Category Archives: Authors J to L

Reviews by author surname J to L

Review – Skin Deep by Liz Nugent

The Blurb

Cordelia Russell has been living on the French Riviera for twenty-five years, passing herself off as an English socialite. But her luck, and the kindness of strangers, have run out.
The arrival of a visitor from her distant past shocks Cordelia. She reacts violently to the intrusion and flees her flat to spend a drunken night at a glittering party. As dawn breaks she stumbles home through the back streets. Even before she opens her door she can hear the flies buzzing. She did not expect the corpse inside to start decomposing quite so quickly . . .

My Thoughts

‘I could probably have been an actress. It is not difficult to pretend to be somebody else. Isn’t that what I’ve been doing for most of my life?

Liz Nugent is back with her much anticipated third novel, Skin Deep. Anyone who regularly reads my reviews will know that I have had a bit of a hard time with psychological thrillers recently, but I’m pleased to say that Nugent has re-kindled my love affair with them. Skin Deep is, in true Liz Nugent style, deliciously dark.

Of course, it has that killer first line that we now expect from Nugent and the prologue drags you in as we are introduced to Cordelia Russell. Delia is beautiful but bad. And when I say bad I mean Bad with a capital B! From a small island off the coast of Ireland, to say Delia’s childhood was unconventional would be an understatement. Nugent takes us through Delia’s history in order for us to see how she has got to the position we first see her in in the prologue. Skin Deep is addictive and fascinating as we act as voyeurs through the course of Delia’s life. The saying ‘All that glisters isn’t gold’ is proved correct as we discover the dark core of Delia’s perfect exterior.

Very much a character focused thriller, Delia is despicable, her behaviour is repugnant and it makes Skin Deep oh so compelling. Always fascinated by the nature-nurture debate, it has you wondering how much of Delia’s personality is due to her upbringing? Nugent tells Delia’s story through first person narration via Delia’s perspective, but we are given glimpses of the perspectives of others as every now and again the point of view switches for a chapter which works perfectly. Delia also reflects on the stories that her father told her during her childhood all of which have a moral edge to them and the picture of Delia and her off-kilter moral code is built up perfectly. Skin Deep is the budding psychologist’s dream. Delia is utterly detestable and I loved her for that!

Nugent’s writing is fantastic as she gets you to the very core of Delia. Her portrayal of manipulation and deception is fantastic and I wonder what goes on within Nugent’s mind. The tone is heavy and dark throughout and Nugent uses words like weapons in order for them to stun and shock you. Unable to second guess what will happen next, Nugent has this amazing ability to ensure you are always taken off guard.

Nugent never lets me down and Skin Deep is yet another accomplished novel by this talented author. She has weaved another twisted tale to perfection ensuring her place at the top of my list of favourite authors. Skin Deep takes you for a walk on the darker side of life and it is delectable. An absolute must read for fans of psychological thrillers.

Skin Deep was published on 5 April 2018 by Penguin Ireland. You can get your copy HERE.

A huge thank you to Liz Nugent, Pengiun Books and Netgalley for the copy in exchange for my review.

Blog Tour – Seas Of Snow by Kerensa Jennings *Review*

I am absolutely delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Seas Of Snow by Kerensa Jennings today. About a year ago Kerensa approached me and asked if I would be able to read and review her debut novel. Unfortunately, I was unable to but offered Kerensa a guest post slot on the blog. The post she wrote had quite an impact on me, and I knew that I would have to read Seas Of Snow in the future (you can read that guest post HERE). And so, a year on, here we are!

The Blurb

1950s England. Five-year-old Gracie Scott lives with her Mam and next door to her best friend Billy. An only child, she has never known her Da. When her Uncle Joe moves in, his physical abuse of Gracie’s mother starts almost immediately. But when his attentions wander to Gracie, an even more sinister pattern of behaviour begins.

As Gracie grows older, she finds solace and liberation in books, poetry and her enduring friendship with Billy. Together they escape into the poetic fairy-tale worlds of their imaginations.

But will fairy tales be enough to save Gracie from Uncle Joe’s psychopathic behaviour – and how far will it go?

Seas of Snow is a haunting, psychological domestic drama that probes the nature and the origins of evil.

My Thoughts

‘Was evil born or made? Was innocence something we all hold in our souls, only to be blackened and turned rotten by experience?’

