Monthly Archives: June 2017

Blog Tour – Each Little Lie by Tom Bale *Review*

Regular readers of Bloomin’ Brilliant Books will know that I’m a big fan of Tom Bale’s books and I’m de-bloody-lighted to be kicking off the blog tour for his latest novel Each Little Lie with the lovely Chelle at Chelle’s Book Reviews.  It is publication day today so a huge happy book birthday to Tom and the Bookouture team!

Firstly what is Each Little Lie about?

The Blurb

One split second can destroy your life forever.

Single mother Jen Cornish is just trying to hold things together for the sake of her seven-year-old son Charlie. Until the day when she does an impulsive good deed to help a neighbour, setting off a terrifying chain of events that quickly spirals out of control…

When she is arrested for a crime she didn’t commit, Jen quickly starts to wonder if someone is playing a cruel game with her – or is she losing her mind?

Desperate to clear her name with the police, she must first untangle a chilling web of lies. But someone is watching her every move – and it isn’t just Jen who is in danger.

They’re watching her child as well.

An unputdownable psychological thriller with plenty of twists that will keep you hooked until the very last page…

Sounds good right? So what did I think?

My Thoughts

When Jen Cornish takes action to help out a neighbour who has lost her keys, little does she know that this split-second decision will change her life beyond recognition. Bale has the ability to make an everyday, mundane event into a terrifying experience, twisting the ordinary into the extraordinary in a way that makes you look again at those little decisions you make in your life. In Each Little Lie Bale uses this to its full advantage.

Bale’s protagonist in Each Little Lie is Jen; recently separated and going through a divorce, and single mum to seven-year-old Charlie. Credit to Bale for creating a likeable and believable character and effectively making her voice, thoughts and feelings female in tone. I completely forgot that the author was male! I warmed to her immediately, could empathise with her completely and was on her side throughout the whole journey. When she is arrested for a crime she did not commit, Bale gets to the very heart of a fear that all of us, at some point, have probably thought ‘what if?’ about, especially in the wake of television programmes such as ‘Making a Murderer’.

You are pulled into the story immediately and the plot and pace doesn’t let you go until you have reached the shocking climax. It has been a while since I last really devoured a book, but I read Each Little Lie within a couple of days as I just had to know what would happen. Just as you think the story is wrapping up, Bale takes it up another notch with unexpected twists that you don’t see coming.

Within the storyline there is the premise that money can pretty much buy you anything, including manipulation of the justice system. Full of particularly odious characters, Bale had my teeth set on edge and my skin crawling at some of their actions. He does not hold back when creating that cringe factor, letting it rip for maximum effect. This makes for creepy reading that gets right under your skin!

Each Little Lie has you perched on the edge of your seat throughout, and by the end of the book your nails are bitten down to the quick. Bale is a real master of the thriller, twisting everyday life into the horrifying with a plot that hurtles along at an unprecedented rate. Brilliant!

A huge thank you to Tom Bale and Kim Nash at Bookouture for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Published on 29 June 2017 by Bookouture. You can purchase your copy here:

UK 🇬🇧 http://amzn.to/2qUMvVj
US 🇺🇸 http://amzn.to/2qU9ORi

Follow the rest of the tour…

 

Author Influences with Su Bristow

I am beyond delighted to have the author of one of my favourite books of 2017 joining me today … it’s Su Bristow! Read on to find out more about Su’s favourite books and authors.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
We lived on the outskirts of a small village, so as a young child, my options were limited. There was a very small branch library in the church hall, which was open for a few hours a week. When I was seven I joined the Brownies, which meant staying in the village after school, so I went to the library and read my way through everything. What stands out in my memory? Biographies of famous scientists, like Marie Curie and Thomas Edison. Lives of the saints. Myths and fairy tales. And in fiction, of course, C S Lewis.

My parents weren’t readers, but after my grandfather died when I was about eight, his books were all put in a trunk in an outhouse, and I braved the spiders and mice and worked my way through them. Rider Haggard and Laurens van der Post were a wonderful discovery; definitely not standard reading for a little girl! Meanwhile, back in my grandmother’s house, there was historical fiction and romance. Elizabeth Goudge, Baroness Orczy and Jean Plaidy were my favourites there. Grown up books were what was available, so that was what I read. Not reading was never an option.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I loved English, always, and it was definitely my best subject at primary school, all the way through to A level alongside German, Latin and (ancient) Greek. Words in any language! Learning to love science and medicine came later, at university.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I think everything you read, especially when you’re young, has an impact on your writing – and your thinking too, of course. In my teens, with access to a proper library in town, I read my way through all sorts of literary fiction, science fiction, fantasy, historical, horror, humour, poetry…you name it. I came later to crime fiction. Nowadays, I’ll still read almost anything. I think the style of writing is something I respond to when I’m reading, probably more than the genre.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
First I’d have to decide what my genre actually is! I think my publisher (Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books) would describe Sealskin as literary; and within that category, magical realism.

