2,000 and 2,500 words a day.
Do you carefully plan your novels or do you have an idea and then write and see where it takes you?
On average it takes me five months to write a book and I think I gain about five pounds in weight with every book I write! I plan each book, chapters and characters and have a huge wall plastered with post it notes. I know my characters inside and out and the general gist of how I want the story to progress, but then I love it when all of a sudden the story goes flying off in a totally different direction than I’d originally intended. That’s the magic of writing!
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so how do you overcome it?
I haven’t yet and fingers crossed it stays that way!
What was the inspiration behind Lizzie’s Christmas Escape?
Lizzie’s Christmas Escape wouldn’t have been written if it wasn’t for Gary Barlow! He was the one who provided that little spark of inspiration for this story. I’d just like to make it clear I don’t have Gary locked away in my pantry like Lizzie in the book, but when I’m up at the crack of dawn, feeding my many animals and collecting the fresh eggs from the coop, I have been known to have an early-morning chat with my Gary Barlow calendar!
How did you create the characters in Lizzie’s Christmas Escape?
I was travelling to London on the train when a couple of women sat down opposite me. For the whole journey they chatted about how it would be fantastic to escape from their mundane routine and if it wasn’t for their friendship they would definitely go insane! So the idea was born!
It was really touching that you used the name Ann Sandeman and I loved this. How did you come up with the other names for your characters? (I had to ask this given you have an Abbie and a Freya and I have a Freya hahaha)
The characters Abbie and Freya are named after my chickens!
I love the way you have portrayed the relationship between Lizzie and Ann in Lizzie’s Christmas Escape, is this friendship drawn on your real experiences?
The characters of Lizzie Stevens and Ann Sandeman have been a huge part of my life for the last four months. The tale of their genuine friendship is one I can absolutely relate to. Over the past few years, people have come into my life for a reason or a season however, true friendship is hard to find. For the past twenty-five years I’ve had a genuine friendship with my bestie Anita Redfern; she knows I’m crazy and still puts up with me. True friendship isn’t about being inseparable, it’s about being separated and knowing nothing will change. Everyone should have an Anita in their life!
Your books have such a warm feel to them, how do you go about creating this?
Aww thank you! I just write from the heart!
Who has been the biggest support in your writing career?
My husband, my children and my best friend Anita. Sometimes when I’m writing they don’t see me for long periods of time when I shut myself away. However, they are always on hand with cuddles, laughs and numerous cups of tea if I pop out of my writing cave.
What advice would you give to other inspiring authors?
Read and read widely. Writers always find time to read.
Set time aside to write every day that way there will always be continuity.
Find some people you can trust to read and give you feedback. I have a couple of good friends who read my chapters as I write them. They are always honest and constructive.
Accept criticism if you respect the source.
Write the ending first! I know some writers may think this is bonkers but I work backwards! If I know what the ending is, it always gives me a clue how the middle of book will shape up!

There is no right or wrong way to write a book but just make sure you enjoy it!

Thank you Christie for taking part and allowing me to badger you with questions.  I’m thrilled there are a couple of chickens running around called Abbie and Freya, hahaha.  It was great having you here on Bloomin’ Brilliant Books.

Lizzie's Christmas Escape

 

Christie’s latest novel Lizzie’s Christmas Escape is out today! Published by Bookouture it is a feel-good, laugh-out-loud novel with the signature marks of a Christie Barlow book that I love.  You can check out my review HERE and purchase a copy HERE.

Blog Tour – I Know Your Secret by Graham Smith *Book Review*

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I’m thrilled to be hosting today’s stop on the I Know Your Secret blog tour and sharing my review of this cracking crime thriller with you.

The Blurb

“What would you do if your most intimate secrets got into the wrong hands?”
Set in modern day Cumbria, I Know Your Secret is a police thriller in which a priest is found crucified to the stone floor of his church. Fearing more attacks on the clergy, DI John Campbell and his team of misfits race to find the killer before he strikes again.
Meanwhile, DI Harry Evans, spends his days attending the trial of his wife’s rapist and his nights interfering in the investigation.
Can they catch the killer before he strikes again?

My Review

This is my second venture into Graham Smith’s DI Harry Evans series after recently reading and reviewing his novella Matching The Evidence and I can tell you now it won’t be my last. I Know Your Secret is a cracking crime novel and despite not having read Snatched From Home and reading them in the wrong order it works brilliantly as a stand alone novel.

I Know Your Secret kicks off immediately with a murder and from chapter one I was hooked. A priest has been brutally murdered and a number of people are being blackmailed by an unknown source who seems to know their deepest, darkest secrets. DI Harry Evans and his team have their work cut out trying to catch the killer while Harry is also attending the trial for his wife’s rapist and coming to terms with his imminent retirement.

Graham really draws the reader into the heart of the police investigation and what I love is his realistic portrayal of the budget limitations and stretched resources. You are not only involved in the main story line but the other crimes that the short staffed team are also having to investigate.

The characters within the Major Crime Team are brilliantly executed and I felt I got to know each of them really well. Harry Evans, the renegade cop, is struggling with recent life events and upcoming retirement and although he isn’t always the most lovable character and has some questionable behaviour, I empathised with him and really like his non-conformist ways. My heart went out to DI John Campbell, trying to fit in with a new team in which his predecessor is so highly regarded is not easy.

I really like a bad guy and love it even more when they are multi-layered and you are given an insight into the reasons and motivation behind their behaviour and Graham has done just this. Humans are complex and never black and white and in I Know Your Secret Graham has portrayed this brilliantly.

