Category Archives: Authors A to C

Reviews by authors surname A to C

Review – The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech

The Blurb

Be careful what you wish for…

Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t…
Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…
Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it?
What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?
A dark, consuming drama that shifts from Zimbabwe to England, and then back into the past, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a devastatingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart…

My Thoughts

Louise Beech has fast become one of my favourite authors. She is my ‘go-to’ writer when I want to read a book that is going to take me to a whole other level emotionally and when I want more from the writing than just a good storyline. So, I was really pleased (and lucky) to get my hands on an early copy of The Lion Tamer Who Lost.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is the story of Andrew and Ben, two men who it appears that fate is determined to bring together. Since childhood, Andrew has made wishes and kept them in a box … He may now be wishing that his latest wish hadn’t come true. Ben promised his mother that he would volunteer at a lion reserve in Africa … when he finally achieves his promise and his dream, it has a bitter taste.

With prose that you just fall into, Beech demonstrates, once again, that she is an incredibly talented wordsmith. With numerous passages underlined in my copy, each word that Beech uses has maximum impact on your emotions. She manages to make you laugh, cry and pause to think in a few pages. The Lion Tamer Who Lost left me reeling with a whole range of raw feelings.

Alongside believable, authentic characters, Beech has created the most wonderful sense of place in The Lion Tamer Who Lost. Switching between Zimbabwe and Hull, she captures the essence of both, let’s face it very different, places. I have never been to Zimbabwe, but Beech had my imagination soaring as I spent time there with Ben, soaking up the weather, the sights, sounds and smells. Now Hull, on the otherhand, is a place I know very well and Beech has captured the place and the characteristics of some of its inhabitants perfectly.

During his stay at Liberty Lion Park, Ben has to essentially raise a lion cub, Lucy, that has lost her mother and I adored these parts. As he tries to help Lucy find her place and confidence within the pride, Ben also has to find his own self and place in the world. Something that does not come easily to him.  

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is a book about complex family relationships and learning to find and love yourself and Beech writes tenderly about some difficult and complicated issues. It is also a story about the often-harsh reality of love. The combination of these themes and the way Beech has delicately woven the intricate threads of the story together make The Lion Tamer Who Lost a very special novel.

I have loved Beech’s previous books (although I still have to read How To Be Brave) but The Lion Tamer Who Lost may be my favourite yet. Incredibly moving, at times desperately heartbreaking and always tender, The Lion Tamer Who Lost reminds us that if fate exists, it is fickle and may not always be leading you to the outcome you expect. A truly outstanding and beautiful book.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost was published by Orenda Books on 15 July on Ebook and is out on paperback on  30 September. You can buy a copy HERE.

My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Louise Beech for the advance copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

 

Blog Tour – When I Find You by Emma Curtis *Review*

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Emma Curtis’s second novel When I Find You today. So, here is the blurb before I share my thoughts.

The Blurb

What do you do when someone takes advantage of your greatest weakness?
The brilliant new thriller from the author of ONE LITTLE MISTAKE
Perfect for fans of Clare Mackintosh, C L Taylor and Claire Douglas

When Laura wakes up the morning after her office Christmas party and sees a man’s shirt on the floor, she is horrifed. This is no ordinary one-night-stand.
Laura suffers from prospagnosia – severe faceblindness – a condition that means she is completely unable to identify and remember faces. The man she spent all night dancing with and kissing, the man she thought she’d brought home, was identifiable only as ‘Pink Shirt’.
But the shirt on her bedroom floor is blue.
And now Laura must go to work every day, and face the man who took advantage of her condition. The man she has no way of recognising.
She doesn’t know who he is, but she’ll make him pay.

My Thoughts

After enjoying Emma Curtis’s debut novel One Little Mistake I eagerly anticipated her second book and was thrilled to be able to get an advance copy of When I Find You.

Twenty-eight-year-old Laura Maguire suffers from prosopagnosia, or face-blindness, which impacts on the way her brain receives information. Laura cannot recognise faces at all – not even her own – and it is a condition that she has lived with all her life. She has managed to live with her condition and has a successful career as a designer in advertising. However, things begin to unravel when following a boozy staff night out she wakes up with a man … but it is not the man she believed she had spent the night with as this one is wearing a different coloured shirt. As the shock settles in, Laura becomes determined to find out who took advantage of her.

This is an interesting theme that really made me think. While Laura willingly participated in the sexual intercourse, the fact that she cannot recognise faces and subsequently discovers that she has slept with a different man to the one she had intended to be with is an unnerving concept. Add to it the fact that nobody knows about her face-blindness apart from one of her managers – who is female – and the tale becomes even more creepy. Somebody has clearly found out and taken advantage of her, in fact they have raped her. Curtis’s exploration of Laura’s feelings around this and the dilemma she faces as to whether she could go to the police or not is really well done.

