Category Archives: Authors S to U

Reviews by author surname S to U

Author Guest post – The Battle of the Bucket List Author by Urcelia Teixeira

I am delighted to welcome author of the Relic Chaser Adventures Urcelia Teixeira to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today. She has a great guest post for you to read and after I will tell you a little about her books. So, I will now hand you over to Urcelia.

The Battle of the Bucket List Author 

When I recently escaped my demanding brood and fled to the nearest coffee shop to finish my latest book, I soon found a complete stranger –all corporately dressed – pull up a chair at my invitation only table.

He had been sitting behind me and noticed that I was writing a book. I have no idea how long he’d been eyeballing my screen, but what followed was forty-five minutes of him sharing his dream to write and publish a book.

If you log onto Amazon or any of the massive online publishing portals, you’ll notice it’s flooded with – as I call them – ‘bucket list’ authors.
The stay-at-home moms, corporate dads, retirees or bookbloggers who have always had the desire to author a book are forced to succumb to the self-publishing monster to fulfill their dream. (Because let’s face it. You’d have to be JK Rowling or EL James to instantly get signed by a traditional publisher!)

And herein my confession… I am a proud bucket list author!

Yup, I am one of those who had the fulfilling corporate career, did my dues by raising three children (to where they are finally able to feed themselves!) and realized I only have about 20 years left before I am supposed to retire. (Yes! I’m 46!)

So, if not now, then when, right? And then came the self-doubt. That little voice in the back of your head that tells you the whole world will be laughing at you, so why bother?

Well, I did bother and have zero regrets! Yes! Even when my husband and kids had to resort to making their own two-minute noodles three nights in a row so I could finish another couple of chapters. I did it! I self-published not one, but two Archaeological Thrillers that will have Indiana Jones and Lara Croft cringing with jealousy! (Or so my reviewers keep telling me #grin). I have fans! Ones who actually want an autographed book and liken me to the Ernest Dempsey’s and Nick Thacker’s of the world!

But do you, the bookblogger, the avid reader, and dare I say publisher really know what goes on in the mind of a self-published author?

While I certainly can’t speak for the other bucket list authors out there, I most definitely can share what this bucket-list author endures on a daily basis.

Let’s start with the fact that I have to pop a pill every night just to switch my mind off from plotting a book good enough to sit next to my mentors, mentioned above, on the bestselling list. It never stops. Grocery stores, while driving my car, next to the soccer field even in church (Don’t judge me! Blame Alex Hunt!)

Point is; my mind is continually conjuring up exciting characters, ancient relic mysteries and evil criminals that will keep my readers coming back for more. I have become the catatonic zombie wife and mom, entirely self-absorbed and removed from my household because my mind is busy hunting down a relic in an underground tunnel in the middle of Cambodia somewhere. (Hint! Check out my latest book in the Alex Hunt series.)

Then, at some point, you heed to the advice of the professionals out there and fork out a small treasure to hire beta readers, editors, and proofreaders to turn your masterpiece into a scarlet canvas. Enter the devil on your shoulder that says you should stick to carpooling and take this dream off the bucket list! But you bounce back and keep going, tougher and stronger than before.

Then comes the copious amounts of self-marketing that tests your sales skills like never before! Years across multiple corporate sales industries left me totally unprepared for tackling this beast! The (I believe) sole reason so many authors chase after the coveted publishing contract. After all, they know all the shortcuts to beating Amazon’s algorithms and shoot you straight to #1 on the Amazon Bestseller lists; have the world’s best editors and book cover designers at hand and have a thousand book marketers fighting to get a copy of your book. What’s not to covet?

Which brings me to the much-needed book reviewers whom, as a new self-published author you simply cannot do without. But nothing grows a thicker skin than seeing that dreaded 1-star with the giant axe that chops you and your book to pieces and dooms you into slamming your laptop shut for two weeks while you lick your wounds. And we all get them. It’s an essential part of ‘growing up’; so don’t sweat the small stuff. Let the sarcasm and malicious word porn roll off your back and CARRY ON! It’s ok. It shapes you, humbles you, pushes you to do better and helps you learn from your mistakes.