Seas Of Snow is the debut novel by Kerensa Jennings. After hearing so much about it from a lot of the book bloggers I hold in high esteem and featuring a great guest post on the blog by Jennings, I just had to read it for myself.

Set during the 1950s in North Shields, Seas Of Snow follows five-year-old Gracie as she progresses through her life as the only child of a single mother. As her home changes from a safe haven to place of fear and trepidation when her Uncle Joe moves in, Gracie’s escape comes from books and the games she plays with her best friend, Billy.

Seas Of Snow explores the dichotomy between good and evil and, as Gracie explores this and tries to make sense of it, Jennings raises age-old questions that we continue to try and answer. Gracie and Joe each signify what the other isn’t, with Gracie’s absolute innocence being in direct contrast to the wickedness that resides within Joe. In order to explore this, Jennings has chosen the most horrific example of ‘evil’ that is out there. A huge taboo within society and the one act guaranteed to horrify all, to explore good versus evil through paedophilia is a brave choice as it makes Seas Of Snow a difficult and, at times, distressing read.

Largely told via the point of view of Gracie, I adored her and I wanted to whisk her away from her life and make her safe. My heart broke for her every time I picked up Seas Of Snow. I loved the way she tried to make sense of her life and what was happening to her through literature. As her world becomes unsafe and the amount of safe places reduce, she firstly uses games with Billy and then literature and poetry as a means of escape. It is clear that Jennings has a great love for the written word and she manages to make beauty shine through the darkness. Literature had a huge influence on me as a teenager in making sense of the world and human nature and I wonder if this is still the case for teenagers in the 21st century? This aspect of Seas Of Snow is one of my favourite things about the book.

Sadly, Jennings portrayal of Gracie’s mother is an accurate one in her inability to be able to protect Gracie from harm. Fear and powerlessness can render a person into a frozen state and Jennings captures this. While Gracie, quite rightly, can’t understand why her mother does nothing, I understood her behaviour particularly in the context of an era in which domestic abuse viewed as a private issue and support from agencies was few and far between.

Another perspective we view the story from is that of the antagonist, Joe. Jennings’ depiction of him is chilling, uncomfortable and unnerving as she describes his predatory thought patterns and behaviour. As he uses his good looks to dupe people into trusting him, Jennings explores the fact that we are often pulled towards what we deem as attractive in our mistaken belief that attractiveness denotes goodness. Joe is likely to be the most repugnant character I come across this year as Jennings’ is unflinching in her portrayal of him.

The narrative structure of Seas Of Snow is interesting as it flits between past, present and perspective, often within the same chapter. I have to confess that at times I needed to stop and think about where I was in the book. However, I got used to this and it became less of an issue as I read.

Jennings writing style is fluid and unique in that she is not afraid to use words that are often unseen in modern novels. This gives her a style of her own and it is style that I enjoyed reading. Seas Of Snow has a beauty in the midst of the tragedy that unfolds before the reader that makes this book so compelling and difficult to turn away from. There are scenes that are, rightly so, uncomfortable and at times I felt like an utterly helpless voyeur.

A stark warning that is not the stranger you need to fear, but those you think you know and that the bright and beautiful can have the darkest core, Seas Of Snow is a book that has an intense impact which stays with you long after you have read it. Incredibly dark and yet beautiful, Jennings’ debut novel introduces us to a great new talent and I look forward to reading more from her.

Published on eBook and Hardback on 9 February 2017 and paperback on 5 April 2018 by Unbound.

Grab a copy here:

Foyles: bit.ly/Foyles-SeasofSnow-KerensaJennings
Waterstones: bit.ly/Waterstones-SeasofSnow-KerensaJennings
Amazon UK: bit.ly/AmUK-SeasofSnow-KerensaJennings

Amazon US: bit.ly/AmUS-SeasofSnow-KerensaJennings

About Kerensa Jennings

Kerensa Jennings is a storyteller, strategist, writer, producer and professor. Kerensa’s TV work took her all over the world, covering everything from geo-politics to palaeontology, and her time as Programme Editor of Breakfast with Frost coincided with the life-changing events of 9/11. The knowledge and experience she gained in psychology by qualifying and practising as an Executive Coach has only deepened her fascination with exploring the interplay between nature and nurture and with investigating whether evil is born or made – the question at the heart of Seas of Snow. As a scholar at Oxford, her lifelong passion for poetry took flight. Kerensa lives in West London and over the last few years has developed a career in digital enterprise.