If I were to write a different genre, it might be young adult or high fantasy; I have unwritten stories from way back that might get told one day.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
There have been so many. But there are some that really excite me: Angela Carter, Ursula le Guin, Alan Garner, to name a few. People working with old stories or ‘big’ themes and bringing them into everyday reality.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Well, I’ve just got a signed copy of Robin Hobb’s latest, Assassin’s Fate. But the pile under the bed doesn’t seem to get any smaller. I know a lot of writers these days, and they will keep writing new books!

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy comes close to perfection, I think. The beautiful writing, building of story and character, the way magic and Taoism and environmentalist philosophy are woven into the fabric of the novels, are all just stunning.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Yes, definitely. I have a nephew with very severe eczema, and I’ve seen how isolating and disabling it can be. That went into the creation of Donald in Sealskin, though that’s where the similarity ends. And Bridie’s work as a herbalist and healer is partly based on my own experience. On another level, my years of working with patients as they grow and change have taught me that people can bring themselves back from some very dark places, and make good even after getting it badly wrong at first.

A huge thank Su for taking part and for the wonderful answers.

It’s a pleasure. Thank you for the invitation!

Su’s beautiful debut novel Sealskin is out now. You can read my review of this beautiful book HERE.

What happens when magic collides with reality?
Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous … and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives – not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence? Based on the legend of the selkies – seals who can transform into people – Sealskin is a magical story, evoking the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance.

About Su Bristow

Su Bristow is a consultant medical herbalist by day. She’s the author of two books on
herbal medicine: The Herbal Medicine Chest and The Herb Handbook; and two on
relationship skills: The Courage to Love and Falling in Love, Staying in Love, cowritten
with psychotherapist, Malcolm Stern. Her published fiction includes ‘Troll
Steps’ (in the anthology, Barcelona to Bihar), and ‘Changes’ which came second in the
2010 CreativeWritingMatters flash fiction competition. Her debut novel, Sealskin, is
set in the Hebrides, and it’s a reworking of the Scottish legend of the selkies, or seals
who can turn into people. It won the Exeter Novel Prize 2013. Her writing has been
described as ‘magical realism; Angela Carter meets Eowyn Ivey’.

Twitter: @SuBristow

Mid-Year Freak Out

The lovely Nicola at Shortbookandscribes kindly nominated me to take part in the Mid-year Freak Out tag. It’s not often I talk about myself and this looked like a lot of fun, plus gave me the opportunity to think about the books I have read so far this year, so thank you Nicola 🙂 

Here are the questions and my answers:

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2017:

2017 has been a brilliant year for books so far and I have really enjoyed every book I have read so far. My favourite, however, has to be Sealskin by Su Bristow. I adored everything about this beautiful book.

2. Best sequel of 2017 so far:

This has to be The Day That Never Comes by Caimh McDonnell. This is the second part of The Dublin Trilogy and it had me roaring with laughter. It has a mad German Shepherd called Maggie in it and saw the return of Bunny McGarry. I can’t wait for the third book.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to:

There are a few I need to get around to reading but The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin is probably the highest on my must read list!

4. Most anticipated release of the second half of 2017:

Another difficult one to answer as there are so many amazing sounding books due out this year. I’m going to go for House of Spines by Michael J Malone. I adore psychological thrillers and gothic novels and this book promises both!

5. Biggest disappointment of 2017:

Oh I’m not sure I can answer this one! I have had a brilliant reading year so far and there hasn’t been any books that I haven’t enjoyed. If pushed, I would have to say We All Begin As Strangers by Harriet Cummings. There is nothing wrong with the book, I just expected more. This is my personal taste, however, and other reviewers have loved it. I now feel awful!!!

6. Biggest surprise:

Mary’s The Name by Ross Sayers. This beautiful debut novel took me totally by surprise … in the best way! For a man to completely encapsulate a young girl was the biggest surprise for me. It’s wonderful!

7. Favourite new author (debut or new to you):

Wow another difficult question! There are so many, but I will say Patricia Gibney. her debut The Missing Ones is fantastic and a great start to a new detective series.

8. Newest fictional crush:

I don’t really have fictional crushes! The only one I have ever had was for Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights which I read as an angst-ridden teenager!

9. Newest favourite character:

It has to be Wee Mary in Mary’s The Name by Ross Sayers. I wanted to adopt her!

10. Book that made you cry:

Reconciliation for the Dead by Paul E Hardisty didn’t make me cry but it left me feeling incredibly emotional. I did shed a tear at Mary’s The Name.

11. Book that made you happy:

This has to be Mystery at Maplemead Castle by Kitty French. It is pure, light-hearted, fun with a great cast of characters.

12. Favourite book to movie adaptation of 2017 you’ve seen:

I haven’t seen any! I rarely get to the cinema due to health problems, the noise can be too much for me and the last time I went to the cinema I thought I was going to black out but luckily instead I fell asleep! 

13. Favourite review you’ve written this year:

Oh bloomin’ heck I doubt every review I write! I have to chose one I guess it would be my review for Exquisite by Sarah Stovell. I normally struggle to write reviews for the books I have fallen in love with but for some reason this one came quite easily, despite being in love with the book.