So what’s left? Oh yes… the budget! Book marketing costs money; lots of it! Listing your book on large promo sites like Bookbub and Netgalley costs a small fortune (or a thirteen times bigger one if you live in South Africa and have to convert Rands!) Can you market your book for free? Absolutely, but it might take several books and years to get anywhere near any bestseller spot worthy of being discovered by hungry, adventurous readers.

What’s the moral of the story, you might ask?

Stay true to yourself as a bucket-list Author, don’t get discouraged and keep doing what you love! WRITE!

If I’ve missed anything or you wish to add more, do comment below or shoot me an email at books@urcelia.com

To sign up for my VIP reader’s list, please click HERE.

Massive thanks, Urcelia, for writing this great guest post. I really enjoyed reading it.

Urecelia has two books in the Relic Chaser Adventure series. Here is what they are about:

Alex Hunt and the Chase for Rhapta

I am Alex Hunt, daughter of the famous Archaeological Hunt Team. Head Researcher and… Relic Chaser!

When Alex Hunt’s mother tragically dies during her lifelong quest to find Africa’s ancient Lost City of Rhapta, Alex develops Agoraphobia (an unnatural fear of specific places and situations) and vows never to chase again.
So when her father, Professor Charles Hunt, Head of Archaeology at a prestigious British University mysteriously disappears several years later, it leaves her with no choice and forces her out of hiding to find him.

With nothing to lose, battling her worse fears and with the mighty University behind her, she travels to Tanzania, Africa in search of her missing father.

The chivalrous and charismatic Sam Quinn, the University’s illusive top Archaeology student accompanies her, and she finds herself in unfamiliar territory with a man who manages to chip away her self-built walls.

Her action-packed adventure through the treacherous African Jungle brings forth an abundance of danger, fear, and heartache as she rediscovers her love for life, science and ancient relics, beyond her cocooning existence and disease.

Will she find her father and the Lost City of Rhapta or will she die under the curse and the native-fearing Rhapter-bird said to guard the vanished city?

Alex Hunt and The Golden Urn

ALEX HUNT and SAM QUINN are back for another Action-packed Archaeological Adventure! This time, in the Cambodian jungle!
Finding The Golden Urn was supposed to be easy. Nothing the skilled Alex Hunt and Sam Quinn haven’t done before. But little did they know they would become the center of an international conspiracy. A conspiracy, so entangled in a web of secrets and crime that it could cost them their lives.

Faced with danger and underground syndicates, they soon realized they couldn’t trust anyone. Nothing was as it seemed.

After their return from The Lost City of Rhapta (Alex Hunt Adventures Book 1), Professor Charles Hunt retired and handed the reins to his daughter, Alex.

So, when the sacred Golden Urn believed to have contained Buddha’s remains, mysteriously disappeared from a mountain shrine in Cambodia, the Cambodian government hired the highly acclaimed pair for their assistance in finding the holy ancient relic and returning it to its rightful position in the Royal temple in Phnom Penh.

Alex and Sam were on the next plane to Cambodia in their quest to find the sacred Golden Urn. But what they encountered was far more than what they expected.

Would their pursuit for The Golden Urn put them through the ultimate test, or would it lead to the discovery of a relic no one even knew existed?

You can buy Urcelia’s books here:

Amazon UK and Amazon US

About Urcelia

An emerging author in Mystery Adventure Fiction, Urcelia’s inspiration for her novels emanate from her keen interest in all things mysterious. From vanished civilizations, ancient relics, and lost treasures to UFO’s, conspiracy theories and even Ghosts.

As a mother of three sons, she stands little to no chance not to be swept up in classics like Indiana Jones, National Treasure and The Mummy and often binge-watches Netflix mystery series like Stranger Things, with her husband.

Her novels are generally based on true-life historical legends, which she turns upside down into page-turning Action & Adventure Mystery fiction, and occasionally Romance Mystery Fiction; suited to readers from 15+.

She loves travel and solving mysteries and can’t resist sharing her adventures with her readers.

Connect with Urcelia:

www.urcelia.com

Facebook: @urceliabooks

Twitter: @UrceliaTeixeira

Instagram: urceliateixeira

 

Review – Safe With Me by K.L. Slater

The Blurb

Thirteen years ago someone did something very bad to Anna. Now it’s her turn to get even.

