Category Archives: Blog Tours

Blog tours Bloomin’ Brilliant Books has participated in.

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 – Do No Harm by L. V. Hay *Review*

I am delighted to be one of today’s stops on the Do No Harm by L. V. Hay’s blog tour. Check out the blurb and then my review.

The Blurb

Till death do us part…

After leaving her marriage to jealous, possessive oncologist Maxwell, Lily and her six-year-old son have a second chance at happiness with headteacher Sebastian. Kind but vulnerable, Sebastian is the polar opposite of Maxwell, and the perfect match for Lily. After a whirlwind romance, they marry, and that’s when things start to go wrong…
Maxwell returns to the scene, determined to win back his family, and events soon spiral out of control. Lily and Sebastian find themselves not only fighting for their relationship, but also their lives…
Chilling, dark and terrifying, Do No Harm is a taut psychological thriller and a study of obsession, from one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction.

My Thoughts

L. V. Hay is back with her latest psychological thriller, Do No Harm. This is one of the books I have been highly anticipating this year following her scorching debut, The Other Twin.

Do No Harm follows Lily as she and her son embark on a new life with partner Sebastian. Sebastian is the absolute antithesis of her ex-husband, the possessive Maxwell, and life should be plain sailing and happy. However, Maxwell has decided that Lily and their son should still be with him.

Sounds like your average domestic noir, right? Wrong! Hay takes the domestic noir, shakes it up and turns it completely on its head. Do No Harm is more twisty than a slinky toy and as unpredictable in which direction it is going to take.

Do No Harm is skilfully written as Hay has cleverly weaved a plot that keeps the reader totally on the back foot when it comes to trying to work out what is going to happen. My theories were completely blown out of the water every time. The twists and turns are cleverly executed and utterly chilling. Hay has a way of building the tension to the point that when you finally reach the crescendo you feel as wrung out as the poor characters involved.

Using first and third person narrative to convey Lily and Sebastian, we are given unique access to the thoughts and views of those closely involved. The characterisation is totally on point and I couldn’t help but become totally immersed in the lives of Lily and Sebastian. It’s clichéd to say, but Do No Harm is unputdownable.

Hay will make you look at love in a whole new way. In Do No Harm, the concept of love is portrayed via those whose interpretation of what love is is totally skewed, and the result is a clever, chilling and utterly unnerving thriller. In Do No Harm, Hay takes the shock factor you expect in a psychological thriller and increases it by a hundred. One of the must-read thrillers of 2018.

Published on 15th June by Orenda Books, you can buy your copy HERE.

About the Author

Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin(2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. Her critically acclaimed debut thriller The Other Twin was published in 2017.

My thanks to Karen Sullivan and Lucy V. Hay for my copy of Do No Harm and to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

 

Blog Tour – When I Find You by Emma Curtis *Review*

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Emma Curtis’s second novel When I Find You today. So, here is the blurb before I share my thoughts.

The Blurb

What do you do when someone takes advantage of your greatest weakness?
The brilliant new thriller from the author of ONE LITTLE MISTAKE
Perfect for fans of Clare Mackintosh, C L Taylor and Claire Douglas

When Laura wakes up the morning after her office Christmas party and sees a man’s shirt on the floor, she is horrifed. This is no ordinary one-night-stand.
Laura suffers from prospagnosia – severe faceblindness – a condition that means she is completely unable to identify and remember faces. The man she spent all night dancing with and kissing, the man she thought she’d brought home, was identifiable only as ‘Pink Shirt’.
But the shirt on her bedroom floor is blue.
And now Laura must go to work every day, and face the man who took advantage of her condition. The man she has no way of recognising.
She doesn’t know who he is, but she’ll make him pay.

My Thoughts

After enjoying Emma Curtis’s debut novel One Little Mistake I eagerly anticipated her second book and was thrilled to be able to get an advance copy of When I Find You.

Twenty-eight-year-old Laura Maguire suffers from prosopagnosia, or face-blindness, which impacts on the way her brain receives information. Laura cannot recognise faces at all – not even her own – and it is a condition that she has lived with all her life. She has managed to live with her condition and has a successful career as a designer in advertising. However, things begin to unravel when following a boozy staff night out she wakes up with a man … but it is not the man she believed she had spent the night with as this one is wearing a different coloured shirt. As the shock settles in, Laura becomes determined to find out who took advantage of her.

This is an interesting theme that really made me think. While Laura willingly participated in the sexual intercourse, the fact that she cannot recognise faces and subsequently discovers that she has slept with a different man to the one she had intended to be with is an unnerving concept. Add to it the fact that nobody knows about her face-blindness apart from one of her managers – who is female – and the tale becomes even more creepy. Somebody has clearly found out and taken advantage of her, in fact they have raped her. Curtis’s exploration of Laura’s feelings around this and the dilemma she faces as to whether she could go to the police or not is really well done.

Curtis writes really well about Laura’s experiences of living with prosopagnosia and I really got into her skin. Written in first person narrative there are some exceptional passages that really describe and convey the feelings and emotions Laura goes through on a daily basis as a result of her condition. At times I felt the confusion Laura felt when coming in to contact with different characters she knows but cannot recognise, and Curtis really demonstratess how disconcerting this would be. Curtis has clearly carefully researched prosopagnosia.

When I Find You is a bit of a slow burner as it follows Laura in her quest to find her abuser, and also her manager Rebecca who has issues of her own to contend with. If you are after fast spills and thrills When I Find You may not be for you, but if you like your thrillers to be more chilling and unnerving it will be a great addition to your bookshelf. I loved its subtlety, its concentration on emotions and its intensity. The pace does increase greatly towards the end as it reaches its final crescendo. A crescendo that left me open-mouthed and wide-eyed.

Undoubtedly a disturbing thriller, When I Find You is also a story about how appearances do not give the full picture of what a person is capable of … you can never tell from the outside what is going on in the inside. A great read that is well written.

Published on ebook on 1 July 2018 by Transworld Digital and paperback on 9 August 2018 by Black Swan. Get your copy HERE.

About the Author

EMMA CURTIS was born in Brighton and brought up in London. She is a member of ‘The Prime Writers’, a collective of writers who have all had their first books published after the age of 40.
Emma has two children and lives in Richmond with her husband.
@emmacurtis #WhenIFindYou

A huge thank you to Emma Curtis, Black Swan and Netgalley for the advance copy and to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

 

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.

 

 

Blog Tour – The Date by Louise Jensen *Review*

I am beyond delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Louise Jensen’s latest novel, The Date with my blogging buddy Jen at Jen Med’s Book Reviews. Before I tell you what I thought, here is what it is about:

The Blurb

One night can change everything.

‘I know it as soon as I wake up and open my eyes… Something is wrong.’

Her Saturday night started normally. Recently separated from her husband, Ali has been persuaded by her friends to go on a date with a new man. She is ready, she is nervous, she is excited. She is about to take a step into her new future. By Sunday morning, Ali’s life is unrecognisable. She wakes, and she knows that something is wrong. She is home, she is alone, she is hurt and she has no memory of what happened to her.

Worse still, when she looks in the mirror, Ali doesn’t recognise the face staring back at her…

My Thoughts

Oh, how pleased I was to get my hands on Louise Jensen’s latest book, The Date. I loved The Sister and The Gift (I have The Surrogate sitting on my Kindle but, as with a lot of the books I have bought, I have not had time to read it yet).

In The Date we meet Alison Taylor who, having quite recently separated from her husband, has been on a date with Ewan following encouragement from her friends. However, the following day Alison wakes up with an injury to her head and she can’t remember anything about the night before or her date. The worst, though, is to come. When she looks in her mirror she doesn’t know who she is looking at.

Ali is later diagnosed with prosopagnosia, a condition which affects the ability to recognise faces. Ali’s world is turned upside down as she is no longer able to recognise her loved ones, friends or even herself. The whole concept of The Date is, quite frankly, terrifying. Having this condition would be frightening enough, but to have it happen just as you have woken up from a night out in which it appears you have been attacked, and you have no memory of it makes it doubly so. And things are about to get a lot worse for Ali.

What I really like about Jensen’s books is the way in which she takes a sensitive subject and, while making it frightening, also deals with the issue in a gentle manner. Jensen demonstrates a real emotional acuity in her writing, and she writes about Ali’s diagnosis of prosopagnosia in such a way that it is incredibly affecting and stirring. I just melted for Ali as she struggled to adjust to her diagnosis. Jensen’s depiction of a young woman dealing with this condition is realistic and heart breaking. Rather than skirting over it to concentrate on the thriller aspect, Jensen incorporates it in such a way that it adds so much more to the book.

The Date is also an incredible thriller. As the plot progresses it becomes incredibly unnerving and it plays on all our deepest fears. It becomes clear that Ali has a stalker who is going out of their way to frighten her. Jensen has weaved twists and turns that had me constantly trying to guess the identity of the perpetrator of Ali’s torment (at one point I was looking at the dog suspiciously, and I love dogs!). The Date seriously messed with my head.

Jensen has a real way with words. She manages to crank up the tension so you are constantly chewing on your lip or your fingernails as you read. Jensen also manages to make her thrillers beautiful with prose that is stunning and The Date is no exception. It feels as though every single word has been carefully chosen and yet it also feels as though it has come naturally.

Once again, Jensen has written an outstanding novel. The Date is utterly unnerving and totally tense, while at the same time sensitive and moving. An absolute must-read.

The Date is published on 21 June 2018 by Bookouture. You can get your copy here: 

Amazon: myBook.to/TDLJSocial
iBookStore: http://ow.ly/FMOm30kyQXf
Kobo: http://ow.ly/7lzy30kyQZH
Googleplay: http://ow.ly/9h2q30kyR2K

About the Author

Louise Jensen is a Global No.1 Bestselling author of psychological thrillers The Sister, The Gift & The Surrogate. To date Louise has sold approaching a million books and her novels have been sold for translation to nineteen territories, as well as being featured on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller’s List. Louise was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 Award.

Louise lives with her husband, children, madcap dog and a rather naughty cat in Northamptonshire. She loves to hear from readers and writers and can be found at www.louisejensen.co.uk, where she regularly blogs flash fiction and writing tips.
http://www.louisejensen.co.uk/
https://twitter.com/Fab_fiction
https://www.facebook.com/fabricatingfiction/

A huge thank you to Bookouture, Louise Jensen and Kim Nash for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

 

 

Blog Tour – The Old You by Louise Voss *Review*

I am delighted to be one of the stops on the blog tour for The Old You by Louise Voss today. This book is a bit of a cracker but before I share my thoughts let’s find out what it is about.

The Blurb

Nail-bitingly modern domestic noir
A tense, Hitchcockian psychological thriller
Louise Voss returns with her darkest, most chilling, novel yet…

Lynn Naismith gave up the job she loved when she married Ed, the love of her life, but it was worth it for the happy years they enjoyed together. Now, ten years on, Ed has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, and things start to happen; things more sinister than lost keys and missing words. As some memories are forgotten, others, long buried, begin to surface … and Lynn’s perfect world begins to crumble.
But is it Ed’s mind playing tricks, or hers…?

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, Louise Voss’s The Old You is a startling example of how to write the domestic noir! Why? Let me explain…

The plot centres around Lynn Naismith and her older husband Ed. Lynn gave up everything to be with Ed and she has been happy in their marriage. However, when Ed is diagnosed with Pick’s Disease, a form of early onset dementia, not only does Lynn have to contend with her husband losing his memory but also strange, inexplicable things that begin to happen.

Voss writes in such a way that the plot of The Old You kind of creeps up on you and there are numerous moments that knock you for six. It is unnerving in its depiction of what could actually happen as Lynn watches the dementia completely alter her husband’s personality. As the story unfolds, Voss ratchets up the tension and there is an overarching sense of unease and, in a strange way, it made feel a little claustrophobic. I guess this comes from the fact that the fear is centred around the confines of Lynn’s marriage and home.

Constantly keeping you on the back foot and looking for clues, Voss has crafted an intricate and clever plot. As revelation after revelation are revealed I was unsure of who I could trust in the telling of this story, and I had no idea which way the plot would go next. I have always been a fan of books and films in which you doubt the sanity and reliability of the main character/narrator and Voss pulls this off wonderfully.

Voss’s writing is fantastic throughout with beautifully phrased lines that resonate with you and make you think. It opened up my mind to how it must feel living with someone whose mind is being affected by disease and the sense of loss of both your loved one and your old life. It has clearly been meticulously researched to make it authentic.

We get glimpses into Lynn and Ed’s life prior to his diagnosis. Despite these switches in time throughout the storyline, Voss manages to ensure that the atmosphere of the current storyline is not lost or diminished in any way.

I loved The Old You, and I would go as far as saying if you only read one domestic noir this year make it this one as you will be hard pushed to find better. Tense, chilling and cleverly plotted.

Published on eBook on 28 February 2018 and paperback on 15 May 2018 by Orenda Books. You can get a copy HERE.

 

About the Author

Over her eighteen-year writing career, Louise Voss has had eleven
novels published – five solo and six co-written with Mark Edwards: a
combination of psychological thrillers, police procedurals and
contemporary fiction – and sold over 350,000 books. Louise has an
MA (Dist) in Creative Writing and also works as a literary consultant
and mentor for writers at www.thewritingcoach.co.uk. She lives in
South-West London and is a proud member of two female crimewriting
collectives, The Slice Girls and Killer Women.