IN HER OWN WORDS…
“I’ve been writing stories and poems ever since I was a little girl. Although it’s taken me a long time to get around to writing a book, I’m lucky enough to have had a long career in the media as a TV producer, writing television programmes. Most of the time viewers would have had no idea who I was, but my words have informed, educated and entertained millions over the years. I produced, directed, wrote for and worked with some of the most amazing people including Nelson Mandela, Sir David Frost (I was Programme Editor of Breakfast with Frost), Sir David Attenborough, Fiona Bruce, Sian Williams, James Nesbitt, George Alagiah and Rory Bremner. I moved away from programme making to strategy and became the BBC’s Head of Strategic Delivery where I designed and delivered strategies for the Corporation, including a significant digital strategy (BBC Make it Digital). I now run The Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award.
I’ve always used literature, and poetry in particular, for solace and escape. I happen to think literature is probably the best self-help on the planet! You can fly into other worlds and find ways through writing to make sense of life. SEAS of SNOW draws together some of my passions and fascinations in life. While I was at university, I studied the psychoanalysis of fairy tales and got very interested in archetypes and the way characters and stories of good and evil are portrayed.
While leading the BBC News coverage of the Soham investigation, I had the opportunity to see first-hand a lot of evidence about the mind and motives of a psychopath. So in SEAS of SNOW, the protagonist Gracie uses poetry and playtime to escape the traumas and abuses of her life; the antagonist, her Uncle Joe, is a bad man, a psychopath; and there is a subtext of fairy tale underlying the page-turning scenario which hopefully makes you want to read while half covering your eyes.”

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Website: http://www.seasofsnow.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/KerensaJenningsAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/zinca

I read my own copy of Seas Of Snow and this is my honest and unbiased review. My thanks to Caroline at Bits About Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Be sure to catch the other stops on the tour;

 

 

Review – My Girl by Jack Jordan

The Blurb

Paige Dawson: the mother of a murdered child and wife to a dead man.
She has nothing left to live for… until she finds her husband’s handgun hidden in their house.
Why did Ryan need a gun? What did he know about their daughter’s death?
Desperate for the truth, Paige begins to unearth her husband’s secrets.
But she has no idea who she is up against, or that her life isn’t hers to gamble – she belongs to me.
From the bestselling author of Anything for Her, Jack Jordan’s My Girl is the new chilling thriller that you won’t want to miss.

My Thoughts

I had heard so many good things about Jack Jordan’s My Girl and I was excited to finally be able to get stuck into it. At around 248 pages, My Girl is a quick read and it was compelling enough for me to get through it in a few hours, which is unusual for me.

It would be an understatement to say that Paige Dawson’s life is a mess, but understandably so. Ten years ago she lost her 14 year old daughter, Chloe, and two months previously her husband took his own life. Paige’s life has spiralled completely out of control as she self-medicates with alcohol and prescription drugs. Things are, however, about to take a dramatic turn as she finds a gun and a mobile phone in her husband’s desk drawer. And so begins Paige’s quest to find out the truth about her daughter and husband.

My initial impression was that I was not going to settle into My Girl and I found myself wondering if I had been taken in by the hype. Very quickly though Jordan completely threw me off course and pulled an absolute blinder that had the simultaneous effect of taking me totally by surprise and making me feel quite nauseous. As it became apparent that Jordan was not afraid to fully address the seamier side of life and thrust it into your face with no holds barred, I began to get a glimpse of the reason behind the hype.

The character of Paige Dawson is well developed and Jordan has ensured that her substance and alcohol misuse are realistically portrayed. He manages to accurately portray the all-encompassing nature of addiction and has clearly taken time to research this issue. Paige is not a particularly likeable character but you cannot help but be empathetic towards her. I switched between wanting to hug her and give her good shake!

My Girl is split into three parts with the initial and final part concentrating on Paige’s perspective and narrated in the third person. The middle part of the book is narrated in first person by … you will have to read it yourself to find out! I always enjoy a shift in perspective in a novel and Jordan pulls it off well and it certainly adds to the story.

I was taken in a totally different direction to the one I thought I was heading in with My Girl, and Jordan certainly knows how to put a twist in the tale. I did feel that there were a few loose ends left dangling which I would have liked to see tied up, and I think there was scope to make My Girl a longer novel to address these.

My Girl is gritty, gripping and unflinching in its storyline as Jordan touches on some uncomfortable and chilling issues. Jordan can clearly tell a cracking a tale and, this being his second novel, as his writing style develops I have no doubt he will become a formidable force in the crime/thriller genre.

