Wednesday, 7 December 2016

See What I have done - Sarah Schmidt - darkly re-imagined

As soon as I saw this title being tweeted about I knew it was one I wanted to read. A clever literary novel based firmly on horrific historical factual events. It cried out "read me"

And Ohh I'm glad I did and now I've read it I can't wait to begin talking about it - so here are my impressions.

It’s taking the literary world by storm, this sinister work of fiction based on the true events around the notorious century serial killer Lizzie Borden. That it's a debut is hard to credit, so accomplished is the writing.

Recent novels have seen fictionalized accounts of Victorian murders gaining popularity. Earlier this year I greatly enjoyed the Unseeing by Anna Mazzola and there are several more literary true crime thrillers I’ve yet to read.

See What I have Done is very much a whodunnit. Even though Lizzie Borden became synonymous with grisly parenticide spawning the schoolyard chant “Lizzie Borden took an axe, she gave her mother 40 whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty one” the axe in question was never found and all the evidence to damn her was circumstantial thus she was acquitted of this heinous crime.

So, knowing this, we enter the Fall River home of Mr and Mrs Borden with some trepidation, just as Lizzie cries out to the housemaid Bridget “Someone has cut Father” (the understatement of the century) and sets in motion the sinister events which play out in the Borden household.

The book is narrated in several unique voices, Lizzie herself tells much of the story, parts are told by her older sister Emma, maid Bridget voices her side of things and a mysterious and violent stranger Benjamin enters the mix to observe from the sidelines and blur the facts.

We dash back and forth in time, looking back into the past to be reminded of how Mrs Borden is actually the girls stepmother, we relive the girls upbringing and we go ahead years after the murder and back again to the hours in the aftermath of this bloodbath and all the time there is an underlying nastiness, a pervading sickness of body and mind that seeps through the very walls of this Victorian American household.

What I found more distasteful than the description of the discovery of 2 dismembered bodies is the vomiting, frequent and plentiful vomiting throughout the book! I don’t think there is one lead character who doesn’t spew their guts up at least once – no wonder the place stinks! I read it with a lingering feeling of nausea from beginning to end! And throughout the book the clock on the mantlepiece ticked, ticked setting the creeping sense of menace.

There is a lingering sense of resentment, between the two sisters a strange love/hate relationship between the 2 young women, their Uncle John is a curiously unpleasant type, in fact there’s not one truly nice person, with perhaps the exception of Bridget who appears the least loathsome character, thoughout the book.

I won’t say too much about the storyline as my trying to recount the tale itself would be pointless, it’s the authors beautiful use of words and the inimical, lyrical style of writing which give this novel its sheer quality, so I will just say "read it and see, for yourself, what she has done".

This book is imaginatively reconstructed and beautifully written, the picture painted and the odours described have left me wiping my hands after putting down the book and I’m sure when I lift it to my nose I can smell lingering rancid mutton broth and the sweet rottenness of over ripe pears.

This is a book that slithers into your consciousness and overtakes your awareness like blood seeping into the floorboards of your mind.

If you love gory, chilling and unnerving storytelling and are a keen logophile you'll thrill at the stomach churning unease and delight at the succinct choice of words in this stunningly told book.

The Blurb

When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden - thirty two years old and still living at home - immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent, and no one is ever convicted of the crime.

Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie's unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid, and a boy hired by Lizzie's uncle to take care of a problem.

This unforgettable debut makes you question the truth behind one of the great unsolved mysteries, as well as exploring power, violence and the harsh realities of being a woman in late nineteenth century America.

Accolades (from Goodreads)

Haunting, gripping and gorgeously written, SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE by Sarah Schmidt is a re-imagining of the unsolved American true crime case of the Lizzie Borden murders, for fans of BURIAL RITES and MAKING A MURDERER.

'Eerie and compelling, Sarah Schmidt breathes such life into the terrible, twisted tale of Lizzie Borden and her family, she makes it impossible to look away' Paula Hawkins

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Blog Tour and review - The Food of Love - Amanda Prowse

Today I welcome to my blog popular author Amanda Prowse with the blog tour for her emotional new book The Food of love.

Today you can read my review of this absorbing and sometimes harrowing look at how a young girls eating disorder shreds a families happiness.


I’m very honoured to be taking part in the blog tour for the release of the very latest title by successful and popular author Amanda Prowse.