14. Most beautiful book you bought or received this year:

This would have to be the hardback signed copy of Himself by Jess Kidd that my husband bought me for my birthday.

15. Books you need to read by the end of this year:

Seriously have you seen the state of my TBR pile??? This is almost impossible to answer as I have so many! From the top of my head I will say Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski and Block 46 by Johanna Gustafsson.

Being a bit of a tech numpty I have no idea how to tag people in order for them to take part, so instead I will just mention them here! I nominate:

Meggy at Chocolatenwaffles

Mairead at Swirl and Thread

Ronnie at Ronnie Turner

Jen at Jen Med’s Book Reviews

Kate at TheQuietKnitter

Emma at Damppebbles

Blog Tour – That One May Smile by Valerie Keogh *Author Q&A*

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Valerie Keogh’s That One May Smile today and have a fab Q&A with the lady herself.  Before I hand over to Valerie let me tell you about her new book…

When Kelly Johnson’s husband disappears, her perfect world in the Foxrock suburb of Dublin falls apart. Then she stumbles on a dead body in the graveyard behind her house.
A coincidence? Garda Sergeant Mike West thinks so until he finds a link between the dead body and Kelly’s missing husband.
And then to add to the problem, Kelly disappears.
The investigation takes West first to Cornwall and then to Cork, on the trail of a tangled case involving identity theft, blackmail and illegal drugs. And as if the complications of the case weren’t enough there is the constant, irritating – and definitely unsuitable – attraction, to the beautiful Kelly, who will keep disappearing!

You can purchase a copy HERE.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Valerie Keogh, I’m the author of eight novels published on Amazon. I’m also a registered nurse. Since one of my characters is a serial killer and a nurse, I decided to write under a pen name – I didn’t want people to get the wrong idea!

How did you get into writing? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do?
I always had my head in a book as a child and when not reading I was making up stories of my own. I wrote some on pieces of paper and tied them together with string. Unfortunately, none survived. It would be fun to see them now.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Inspiration can come from anything, something you hear, see or experience. I’m a terrible insomniac so sometimes come up with ideas while I’m trying to sleep. I often come back from holidays with an idea for a new story. On a recent visit to Cape Town, we went up Table Mountain and there was a bomb scare on the cable car so we had to stay up there for hours. That incident has given me an idea, not just for another story, but for another series.

How would you describe your writing to anyone who hasn’t read your books?
That One May Smile is the first in my Garda West series. It’s based in Ireland and is a fairly typical mystery series with a hint of romance. There is no gratuitous violence or sex, I like to concentrate on the puzzle of it all, and love to keep the reader guessing.

Do you think social media helps in regard to promotion and drumming up publicity for a new book?
Absolutely. As an Indie writer I depend on it to get my work out there and use a variety of promotional groups to help me do so.

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?
That fantastic feeling when you press the Publish button and it’s out there waiting to be read. Feedback from readers is wonderful and I get a great thrill when I get readers asking when the next novel is due. The writing community is very supportive and encouraging and I’ve made a number of friends.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?
The least favourite, I suppose, is the continuous need for marketing.

Where do you see your writing career 5 years from now?
I’d like to be a Hybrid author – continue the series I have independently published but also have a series traditionally published. Getting the both of both worlds, I suppose. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll keep going as I am and continue to self-publish.

What’s next for you?
I’m writing the next in the Garda West series, that’ll be the fourth. I’m planning to follow on immediately with the fifth and then start my new series which will incorporate that experience I had in Cape Town.

I often wonder are authors voracious readers. Do you read much, and if so, what kind of books do you enjoy?
I love crime novels but I’m wary now of reading while I am writing as I find myself adopting the style of the writer I’m reading! To be honest, I’ve very little time for reading anymore, if I’m not working as a nurse, I’m writing or researching.

Can you tell me your all time favourite book, or if you have to, your top 5?
One of my all time favourite’s is Jane Eyre, but a more recent one is Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life. And I love all John Connolly’s novels.

Has there been any books you’ve read that you wish you had written?
Any of the above!

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I’m still working as a nurse so that takes up a lot of my time. I enjoy gardening, walking and having great holidays. My idea of heaven, is a glass of wine in a sunny place.

Have you any hobbies that aren’t book-related?
Gardening, walking, wine-drinking.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?
Current favourite, Cape Town. Stunningly beautiful. Previously it would have been Cinque Terre or Venice.

Favourite food?
An easy one – pizza!

Favourite drink?
Wine. Good coffee.

Last but not least, why writing? Why not something else?
There are so many stories in my head waiting to get down on paper, just when I think I have them under control, more pop in demanding to be released. So it’s always going to be writing.

About the author:

Valerie Keogh is from Dublin but currently lives with her husband and two cats ten miles from Bath, U.K. She works two to three days a week as a nurse and spends the other days writing. That One May Smile is the first of her crime series, the Garda West series, based in Ireland. She also writes a series based in the UK, the Hudson and Connolly series, about a female serial killer who works with the police. There is also a stand-alone psychological thriller, Exit Five from Charing Cross. When not working or writing she likes to walk along the Kennet and Avon canal, daydreaming and working out plots. She also loves to travel and usually comes home with a new story to write. She is partial to lemon drizzle cake, crusty bread with hummus, and wine.