Anna lives a solitary existence, taking solace in order and routine. Her only friend is the lonely old lady next door. She doesn’t like to let people to get too close – she knows how much damage they can do.

Then one ordinary day Anna witnesses a devastating road accident and recognises the driver as Carla, the woman who ruined her life all those years ago. Now it’s Anna’s chance to set things straight but her revenge needs to be executed carefully…

First she needs to get to know Liam, the man injured in the accident. She needs to follow the police investigation. She needs to watch Carla from the shadows…

But as Anna’s obsession with Carla escalates, her own secrets start to unravel. Is Carla really dangerous or does Anna need to worry about someone far closer to home?

My Thoughts

I have to admit to having had K.L. Slater’s debut novel, Safe With Me, sitting on my Kindle for far too long. Having finally read it, I wish I hadn’t left it so long and I will be reading her follow up novels. I’m on a bit of a roll with psychological thrillers at the moment after having gone through a bit of a rough patch with them.

Safe With Me focuses on main character, Anna, after she witnesses a traffic accident and stays and takes care of the injured party, Liam. She recognises the driver of the car involved as Carla, a woman who ruined her life thirteen years ago. As Anna slowly plans to get her revenge on Carla, we see her behaviour begin to turn into an obsession that gradually takes over her life.

The narrative switches between present day and thirteen years earlier which works effectively in building up the reader’s understanding of Anna’s behaviour. With the present-day chapters told in first person narrative via Anna, Slater slowly drops hints throughout the book about Anna, her life and her current situation which keeps you turning the pages and has you guessing as to what will become of her and those she is involved with. Will she be successful in getting her revenge on Carla?

Slater’s characterisation of Anna is fantastic and it is hard to tell that this is a debut novel. As we become aware of Anna’s mental health difficulties while we watch her unravel, this initially unlikeable character becomes one that I felt a great deal of sympathy for. Yes, she is unreliable but she also has a vulnerability that made me want to look after her. I found myself worrying about her. Slater has developed a well-rounded, multi-faceted character with all the layers that human beings have. Her portrayal of mental health difficulties is incredibly well done.

The tone throughout is oppressive and heavy as we get into Anna’s head. I really liked the way Safe With Me is written and Slater is clearly a talented writer.

In relation to its impact as a psychological thriller, Safe With Me works brilliantly. It has a compelling main character who is unreliable and you never know what she is going to do next, especially as her thought pattern becomes more erratic. Slater had me guessing to the very end and kept me on my toes in my quest to figure out what would happen.

Safe With Me is a great debut. Well written, brilliantly characterised and a total page-turner, if you like psychological thrillers definitely check it out. I’m off to go and read Slater’s other books!

Safe With Me was published on 3 November 2016 by Bookouture. You can get your copy HERE.

My thanks to K.L. Slater, Bookouture and Netgalley for the copy in exchange for my honest review.

 

Blog Blitz – No Comment by Graham Smith *Review*

I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog blitz for Graham Smith’s new novella, No Comment, today. A huge thank you to Graham and the lovely Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me along for the ride. 

 

The Blurb

When a single mother, Julie Simon, is found in her kitchen with a stab wound to her stomach, Cumbria’s Major Crimes Team are handed the case. Under the supervision of DI Campbell and witîh advice from his former DI, Harry Evans, DC Amir Bhaki fights to discover who assaulted an innocent woman and left her with life-threatening injuries.
Nothing is as it first appears and when the team looks into Julie’s life they uncover a hidden sex-life that may just hold the key to the identity of her attacker.

My Thoughts

The irrepressible Harry Evans is back in Graham Smith’s novella No Comment and we see him in a different role following his retirement from the Major Crimes Team. Acting as an advisor to the team who have a murder case in which a single mother has been found stabbed in the stomach in her kitchen, Evans and the rest of the team quickly discover that nothing is as it seems.

Those who are familiar with the series of books will be pleased to know that DI Harry Evans continues to play an important part in the book. Those who haven’t yet been acquainted with Evans and the Major Crimes Team will find that this book acts perfectly as a standalone. Fans of police procedural novels should definitely check this series out if they haven’t already.

No Comment is a novella of around 100 pages. The brevity of this book takes nothing away from the story that lies within. Smith’s perfect use of the English language and his way of making every word count ensures that No Comment has everything you would expect from a full-length novel.

