Category Archives: Authors P to R

Reviews by author surname P to R

Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Review of Broken Dreams and Interview with Nick Quantrill

I am incredibly excited that, in a month’s time, I will be attending Hull Noir. This crime book festival holds a special place in my heart as it is taking place in my home town and, as anyone from Hull will tell you, you can take the girl out of Hull but you can’t take Hull out of the girl! To celebrate this upcoming book festival I will be featuring reviews and Q&A’s with authors who are attending over the next month.

I’m extremely delighted to be kicking this feature off with my review of Broken Dreams by Hull author Nick Quantrill and a Q&A with the man himself. Nick has been an integral part of organising Hull Noir and I am beyond delighted to welcome him to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books. Anyhoo, I will stop blabbing and crack on!

The Blurb

Joe Geraghty, Private Investigator, is used to struggling from one case to the next, barely making the rent on his small office in the Old Town of Hull. Invited by a local businessman to investigate a member of his staff’s absenteeism, it’s the kind of surveillance work that Geraghty and his small team have performed countless times. When Jennifer Murdoch is found bleeding to death, Geraghty quickly finds himself trapped in the middle of a police investigation which stretches back to the days when the city had a thriving fishing industry.

As the woman’s tangled private life begins to unravel, the trail leads Geraghty to local gangster-turned-respectable businessman, Frank Salford, a man with a significant stake in the city’s regeneration plans. Still haunted by the death of his wife in a house fire, it seems the people with the answers Geraghty wants are the police and Salford, both of whom want his co-operation for their own ends. With everything at stake, some would go to any length to get what they want, Geraghty included.

My Thoughts

Much to my shame, this is my first novel by Nick Quantrill. This causes me shame on two counts as: 1. Nick is from my home town of Hull and 2. his books are set in Hull. However, the blog and upcoming attendance at Hull Noir has given me the push to read those books I hadn’t got round to yet and, while Broken Dreams is Nick’s first book in the PI Joe Geraghty, it is always good to discover a new to you series and give those older books some publicity.

Joe Geraghty is a private investigator and he becomes embroiled in the murder of woman who he, along with his partner, had been asked to investigate. Joe quickly finds himself being pulled into Hull’s seedy underbelly.

I am a big fan of crime books that are from the point of view of a private investigator rather than a detective. It ensures that the investigation relies on good old-fashioned detective work rather than a reliance on forensics and other scientific methods and the main character is not governed by police procedure, giving them carte blanche to investigate how they want. I really liked the character of Joe who this series follows. He has had his fair share of life’s difficulties but does not followed the somewhat cliched path that many detectives/private investigators in books do. He is not afraid to stand up to bullies and do what is right despite those that threaten him. Quantrill has cleverly built up Joe’s character gradually, giving the reader enough information to feel as though they know him but also leaving enough unsaid to ensure you want to find out more about him as the series progresses.

I really enjoyed the twists and turns of Broken Dreams and found myself gripped by this book and Joe’s investigation. As usual, I found myself trying to work out ‘whodunnit’ but Quantrill threw enough curveballs my way to ensure I didn’t suss it out. I don’t want to talk too much about the plot but I will say that it takes you deep into the seamier side of Hull life.

Broken Dreams is a novel about corruption and the after-effects on a city and its people following the obliteration of the trade it has always relied on. Quantrill’s affection for his home town shines through and yet he does not shy away from describing its less than salubrious side. Being from Hull, I really enjoyed how Quantrill portrayed the city’s history and cleverly linked it in to the plot to make it totally relevant to the story.

Quantrill has completely captured the sense of place and (for obvious reasons!) I adored the setting. It features real places within Hull and is rich in Hull colloquialisms (tenfoot!) which I’m sure may have caused some confusion amongst non-Hull readers!

I’m so pleased I finally got around to reading Broken Dreams and I will be reading the rest of Quantrill’s books. If you like your crime novels to be gritty with a real northern feel and setting check out Broken Dreams.

Broken Dreams was published on 15 March 2010 by Caffeine Nights.

I reviewed my own copy.

Q&A with Nick Quantrill

Had you always wanted to be a writer and what gave you the push to write your first novel?
No, it wasn’t something I had a burning desire to do from a young age, but I’ve always been a big reader and that was crucial. Growing up in Hull in the 1980’s meant the arts weren’t really on the agenda, but doing an Open University degree in my mid-twenties kicked some life into me. I fancied writing a short story, so I did. And then I wrote another and another and here we are…

Which writers have been your inspiration?
There are so many, but if I can only pick one, I always look to Ian Rankin. The way he writes about serious issues in a thrilling manner and brings the city of Edinburgh to life is very inspiring. I do take a lot of inspiration from the current crop of Hull writers, too. There’s a very supportive group of writers working in the area and making things happen.

Do you carefully plan the plots of your books or do you write and see where it takes you?
I lean towards planning, and after a couple of false starts this year, I’m working harder on getting it right before starting. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, though. Even writers who don’t plan probably have a destination in mind. The sweet spot is maybe finding a framework you know can sustain 90,000-plus words, but with enough space for it to breathe and develop as you work.

