Category Archives: Authors G to I

Reviews by author surname G to I

Book Review – Fearne Fairy And The Landing Lesson by Sarah Hill

The Blurb

Will Fearne Fairy finally master the art of landing? Who will help her overcome her flying flaw? Find out in this 10th enchanting story from the award-winning Whimsy Wood Series.

My Thoughts

Fearne Fairy and the Landing Lesson is book 10 in The Whimsey Wood Series and sees the return of Fearne Fairy and Mustard the Magpie Moth Caterpillar. It is May in Whimsey Wood and Fearne finally takes the plunge and has some landing lessons. Fearne has not mastered the art of landing resulting in bumps, bruises and broken objects. While this is the 10th book, it works equally as well as a standalone.

Fearne is not the perfect fairy – her flying skills and singing voice leave a lot to be desired – and this makes her all the more likeable as, let’s face it, none of us are perfect.

There is so much attention to detail in this book, with Sarah Hill beautifully creating the world around Fearne and her woodland friends. I loved the descriptions of the furniture within Fearne’s house and her clothing. Young imaginations are sure to be fired by this gorgeous tale.

Hill’s use of alliteration adds humour and children will have great fun saying these phrases aloud and parents will enjoying reading them out loud. A great way for kids to learn and remember words, Fearne Fairy and the Landing Lesson is both educational and a lot of fun.

The illustrations are gorgeous and fit with the story perfectly while providing much to look at and discuss.

A great book that both children and adults will enjoy. It’s ‘Bzz-illiant’ as Bristle Bumblebee would say. Highly recommended.

A huge thank you to Sarah Hill for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

Published on 24 November 2016 by Abela Publishing.

Blog Tour – The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney *Book Review*

Thrilled to be taking part in The Missing Ones blog tour today alongside Shell at Chelle’s Book Reviews. I love discovering a new author and Patricia Gibney is one to look out for in the future. This is a cracking start to the DI Lottie Parker series!

The Blurb

The hole they dug was not deep. A white flour bag encased the little body. Three small faces watched from the window, eyes black with terror.

The child in the middle spoke without turning his head. ‘I wonder which one of us will be next?’

When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how?

The trail leads Lottie to St Angela’s, a former children’s home, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal.

As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger?

Lottie is about to come face to face with a twisted soul who has a very warped idea of justice.

Fans of Rachel Abbott, Karin Slaughter and Robert Dugoni will be gripped by this page-turning serial killer thriller, guaranteed to keep you reading late into the night.

My Thoughts

The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney is the first in a new crime series featuring DI Lottie Parker. I’m always excited to start a brand new detective serial, so really anticipated this debut novel.

I was hooked from the very start! The prologue, which is set in 1976, is chilling, creepy and unnerving—a great way to start a book—and draws you in immediately. It then switches to December 2014 and we are involved in the first murder. From there we are taken through the eight days of the investigation with Lottie and flashbacks to the past. The Missing Ones moves along at a fast pace with Gibney including teasers at the end of the chapters that leave you hanging and just having to read more.

I really liked DI Lottie Parker and she is character I look forward to seeing more of. She is a tenacious detective who is struggling to juggle her career with her role as a mother to three children. She has an intriguing background and has had her fair share of significant life events which still cause her issues. The relationship between her and fellow detective Mark Boyd is one that I will watch with interest. Gibney has set the ground for Lottie’s development through a series really well.

The Missing Ones is a dark novel that deals with corruption, the attempt to bury disturbing secrets and abuse. I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to risk giving any of the plot away, but Gibney reaches into the disturbing echelons of Irish and Catholic history which is discomfiting and alarming.

Gibney is a talented writer and, weirdly, I found her description of the first victim’s death rather beautiful. She has created a wonderfully twisting tale that keeps you reading late into the night and the plot progression is flawless. She seamlessly weaves the tale together, combining past and present with great results. A very accomplished debut novel.

The Missing Ones heralds the start of a great new detective series. With a dark and twisting tale, an interesting lead character and wonderful writing this is a book not to be missed. Highly recommended for lovers of crime fiction.

A huge thank you to Patricia Gibney and Bookouture for the advance copy and for the invitation to take part in the blog tour.

Published 16 March 2017 by Bookouture.

Purchase Links

UK 🇬🇧 http://amzn.to/2i8lVTY
US 🇺🇸 http://amzn.to/2imcDD0

Be sure to catch the other stops on the blog tour!

 

 

Book Review – Devastation Road by Jason Hewitt

Devastation Road

The Blurb

Spring, 1945: A man wakes in a field in a country he does not know.  Injured and confused, he pulls himself up and starts to walk.