Curtis writes really well about Laura’s experiences of living with prosopagnosia and I really got into her skin. Written in first person narrative there are some exceptional passages that really describe and convey the feelings and emotions Laura goes through on a daily basis as a result of her condition. At times I felt the confusion Laura felt when coming in to contact with different characters she knows but cannot recognise, and Curtis really demonstratess how disconcerting this would be. Curtis has clearly carefully researched prosopagnosia.

When I Find You is a bit of a slow burner as it follows Laura in her quest to find her abuser, and also her manager Rebecca who has issues of her own to contend with. If you are after fast spills and thrills When I Find You may not be for you, but if you like your thrillers to be more chilling and unnerving it will be a great addition to your bookshelf. I loved its subtlety, its concentration on emotions and its intensity. The pace does increase greatly towards the end as it reaches its final crescendo. A crescendo that left me open-mouthed and wide-eyed.

Undoubtedly a disturbing thriller, When I Find You is also a story about how appearances do not give the full picture of what a person is capable of … you can never tell from the outside what is going on in the inside. A great read that is well written.

Published on ebook on 1 July 2018 by Transworld Digital and paperback on 9 August 2018 by Black Swan. Get your copy HERE.

About the Author

EMMA CURTIS was born in Brighton and brought up in London. She is a member of ‘The Prime Writers’, a collective of writers who have all had their first books published after the age of 40.
Emma has two children and lives in Richmond with her husband.
@emmacurtis #WhenIFindYou

A huge thank you to Emma Curtis, Black Swan and Netgalley for the advance copy and to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

 

Blog Tour – The Date by Louise Jensen *Review*

I am beyond delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Louise Jensen’s latest novel, The Date with my blogging buddy Jen at Jen Med’s Book Reviews. Before I tell you what I thought, here is what it is about:

The Blurb

One night can change everything.

‘I know it as soon as I wake up and open my eyes… Something is wrong.’

Her Saturday night started normally. Recently separated from her husband, Ali has been persuaded by her friends to go on a date with a new man. She is ready, she is nervous, she is excited. She is about to take a step into her new future. By Sunday morning, Ali’s life is unrecognisable. She wakes, and she knows that something is wrong. She is home, she is alone, she is hurt and she has no memory of what happened to her.

Worse still, when she looks in the mirror, Ali doesn’t recognise the face staring back at her…

My Thoughts

Oh, how pleased I was to get my hands on Louise Jensen’s latest book, The Date. I loved The Sister and The Gift (I have The Surrogate sitting on my Kindle but, as with a lot of the books I have bought, I have not had time to read it yet).

In The Date we meet Alison Taylor who, having quite recently separated from her husband, has been on a date with Ewan following encouragement from her friends. However, the following day Alison wakes up with an injury to her head and she can’t remember anything about the night before or her date. The worst, though, is to come. When she looks in her mirror she doesn’t know who she is looking at.

Ali is later diagnosed with prosopagnosia, a condition which affects the ability to recognise faces. Ali’s world is turned upside down as she is no longer able to recognise her loved ones, friends or even herself. The whole concept of The Date is, quite frankly, terrifying. Having this condition would be frightening enough, but to have it happen just as you have woken up from a night out in which it appears you have been attacked, and you have no memory of it makes it doubly so. And things are about to get a lot worse for Ali.

What I really like about Jensen’s books is the way in which she takes a sensitive subject and, while making it frightening, also deals with the issue in a gentle manner. Jensen demonstrates a real emotional acuity in her writing, and she writes about Ali’s diagnosis of prosopagnosia in such a way that it is incredibly affecting and stirring. I just melted for Ali as she struggled to adjust to her diagnosis. Jensen’s depiction of a young woman dealing with this condition is realistic and heart breaking. Rather than skirting over it to concentrate on the thriller aspect, Jensen incorporates it in such a way that it adds so much more to the book.

The Date is also an incredible thriller. As the plot progresses it becomes incredibly unnerving and it plays on all our deepest fears. It becomes clear that Ali has a stalker who is going out of their way to frighten her. Jensen has weaved twists and turns that had me constantly trying to guess the identity of the perpetrator of Ali’s torment (at one point I was looking at the dog suspiciously, and I love dogs!). The Date seriously messed with my head.

Jensen has a real way with words. She manages to crank up the tension so you are constantly chewing on your lip or your fingernails as you read. Jensen also manages to make her thrillers beautiful with prose that is stunning and The Date is no exception. It feels as though every single word has been carefully chosen and yet it also feels as though it has come naturally.