My Girl was published in paperback on 3rd July 2016 by CreateSpace and on ebook on 1 June 2017 by Corvus. Grab your copy HERE.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Tour – End Game by Matt Johnson *Review*

I’m delighted but a little bit sad to be taking part in the blog tour for End Game by Matt Johnson today. Why am I sad? Because this book signals the end of the Robert Finlay series. I am very excited, however, to see where Matt Johnson takes us next. Anyway, here is the all-important blurb and then my thoughts on End Game.

The Blurb

Robert Finlay seems to have finally left his SAS past behind him and is settled into his new career as a detective. But when the girlfriend of his former SAS colleague and close friend Kevin Jones is murdered, it’s clear that Finlay’s troubles are far from over. Jones is arrested for the killing, but soon escapes from jail, and Finlay is held responsible for the breakout. Suspended from duty and sure he’s being framed too, our hero teams up with MI5 agent Toni Fellowes to find out who’s behind the conspiracy. Their quest soon reveals a plot that goes to the very heart of the UK’s security services. End Game, the final part in the critically acclaimed Robert Finlay trilogy, sees our hero in an intricately plotted and terrifyingly fast-paced race to uncover the truth and escape those who’d sooner have him dead than be exposed.

My Thoughts

I’m sad to say that End Game is the conclusion to the Robert Finlay trilogy and he is a character who will be missed. However, Matt Johnson has brought the trilogy to a fantastic end and this instalment will not disappoint the fans of his previous two books.

Johnson has a great talent for creating fast-paced books while managing to maintain plot intricacies that come together perfectly at the end and End Game displays this talent to perfection. When close friend Kevin Jones’s girlfriend is murdered and he is subsequently arrested for the killing, it appears that he and Finlay have been framed. Teaming up with MI5 agent, Toni Fellowes, to get to the truth results in his life being thrust into danger and the uncovering of a plot that goes far deeper than he thought.

I have a great affection for Robert Finlay and Johnson has created an authentic character who you automatically root for. Finlay’s issues and his empathy toward fellow ex-soldiers comes across as genuine and it is clear that Johnson has called on his own experiences in creating him. I’m quite upset that we won’t be seeing him again but I feel satisfied at the conclusion.

End Game starts with a bang and this sets the tone for the rest of the book. As the tension increases with each page turn, End Game immediately grabs your attention and doesn’t let it go until the end. You will find yourself thinking about it during the time you have to spend away from reading it.

Johnson has written a trilogy of books that are intelligent and thoughtful and yet nothing is taken from the thrills and terror that End Game provides. I think I said in my review for Deadly Game that Johnson’s books would make great films and he has confirmed this for me with the final book. So, come on film companies, snap them up and let’s see Robert Finlay on the big screen!

While I’m sad that End Game is, indeed, the end game, I feel satisfied by the conclusion. This is a great series of books and while you could read End Game as a standalone, I highly recommend that you read the first two books as well. It delivered on everything I expected from Matt Johnson in terms of great characters and plot and once again I was totally hooked from the outset. Another great read.

Published on eBook on 6 February 2018 and paperback on 31 March 2018 by Orenda Books. Grab your copy HERE.

My thanks go to Matt Johnson, Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Anne Cater at Random Things Blog Tours for my advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the tour. Be sure to catch the rest of the tour…

 

Review – The Hoarder by Jess Kidd

The Blurb

Maud Drennan – underpaid carer and unintentional psychic – is the latest in a long line of dogsbodies for the ancient, belligerent Cathal Flood. Yet despite her best efforts, Maud is drawn into the mysteries concealed in his filthy, once-grand home. She realises that something is changing: Cathal, and the junk-filled rooms, are opening up to her.
With only her agoraphobic landlady and a troop of sarcastic ghostly saints to help, Maud must uncover what lies beneath Cathal’s decades-old hostility, and the strange activities of the house itself. And if someone has hidden a secret there, how far will they go to ensure it remains buried?

My Thoughts

The Hoarder is the second novel by Jess Kidd and it had a lot to live up to as I completely fell in love with Kidd’s debut novel, Himself. Kidd has certainly proved herself as an author we can expect great things from as The Hoarder is wonderful.

Maud Drennan is a home carer who has been assigned the difficult Cathal Flood as her client. His once-grand home, Bridlemere, is stuffed to the rafters with junk and as Maud attempts to clear some of it she finds herself embroiled in a mystery.

