Category Archives: Authors S to U

Reviews by author surname S to U

Blog Tour – Exquisite by Sarah Stovell *Review*

I am delighted and excited to be on the Exquisite by Sarah Stovell blog tour today and finally able to share my review of this wonderful book alongside the brilliant The Book Trail.

The Blurb

A chilling, exquisitely written and evocative thriller set in the Lake District, centring on the obsessive relationship that develops between two writers…
Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name.
Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend.
When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops… Or does it?

Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

My Thoughts

I could not wait to get my hands on Sarah Stovell’s debut psychological thriller Exquisite as I was drawn in by the title and the stunning cover. I adore a book with complex characters and unreliable narrators and in Exquisite Stovell has provided me with these in abundance.

Exquisite takes you into the lives of forty-year-old, successful author, married, mother of two Bo Luxton and mid-twenties, stumbling-through-life, aspirational writer Alice Dark. What the women have in common is their love and talent for the written word and a difficult and traumatic childhood. When the two women meet at a writer’s course in Northumberland there is an immediate spark and the chain of events that are set in motion are cataclysmic.

Stovell has, in my mind, created the perfect psychological thriller. It draws you in immediately and the narrative structure of the book works in such a way that you never quite know who to believe. Doubt prevails as you follow each character through the course of their relationship, getting deep into their thoughts and feelings. But whose thoughts and feelings are genuine and which version of events should you believe? Stovell has cleverly created characters who simultaneously made my heart ache and sent chills down my spine.

Exquisite’s ending is left to the reader’s interpretation and yet is satisfying. It ensures that the book stays with you long after you have read the final page. This, for me, fit perfectly with the tone, feel and the doubt that endures through the course of the book.

One of the joys of Exquisite is the literary quality that combines so perfectly with the twists and turns Stovell creates. Her prose throughout the book is outstanding and she is a formidable talent. Exquisite is sublime in that it is both breathtaking and unsettling. Stovell has you basking in its beauty while shivering in its darkness.

Exquisite is a delicately woven tale of passion, obsessive love and the impact of not being mothered. I haven’t read a book about a relationship that has affected me in this way since Jeanette Winterson’s Written On The Body. There is a dark beauty within its pages and Exquisite is set to be one of the books of the year.

Published on 15 June 2017 by Orenda Books.

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

Follow the rest of the tour…

Blog Tour – Wolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staalesen *Review*

I’m delighted to be taking part in Gunnar Staalesen’s Wolves in the Dark blog tour today with Dee at It’s All About The Books and sharing my review.

The Blurb

Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum’s life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts.
When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he’s accused of being part of a paedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material… and who is seeking the ultimate revenge.
When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen. With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest – and most personal – case yet.
Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Wolves in the Dark reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.

My Thoughts

Wolves in the Dark is the 21st book in Staalesen’s Varg Veum series and yet this is the first Veum novel I have read. I was a little concerned about jumping into a book so late in a very established series, however, Wolves in the Dark works perfectly as a standalone.

Varg Veum is a private investigator working in Bergen, Norway and when we first meet him in Wolves in the Dark he is being arrested by police officers for suspicions of being part of a paedophile ring. As child pornography is found on his computer, Veum has to find out who put it there and why in order to clear his name and prove his innocence. What follows is a hard-hitting story that takes you into Norway’s dark and shocking underbelly.

Veum is a complex character who, it becomes apparent, has gone through his share of difficulties over the past few years. Losing his partner has left him bereft and turning to alcohol to help him cope with his loss. Staalesen’s characterisation is fantastic and he is incredibly skilled at bringing Veum out from the pages and into real life. As Veum struggles to sift through his precarious memories of the past few years to unearth who may have bode him ill, his humanity shines through via his sardonic outlook and self-depreciating humour.