Once again, Jensen has written an outstanding novel. The Date is utterly unnerving and totally tense, while at the same time sensitive and moving. An absolute must-read.

The Date is published on 21 June 2018 by Bookouture. You can get your copy here: 

Amazon: myBook.to/TDLJSocial
iBookStore: http://ow.ly/FMOm30kyQXf
Kobo: http://ow.ly/7lzy30kyQZH
Googleplay: http://ow.ly/9h2q30kyR2K

About the Author

Louise Jensen is a Global No.1 Bestselling author of psychological thrillers The Sister, The Gift & The Surrogate. To date Louise has sold approaching a million books and her novels have been sold for translation to nineteen territories, as well as being featured on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller’s List. Louise was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 Award.

Louise lives with her husband, children, madcap dog and a rather naughty cat in Northamptonshire. She loves to hear from readers and writers and can be found at www.louisejensen.co.uk, where she regularly blogs flash fiction and writing tips.
http://www.louisejensen.co.uk/
https://twitter.com/Fab_fiction
https://www.facebook.com/fabricatingfiction/

A huge thank you to Bookouture, Louise Jensen and Kim Nash for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

 

 

Review – Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

The Blurb

There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

My Thoughts

‘Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.’

Three Things About Elsie is the highly anticipated second novel from Joanna Cannon. It tells the story of eighty-four-year-old Florence, resident of Cherry Tree sheltered accommodation, who has fallen in her flat and reflects on her life as she waits to be found and helped. A new resident has moved into Cherry Tree and he looks suspiciously like a man Florence knew in the past but who died sixty years ago.

Like its predecessor, The Trouble With Goats And Sheep, Three Things has at its core a mystery that needs solving in regards to the identity of new resident, Gabriel, but it is a multi-layered in the themes it explores. And Cannon explores them beautifully, resulting in me highlighting many sentences so that I could read them back and reflect on them later.

It is a testament to Cannon’s writing skills that she is able to go from writing via the perspective of a child to the other end of the spectrum, that of an octogenarian, and do so with authenticity. I fell in love with Florence, Elsie and especially Jack. Told largely via the perspective of Florence with interspersing chapters from the points of view of a couple of the staff members at Cherry Tree, you live every moment with Florence and her friends.

As I said, Three Things is a multi-layered book that goes beyond the mystery Florence and her friends are trying to get to the bottom of. Cannon has a real understanding about human beings and human nature and Three Things is a book about enduring friendship, long-held secrets and the impact of keeping them and dementia. Cannon eloquently and movingly depicts dementia from the perspective of the person suffering from it. Funny and yet heart breaking in equal measure, Three Things manages to convey all that is good and less good in life.

I have to confess that initially I didn’t think I enjoyed it as much as Goats and Sheep but the more I thought about it after I had finished it, the more it affected me and the more I appreciated it. Now I would say it is on an equal footing.

Funny, gentle, heartrending, poignant and so beautifully written, Three Things About Elsie is a book that will remain in my heart for a very long time. It heralds Joanna Cannon as one of the great new writers of our time and I urge everybody to read it.

Published on 11 January 2018 by Borough Press, you can grab a copy HERE.

I reviewed my own copy and this is my honest and unbiased review.

Blog Tour – Blue Night by Simone Buchholz *Review*

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Blue Night by Simone Buchholz today. Before I share my thoughts, here is what the book is about.

The Blurb

After convicting a superior for corruption and shooting off a gangster’s crown jewels, the career of Hamburg’s most hard-bitten state prosecutor, Chastity Riley, has taken a nose dive: she has been transferred to the tedium of witness protection to prevent her making any more trouble. However, when she is assigned to the case of an anonymous man lying under police guard in hospital, Chastity’s instinct for the big, exciting case kicks in. Using all her powers of persuasion, she soon
gains her charge’s confidence, and finds herself on the trail to Leipzig, a new ally, and a whole heap of lethal synthetic drugs. When she discovers that a friend and former colleague is trying to bring down Hamburg’s Albanian mafia kingpin single-handedly, it looks like Chas Riley’s dull life on witness protection really has been short-lived…

My Thoughts

Blue Night by Simone Buchholz marks the start in a cracking new series featuring Chastity Riley, Hamburg’s state prosecutor. Recently demoted to the witness protection department following her whistle-blowing on a colleague, Chas is feeling unfulfilled in her new role. However, things are about to change when an unknown man who is unwilling to talk arrives at the local hospital following a severe beating in which almost all of his bones are broken and a finger has been taken from one of his hands, and Chas is tasked to look after him.

