Thursday, 27 October 2016

BLOG TOUR and review - Inside the Whispers - AJ Waines - Fiendishly twisted

BLOG TOUR - Inside the whispers - A J Waines.

Plus my review
and ....
an exclusive excerpt to tempt you

My Review

I’m very excited to be taking part in the blog tour to help bring Inside The Whispers to readers attention.

I adored her previous thriller No Longer Safe and you can read my review of that here.

Inside the whispers is the exciting and tense new novel by AJ Waines and is also the harbinger of a brand new series by this author which I am now immensely looking forward to - featuring clinical psychologist Samantha Willerby.

Ms Waines is ideally placed to write authoritatively on this subject, as a qualified psychotherapist herself and her expertise glows through the pages.

In her first novel in the new series we meet Samantha as she tries to settle in to her new role, working in a hospital helping survivors of disasters suffering post-traumatic stress. When several patients come to see her, all suffering greatly with memories of being involved in a recent tube train fire, it’s hardly surprising that their traumas and memories are all very similar. Until Samantha undertakes her own investigation and discovers that their memories don’t match up with what really happened, and then the suicides begin – and to her horror the people deliberately taking their own lives are the very same people she has been treating.

Sam really struggles to come to terms with this, feeling she should have been able to do something to help them. Her own life isn’t too straightforward and I really grew to know and like Sam making me want to read more about her. She has recently been reunited with her difficult sister Mimi, now calling herself Miranda, who has her own demons to fight. Sam is in a fledgling relationship with the sexy but possessive Con and as we get to know her and her colleagues at the hospital including the enigmatic Leo, it became no clearer to me who she could trust than she finds it herself.

Switching off when she leaves work soon becomes impossible when it begins to infiltrate her own life and affect those around her. She needs to find out why and how people are suffering at the hands of memories of an event which seems not to have happened as it is recollected and before someone else dies.

We are treated to a series of flashbacks of someone seemingly contemplating suicide but it’s not clear who these memories belong to and alongside the main events Sam’s own background is unravelled piece by piece as she and her sister come to terms with their own turbulent pasts which also reveal themselves to be not quite how she remembered things.

This is a book about memories and the after effects of being a witness to trauma. It’s about family and friendship and self-doubt. Oh and did I mention …. It is FIENDISHLY twisted and complex and very clever.  The Authors innate skill with words and ability to use her knowledge of the human mind in all its guises lifts this book from the everyday to the exceptional.

The author tackles some dark and disturbing subjects extremely well including mental health, child abuse and toxic relationships and one big reveal, part way through the book had me literally reeling with shock and in floods of tears – you have been warned, tissues and compassion needed.

We will meet Sam again in book 2 in this series Lost in The Lake.

Author Bio

AJ Waines has sold over ¼ of a million books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts in 2015 with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. She was a Psychotherapist for fifteen years, during which time she worked with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, gaining a rare insight into criminal and abnormal psychology. AJ Waines is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany (Random House) and USA (audiobooks).

AJ Waines lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.  

What the publisher says

Where the most Dangerous place – is inside your own head…

Following a London Tube disaster, three traumatised survivors turn to clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby, for help – but she’s mystified when their stories don’t add up. Her confusion turns to horror when one by one, instead of recovering, they start committing suicide.

When her partner, Conrad, begins to suffer the same terrifying flashbacks, Sam is desperate to find out what is causing them and a mysterious and chilling crime begins to unravel.

Then the flashbacks begin for Sam…

The first book in the Dr Samantha Willerby Series, INSIDE THE WHISPERS is a tense, haunting Psychological Thriller that will leave your nerves in shreds.

And if all this isn't enough to whet your appetite thoroughly here's an excerpt from Inside the whispers, just for you:

An Extract from Inside the Whispers by AJ Waines - Enjoy ....

I’m ashamed to admit I was running on autopilot for my first patients. I was keen not to miss Jake. At 11.40, I phoned the unit and found out he’d arrived and was still in the consultation room.
Shortly afterwards, I sauntered past the waiting area and spotted him nodding to the receptionist, accepting a small card for his next check-up. He saw me and gave a weak smile. I asked if we could have a private word in my office. I offered him a seat in front of my desk and he sat on his hands looking like a schoolboy hauled up for smoking behind the bike sheds.
‘I know we have another session soon, but I just wanted to check a few details about the fire. I don’t want to ask you anything that might be upsetting, but are you okay to run through a few simple points?’
He looked surprised. ‘Okay…’
‘I’ve been looking at your map,’ I smoothed it out in front of him. ‘And I notice here you’ve marked stairs and here you’ve got the escalators.’
‘Yeah, that’s right – and there are two lifts around here.’
‘When you came off the train and left the platform, were you on a stationary escalator or steps? Can you remember?’
‘Definitely steps,’ he said. ‘I don’t like walking up escalators when they’ve stopped, I always think they’re going to suddenly start up again or go too fast…’
‘But, in the rush to get out, could it be that you didn’t notice you were climbing a static escalator?’
He thought for a second. ‘No – because I went past the escalators, see here?’ he pointed to the map. ‘I saw everyone was crammed onto them and got to the staircase.’
‘Okay…’ My mouth was dry.
‘You said there were flames in the ticket hall – are you absolutely sure about that?’
He responded immediately. ‘God, yeah. I told you, people’s coats were on fire. It was definitely in the hall, because I remember the barriers themselves were burning.’ He started to shake.
‘It’s okay – we’ll stop there. Are you all right?’
He muttered something I couldn’t hear.
‘Let’s take a few minutes.’ I talked him through a simple grounding process to help him re-orientate himself: What day is it? What are you going to do next? Simple questions. He looked confused, but fully recovered by the time he left.

As he shut the door, I plopped down into my chair. I knew now for certain. Jake sounded so genuine and yet his story didn’t make sense. He’d told me he’d climbed up from the Central Line to the ticket hall using the steps. But, there were no steps from the platforms to the ticket hall, coming in from either east or west. I’d checked the area twice and there was access by escalators and lifts, but no steps until you want to leave the ticket hall to reach the mainline concourse.
Another part of his story didn’t add up either. He said people were on fire around him in the ticket hall, whereas the police were emphatic that the flames never got anywhere near there.
I let the silence spill across the room and stared through the seat of the chair where Jake had been sitting. One thing was clear. For some reason, Jake was lying.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Smoke Hunter - Jacquelyn Benson - adventure and romance

My Review

This debut novel is a girls own rip roaring adventure, pure escapism. It’s a jolly good yarn and I enjoyed reading it immensely, despite it being a bit of a mish-mash of styles with tongue in cheek nods to many other works.

It’s just before the turn of the century and Eleonora (Ellie) Mallory is a rarity for her time, an educated woman who longs for adventure and exploration, yet due to gender constraints is prevented from using her education to do what she really longs for and become an archaeologist in the field exploring ancient ruins in far flung places, instead she has to work as an archivist, a back room girl in a rather dull job cataloguing other peoples finds. She is feisty yet innocent, brave and resourceful but just a touch foolhardy.

Leaving her job one day, she happens upon a fascinating old map and an artefact which leads her on an adventure beyond her wildest dreams.

In a steamy. Exotic South American jungle she joins forces with a dashing enigmatic hunk of man – Adam Bates, explorer to search for a mysterious lost city.

He is Indiana Jones coupled with Bear Grylls and Mr Darcy.

She is Lara Croft, Anne of Green Gables and Jungle Jane.

The story is pure Enid Blyton meets H Rider Haggard with a strong leaning towards classic Mills and Boon. It’s mushy and slushy with lashings of buckets of blood and danger galore.

There is excitement, mystery and lots of Derring do. The whole book simmers with chaste passion and unrequited lust. Puzzles worthy of the Crystal Maze rub shoulders with dastardly deeds carried out by absolute cads.

It is terribly tongue in cheek however if you like good old fashioned romance and rip roaring adventure enter the jungles of British Honduras (now known as Belize) with our hapless couple and join them in their search for the Mirror of smoke.

My thanks go to Katie Bradburn @katie_bradburn at Headline for my review copy.

The Blurb

THE SMOKE HUNTER by Jacquelyn Benson brings you the thrills of Indiana Jones, the action of Scott Mariani, the conspiracy of Dan Brown and the authenticity of Clive Cussler. Are you ready to join the adventure? 

'Intrigue and suspense aplenty. A refreshing and original new voice' Scott Mariani

'The illegitimate love-child of Lara Croft and Indiana Jones... Fast-paced and action-packed' Stephen Leather

Chasing a threat born in smoke... 

London, 1898. Archivist Eleanora Mallory discovers a map to a legendary city . But is it the key to unravelling an ancient mystery or a clever hoax?

Compelled to find out, Ellie journeys to Central America - with a merciless enemy hot on her heels.

In a race to uncover the map's secret first, Ellie is forced to partner with maverick archaeologist Adam Bates, a man she's not sure she can trust. Together, they venture into an uncharted wilderness alive with smoke and shadows, where an even greater danger awaits them.

For what lies there whispering to be unearthed has the power to bring the world to its knees.

Join Ellie and Adam as they battle rivers of scorpions, plummeting waterfalls and pre-historic death traps on the journey to uncovering a deadly secret that could shake the fate of the world.

Follow Jacqulyn on Twitter @JBHeartswords

Visit her website

Monday, 24 October 2016

Blog Tour, interview with Cat Hogan and my review of her new book They all Fall Down


I'm thrilled to have been invited to take part in the Blog Tour for They All Fall Down by Cat Hogan, a twisty psychological thriller that draws you in innocently and spits you out screaming.

Firstly I have an EXCLUSIVE interview with the Author where we caht about something we have in common - our love of books (of course)


Here's Cat so we can see who we're chatting with.

Q: Where or how did your love of books begin?         

Cat) I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t have a book in my hand. I was born into a family of bookworms and my mother passed her love of books on to me. She bought me books all the time and for every occasion. 

When I ran out of my own books to read, I would read her stash or sneak into my brother room and pilfer his. To this day, we are all bookworms- this leads to interesting debates around the kitchen table at Christmas time!

Me) … My Mum passed on her love of books too, although as an only child I’m sure it was just to keep me out of her hair!

What are the first books you remember enjoying as a youngster?

I loved Roald Dahl. I’ve lost count how many times I have read all his books and I still have my own copies. I have continued on the bibliophile tradition with my own boys, Joey is 11 and Baby Arthur is three. The younger one in particular loves to have stories read to him.
Enid Blyton was another one I couldn’t get enough of. The Mallory Towers books – I loved them all and wanted to go to Boarding School, just for the midnight feasts. Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys- I read them all. 

As I got older, I discovered Edgar Allen Poe and the classics.

Another author who had a huge impact on my life was Tom McCaughren- an Irish writer. He wrote 16 books in total but his wildlife books were the ones that caught my heart. Run with the Wind was the first in the series. Written in the 80’s at a time where animals were widely hunted for their pelts, the stories are told from the point of view a skulk of foxes and their dangerous encounters with other animals and humans. The series changed me as a person. To this day I am an animal rights supporter- something I have also instilled in my children.

… Ooh I’ve not heard of Tom McCaughren. I adored Enid Blyton too, and when I was little I loved Milly Molly Mandy and Teddy Robinson books, as I got older I really liked Alan Garner which the closest thing to young adults fantasy 50 years ago!

Which books influenced you most to become a writer?

Every book I have ever read- good and bad. It’s a hard question to answer as I could write a novel on books that have influenced me but the urge came from the perspective of a reader rather than a writer. 

There is no better feeling in the world than curling up in front of the fire or in bed and getting absolutely lost in the pages of a book. It is the most wonderful form of escapism and time becomes irrelevant. I wanted to see if I could do that- I wanted to create a world and characters who people could identify with and care about.

… You achieved that with They All Fall down, your characters are very easy to relate to.

and is there a particular author you aspire to be like or admire above all others?

This is an easy one to answer! I am blessed to come from the beautiful Co. Wexford in the SE corner of Ireland. There is a little bit of magic in the air down here. I share the air with several internationally renowned authors from my own home town. Colm Tóibín , John Banville, Eoin Colfer and international playwright Billy Roche are all from Co.Wexford. They paved the way for us and here in my hometown all the arts are encouraged and nurtured. No one bats an eyelid when you tell them you are writing a book or making a movie. 

We are also very proud of our International Festival of Opera, now in it’s 65th year. Roald Dahl’s wife, Felicity, travelled to Wexford in 2010 to be at the world premiere of the Opera inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The magic is everywhere. My aspiration is to continue the tradition of great international writers coming from Wexford- I grew up admiring and worshipping each one of them.

… Exalted company in your neck of the woods Cat.

What books have you loved in the past few years?

For a short while (while I was in the middle of edits and preparation for publication day) the joy of reading left me. Every book I picked up I judged against mine, I studied how that author constructed sentences, how they used dialogue etc. It had to stop- my favourite pastime had turned into study. Now, I’m back to where I used to be. I read for pure pleasure and escapism.

I try my best to support fellow authors in Ireland and as soon as they launch a book I will buy it.

I do love Stephen King and Wally Lamb. I also love Harlan Coben. There are so many wonderful books and authors out there, it’s hard to choose.

Two of my favourite books in the last couple of years have been from Irish author Liz Nugent. Her books ‘Unravelling Oliver’ and ‘Lying in Wait’ have dominated the best seller lists for months- and well deserved too. I love Liz’s style of writing- dark, twisty and very intelligent. I have had the pleasure of meeting her and she is a real lady- and so encouraging. She read They All Fall Down and loved it. High praise indeed!

… I have Unravelling Oliver on my TBR pile – must move it closer to the top. Glad she enjoyed your writing.

and whats next on your TBR (to be read) list?

I have a couple of books on the go at the moment for research purposes. For pleasure, the next on the list is an oldie- and one I absolutely detested when studying English… Jane Austen’s ‘Emma.’

I have hated this book with a passion for years but I want to go back to it and see if my opinion has changed. I’ll let you know about that.

I’m a huge fan of psychology and I read quite a lot of books of that nature. The human condition fascinates me and I’ve always been a real observer. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on ‘The Cyber Effect’ by Mary Aiken. It studies how human behaviour changes online and I think it’s perhaps a book we should all read.

… Good luck with Emma, I must admit I don’t enjoy much classic literature, too much of a Philistine. I’m fascinated by psychology though.

 Whats next for you?

I’m just coming to the end of the first draft of book 2. It’s a sequel of sorts to They All Fall Down. I’m about quarter way through a third book- a stand-alone novel- another dark and twisted tale!

They All Fall Down will be republished in March in mass paperback- fingers crossed it will fly over the water and the sequel will be published in June/July. It’s a busy time.
There’s also talk of a screen play- I will keep you posted on that one too!

… Very exciting news, do keep us posted on both fronts.

Thanks from me to Cat for allowing this insight into her love of books


Ring a ring of Roses – someone wants to play – Who’s not plating the game? Now someone must pay …

This isn’t quite how I remember singing the nursery rhyme when I was little and this book isn’t quite as gentle and romantic as it seems at first! 

It begins as pure romantic fiction, chick lit (if you don’t find that term offensive) It’s very girly, it’s all about single Mum Jen who with her little son Danny moves into a lovely cottage in a sleepy fishing village, left to her by her recently deceased Aunt. She also inherits a lodger, the handsome and almost too good to be true Andy, almost inevitably between the young pair is a frisson of attraction, romance is in the air and Jen’s friends Sal and Tess, who is going through marriage woe’s herself, are keen to encourage Jen into a relationship.

Most of the characters Cat Hogan has created are flawed in some way, from Jen who bears the physical and mental scars of her past, to Tess’s husband Doc who just can’t get his head around loving Tess and doing the right thing by her.

But none are quite as deeply flawed as Andy’s best friend Scott however, like so many fledgling romances two’s company and three’s a crowd and Scott has no time for Jen and sparks fly between Jen and Scott.

But the more Jen tries to pour oil on troubled waters the worse things get and what begins as a nice romantic story set by the seaside becomes a stormy and dangerous fight for survival for her and her little boy.

It’s made immediately apparent that Scott is a thoroughly complex and really nasty piece of work. Oh dear me, he is a flawed and twisted fella, no surprise that he's no angel but how far will he go to get what he wants - and what DOES he want anyway?

This is a clever novel with psychological twists aplenty, it drew me in gently and I thought I was in for an easy read then it suddenly begins to tighten it's grip and become tense and downright scary. Great for fans of flawed characters, emotional story lines and fast paced thrillers.

It's been recently published and you can buy a copy for your kindle or in paperback now.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Good Me Bad Me - Ali Land - Chilling and terrifying

My thoughts

Phew!! Good Me Bad Me is not an easy read yet it is so compelling and chilling I really couldn't put it down. It's a hugely accomplished debut novel I'm proud to help others discover, from an author I'm honoured to claim I was one of the first to read.

This novel takes the reader on a truly chilling and terrifying journey into the psyche of an abused child. Annie, the teenage daughter of a cruel and horrifying Mother has a new identity to protect her whilst her mother stands trial for murder - and not just any old murder - the murder of 9 innocent little children.

Annie has now become Milly and she’s trying to put the past behind her, but many events haunt her and won't let her make a complete clean break with her depraved upbringing.

The ominous and macabre voice of Milly's mother haunts her dreams and subconscious and for all she hates what her parent has done and what she made Milly herself do, she still can't get over the fact that this woman gave birth to her and was her Mum and there are massive conflicts of feeling towards her. The in depth detail of her crimes is mercifully sketched over on the main part though perhaps all the more terrifying for allowing our imaginations to run riot, furnishing the grim facts and embellishing what we know with what we fear.

Milly has been placed in a temporary foster home whilst her mother awaits trial for the cruel and calculated murder of many young children.  Crimes to which Milly was perhaps the only witness, possibly an accomplice she was forced into being an accessory to unspeakable acts under threat of the same being done to her.

Having found the courage to speak up at last, it’s understandable that she is racked with guilt and shame deeply affected by her dreadful childhood. No wonder the foster home she’s placed in has at its head an experienced psychologist who tries to help young Milly come to terms with her own past.

No wonder either that Milly finds it a little difficult to get along with Phoebe the daughter of the foster household, she dreams of having a sister but Phoebe resents her and conflict is the last thing Milly needs, all she really wants  is to be loved, she's a very lonely and confused 15 year old girl who will make your arms ache to hold her, your heart bleed for the childhood which was stolen from her and just occasionally she will make your blood run cold, with her memories, thoughts and behaviour. I was SO rooting for her and felt every moment of anguish alongside her.

Milly's voice is utterly real and believable and despite her being a young girl this is no teenage angst, coming of age story, she has truly had the upbringing from Hell. It's about your past shaping you and the inescapable truth that blood is thicker than water.

When she is good she's very good, but when she's not, is she bad or just very sad?

This is a blow your mind, totally twisty psychological fairground ride, you'll eagerly clamber on and once you get going you'll scream to get off again, but there's no escape from the past, so you'll just have to stay with it right to the tantalizing bitter end.

My advance copy was kindly provided by Netgalley from the publishers Michael Joseph at Penguin to whom I apologize for not reading it sooner but it was well worth the anticipation and wait.

The blurb: taken from Goodreads

SET TO BE ONE OF THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY, CONTROVERSIAL AND EXPLOSIVE DEBUTS OF 2017 - for fans of quality psychological suspense and reading group fiction: once you read this book you'll want to talk about it.

'NEW N A M E .
S H I N Y.
ME . '

Annie's mother is a serial killer.

The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police.

But out of sight is not out of mind.

As her mother's trial looms, the secrets of her past won't let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name - Milly.

A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be.

But Milly's mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water.

Good me, bad me.

She is, after all, her mother's daughter...

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Never Alone - Elizabeth Haynes - creepy and tense

BLOG TOUR - Never Alone - Elizabeth Haynes

I'm thrilled to be part of the blog tour for the hugely anticipated new psychological thriller from Elizabeth Haynes, Author of several highly acclaimed, successful, tense and twisty books including the wonderful Into the Darkest Corner.

I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy from the publisher, Myriad Editions (hint .... you can read the first chapter for FREE on their website) and as my contribution to the blog tour here are my humble thoughts on the book ....

My Review

If you like a book that insinuates its way gently into your psyche until it reaches fever pitch then leaves you screaming with terror, this IS that book, it's a real creeper and begins ever so gently in a tranquil rural location in North Yorkshire.

Sarah is a widow, Mum of 2 grown up kids, a son Louis, from whom she is estranged and a daughter Kitty who she is very close to but has flown the nest. She lives in a fairly remote house with a small cottage annexe, high on a hillside on the North Yorkshire moors. I felt a great affinity for the Northern location especially as Sarah frequently visits Thirsk and Northallerton which are just up the road from where I live, so I really felt at home amidst the pages of this book. When you're on home ground everything seems very authentic, I felt as though Sarah was someone I'd met, perhaps she was having coffee with her best friend Sophie in the local tea rooms and I'd spoken to her? Yes the characters are very human which helps them crawl under your skin and take up residence.

Sarah’s best friend Sophie lives not far away from her and when Aidan, an ex of Sarah’s from college days, turns up needing somewhere to stay, she is happy to rent him her recently re-furbished cottage and is not averse to rekindling an old flame she has kept burning for him over the years.

There are frequent visits from a young bloke called Will, a friend of Sarah’s son and the isolated location I was expecting is belied by the title – She IS never alone, there’s always someone hanging around. But there are mysteries surrounding all the characters, everyone has something to hide and even Sarah’s late husband had his secrets, nobody is quite what they seem, everyone has something they wish to keep hidden.

What begins as a rekindled romance soon escalates into a series of passionate encounters, but is it Sarah who’s obsessed with Aidan or the other way round? He’s hot and sexy and seems to be just what she needs to bring her out of her shell, there are quite a few raunchy moments in this book, maybe someone is no better than they should be, as my Mother used to say?

This is a gripping psychological thriller where the pace builds gradually to a rip roaring climax of exceptional tension and terror, it's violent, its sexy and it's incredibly cunning.

The story is told in 3 tenses, Sarah's story, the main part is written in standard 3rd person narrative, then Aidan's is written in a rather strange form of 1st person where he refers to himself as “you” as if he’s taking about himself to himself and this was a little harder for me to follow. Then there is another thread every now and again and this is an unrevealed narrators thoughts in first person. I twigged instantly, whose voice this was, yet it still made for scary reading. Maybe you won't guess who it is, it's deliberately ambiguous and could be any of half a dozen people in the story.

The book is extremely well written and really gripping and I like to think my ability to interpret all the little clues and predict the outcome, stems from a kinship with the authors unique and fascinating style. If you loved Into the darkest corner as I did, you won't fail to thrill to this one.

Never Alone builds to a terrifying crescendo of violence and terror which had me on the edge of my seat, you won’t want to miss this fantastic read.

The Blurb

From the award-winning and bestselling author of Into the Darkest Corner comes a gripping new psychological thriller 
Sarah Carpenter lives with her two dogs in a farmhouse, high on the North Yorkshire moors. Alone for the first time since her husband died and her children left home, she isn’t exactly lonely but welcomes the arrival of an old friend, Aiden Beck, who needs a place to stay.
Aiden clearly has secrets, but then so does Sarah, and that’s no reason not to respond to his warmth and charm. But something doesn’t feel quite right. As the weather closes in, and snowfall blocks the roads, events take a dramatic turn and suddenly Sarah finds herself in terrible danger, unsure of who she can trust.

Friday, 30 September 2016

To the Bright edge of the World - Eowyn Ivey - Ethereal Alaskan adventure

My Review - To The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey.

I adore Alaskan and Arctic settings for books, perhaps it's because its such a scary and alien environment for me, one I'd never really feel at home in - I'm a sun worshipper from the top of my sun scorched head to the tips of my sandal clad toes.

The late 19th century Alaska of Eowyn Ivey's new novel is mystical and haunting and set in an era when few white men has set food beyond the snow line.

Newly wed couple, army colonel Allen Forrester and his recent bride Sophie are just beginning to emerge from their loved up honeymoon stage when he receives an exciting commission he just can't refuse, to head an expedition along the remote and myterious Wolverine River in Alaska to explore and discover a route that can be used to gain access to this remote and hostile land where previous attempts to communicate with the natives have met with disaster.

Reluctant to be parted, the couple plan for Sophie to accompany her husband at least for part of the journey, this excites her and appeals to her sense of adventure which is unusual for a woman in this time and sets her apart from her peers, she is lucky that she's wedded a man, who despite being older than her has enough foresight to support her in her love of nature and wildlife and desire to go places and see things.

The sudden discovery which is to prevent Sophie embarking on the biggest adventure of her life is not without its compensations - she is pregnant and must wait patiently in their home in army barracks whiling away the days waiting for news of her beloved Allen whilst suffering the bewilderment of being swept up into a bitchy little clique of army wives she has little in common with and no desire to emulate.

The narrative alternates between Sophie's life of enforced waiting and the diaries of her husband. Years later in the present day an old man and a younger one correspond regularly their only common interest the artefacts of this expedition which are Allens diaries, photographs and press clippings which intersperse the pages of the book.

Allen and his companions, Pruitt, the photographer whose brief encounter with his leaders wife sparks in Sophie an interest in the new fangled photography, which is to become an interest she can cling to when life is at its most trying. The hot headed and hasty Sergeant Tillmann makes up the small group and soon they begin to encounter natives and superstition and as their journey progresses the line between pragmatism and myth blurs and the journey becomes fraught and dangerous as well as magical and awe inspiring.

Things happen which can't be explained by a rational mind, but are the men suffering deprivations causing hallucinations or witnessing something other wordly?

The book seems to be a little ponderous at first but I soon began to appreciate that this is part of its charm. It seems gentle and leisurely but there is actually a whole lot going on and diverse dual time storylines entwine.

I loved Sophie and felt huge empathy for her. When tragedy strikes which is to affect Allen and Sophie deeply my heart darned near snapped in two.

The location is larger than life, colder than ice cream and twice as delicious. I adored The Snow child by this author and am delighted to have enjoyed this one just as much, although it's very different the same magic runs between the pages and melted into my heart. Wonderful and captivating from start to finish although I admit to feeling a certain wistfulness at the end its wholly satisfying and I feel very nostalgic about leaving the settings already!.

This is such a deeply immersive novel the dual timelines provide almost a touch of light relief and the details about exploration, expeditions, photography and wildlife watching are never dull but engrossed me and the characters including some native characters completely bewitched me.

I received my copy through the publisher Little Brown and Company via Netgalley and here is the description from there:

From the bestselling author of The Snow Child, a thrilling tale of historical adventure set in the Alaskan wilderness.

In the winter of 1885, Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester sets out with his men on an expedition into the newly acquired territory of Alaska. Their objective: to travel up the ferocious Wolverine River, mapping the interior and gathering information on the region's potentially dangerous native tribes. With a young and newly pregnant wife at home, Forrester is anxious to complete the journey with all possible speed and return to her. But once the crew passes beyond the edge of the known world, there's no telling what awaits them. 

With gorgeous descriptions of the Alaskan wilds and a vivid cast of characters -- including Forrester, his wife Sophie, a mysterious Eyak guide, and a Native American woman who joins the expedition - TO THE BRIGHT EDGE OF THE WORLD is an epic tale of one of America's last frontiers, combining myth, history, romance, and adventure.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Trees - Ali Shaw - weirdly wondrous

My thoughts

It's taken me a while to fully digest this book between finishing reading it and writing down my thoughts. I loved the previous book by Ali Shaw, The Girl with Glass feet which was unique and imaginative, this novel is almost as difficult to categorize as this writer has a fearsomely vivid imagination. The cover too, is mind blowingly gorgeous.

Firstly let me say I thoroughly loved reading The Trees from start to finish, it proved to be a real page turner, imaginative and well written, yet I found it really difficult to accept, imagine and even picture the concept of trees bursting forth overnight and completely destroying the world in a matter of minutes, turning it into a post-apocalyptic wasteland peopled by random survivors. At no point was there any kind of explanation, or people asking how and why? They just accepted it and that's what I also had to do, I had to put aside my preconceptions of even science fiction being based on the possible and just go along for the ride, because I REALLY didn't get the concept.

I'd definitely say that it's much more post-apocalyptic fantasy than sci-fi, even though it reminded me in many ways of The Day of the Triffids, where killer plants take over the world leaving it a mere shadow of the world we know.

OK let’s get to the story. Our main protagonist is Adrien, he's kind of an anti-hero, he lives in English suburbia with his Irish wife Michelle, who has always supported him despite his self-acknowledged failing as a husband. His self esteem is at rock bottom, he is a coward, he is constantly fearful of life, quite frankly the guys a wimp, he hates his career as teacher and is bullied by the older pupils and he likes an easy life, preferring to sit and watch tv and eat takeaway’s rather than actually doing anything.

All that’s about to change, whilst his wife’s away on business and after an evening with a six pack slobbing around on the sofa he goes to bed and wakes to a changed world. Vast trees have burst densely out of the ground, growing to immense proportions instantly and destroyed everything in their path! Houses, buildings, roads are all gone, broken and damaged beyond repair. Adriens home is in pieces and by some miracle he has survived where all around him people have not been so lucky. From the branches of the trees hang belongings and bodies of the not so fortunate.

Oh, I did struggle with this idea! How on earth could so many trees all grow at the same sudden pace so large so quickly?? But they have and Adrien sets off leaving his shattered home with the vague notion of making his way Westwards, towards Michelle.

He soon bumps into another survivor Hannah who at first sees the arrival of the trees as a wonderful gift and her teenage son Seb, more at home in front of a pc screen than outdoors surviving.

They join forces reckoning there’s safety in numbers and despite their many differences manage to rub along quite well. Hannah is heading for her beloved brother a forester who she is sure will have insight on how to cope in a world of trees, the forest being his second home.

Soon the trio are joined by a Japanese girl Hiroko who adopts an orphaned fox cub naming him Yasuo and carrying him around in the hood of her sweatshirt – Oh Yasuo, adorable little creature found his way into my heart and left a fox shaped hole.

The story is so unusual, it’s very gripping and I kept turning page after page. There is a supernatural element with the stick like creatures who emerge from the trees and can only be seen by some,who call them Whisperers, there are the strange animals Kirin and an other-wordly hallucinatory aspect to everything. But the real story is about people, how some people grow and adapt when faced with adversity and others revert to true type and their savage side takes over.

I loved the story telling aspect, I adored Yasuo and the characters are all larger than life and deeply real. Highly recommended especially if you love fantasy, based in the world we know turned to a world we hope never to see.

The Blurb:

There came an elastic aftershock of creaks and groans and then, softly softly, a chinking shower of rubbled cement. Leaves calmed and trunks stood serene. Where, not a minute before, there had been a suburb, there was now only woodland standing amid ruins…

There is no warning. No chance to prepare.

They arrive in the night: thundering up through the ground, transforming streets and towns into shadowy forest. Buildings are destroyed. Broken bodies, still wrapped in tattered bed linen, hang among the twitching leaves.

Adrien Thomas has never been much of a hero. But when he realises that no help is coming, he ventures out into this unrecognisable world. Michelle, his wife, is across the sea in Ireland and he has no way of knowing whether the trees have come for her too. 

Then Adrien meets green-fingered Hannah and her teenage son Seb. Together, they set out to find Hannah’s forester brother, to reunite Adrien with his wife – and to discover just how deep the forest goes.

Their journey will take them to a place of terrible beauty and violence, to the dark heart of nature and the darkness inside themselves

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Wonder - Emma Donoghue - stark and compelling

My thoughts

The Wonder – Emma Donoghue:

Nurse Libby has served under the great Florence Nightingale and experienced all the dreadful horrors that caring for injured soldiers under terrible conditions in the Crimea entailed.

Now working in a boring and unchallenging role as a nurse in a hospital, when she is offered a two week stint working in a family home in Ireland observing a young girl who will not eat and is reputed to have not eaten for 4 months, it seems like a cushy little number by comparison.

Employed to watch over the girl and ascertain whether she is hiding food and eating secretly, or discover if she is truly a wonder, a genuine miracle child. Lib is convinced the girl must be deceiving everyone somehow and feels she’ll uncover the fraud quickly and expects to find a deceitful and cunning child, but soon she grows to like her charge 11 year old Anna who nevertheless is harbouring a secret or two.

She gets to know a newspaper journalist staying in the small Irish town to cover the story and though they clash at first, they discover they both want the same outcome – to protect and help this child. As a protestant she is unable to accept the girls families unshakeable religious fervour and catholic beliefs which border on maniacal to an outsider.

The story is slow and insidious and got under my skin gradually. I really liked Lib and was rooting for her all the way. What I love about this author, is her huge diversity and versatility, she never writes the same kind of book twice and you never know quite what to expect, apart from being pretty certain you’re in for a rare old treat.

Several of her books are historical and I’m certain I’m not the only one who is waiting with bated breath for her to pen another Slammerkin. 

This new novel draws on the same historical research skills and ability to take you to another time and place and make you feel you live there. At first I felt a touch aggrieved that this lacked the bawdy lustiness of Slammerkin and the horrifying tension of Room, until I realised I was enjoying every word just as much as both these past titles and in Anna was a juvenile voice just as compelling as that of young Jack the narrator of Room.

How dreadful it must be to be as accomplished and revered an author as Emma Donoghue – bearing the load of responsibility and anticipation of your loyal readers. Well she has no need to worry, yet again she has created a masterpiece from a stark setting and peopled this world with wonderful characters and left me in awe of her talent and sobbing quietly in the corner.

Masterful and compelling this story bears its feet in historical facts, fasting girls who survived without eating, martyring themselves for the sake of a religion that has done them no favours in their short lives.

The Blurb

In Emma Donoghue's latest masterpiece, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child's life.

Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale's Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels--a tale of two strangers who transform each other's lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Trysting Tree - Linda Gillard - dual time mystery romance

My Review

The Trysting tree – Linda Gillard

The Trysting tree is a very emotional dual time romance combined with an intriguing family mystery which spans 100 years.

Modern day – divorcee Ann moves into her parents old house to care for her ailing, infirm and seemingly uncaring, artist mother Phoebe, and begins to restore the ancient garden with the help of aspiring landscape enthusiast and amateur genealogist Connor. This modern day story explores the difficulty of strained relationships between mother and daughter, and how the past can never really be put behind us. Ann and Connor find an affinity and share similar pasts, and the irascible Phoebes interest is sparked by the story of Connors family history, linked to the womens home and which he is keen to unravel especially since his grandma Ivy died trying to conceal something, there are hints at the nature of the mystery but not at all the heartache and tragedy which we watch unfold.

When an ancient tree is felled and releases a cache of hidden seed packets each holding a hidden secret the past begins to catch up with the present in a series of parallels and coincidences.

Last century - Hester is betrothed to the dull Walter but her interest in nature and gardens ignites an unlikely and forbidden friendship with the gardener at her family home.

I loved the parts of this story set in the past, even more than the present day events. I found Ann a rather difficult character to warm to at first, whereas as soon as Hester was introduced the book livened up and I felt an affinity with this young woman struggling to be what society expects of her yet follow her own instincts too. Her story becomes more poignant with the outbreak of world war one and the painful legacy this dreadful war bequeaths this family. Ann grew on me gradually like a seed germinating in the murky soil of secrets and concealment.

The author has her own unique style which I first discovered in the wonderful Star Gazing, she creates an unlikely heroine of mature years with a pretty ordinary life and a few flaws and weaves a fascinating and gripping story around her. She undoubtedly draws on her own life experiences, I’m not telling tales out of school if I mention the authors own experiences, fighting and winning, then recovering from cancer, which are skilfully woven into the fabric of this book.

This is just one of several dark and deep themes this novel explores, Linda Gillard isn’t frightened to write about difficult subjects with ease and authority, yet a thread of humour and lightness lifts the mood. A lovely read for new and existing fans of Ms Gillard and afficionados of the dual time romance.

It's the perfect balance of light and dark, romance and mystery to enthrall even the most demanding reader and you will need a little supply of tissues tucked up your sleeve when you settle down beneath The Trysting tree.

The Blurb (from Goodreads)

THE TRYSTING TREE - a heartbreaking story of love and loss by Linda Gillard, author of HOUSE OF SILENCE.

A century of secrets...
Four women live in the shadow of the Trysting Tree.
All have something to hide.

A man without a memory walks away from the Somme battlefield, while a young woman grieves beneath the tree that will guard her secret for a hundred years.

Ann de Freitas doesn’t remember what she witnessed when she was five. The truth lies buried in the beech wood, forgotten for forty years. Can love unlock Ann’s heart and mind?

Connor Grenville is restoring the walled garden where his grandmother, Ivy used to play. Before her death, she tried to destroy the family archive. Who was Ivy trying to protect? And why?

When a storm fells the Trysting Tree, revealing a century-old love hidden in its hollow heart, Ann and Connor begin to sift through the past in search of answers. What they discover changes everything.

“The story doesn’t start here. I need to go back. Back to a time when the beech tree still stood, when I didn’t know the truth about my family and Connor didn’t know the truth about his. Right back to a time when the twentieth century was young and the beech still kept its secrets…”

Friday, 16 September 2016

Blog Tour - The Devil's Work - Mark Edwards - chilling

BLOG TOUR and my Review

The Devil’s Work – Mark Edwards

My Review:

Having read and loved books by this author before I was excited to be asked to take part in the blog tour for his latest psychological thriller The Devils Work, not least because it meant I got to read a copy in advance of publication, Yayyy.

If you read to the end of my review you’ll find there’s a chance to win your very own copy of The Devils work, in fact one of 2 copies being kindly provided by the publisher.

The Devils Work reminded me what a very clever writer this guy is: Firstly he blows away my usual personal preference of reading books written by women – he writes from a female perspective intensely believably. Secondly he can write red herrings and twists into a story like nobody’s business, and in this book he ramps up the tension and pace so I was gnawing my nails down to the skin.

This book hooked me in instantly with the main protagonist young Mum Sophie getting her dream job with a major publishing house (Err my dream job, almost any avid readers job, so this is going to hook in a lot of readers) But it turns out to be the stuff nightmares are made of.

To begin with it’s difficult for Sophie juggling home life with a demanding job but it’s what she’s always wanted so she’s prepared to make a few sacrifices, but little does she realise quite how much is at stake.

Firstly things begin to go wrong which put the pressure on her, her husband becomes unwittingly involved in a scandal which threatens his job, the office politics at her new firm are difficult to get to grips with, someone seems to be causing trouble but who and why? We are treated to a series of flashbacks to Sophie’s days at university and as her past is revealed things begin to make sense, then they don’t as we are led along false pathways only to trip unwittingly over a sheer drop at the end into yet another nightmarish scenario.

Is someone deliberately targeting Sophie? Are the dead mice pinned to her front door left there to warn her or aimed at her husband? Is someone following her?

It’s a wonderfully tense read, which builds to manic proportions. Every time you think things can’t get any worse they do. There are scares and surprises galore and there are a couple of real OMG moments where everything is turned on its head and you have to re-think everything you thought you’d worked out.

Terrifically entertaining and immensely terrifying The Devils work is a thriller you don’t want to miss by talented author Mark Edwards.


Don’t miss your chance to sup with the Devil and WIN a lovely brand new paperback copy of this tantalising new book.

To be in with a chance to win just add a reply to this post, telling me what your dream job would be, there must be a way for me to contact the winner, so please sign in to Blogger, or add your Twitter handle or Google plus id so I can message the 2 lucky winners when the prize is drawn on the 27th September.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Saving Sophie - Sam Carrington - gripping psychological crime thriller

My Review - Saving Sophie – Sam Carrington

When I began reading this psychological crime thriller, I soon realised how cleverly written it is, constructed with so many twists and turns you just can’t put it down and the pace builds brilliantly with the author ending every single chapter on a cliff hanger, so you keep thinking, just one more, then end up galloping through it to a cunning and Eek filled conclusion.

Sophie is the 17 year old daughter of Karen and Mike, one Saturday night she goes out with her usual group of friends and is brought home by the police in the early hours, rolling drunk, incoherent and with no memory of how she even got home. Par for the course for a lot of teens.

That’s a pretty bad situation, but things rapidly deteriorate further. The next day when she tries to remember what happened and piece things together it becomes apparent that her friend Amy never returned home and Sophie may have been the last person to see her, so why can’t she remember a thing?

Sophie’s Mum Karen has agoraphobia which throws its own problems into the mix, her best friend is Amy’s Mum and when a body is discovered which turns out to be Sophie’s pal Karen is unable to leave the house to offer comfort to her friend. She never leaves the house at all, following an incident repeatedly referred rather vaguely to as her “attack” some years earlier, about which the details are pretty sketchy.

Even when you possess irrational phobias yourself it doesn’t automatically make you sympathetic to those of other people. Where I might have had empathy with Karen and sided with her, her continual shaking and quaking, nausea and retching at the thought of going outdoors and rapid breathing into a paper bag just exasperated and annoyed me and I really wanted to give her a good slap, especially when it transpires that the attack which triggered this phobia whilst unpleasant doesn’t seem particularly bad.

In fact that’s a bit of an irritation for me with this book, it’s far too sanitised for a gritty psychological thriller. All sexual content is so glossed over I’m never even sure if any has taken place. The group of 7 or 8 lively youngsters barely seem to swear and have conversations like a group of 40 something Mums at a knitting bee. Personally I’d have liked it to be a little more explicit thus creating a touch more realism. But don't let this put you off, it's a really great read.

The story however is gripping, I found it intriguing enough to overlook this niggle, there are lots of diversionary tactics and curve balls to throw you off the scent and send you happily meandering down a cul de sac into a brick wall !

Essentially, following the discovery of young Amy’s body Karen and the police continue their own efforts to unravel the truth behind what happened to Amy and Karen begins to fear that Sophie too is at risk and is determined to save Sophie. Is this another of her unfounded phobic anxieties? Sophie meanwhile tries to piece together what happened that fateful night and worries that her subconscious may hold clues she isn’t sure she really wants to reveal.

One thing is clear – there is a sadistic and twisted mind at work, and a very real threat. One teenager dead, we don’t know why or at the hands of whom and other people at risk. Tantalisingly electrifying with a good dose of “Noooo don’t do that’s” followed by “Ok so you’ve done it, now let’s see you get out of that one”

I received my copy via Netgalley. It's recently been published and you can buy a copy now.

The Blurb

A teenage girl is missing. Is your daughter involved, or is she next?

Your daughter is in danger. But can you trust her?

When Karen Finch’s seventeen-year-old daughter Sophie arrives home after a night out, drunk and accompanied by police officers, no one is smiling the morning after. But Sophie remembers nothing about how she got into such a state.

Twelve hours later, Sophie’s friend Amy has still not returned home. Then the body of a young woman is found.

Karen is sure that Sophie knows more than she is letting on. But Karen has her own demons to fight. She struggles to go beyond her own door without a panic attack.

As she becomes convinced that Sophie is not only involved but also in danger, Karen must confront her own anxieties to stop whoever killed one young girl moving on to another – Sophie.

Follow the publisher @AvonBooksUK on Twitter to join in the buzz that involves #SavingSophie