Links

Facebook: @valeriekeoghnovels

Twitter: @ValerieKeogh1

Thanks to Noelle and Kate at Thick as Thieves Publicity for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the tour…

 

Blog Tour – Exquisite by Sarah Stovell *Review*

I am delighted and excited to be on the Exquisite by Sarah Stovell blog tour today and finally able to share my review of this wonderful book alongside the brilliant The Book Trail.

The Blurb

A chilling, exquisitely written and evocative thriller set in the Lake District, centring on the obsessive relationship that develops between two writers…
Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name.
Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend.
When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops… Or does it?

Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

My Thoughts

I could not wait to get my hands on Sarah Stovell’s debut psychological thriller Exquisite as I was drawn in by the title and the stunning cover. I adore a book with complex characters and unreliable narrators and in Exquisite Stovell has provided me with these in abundance.

Exquisite takes you into the lives of forty-year-old, successful author, married, mother of two Bo Luxton and mid-twenties, stumbling-through-life, aspirational writer Alice Dark. What the women have in common is their love and talent for the written word and a difficult and traumatic childhood. When the two women meet at a writer’s course in Northumberland there is an immediate spark and the chain of events that are set in motion are cataclysmic.

Stovell has, in my mind, created the perfect psychological thriller. It draws you in immediately and the narrative structure of the book works in such a way that you never quite know who to believe. Doubt prevails as you follow each character through the course of their relationship, getting deep into their thoughts and feelings. But whose thoughts and feelings are genuine and which version of events should you believe? Stovell has cleverly created characters who simultaneously made my heart ache and sent chills down my spine.

Exquisite’s ending is left to the reader’s interpretation and yet is satisfying. It ensures that the book stays with you long after you have read the final page. This, for me, fit perfectly with the tone, feel and the doubt that endures through the course of the book.

One of the joys of Exquisite is the literary quality that combines so perfectly with the twists and turns Stovell creates. Her prose throughout the book is outstanding and she is a formidable talent. Exquisite is sublime in that it is both breathtaking and unsettling. Stovell has you basking in its beauty while shivering in its darkness.

Exquisite is a delicately woven tale of passion, obsessive love and the impact of not being mothered. I haven’t read a book about a relationship that has affected me in this way since Jeanette Winterson’s Written On The Body. There is a dark beauty within its pages and Exquisite is set to be one of the books of the year.

Published on 15 June 2017 by Orenda Books.

A huge thank you to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for the advance copy in exchange for my review and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. 

Follow the rest of the tour…

Review – Manipulated Lives by H A Leuschel

The Blurb

Five stories – Five Lives
Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?

Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.

My Thoughts

I have always been interested in psychology and the human psyche, so I couldn’t resist reading Leuschel’s Manipulated Lives. This intriguing book takes the form of five novella length stories, each focusing on a different perspective of somebody who has been subjected to manipulation.

Leuschel has created a good mix of age ranges in order to tell the tales and experiences of those who have found themselves to be on the receiving end of manipulation. There is an octogenarian, a thirty-year-old, a teenager and the mother of a grown-up son. I liked the scope of the stories and found the story about the teenager particularly pertinent as the issue of domestic abuse within teenage relationships is something that has been highlighted recently as prevalent. My only slight criticism is that none of the stories gave the perspective of a female manipulating a male. As domestic abuse does occur in heterosexual relationships in which the female is the abuser and thus uses manipulation techniques I personally would have liked to have seen this covered.

In The Narcissist Leuschel writes from the point of view of the manipulator and this adds a different layer to the book. Leuschel writes this particular story incredibly well, really taking you into the mind of the narcissist and their disturbing thought patterns.

It is clear that Leuschel has carefully researched narcissistic personality traits and human behaviour as the feelings and thoughts that come through the characters are insightful and intelligent. The story that really resonated with me was The Spell which focuses on the relationship between a young woman and an older man who has a child. As an ex-social worker I came across many men like David and it rang so true for me. She portrays really well the niggly feeling you get that something isn’t right but you can’t put your finger on what it is, the feeling that the stories they tell you don’t quite add up and the use of a child that often compels people to stay within these destructive relationships. Leuschel’s observations of the behaviours used by the abuser – making out they are the victim, rapid mood changes – are all accurately portrayed.

If you are wanting a book that explores the dark side of the human psyche that is both authentic in its approach but not difficult to understand or read check out Manipulated Lives. It is thought-provoking and chillingly accurate in its portrayal of manipulation in everyday life.

Published on 28 June 2016 by CreateSpace.

A huge thank you to H A Leuschel for the copy in exchange for my review.