His name is Owen.  A war he has only a vague memory of joining is in it’s last throes, and as he tries to get back to England he becomes caught up in the flood of refugees pouring through Europe.  Among them is a teenage boy, Janek, and a troubled young woman, Irena, and together they form a fragile alliance on their way across battle-worn Germany.  Owen attempts to gather up the shattered pieces of his life, but nothing is as he remembers, not even himself – how can he return home when he hardly recalls what home is?

My Thoughts

 ‘”The war might as well still be raging for all the good the peace is doing us”’

A moving story about the catastrophic impact of war told through three different perspectives, Devastation Road is poignant, wonderfully written and a stark reminder that peace does not necessarily bring with it an end to suffering.

When Owen wakes in a field in Germany in 1945 with no memory of where or who he is, he has to make his way across the country in order to get home. Along the way, he meets Janek and Irena and this unlikely group of disparate people, each with their own unique and moving experience of the war, forge together to make their way home and rebuild their lives.

Devastation Road has an air of mystery about it as we are drip fed information about Owen when parts of his memory slowly come back to him. Hewitt’s portrayal of Owen’s memory loss is incredibly effective, giving the reader the experience of how it would really feel to lose this function, the confusion it causes and its impact which goes way beyond anything I could have imagined. The vague snippets of memories that come back to him that he can’t fully make sense of and then forgetting them again the next day, make piecing his life back together incredibly difficult.

Each of the three characters has their own story to tell and their own methods of survival. While not always liking the decisions they have made and the action they have taken, you cannot help but feel for them and understand their behaviour in this most extreme of times when survival becomes everything. They are all victims of the war and in many senses peace time will be just as dangerous for them.

The real beauty of this book, for me, is its exploration of the impact of war. Although historical fiction, Devastation Road has an authenticity about it showing that Hewitt has clearly researched his subject. His descriptions give a real sense of place and surrounding, with the reader being transported to Germany during this tumultuous time. Peace time has arrived and yet lives are still in turmoil and danger is not over. While our views and ideas of the end of the Second World War are often one of jubilation and celebration, this was not the reality for the majority of people. Lives and homes devastated, displacement and the uncertainty about the safety of loved ones are all explored and portrayed gently and sensitively. Hewitt accurately describes how human lives become worthless during war time making this an emotional read.

Heart-breaking, gripping and wonderfully written, Devastation Road is a gorgeous novel and a fantastic piece of historical fiction. A tale of unlikely friendships, loss and the lengths people go to in order to stay alive that will move you deeply. Highly recommended.

A huge thank you to Jason Hewitt and Scribner for my copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Published on 14 July 2016 by Scribner.

 

 

The Finnish Invasion Blog Tour – The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto *Review*

I’m chuffed to be hosting today’s post for The Finnish Invasion blog tour and am sharing with you my review of The Mine by Kati Hiekkapelto…

Cover

The Blurb

Anna Fekete returns to the Balkan village of her birth for a relaxing summer holiday.  But when her bag is stolen and the thief is found dead on the banks of the river, Anna is pulled into a murder case.  Her investigation leads straight to her own family and to closely guarded secrets concealing a horrendous travesty of justice that threatens them all.  As layer after layer of corruption, deceit and guilt are revealed, Anna is caught up in the refugee crisis spreading across Europe.  How long before everything explodes?

Chilling, tense and relevant, The Exiled is an electrifying, unputdownable thriller from one of Finland’s most celebrated crime writers.

My Thoughts

When Anna Fekete returns to her home town of Kanizsa in Serbia for a holiday and has her bag stolen by a thief who is later found dead her investigation takes her on journey she never expected.

This is the third book in the Detective Anna Fekete series, however it works perfectly as a standalone novel as I have not read the previous two. The first chapter immediately drew me in with it’s stunning prose and the need to know what has led to that situation as Kati gives you a glimpse of what’s to come while effectively leaving you hanging on to find out more. The following chapters take you back to events leading up to the first chapter. The structure of this book is well constructed and works extremely well as you follow Anna each day with occasional flashbacks to the past and to other characters.

The tension is built throughout the book with chapters ending at just the right moment leaving questions in the readers mind. The prose is stunning with a subtlety that adds to the atmosphere of the setting and the events that unfold. This fits perfectly with difficult subject matter that runs throughout the book.

Kati has spun a story of corruption set against the backdrop of a tenuous political climate. Current topical issues play a part in The Exiled with the current refugee crisis and the subsequent rise in the far right playing an important role in the story. Kati has covered this with an understanding and insight and yet does not force her views down your throat. She acknowledges the plight of refugees but also acknowledges the concerns of those who lives have been touched by it inadvertently.