Wolves in the Dark has a complex plot with a large cast of characters which demonstrates Staalesen’s story-telling skills as he intricately weaves each thread together. It does take an amount of concentration to keep track, but it is worth the added effort as he pulls it all together in the highly climatic and shocking ending. As each revelation and connection was unveiled I found myself wondering if there really is any such thing as coincidences. Each chapter is short yet perfectly formed and this serves to add to the pace and plot.

This is a gritty and socially-aware novel with Staalesen being unafraid to raise uncomfortable issues that are, sadly, a part of today’s society. While this may make Wolves in the Dark uncomfortable reading at times Staalesen, in my opinion, approaches the difficult subject of child sexual abuse in a non-gratuitous way that serves to highlight the organisation behind these crimes.

Compelling, dark and perfectly plotted with a protagonist that shines, Wolves in the Dark is a great read that will appeal to those who yearn for a more complex storyline than their usual crime thriller.

Published on 15 June 2017 by Orenda Books.

Huge thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my copy of Wolves in the Dark and for inviting me to part of the blog tour.

Follow the tour…

 

Review – Sandlands by Rosy Thornton

The Blurb

From the white doe appearing through the dark wood to the blue-winged butterflies rising in a cloud as a poignant symbol of happier times, the creatures of the Suffolk landscape move through Rosy Thornton s delicate and magical collection of stories. The enigmatic Mr Napish is feeding a fox rescued from the floods; an owl has been guarding a cache of long-lost letters; a nightingale s song echoes the sound of a loved voice; in a Martello tower on a deserted shore Dr Whybrow listens to ghostly whispers. Through the landscape and its creatures, the past is linked to the present, and generations of lives are intertwined.

My Thoughts

I was drawn to Sandlands by the cover and synopsis that promised ‘delicate and magical’ stories that incorporate wildlife and nature. It has been a long time since I read a collection of short stories, the last being Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, and I have to say it made a really nice change from novels. I read them in sequence but it was nice to dip in and out of the different stories and reflect on each one in turn.

Each story is perfectly constructed with a mix of first and third person narrative which results in each tale being unique to the characters within. There are common threads throughout each, such as the setting and certain landmarks appearing regularly, giving a sense of continuity. Therefore, despite each story being a separate tale you get a real sense of place and they work beautifully together while simultaneously having a uniqueness.

Thornton’s prose is stunning. There is a breadth and beauty throughout the pages that transports you to the mudflats and marshes of Suffolk, combined with a tone that is haunting and evocative that has a deep effect on you. As a reader you become completely immersed in the surroundings and the narrative leaving you with the sense that you have been transported to another place.

Myth and legends, paganism and religion–many of which are unique to the setting–all play a part in each tale and along with the prose add a magical quality. This is, ultimately, a book about how the past and present collide and the connections between them. With each tale I was left feeling emotional and moved. The use of nature throughout gives Sandlands a mystical quality and, in some ways, a gothic feel. The placing of each separate story within the book is perfect beginning with the ethereal The White Doe and ending with the poignant Mackerel.

I adored Sandlands and it is book I will return to again and again. It is enchanting, alluring, evocative and beautifully written. Highly recommended.

Published on 21 July 2016 by Sandstone Press.

A huge thank you to Rosy Thornton for the copy of Sandlands in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.


#AroundTheUKIn144Books Challenge Book 6 – County: Suffolk

Blog Tour – Watching The Bodies by Graham Smith *Review*

Absolutely thrilled to bits to be taking part in the Watching The Bodies by Graham Smith blog tour today and finally sharing my review.

The Blurb

WATCHING THE BODIES: An utterly gripping new crime thriller.
When Jake Boulder is asked by his PI friend to help investigate the vicious murder of Kira Niemeyer, he soon finds himself tracking a serial killer who selects his next victim in a most unusual manner.
As the body count rises, Boulder has to work with the police to identify the heinous killer before more lives are taken. What ensues is a twisted game of cat and mouse, that only Boulder or the Watcher can survive. But who will it be?

My Thoughts

Watching The Bodies is the start of Graham Smith’s new series featuring Jake Boulder. Along with introducing us to new characters, Smith takes us to the USA as it is set in Casperton, Utah. I have really enjoyed the books I have read in Smith’s Major Crime Team series and was eager to get my hands on a copy of Watching The Bodies.

Jake Boulder is a Glaswegian living in Utah, working as a doorman in a local rock bar and occasional private investigator to help out his friend, Alfonse. When the body of a local girl and friend, Kira, is discovered with multiple stab wounds, Alfonse is hired by her family to find her killer. Jake agrees to help his friend as the local police force are, quite frankly, pretty useless. As more bodies are found, Jake and Alfonse find themselves in a frantic race against time to work out who the killer is before the body count becomes even higher.

It’s always exciting to be introduced to the new characters in a series and Jake Boulder is brilliant! I loved the fact that he is Scottish (especially Glaswegian) and that he feels a connection to his Scottish roots despite having lived in America for a number of years. It makes a change when the main character is not a detective as it gives you a different perspective and they are not governed by the procedures and red tape that police personnel are. It gives them scope to be a bit naughty within their investigation, bypassing the need for court orders. I’m looking forward to seeing how Jake’s character develops throughout the series.

I love a well-developed, intriguing baddie in a crime novel and Smith has created his wonderfully. Smith tells the story through Jake in first and the Watcher in third person narrative, the switch between the two works really well in giving you both perspectives. Smith tantalisingly drip feeds information about the Watcher throughout the novel leaving you wanting to understand him. I was dying to find out the motivation for his crimes and the reasons for who he is choosing to kill. Smith has created a clever, fascinating antagonist. Smith’s prose in describing how the Watcher chooses his murder weapons really stood out for me, and the Watcher is both compelling and abhorrent.

As Jake makes the connections needed to solve the crimes, and the book reaches its staggering crescendo, the reader is left on the edge of their seat. Watching the Bodies is a fast-paced, riveting page-turner that is incredibly difficult to put down. A fantastic and promising start to a new crime series.

Published on 18 April 2017 by Bloodhound Books.

About Graham Smith

Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he 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.

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

He is the author of four books featuring DI harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team.

A huge thank you to Graham Smith and Sarah Hardy at Bloodhound Books for the advance copy of Watching the Bodies and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour…

 

Review – Mary’s The Name by Ross Sayers

Marysthename

The Blurb

An eight-year-old girl and her granpa are on the run…

“When me and Granpa watched James Bond films, he told me not to be scared because people didn’t have guns like that in Scotland. That must’ve been why the robbers used hammers.”

Orphaned Mary lives with her granpa, but after he is mixed up in a robbery at the bookies where he works, they flee to the Isle of Skye. Gradually, Mary realises that her granpa is involved. And the robbers are coming after him – and their money.

Mary’s quirky outlook on life, loss, and her love of all things Elvis, will capture your heart. Full of witty Scots banter, Mary’s The Name will have you reaching for the hankies, first with laughter, then with tears.

Get ready to meet Mary…

Heart-warming and heart-breaking, this darkly comic debut is from a fresh voice set to become Scotland’s answer to Roddy Doyle.

My Thoughts

There’s something about Mary…

It is always a thrill to discover a great debut author and I always love the anticipation of starting their book. Ross Sayers is one of those fantastic debut authors who blows you away.

Mary’s The Name is the story of eight-year-old Mary Sutherland and her grandpa who, after a robbery, move from Stirling to Portree on the Isle of Skye. Mary discovers that her Granpa was involved in the robbery and the robbers have followed them. A real coming-of-age story, we follow Mary as she begins to realise that not everything in the world is as it first appears.

The characterisation in Mary’s The Name is wonderful! I absolutely adored Mary and felt a great affection for her. As I was coming towards the end of the book I really did not want to let her go. How Sayers, an adult male, has captured the thoughts and feelings of an eight-year old girl is testament to his talent as a writer. Mary is incredibly lovable and her personality shines through. The affection Sayers has for his characters jumps off the pages. With wonderful prose that draws you deeply into the story, Mary’s The Name is told in first person narrative from Mary’s point of view and I went through a whole sea of emotions while reading this book.

Mary’s relationship with her Granpa is wonderfully portrayed and Mary has reached that age in which she realises there is more to him than just being ‘Granpa’ – that he has a whole history and backstory that goes beyond his role as her care-giver. Their love for each other is incredibly touching and, I admit, it made me cry.

Sayers mixes humour and poignancy with ease, really capturing the child’s view of the world which has you laughing out loud and also those tricky moments children (especially girls) go through in relation to their friendships. He really made me feel as though I were viewing things through a child’s mind and Mary’s observations on life and what goes on around her are funny and acutely written. The reader is engaged immediately and the pace of the book is pitched perfectly, with the right combination of dark humour and hold your breath moments. Portree really comes to life through the pages of the book and I was transported there every time I settled down to read.

Mary’s The Name was an absolute joy to read. Simultaneously humorous and heart-breaking, this bittersweet, tenderly written novel touches you deeply and I guarantee you will fall in love with Mary. An accomplished debut novel, I really look forward to reading more by Ross Sayers in the future.

A huge thank you to Ross Sayers and Cranachan for the advance copy in exchange for my unbiased and honest review.

Published on 30 January 2017 by Cranachan publishing.


Challenge Banner[2422]#AroundTheUKIn144Books Challenge Book 2 – County: Highlands

Review – Matching The Evidence by Graham Smith

Matching The Evidence

The Blurb

Carlisle United are playing Millwall and the Major Crimes Team are assigned to crowd control as punishment for their renegade ways.  Typically, DI Harry Evans has other ideas and tries to thwart the local firm’s plans to teach Millwall’s notorious Bushwackers an unforgettable lesson.

Meanwhile, an undercover cop is travelling North with some of the Millwall contingent.  His mission is to identify the ringleaders and gather evidence against them.

Three illegal immigrants have been transported to Carlisle and are about to meet their new employers. 

Nothing is at seems for Evans and his Major Crimes Team as they battle to avoid a bloodbath whilst also uncovering a far more heinous crime.

My Review

Noelle over at CrimeBookJunkie has raved about Graham Smith’s books so when she offered me the opportunity to read Matching the Evidence for review, how could I resist?

This is the second novella in The Major Crimes Team series, and also follows on directly from Snatched From Home. I haven’t read either, however it works perfectly as a standalone.

Matching the Evidence moves at a fast pace and for a quick read it sure packs a punch! If I’m honest I was expecting the story to take a predictable route, however this is not the case. It totally surprised me as it draws on current issues and all the problems that come with them. Graham is adept at keeping up the momentum and this makes for a thrilling read.

Graham’s characterisation is fantastic. I really liked the character of DI Harry Evans, a maverick cop who is not afraid to take chances, and I warmed to him instantly. He has his issues and there are enough glimpses into his back story to whet your appetite to find out more about him through Graham’s other novels. I also found Tommy and his role intriguing and hope to read more about him in future books.

A cracking quick read which I devoured in no time at all, Matching the Evidence is a great crime book which delivers so much more than it’s size suggests!

Thank you to Graham Smith, Noelle Holten and Caffeine Nights Publishing for the book in exchange for my review.

Published 8th September 2016 by Caffeine Nights Publishing.

Review – The Stepmother by Claire Seeber

The Stepmother Claire Seeber

The Blurb

The perfect wife.  A fairy tale family.  Don’t believe your eyes

Jeanie and Matthew are a happily married couple who both have teenage children from previous relationships. 

No one said it would be easy to raise a blended family under one roof but Jeanie and Matthew are strong.  They will make it work. 

And whilst Jeanie’s step-daughter Scarlett rejects her, Jeanie will just have to try harder to win her over.  But Jeanie has a past.  A terrible secret she thought she’d buried a long time ago.  And now, it’s coming to the surface, threatening to destroy her new marriage. 

Someone is playing a terrifying game on Jeanie and she must put a stop to it once and for all.

After all, a fairytale needs a happy ending, doesn’t it?…

My Review

The Stepmother is an all absorbing, chilling, psychological thriller. My husband could not prise my Kindle out of my hands the weekend I read this!

Jeanie appears to have met the perfect man – attractive, charming and wealthy. However, she knows very little about him and, as she finds out, some things are too good to be true.

Reminiscent of du Maurier’s Rebecca, for me this is a modern day gothic thriller with Malum House being the twenty-first century version of Manderley. Atmospheric and eerie, Claire has written a fantastic psychological thriller that kept me guessing to the end.

Told from the perspectives of our heroine, Jeanie, and her sister, Marlena I felt as though I was being spoken to directly as the tone is quite conversational. I was totally invested in each of the characters. At times, Jeanie could be frustrating as she can be a bit of a pushover, but her back story and experiences make it easy to understand why and she is, therefore, easy to empathise with. A well rounded character whose past is drip fed to the reader gives the story further depth.

Perfectly paced, I was constantly changing my mind as to who could be trusted, even doubting our heroine at times, and what the outcome would be. Paranoia pervades for Jeanie and this trickles down to the reader. Is this a case of gaslighting? And if so, who is responsible?

A carefully crafted story that keeps you turning the pages, The Stepmother is sinister in an understated way, playing on the fear of not feeling safe amongst those closest to you. Full of untold secrets where doubt about the trustworthiness of those around you invades your every thought, this is a great read. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Claire Seeber, Bookouture and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Published 15 July 2016 by Bookouture.

Review – The Transition by R.J. Tomlin

Transiton Front Cover

The Blurb

Rume has never met his parents.  Like all the other children in the community, he must wait until his eighteenth birthday before he does.  For years he has seen countless people travel through the vault door and, with a white flash, be gone and never return, travelling over the Ridge to join the rest of the adult world.  This is called The Transition.  The day when you leave the community and your new life begins. 

However, a few days before Rume is due to leave, he receives a message warning him of the truth of the world beyond the vault door.  And thus, he is faced with a choice; continue to believe what he has been told, or discover the truth.  But to do so he must break the one unbreakable rule; that when your time comes, you must complete The Transition.

My Review

‘”It just goes to show, you never really know what a story’s about, until it’s finally over”’

While I have seen some of The Hunger Games and Divergent movies, I have never read the books and never really read any sci-fi/dystopian novels so this was a venture into a new genre for me. Do you know what? I really enjoyed it!

Children are taken from their parents and placed in the Nethertower under the premise that they will be free from outside influences and thus able to develop their own, unique potential. They are promised a return to their parents when they reach eighteen and life in a utopia once they have gone through the transition. As our hero Rume finds out, though, his whole life has been a lie. What follows is a fast-moving, keep you on the edge of your seat journey. Tomlin perfectly ends his chapters on cliff-hangers leaving you having to read more.

The main character, Rume, is intelligent, likeable but burdened with guilt over broken promises as the book progresses. I found myself worrying about him and (without giving the plot away) really hoping he would make it in life.

There are plenty of twists and turns and I was left wondering who could be trusted and the reasons as to why the Nethertower existed and what had happened to the world.

Initially I did worry that The Transition would be a bit ‘samey’ and like the films I had seen of a similar genre, however, the ending and the reason for the Nethertower’s existence took me totally by surprise and I really liked the idea behind it. It got me thinking about justice, retribution and the notion of karma, and I love a book that makes me think beyond and around it.

Well paced, gripping and an interesting concept, I would definitely recommend this novel and wish the author every success in the future.

Thank you R.J. Tomlin for the copy in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Published 16 May 2015.  Available on Kindle.