Pacey and full of surprises, No Comment delivers on all counts of great plot, twists and turns, and first-rate writing. Smith had me on the back foot as I tried to figure out who had committed the crime and why the stabbing had happened, and I was pleased to find myself way off the mark. Totally unpredictable, No Comment gets a huge thumbs-up for original plot.

A cracking quick read, No Comment is a great addition to the DI Harry Evans series and marks Graham Smith out as one of the authors to go to if you are after a good police procedural.

No Comment is published on 22 March 2018 by Caffeine Nights Publishing. You can grab a copy HERE.

About the Author

Graham Smith is a time served joiner who has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000, he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.
He is an internationally best-selling Kindle author and has four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team, and three novels, featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder.
An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009
Graham is the founder of Crime and Publishment, a weekend of crime-writing classes which includes the chance for attendees to pitch their novels to agents and publishers. Since the first weekend in 2013, eight attendees have gone on to sign publishing contracts.
Graham can be found at
Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/grahamnsmithauthor
Twitter
https://twitter.com/GrahamSmith1972
Website
www.grahamsmithauthor.com

Be sure to catch the rest of the bloggers on the No Comment blog blitz.

Blog Blitz – Past Echoes by Graham Smith *Review*

I’m de-bloody-lighted to be taking part in the blog blitz for Past Echoes by Graham Smith. This is the third in Smith’s Jake Boulder series and I’m pleased to have been able to follow it from the start. Here is what this latest instalment is about and what I thought of it.

The Blurb

Tasked with finding a beneficiary and revealing a dead woman’s secret, Jake Boulder travels to New York with his girlfriend Taylor. He also has to find his estranged father for a life-saving transfusion.
Once there he becomes embroiled in a web of mystery, deceit and violence which sees him pitted against a professional assassin known only as The Mortician. Boulder must use every drop of his courage and cunning to survive the chaos that envelops him.

My Thoughts

Past Echoes sees the welcome return of doorman and private investigator, Jake Boulder, in the third book of the series. Can you read this book as a standalone if you haven’t yet managed to catch the previous books? I guess you can, but it would probably make more sense following the other two books.

Smith takes a slightly different path with this Jake Boulder novel, venturing outside of Jake’s home town of Casperton and to the bright lights of New York to find the beneficiary of a will and reveal a long-hidden secret. Jake also has to find his estranged father to try and save the life of his half-brother. Jake quickly ends up in a situation out of his control and pitted against a deadly hitman.

Past Echoes starts with a bang as we meet Jake in a violent situation with four men and this sets the tone for what might be the darkest and most brutal Boulder novel yet. Personally, it’s a case of the more brutal the better as I like to be shocked and Smith certainly managed to pull it off making me wince on more than one occasion. The pace is unrelenting from the outset and Smith ensures that you have to read just one more page.

Alfonse takes more of a back seat in this novel and we start to get more of a glimpse into what shaped Jake’s character. Jake’s father features heavily in Past Echoes and I really enjoyed finding out about him, despite him being a loathsome character. As the situation Jake finds himself spirals, he ends up having to make decisions that are bound to have an impact on him and I look forward to seeing where Jake ends up next. Will he continue to be the Jake we know and love or will his recent experiences, coupled with the potentially shared character traits he has with his father, turn him into a more bitter and less caring character?

A great addition to the Boulder series, Smith has ensured with Past Echoes that you want to keep following Jake on his journey. Another fast-paced, gripping and dark read.

Published on 1 February 2018 by Bloodhound Books. Grab a copy here.

You can read my reviews of the first book, Watching The Bodies, here and the second book, The Kindred Killers, here.

Huge thanks to Sarah Hardy at Bloodhound Books and Graham Smith for my advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog blitz

Catch the rest of the blitz…

Blog Tour – The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor *Review*

I am delighted to be starting the New Year on The Chalk Man blog tour. This is the debut novel by C.J. Tudor and it’s a cracker! If this is a sign of things to come then 2018 is going to be a great year for books. So, here is what it’s about and what I thought of it.

The Blurb

None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning.
Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own?
Was it the terrible accident?
Or when they found the first body?