The characters who make up The Hoarder are brimming with personality. Cathal Flood, despite being a grumpy so-and-so, has a charm that ensured I adored him and wanted a positive outcome for him. Another favourite character is Maud’s agoraphobic landlady and neighbour Renata. Kidd’s skill at developing offbeat characters who get straight to your heart is second to none. The peripheral characters of the saints who ‘haunt’ Maud are a welcome addition, serving to add a sardonic humour with their sarcastic observations. You will never think of St Valentine in the same way again!

This quirkiness is one of the things that sets Kidd’s books apart from anything else you are likely to read. While The Hoarder is at heart a mystery, it is quite unlike any other. It has all the elements needed to make it a gripping mystery but also biting Irish humour and observations and a supernatural twist. It is like a modern day gothic novel with unearthly going-ons in a house that willingly gives up its secrets to Maud.

The prose throughout The Hoarder is beautiful. Kidd certainly has a way with words and her descriptions are stunning, ensuring that The Hoarder is literally brimming with atmosphere. All of the senses are used to build an evocative picture.

A first-rate follow up to her debut novel, The Hoarder was everything I expected from Jess Kidd. If you haven’t yet read anything by this author ensure you do now! The Hoarder is exquisite, sublimely written and a great story.

The Hoarder is published on 1st February 2018 by Canongate Books. You can pre-order a copy HERE.

A huge thank you to Jess Kidd, Sue at Conville and Walsh and Canongate Books for the advance copy of The Hoarder in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Review – My Sweet Friend by H A Leuschel

The Blurb

A stand-alone novella from the author of Manipulated Lives

A perfect friend … or a perfect impostor?

Alexa is an energetic and charismatic professional and the new member of a Parisian PR company where she quickly befriends her colleagues Rosie and Jack. She brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the office and ambitiously throws herself into her new job and friendships.

But is Alexa all she claims to be?

As her life intertwines with Rosie and Jack’s, they must all decide what separates truth from fiction. Will the stories that unfold unite or divide them? Can first impressions ever be trusted?

n this original novella, H.A. Leuschel evokes the powerful hold of appearances and what a person is prepared to do to keep up the facade. If you like thought-provoking and compelling reads with intriguing characters, My Sweet Friend is for you.

My Thoughts

I looked forward to reading Leuschel’s follow up to her collection of short stories, Manipulated Lives, to see where she would take us next. My Sweet Friend is a novella which, again, has the theme of manipulation at its heart.

I’m guessing that the majority of us have, at some point, had one of those toxic friends. You know the kind – the friend who has to go one better than you, is jealous of you and yet you fail to see it to begin with. My Sweet Friend is about one of those friendships and centres around Alexa and Rosie. Leuschel tells the story via the points of view of the two main characters, so it alternates between Alexa and Rosie. After meeting at work, Alexa and Rosie quickly become firm friends, spending a lot of time together. But is Alexa the person she leads people to think she is?

Leuschel has managed to pack a lot into a short book and My Sweet Friend, while a quick read, still manages to provide enough background to ensure the reader gets the full picture. As Rosie reflects on her friendship with the enigmatic Alexa, we see how their friendship develops and how she arrives at the point in which she begins to doubt her friend. From Alexa’s point of view, we see her absolute belief in herself and her actions, not doubting for one minute that she could be in the wrong. This creates a kind of claustrophobic effect as we wonder how and if Rosie will be able to extract herself from the friendship without too much in the way of consequences and damage.

My Sweet Friend again demonstrates Leuschel’s interest and knowledge of the human psyche and behaviour. This adds an element to Leuschel’s work that is guaranteed to get you thinking and mulling over what you have read. She accurately portrays the way we judge people from the moment we set eyes on them despite our best intentions not to and the way in which certain people cultivate an image in order to manipulate and ensure they get what they want. In a world in which people can present themselves as whatever they want on online, it was nice to see this explored in ‘real’ life without anyone resorting to hiding behind a computer screen.

My Sweet Friend is a great exploration of damaging relationships and the lengths that some people will go to in order to get what they want. I really hope that Leuschel follows up My Sweet Friend with a full-length novel as I believe she has the insight and talent to write a dark and disturbing book. My Sweet Friend is a great read for anyone who is intrigued by the less salubrious side of human nature.