Your most recent novel has been a break away from the Joe Geraghty series. Will we be seeing Joe again is the future?
Good question. I deliberately left him in a place at the end of The Crooked Beat that I could pick him up back up from if I wanted to, so maybe. It would need the right story, though. Geraghty wouldn’t have worked as a protagonist in The Dead Can’t, and definitely not in the story I’m slowly working on.

What are the biggest challenges in writing a series of books?
As a writer, it’s about keeping it fresh and interesting. If you’re not feeling it, nor will the reader. I think writers like Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham do it really well by revealing small details that have big repercussions, essentially reinventing Rebus and Thorne as they go along. A series can go stale, but as readers, I’m sure we all love the soap opera nature of picking up a character’s story. It’s like catching up with an old friend.

The sense of place really shines through in your books and you use your hometown of Hull as your setting. Was this simply because you know Hull really well or was there another reason behind using Hull?
I’ve only ever lived in Hull, so there’s definitely an element of knowing it well, but the main reason was to explore what it meant to me as a place. When I started to write, Hull was the newly-crowned ‘Crap Town’ of the UK and the only thing we were top of the league for was teenage pregnancies etc. I wanted to dig a bit deeper and get beyond all that stuff. I’ve been very lucky that the city has changed massively over the last decade and it’s given me plenty of things to write about.

Being a Hull lass I really identify with the places in your books. I had my first pint in Joe’s local pub, The Queens. It’s clear you have a strong affection for the city (as I feel most people from Hull do) so how important is it to you to portray a good yet realistic image of Hull in your books?
It’s more important to me that what I write is my truth, rather than act as a cheerleader for the local tourist board. My mum often asked when I’m going to say something nice about the city, but I think I’m fair, I’ve always been proud to set my work in my home city, but we all experience places very differently.

Hull has been a much neglected northern city over the years especially following the decline in the fishing industry. What difference do you think being 2017’s City of Culture will have on Hull culturally, socially and economically?
I’m optimistic, as it’s a city with a lot to offer. The problem, of course, is that you don’t just pass through. You need a reason to come. I have been stopped on the streets this year by tourists asking for directions, which is new, and I’m encouraged that so many locals are rediscovering what’s on their doorstep. More than anything, I think Hull has a bit more confidence about itself.

Hull Noir is taking place next month (I can’t bloody wait!) and you have played a key part in organising it. What have been the challenges and the high points of organising a literary crime festival?
Everything has been a massive challenge! The team is essentially myself, Nick Triplow and Nikki East backed up by excellent people from City of Culture, but everyone from other crime festivals through to PR people to readers have kindly offered their help. Our skills have largely complimented each other, but the learning curve remains steep! The high point so far has been the panel planning. All the authors involved bought into the festival as part of the UK City of Culture programme immediately and made it easy for us. Narrowing it down to the forty or so taking part was incredibly painful, but it’s rewarding to see it coming together.

What are you most looking forward to at Hull Noir?
I’ve largely made my peace with the fact that as one of the hosts, I won’t necessarily get the opportunity to see all that much. I’m hoping to catch Martina Cole and Mark Billingham/John Connolly close each day, as well as Jake Arnott. Our main aim, though, is to send readers and writers home happy with good memories of a brilliant time in Hull. I’m also quite looking forward to having a rest and getting back to the writing!

Thank you so much Nick for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions. I will see you next month!

Hull Noir takes place between 12 – 19 November 2017  and looks set to be fantastic with a cracking line up of crime authors.Find out more over at the website HERE. Hope to see you there!

 


Blog Tour – The Mother by Jaime Raven *Excerpt*

I’m really pleased to be on The Mother by Jaime Raven blog tour today. I loved Jaime Raven’s other books and I was gutted that I didn’t have time to read and review The Mother in time for the tour. I have, however, something even better for you today … an excerpt from the book! So, grab yourself a cuppa, relax and enjoy.

The Blurb

Prepare to be gripped by the heart-stopping new thriller from the author of The Madam.

South London detective Sarah Mason is a single mother. It’s a tough life, but Sarah gets by. She and her ex-husband, fellow detective Adam Boyd, adore their 15-month-old daughter Molly.

Until Sarah’s world falls apart when she receives a devastating threat: Her daughter has been taken, and the abductor plans to raise Molly as their own, as punishment for something Sarah did.

Sarah is forced to stand back while her team try to track down the kidnapper. But her colleagues aren’t working fast enough to find Molly. To save her daughter, Sarah must take matters into her own hands, in a desperate hunt that will take her to the very depths of London’s underworld.

Published on 7 September 2017 by Avon.

Excerpt

His words registered, but only just, and they failed to provide any comfort. How could they? My precious daughter had been kidnapped. My mind was still reeling and I felt weighted down by a crushing despair.

I was on the verge of losing control so I lowered myself onto one of chairs around the kitchen table. There I sat, my head spinning, my stomach churning, as Brennan gently prised more information out of my mother.

She revealed that the man had rung the bell at just before nine – an hour or so after I had dropped Molly off. My father had just left the house to go to his allotment and she was giving Molly her breakfast before taking her to the park.