The prologue hit me like a sucker-punch, as Buchholz’s description of someone taking a beating is poetic in its prose for such an horrific event. The short sentences work really well in delivering the brutality of the attack while simultaneously mesmerising you. The rest of Blue Night continued to be written in a way that is so unlike most of the books I have recently read. I have to admit that it took me a while to settle into its rhythm as Buchholz has a really unique way of writing and each chapter contains flashbacks from various characters in the book. Initially I wasn’t sure what I made of it, but as the book progressed and I became accustomed to the style and structure I began to really enjoy it. I ended up really liking the way Buccholz has structured the book as she adds different characters to the back stories in each chapter enabling you to view things from different perspectives. The way she knits it all together towards the end is brilliant.

I would describe the first half as slow-burning while we get to know Chastity, her friends and colleagues and as she attempts to build up a trusting relationship with the man she has been charged to look after. The second half of the novel, for me, had more pace and its grittiness really drew me in. The subject matter that Buchholz deals with is seamy, sordid and the observations she makes are depressingly spot on making it realistic. The ending … wow!

I really warmed to Chastity Riley and the rest of the characters in the book. Buchholz has effectively given just enough about each character to make you want to find out more about them and I look forward to the next book in the series.

Blue Night is a really unique read and I grew to love the structure and style. Beautifully written and seamlessly translated, Buchholz offers something refreshingly different to what’s on the market currently and I urge you to check it out.

About the Author

Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied
Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and
trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in
Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne
Award as well as runner-up for the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue
Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for
months. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her
husband and son.

Blue Night was published on eBook on 24 December 2017 and paperback on 28 February 2018 by Orenda Books. Grab a copy HERE.

My thanks go to Simone Buccholz, Karen at Orenda Books and Anne Cater at Random Things Blog Tours for my advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

 

 

Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Deep Blue Trouble Review and Author Q&A

So, it is now a mere five sleeps until Hull Noir and, as it creeps slowly closer, I’m delighted to bring you my review of Steph Broadribb’s next novel Deep Blue Trouble but even better than that I have a fab Q&A with the lady herself.

Steph is taking part in the Brawlers and Bastards panel on Sunday 19th November. Full programme and ticket details can be found HERE.

Right, first up my thoughts on the upcoming second Lori Anderson book and then the bit you really want to read, the Q&A with Steph.

 

The Blurb

Her daughter Dakota is safe, but her cancer is threatening a comeback, and Lori needs JT – Dakota’s daddy and the man who taught Lori everything – alive and kicking. Problem is, he’s behind bars, and heading for death row. Desperate to save him, Lori does a deal, taking on off-the-books job from shady FBI agent Alex Monroe. Bring back on-the-run felon, Gibson ‘The Fish’ Fletcher, and JT walks free. Teaming up with local bounty hunter Dez McGregor threatens to put the whole job in danger. But this is one job she’s got to get right, or she’ll lose everything…

My Thoughts

Okay, I’m starting off this review with an embarrassing confession … I have not yet read Deep Down Dead, the first Lori Anderson book. I was unable to take part in the blog tour due to other commitments and it was on my October/November reading list. I had the perfect excuse to bump it up the TBR pile when I found out that Steph Broadribb was taking part in Hull Noir. However, plans sometimes don’t go the way you want them to and I actually ended up reading Deep Blue Trouble first instead. Broadribb’s debut got rave reviews from other bloggers and having read Deep Blue Trouble I can clearly see what all the fuss is about! I LOVED this book.

As said, Deep Blue Trouble is the second book in the Lori Anderson series and it does follow up from where Deep Down Dead ended. As I have read Deep Blue Trouble first, however, you can take it from me that it works perfectly as a standalone. There is enough information to ensure that new readers are able to follow what is going on. Lori, a Florida bounty hunter, has little choice but to take on a job from FBI agent Alex Monroe in order to free her daughter Dakota’s father from prison where he is currently being held for a murder he didn’t commit. This job involves bringing in on-the-run criminal Gibson ‘The Fish’ Fletcher and it ends up being far from straight forward.

Lori Anderson is a kick ass, gutsy, independent, fierce protagonist and yet Broadribb has manged to also make her a sympathetic character. A single mum whose daughter has Leukaemia in a country that does not have free health care, Lori is doing everything she can to ensure her daughter’s health needs are met. I liked the additional layers to Lori – while her job inevitably brings her into danger and has her having to commit violent acts herself, she does not take this lightly and she has a sense of morality and a conscience. This makes Lori an ultimately likeable character and one you root for and want to follow further in to the series.

Deep Blue Trouble is set in the USA and it’s always a bit of a worry as to whether or not an author is able to authentically create the country their book is set in when they are not from there. Broadribb does a great job of this. From the descriptions of the places to the way Lori tells us her story, Broadribb completely transports the reader to the Florida sunshine.