My thanks go to Louise Voss, Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for the copy of The Old You and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Catch the rest of the tour…

Blog Tour – The Retreat by Mark Edwards *Review*

Being a huge fan of Mark Edwards’ books I am beyond excited to be hosting one of the stops on the blog tour for his latest book, The Retreat

The Blurb

Julia Marsh has spent the last two years grieving the tragic accident that lead to her husband drowning before her eyes in a local river. Her eight-year-old daughter Lily is still missing, presumed dead. Now living alone, Julia finds herself unable to move on, convinced that Lily is still alive. But as money runs out, Julia needs to find a way to keep hold of their beautiful and secluded family home. She decides to open a writer’s retreat.

Lucas is a successful novelist suffering from writer’s block and one of the first guests. He’s no stranger to personal tragedy and forms an instant bond with his host, Julia. The longer he stays, the more a local legend of the Red Widow, a fabled witch who kidnaps young girls, captures his imagination. But as Lucas delves into details of these disappearances, and as locals take more than a passing interest in his investigations, Lucas finds himself at the centre of a very real horror story. The retreat is harbouring secrets: all Lucas must do is separate the facts from the fiction before the ghosts of this small town.

My Thoughts

I am always excited when a new Mark Edwards’ book comes out and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on The Retreat. Once again Edwards delivers an outstanding thriller.

What I really like about Edwards’ books is that you know you are going to get something different with each one and The Retreat is no exception. Following the death of her husband and presumed death of her daughter, Julia turns her home in the Welsh countryside into a writers’ retreat. When horror author Lucas goes to stay at the retreat he discovers that the retreat, the town and the woods are harbouring deep and terrifying secrets.

Edwards switches between perspective and time throughout The Retreat and kicks off with a prologue that describes the events of the day that Lily, Julia’s daughter, went missing. Edwards immediately draws you into the book, and you just have to keep reading to find out what actually happened to Lily. The subtle hints that are dropped during the chapters that focus on Lily and the time leading up to her disappearance/death add to the mystery and intrigue and, as usual, Edwards does a great job of ensuring the reader is always caught on the back foot.

The Retreat is a spooky read as Edwards keeps us guessing as to whether something supernatural is going on in the small town of Beddmawr, or if it’s the work of a dangerous local. The retreat is an eerie old building in which the residents hear mysterious noises. Drawing on ‘what goes bump in the night’ Edwards turns up the atmosphere for maximum impact causing you to regularly glance over your shoulder as you read.

I loved the way that Edwards draws on folklore and urban legend throughout the book. The use of a mysterious and creepy picture that hangs in many of the inhabitant’s homes and businesses reminded me of the ‘curse of the crying boy’ painting that did the rounds in the eighties. He portrays how stories can be used to influence people’s thoughts and be used as a way of controlling people through fear. Deep held beliefs in otherworldly forces can result in irrational behaviour and decisions that an otherwise rational person would not normally do.

The Retreat creeps and twists like the ivy that climbs up an old building and it gets under your skin. Combining old-school style ghost story elements with modern day thriller, Edwards has created a spine-tingling story that it is enthralling and irresistible.

The Retreat is published on 10 May 2018 by Thomas & Mercer. You can get your copy HERE.

About the Author

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which terrifying things happen to ordinary people. Mark’s first solo novel, The Magpies (2013), reached the No.1 spot on the Amazon UK Kindle bestseller list, as did his third novel Because She Loves Me (2014), and Follow Me Home (2015). His previous novels, The Devil’s Work (2016) and The Lucky Ones (2017) were also published to great critical acclaim and commercial success. He has also co-written various crime novels with Louise Voss such as Killing Cupid (2011) and The Blissfully Dead (2015). His titles with Amazon Publishing have reached over a million readers.

Mark grew up on the south coast of England and started writing in his twenties while working in a number of dead-end jobs. He lived in Tokyo for a year, and is a great admirer of Japanese writers and horror films. Mark lives near Wolverhampton, England, with his wife, their three children and a ginger cat. The Retreat was strongly inspired by local folklore and urban myths from Mark’s childhood and by his daughter Poppy. When walking their dog in the woods, Poppy told Mark a story about her friends arguing about whether a local legend was true or not. Poppy and Mark would brainstorm ideas for the book on their daily walks, and Mark now credits her as his co-writer and a budding author herself. www.markedwardsauthor.com

A huge thank you to Mark Edwards and Gaby Drinkald at Midas PR for my advance copy of The Retreat and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Follow the rest of the tour:

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…