Published on 6 December 2017 by Helen Leuschel Publishing. Want a copy? Grab one HERE.

My thanks go to H A Leuschel for the copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Want to know more? Check out my review of Manipulated Lives HERE and read about H A Leuschel’s Author Influences HERE.

Review – Dilly the Camper & The Magic Fairy Garden by Dolores Keaveney

The Blurb

When Grandad John gets a broken down camper from his friend Digger, he doesn’t realise the magic that lies within it. Only his grandchildren know.
An adventure to find the Eternal Eye quartz crystal which has been stolen by the fierce Nogard from the Magic Fairy Garden promises a meeting with magic fairies, amazing animals, and much more…
This book is written by Dolores Keaveney and her grandchildren who contributed with names and descriptions of all the animals and fairies, some of the happenings, and the song. It is fully illustrated throughout by her grandchildren.

My Thoughts

This lovely little book is the work of Dolores Keaveney and her grandchildren. While Keaveney outlined the plot, her grandchildren provided the magic by coming up with the magical creatures and by helping out to illustrate the book.

Dilly the Camper & The Magic Fairy Garden is the tale of a neglected campervan that is brought back to life by John. His grandchildren help in the vans restoration and soon discover that there is more to Dilly than meets the eye. They encounter a fairy who need their help to find the stolen Eternal Eye quartz from the Magic Fairy Garden.

Aimed at 4 to 9 year olds, it is a great book to read with a child and for the older child to learn to read from.

Full of the wonder of magic with fairies, magical creatures and wishes and wonderfully vibrant illustrations, Dilly the Camper is sure to delight most children, male or female. Like all good fairy stories, it has its share of scary moments which will give children a thrill while not being too frightening. The premise of good triumphing over bad, cooperation and friendship are timeless themes within the book that children always enjoy.

I adored the fact that this has been written in conjunction with the author’s own grandchildren and the pictures throughout the book were drawn by her grandchildren. This gives the book that ‘special’ feel and will, I think, make it even more relatable to children and fire off young imaginations.

A delightful, colourful read for children that provides thrills along the way.

Published on 9 July 2017 by DBee Press. You can grab a copy HERE.

A huge thank you to Dolores Keaveney for my copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Blog Tour – Whiteout by Ragnar Jonasson *review*

I’m delighted to be taking part in today’s turn on the Whiteout by Ragnar Jonasson blog tour with the fabulous Noelle at CrimeBookJunkie and I’m sharing my thoughts on the book with you.

The Blurb

Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kálfshamarvík. Did she jump, or did something more sinister  take place beneath the lighthouse and the old house on the remote rocky outcrop? With winter closing in and the snow falling relentlessly, Ari Thór Arason
discovers that the victim’s mother and young sister also lost their lives in this same spot, twenty-five years earlier. As the dark history and the secrets of the village are unveiled, and the death toll begins to rise, the Siglufjordur detectives must race against the clock to find the killer, before another tragedy takes place. Dark, chilling and complex, Whiteout is a haunting, atmospheric and stunningly plotted thriller from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.

My Thoughts

I fell in love with this book at the prologue! Whiteout begins with a brief and beautiful prologue that perfectly sets the reader up for the mysteries and secrets that are to follow. Jónasson’s prose throughout is enchanting.

Whiteout is the fifth in the Dark Iceland series, however, it can be read equally well as a standalone. When the body of a young woman is found at the bottom of the cliffs in the desolate village of Kalfshamarvik, Ari Thór is called upon to investigate and determine if this was a suicide or something more sinister.

Whiteout reminded me of a classic crime novel with its emphasis on old school detective work rather than forensic science and that adds to the enjoyment and sheer pleasure you get from reading this book. It is solidly crafted and meticulously plotted. Red herrings abound and Jónasson keeps you on the back foot in regards to who can and cannot be trusted. I adored the characters in Whiteout as Ari Thór finds himself amongst the strange inhabitants of a village that has been largely abandoned. The cast are most definitely odd and, thus, utterly compelling. I found myself mesmerised by Whiteout – not something I usually get with crime fiction.

Whiteout is absolutely brimming with atmosphere and the setting plays an important part in the overall sense and structure of this book. The feelings of isolation and bleakness serve to add to the sinister undercurrent that runs throughout. Whiteout moves at a steady pace and is a book to be savoured rather than rushed through as you want to take in every word.