Anna is a central component to the story, beyond being the detective who is trying to uncover the truth. Feeling rootless and struggling with her sense of identity and belonging, her experiences and feelings mirror, in some ways, those of the refugees around her. I really empathised with Anna and she is a character I look forward to finding out more about. 

The Exiled unfolds with the gradual peeling away of layers where secret upon secret is slowly unravelled. Anna’s personal journey and the social situation add to the depth of the novel, making this much more than your average thriller.

Intelligently and beautifully written, The Exiled is a tense read perfectly mixing gripping thriller with social and political commentary.

Thank you to Kati Heikkapelto and Karen Sullivan at Orenda for the copy in exchange for my review and for including me on the blog tour.

Published on 10 October 2016 by Orenda. You can purchase a copy HERE.

Author Pic

About Kati Hiekkapelto

Kati Hiekkapelto was born in 1970 in Oulu, Finland.  She wrote her first stories at the age of two and recorded them on cassette tapes.  Kati has studied Fine Arts in Liminka Art School and Special Education at the University of Jyvaskyla.  The Subject of her final thesis/dissertation was racist bullying in Finnish schools.  She went on to work as a special-needs teacher for immigrant children.  Today Kati is an international crime writer, punk singer and performance artist.  Her books The Hummingbird and The Defenceless have been translated into ten languages.  The Hummingbird was shortlisted for the Petrona Award in the UK in 2015 and The Defenceless won the best Finnish Crime Novel of the year 2014, and ha been shortlisted for the prestigious Glass Key.  She lives and writes in her 200-year-old farmhouse in Hailuoto, an island in the Gulf of Bothnia, North Finland.  In her free time she rehearses with her band, runs, hunts, picks berries and mushrooms, and gardens.  During long, dark winter months she chops wood to heat her house, shovels snow and skis.  Writing seems fairly easy, after all that.  Follow her on Twitter @HiekkapeltoKati or visit www.katihiekkapelto.com.

The Finnish Invasion Blog Tour

Review – Duplicity by Sibel Hodge

Duplicity

The Blurb

There are three sides to every story: Yours. Mine. And the truth…

Max and Alissa have a fairy-tale life – newly-wed, madly in love and enviously rich. Then Max is stabbed to death at their home and Alissa, miraculously, escapes with her life. But why was she spared?

The hunt for the killer begins, uncovering a number of leads – was Max’s incredible wealth the motive? Had his shady business practices finally caught up with him? Or was it a stalker with a dangerous obsession?

Devoted friends rally around gentle, sweet Alissa as she is left to mourn the loss of her husband and pick up her life. But not everyone is who they seem…deep-rooted jealousies, secrets and twisted love lie just beneath the surface, and not all fairy tales have a happy ending.

Duplicity is a suspenseful thriller from the best-selling author of Look Behind You and Where The Memories Lie.

My Thoughts

‘Love was a blessing and a curse. Love could destroy you. If you let it.’

Sibel Hodge has done it again with another fantastic thriller. I had planned to read Duplicity slowly over the course of a few days but I ended up devouring it and reading it really quickly.

I don’t want to give away any of the plot so I’m not going to touch on it at all as I want you to experience the book as I did, but Sibel has created a dark and twisted tale which takes you where you never expected. Revolving around the murkier, negative emotions that human beings experience – jealousy, obsession, arrogance – but taken to the absolute extreme, Duplicity is an enthralling read.

When reading a thriller I love to get inside the head of the ’bad guy’ and understand them. Sibel has achieved this perfectly in Duplicity creating a well rounded character for whom I felt a degree of understanding and empathy for despite their horrendous behaviour. This is important to me as, after all, humans are influenced by their experiences and behaviour is not often the result of merely being ’mad or bad’. Duplicity got me thinking about the whole ’nature – nurture’ debate and I love a book that makes me think beyond it’s pages.

‘…if you grow up without love, you don’t know what it is. I don’t have the same kinds of feelings as other people. I don’t feel guilty. I don’t feel much, most of the time. Not about humans, anyway.’

Sibel has created the epitome of the sociopath and charted the rise in their tendencies with an intelligence and understanding.

The novel switches between two narrators, both of who tell their stories in the first person and Sibel has carefully made their individual voices easy to differentiate and given each their own character. Detective Warren Carter was easy to warm to with enough of a back story, and his own unique views to make him a believable character.

The first chapter drew me in immediately, urging me to read on to find out more about the narrator, whose identity is kept from the reader until later in the book. This works so well as it keeps the reader intrigued and desperate to know more. The pace is perfect throughout with a momentum that never stops. Duplicity is responsible for a couple of very late nights and the twists and turns will leave you holding your breath while muttering ‘oh my God‘.