My Thoughts

January 2018 has certainly started on a high with my first review of the year being for CJ Tudor’s debut novel The Chalk Man. It wasn’t what I was expecting and, if I’m honest, that’s a good thing as it meant I enjoyed Tudor’s debut novel even more. I have recently struggled with psychological thrillers which I put down to reading so many in a relatively short space of time, so I was a little concerned going into The Chalk Man that I would struggle with it. My worries quickly proved to be unfounded as I settled into this book immediately.

In The Chalk Man we meet Ed Adams who takes us on a journey back to 1986, a year in which his eyes were opened to the darker side of life and when he first encounters the Chalk Man. Tudor seamlessly switches between 2016 and 1986, ensuring that the reader is equally invested in both timelines. While there is a murder mystery at the heart of the book, The Chalk Man, for me, is a book about friendship and lost innocence.

In Ed and his four friends – Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicky – Tudor has created incredibly likeable, relatable characters and she has really brought them to life. On the brink of becoming teenagers in 1986, their reactions to the events that unfold are realistic, funny and really made me smile. Tudor has nailed the teenage attitudes and responses, ensuring that you warm to Ed and his group of friends. It reminded me in some ways of the film of Stephen King’s Stand By Me in the sense that it is, in part, a coming of age tale. Tudor does not shy away from topics that are hard-hitting as Ed and his friends discover that life and people are not always what they seem.

The chalk man drawings give the story a spooky edge and ensures that you are gripped and have to keep turning the pages to discover what happens. Set in a small town in which the inhabitants harbour secrets, there is a lot to enjoy in this book as Tudor navigates you around the murky underside of small town life, spooky goings-on and the ending … well, I most certainly wasn’t expecting that! Tudor ensured that The Chalk Man stayed with me long after I had finished reading.

A fantastic debut novel which I’m sure will be a big hit this year and rightly so. The Chalk Man is great book and Tudor is an author to keep an eye on in the future. 

A huge thank you to C.J. Tudor and Jenny Platt at Michael Joseph for my advance copy for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Fancy reading The Chalk Man? Grab your copy HERE.

Follow the rest of the tour…

Review – To Catch A King: Charles II’s great escape by Charles Spencer

The Blurb

How did the most wanted man in the country outwit the greatest manhunt in British history?

In January 1649, King Charles I was beheaded in London outside his palace of Whitehall and Britain became a republic. When his eldest son, Charles, returned in 1651 to fight for his throne, he was crushed by the might of Cromwell’s armies at the battle of Worcester.
With 3,000 of his supporters lying dead and 10,000 taken prisoner, it seemed as if his dreams of power had been dashed. Surely it was a foregone conclusion that he would now be caught and follow his father to the block? At six foot two inches tall, the prince towered over his contemporaries and with dark skin inherited from his French-Italian mother, he stood out in a crowd. How would he fare on the run with Cromwell’s soldiers on his tail and a vast price on his head?
The next six weeks would form the most memorable and dramatic of Charles’ life. Pursued relentlessly, Charles ran using disguise, deception and relying on grit, fortitude and good luck. He suffered grievously through weeks when his cause seemed hopeless. He hid in an oak tree – an event so fabled that over 400 English pubs are named Royal Oak in commemoration. Less well-known events include his witnessing a village in wild celebrations at the erroneous news of his killing; the ordeal of a medical student wrongly imprisoned because of his similarity in looks; he disguised himself as a servant and as one half of an eloping couple. Once restored to the throne as Charles II, he told the tale of his escapades to Samuel Pepys, who transcribed it all.

In this gripping, action-packed, true adventure story, based on extensive archive material, Charles Spencer, bestselling author of Killers of the King, uses Pepys’s account and many others to retell this epic adventure.

My Thoughts

While I was eager to read To Catch a King as I have always liked history, I was a little apprehensive about whether or not I would be able to get into it as my interests tend to lie in modern British and European history. My knowledge of the monarchy and Britain in the 17th Century is sketchy at best. However, I needn’t have worried as Charles Spencer has written a pacey historical novel in which the momentum never lets up and which is easy to follow.