The perfect winter crime read, especially for fans of more golden age crime fiction, Whiteout is beautiful for a crime novel. Jónasson’s writing talent shines through and it has been translated to perfection by Quentin Bates. Grab yourself a steaming mug of hot chocolate, get cosy in front of the fire and immerse yourself within this stunning book.

Published on 1 November 2017 by Orenda Books.

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

About the Author

Ragnar Jónasson is author of the international bestselling Dark Iceland series.
His debut Snowblind went to number one in the kindle charts shortly after
publication, and Nightblind, Blackout and Rupture soon followed suit, hitting
the number one spot in five countries, and the series being sold in 18
countries and for TV. Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he
continues to work as a lawyer. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14
Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. He has appeared on festival panels
worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik with his wife and young daughters.

Follow the rest of the tour…

Blog Tour – The House by Simon Lelic *Review*

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s turn on The House by Simon Lelic blog tour. This appears to be a book that has caused mixed opinions and I would love to know what you think if you have read it! But first, what is it about?

The Blurb

The perfect couple. The perfect house.
THE PERFECT CRIME.

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered outside their back door.

AND NOW THE POLICE ARE WATCHING THEM.

My Thoughts

The House by Simon Lelic had all the things I generally love in a book – the promise of a spooky house, a striking cover which differs from what we are currently used to seeing and the tag ‘psychological thriller’. I was really excited to get stuck into this book and I wanted (and expected) to love it, but sadly it turned out not to be for me.

Jack and Sydney have moved into their first home together. A house that should have been out of their reach financially somehow ends up being theirs. As the saying goes: ‘If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ and Jack and Sydney find this out to their cost. Jack always feels uneasy in the house and when he makes a grim discovery in the attic his fears are confirmed and things rapidly decline for them both.

Told in alternating chapters via Jack and Sydney in first person narrative, the story gradually unfolds via their individual perspectives. Lelic is a great writer and his ability to totally capture each unique voice is second to none. I believed I was being spoken to by two different people. Neither of the characters are particularly likeable, again this is something I normally relish within a novel, however, on this occasion I felt numb to it. The House is a very character driven plot and is very much a slow burner. Lelic has weaved together an intricate tale in which the threads are meticulously plotted and all come together well at the end.

While writing this, I can see all the things that should have made me love this book. I have wondered if I have a kind of psychological thriller burn-out, as I have been quite saturated by this genre recently. I worry that my mood at the time of reading may have hindered my enjoyment of this book. Sadly, I had guessed the eventual outcome correctly so I didn’t have the ‘oh my God’ revelation moment that others may have. I wasn’t effected by the characters which also had an impact on my enjoyment and I can’t really put my finger on why this was the case.

From the title and the cover I was expecting the actual house to feature more prominently within the story. I get why the book is called The House, however, I was expecting the book to be focused more strongly around it and it isn’t. A part of me was a little disappointed by this, but bear in mind that I am rather partial to a gothic story with a looming, all-embracing, spooky house and Lelic’s The House is more subtle.

The House appears to be one of those books that divides opinion and, unfortunately, I’m one of those who it didn’t work for. I certainly appreciate the writing and the way in which Lelic has created the main characters and woven the plot together, but it just didn’t effect me or shock me. As stated earlier, it may be that I have read too many novels in this particular genre recently. Would I recommend it? This is tricky for me to answer as although I wasn’t grabbed by it, I know others who were. Read a selection of reviews and decide from there would be my advice.

Published on eBook on 17 August 2017 and in paperback on 2 November 2017 by Penguin.

About the Author

Simon Lelic is the author of The House, Rupture (winner of a Betty Trask Award and shortlisted for the John Creasy New Blood Dagger), The Facility and The Child Who (longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger and CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2012).

The House is his first psychological thriller, inspired by a love of Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King.

Simon is married, with three young children, and lives in Brighton, England. Other than his family, reading is Simon’s biggest passion. He also holds a black belt in karate, in which he trains daily.

A huge thank you to Simon Lelic and Penguin for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

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Blog Tour – Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee *Review and Author Influences*

I am really excited to be taking part in the blog tour for M. Jonathan Lee’s Broken Branches today, sharing my review AND Jonathan’s Author Influences. I adored this beautiful book which is published Hideaway Fall … judging by the quality of their first publication, Hideaway Fall have an exciting future ahead of them!

The Blurb

‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, where to start with this review? An inheritance, a marriage on the rocks and a curse all combined with gorgeous writing make Broken Branches a beautiful and emotional read.