The plot twists and turns like a waltzer car at the fairground and Broadribb kept me on the edge of my seat, on my toes and my fingernails are now bitten down to the quick. The plot moves along at an exceptional rate barely giving you time to catch your breath.

Deep Blue Trouble is a great book and this is set to be a fantastic series. If you’re looking for fast-paced, by-the-seat-of-your-pants action this is the series to read. Deep Blue Trouble is published in paperback in January 2018 so you have plenty of time to read Deep Down Dead before its release and get fully acquainted with Lori Anderson. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Steph Broadribb and Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books for the opportunity to read Deep Blue Trouble in advance.

Deep Blue Trouble is published on ebook on 15 November 2017 and paperback on 5 January 2018 by Orenda books. It can be pre-ordered HERE.

Deep Down Dead is out now and can be purchased HERE.

And finally the moment you have been waiting for … my Q&A with Steph!

It sounds like you have had an interesting life as you trained as a bounty hunter in California. Did the inspiration for Lori Anderson come from your training?
I actually trained as a bounty hunter as research for the first book in the Lori Anderson series – Deep Down Dead. I’d had the idea for Lori when I was driving from West Virginia to Florida in the previous autumn and had started writing the book, but realised pretty fast that I needed to learn more about the world of bounty hunting and also, specifically, what it was like to be a woman in that predominantly male world. I read books about it, and watched a couple of television series, but felt that for my book, and Lori, to be truly authentic I needed to experience it for myself. So I got in touch with a bounty hunter in California and when out to train with him. I guess you could say I’m a fan of ‘method writing’!

How much is Lori based on your real life experiences and people you have met?
There’s quite a lot of me in Lori. In some ways she’s a bolder, tougher, version of me! And although the characters and the action in the books are fictional, I do draw on the emotions I’ve experienced and try to put that feeling into my writing. I definitely use elements of people I’ve met in characters I create too, although it’s more like taking a mannerism from one person, and mixing it with the way another person looks, and the speech pattern of another – never a direct copy. Mind you, that said, in Deep Blue Trouble the character of Bobby Four-Fingers is named after a one of the guys I trained as a bounty hunter alongside, and I’ve used a few of his characteristics for the character because he asked me to make him into a fictional character!

Was it always your intention for the Lori Anderson books to be a series?
I’d always hoped that it would be, and luckily for me the wonderful Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books shared my vision.

What are the pros and cons of writing a series?
I think the biggest con is trying to get enough backstory from previous book/s into the current book so that the character’s past makes sense, without it coming across as too ‘tell’ and boring for the reader (or confusing). No matter what number in the series it is, a book needs to be able to be read as a standalone if a reader picks it up first, yet it also needs to develop and build on the characters from previous books. It’s a tricky balance to achieve, and I hope that I’ve managed it in Deep Blue Trouble! I think the pro of a series is that you get to carry on working with (and reading) the characters. As a reader I’m a big fan of series. Jack Reacher, Charlie Fox, Tom Thorne, John Rebus, Travis McGee, Carter Blake are all great series characters that have long running series which develop your knowledge of the characters and their stories with each book. I aspire to doing that!

Do you have the rest of the series and what happens to Lori, Dakota and JT planned out or do you see where each book takes you?
At this point, I have a rough idea of the first scene in the third book in the series, but that’s all. I tend to just see where each books takes me. There are a few things in Lori’s past that I want to explore more – either in book three or four – and there’s a job that’s been offered to her that she might do in book three, but other than that I sit down at my laptop with a blank page in front of me and take it from there!

Do you become emotionally attached to your characters?
Yes, totally! I think it’s inevitable given how much time they are in your head for as you write. But, as it’s crime fiction, you still need to put them through the wringer as much as possible too. If everything was easy for them it would make for a very boring thriller!

You are British and have spent time in the USA. Were there any difficulties that arose from setting the books in the US to ensure that the setting comes across as authentic?
I’ve lived and worked in the USA and I also have a lot of family who are American. Part of my research for the books was to travel to many of the settings used and experience them from myself – like training as a bounty hunter in California, driving from West Virginia to Florida, kayaking through the everglades and getting up close to gators, and hiking through the Blue Ridge Mountains and sleeping out under the stars. I check out phrases with my American friends, so that I can try and get Lori’s voice as authentic as possible. I’ve actually just got back from a trip to the USA where I was scouting out settings for book three.