Utterly compelling with keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense and characters who leave you wondering who to trust, Duplicity is the perfect psychological thriller. You need to read it! Just be sure to have time set aside for it as you will not want to put it down until you reach the end of that final page!

A huge thank you to Sibel Hodge for the advance copy. This is my unbiased and honest review.

Published on 27 December 2016 by Thomas and Mercer.

You can purchase a copy of Duplicity HERE.

Review – Isolation Junction by Jennifer Gilmour

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The Blurb

Rose is the mother of two young children, and finds herself living a robotic life with an abusive and controlling husband.  While she struggles to maintain a calm front for the sake of her children, inside Rose is dying and trapped in ‘isolation junction’.  She runs an online business from home, because Darren won’t let her work outside the house.  Through this she meets other mums and finds courage to attend networking events, while Darren is at work, to promote her business.  It’s at one of these events that Rose meets Tim, a sympathetic, dark-haired stranger who unwittingly becomes an important part of her survival.  After years of emotional abuse, of doubting her future and losing all self-confidence, Rose takes a stand.  Finding herself distraught, alone and helpless, Rose wonders how she’ll ever escape with her sanity and her children.  With 100 reasons to leave and a 1,000 reasons she can’t, will she be able to do it?  Will Tim help her?  Will Rose find peace and the happiness she deserves?  Can Rose break free from this spiralling life she so desperately wants to change?

My Review

Isolation Junction is the debut novel by Jennifer Gilmour. It tells the story of Rose and her relationship with her husband Darren which has ended following years of domestic abuse. As a former social worker I have worked within a system that routinely deals with abusive relationships as a child protection issue and, therefore, had a particular interest in reading this book for review. Domestic abuse is a huge issue within the UK and one that, unfortunately tends not to be dealt with particularly well at times.

Written in two narrative styles the reader follows Rose in the present as she finally makes the break from her relationship and makes a new life for herself and her children and we get glimpses into the past via Rose’s memories. With the present written in the third person and the past in the first person it is clearly marked out for the reader and makes you really get into her head, so to speak. With her memories interspersed with the present it also highlights how her current experiences bring back the painful memories of her relationship with Darren. You can’t help but empathise with Rose and go through the myriad of emotions with her.

Jennifer has done a great job of portraying the realities of domestic abuse and you can tell that she has used real life experiences in writing Isolation Junction. Quite often the view of domestic abuse is a simplistic one that concentrates on the physical side and assumes that it is easy to leave the perpetrator, Jennifer has highlighted the insidious nature of domestic abuse and all the different methods used to control partners and control is essentially, in my humble opinion, what domestic abuse is about. Isolation Junction shows the way this control is built up slowly during the relationship and all the ways the partner undermines the other by eroding their self-esteem and support network. Sleep deprivation, gaslighting, isolating from friends and family and using the children are some of the methods Jennifer highlights which are not often at the forefront of people’s minds.

As Rose unfortunately discovers leaving is not as straight forward as it may appear. With little help from housing associations and perpetrators using the Court system to hit at that most vulnerable part of a woman – her children – leaving is extremely difficult. The failure of adequate laws to protect those subjected to a Court process are also described in Isolation Junction. However, it can be done and Rose’s story offers that hope.

I think Isolation Junction will be of great help to those who find themselves in a similar situation in helping them realise their experiences are not unique to them and that the methods their partner is using is not of their doing or in their heads. It also gives a realistic portrayal of the some of the barriers that will be faced when trying to leave.

I did find that some aspects of the story were a little unrealistic for some women who may be in a similar situation, Rose is very lucky with her new partner and the help her family are able to offer, but I also get that this book has been written to offer a sense of hope to those who find themselves in a similar situation when it may seem that all hope is lost.

Jennifer has done a great job at bringing the true experiences of domestic abuse, the difficulties of leaving,  the failure of services and within the law to life. I certainly think that Isolation Junction will be of value to those in a similar situation as Rose, enabling to them to see they are not alone, and those working with people subjected to domestic abuse in helping them to understand their experiences.  Isolation Junction is both a moving and uplifting read.

I wish Jennifer every success with Isolation Junction and huge credit to her for writing this book in order to try and assist others.

A huge thank you to Jennifer Gilmour for the copy in exchange for my review.

Published 22 September 2016 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform and launched on 1 October 2016.

Connect with Jennifer at www.jennifergilmour.com

You can purchase a copy of Isolation Junction HERE

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Book Review – A Cornish Christmas by Lily Graham

A Cornish Christmas

The Blurb

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

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

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

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

My Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published 30 September 2016 by Bookouture.