In January 1649 Charles I was beheaded and Britain became a republic. Next in line to the throne, Charles II was safely ensconced in France, however, he returned to England in 1651 to fight for his throne. Defeated in battle, the next six weeks Charles spent on the run from Cromwell and the New Model Army and it is this hair-raising tale that Spencer tells us in To Catch a King.

While in the back of mind I knew about the brutality often displayed in early Britain, I was quite taken aback about the extent of it and it was really put into context for me in in this true account. I was also surprised about the level of propaganda used during this period, for some reason I considered propaganda and the use of media to be a more recent phenomenon, but Spencer highlights how it was used during this period.

The seventeenth century was certainly a tumultuous time in British History with civil war and harsh punishments for those who showed allegiance to the monarchy and those who practised Roman Catholicism. I was bowled over by the unswerving loyalty displayed to Charles II by those that helped him especially in the face of the punishments that would be meted out to them if they were caught. To Catch a King is easily up there with the thrillers I have read this year yet it has the added edge of being true. That Charles II and his entourage pulled of this feat during times in which the means to communicate were substantially more difficult than they are now is truly amazing and I can’t believe that I did not know more about this escapade. I was also unaware as to why there are so many pubs in Britain called The Royal Oak and the story behind this is brilliant.

To Catch a King took me longer to read than a book normally would and this was in part due to me keeping track of the substantial cast of characters but also because I wanted to savour it. Spencer has clearly taken considerable care in his research and it is a book that begs to be taken in gradually. Incredibly well written, Spencer has captured the time period perfectly and yet made To Catch a King accessible and readable. I really appreciated the final chapters of the book in which we learn, briefly, about Charles II’s time during the Restoration and what happened to those who helped him.

A great read for history lovers and those who like pacey thrillers. While I did not doubt Spencer’s ability to write, I have to confess to enjoying To Catch a King a lot more than I thought I would. A great slice of British history told in a compelling way.

Published on 5 October 2017 by William Collins you can purchase a copy HERE.

A huge thank you to Charles Spencer and Harper Collins for my copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Review – Love Them and Leave Them by Sue Shepherd

The Blurb

Six years ago, Jessica’s dad made a split-second decision that changed her life forever …

Now, twenty-something Jessica has a successful career, loving boyfriend, Nick, and a keen eye on her dream home.

But in a parallel world, Jessica’s dad made another choice and everything turned out differently …

Now, twenty-something Jessie is stuck in a job with no prospects, with an unreliable boyfriend, Chris; her dreams never fulfilled.

Can Jessie gain the confidence to get her life back on track? And will Jessica lose everything she cares about because of one stupid mistake?

Whichever decision Jessica’s dad makes, the same people are destined to come into her life, sometimes in delightfully different ways. And before they can look forward to the future, they will all have to deal with the mistakes of the past.

Another page turner from the No.1 bestselling author of Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret?

My Thoughts

Love Them and Leave Them is the second novel from Sue Shepherd and I confess it has been sitting waiting to be read for quite some time (apologies Sue!). I have to start by saying that, for me, the title of this book gives the impression that it is about something entirely different. Part of the delay in me getting around to reading this book may be down to the title. Being terrible at reading and remembering blurbs, I had the impression that this was a book about someone’s love life – a love life in which a person finds it difficult to commit. I was so wrong and there is so much more to Love Them and Leave Them than the title initially suggests.

Jessica/Jessie’s dad makes a split-second decision that changes his life and the life of his family members forever. The result of this decision is what provides the story for Love Them and Leave Them as we simultaneously follow Jessica/Jessie at the point that her father makes this decision. The two very different paths that Jessica/Jessie’s life takes shows how one seemingly innocuous decision can alter the life course of so many people and I adored this. It really had me thinking about the decisions I had made throughout the course of my life and wonder ‘what if?’ We all have those moments when we reflect on our lives and Shepherd has captured this wonderfully.

The two different storylines mean that Love Them and Leave Them could easily become confusing but Shepherd manages to pull it off without the use of separate chapter headings. There were moments when I picked the book up after a break and I would be confused however I was quickly able to establish which thread I was following and that for someone with a memory as appalling as mine is saying something! I have huge admiration for Shepherd for her ability to manage the two threads and ensure the story flowed and that both gelled together despite being different storylines. I imagine she must have had a copious amount of notes while writing this book.