What does your writing day look like? Do you have a set writing routine?
I tend to be better at writing in the morning so from when I get up to around lunchtime is my best time for first drafts. Then I usually take a break – take my dog for a walk, feed the horses – and then carry on, either writing or editing what I wrote in the morning, until around 4pm. I’m pretty active on social media – I love a bit of tweeting! So I’ll tend to go on Twitter intermittently throughout the day and then do Facebook and Instagram once I’ve finished writing. I usually write seven days a week during a first draft. When I’m editing I tend to shut myself away and plunge myself into the edits, only coming up for air and social media once they’re done!

You are taking part in Hull Noir this month. How do you feel about speaking at events? Do you get nervous or take it in your stride?
I actually really enjoy them. I’ve been a huge fan of the crime thriller genre for as long as I can remember and it’s fantastic getting out and meeting people who love the same kind of books as me. When I first started doing panels I was a bit nervous, and I have to admit that for my first few (evening) events I had a glass of wine or two to help my nerves! But everyone in crime fiction is so lovely, I find the panels and the people great fun – so now it’s usually just water in my glass when I’m on stage!

A huge thank you Steph for taking part and for the brilliant answers. I really enjoyed reading this. Looking forward to seeing you at Hull Noir!

Author Influences with Alex Walters

For this week’s Author Influences I’m delighted to be joined by crime and thriller writer Alex Walters.

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Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
A lot of Enid Blyton – still think she’s a brilliant writer for children. Then, as a teenager, people like Alan Garner, a lot of science fiction, then discovered Agatha Christie and crime fiction…

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
It was my best and favourite subject – went on to study English Literature at university.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I read anything and everything, really, though probably more crime fiction than anything else. There are a few writers I’d cite as direct influences but I think the impact is mostly about trying to learn from the best.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I’ve mainly written various forms of police procedural to date (though often with a twist or two), so I think I’d be most likely to explore other areas of crime fiction or thrillers. I’ve also written some supernatural fiction and would quite like to do more in the area.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
As a teenager, the writers who made me want to write myself were people like Alan Garner and various science fiction writers, like Samuel R Delany. They made me excited about what it was possible to do with words.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
It used to be Reginald Hill, author of the Dalziel and Pascoe series, who’s sadly no longer with us. Now I’m struggling to keep up with the books I’ve already bought!

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Reginald Hill’s The Wood Beyond (and various others) – ingenious plotting, three-dimensional characters, witty writing, and addressing important issues. Various Ruth Rendells for the same reasons.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
The influence is usually indirect – some real life event which sits in the back of my brain until it sprouts into something rather different in a story. One of my books starts with a real life event which I shifted from Stockport to Mongolia. And my current series set in the Scottish Black Isle uses mainly real locations, with the first book, Candles and Roses, featuring a walk-on part from a real person (with his permission!).

A huge thank you Alex for taking part.

Alex’s latest book Dark Corners was published on 9 December 2016 and is the second in the DCI Kenny Murrain novel. Check out all of Alex’s books on his Amazon page HERE.

About Alex Walters

Alex Walters has worked in the oil industry, broadcasting and banking and now works as a consultant mainly in the criminal justice sector including police, prisons and probation. As Michael Walters, he published three crime thrillers set in modern-day Mongolia, which are now being re-published as Alex Walters in new, re-edited versions. As Alex Walters he has written two thrillers set in and around Manchester and featuring the undercover officer, Marie Donovan, Trust No-One and Nowhere to Hide, and two books Late Checkout and Dark Corners featuring, alongside Marie Donovan, the distinctive DCI Kenny Murrain. Alex is also the author of Candles and Roses, the first in a new crime series set in Scotland’s Black Isle. The second in the series will be published in September 2017.

Alex currently lives in Manchester with his wife, occasional sons and too many cats.

He can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mikewalters60
Facebook: www.facebook.com/alexwaltersauthor/

Blog Tour – Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech *Review*

I am delighted to be taking part in the Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech blog tour today with the lovely Hayley at RatherTooFondOfBooks. Bloomin’ heck did this book cause me some review-writing difficulties! Orenda seem to have the knack of causing me, what I call, ‘review-stutter’ in which I can’t get my words out! 

The Blurb

‘Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’
Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.
With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything.
Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

My Thoughts

Ah, Louise Beech … I adore your books but you make review writing so incredibly difficult for me! Maria in the Moon is stunning and has so many qualities that any review I write will never fully convey the beauty within its pages. I could simply just say ‘read it, you won’t regret it’ but that wouldn’t be enough.

Maria in the Moon is the story of Catherine who used to be called by her full christian name Catherine-Maria. Catherine cannot remember why her family stopped calling her this name and, in fact, can’t remember anything about her ninth year full stop. When she volunteers at Flood Crisis following her home being wrecked in the 2007 floods in Hull the memories she has kept hidden begin to come back to her.

Maria in the Moon had a personal edge for me as Hull is my hometown and I clearly remember the devastation caused to my friend’s home by the 2007 floods. Beech has perfectly captured this situation and the distress it caused and I found it quite difficult and emotional to read. Little did I know that these emotions would be nothing compared to the ones I would feel as the book progressed.

Quite often I race through books but every now and again a book comes along that requires you to take your time over it in order to savour every word. Beech writes those kinds of books. Beech manages to convey those private thoughts you have but would never share with anyone else and the, often, mundanities of life with beautifully lyrical prose. Her use of imagery is beguiling and the beauty that she sees in the everyday make her a writer with extraordinary talent. I was wooed by the first chapter and as the book progressed I came to consider Catherine a friend.

Beech always displays great insight into the human condition and the impact that life events have, and she is a writer with great emotional intelligence. Always believable, her characters come across as authentic and the characters within Maria in the Moon are no exception.

Maria in the Moon is a heart rending read and covers some difficult issues, however, Beech incorporates humour which results in you both laughing and crying. This adds to the credibility of the book as life is often a mixture of both. She accurately portrays the struggle that Catherine has to bring those memories she has subconsciously hidden to the fore and also the aftermath when those memories finally re-surface. Despite the depths of sadness I went through reading this book it finally left me feeling uplifted.

A novel about the lengths our psyche goes to to protect us, what happens when those defences come down, the impact of traumatic events on our behaviour and identity, and ultimately redemption and hope, Maria in the Moon is a book that needs to be on your bookshelf. When reading take the time to read it slowly in order to fully appreciate its exquisiteness and for the emotions to take hold but, when all said and done, just make sure you read it.

Published on ebook on 15 August 2017 and paperback on 30 September 2017 by Orenda Books.

About the Author

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.  She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.

A huge thank you to Louise Beech, Orenda Books and Anne Cater for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Follow the rest of the tour…

Blog Tour – Dan Knew by FJ Curlew *Review*

I am delighted to be kick starting the blog tour for Dan Knew by FJ Curlew today and sharing my review on this story about a little dog with a big personality. Before I share my thoughts, here is what the book is about…

The Blurb

A puppy born to the dangers of street life. A woman in trouble. An unbreakable bond.
A Ukrainian street dog is rescued from certain death by an expat family. As he travels to new countries with them a darkness grows and he finds himself narrating more than just his story. More than a dog story. Ultimately it’s a story of escape and survival but maybe not his.
The world through Wee Dan’s eyes in a voice that will stay with you long after you turn that last page.

My Thoughts

I absolutely adore dogs to the extent that in a film or book I am always more upset by the death or injury of a dog than I am about the humans. Knowing that Curlew is as mad about dogs as I am, I was thrilled to be able to read and review Dan Knew.

Dan Knew is a very personal book about the life of Curlew’s best canine friend, wee Dan, who she sadly recently lost. It is told from the perspective of Dan from his brief time as a stray on the streets of the Ukraine to the life he has with the family who rescue him. It is a book that follows him on his journey around Europe as he learns all about what it is to be a canine and the nature of humans.

I couldn’t help but fall in love with Dan and I felt as though I actually knew him by the end of the book. Dan’s voice comes across as being truly canine and a lot of his thoughts and behaviour really resonated with me as I could see him in the dogs I have owned. Curlew really captures the individual personalities of Dan and his canine family members. From Dan who is quite serious in nature and very much sees himself as the protector of his family, Ceilidh the wiser, older dog who Dan learns so much from, Lada the laid back, gentle bear of a Newfoundland to Jake the crazy Labrador with boundless energy. I adored the way we saw each of the dogs through Dan’s eyes as I often wonder about what my own dogs think of each other and I found myself laughing at Dan’s observations of his family members. Dan Knew brought back so many wonderful memories of my own dogs.

Dan Knew is also the story of the lives of the human members of his family and, as is often the way with humans, this does not always run smoothly. There is a serious thread to this book as Dan learns that human beings are complicated creatures and often behave in ways that hurt those they are supposed to love. Seeing the unfathomable behaviour of human nature from the perspective of a different species is a unique take on what is, sadly, an all too familiar story. Dan Knew touches a real emotional cord within the reader as they follow the difficulties Dan’s mum goes through and it had me smiling and crying in equal measure. I warn you now, you will need tissues for the ending!

Curlew captures the essence of the canine while intertwining this with a tale about human relationships and adversity. She takes us on a real journey through interesting countries, life and friendship. Whether you are a dog lover or not, you will not fail to be moved by this story of the bond that can exist between different species. There is now a Dan-shaped space in my heart and Curlew has written a fitting tribute to a very special friend.

Dan Knew is out now and can be purchased HERE.