I was completely swept along by the first chapter in which we first meet the main character, Ian Perkins, and his property Cobweb Cottage. We learn of a family tragedy that has resulted in Ian and his family moving into the cottage and also a possible inherited curse. With gorgeous descriptions of the cottage and the imposing Sycamore tree that stands outside the front of the house Broken Branches promises an intriguing, somewhat gothic, tale and it continues to deliver.

Ian is an interesting character who is trying to prove that the curse his family have talked about through the generations exists. We meet him in the midst of his failing marriage to Rachel and, for a reason of which we are unaware, Ian believes that establishing there really is a curse on the Perkins family will save his relationship. Broken Branches is told largely from Ian’s perspective; switching between the present day in which he is completing his genealogical research and his childhood growing up in the cottage he is again inhabiting. I was really touched by his teenage experiences – his sense of loneliness, the difference in the way he is treated compared to his older brother and the difficulties in his relationship with his family members – and his love of reading resonated with me, bringing back memories of my own worn and underlined copies of Wuthering Heights and Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Ian’s desperation in his search for the truth about his family grows and becomes more apparent as Broken Branches unfurls. I was with Ian throughout his journey and felt his emotions and sense of urgency.

Punctuated with brief glimpses of Rachel’s point of view later in the book, the reader begins to question Ian’s version of events adding to the captivation of the novel. This really enhanced my interest in the story that was unfolding.

Broken Branches has a quietly disconcerting feel to it which stays with the reader throughout the course of the book. There are a few seemingly supernatural elements that send delicate shivers down your spine. Lee’s prose is stunning and he uses nature to maximum effect to create atmosphere. The ominous Sycamore tree plays a large part and that, along with the other references to nature, gives it that gothic feel I spoke about at the beginning of the review. The imagery Lee presents gives Broken Branches a thoughtful perspective and an added layer that is compelling and irresistible.

Part mystery, part gothic novel Broken Branches is a gorgeous book about grief and guilt that will stay with me for a long time. Simply wonderful!

Published on 27 July 2017 by Hideaway Fall Publishing.

A huge thank you to M.Jonathan Lee and Hideaway Fall for my advance copy in exchange for my review and to Midas PR for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

I will now hand you over to Jonathan to tell you about his author influences.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
Roald Dahl was and always has been my favourite. I love everything that he has written. I read the short stories and Unexpected Tales over and over again.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
It was by far my best subject. As a ten year old I was sent to the headmaster for writing a story where the lead protagonist met his end half way through the story and a second character became the main character. I was told that type of writing was inappropriate.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I read a lot of true crime. I am an obsessed with what makes somebody do something horrific to another human being, though I don’t like reading any of the actual grisly details. I read anything that interests me though, and usually switch between fact and fiction. I do think that it has an impact on my novels. I actually think that everything around me in life has a tiny input into what I read.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I hate sci-fi. Anything that ‘couldn’t happen’ in real life is not my thing. However, I do have this crazy sci-fi idea about a company that trades in death which comes to the forefront of my mind from time to time. Maybe I’ll write it one day.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
I think Mark Haddon and Joseph Connolly had the biggest impact. A Spot of Bother and Summer Things respectively.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Not really. I’m the same with music. I am obsessed and there are numerous bands I adore, but I tend to buy books and music when the mood takes me as opposed to waiting for something to come out. I’m a massive Stephen King fan, and haven’t read anything by him for about five years. Last week, I suddenly thought “I fancy some Stephen King,” and went online and bought four recent novels. I’ve read three.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Ha. So many times. Misery sticks in my mind as one.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Yes absolutely. I observe everything around me and I am always taking note of little snippets of conversations or mannerisms that I hear. So in that sense all my books have a bit of reality in them. A Tiny Feeling of Fear (my third novel) is very personal to me, and there is more in there which reflects reality than people may think. I’d recommend people watching my documentary short, Hidden (on YouTube) for more information.

Thank you Jonathan for taking part!

About M. Jonathan Lee

M. Jonathan Lee is based in Yorkshire and is the author of several award-nominated novels. He began writing seriously in 2006 shortly after the suicide of his brother, Simon, who had been struggling with depression. Jonathan is a tireless campaigner for mental health awareness. He has written for Mind and Rethink charities and has a regular blog on the Huffington Post. He is divorced and now remarried, between them they have five children, two cats and a dog.

Twitter: @MJonathanLee

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