Love Them and Leave Them is funny at times, sad at times but always heart-warming and the characters ensure that you want to keep on reading to discover what will happen to them. I became fully invested in the lives of Jessica/Jessie and her family and friends during the time it took me to read this book.

On finishing the book I now get that the title refers to Jessica/Jessie’s dad and the different outcomes of that initial split decision and it seems apt. I just hope it doesn’t put people off reading it due to assumptions that it refers to something entirely different as within the pages of Love Them and Leave Them is a wonderfully constructed tale about life, fate and consequences.

Love Them and Leave Them was published on 27 September 2016 by Corazon Books.

A huge thank you to Sue Shepherd for the copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Review – Best Seller: A Tale Of Three Writers by Terry Tyler

The Blurb

Three women, one dream: to become a successful author.

Eden Taylor has made it—big time. A twenty-three year old with model girl looks and a book deal with a major publisher, she’s outselling the established names in her field and is fast becoming the darling of the media.

Becky Hunter has money problems. Can she earn enough from her light-hearted romance novels to counteract boyfriend Alex’s extravagant spending habits, before their rocky world collapses?

Hard up factory worker Jan Chilver sees writing as an escape from her troubled, lonely life. She is offered a lifeline—but fails to read the small print…

In the competitive world of publishing, success can be merely a matter of who you know—and how ruthless you are prepared to be to get to the top.

BEST SELLER is a novella of 40k words (roughly half as long as an average length novel), a dark, edgy drama with a twist in the tale.

My Thoughts

After reading Terry Tyler’s Author Influences (you can check it out here) and discovering that her novella Best Seller was inspired by a true event in her life I just knew I had to read it. Best Seller centres around three women – of which two are friends and the other is known through writer groups on social media – and their dream to be a bestselling author. Sounds like a straight forward enough book, however, there is more to Best Seller than meets the eye.

Best Seller is only around 155 pages long and yet Tyler manages to fit so much into this small and perfectly formed book. It is a dark tale about the less attractive emotions we all have as human beings, the pursuit of ambition, the world of writing and the impact of media and social media.

The central characters in the book, Eden, Becky and Jan, are incredibly well crafted. Tyler is clearly an acute observer of people and their individual nuances as she captures everything – their characters, the impact of their social class and upbringing on their behaviour and speech, their age – about them through their dialogue and thoughts. All of the things that people say out loud in order to present an image of themselves that is in contrast to what they actually think especially when it comes to the success of others. I imagine any reader of Best Seller will recognise people they have come across within the book and, I have to say, it made me think about my own emotions in certain circumstances and how I come across, particularly on social media.

Best Seller is also a satirical look at the writing world. The misconceptions about independently published authors, the falsities of social media groups and the who you know rather than the what you know aspect of success all had me nodding my head in agreement. Tyler does not paint a pretty picture yet the honest way she portrays those everyday social interactions we all partake in and of life in general make delicious reading.

Once I started Best Seller I found it incredibly difficult to put down. Unlike anything I have read before, the plot is perfect in its pace and structure. It is incredibly current and astute and will have you questioning your own morals and the morals of those around you. Best Seller would make a great reading group book. A short read that packs a punch, I loved it!

A huge thank you to Terry Tyler for my copy of Best Seller in exchange for my honest review.

Blog Tour – The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen *Review*

I am delighted to be one of today’s hosts for The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen and I’m finally sharing my review of this fab book. But first the all important blurb…

The Blurb

A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists.
With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.

My Thoughts

I love a book with a cracking first line and Tuomainen’s The Man Who Died has one of THOSE first lines. It is both amusing and unexpected. It perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the book.

Jaakko is a successful mushroom farmer in Finland and is shocked when he finds out that he is dying. Not only is he dying but it is due to being poisoned. Jaakko embarks on a journey to discover who it is who wants him dead and discovers more secrets and lies than he expects.

I absolutely love Jaakko! Tuomainen has created an incredibly likeable, relatable character. You become completely at one with him and he is the sort of person I would love to have a pint with. Jaakko is incredibly human as we see his everyday concerns – such as having put on a bit of extra weight in his thirties – those things that we all, at times, worry about. His sardonic outlook and wry, dark wit appealed to me greatly. As somebody with a chronic illness who has had to adjust to certain limitations and symptoms, Jaakko’s outlook on his health and situation and how he deals with it really struck a chord with me. He manages to see the humour in his situation and The Man Who Died had me giggling out loud and nodding my head in agreement.