A huge thank you to FJ Curlew for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Want to find out about Fiona’s favourite books and authors? Read her Author Influences HERE.

Follow the rest of the tour for more reviews and author guest posts…

 

Blog Tour – Kill Me Twice by Simon Booker *Review and Author Influences*

After really enjoying Simon Booker’s debut thriller Without Trace (read my review HERE), the first in the Morgan Vine series, I was eager to read the next book in the series. I’m really chuffed, therefore, to be on the blog tour for this much anticipated second novel, Kill Me Twice. Not only do I have my review but Simon has also taken part in my Author Influences feature for today’s blog tour post.

The Blurb

Karl Savage is dead.
He must be. His ex, Anjelica, is in prison for murdering him in an arson attack. Multiple forensic experts testified to finding his charred remains.
So when Anjelica begs investigative journalist Morgan Vine to prove her innocence, it seems an impossible task. It doesn’t matter that Karl was abusive. That Anjelica has a baby to care for. That she’s petrified of fire. The whole world knows Karl is dead.
Then he turns up outside Morgan’s window . . .

My Thoughts

Kill Me Twice is the second in the Morgan Vine series following on from Booker’s debut thriller Without Trace. I really enjoyed the first book and really looked forward to this one. While I have the benefit of having read the previous book in the series, Kill Me Twice stands up as a novel that can be read on its own.

What really appealed to me about this series is the fact that Morgan is an investigative journalist rather than a detective which gives this series a different slant and it, therefore, comes from a different perspective. In Kill Me Twice we meet with Morgan following the success of her book Trial and Error: A History of Miscarriages of Justice as she is setting herself up to help those who have been wrongfully convicted. This leads her to assist in the case of Anjelica Fry, a mother currently in prison for the murder of her partner and baby’s father Karl Savage. But is Karl Savage actually dead?

Booker has created great characters for this series. Morgan is an independent, tenacious single mother who will not give up on what she believes to be the truth even when those around her doubt her. Lissa her twenty-year-old daughter again plays a large part in this book. I’m not keen on Lissa, she is not particularly likeable and comes across as a bit of a spoilt brat although I sense a vulnerability about her that I don’t yet fully understand. This adds to the series in that it gives you a contrast of characters and Lissa, while I don’t like her, would be a miss as she adds to the trouble that Morgan faces and I feel that there is more to learn about her.

I always like it when we gain an insight into the antagonist and the writer gives them depth making them a fully rounded character. Booker has written the character of Karl Savage in such a way that while he is utterly despicable you understand why and how he ended up being this way and at points I did feel a degree of sympathy for him. This adds an additional layer to Kill Me Twice.

Kill Me Twice took me on a journey I really wasn’t expecting, I had read the blurb (and actually remembered what the synopsis of the book was, which is pretty amazing for me!) and, I guess, I was expecting a certain plot direction. Kill Me Twice’s trajectory ended up being far, far removed from the average storyline. While Morgan expects to be assisting in a miscarriage of justice case her relationship with Anjelica ends up in her discovering a seedy underground business that relies on vulnerable women to propel it forward and, ultimately, becomes very personal.

Booker’s use of short, punchy sentences in the first chapter are incredibly effective in building up tension, a sense of unease and ensures that the atmosphere and tone of the book is set. You just know that Booker is going to take you to some dark places.

A complex story that is well written and well plotted, Kill Me Twice takes you on one hell of a ride. The ending shocked me and had me muttering ‘oh my God’ to the book. A deliciously dark read that has me eagerly awaiting the third in the series.

Published on 24 August 2017 by Bonnier Zaffre.

Simon now takes over to tell you about his author influences.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
I was hooked on Sherlock Holmes from the age of 10.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
My ‘best’ subject. I wrote and performed plays too, which gave me my first taste of applause. Been hooked ever since.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I read a lot of crime but it can become a busman’s holiday.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I’ve written rom coms for TV (as well as crime), including Perfect Strangers starring Rob Lowe and Anna Friel. A good rom com is a work of genius, but they’re few and far between, eg, When Harry Met Sally and The Apartment.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
Conan Doyle, for the reason above.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Sarah Waters is unmissable.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
More films than books (see above). If I could have written When Harry Met Sally, Little Miss Sunshine or Sideways I would die a happy man.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
My heroine Morgan Vine is obsessed by miscarriages of justice, and so am I. True story: my ex wife is now married to a man who spend 26 years in a US prison for a murder he didn’t commit.

Thank you for taking part Simon!

You can get a FREE Morgan Vine short story and find out more about my books Kill Me Twice and Without Trace at simonbooker.com

Follow me on Twitter @simonbooker

A huge thank you to Simon Booker and Imogen at Bonnier Zaffre for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Follow the rest of the tour…