Author Influences with Rebecca Pugh

I’m delighted to welcome author and brilliant blogger Rebecca Pugh to the blog today to talk about the books and authors that have influenced her life and her writing.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
As a child, I’ll always remember having a little stack of books on my bedside table and each night, I looked forward to getting cosy and diving into said pile. This pile consisted of a number of fabulously fantastic tales, such as The Little Red Hen and Chicken Licken. I remember, too, those Where’s Spot? books where you lifted the flaps to find different animals, perhaps in the farmyard or in the house where Spot lived. I don’t know about you, but I always found any books that had flaps in them to be incredibly exciting when I was little. Who knew what would be hiding beneath? Afterwards, during secondary school, I found my way to the library, which I suppose was inevitable, and I became obsessed with R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series, and another similar collection of eerie and creepy books known as Point Horror. I read most of these twice, three times over, and always bugged the librarian about whether more would ever come in. I absolutely loved them, and still read them now, if I fancy it.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
English was my favourite subject at school and, looking back now, I believe it was the only subject I excelled at. I loved my English classes and looked forward to them constantly. Learning about Shakespeare and practicing creative writing, even having to read passages aloud in class was something I didn’t mind doing at all. Silent reading was also another bonus about my English class. My teacher was a wonderful person and I still think about her now. She certainly made our classes enjoyable, and ignited my love for the subject even more.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
If you had asked me this question a couple of years back, then my answer would have been romance and romance alone but, in the past year or so, I’ve discovered a love within myself for crime thrillers and psychological thrillers. Books that tease you and play with your mind, having you believe one thing when in fact, it is the opposite that is true. I still adore my romance, I think it will always be my first love, but I’m excited to have broadened my reading genres. Doing so has introduced me to plenty of new authors whose books I have adored. I do think the genres that I read have an impact on my own writing. Since discovering the darker side of fiction, I’ve had an urge to try my hand at it myself. Whether I’ll be any good, who knows, but I think it’s good to try something new and test yourself once in a while.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
As mentioned above, I’ve discovered a new love for the darker side of fiction, so I would really love to try and write something darker myself. I adore Stephen King’s books. His ability to create the creepiest atmospheres and strangest characters goes beyond anything I’ve read before. I’m not saying I’d be any good, but everything is worth a try, isn’t it? I, myself, love it when an author instils that fear in me while reading, so I’d love to see if I could perhaps do the same. Who knows?

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
I fell in love with Jill Mansell’s books from the moment I read my first. The gorgeous settings along with the lovable characters made me feel warm and safe in the fictional worlds between the pages. They whisked me away from reality and sometimes, that’s exactly what a person is after. Reading Jill’s work had me wondering, what if I could do the same for someone? I used to look at Jill’s books on my bookshelf, all lined up together, and think, I’d really love to see my books lined up together like that too. It’s about offering readers a place to go, a place to look forward to going, and a place to let go of the stresses and worries of everyday life, I think, with characters who they can relate to, or just enjoy spending time with.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Gosh, yes! Probably too many to list here, but I’ll try my best! Jill Mansell’s books, which always come around in January, so I think of them as a birthday treat from me to me. There’s also Stephen King, Miranda Dickinson, Fern Britton, Cathy Bramley, C.L. Taylor, Sophie Kinsella… The list goes on!

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
There are two here, and those are The Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson (still thinking about that twist even now!), and I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. Both books are incredible and I loved them from beginning to end. These authors are fantastically talented at what they do.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Sometimes, real life does a play a part in my books, but not always. I’ll focus on themes that mean a lot to me, like sisters in A Home in Sunset Bay or beginning again like in Down on Daffodil Lane when life doesn’t go to plan, but other than that, I try to let my imagination take the lead as much as possible. I think it’s inevitable, really, that a little bit of real life will slip into an author’s WIP. But it’s magical, too, watching the real and the fictional become entwined. I love that.

A huge thank you Rebecca for taking part and for the brilliant answers.

Rebecca’s latest novel Right Here Waiting For You is out now, published by HQ Digital:

We used to be best friends…
Magda used to be the girl everyone wanted to be – most likely to achieve her every wish. That is until suddenly her perfect life seems to be anything but!
Sophia has never regretted her life, sure it isn’t perfect, but being a single mum to a daughter she loves is pretty great. Perhaps she never moved away from home, or got to live out her dreams, but what she has right now isn’t so bad.
That is until an invitation to their school reunion arrives, throwing both their lives into a spin – because these two used to be friends and it might finally be time to face up to that one big mistake that happened all those years ago…

About Rebecca

Rebecca Pugh grew up in the green county of Shropshire. Not an immediate reader, it took her a while to find her way towards the wonderful fictional worlds hidden between the pages of books. Ever since, she’s fallen under the spell of countless authors and the tales they’ve weaved. Her favourite authors include Jill Mansell, Cathy Bramley, Sarah Morgan and Holly Martin, to name but a few. She loves nothing more than tapping away at the keyboard, taking her characters from imagination to page and, when that isn’t the case, she adores curling up with a good book.

Rebecca is a fan of fairy tale romances that sweep you off your feet, dashing heroes and strong, lovable heroines. She can’t make up her mind whether she prefers a countryside escape, or a love story set in bustling New York. Either way, she’s more than happy to disappear into both.