Review – Untouchable by Sibel Hodge

Untouchable

The Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in paperback on 17 September 2016 by CreateSpace.

Blog Tour – Good Girl Bad Girl by Ann Girdharry

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I’m thrilled today to be the next stop on the Good Girl Bad Girl Blog Tour.  You can find out about Ann Girdharry’s debut novel, find out what I thought about it and a bit more about Ann.

The Blurb

Mother missing, the discovery of a powerful and corrupt syndicate and dark secrets about her father revealed leaves 28-year old Kal determined to pursue her own investigations, no matter what sinister truths she uncovers, in this intense psychological thriller.

Kal is convinced her investigative journalist mother must have been working on a controversial, and top level, news story, it is the only explanation for her sudden and suspicious disappearance. Although mistrustful of the police, Kal allows Detective Inspector Spinks, the officer assigned to her mother’s case, to accompany her when she visits her grandmother to break the news. What they don’t expect is to uncover a file of shocking research cataloguing the deviant activities of seven members of London’s political and business elite. Back on the streets of London, the survival instincts and specialist expertise she learned from her late father, kick into overdrive, as Kal resolves to not only find her mother but continue her work and unveil the conspiracy hidden amongst those in power.

My Review

From the very start I was hooked. Ann effectively opens Good Girl Bad Girl with a first chapter that leaves a lot of questions in the mind of the reader that you just have to find the answers to. What has happened to her mother? Why have the family been receiving threatening notes? What was the main character’s father teaching her as a child that was so unusual?

Kal, a photojournalist, is dragged into a seedy underworld following the sudden disappearance of her mother. Taken on a journey she didn’t expect to be a part of, the reader follows her every step of the way. The intrigue and action does not let up, eventually resulting in the climatic conclusion.

Kal Medi is a great character. She is independent, intelligent, single-minded and strong and yet I was able to empathise with her as you get glimpses into her vulnerabilities which make her all the more human and relatable to. The relationship she had with her father is an interesting one and adds another layer to both the character and the story. This is the first in what is going to be a series of books and I really look forward to meeting Kal again.
Good Girl Bad Girl has a cleverly woven plot, with what initially feels like three disparate storylines coming together perfectly. The psychological element was something I loved. It is clear that Ann knows a lot about psychology and Kal’s observations of and descriptions of the other characters add an extra layer to this book. The way Ann describes the nuances of how the emotions effected Kal physically really made me go through what Kal was going through.

An intelligently written, multi-layered psychological thriller, I really enjoyed Good Girl Bad Girl and look forward to reading the next Kal Medi book.

Published on 23 August 2016 by Create Space and Kindle Direct.

About the Author

Born and educated in the UK, Ann Girdharry is a trained psychotherapist and has worked as a manager in the not-for-profit sector for many years for agencies working with: carers, vulnerable older people and those with dementia, survivors of abuse, and victims of racism and racial attacks. Today she lives in Montpellier, France with her husband and two children. As well as her passion for writing, Ann enjoys gardening and is a member of her local roller blading club.

Ann has previously published a series of short stories called Tales of the Unexpected (2015-2016). Her debut novel, and the first in the Kal Medi series, Good Girl Bad Girl by Ann Girdharry (published by CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing 23rd August 2016 RRP £8.99 paperback, £3.99 ebook) is available to purchase from online retailers including amazon.co.uk and to order from all good bookstores.

You can connect with Ann via her website www.girdharry.com and on Twitter @GirdharryAnn

A huge thank you to Ann and Authoright for the advance copy of Good Girl Bad Girl and for inviting me to be part of the Blog Tour.  Be sure to catch the rest of the stops!

Blog Tour – We’ve Come to Take You Home by Susan Gandar

We've Come to Take You Home Banner

The final stop on the We’ve Come to Take You Home blog tour, I am thrilled to bring you an insightful Q&A session with the author, Susan Gandar.  I am extremely pleased to be hosting this as I adore this book!  You can also read my review and a bio of Susan.

So first up here is my Q&A session with Susan –

We’ve Come to Take You Home is such a unique novel, what inspired the stories of Sam and Jess and the relationship between the two of them?

When I was in my early teens, the time in your life when you think you know everything, when in fact you know nothing, I was in the car, with my father and mother, and my mother was talking about something that had happened, in the past. And I said, ‘The past! What’s the past? It’s only the future that matters.’

My parents, particularly my mother, were furious. But it took many years for me to understand the clumsiness of my comment and why it angered, and upset, my mother so much.