She remembered very little about her attacker. His face had been covered and he’d been wearing what she thought was a dark T-shirt and jeans.

‘He was average height but strong,’ she said. ‘I tried to struggle free when he attacked me but I couldn’t.’

She started crying again and this time it set me off. I broke down in a flood of tears and heard myself calling Molly’s name.

I was only vaguely aware of the commotion that suddenly ensued, and of being led out of the kitchen and along the hallway.

Raised voices, more people entering the house, some of them in uniform. Molly’s face loomed large in my mind’s eye, obscuring much of what was going on around me. I wondered if I would ever hold her in my arms again. It was a sickening, painful thought and one that I never thought I would have to experience.

I’d witnessed the suffering of parents who had lost children, seen the agony in their eyes. But as a copper I had always been one step removed, professionally detached and oblivious to the real extent of their plight.

Now I had a different perspective. I was in that horrendous position myself. The grieving, desperate mother wondering why fate had delivered such a crushing blow.

‘We’re taking you next door,’ Brennan was saying as we stepped outside, to be greeted by the flashing blue light on top of a police patrol car. ‘This house is now a crime scene and the forensics team needs to get to work. Mrs Lloyd, the neighbour to the right, has kindly agreed to make some tea for you and your mother.’

‘I don’t want tea,’ I wailed. ‘I want Molly.’

‘I’ll do whatever it takes to find her, Sarah,’ Brennan said. ‘We all will. But look, I really think it’s time that Molly’s father was informed about what’s happened. Do you want to call him or shall I?’

The prospect of breaking the news to Adam that his daughter had been abducted filled me with dread. I knew I couldn’t do it, that as soon as I heard his voice I would fall apart.

‘You ring him,’ I said. ‘Tell him to get here as soon as he can.’

That has certainly whet my appetite and I can’t wait to read The Mother. A huge thank you to Jaime Raven and Sabah at Avon for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for the excerpt. Follow the rest of the tour…

Books Revisited – A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell

There are so many books that have had an impact on me over the years, and I have decided to re-read some of them and see if they have the same effect on me now. I’m curious as to whether or not my views on them have changed as I have grown and matured (allegedly!). The first is A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell.

The Blurb

Four members of the Coverdale family – George, Jacqueline, Melinda and Giles – died in the space of fifteen minutes on the 14th February, St Valentine’s Day. Eunice Parchman, the housekeeper, shot them down on a Sunday evening while they were watching opera on television. Two weeks later she was arrested for the crime. But the tragedy neither began nor ended there…

My Thoughts

I first read my mum’s copy of this book when I was a teenager and it made a real impression on me. I guess it was the first psychological thriller I ever read and it opened up for me a whole new perspective on the crime novel. I initially read this at a time when I was just becoming interested in human nature and what makes people tick and A Judgement in Stone had a pretty profound effect on me. It has been a book I have never forgotten and I wanted to see if, twenty-odd years later, it would still have the same impact on me.

‘Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.’

This first line blew me away when I first read A Judgement in Stone and it blew me away again. You really can’t beat a killer first line and Rendell pretty much nails it here. This was the first opening line I fell in love with and it made me realise what an impact the initial line of a book can have. It raises so many questions – why would being unable to read and write result in the murder of a whole family being one of them – and it perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the novel. This was the first time I had ever read a crime novel in which the perpetrator is known from the outset. From the very start we know who committed the crime, how the murders were carried out and when Eunice was arrested. This book is all about the why and it makes for a fascinating read as, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to know the motivations and thought processes behind those who commit murder?

A Judgement in Stone is very much a character study. We get to know Eunice Parchman in a way that those around her don’t as we are privy to her secrets, thoughts and feelings. She is a character that has little to no redeeming features. I love a character I dislike and quite often I do find something in them with which I sympathise, however, I’m not sure I do in Eunice.

Eunice isn’t the only dislikeable character. Her one and only friend Joan Smith is, quite frankly, unhinged and the Coverdale family are snobbish and assured of what they consider to be their elevated status. The only character I had any real positive feelings towards was Melinda Coverdale. This melting pot of difficult, disagreeable characters is one of the things that makes A Judgement in Stone such a great read for me.

While the characters are central to the story, Rendell also uses the decisions we make and the actions we take as a central theme. There is the overriding sense of ‘if only’ throughout the book and it gets you questioning how much control we have over our own destiny. Every action each character takes results in a trajectory that will end in their eventual downfall.

‘In that moment … an invisible thread lassoed each of them, bound them one to another, related them more closely than blood.’

Rendell also fully considers the impact of illiteracy on the psyche and self-esteem of a person along with the views that others have of them. I remember how A Judgement in Stone made me re-think about my ability to read and I found myself considering this ability all over again while reading it for the second time. How we take reading for granted and use it without even thinking about it, how books and the written word open us up to experiences and emotions we have never had and how it can make us rounded individuals by aiding us in considering things from a different perspective. Rendell also made me really consider how those who are unable to read and write navigate a world in which the written word is so dominant;

‘The advantage of being illiterate is that one achieves an excellent visual memory and almost total recall.’