When it comes to her own writing, Rebecca aims to whisk readers away to desirable locations, where they can meet characters who, she hopes, will begin to feel like friends. With a dash of romance here, and a shake-up of things there, she loves dreaming up stories and watching them come to life.

Connect with Rebecca

Twitter: @RebeccaPAuthor

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Blog Tour – Wolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staalesen *Review*

I’m delighted to be taking part in Gunnar Staalesen’s Wolves in the Dark blog tour today with Dee at It’s All About The Books and sharing my review.

The Blurb

Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum’s life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts.
When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he’s accused of being part of a paedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material… and who is seeking the ultimate revenge.
When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen. With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest – and most personal – case yet.
Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Wolves in the Dark reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.

My Thoughts

Wolves in the Dark is the 21st book in Staalesen’s Varg Veum series and yet this is the first Veum novel I have read. I was a little concerned about jumping into a book so late in a very established series, however, Wolves in the Dark works perfectly as a standalone.

Varg Veum is a private investigator working in Bergen, Norway and when we first meet him in Wolves in the Dark he is being arrested by police officers for suspicions of being part of a paedophile ring. As child pornography is found on his computer, Veum has to find out who put it there and why in order to clear his name and prove his innocence. What follows is a hard-hitting story that takes you into Norway’s dark and shocking underbelly.

Veum is a complex character who, it becomes apparent, has gone through his share of difficulties over the past few years. Losing his partner has left him bereft and turning to alcohol to help him cope with his loss. Staalesen’s characterisation is fantastic and he is incredibly skilled at bringing Veum out from the pages and into real life. As Veum struggles to sift through his precarious memories of the past few years to unearth who may have bode him ill, his humanity shines through via his sardonic outlook and self-depreciating humour.

Wolves in the Dark has a complex plot with a large cast of characters which demonstrates Staalesen’s story-telling skills as he intricately weaves each thread together. It does take an amount of concentration to keep track, but it is worth the added effort as he pulls it all together in the highly climatic and shocking ending. As each revelation and connection was unveiled I found myself wondering if there really is any such thing as coincidences. Each chapter is short yet perfectly formed and this serves to add to the pace and plot.

This is a gritty and socially-aware novel with Staalesen being unafraid to raise uncomfortable issues that are, sadly, a part of today’s society. While this may make Wolves in the Dark uncomfortable reading at times Staalesen, in my opinion, approaches the difficult subject of child sexual abuse in a non-gratuitous way that serves to highlight the organisation behind these crimes.

Compelling, dark and perfectly plotted with a protagonist that shines, Wolves in the Dark is a great read that will appeal to those who yearn for a more complex storyline than their usual crime thriller.

Published on 15 June 2017 by Orenda Books.

Huge thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my copy of Wolves in the Dark and for inviting me to part of the blog tour.

Follow the tour…

 

Author Guest Post by Susan Gandar ‘Absent Father’ and Excerpt

It is Father’s Day on Sunday and as a celebration of that I have a gorgeous guest post from the lovely Susan Gandar. Susan is the author of the beautiful We’ve Come To Take You Home and along with her guest post you can read an excerpt of her debut novel. I’m delighted to have Susan vising the blog today as We’ve Come To Take You Home was one of my favourite books of 2016. I will now hand you over to Susan…

 

Absent Father

What was it like to grow up, the daughter of a 4 Oscar winning father? Yes, it had its moments, very exciting and very different. One of my birthdays was spent, with a group of friends, visiting Shepperton Studios where Carol Reed’s musical ‘Oliver!’ was being shot. We watched as Mark Lester, playing Oliver, crept up to Harry Secombe’s Mr. Bumble, held out his bowl – and whispered, ‘Please, Sir, can I have some more?!

With my father working away so much of the time, most of my school holidays were spent visiting him on location. One of those summer holidays was spent in Spain, in Madrid, where ‘Doctor Zhivago’ was being filmed. Early one blazingly hot morning, heat already shimmering off the pavements, we set off from the cool, dark apartment my parents were renting to visit the unit filming on the other side of the city.

An hour later, I was standing, up to my ankles in snow, in ‘Kropotkin Street’ in Moscow. And it was still over 100 F! And there wasn’t just one street but several, with trams clanking up and down, even a cathedral and in the far distance the crenellated walls of the Kremlin – the Magician, as my father was known, and his team had been at work again.

Those are the positive memories. But there are many that are less so: the number of birthdays that were missed, my very unhappy and frustrated mother, the bullying at school because I was so ‘different’.

Things came to a head when my father was offered and accepted the role of production designer on David Lean’s epic ‘Laurence of Arabia’. He packed his bags and walked out of the front door – not to return for two years. I remember so well the puzzlement, the heartache, the tearful phone calls, the feeling that we all, my mother, my sister and I, the rest of the family, had been deserted.

And then it was Christmas – and he was coming home, just for a couple of days, but that had to be better than nothing. I stood there, five years old, trembling with excitement, staring out of the window, watching out for my father. And there he was, walking down the street, towards our house. I ran out of the sitting room into the hallway, wrenched open the front door, flew down the steps, down onto the street – and threw myself into his arms saying those lines which Jenny Agutter made so famous in the film The Railway Children, ‘Daddy, my Daddy!’.

But the magic moment I’d been dreaming about, better than any Christmas present, being hugged, kissed, burying myself in my father’s arms, didn’t happen. My father just stood there, shuffling his feet, saying nothing, doing nothing. And then my mother was there, pulling at me, apologising, saying she was really sorry, and I was being led back up the steps, through the front door, into our flat. This man wasn’t my father, he was a stranger, just a man walking down the street, my real father would be coming later. And he did, tall and suntanned, and rather glamorous, but rather aloof, mentally and emotionally- still out in Jordan, in the desert, drawing a line through the sand, for Omar Sharif to follow when riding into the well on his camel.

My mother threatened by father with divorce – and the films abroad stopped, at least for a while. And I had a father who was at home, not all of the time, but at least some of the time. And we did what other families did, going for walks together in the local park on a Sunday. To me, even now, the memory of my father’s hand gripping mine, him being there, with us, fills me with a mix of huge happiness – but also huge sadness. Not because of all the time he spent away, not being there when we were growing up. But because, when I was older, when I could spend more time with him and really appreciate who he was, he became the most supportive and most wonderful father – and my dearest friend.

A huge thank you Susan for such a wonderful and moving article.

We’ve Come To Take You Home Excerpt

The accident and emergency waiting room was full, every seat taken, with bonfire night casualties.
‘Your address?’
‘7 Seaview Road.’
‘Your friend’s name?’
‘Friend?’
‘The girl you came in with? In the ambulance?’
‘Amy Roberts.’
‘Address?’
‘Tudor Close.’
‘Number?’
A tall figure, dressed in pilot’s uniform, gold braid on his sleeves, cap perched at just the right angle on top of his head, was striding towards the entrance doors of the accident and emergency department.
‘I’m sorry…’
The automatic doors slid open.
‘The house number? In Tudor Close?’
‘Twenty-four, I think. I’m not sure…’
The figure disappeared outside.
‘No problem. We can check. If you’d like to take a seat I’ll get…’
She couldn’t wait. She’d done all she could. There was a police car sitting outside the girl’s house. When her parents arrived home they would be driven straight to the hospital.
She pushed her way past a family, a little boy his head buried in his father’s shoulder, his right hand tightly bound in a wet towel, the mother sobbing into her phone. Behind were two girls, the same age as herself, supporting a third, the side of her face streaked a livid red. The doors slid open. And there he was. Head held high, arms and legs pumping, on his way to somewhere else.
‘Dad…’
An ambulance, blue lights flashing, sirens blaring, turned off the main road. It accelerated up the ramp directly towards her father.
‘Dad, look out.’
There was no slamming of brakes. No thump of hard metal crunching into soft flesh. The ambulance continued up the ramp. It screeched to a stop outside the accident and emergency department. The driver got out, walked round to the back and threw open first one door, and then the other. An elderly couple looked Sam up and down, shook their heads, muttered something to each other, and continued walking down the ramp towards the main road.
She stood there, trembling, staring at the spot where her father had just been. There had been no slam of brakes, no thump of metal, no screaming or calling out for a doctor, because there had been nothing to scream or call out about. Instead of shattered bone and blood and guts there was empty space. Her father had vanished – if he had ever been there at all.
She ran back into the accident and emergency department, through the waiting area, and down the corridor to the lift. She punched the button. She stepped inside. The doors closed, the doors opened, people got in, people got out; sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and, at last, the tenth floor.
‘Stand clear… oxygen away…VF… shock.’
A trolley, laden with equipment, stood at the end of her father’s bed. She recognised it.
‘Asystole. Flat line.’
It was the same trolley the doctors had used to shoot electricity through the old man’s body. The old man with the grey face thick with stubble, locked away in his coma, who had suddenly sat upright, straight backed in his bed, his arms outstretched, his eyes staring, his mouth opening and closing as if he was trying to say something. That bed was now empty.
‘There’s no heartbeat. It’s been too long.’
A nurse started to remove an intravenous tube from her father’s right arm. A second nurse started to remove an intravenous tube from his left arm. A third nurse unplugged a monitor.
Her father was being tidied up, packed away, like he was nothing more than a head, and a chest, with two arms and two legs which had never felt pain, had never felt anger – had never known love.
She pushed past the trolley, with its plugs and its wires, its paddles and its cables, which had produced the electric shocks that had shot through her father’s body, sending him convulsing off the bed. None of which had worked.
‘Dad, it’s me, Sam.’
She grabbed hold of his hand.
‘Please come back.’
Someone was trying to pull her away from the bed.
‘Sam, come with me now. Your dad can’t hear you…’
It was Mac. Standing next to him was Dr. Brownlow.
‘We did everything we could.’
And now Mac was putting his hand on her hand, and he was uncurling it, finger by finger, out of her father’s. She kicked out, hitting him hard on the shin. He jumped back. She held on to her father’s hand even tighter.
‘We love you…’
Her whole body was screaming.
‘Please come back…’
She had to make him hear.
‘We love you, we love you. Please come back.’
‘Sam, stop now, Dad can’t hear you…’
She had a special gift. That’s what the old lady in the church had said. She could see and hear things other people couldn’t see or hear, go to places other people couldn’t reach. So where would her father be now? Where would he go, inside his head, if he was in a coma?
She closed her eyes. Sometimes her father would be away for just a couple of days, sometimes a full week, often even longer, but, wherever he was, even if it was on the other side of the world, they had always been able to talk to each other. She had always been able to reach him.