Amanda, prolific author of womens fiction which always packs a punch, tackles another very difficult subject in the Food of Love.  Teenagers with mental illness and the impact on the whole family.

Amanda specialises in writing wonderful, gritty fiction about ordinary women coping with adversity and struggling with god-awful situations and in The Food of Love she creates Freya, much loved wife of Lockie, successful food writer, blissful suburban goddess and Mother to 2 lovely teenage girls, Charlotte and Lexi.

I have to admit, I found Freya rather difficult to relate to, she is most definitely a step or two above me, up the social demographic ladder, with quite a privileged lifestyle and sometimes annoyed me quite a bit. But I would never, ever, have wished on her, or anyone, the Pandoras box of ills and evils which are about to emerge and blow her beautiful world apart when it is revealed that her younger child Lexi is Anorexic.

One of the things I have most loved about Amanda’s previous books is that most of the women she has written about could have been me, I instantly connected with something about them, and thought yessss I do that, I think that way. In Freya there was nothing I could feel like this about and I am pretty sure if I met her we wouldn’t get on. So to create a character with whom I have so little empathy and make me feel her pain deep inside my heart, is an exquisite skill few authors can carry off so intricately.

From being called in to her daughters school, where her teacher raises concerns about Lexis well-being, to the discovery that Lexi is completely and utterly obsessed with purging her body of food to the point where she is hiding something very unpleasant beneath her bed, we begin to realize this is no girlish fad, not the blip that Freya continually insists it is, she is in denial but can she accept that she alone cannot solve this medical problem before it’s much too late?

With absolutely no experience of, and very little knowledge of eating disorders, I found Lexi’s struggles very, VERY difficult to comprehend but Freyas anguish, denial and inability to accept that she cannot single-handedly solve this problem alone is well portrayed and utterly distressing to witness.

Her job involves promoting food, making it sound and look tempting and desirable yet her daughter views it as poison and the lengths to which she goes to not eat are way beyond anything I can even comprehend.

The whole book is heart breaking, unsettling and often very upsetting, it’s not an easy read on any level.

We watch Freya determinedly struggling to help Lexi but frequently getting it wrong, she needs to practise tough love instead in her desire to hang on to her daughter’s love she unwittingly aids and abets her in her awful battle to starve. Putting her mentally ill daughter first inevitably takes its toll on her slightly older sibling Charlotte, tackling exams and trying to be supportive to her little sister. A lot of my sympathies lay with Charlotte the one pushed aside by her sisters obsession with food, I worried what effect her constantly being put second would play on her, if either girl had cause to feel neglected, it seems to me it would be the strong supportive and sensible Charlotte. Freyas perfect marriage begins to come apart at the seams like a frayed dishcloth wrung until it disintegrates.

This book is part of the “No Greater Courage” series, of which I have already read and loved a couple of previous titles, they display women pushed to the limits of endurance by everyday events.

I can’t help but be filled with admiration for the authors willingness to tackle disturbing subject matter and her research can’t be faulted, she writes so knowledgeably you’d think she’d gone through this at first hand. Not only would I not know where to start I wouldn’t be able to face the trauma of living this vicariously through a character of my own creation.

If you, like me, know nothing about eating disorders, don’t let this put you off reading this, the detailed research which must have gone into this pays off and by the time you’ve been through the wringer with this family you’ll know more than you ever wanted to about this distasteful and tragic illness.

If you have a teenage daughter and have ever, for one minute, wondered why she never seems to eat much, why she has grown difficult and withdrawn, has taken up exercising all hours of day and night – for goodness sake read this book and while you’re reading it, don’t turn a deaf ear to the possible cry for help which once ignored may be too late to hear!

If you'd like to follow the blog tour its in 2 parts and the participants for part 2 are here

The Blurb

A loving mother. A perfect family. A shock wave that could shatter everything.

Freya Braithwaite knows she is lucky. Nineteen years of marriage to a man who still warms her soul and two beautiful teenage daughters to show for it: confident Charlotte and thoughtful Lexi. Her home is filled with love and laughter.

But when Lexi’s struggles with weight take control of her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart, leaving the whole family with a sense of helplessness that can only be confronted with understanding, unity and, above all, love.

In this compelling and heart-wrenching new work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse, one ordinary family tackles unexpected difficulties and discovers that love can find its way through life’s darkest moments.

It's available now in ebook and the paperback is released on December 1st 2016 

Friday, 25 November 2016

What Alice knew - T A Cotterell - a moral dilemma

My Thoughts

What Alice knew is a debut novel which I would personally describe as a literary moral dilemma thriller.

It puts the reader in a situation we’d hope never to be in, asking what we would do if we were to discover our partner had done something bad, really bad, and once we knew about it we couldn’t UNknow it. How far would we go to protect our loved ones and what sacrifices would we be prepaared to make?

Alice is a very successful portrait artist, beside her rewarding career she has a great life which many would envy she is married to a successful obstetrician helping families, saving babies, a good, solid man. Living in upmarket suburbia with their 2 children they have it all, but one fateful night, husband Ed doesn’t come home and after this aberration nothing is going to be the same again.

Strange things happen, a phone call, some flowers and a confession that shatters Alices carefully polished veneer and knocks her sideways. A name from the past emerges, things are said, decisions are made and a metaphorical sinkhole begins to open under Alice’s feet.

Alice’s wonderful life begins to crumble into this pit and she has some awful resolutions to make, should she stand by her man, how much can she really trust him and what effect is this going to have on their lives?

We soon wonder who can we trust? Lies aplenty, secrets galore and enough twists to curl your hair.

The book is written in first person narrative in Alices voice, a method which usually ensures I become deeply immersed in the character, but I found Alice almost impossible to empathise with, though I could sympathise greatly with her dilemma. Her motives are hard to accept and my opinion of her kept changing but I never felt deeply connected to her.

I find it a little strange, that the whole book hinges around her desire to protect their 2 children, yet they are portrayed as, at best, shadowy characters firmly at the axis of this story yet who remained separate from it. The author had so much scope for developing their personalities and exploring their feelings, but they were so indistinct I can’t even remember their names, the day after finishing the book.

The suspense builds throughout the book and the goalposts keep moving, what we know of as fact at the end of one chapter becomes skewed by the next one and there are some great twists I didn’t see coming.

The story is very thrilling and tense and the narrator, Alice, often a touch unreliable. The ending is rather a punch in the gut and I had to read it twice as it is easy to misinterpret.

A great debut, very enthralling and sure to be talked about as it raises many discussion points and will also be one I’d recommend for reading groups who want some meaty dilemmas to thrash out.

My thanks go to Becky Hunter at Penguin Random House for my exclusive advance bloggers copy.

The Blurb (taken from Goodreads)

Alice has a perfect life – a great job, happy kids, a wonderful husband. Until he goes missing one night; she receives a suspicious phone call; things don’t quite add up.

Alice needs to know what’s going on. But when she uncovers the truth she faces a brutal choice. And how can she be sure it is the truth?

Sometimes it’s better not to know.

Friday, 18 November 2016

My Husband's son - Deborah O'Connor - tantalising and twisty

My thoughts

My husbands son is one of those books where all the way through I was willing the character (Heidi in this case) not to make that decision and pleeease don’t take that action, to no avail.

Heidi and husband Jason aren’t your average couple, but they have more in common than many. They are united by loss, they met through the shared grief of losing a child. Heidi’s daughter was abducted and murdered, even after 6 years this is THE defining event which shapes her life even though she is holding down a demanding job and expending a lot of her energy in supporting Jason through his on-going ordeal, for his son barney was also abducted but he remains missing and Heidi clings to that hope of a better outcome for the man she loves.

The story begins rather enigmatically with a pastiche of someone grabbing a young boy and taking him away against his will. This sets the tone for the book, it’s a horrible subject and if it makes you uncomfortable thinking about what it would be like to lose a child and know that horrible things have or may have been done to them, this may upset you.

But it’s extremely compelling reading, even more so when I realised it’s set in the North East, my own stomping ground, albeit a North East with a tiny bit of artistic license applied. Some places differing slightly from my detailed knowledge, didn’t spoil it and make it all the more easy to relate to the characters.

Heidi has spent years staring at photos of her husband’s son Barney, and when she spots a young lad exactly the age Barney would now be, then sees Jason’s eyes and expression she knows she’s found his missing son. She’s determined to re-unite them but when she shows the boy to Jason he is equally as certain that this isn’t his son. You’d recognise your own flesh and blood wouldn’t you?

But Heidi’s conviction isn’t quashed by his denial in fact she becomes even more determined to find out if this is in fact Barney grown a little older. But as she begins to carry out her own investigations she makes matters go from bad to worse, she gets herself in some terrible pickles, jeopardises her job, her own safety, her very sanity ... or is that where the problem has lain all along? Is she crazy, has grief unhinged her?

She gets herself into some such terrible scrapes, at one point when she was around the back of a building in a grubby back alley trying to gain access and see inside a property and falls off a bin I rolled around with gleeful horror.

Heidi is a wonderful, slightly unhinged, flaky yet resolute character, I loved her. She wears spindly spiky designer high heels all the time to give herself height and presence, yet they are so impractical and often cost her dearly.

She is like a terrier with a rat in its teeth and just won’t let go of what she thinks is right. Just when you think she's beginning to see sense, she spins off again on a self destruct mission, leaving me gasping and shouting Nooooo, DON'T (but did she listen? Nope, off she goes)

Whether she is right or wrong becomes almost of secondary importance compared with just how far she will actually go to follow her self imposed mission.

And the ending  ..... it’s suitably tantalising, twisty and ambiguous enough to make a shudder run down my spine!

An extremely competent and convoluted psychological chiller to satisfy even the most warped mind.

I apologise to the kind folks at Netgalley and the publisher Bonnier publishing who provided this book which I didn't read in time for the launch.

The Blurb

You'd always recognise your own son. Wouldn't you?

A captivating psychological thriller with a devastating twist, perfect for fans of Apple Tree Yard and Gone Girl 

Heidi and Jason aren't like other couples. Six years ago, Heidi's daughter was murdered. A year later, Jason's son Barney disappeared. Their shared loss brought them together. By chance, Heidi meets a boy she's certain is Barney. But Jason is equally convinced it's not him. Is Heidi mad? Or is Jason hiding something? And can their fragile marriage survive Heidi's newfound quest for the truth . . .

An Almond for a Parrot - Wray Delaney - a Bawdy romp

My thoughts

I fell in love with the wonderful intriguing title and description of this book, I love a quirky historical novel, I adore a feisty female protagonist who is ahead of her time, I don’t even mind lots of sex scenes in the right context. When I discovered the Wray Delaney is no less than the adult nom de plume of wonderful author Sally Gardner whose books for younger readers have already entranced me I wanted it even more. Oh and the cover - isn't it striking!

Then I began to read reviews which compared it to my favourite book of all time “The Crimson Petal and the White” and then liken it to the historical works of Sarah Waters, to say I was excited is an understatement, I nearly wet myself when my request for an advance copy was approved! I just had to start reading it straight away.

Perhaps the hype was a little too much. Maybe I was setting my expectations too high? Because sadly this just wasn’t to my taste as much as I really wanted it to be.

Rather than comparing it to my favourite books mentioned above, I would liken it more to a blend of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, the Night circus and Moll Flanders (none of which I liked much) with a touch of 6th sense. It has a lot of magical, mystical happenings which are never really explained and made it all the harder for me to accept. I'm a bit too pragmatic to like magic and fantasy.

It begins in 18th century London where young Tully Truegood, a Dickensian name if ever I heard one, is taken at a tender age by her wicked and drunken father to a place where she is married to a man she has never met. Then her drunken sot of a Father, who teats her like a slave, re-marries and brings into Tullys life a colourful step mother who actually seems to care for her and two step sisters who extend slightly more than the hand of friendship to young Tully and thus begins her education.

But good things never last and her Fathers bride, Queenie disappears to set up a house of ill repute known for some obscure reason as The Fairy House. Tully, at first abandoned, soon ends up there and is trained to become a courtesan, not that she needs much encouraging, she is born to this life as she is obsessed with satisfying the flesh, her greatest talents are fornication and floating!

The book is written in the very tongue in cheek vernacular of the day and although I agree it sets the scene it began to grate on me. There are only so many references to throbbing roots, tight little ladies purses and moist mounds of Venus one can take, and this book repeats and repeats these terms ad infinitum (which did not sit well with me at all). For me this makes everything lewder and cruder and less easy to become immersed in. Although the actual sex scenes aren’t that graphic, they are just frequent, lengthy and rather gratuitous.

Our feisty little tart with a heart, is not only a profligate whore obsessed with satisfying her curiosity about sex but she can see dead people, in fact she can conjure them up at will, Oh and not just people but the ghosts of pets too. Let me see, what else can this enterprising young woman do – she can float!

When she’s not levitating around the room, she is romping around naked with a variety of willing partners, and soon she falls in love. But her unknown husband of her childhood re-appears on the scene and she soon finds herself languishing in Newgate Prison awaiting trial for murder.

The story then begins to weave back and forth in time to reveal the whys and wherefores of how this situation came about.

A lot of readers have commented how engaging Tully is and I think that’s where everything fell a bit flat I didn’t warm to her, I didn’t find her very empathetic and the storyline is so improbable, it just wasn’t quite earthy and gritty enough too ethereal and frilly and, Oh my sir, where are you going to put that big thing! (this is not a quote just an impression)

If you love magical, inexplicable events and a story that’s lusty, quirky and rather different you’ll most likely adore this. It's a tale of sexual enlightenment and fantasy, a coming of age with more coming than age.

I fall back on the old adage “It’s not you – It’s me”. If it’s to your taste, you'll enjoy this novel, in fact thousands of readers are going to adore it. But it left me with a slight sense of disappointment and unrequited desire for a meatier, epic historical tale when I would sum it up as, a Bawdy romp with fantasy and magic.

It's available now in Hardcover and for your kindle.

My thanks go to the publisher Harlequin UK for providing my copy via Netgalley.

The Blurb

I would like to make myself the heroine of this story and my character to be noble – an innocent victim led astray. But alas sir, I would be lying…

Tully Truegood: Orphan, Magician’s apprentice, Whore. In prison, accused of murder, Tully begins to write her life story. A story that takes her from a young daughter-skivvy in the back streets of 18th Century London to her stepmother Queenie’s Fairy House – a place where decadent excess is a must…

Trained by Queenie to become a courtesan, and by Mr Crease – a magician who sees that Tully holds similar special powers to his own – together they make Tully the talk of the town.

But as Tully goes on a journey of sexual awakening, she falls in love with one of her clients and the pleasure soon turns to pain. Especially when the estranged husband she was forced to marry by her father suddenly seeks her out. Now Tully is awaiting her trial for murder, for which she expects to hang…and her only chance of survival is to get her story to the one person who might be able to help her.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Invisible - Barbara Copperthwaite - a Killer of a thriller

Invisible – Barbara Copperthwaite:

As I review quite a few advance reading copies of new books from Publishers it’s not that often that I feel able to choose a book from my TBR pile purely because I really fancy reading it. But very recently I did just that purely because I just couldn’t wait any longer to get stuck in to Invisible by the wonderful writing talent which is Barbara Copperthwaite.

You may be familiar with the scenario – you have an ever increasing pile of review copies waiting to be read, all clamouring for attention and despite the urgency of some nearing publication date, a few blog tours lurking just over the horizon, you still can’t decide which one to read next.

You open your kindle and riffle through the unread books and suddenly a title catches your eye that you bought a while ago because you couldn’t resist its allure and still you haven’t made time to read it. So you open it, just to read the first page or two to remind yourself what it’s about …. And 50 pages later you’re absolutely hooked and those other books – well they can just sit back and wait!

In fact it didn’t take 50 pages for me to be hooked it was almost immediate.

My review …..

Invisible took me where I hoped “The Widow” by Fiona Barton was going to take me and much further, it immersed me more fully inside the head of a woman whose husband is accused of a terrible crime.

The whole book is written in the format of a diary to whom the main protagonist confesses her innermost thoughts and fears and its clear from the onset that there’s something a little amiss with her relationship with her husband Daryl, a hunky great bear of a man, but she loves him, she always has and even if he sometimes treats her a little domineeringly, behaves crushingly, is jealous of her friendships –  she accepts that it’s all because he loves her and she wants to make an effort to get things back on track, it seems to be working, they’re closer than ever – aren’t they?

They enjoy a nice holiday abroad together, and if one night rather too much alcohol is consumed and they have a little falling out, well that nearly always happens on holiday, right?

But overall things ARE better, he even agrees the time is right to start a family together. She is happy (nearly all of the time!)

Until one night her (your, my) worst imaginable nightmare comes true. Armed police appear in the couples bedroom, he is arrested and she spends the worst night of her life locked in a grim police cell.


Can you imagine? She loves this man, he’s a big gentle teddy bear, he couldn’t possibly have done the dreadful things he’s being accused of (despite some of her friends finding him scary, freaky, threatening)

But this is only the start of how bad things can get.

Her life in tatters, she makes it her raison d’etre to help prove his innocence, to support him and she waits, for the day everyone will realise he couldn’t have done what he stands accused of, she KNOWS this, she was with him, she is his alibi, she will be vindicated.

Oh dear me!

I worry a bit about this author – she gets right inside the mind of a serial killer like no other author I have even known, how does she DO this so well?

I adored her novel Flowers for the dead, in fact I couldn’t STOP tweeting about it, praising it, loving it. So this one, written earlier than that couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations – Don’t be silly, of course it could! It BLEW MY SOCKS RIGHT OFF. Look at my freezing cold toes.

This is a KILLER of a thriller. It’s shocking, its dark, it’s so scary it made me feel sick (in the best possible way of course) and it’s utterly believable.

Read it, but preferably not when your husbands off working nights, or I guarantee you’ll be quizzing him about work just that little bit more than usual when he gets in.

At time of writing this book is available for your kindle at the scarily silly price of just 99p.

What are you waiting for?

Sunday, 6 November 2016

The Witchfinders Sister - Beth Underdown

My Review

I love a good meaty literary historical novel with a strong female protagonist and the Witchfinders sister ticks every box for me. It is a stunning and highly accomplished literary debut, a most wonderful atmospheric read which will stay with me long after I close the pages.

We meet Alice Hopkins in 1645 when she is returning home to stay with her younger brother, after she has been suddenly and tragically widowed. Relationships with her brother have been somewhat strained since she left home to marry for love, beneath the status expected of her, a marriage to the adopted son of a former servant of her family.

The book made me really think about how limited the choices were for women several centuries ago when without a man to protect them they would be reviled and penniless. Thank goodness I was born in the present day, for all my passion for history and reading about the past, time travel through books like this is the closest I want to be to ever being in as helpless a situation as Alice finds herself.

Alice is desperate to avoid becoming completely homeless, she is carrying her late husbands child, a final reminder of the love they shared, but it’s difficult for her to even tell her sibling as she finds her shy and diffident younger brother Matthew greatly changed, both in the company he keeps and the secretiveness of his business and his manner and attitude towards her (and other women). She must do all she can to placate him and smooth things over between them just to keep a roof over her head.

Like when they were both children, he still keeps a journal but now he doesn’t record childish hopes and dreams and he no longer wants a big sister to protect the scarred and fearful child he once was. The man he has become is writing things about the neighbourhood women, recording their details and blaming them for ills which have befallen menfolk. The quiet clergyman is no more and a vengeful and obsessive Matthew expects his dutiful sister to support him in his quest.

Alice befriends Grace, a maid in the household and tries to keep her head down whilst Matthew pursues his ever widening witch hunt from which no woman seems to be immune. Her unease turns to dismay when she finds even her own mother in law is on Matthews radar.

Alice is a fabulous character, with whom I had huge empathy, yet at times I almost began to dislike her, until I made myself wear her shoes, think like her and realise, that some of her choices, although difficult to understand weren’t even options, much of the time she was stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.

This is a novel with its feet firmly embedded in factual events. The story of the notorious witchfinder general is haunting and harrowing and completely unputdownable. 

The viewpoint of watching this horror unfold from the point of view of a helpless bystander, herself at risk from the man who is grown from her beloved little brother is jaw dropping.

My heart ached for Alice and the dilemma she finds herself in and there is a bone juddering, brilliant line right at the end of the book that made my blood run ice cold!

Don't let the subject matter fool you into thinking this is a ya fantasy type book about witches, its much more authentic and compelling than this and is a superb book about the persecution of women and their place (or lack of it) in 17th century Britain and a man who became corrupt and fanatical.

This book isn't due out until March 2017 and I think it's going to be one to watch and wait with bated breath for. Pencil it in your diary for next year.

The Blurb:

'Do you believe in the devil? Not so long ago I too would have scoffed. Now - now I am not so sure.'

1645. Alice Hopkins returns in disgrace, husbandless and pregnant, to her brother Matthew's house in the small Essex town of Manningtree.

When she left, Matthew was an awkward boy, bullied for the scars that disfigure his face. But the brother Alice has come back to is like a different person. Now Matthew has powerful friends, and mysterious business that keeps him out late into the night. Then the rumours begin: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which Matthew is gathering women's names.

Just how far will Matthew's obsession drive him? And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

My Sisters bones - Nuala Ellwood - full of nightmares

My thoughts

Two sisters, brought up by an alcoholic father and an abused Mother, hardly surprising one of them should turn to drink, Sally the younger one, the one who appeased her fathers’ drunken rages, has become alienated from her daughter and is pushing her husband Paul away and drowning her sorrows in a wine bottle and a haze of blurred reality.

Not so her sister Kate, clever Kate, successful Kate, she has a successful career as a war correspondent writing for a leading National newspaper. She is resilient and she has escaped her past – or has she?

Following the death of their Mother, Kate has to come back home, to the small seaside town of her upbringing where she is forced to confront a family tragedy which shaped all their lives and still haunts her. Kate is haunted not only by her distant past but by more recent events in war torn Syria where death surrounded her.

When she is awakened night after night by childrens’ cries, she’s sure what she hears is real, but her grasp on reality is slipping could she be plagued by nightmares or is it all caused by PTSD aftermath of the traumas of war? One thing is for sure – we have an unreliable narrator, the book begins with a death – but whose and how?

We are treated to a series of interviews between Kate and a Psychotherapist to whom she is speaking reluctantly. Reeling from a broken relationship, numbed by bereavement and confused by recent events, as we watch her life spiral out of control it’s hard to know what is fact, what is imagined and what are fractured memories of past events.

Terrifically well written it deals with many dark subjects, in fact there’s not much lightness anywhere in the story, it in turn horrified and shook me to the core, yet enthralled me and I could not stop reading, so desperate was I to know what happens. Is there a little boy who needs help? What is the mystery surrounding the woman next door? Is Kate going crazy or are more sinister forces at play? Just who can be trusted - can anyone?

By the time the harrowing and unforeseen (for me) conclusion arrived I was wrung out emotionally and shaken to the core. This is one emotional roller coaster written with great panache and plenty of cunning revelations to make the reader shudder.

In places this reminded me of “Who are you” by Elizabeth Forbes, both dealing with different aspects of post war zone traumatic stress.

My thanks go to Annie Hollands at Penguin Random House for sending me an advance copy to review.

The paperback is to be released in January 2016 but you don’t have to wait until then to read it as you can obtain an advance ebook copy for your kindle right now.

The Blurb (from Goodreads)

Kate Rafter is a high-flying war reporter. She's the strong one. The one who escaped their father. Her younger sister Sally didn't. Instead, she drinks.

But when their mother dies, Kate is forced to return home. And on her first night she is woken by a terrifying scream.

At first Kate tells herself it's just a nightmare. But then she hears it again. And this time she knows she's not imagining it.

What secret is lurking in the old family home?
And is she strong enough to uncover it...and make it out alive? 

'A gripping rollercoaster ride of a thriller. Intense and harrowing, with a quite unstoppable, thrilling momentum that keeps you in there right to the last page' Christobel Kent, author of The Loving Husband

'A dark, intense, multi-layered thriller that twists and turns until the last page' Tammy Cohen

'A stunning book. I was drawn in by Nuala Ellwood's hypnotic, haunting and elegant prose. Compelling, unsettling and powerful this is a book that will stay with me for a long time.' C. L. Taylor

'With an elegant and deft touch Nuala Ellwood has created a tale that is gripping, engrossing and surprising at every turn. I loved it' Rowan Coleman

'An accomplished and page-turning thriller. It twists and turns in so many directions it's impossible to guess where it's going next' Nicholas Searle, author of The Good Liar

'Loved I Let You Go and Behind Closed Doors? My Sister's Bones is guaranteed to be this year's most twisty and twisted read - you'll never see what's coming!' Ava Marsh, author of Untouchable

'Ellwood's protagonist Kate is a female hero in the best sense, flawed but brave. Very quickly you are sucked into her fragile, damaged world, and no longer know what is real or imaginary' Helen Callaghan, author of Dear Amy

'Gripping and beautifully written, My Sister's Bones is a tense, atmospheric, deliciously dark story' Amanda Jennings, author of In Her Wake

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.