Rendell’s prose is considered and stunning and had me underlining so many sections of text. She has a real way with words as she manages to perfectly craft sentences that set the dark and catastrophic tone and you find yourself re-reading sentences more than once in order to fully appreciate their beauty and meaning. First published in 1977, there are some expressions and words that are quite shocking and offensive to our modern sensibilities but they clearly give a feel for the time and the less politically correct world we live in.

A Judgement in Stone is one hell of a book and I enjoyed it as much, years later, the second time around. It stands the test of time and, in my very humble opinion, is a classic. If you enjoy psychological thrillers and haven’t read this book get it on your bookshelf as soon as possible.

First published on 2 May 1977. This is a review of my own copy which was published on 23 February 2010 by Cornerstone digital.

Blog Tour – Obsession by Amanda Robson *Review and Guest Post*

I am so excited to be part of Amanda Robson’s Obsession blog tour today, and I will be sharing with you my thoughts on her debut novel and an article about one of the four characters. I have to admit to finding it hard to write my review for Obsession (I always seem to find it difficult to write reviews of books I love) so hope I have managed to do this great debut some justice. 

My Thoughts

Obsession is the debut novel by Amanda Robson and it certainly got under my skin. It revolves around four friends, two couples, who find their lives in a turbulent spiral of deceit and fixation when Rob, the husband of Carly answers her ‘Who else would you go for, if you could?’ question honestly. I don’t want to talk about the plot in any way as you need to experience Obsession for yourself and come to your own conclusions without outside influence.

The events that unfold are told in first person narrative by Carly, Rob, Jenni and Craig, giving the reader, what should be, unprecedented access to their thoughts and feelings. Throughout, I didn’t know whose version of events to believe and who to trust. I adore an unreliable narrator and Obsession has them in abundance. Robson cleverly pulls this off, with each chapter being perfectly crafted, leaving you doubting your own thoughts as you turn each page. Maximum impact is further created with short, punchy chapters and a rhythm that is wonderfully dark in tone. As the book progresses you can’t shift the unease and sense of foreboding that sits with you and increases with each chapter.

This is a novel that lends itself perfectly to discussion. It twists and turns, raising issues you weren’t expecting to come across. Mental health, adultery, religious beliefs, honesty and maternal instincts are all in there along with, as the title suggests, compulsive infatuation. Every time you put the book down, part of it is scorched into your mind and you can’t help but mull over what you have read. The big questions that arose for me were: are we too quick to judge someone who has suffered with mental health difficulties as paranoid if they raise what seem to be outlandish concerns? And how far can someone hide who they really are? I adore a book that entertains me whilst also getting the old cerebral juices going, and Obsession hit the mark perfectly.

A novel that explores the darker side of human nature within ordinary people, Obsession will have you infatuated from the first chapter. The need to know and understand the thoughts and behaviour of the characters becomes like an itch you can’t scratch. A fantastic debut novel that is well-written and simultaneously dark and heart-breaking, Robson is an author to keep an eye on in the future.

Obsession  centres around four characters. Rob is the husband of Carly, he is a well-respected, much loved local GP and father of three. Amanda tells us more about Rob…

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Rob

1. When he was in the sixth form he was intending to apply to study law not medicine. He changed his mind at the last minute and decided to read medicine, almost on a whim, after watching a TV documentary about GP’s. Sometimes he regrets it, especially when his patients are being difficult.

2. When he was a teenager he was an atheist for a while. Looking back he thinks he was just rebelling against the inevitable before he accepted the truth. It is quite common for religious people to have had a period of atheism, apparently. Or at least that is what a lay-preacher once told him. At that stage of his life he felt angry about lots of things, including God. He didn’t want to think about an omnipotent being having control over his life. But one day he saw an old film of Billy Graham preaching in America and all of a sudden Jesus’s story made sense. A new world fell into place. A rational world of kindness, hope and forgiveness. He felt a lightness in his heart. He still feels that sense of release whenever he prays to the Lord.

3. Rob does fifty sit ups every night before he goes to bed, and fifty bench presses when he gets up in the morning, listening to Two Pac or Notorious BIG. He listens to rap to get himself riled up. When he is riled he works harder.

4. Rob smoked cigarettes all the way through his medical course. By the time he took his finals he was on two packs of B & H a day. He always kept the second pack carefully hidden from Carly, and swapped it around at an appropriate moment so that she thought he only got through about twenty, not forty. He used to smoke cigars as well. When Pippa was born he finally managed to give up because passive smoking would damage his daughter’s health. Perhaps if he lives until ninety he will go back to it.

A huge thank you to Amanda Robson and Helena Sheffield for the advance copy of Obsession and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Obsession was published by Avon on eBook on 1 May 2017 and  paperback on 1 June 2017.

Follow the rest of the tour…

 

 

 

 

 

Review – The Reading Group: April by Della Parker

The Blurb

‘Brims with laughs, love, family and friendship. You will love this heartwarming read!’ Trisha Ashley. Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley and Holly Martin.
Serena, the ambitious young Headmistress of Poppins Private School, has just begun reading Jane Eyre alongside her friends in the Reading Group. She would never admit it out loud, but she’s half hoping that reality might once again echo fiction. Will she perhaps meet her own Mr Rochester?
That doesn’t stop her from being slightly alarmed when her secretary arranges an appointment with one Mr Winchester, the handsome father of a troubled pupil in the midst of a messy divorce. But when the line between work and pleasure begins to blur, and troubles in her own family come to a head, Serena is left wondering if being a romantic heroine is all it’s cracked up to be…
Meet the Reading Group: five women in the seaside village of Little Sanderton come together every month to share their love of reading. No topic is off-limits: books, family, love and loss . . . and don’t forget the glass of red!

My Thoughts

It’s April in Little Sanderton and The Reading Group’s book this month is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Serena takes centre stage in this instalment, will her life mirror that of the book she is reading?

Serena is the successful headmistress of an exclusive school, lives in a beautiful house and seems to have it all. As we get to know her better in this edition of The Reading Group we discover, however, that her life is not as perfect as it seems. She has had her share of tragedy and her relationship with her family is less than perfect. Like the heroine Serena is reading about, she is a bit of an outcast when it comes to her family. As her life is heading along its usual path, in walks Mr Winchester…

I love Jane Eyre, it is one of the first classics I read and so I looked forward to the April Edition of The Reading Group to see what a modern day version would look like. Eddie Winchester shares a similar name to Edward Rochester and, while he doesn’t have a ‘mad’ wife kept hidden in his attic, he certainly has his fair share of difficulty with his ex-wife Debbie. I really like the way Parker takes the elements of a classic novel and brings them up to date, while showing that issues written about in the 19th century are still relevant today.

Parker manages to fit a lot of story into a short book and yet it never feels rushed. She ensures that the reader gets to know the main character well and simultaneously keeps you glued to the pages to discover the outcome. The friendship provided by the reading group is a theme that runs throughout all of the books alongside a touch of romance and drama and the April edition is no different.

The Reading Group: April is a lovely, light read in which you really feel a part of the group of friends. Although this is book five in the series it works well as a standalone for those who haven’t read the others in the series, however, I would recommend you check them out. A great way to spend a few hours over the Easter weekend.

Published on eBook on 30 March 2017 by Quercus.

Thank you to Della Parker, Quercus and NetGalley for my copy in exchange for my unbiased and honest review.

I hope you will join me on Bloomin’ Brilliant Books tomorrow as I have a fab guest post by Della Parker.

 

Blog Tour – The Alibi by Jaime Raven *Book Review*

The Alibi

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s turn on The Alibi blog tour.  I really enjoyed Jaime’s first novel The Madam and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of The Alibi after I had taken part in the cover reveal.  I’m delighted to be able share my thoughts with you on Jaime’s second book today.

The Blurb

A perfect crime needs a perfect alibi…

Crime reporter Beth Chambers is committed to uncovering the truth – and she’s not afraid of bending the rules to get there.

When troubled soap star Megan Fuller is found stabbed to death in her South London home, all eyes are on her ex-husband – the notorious gangster, Danny Shapiro.

Determined to expose Danny as a cold-blooded killer, Beth obsessively pursues him.  But in her hunt for the truth, her family are set to pay the ultimate price…

Secrets, lies and revenge brim to the top in this gritty thriller.  Perfect for fans of  Martina Cole and Kimberley Chambers.

My Thoughts

What a tangled web we weave…

Murder, lies and corruption take centre stage in Jaime Raven’s second novel, The Alibi. When celebrity Megan Fuller is found murdered at her home, crime reporter Beth Chambers automatically assumes Megan’s ex-husband, Danny Shapiro, is the killer given his reputation as one of London’s leading gang bosses. In the pursuit of being the first to get the story, Beth becomes embroiled in a web of deceit that threatens her livelihood, her family and ultimately her life. Knowing the finger will be pointed at him, Danny, fakes an alibi resulting in a knock on effect he could never have predicted.

With Beth as the main character the story is told in first person narrative by her, interspersed by the points of view of Danny Shapiro and Ethan Cain in the third person. The novel starts with a bang, with twists, turns and startling revelations from the outset grabbing the reader immediately and firmly ensconcing them into the story. The Alibi moves along at a fast pace resulting in late nights for the reader! Some of the twists I did guess, this may be due to the amount of crime thrillers I have read recently, however, this did not impact on my enjoyment of the book.

Beth is a career-focused crime reporter with, at times, questionable morals. I enjoyed reading about the risks she takes to be the first to get the story and Raven gives a real insight into the life of a journalist. This angle made a change from the usual detective-led story, adding extra appeal to The Alibi.

Raven covers some relevant topics throughout the book – the problems of gangs on London housing estates, the 2011 London riots, disillusionment of police officers and over-riding your ethics and values in order to get what you want – with the dangers of not sticking to the premise of innocent until proven guilty being the most interesting theme to me. Beth inadvertently creates a domino effect, that has wide reaching consequences, in her assumption and belief that Danny is guilty from the outset.

The Alibi is a cracking crime thriller that moves along at a super fast pace. A great second novel from Jaime Raven.