You can purchase a copy of We’ve Come To Take You Home HERE.

Read my review HERE and Susan’s Author Influences HERE.

Author Influences with Alan Jones

Whoop whoop the bloomin’ fabulous Alan Jones joins me today to talk about his author influences!

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
Stig of the Dump and the Asterix books were my all-time favourite as a kid but I read a pile of Enid Blyton books too and went through most of the child section of our local library until the Librarian, an elderly man (of about my age now, probably 😊), told me I could take books out of the adult section as long as he passed them as suitable. He suggested I might want to start with Alistair Maclean and Desmond Bagley.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I loved creative writing but I hated dissecting books to the nth degree. I may sometimes take a book too literally and fail to find the author’s underlying message, although even I did manage to get Animal Farm’s subtext without prompting but the search for deep meaning always spoiled a book for me. My year one teacher spotted that I was a reader, and gave me all sorts of books to read. That was my introduction to authors like Nevil Shute and Nicholas Monsorrat, Lewis Grassic Gibbon and George Orwell. I’m forever in her debt to opening my mind up to a wide range of books and writers.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I read most genres, except romance and the supernatural, although I do like a good relationship in a non-romance book. I find myself drawn into writing a love story when I’m writing my own books, which I hope makes my crime thrillers very human. I like science fiction when it is close to reality and is firmly based on science. Fantasy not so much. Historical stuff can be really good if it engages me with people who seem real. I enjoy crime and legal thrillers, and try and read literary books occasionally, both modern and classic. And I really like quirky books, that just stick out for some undefinable reason.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
Funny you should ask that. After three gritty crime novels, I am now researching a non-crime book. It is historical to an extent, but it is within the last century. The problem is that I’ve discovered writing such a book requires a vast amount of research compared with the average crime novel (especially as my first two books were based in Glasgow, where I lived until the age of 22).

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
I think Irvine Welsh’s use of Scottish urban dialect and his no-holds-barred approach to describing real life allowed me to write as I felt, without getting worried or embarrassed about what readers would think. I know that my books won’t appeal to everyone, as they contain a lot of swearing, violence, varying degrees of sexual content and some pretty strong Glasgow slang (in the first two at least).

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Again, Irvine Welsh would fit into that category. I’m trying to read as widely as I can at the moment, so I’m trying not to get too tied to any particular author just 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?
Mila 18, by Leon Uris, Shogun by James Clavell and Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. All very different, but all had the wow factor for me, for different reasons. Mila 18 is the best novel about the Holocaust that I have read. It’s a sort of ‘what-if’ book loosely based on the Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto. Shogun is another novel roughly inspired by a true event, about a British Sailor shipwrecked in Japan who becomes an integral part of Japanese culture. Trainspotting is one of the most visceral books about the side of Scotland not portrayed on tourist posters, and is a searing indictment of the Scottish Capital’s underbelly.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Yes, many of my characters inherit traits from people I know or who I’ve come in contact with. In my second book, Blue Wicked, a lot of the plotlines were drawn from my everyday job – I don’t want to say more, lest I give away the opening of the book.

In my first book, The Cabinetmaker, the main character makes bespoke furniture, and plays amateur football, both passions of mine, so the plot and the descriptions of the characters were heavily influenced by my own interests, and it meant that I didn’t have to do too much research!

A massive thank you Alan for taking part and for the brilliant responses!

Bloq Alan’s latest novel is out now … and it’s brilliant. You can read my review of it HERE.

A father waits in Glasgow’s Central Station for his daughter, returning home from London for Christmas. When the last train has pulled 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 withdraws from home, family and friends, he finds himself alone, despairing of ever seeing her again.

About Alan Jones

Alan Jones is a Scottish Author with three gritty crime stories to his name, the first two set in Glasgow, the third one based in London. Living on the Clyde coast in Ayrshire, he works in the animal health industry, makes furniture and maintains and sails a 40 year old yacht in the Irish Sea and the West coast of Scotland. He writes under a pen name for work related reasons, and is married with grown up children. He loves reading, watching films and cooking. Last year he hung up his football boots as age and a dodgy ankle caught up with him.

His books are not for the faint-hearted, with some strong language, violence and various degrees of sexual content. The first two books also contain a fair smattering of Glasgow slang.

Connect with Alan

Website: www.alanjonesbooks.co.uk

Twitter: @alanjonesbooks