I Know Your Secret is perfectly plotted and well paced, I devoured this book in no time at all. Thinking at times I had it all worked out, Graham proved me wrong. He manages to pack so much into the book and seamlessly ensures it all makes sense and fits together at the end.

Looking for a great crime thriller that gets you right into the heart of the police investigation? Look no further than I Know Your Secret, you won’t be disappointed!

Thanks to Graham Smith, Noelle Holten and Caffeine Nights Publishing for the advance copy and for inviting me onto the blog tour.

Published on 17 October 2016 by Caffeine Nights Publishing.

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About Graham Smith

Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 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 and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009

He is the author of four books featuring DI harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team.

Connect with Graham Smith here –

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Grab a copy of I Know Your Secret HERE

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Author Influences with Catherine Hokin

Today Catherine Hokin, author of Blood and Roses, joins me to talk all things bookish…

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

I was the classic torch and book under the bedclothes kid and read continuously – I would read the cereal box if I couldn’t find anything else! I remember an early fascination with The Singing Ringing Tree and then becoming obsessed with Anne of Green Gables and The Little House on the Prairie. To a child growing up in the Lake District in the 1970s the locations and adventures seemed impossibly romantic. I also adored the whole Narnia series (except the last one which remains impenetrable) and spent too much time looking for magic wardrobes. And I remember a wonderful book about a girl called Perdita which had something to do with Samarkand and Tudor England – if anyone can shed any light on that, I would be very grateful!

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

I was good at it, I did it to A Level and would have done it at university but History won – I did end up teaching Literature for a number of years so I think it was well-engrained. Did I enjoy it? There were lots of books I loved (especially Tess of the D’Urbevilles) but I did my A Levels in 1980 and I’m not sure you were meant to like it then. There was a lot of quote learning and not a lot of discussion – the teacher was always right and always dull! My love of reading came more from home – my father was a complete bookworm who owned a bookshop and encouraged me to pick up and try anything. Which I did.

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

I’ve always loved historical fiction although I have to avoid reading in the period I’m writing about. The first one I remember loving was The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George which had just the right mix of fact and fiction (not always easy to do) and had an unusual (for its day) structure. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies is in a similar vein: she brings characters authentically to life, treats her audience as intelligent beings who don’t need to be sledge-hammered with overt research and doesn’t get too involved in romance which I’m not a fan of! I hope some of that’s rubbed off on me. I also enjoy very forensically gritty thrillers and plan to weave some of that approach into a future historical novel.

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

Magical realism – I love it. Angela Carter, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Laura Esquivel: I gobble them up. I would love to do something in this style and have been playing around with the genre in short stories. Erin Morgenstern did a brilliant job of weaving the style in with historical fiction in The Night Circus so maybe it’s doable. One day!

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

The Margaret George novel I mentioned earlier plus her book about Mary Queen of Scots: Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles. Until I discovered those I’d only seen historical fiction either of the type written by Jean Plaidy and Anya Seton which was far too romance-driven or Robert Graves, which was brilliant but way more literary than I wanted to/could ever imagine writing. Once I found George and also Sharon Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour, which again takes historical characters and breathes real plausible life into them, I was set on the path even if it did take me a while to get there.

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

Lionel Shriver who is always a fascinating, if controversial, read and tackles up-to-the minute issues without flinching. Ben Aaronovitch for his hilariously clever Rivers of London series. Kate Atkinson and Sarah Waters and I really need Ms Mantel to finish book three. If you’d asked me this a few years ago I would have said George RR Martin as I’m a massive Game of Thrones fan but I think we’ve all given up on that now.

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

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – it is absolutely captivating, so beautifully written and so unusual – and The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton which I’ve already re-read. Both writers have an amazing capacity for detail and are great story-tellers. I’d also go for The Children’s Book by AS Byatt as it is about some of my favourite artists and she gets right under their skin and Neil Gaiman’s mind-twisting American Gods. I could probably do this for hours.

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

I write historical fiction centred on actual people so very much yes! However, beyond the real details of my character’s lives, I do draw on my own experiences and relationships – the memory of emotion part of the writer’s memory box. My first novel, Blood and Roses, is essentially about a strong woman trying to raise her son into a man with ideals she can be proud of and then accept she has to let him go to direct the course of his own life. I have a son who mirrored Prince Edward’s age when I was writing this book and I really drew on my experience of motherhood in this context – that made writing the death scene very tough. In my second novel, currently with my agent, I have drawn on a couple of other close personal relationships – you have to do this to give authenticity to emotions and actions although it isn’t always easy to do. I never use the whole of one person or one situation so no one would entirely recognize themselves – however, I’m not saying who the insanely tyrannical king is based on although they’re real and they’re definitely not male!

A huge thank you Catherine for taking part, I share your love of Lionel Shriver and Tess of the D’Urbevilles too!

About Catherine Hokin

Catherine is a Glasgow-based author whose fascination with the medieval period began during a History degree which included studies into witchcraft, women and the role of political propaganda. This sparked an interest in hidden female voices resulting in her debut novel, Blood and Roses which brings a feminist perspective to the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482, wife of Henry VI) and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses. Catherine also writes short stories – she was a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition and has been published by iScot magazine – and regularly blogs as Heroine Chic. She is now represented by Tina Betts of the Andrew Mann Literary Agency.

Links

Website

Blog

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Catheirne’s novel Blood and Roses was published on 11 January 2016 by Yolk Publishing.  You can purchase a copy HERE.