Category Archives: Authors S to U

Reviews by author surname S to U

Review – The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin

The Blurb

On top of the Yorkshire Moors, in an isolated spot carved out of a barren landscape, lies White Windows, a house of shadows and secrets. Here lives Marcus Twentyman, a hard-drinking but sensitive man, and his sister, the brisk widow, Hester.

When runaway Annaleigh first meets the Twentymans, their offer of employment and lodgings seems a blessing. Only later does she discover the truth. But by then she is already in the middle of a web of darkness and intrigue, where murder seems the only possible means of escape…

My Thoughts

Tell that me a novel is set in the 19th Century and features an old house on the North Yorkshire Moors and, being a huge fan of Wuthering Heights, I’m just about guaranteed to want to read it. I couldn’t therefore resist The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin.

It is 1814 and orphan Annaleigh Calvert finds herself far removed from the London she is used to when she takes up the position of housekeeper at White Windows in the North Yorkshire Moors. Brother and sister, Marcus and Hester Twentyman, appear to have offered Annaleigh the perfect escape from the difficulties she faced in London, however, it turns out that all is not as it seems and she finds herself caught up in a nightmare.

Split in to two parts and following a prologue that perfectly draws the reader in, The Vanishing begins with Annaleigh’s arrival at White Windows and it slowly builds up to the nightmare that Annaleigh is destined to find herself in. The first part is very much a slow burner but incredibly necessary to lead the reader in to the shocks that lie in wait later on. As with all small places, rumours abound about the inhabitants of White Windows. Why are the wealthy Twentymans residing in Yorkshire rather than their home city of London? Why are brother and sister residing together in almost isolation? And what exactly did happen to their previous housekeeper who mysteriously disappeared? I loved the way Tobin kept me on the back foot in this first part as, like Annaleigh, I was not sure what to make of her employers as I found myself swinging between feelings of pity, trust and mistrust. As The Vanishing progresses to its gradual inevitable conclusion it becomes clear that Annaleigh never stood a chance at White Windows.

In Marcus Twentyman Tobin has created an intriguing figure. I constantly found myself being caught between feelings of pity and warmth to fear and wariness. He is intriguing and I can’t help but compare him to Heathcliffe.

Tobin’s prose throughout is stunning and in true gothic novel style she described the colours of the moors in beautiful detail and attributes its changing colours to the mood of Annaleigh. I found myself completely wrapped up in Tobin’s words.

Part Two shocked me to the core. It touches on issues that were prevalent at the time – laudanum use, illegitimacy and the position of and treatment of women. The times were undoubtedly harsh and especially for those in Annaleigh’s position – female and of low class. I didn’t expect The Vanishing to be as brutal and heartbreaking as it is and it ended up shaking me to the core.

Dark, harsh, atmospheric and beautifully written, I loved The Vanishing. I’m so pleased I finally got around to reading it and I will be checking out Tobin’s other books. If you like historical fiction that has a touch of the gothic about it then you will love it too.

Published on 12 January 2017 by Simon & Schuster.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster and Sophia Tobin for my copy in exchange for my honestand unbiased review.

Blog Tour – Dead Of Night by Michael Stanley *Author Influences*

 

 

I am very excited to be taking part in the Dead Of Night by Michael Stanley blog tour today. I have read the book and it’s bloody brilliant, but unfortunately I haven’t had time to write my review yet. However, instead of my review I have a very special Author Influences with Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip instead.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?

Michael: I read all the usual books, but a few others stick in my mind. The Hobbit, of course, made me fall in love with Tolkien, and I immediately ploughed into The Lord of the Rings although I was much too young to really appreciate it. I also remember being fascinated by The Tree That Sat Down by Beverley Nichols and read it several times. Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass were big favourites too.

Stanley: Over the years growing up, I read a huge variety of books: Enid Blyton, The Hardy Boys, Teddy Lester’s Schooldays, Alice in Wonderland, Biggles, Nevil Shute, historical fiction, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw, Alan Paton.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?

Stanley: Yes and yes! In high school, I had wonderful teachers who instilled great enthusiasm in me for language. I was even excited by grammar! In addition, every other year, the school produced a Shakespeare play (I played Salerio in Merchant of Venice), which gave me a love for the power of drama.

Michael: I wasn’t particularly good at it, but I did like it. I recall writing ridiculously long and, no doubt, boring essays with no regard for the poor teacher who had to mark them!

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?

Michael: I do read a lot of crime fiction and that was certainly a factor in the attraction of the genre. When I was younger, I liked science fiction – the more science or character driven kinds such as Clement’s Mission of Gravity and Farmer’s The Lovers. I tried my hand at writing it when I was a student. Fortunately, none of my stories was ever published!

I also read widely in non-fiction – history and biography mainly. 

Stanley: I read mysteries and thrillers, as well as history. Both genres have influenced my writing. The two books that had the greatest impact were Nevil Shute’s On the Beach and Alice in Wonderland – the first for the power of words to pull a reader into another world; the second for the appeal of imagination.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?

Stanley: I’d probably write about people on whom events have had a powerful impact. This interest probably emanates from my passion for the poetry of World War I – the bitterness of the soldiers and the agony of their families.

Michael: I think I might try science fiction again because the alien settings allow one to explore people under new and unusual stresses. It wouldn’t be the space adventure kind, though.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?

Michael: I would say PD James and John Le Carré. I think they are both superb writers. They make one think: ‘Could I do that? Could I at least try?’

Stanley: As mentioned above, Nevil Shute and Lewis Carroll influenced me greatly, but no one inspired me to be a writer. They influenced me more on how I wrote.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?