Tuomainen has also written a great mystery novel. As we join Jaakko on is journey to discover who is behind poisoning him we are treated to twists, turns and red herrings all set against a stunning backdrop. Tuomainen’s prose is, quite simply, gorgeous. It’s as though he has spent time carefully considering every word to ensure it fits and makes an impact and yet it flows effortlessly. As always with Orenda books, the translation by David Hackston is flawless.

The Man Who Died subverts being categorised into a genre. For me it is a book about the absurdity of living and dying and how we, as humans, deal with it. It’s almost philosophical in tone in that it makes you think about the ridiculousness of worrying about the minutiae of life – something we are probably all good at but which does us no favours.

Full of the darkest, wonderful humour and a gripping plot Tuomainen’s The Man Who Died is a fantastic read and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Tuomainen’s abilty to pull off this departure from his usual writing and to pull it off with such skill is a testament to his talent as writer.

Published on 10 October 2017 by Orenda Books.

About the Author

Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labelled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. The Mine, published in 2016, was an international bestseller. All of his books have been optioned for TV/film. With his piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and The Man Who Died sees him at his
literary best.

A huge thank you to Antti Tuomainen, Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour for more reviews and guest posts…

 

 

 

Blog Tour – Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir *Review*

Welcome to my turn on the Snare blog tour today in which I am sharing my thoughts on this, the first in Lilja Sigurdardóttir’s Reykjavik Noir Trilogy. But first, here is the all-important blurb…

The Blurb

After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonja is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies. Things become even more complicated when Sonja embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial crash. Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

My Thoughts

Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir is a fast-paced, heart-pounding ride that takes you into the depths of Rekyjavík’s underbelly. Following the divorce from her husband, Sonja finds herself in a financially desperate situation. With her ex having full custody of their son, Tómas, Sonja has to find a way to dig herself out of the financial hole she finds herself in in order to regain custody of Tómas. Unfortunately, the spade she has been handed involves her becoming deeper and deeper involved in drug smuggling.

Sigurdardóttir has a way with words that ensures you are with Sonja with every step she takes. The tension when she is going through customs with kilos of cocaine in her suitcase is palpable, and I could literally feel my blood pressure rising! As you get to know Sonja and get drawn into her life you are dying to know how this bright, respectable woman found herself in this predicament. As Sonja has discovered, life’s twists and turns can sometimes result in you doing things and making choices you wouldn’t normally. Snare is the perfect title and accurately describes Sonja’s situation. The question is can she get out of it? I was desperate for Sonja to be able to escape the snare, but knew this was going to be virtually impossible.

The characters involved in the snare are unsavoury and unpleasant, as you would expect, and parts make for uncomfortable reading. Snare is set following the financial crash in Iceland and Sigurdardóttir has cleverly entwined the Snare storyline around the consequences of the crash. The impact the crash has had on relationships, families and behaviour is a theme that runs throughout the book, making it politically and socially current. We can see how each of the main characters have been damaged by financial insecurity.

Narrated in third person but told through different perspectives, Sigurdardóttir’s writing talent really shines through with her effortlessly capturing the unique perspectives and voice of the individuals – from Tómas’s very childlike perspective to the mature, verging on retirement, Bragi. This ensured that I was fully involved in the book. While Sonja and Bragi, the customs officer, are on opposite sides of the fence I found myself routing for both of them. Tómas was the character that touched me the most, however, with his confusion over his living arrangements and the loss of his mother following his parents’ divorce – Sigurdardóttir has portrayed him beautifully.

As always, Quentin Bates has ensured that the translation from Icelandic is perfect making Snare wonderfully readable.

With plenty of twists and turns, a fantastic cast of characters and a plucky female protagonist, Snare is a fantastic start to the Reykjavik Noir Trilogy and I look forward to seeing where Sigurdardóttir takes us next.

Published on eBook 12 September 2017 and paperback on 1 October 2017 by Orenda.

A huge thank you to Lilja Sigurdardóttir, Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and Anne Cater for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour…