Category Archives: Blog Tours

Blog tours Bloomin’ Brilliant Books has participated in.

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

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

The Blurb

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grab a copy here:

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

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

About Kerensa Jennings

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

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

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

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

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

 

 

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 Tour – End Game by Matt Johnson *Review*

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

The Blurb

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Blog Tour – Blue Night by Simone Buchholz *Review*

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Blue Night by Simone Buchholz today. Before I share my thoughts, here is what the book is about.

The Blurb

After convicting a superior for corruption and shooting off a gangster’s crown jewels, the career of Hamburg’s most hard-bitten state prosecutor, Chastity Riley, has taken a nose dive: she has been transferred to the tedium of witness protection to prevent her making any more trouble. However, when she is assigned to the case of an anonymous man lying under police guard in hospital, Chastity’s instinct for the big, exciting case kicks in. Using all her powers of persuasion, she soon
gains her charge’s confidence, and finds herself on the trail to Leipzig, a new ally, and a whole heap of lethal synthetic drugs. When she discovers that a friend and former colleague is trying to bring down Hamburg’s Albanian mafia kingpin single-handedly, it looks like Chas Riley’s dull life on witness protection really has been short-lived…

My Thoughts

Blue Night by Simone Buchholz marks the start in a cracking new series featuring Chastity Riley, Hamburg’s state prosecutor. Recently demoted to the witness protection department following her whistle-blowing on a colleague, Chas is feeling unfulfilled in her new role. However, things are about to change when an unknown man who is unwilling to talk arrives at the local hospital following a severe beating in which almost all of his bones are broken and a finger has been taken from one of his hands, and Chas is tasked to look after him.

The prologue hit me like a sucker-punch, as Buchholz’s description of someone taking a beating is poetic in its prose for such an horrific event. The short sentences work really well in delivering the brutality of the attack while simultaneously mesmerising you. The rest of Blue Night continued to be written in a way that is so unlike most of the books I have recently read. I have to admit that it took me a while to settle into its rhythm as Buchholz has a really unique way of writing and each chapter contains flashbacks from various characters in the book. Initially I wasn’t sure what I made of it, but as the book progressed and I became accustomed to the style and structure I began to really enjoy it. I ended up really liking the way Buccholz has structured the book as she adds different characters to the back stories in each chapter enabling you to view things from different perspectives. The way she knits it all together towards the end is brilliant.

I would describe the first half as slow-burning while we get to know Chastity, her friends and colleagues and as she attempts to build up a trusting relationship with the man she has been charged to look after. The second half of the novel, for me, had more pace and its grittiness really drew me in. The subject matter that Buchholz deals with is seamy, sordid and the observations she makes are depressingly spot on making it realistic. The ending … wow!

I really warmed to Chastity Riley and the rest of the characters in the book. Buchholz has effectively given just enough about each character to make you want to find out more about them and I look forward to the next book in the series.

Blue Night is a really unique read and I grew to love the structure and style. Beautifully written and seamlessly translated, Buchholz offers something refreshingly different to what’s on the market currently and I urge you to check it out.

About the Author

Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied
Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and
trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in
Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne
Award as well as runner-up for the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue
Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for
months. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her
husband and son.

Blue Night was published on eBook on 24 December 2017 and paperback on 28 February 2018 by Orenda Books. Grab a copy HERE.

My thanks go to Simone Buccholz, Karen at Orenda Books and Anne Cater at Random Things Blog Tours for my advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

 

 

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 – Nucleus (Tom Wilde #2) by Rory Clements *Excerpt*

I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for Nucleus by Rory Clements today. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to read the book so instead of my review I am sharing an excerpt. Grab a cuppa and enjoy.

The Blurb

The eve of war: a secret so deadly, nothing and no one is safe

June 1939. England is partying like there is no tomorrow, gas masks at the ready. In Cambridge the May Balls are played out with a frantic intensity – but the good times won’t last… In Europe, the Nazis have invaded Czechoslovakia, and in Germany the persecution of the Jews is now so widespread that desperate Jewish parents send their children to safety in Britain aboard the Kindertransport. Closer to home, the IRA’s S-Plan bombing campaign has resulted in more than 100 terrorist outrages around England.

But perhaps the most far-reaching event of all goes largely unreported: in Germany, Otto Hahn has produced the first man-made fission and an atomic device is now a very real possibility. The Nazis set up the Uranverein group of physicists: its task is to build a superbomb. The German High Command is aware that British and US scientists are working on similar line. Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory is where the atom was split in 1932. Might the Cambridge men now win the race for a nuclear bomb? Hitler’s generals need to be sure they know all the Cavendish’s secrets. Only then will it be safe for Germany to wage war.

When one of the Cavendish’s finest brains is murdered, Professor Tom Wilde is once more drawn into an intrigue from which there seems no escape. In a conspiracy that stretches from Cambridge to Berlin and from Washington DC to the west coast of Ireland, he faces deadly forces that threaten the fate of the world.

Excerpt

The Cavendish, in the heart of Cambridge, was where men had first split the atom. The lab had long been at the very heart of experimental particle physics and Geoff Lancing was one of its leading lights.
Wilde studied Flood. What he saw was a career man who hadn’t quite made it to the top, but still managed to wield influence. Perhaps he had spent too long on campus, not enough time on the parade ground.
‘We need to know what’s going on there,’ Flood continued. ‘The world of atomic physics is a small place. There are questions to which we would like answers. For instance, do Britain’s top men believe this superbomb is possible? How difficult is it to make? Who are the real brains – the leaders in the field? We’d like to hear what you can find out. And we’d like to hear it in layman’s terms. Simple as that.’
‘Then I’ll keep my eyes and ears open.’
‘Come on, Wilde,’ Flood said. ‘We know your background. You may not call yourself a spy, you may not be part of any agency, but goddamn it, professor, you’re in the thick of it already! You take briefings from Vanderberg at the US embassy, you watch your contemporaries like a bird of prey . . .’
‘Take briefings from Jim Vanderberg? He’s a friend, that’s all, an old college friend. We just talk, shoot the breeze like friends do.’
Flood held up a defensive hand and grinned. ‘No one’s accusing you of anything, professor. You do good work. We’ve got a pretty good idea what you did at the back end of ’36. You’re just the sort of guy we need.’
Did Flood really know Wilde’s role in those events? The foiling of the conspiracy to prevent the abdication of Edward VIII had been a closely guarded secret. Wilde shrugged. ‘I suppose I should be flattered.’
Roosevelt clapped his hands. ‘Good man. We don’t want to be caught off guard. If anyone looks like they’re going to get a superbomb, I want to know about it.’ He glanced at his watch and Wilde began to rise, as did Colonel Flood. The interview was over. Ten short minutes in which they had covered the likelihood of war, the possibility of an atomic superbomb and the pleasures of jazz. All that and good White House coffee. The President put the dying butt of his second cigarette in the ashtray groove, then leant across and shook Wilde’s hand warmly. ‘Good to meet you, professor. Keep in touch. I need a clear, unbiased voice over there in the dark days that lie ahead of us. Missy LeHand is my gatekeeper and she will tell you exactly how to contact me. I’d value your view over those of a dozen diplomats. Just keep everything short and to the point. On the science matter, communicate with Dexter.’
‘Certainly, Mr President.’
‘And perhaps you’d send me a signed copy of your new book.’
‘It would be my pleasure, sir. I think you’ll find that Sir Robert Cecil was every bit as ruthless in his own way as Walsingham.’
‘Power politics! Nothing changes down the ages.’
Flood walked towards the door. ‘I’ll show the professor out, Mr President.’
‘Thank you, Dexter.’

Published on 25 January 2018 by Bonnier Zaffre, you can grab a copy HERE.

My thanks go to Rory Clements and Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for allowing me to share an excerpt.

 

Blog Tour – Stand By Me by S.D. Roberston *Review*

Today I bring you my thoughts on S.D. Robertson’s latest book, Stand By Me, as part of the blog tour. This was a gorgeous book to read in what is, let’s face it, the crappy month of January. So, before I share my thoughts with you here is what Stand By Me is about…

The Blurb

They’ll always have each other…won’t they?
Lisa and Elliot have been best friends ever since the day they met as children. Popular, bright and sporty, Lisa was Elliot’s biggest supporter when the school bullies made his life a misery, and for that, he will always be grateful.
Twenty years later, life has pulled the pair apart and Lisa is struggling. Her marriage is floundering, her teenage kids are being secretive, and she’s so tired she can’t think straight. So when Elliot knocks on the door, looking much better than she remembers, she can’t help but be delighted to see her old friend again.
With Elliot back in their lives, Lisa’s family problems begin to improve – he’s like the fairy godmother she never had. As their bond deepens, she realises how much she’s missed him, and prays that this is one friendship that will last a lifetime. But sometimes, life has other ideas…
A heartwarming story perfect for fans of Keith Stewart and Jojo Moyes, that will leave you with a tear in your eye but hope in your heart.

My Thoughts

Stand By Me is the first novel by S.D. Robertson that I have read although I have been aware of his previous two novels. Now I have ventured into his books I will definitely be reading more by him. Stand By Me is a gorgeous tale of friendship, life and appreciation.

When Lisa’s childhood best friend, Elliot, returns to their home town for a visit after twenty years, she has no idea about the impact he will have on her and her family’s life. Struggling through a difficult time, Lisa’s life is about to change for the better thanks to her old school friend.

The prologue and the first few chapters work effectively to draw you into the book. You know from the start that there is more to what’s going on than meets the eye but you are not sure what that is and you have to keep reading to find out. Luckily, I had a box of tissues from the cold I had over the Christmas break and, oh boy, did I need them at the end of this book!

Roberston takes us between timelines, flitting between the present and the 1990s. There is often a danger with dual timeline books that you will prefer one storyline over the other, however, this wasn’t the case with Stand By Me. The 1990’s side of the book worked effectively to show the friendship between teenage Lisa and Elliot and the reason behind Elliot’s current actions. It also ensures that you feel emotionally invested in the characters. I found myself really caring about the main characters. I also really enjoyed how Robertson captured the early 90s – through the TV programmes, music and lack of technology – and it added a nostalgia that I really enjoyed.

Equally I enjoyed the current storyline and while this isn’t a fast-paced book with thrills, spills and cliffhangers, Stand By Me gets under your skin as spend time with the characters and the issues they are each facing. Robertson gives us a depiction of family life and how it can become difficult following one dreadful event and yet it is optimistic. The appreciation Elliot has for his old friend, Lisa, is moving and will have you thinking about the people and friends that have come (and sometimes gone) through your life.

As it progresses Stand By Me becomes more than just a book about friendship and becomes a book about hope. It will have you mulling over life, death and the universe. How many of us are remembered for the seemingly small acts of kindness we have bestowed on others without thinking about it? In an often cynical and dog-eat-dog world, Stand By Me is a welcome break from the doom and gloom. It is a book to snuggle up with and immerse yourself in which, despite the tears at the end, leaves you feeling uplifted. Wonderful!

Like the sound of Stand By Me? You can grab a copy HERE.

A huge thank you to S.D. Robertson and Sabah at Avon Books for my advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Catch the rest of the tour…

Blog Tour – The Second Cup by Sarah Marie Graye *Excerpt*

I’m delighted to be taking part in The Second Cup by Sarah Marie Graye blog tour today and I’m excited to be able to share an excerpt with you. There is also a giveaway in which you can win a signed copy!

Firstly, what is The Second Cup about?

The Blurb

Would your life unravel if someone you knew committed suicide? Theirs did.
Faye’s heart still belongs to her first love, Jack. She knows he might have moved on, but when she decides to track him down, nothing prepares her for the news that he’s taken his own life.
With the fragility of life staring them in the face, Abbie finds herself questioning her marriage, and Faye her friendship with Ethan. And poor Olivia is questioning everything – including why Jack’s death has hit Beth the hardest. Is she about to take her own life too?

As promised here is the excerpt. We’re introducing Abbie – one of the four main characters – and we catch up with her while she’s sitting in A&E waiting to find out how her friend Beth is after a suspected overdose.

So how does this praying thing work? I’m starting to wish I’d paid more attention when Beth went on one of her rants about her Catholic upbringing, as it would have put me in good stead for knowing what to do right now.

My closest friend has downed a bottle of Paracetamol and is lying the other side of a locked door that requires a keypad access code. I’ve been the other side of the keypad and it is no easier – although at least you have NHS staff on your side when you’re that side.

I have positioned myself on the row of plastic seats along the far wall so I can watch the comings and goings through said door without having to strain my neck muscles. But so far every raised chin has been greeted with nothing – no glance in my direction, no calling out “Beth Adam’s friend” or “Abbie? Abbie Tomlinson?” repeating your first name as part of some sort of ritual. I listen to the strange names being called out, finding myself adding a second surname to the announcements to make them even.

“Emily? Emily Paterson?”

“Paterson.”

“Robert? Robert Samuels?”

“Samuels.”

“Gobinda? Gobinda Mudri?”

“Mudri.”

I only catch myself doing it when I realise I’m saying them out loud and the person two seats away shifts further along the row, giving me a worried glance as they go. I want to scream “I’m not mental” at them, but that would make me seem the opposite. And I would also feel very guilty at the inference that there was something wrong with being mental when I’m sitting here waiting for the doctors to save my friend from an overdose.

And I’m sure my little habits and rituals are perfectly normal for someone who’s under as much stress as I am at work.

I just like things to be even. To be balanced.

I look up at the clock. I’ve not been here a full half-hour yet and yet I feel as if a day’s worth of energy has been drained out of me. I’m wondering if the clock is playing tricks on me, so I decide to stare at it and count along with the second hand – this time in my head so the lady a few seats down doesn’t feel she needs to move even further away. The full 60 seconds pass, as they should.

“Okay God,” I think, “If I can hold my breath and sit completely still for a full 60 seconds, you have to make Beth live.”

I wait until the second hand is at 12 and take a deep breath in – probably loud enough to scare the timid lady on my row, but I can’t look to check because sitting still is part of the pact. Time feels like it’s slowing down as the hand gets to 11. I watch – 56, 57, 58, 59, 60 – and then breathe out.

I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything worthy of saving a life. Maybe that was just a test pact and now I have to do another one. This might be how prayers work; why you have to say so many of them while you count rosary beads. You start off with a simple one and then build up to more complicated and challenging ones.

I shift on my plastic seat, massaging the ridges the edge has left mid-thigh on both legs. I take a few sips from the now-cold cup of coffee on the table ledge next to me. The temperature makes it no more or less drinkable as it was disgusting from the first mouthful, my brain immediately forgetting just how undrinkable it is, so each sip is a brand new shock to my taste buds. My brain is too busy willing Beth to stay alive to process information like “stop drinking because it tastes terrible”.

I’ve stretched and taken on more fluids, so I’m ready for my next challenge. Four is my lucky number. So maybe I need to hunt out for things in fours? Four is like your engine number, you breath in and out; your heart beats up and down. A four-stroke engine. It’s this four that powers you, so maybe if I find lots of fours it will be a sign that Beth is going to make it.

Scanning the room I notice four people with touchscreen phones out, ignoring the faded posters rather forlornly telling people to turn their phones off. I’m wondering if they’re all iPhones or Samsung, but I might be pushing my luck, so I check for other fours. There are four girls with ponytails. There are four noticeboards. There are four internal doors of the waiting room – if you don’t count the toilets.

There are four people with rucksack style bags. No, there are five, but one is close to the door and he’s put his bag on the floor – while the others are still wearing theirs. And he’s by the door, organising the content of his bag. I have to resist reaching out and kicking him with my leg to get him to go. C’mon. C’mon. And he’s gone. I can breathe again, even though I didn’t realise I was holding my breath. I hope it doesn’t matter that it wasn’t for 60 seconds. Maybe fours don’t matter after all, I tell myself.

We’re now a four – me, Beth, Olivia and Faye – but I preferred us more as a three.

Before Faye.

If that has whet your appetite for more you can purchase a copy of The Second Cup HERE.

Giveaway

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About the Author

Sarah Marie Graye was born in Manchester, United Kingdom, in 1975, to English Catholic parents. One of five daughters, to the outside world Sarah Marie’s childhood followed a relatively typical Manchester upbringing… until aged 9, when she was diagnosed with depression.
It’s a diagnosis that has stayed with Sarah Marie over three decades, and something she believes has coloured every life decision.
Now in her early 40s, and with an MA Creative Writing from London South Bank University (where she was the vice-chancellor’s scholarship holder), Sarah Marie has published her debut novel – about family, friendships and mental health.
Twitter – https://twitter.com/SarahMarieGraye

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Blog Tour – Hydra by Matt Wesolowski *Review*

I am so pleased it is finally my turn on the Hydra blog tour as I have been dying to shout about this book for what feels like an eternity. The much anticipated follow up to Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski is finally published this month and it’s fair to say that I liked it just a tad! So, here is what Hydra is about and my thoughts on it.

 

The Blurb

One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the northwest of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will
speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.
King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five key witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was as diminished as her legal team made out.
As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess…

Dark, chilling and gripping, Hydra is both a classic murder mystery and an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller that shines light in places you may never, ever want to see again.

My Thoughts

Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories was my book of 2017 and if I thought it was difficult to write a review to do Six Stories justice I once again have my work cut out reviewing Hydra. Quite simply, Hydra is to die for!

In 2014 Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and sister to death with a hammer and following her trial she has been incarcerated in a medium-secure mental health hospital. Once again, we find ourselves in the safe hands of Scott King, the creator of the Six Stories podcasts, as he sets out to explore if the diminished responsibility ruling that Arla’s defence team argued holds up. Through the interviewing of five witnesses and Arla herself, King attempts to unravel the events that resulted in the ‘Macleod Massacre’. I was instantly attracted to the premise of Hydra as it sparked off childhood memories of me reading about Lizzie Borden, the ’40 whacks’ poem about her and the kind of morbid fascination I had about the case. Wesolowski taps into the consciousness of the majority of people who seek to understand why some people go on to commit such horrific acts, making his books immediately interesting and compelling.

Demonstrating that he has his finger firmly on the button of what is happening in today’s society, Wesolowski draws on mental health, social media and the media to ensure that Hydra is a bang up to date thriller. It has a considered intelligence about it as he draws on such as issues as media sensationalism, the search for ‘blame’ in order to rationalise and explain the unexplainable – often in the wrong areas, think Marilyn Manson in Columbine and Child’s Play in the Bulger case – and the pervading nature of the internet in our lives. With social media Wesolowski immediately draws on one of my fears and coupled with the black-eyed children that play a part in the book, he had me looking over my shoulder as I read. Hydra is creepy as hell … and I’m not one who gets scared easily!

In terms of the prose, Wesolowski again skilfully ensures that the unique character of each voice shines through. Hydra is every inch as beautifully written as its predecessor, Six Stories, demonstrating that Wesolwski is no one trick pony but, indeed, a formidable talent. Hydra is every inch as fresh and current as his debut which will delight all those readers who have eagerly anticipated this book. Hydra literally pulses with atmosphere as you wind your way through the stories to its startling conclusion. Could I have possibly already found my favourite book of 2018?

Intelligent, thoughtful and damn scary, read Hydra with the big light on and not before bedtime! Absolutely bloody brilliant!

Published on 15 January 2018 by Orenda Books you can grab your copy HERE.

A huge thank you to Matt Wesolowski, Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for my advance copy of Hydra and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

About the Author

Matt Wesolowski is from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature Feature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio…

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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.

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