Stanley: All the authors on the Murder Is Everywhere blog, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Tim Hallinan, Kent Kruger, and Seon Meyer.

Michael: There are a few authors whose books I must read as soon as I can. John Le Carré and South African crime author Deon Meyer are in that category.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?

Michael: Two examples –

Le Carré’s The Mission Song. Although not generally regarded as one of his best novels, I felt that the characterisation of the African translator Salvo was brilliant. The African corruption theme has been done to death, but here it’s balanced by the much more cynical British corruption. It’s very hard to make all that work!

Deon Meyer’s Fever. The slightly future setting and the post apocalypse South Africa are brilliantly combined in a coming of age story. Again, characterisation is everything. I think that’s what good writing is all about.

Stanley: So many! Charles Dickens, John le Carré, P D James, Nevil Shute, Lewis Carroll.

 

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)

Stanley: All our characters incorporate aspects of many people. So I’m not concerned about a law suit. However one friend, whose name we used in A Carrion Death for a character whom we killed off, has threatened to sue when we become a mega-success. I’m not losing much sleep!

Michael: Our book Deadly Harvest is loosely based on the real case in Mochudi of a young girl, Segametsi Mogomotsi, who was abducted by witch doctors and killed for body parts. When we were working on our first book, the then director of the Botswana CID told us that was what we should be writing about. We felt he was right, even though it was several years later before we actually did so.

Our rotund Detective Kubu isn’t based on anyone we know, but many of his characteristics are!

A huge thank you to you both for taking part.

Michael Stanley’s latest standalone novel Dead of Night is out now. It is an absolute corker and here is what it’s about:

When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she’ll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, while searching for her missing colleague. But, within a week, she’s been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that may hold the key to everything.
Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she’s exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it’s too late. She has a shocking story to tell, if she survives long enough
to tell it…
Fast-paced, relevant and chilling, Dead of Night is a stunning new thriller that exposes one of the most vicious conflicts on the African continent…

You can buy your copy HERE.

About the Authors

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both
were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. On a
flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a
wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their
first mystery,  A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the
Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards,
including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and
their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for
an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’
award. Dead of Night is their first stand-alone thriller.

 

 

Blog Tour – Big Sister by Gunnar Staalesen *Review*

I am delighted to finally be sharing my review of Big Sister by the fabulous Gunnar Staalesen. Before I share my thoughts, here is what the book is about:

The Blurb

When PI Varg Veum is approached to find a missing girl, by a half-sister he barely knew, his investigation takes him deep into the dark web, and some personal history he’d rather forget…

Varg Veum receives a surprise visit in his office. A woman introduces herself as his half-sister, and she has a job for him. Her god-daughter, a 19-year-old trainee nurse from Haugesund, moved from her bedsit in Bergen two weeks ago. Since then no one has heard anything from her. She didn’t leave an address. She doesn’t answer her phone. And the police refuse to take her case seriously.

Varg Veum receives a surprise visit in his office. A woman introduces herself as his half-sister, and she has a job for him. Her god-daughter, a 19-year-old trainee nurse from Haugesund, moved from her bedsit in Bergen two weeks ago. Since then no one has heard anything from her. She didn’t leave an address. She doesn’t answer her phone. And the police refuse to take her case seriously.

Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Big Sister reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.

My thoughts

The wolf is back! I was so pleased to be re-acquainted with Varg in Big Sister. He is a character I have a real soft spot for and I had eagerly awaited Gunnar Staalesen’s next book. And, oh boy, does Staalesen deliver again with the latest Veum instalment. While this is a long running series Big Sister does work as a standalone although I would highly recommend checking out the earlier books in the series.

When Varg is commissioned to look for the missing god-daughter of Norma Bakkevik, the case takes him into the murky world of a biker group and the darkest corners of the internet. This isn’t all, though, as the lady commissioning Varg on his latest job is the half-sister he had never met before which adds a personal element to the case.

Staalesen’s writing is pitch perfect and the translation by Don Bartlett is, as always, flawless. Big Sister is well paced and it is the combination of his writing, the characterisation of Veum and a tight plot that makes this book so good. Every word is perfectly placed and yet comes across as effortless. Staalesen has perfected the character of Veum and it really feels as though he is talking directly to you. I adore Veum’s dry observations of life and his down to earth manner.

As Veum has to deal with a whole cast of characters who are never a hundred per cent truthful, and who each harbour their own secrets, the plot is chock full of red herrings. It is utterly gripping and it left me stunned.

As the title suggests, family and its varying guises is one of the underlying themes of Big Sister, however, Staalesen looks at it from its darkest angle. One of the things I really like about the Varg Veum books is that Veum is a private investigator rather than a detective and he is an ex social worker. This enables Staalesen to go further with the plots as he is not constrained by police procedural issues. This fits perfectly with the often uncomfortable story lines that Staalesen writes. He never flinches from covering topics that are taboo, and he pushes you to the limits of what you are used to in crime fiction. This makes his books current, topical and thought-provoking and Big Sister is no exception.

The wolf is back and he is on top form! Big Sister is dark, contemporary, intelligent and incredibly well written. A real page-turner, it’s a fantastic addition to the series.

About the Author

Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at
the age of 22 with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book
in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over 20 titles, which have been
published in 24 countries and sold over five million copies. Twelve film
adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring
the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim, and a further series is being
filmed now. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of
Honour) and the Petrona Award, and been shortlisted for the CWA Dagger, lives
in Bergen with his wife.

Big Sister was published on eBook on 30 April 2018 and paperback on 20 June 2018 by Orenda Books.

Purchase Links: Amazon UK, Amazon US

My thanks go to Gunnar Staalesen, Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for my advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

 

 

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.