Thank you to Jaime Raven, Avon Books and Netgalley for the advance copy in exchange for my review. Thank you Louis at Avon Books for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Published on 29 December 2016 by Avon Books.

You can purchase a copy HERE.

The Alibi

 

Review – Cover Me In Darkness by Eileen Rendahl

Cover Me In Darkness

The Blurb

Amanda Sinclair has to fight harder than most for everything she has after fleeing a cult that left her brother dead at her mother’s hands.  Amanda works a quiet job in quality control for a small cosmetics company, trying to leave her past behind until she learns that her mother has committed suicide in the mental ward where she’s been locked away for the past ten years.

At first, Amanda believes that her mother killed herself, but when she looks through the personal belongings left behind, it seems her death may be related to the upcoming parole hearing for cult leader Patrick Collier.  Teaming up with her mother’s psychologist, Amanda starts to peel away the layer of secrets that she’s built between herself and her own past, and what she finds is a truth that’s almost too big to believe.

My Thoughts

I’m quite interested in cults and the psychological techniques they use to draw people in and manipulate them so Cover Me In Darkness really appealed to me.

The story centres around Amanda who, in the past was part of a religious organisation called the Children Of The Greater God with her mother. Following the suicide of her mother, Amanda suspects that all is not as it seems and fowl play may have been involved. What follows is a thriller in which Amanda seeks to uncover the truth putting her own life in jeopardy.

Cover Me In Darkness is a dark tale in which mental illness, religious fanaticism and mistrust all play a part. Amanda’s mother is in a secure psychiatric hospital following an horrific crime and Amanda is trying to move on with her life and keep her past hidden from her colleagues. I found Amanda to be quite a cold character and I understand that Rendahl has deliberately written her this way as the character is trying to conceal her past but I found her difficult to gel with. However, Rendahl effectively makes you question Amanda and her reliability which adds an interesting edge to the story.

Rendahl does a great job of getting across how Amanda’s mother felt in the years following her killing her own child, a tragic event spurred on by her mental health difficulties and her belief that she was protecting the children from becoming ‘bad’. For me, however, it didn’t strongly come across what impact the cult had had on her mental health and the subsequent tragedy. Would she have gone on to commit a similar act if she hadn’t become involved with the Children Of The Greater God? I would have liked more exploration of the psychological impact the cult had on Amanda and her mother.

I found the book a little slow at times. Quite a lot of it focuses on Amanda’s job in a laboratory and while unusual occurrences are taking place within the lab, it just did not grab me or hold my interest. There are some creepy moments, but for some reason it just didn‘t quite hit the mark for me.

I really liked the premise of the book but felt a bit disappointed in the ending despite the fact it was not what I was expecting. I guess I wanted more emphasis on the cult aspect and wanted to get deep within it and it’s wider impact but I didn’t feel I got this. I also found it difficult to ’get on’ with the main character resulting in me not really empathising with her, despite all she had been through. Great idea and I can’t fault the writing, but sadly it lacked something for me.

Thanks to Eileen Rendahl, Midnight Ink and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for my review.

Published on Ebook 8 December 2016 and paperback 1 January 2017 by Midnight Ink.

 

**Novella Week** Review – Errors Of Evaluation by Paola Pica

Errors of Evaluation

The Blurb

Francesca’s presence pervades the lives of those she meets. 

She leaves an indelible mark, the true nature of her personality revealed through other people’s encounters with her. 

Her boldness as a spoilt child.  Her temporary (and just) suffering as the victim of a shrink – an ambiguous and even more unscrupulous person than her in grasping anything graspable.  And the more than explicit revelation of her blind egocentrism, because of which she ignores the one person who has tried tirelessly to help her. 

Three very different characters tell the same story about the enigmatic woman who has entered their lives, each one illuminating who Francesca really is, from their own point of view.  Each character has made an error of evaluation which they realise has prejudiced their lives and their relationships.  An omniscient narrator will have the final say. 

This is the first version in English of Errors of Evaluation by the Italian writer Paola Pica and has been translated by Janice Burberry.

Number of pages – 99.

My Thoughts

‘…it’s enough to know a person’s weak points to do what you want with him.’

Several days after I finished reading Errors of Evaluation I’m still not sure what I think of it or how much I liked it. This very rarely happens to me, I’m usually quite sure of my opinions but this novella has puzzled me, which I guess could be a good thing but it hasn’t made it easy to write this review.

Paola has written a book that concentrates very firmly on four characters. That of Francesca, who the book is essentially about and the three characters who are telling their story of her – Marco, Massimo and Elena. I generally love to hate a character and within Errors of Evaluation there is little to like about any of the characters with the exception of Elena. Francesca has left a definite mark on those she has come into contact with and Marco, Massimo and Elena each give their view of her. The first three chapters are narrated in the first person by each with the fourth chapter being told in the third person. The total detachment from the main character, Francesca, through the lack of her voice and yet the unique insight the reader gets into her personality works really well.

A tale of control and manipulation, initially I felt that Francesca, although spoilt and narcissistic, was the victim of the men who manipulated her in order to keep her as their trophy. As the book progresses, however, it would appear that Francesca is as grasping as the men she has been in relationships with and manipulates them to meet her own needs. The question for me at the end was who was the greatest at the art of deception?

Paola has created utterly contemptible, unscrupulous characters. She uses a mix of psychological theories to explore the darker side of relationships. Each believes they knew Francesca but at the end they discover that this was not the case and each has been wrong in their assessment of her.

Translated incredibly well and with a beautiful use of language, I really enjoyed the prose in Errors Of Evaluation. It has a very European feel about it despite their being little indication of the setting in Italy. This is a very character-based book and despite the lack of surrounding description I felt myself drawn into it and into their strange psyches.

Very much unlike anything I have read recently I’m not sure that this book will appeal to everybody. If you have an interest in psychology and a penchant for the despicable, you will enjoy Errors Of Evaluation.

Thank you to Paola Pica and Authoright for the copy of Errors Of Evaluation.

Published 26 July 2016 by Clink Street Publishing.

You can purchase a copy HERE.

Blog Tour – The Reading Group by Della Parker

I am absolutely thrilled to be hosting today’s stop on The Reading Group blog tour. I love the concept of this – each ebook novella focuses on one of the five women who are part of a reading group and the classic novel they are reading that month reflects what is happening in their lives. Della has created a modern version of each classic within each story. So without further ado I will share my review of each of the first three novella’s in the story and introduce you to the characters…

Blog Tour Poster[1518]

 

What’s The Reading Group About?

Meet the Reading Group: six women in the seaside village of Little Sanderton come together every month to share their love of reading.  No topic is off limits: books, family, love and loss…and don’t forget the glass of red!

The Reading Group Book 1 – December

The Reading Group December

Grace knows that the holiday season is going to be different this year.  No turkey, no tinsel, no gorgeously wrapped gifts under the tree…how on earth is going to break it to her little boys that Christmas is effectively cancelled? And can she bear to tell anyone her embarrassing secret? Enter the Reading Group: Grace’s life might have turned upside down but there’s no problem they can’t solve.

Number of pages – 17

My Thoughts

In this first instalment we meet Grace an the Reading Group’s book of the month is  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Grace is married with triplet son’s and she is currently going through a difficult time financially and personally as one of her sons has cancer. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, she has no choice but to cancel Christmas this year.

This is the shortest in the series and Della has effectively, in a few pages, created the setting and introduced the characters and the dynamics between them. I couldn’t wait to get reading the next novella in the series.

A story about not keeping your problems to yourself and the power of friendship, Grace learns to open up about her problems and discovers she is not alone and Christmas may end up being magical rather like at the end of A Christmas Carol.

Published on 1st December 2016 by Quercus.  Price: Free.

The Reading Group Book 2 – January

The Reading Group January

Anne-Marie has always considered herself a bit of a matchmaker – never mod that she’s only go one real success under her belt.  And this year she’s determined to up her game: Little Sanderton’s singles could certainly benefit from her expertise!

But while Anne Marie thinks she knows what’s best for everyone else, her own life couldn’t be less of a fairytale romance.  Between looking after her cranky father, and running her own business, she doesn’t have tome for a relationship.  Her friends in the Reading Group know better through: after all, love can be found in the most unexpected places…

This January the Reading Group is tackling Jane Austen’s Emma…but who’s got time for reading when romance is in the air?

Number of pages – 95

My Thoughts

In January the Reading Group are reading Jane Austen’s Emma and the story centres around Anne Marie.

Again Della has brilliantly crafted a modern version of a classic as we follow Anne Marie setting up her dating agency with disastrous results. This is a really feel-good novella that had me laughing out loud (and getting strange looks from my husband!).

Despite Anne Marie having quite a privileged life – her father is successful and ensures she doesn’t want for anything – she is very likeable and has a kind heart. Despite the brevity of the book Della really gets you to the heart of the character and the setting and it felt like spending time with a friend. I got totally wrapped up with Anne Marie and her story and this was a really delightful read.  I finished the book looking forward to reading the next instalment.

Published 1st December 2016 by Quercus.  Price: 99p.
The Reading Group Book 3 – February

The Reading Group February

Kate has tried to be a good wife to Anton.  Ever since he got demoted at work – answering to a woman no less – Anton simply hasn’t been the same.  Kate wants to help, but as the months pass and Anton pulls away from her both emotionally and physically, Kate can’t help but feel a bit abandoned.

Then Kate meets Bob: the handsome, blue-eyed carpenter that Anton has hired to refurbish their kitchen.  Kate instantly feels a powerful physical connection between them…but dare she risk her marriage for a man she barely knows?

This month the Reading Group is enjoying Lady Chatterley’s Lover…and trying no to giggle too much at the naughty parts!

Number of pages – 95

My Thoughts

In February the Reading Group are reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover by DH Lawrence and the story centres around Kate.

Kate’s intimate relationship with her husband has taken a downward turn since he was demoted at work. When Bob the builder (no not THAT Bob the builder!!!) turns up to re-model their kitchen Kate cannot help but be attracted to him. As her long held beliefs on love are challenged, Kate struggles to keep her marriage going and discovers that what she thought was love may not be in fact the case.

The similarities between Lady Chatterley’s Lover are all there – the difficulties in the intimate side of Kate’s marriage, the class differences and hope that true love can conquer all. This instalment of The Reading Group moved me as Kate struggles to understand her feelings and worries about her marriage. Despite the themes of infidelity and the breakdown of a relationship, Della has again managed to incorporate delicious bites of humour that all adds to fully immerse the reader into the story and makes it a really enjoyable read.

The characterisation is great and by this book I felt as much a part of the reading group as the people I had been reading about. I really loved finding out more about the different members of the group and getting to know them on a personal level.

This is a great series – fantastic if you want a light, humorous read and I love the concept of the stories mirroring those of classic novels. While I love a classic novel they are not for everyone and this series is a great way for people to access those timeless stories who may otherwise may not read the originals. I’m really looking forward to the next novella in the series.

So, grab a cuppa and some cake, turn off your phone, get cosy and spend an afternoon with The Reading Group.

Published on ebook 1 December 2016 by Quercus.  Price 99p.

I adored the first three books in this series.  Della has created wonderful characters that you can identify with and her writing totally immerses you into each individual story.  While they include serious issues for each character, Della adds humour throughout that makes each story more enjoyable.  A huge thank you to Della Parker and Alainna at Quesrcus for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and for the copies of the first three books.

Introducing The Characters

Grace (December)

Grace has five-year-old triplets, serious money problems and a husband who doesn’t do stress very well. In another life she would have been an artist.

‘Yes. Scrooge is a bit close to home. I thought…well I thought I could blag it through tonight. But I can’t.’

Anne Marie (January)

At just twenty-one, Anne Marie is the baby of the group. Blonde and bubbly, she has a penchant for organizing (she thinks). Less charitable people would call it meddling.

‘I’m going into the matchmaking arena. I shall run speed-dating events in the village. There are plenty of singletons in Little Sanderton. How hard can it be?’

Kate (February)

Beautiful Kate, who has no idea how attractive she is, builds websites for corporate clients and longs for a family.

‘Love is just how I thought it would be. I’m just not interested in other men any more.

Jojo (March)

Jojo is the matriarch of the group. She worries about her size and wishes she had more self-esteem. Sometimes she feels like she needs these women a lot more than they need her.

‘Step One of my Three Step Feeling Better Plan is to eat cake. I think we’ve done Step One, haven’t we, Angel?’

Serena (April)

Headmistress Serena is bossy, wears owlish glasses, loves literature, and freely admits that she calls everyone ‘dear’ to save remembering their names.

‘Is anyone listening to me? How about if I say sex. Yep, that’s right. Sex, sex and more sex. Sex glorious sex!’

Join the online Reading Group!!!!

You are invited to join the #ReadingGroup on 2 December 2016 at 4pm on Twitter.  Hosted by the fantastic Rebecca at @beccasbooksUK join me, @DellaGalton and @QuercusBooks to celebrate the launch of this great new series.  I’m really excited about this and hope to see you there!

Invite

 

Review – The Madam by Jaime Raven

The Madam

The Blurb

Three years and eleven months.

That’s how long Lizzie Wells has been banged up inside Holloway prison, serving time for a crime she didn’t commit.

Six months.

That’s how long it’s taken Lizzie to fall in love with her fellow inmate, Scar.

Now they are both finally free and, together, they are about to embark on a vengeful search to find those who framed Lizzie.  It’s time to make them pay…

My Review

As the saying goes ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’, and Lizzie Wells has certainly been scorned! Imprisoned for almost four years for a murder she didn’t commit, Lizzie is determined to seek revenge on those responsible for her incarceration.

Admittedly, I was not keen on the cover of this book and would have been slightly put off reading it, however, I really enjoyed it and it goes to show that I should not judge a book by it’s cover! Gripped from the very start, I devoured The Madam within a couple of days.

Lizzie, the main character and narrator, is a tenacious young woman with real grit and determination. I warmed to her instantly and really felt for her as she also has a softer side to her character which makes her easy to empathise with. I really liked the character of her partner, Scar, who is the voice of reason to Lizzie’s hell-bent single-mindedness. Throughout the book I was really rooting for the pair of them and hoped that everything would work out.

The relationship between Lizzie and Scar is written well and with sensitivity. Lizzie, prior to being in prison, is heterosexual, however, fell in love with Scar and grew close to her while inside. I could understand the parts in the book where she found men attractive and her initial doubts as to whether or not the relationship would continue on the outside. There are intimate moments in the book between the characters, however they are not gratuitous and add to the sense of the relationship between Lizzie and Scar. I forgot while reading that The Madam was written by a man, and I give credit to Jaime for handling this topic well.

There were parts of the storyline that I did work out, however, this did not take any enjoyment away from me. It is fast paced from the outset and does not let up until the end. If you want a engrossing thriller that will hold your attention, definitely check The Madam out. I look forward to Jaime’s next novel.

Thank you to Jaime Raven for the copy in exchange for my opinion.

Published 19 May 2016 by Avon.