My grandfather, on my father’s side, fought in France during the First World War. He was badly wounded and shipped back to England. It was on a hospital train, rattling its way through France, he met my grandmother, Bertha – it was she who nursed him. After the war ended, they married – theirs was a happy ending.

My mother’s father, my maternal grandfather, also left home and went away to fight in the First World War. But he came back a shadow of himself. He was someone, and I have a very dim memory of him, who you weren’t allowed to touch or talk to – because if you did, he would explode, physically and verbally.

It has taken me years and years to understand and appreciate all this. So, I wanted to write a book which showed the link between now, the present, Sam in the book, and the past, Jess in the book – which tried to explain, show, that we wouldn’t be living the lives we have now without the sacrifices our parents, grandparents and, perhaps, even great grandparents made for us during their lives.

Jess’ storyline evolved out of all the research I did on the Home Front during the First World War. Sam’s story, though, is rooted, very firmly, in my own reality. My mother, very suddenly, without any warning, had a brain haemorrhage. And everything that Sam goes through, I went through – waiting for the ambulance, sitting in the family room, the Intensive Care Unit, all of it. The sister in the Intensive Care Unit asked me to hold my mother’s hand, said that it would help if she knew I was there – and, like Sam, I couldn’t do it. Sam gets a second chance. Sadly, I didn’t.

It’s the old skeleton, the one we, and the society we live in, hide in a cupboard. We lock it in and throw away the key in the hope that it will never get out. But, of course it will. Because the day we are born, is the day we die. And that’s the one thing, whoever we are, wherever we live, man, woman, rich and poor, we all share – death.

In We’ve Come to Take You Home, Sam can only conquer death if she overcomes her fear. I wanted to write a book which would, even in just a small way, get that skeleton out of that cupboard and shake it around a bit. Try and make it into something we could actually accept, even talk about, be just a little less afraid of, rather than something we run away from.

What and who encouraged you to take the plunge and write
your first novel?

We have two wonderful god-daughters, Livvy and Alice. Livvy adored Harry Potter. She read every book, however long. But Alice, the other god-daughter, hated Harry Potter. The characters were pretty much all male and she was less than impressed with the wizards. She pronounced it silly. And asked me one day, if I might write a book, specifically for girls, with female protagonists, which didn’t have any wizards, and wasn’t ‘silly’.

So I started to write a novel aimed at 8 – 12 year olds with two girls, loosely based around Livvy and Alice, and storylines set in the present and in the First World War. But it became increasingly clear that I couldn’t write the First World War, the way I wanted to, if I stayed within that age group. So I decided to go for an adult/YA crossover, replacing a present day plot line focused around a dolls house with the brain haemorrhage story, and making the past storyline, running from 1914 through to 1918, much, much tougher.

Was it easy to get We’ve Come to Take You Home published?

Not at all easy. It had been rejected by so many agents that I was at the point of giving up. And approaching traditional publishers, the larger ones, without an agent on board is impossible. And it was the same with the majority of the smaller, independent publishers although, thankfully, that’s beginning to change. So ‘We’ve Come to Take You Home’ was partner published with Matador. But, I’m really hoping, given the really great reviews it’s getting, from both UK and from across the world, it will now catch the eye of an agent.

What is your writing process? Was the novel carefully plotted or did you write and see where the story took you?

I do an outline, plotting the basic contents of each individual chapter, from the first all the way through to the last. Some might say that to write that way is restrictive. Personally, I find it liberating – when I start on the actual putting down of words, I pretty much know where I’m going and so can relax into it. And, I honestly think, given ‘We’ve Come to Take You Home’ has such a complicated and ambitious structure, there was no other way of doing it. Although, saying that, I’m always open to new ideas, even if that does mean making some hefty changes. For example, right at the very, very last minute, Chapter Thirty became Chapter One!

I’m also a very visual writer – something I’ve inherited from my film and TV background. So I will see each chapter or sequence visually inside my head, a bit like film being projected onto a screen. And then the task, and it’s a hard and a slow one for me, is to take those images and turn them into words on the page.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Luckily, I’ve never had writer’s block, the really serious kind which stops you from writing for weeks, months, if not years. Yes, some days, even weeks, go better than others. But I find when nothing is coming, there’s no energy there at all, it’s better to go and do something else. Walking the dog, doing some gardening, cooking supper, doing something physical rather than sitting there at your desk staring at the computer, is often when you have your best ideas. I’ve also learnt that if something really isn’t happening, that a paragraph or chapter, really isn’t flowing, even though you’ve tried and tried again, it’s usually for a very good reason – it shouldn’t be there.

Reading as much as I can, surrounding myself with words, really helps. And I have done meditation but always in a group as I’m hopelessly ill-disciplined when left to practice on my own. Because, for me, writing is a sort of meditation – it’s only when my mind is completely clear that the words start flowing.

Life during World War 1 is told so vividly throughout the book, did you have to do a lot of research and if so how did you research it?

Yes, I researched, for something like two years. Reading everything and anything I could get hold of, whether fiction or non-fiction, watching films, visiting museums, looking at paintings, reading or going to plays written at that time. Everything. But it was the letters, written from wives, girlfriends or sisters to their husbands, boyfriends or brothers fighting out in France, and vice versa, that had the most profound effect on me. And reading their diaries. I really, really didn’t want to let those people down. But there also comes a time when you have to say I’ve read so many, many books, one more is not going to make much of a difference, I must get on with the actual writing, plotting the outline, because if I don’t it will never every happen.

How did you go about developing the characters of Sam and Jess?

I always knew I wanted the two girls, one in the past and one in the present. Jess partly evolved out of all the research into the Home Front during the First World War. Sam from the present day girls I had met and talked to, including our two god-daughters. That’s the ‘shallow’ side of them – their ages, where they live, their education, their family, their friends etc. But their ‘deep’ emotional character, what they are prepared to fight for, even die for, was developed from the situations they found themselves in, how they reacted, what they felt, and the decisions they made.

Sam and Jess are separated by time, life and death, however, despite never meeting they have a connection. Do you believe in, for use of a better term, supernatural forces?

Yes, I do, definitely believe that there is something else beyond the here and now although I prefer to describe it as spiritual rather than supernatural. I think it would have been very difficult to write this book, the way it is, without that belief. It certainly wouldn’t have had the same conviction or depth of emotion.

It’s such an emotional and moving book, was it difficult to say goodbye to Sam and Jess once you had finished writing the book?

Very difficult. They’ve both been with me for so very long. And I’m also very, very fond of Tom and, of course, Ellie. I have thought about doing a sequel but, right now, I really not sure that it will work. ‘We’ve Come to Take You Home’ is so rooted in emotion and I’m concerned that any sequel would tend to be more plot led, less moving, which could be a disappointing read after the emotional depth of the first book. So, maybe, it’s time to say good-bye to Jess and Sam, let them move on and let them live their own lives, in other people’s imaginations, without me?

What authors inspire you and what are your all time favourite books?

I read so much, so many different genres, by so many different authors, so it’s almost impossible to select any one, two or three or four. I’m a member of a brilliant reading group. Last month’s book was Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See which I, and the rest of group, rated as one of our all-time favourite reads. But the following have also been my most recent really enjoyable reads :

A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD by Anne Tyler
BLOOD AND BEAUTY by Sarah Dunant
Richard Flanagan’s THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH

And I will read anything by Susan Hill. Her First World War novel – STRANGE MEETING – is a particular favourite. If you had to read one novel about that particular time, that particular war, then that would be the one I would recommend.

THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY by Rachel Joyce
THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS by M.L. Stedman

But it was Meg Rossoff’s HOW I LIVE NOW, a young adult/adult crossover, which I picked out on an adult shelf, which really opened my eyes to young adult writing. It was so true, so keenly honest, I found it quite shocking, even upsetting.

And, of course, young adult and children’s writer, David Almond, author of SKELLIG, KIT’S WILDERNESS and THE FIRE EATERS. Such beautiful, visual, almost poetic writing.
But it was Marghanita Laski’s THE VICTORIAN CHAISE-LONGUE, a book given to me many, many years ago by my mother, which really helped when I was writing the slips, from one life to another, in We’ve Come to Take You Home.
As the blurb on the back of my Penguin 1962 edition says ‘In this short, eerie novel by the author of Little Boy Lost, a young mother who is recovering from tuberculosis falls asleep on a Victorian chaise-longue and is ushered into a waking nightmare of death amongst strangers.’

Is there a second book planned?

Yes, the working title is ‘Cremated Before Teatime’. It’s based on a true story, set in Sussex and India, during and after the First World War. And that is as far as I’m prepared to go!

About the Book

We've Come to Take You Home

‘Powerful, intelligent and moving …’
Graeme Simsion, author The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect
‘We’ve Come to Take You Home’ is an unusual and compelling story of love, loss and the importance of family.
Samantha Foster and Jessica Brown are destined to meet. One lives in the twentieth century, the other in the twenty-first century
April 1916 and thousands of men have left home to fight in the war to end all wars. Jessica Brown’s father is about to be one of those men. A year later, he is still alive but Jess has to steal to keep her family from starving. And then a telegram arrives – her father has been killed in action.
Four generations later, Sam Foster’s father is admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit with a suspected brain haemorrhage. A nurse asks if she would like to take her father’s hand. Sam refuses. All she wants is to get out of this place, stuck between the world of the living and the world of the dead, a place with no hope and no future, as quickly as possible.
As Sam’s father’s condition worsens, her dreams become more frequent – and more frightening. She realises that what she is experiencing is not a dream, but someone else’s living nightmare…
We’ve Come to Take You Home is an emotionally-charged story of a friendship forged 100 years apart.

My Review

Every now and again I read a book that makes me feel so deeply it takes me a few days to move on from it, and it stays in my head (and my heart) for a long time. This is one of those books. For me, We’ve Come to Take You Home is an evocative and poignant portrayal of life during World War 1 and the links we have with our past and our ancestry.

I was immediately drawn to the book by the title and the cover. I can’t fully explain why, but something about them made me want to read this book.

Throughout the book we follow the lives of Sam, a teenager in present day and Jess, a teenager during World War 1. Told through third person narrative with chapters concentrating on one character, the reader is drawn in to the lives of both girls. You know that the two girls are inextricably linked despite being separated by life, death and time and this pulled me into the story further as I wanted to know what the connection was. As the book progressed I had an idea, however, the ending did not in any way disappoint. The parallels between Jess and Sam’s lives, while experienced differently, show us that our experiences are age old and transcend time.

Susan writes beautifully, with rich, vivid descriptions and touching prose. The horrors of World War 1, in particular for those left at home, jump out from the page;

‘The cottage was no longer a home: it was a tomb.’

It is written with great insight and it is clear that a lot of research was undertaken during the execution of this book. The emotions of those living through these experiences are felt by the reader intensely. The futility of their situation is heartrending. This is an extremely powerful read and during it I felt immense sadness. Susan writes in such a way that you cannot help but be affected by what is on the page. Jess’s tale is tragic and heart-breaking and throughout I was rooting for her.

Sam’s situation is also moving, just in a very different way. Her family are going through their own, more modern day difficulties. Sam’s is a story of self-discovery, learning to navigate through life, and the problems that can arise through the course of it and how the past actions of our forefathers impacts on the way we live today.

We’ve Come to Take You Home moved me profoundly. Beautifully written, heartbreaking and totally absorbing. I loved it. A perfect piece of historical fiction that will make you think and feel deeply.  An accomplished debut novel, Susan is an author to look out for in the future.  Very highly recommended.

Published 28 March 2016 by Troubador Publishing. 

About Susan

Susan Gandar Author Picture

My father, John Box, was a film production designer, working on ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Dr. Zhivago’, ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘A Man For All Seasons’ and the musical ‘Oliver’.  Our house was always filled with people, usually eccentric, always talented, invariably stroppy, discussing stories. My mother put my father’s four Oscars to good use as toilet roll holders, doorstops and hat stands.
A major chunk of my childhood was spent loitering around on film sets. Who needs an ‘English education’ when you have the polystyrene-coated streets of downtown Moscow, ten miles outside of Madrid, to explore?
But then the years of ‘Who Will Buy My Sweet Red Roses’ came to a rather abrupt end. Reality knocked on the door in the guise of the Metropolitan Line to Shepherds Bush and the BBC. Working in television as a script editor and story consultant, I was part of the creative team responsible for setting up ‘Casualty’. I became known for going after the more ‘difficult’ stories at the same time successfully racking up viewing figures from 7 to 14 million.
I went on to develop various projects for both the BBC and the independent sector. The period I enjoyed most was working with Jack Rosenthal, a wonderful writer, on the series ‘Moving Story’ – ‘That’s a situation, a good situation, but now you need to make it into a story.’
Martin, my husband, was made an offer he couldn’t refuse and we left England to live in Amsterdam. ‘Ik wil een kilo kabeljauw, alstublieft’ will, if all goes well, buy you a piece of cod – I decided to concentrate on my writing rather than my Dutch pronunciation.
My debut novel, ‘We’ve Come to Take You Home’, set in the present and in 1918, a crossover aimed at the adult and young adult women’s popular fiction market, was published on 28th March by Matador.

www.susangandar.com
Twitter @Susan_Gandar
https://www.facebook.com/susangandarauthor

You can purchase a copy by clicking the following links.  As a blog tour special, We’ve Come To Take You Home can be bought for 99p/99c on Amazon until the end of Monday 1st August.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Troubador.co.uk

A huge thank you to Susan for allowing Bloomin’ Brilliant Books to be a part of the blog tour and for taking part in the Q&A and to the host, Neverland Blog Tours.