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Archive for June, 2017

Coming on 27th September …….

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THE SURROGATE by Louise Jensen

‘You know that feeling? When you want something so badly, you almost feel you’d kill for it?’ 

Be careful what you wish for…

Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents, and are on the point of giving up. Then a chance encounter with Kat’s childhood friend Lisa gives Kat and Nick one last chance to achieve their dream.

But Kat and Lisa’s history hides dark secrets.

And there is more to Lisa than meets the eye.

As dangerous cracks start to appear in Kat’s perfect picture of happily-ever-after, she realises that she must face her fear of the past to save her family…

From the no. 1 bestselling author of The Sister and The Gift, this is an unputdownable psychological thriller which asks how far we will go to create our perfect family.  

 

About the author:

Louise Jensen always wanted to be Enid Blyton when she grew up, and when that didn’t happen she got a ‘proper’ job instead.

Several years ago an accident left Louise with a disability and she began writing once again, to distract her from her pain and compromised mobility. But writing turned out to be more than just a good distraction. Louise loves creating exciting worlds, dark characters, and twisted plots.

Louise lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, sons, a puppy and a rather naughty cat, and also teaches mindfulness.

www.louisejensen.co.uk

https://twitter.com/fab_fiction

https://www.facebook.com/fabricatingfiction/

 

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Welcome along to my Friday post to celebrate Indie Publishing!  Today I am delighted to bring you another book from  Cranachan Publishing and share my review “Nailing Jess” by Triona Scully.


Book Feature:

 

Published: 26 June 2017

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Description:

Welcome to Withering, a small town with a big problem in modern, matriarchal Britain. Here the women wear the trousers, while the men hold the handbags. Literally.

There’s a serial strangler on the loose and the bodies of teenage boys are piling up on maverick D.C.I. Jane Wayne’s patch.

Wayne needs to catch ‘The Withering Wringer’, but it’s not going to be easy. Demoted for her inappropriate behaviour, she must take orders from a man—and not just any man—an ugly one.

Still, at least she can rely on her drug stash from a recent police raid to keep her sane…

Shocking. Funny. Clever. A gender-bending, Agatha-Christie-meets-Chris-Brookmyre, mash-up. Simply genius.

Scully’s debut novel takes classic crime and turns it on its head with a deliciously absurd comic twist.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

When a book is recommended to you as “the most shocking thing you will read all year” you can’t help but wonder and if you’re as inquisitive as I am, then it’s odds on that you will want to put this to the test.

Nailing Jess is definitely different from anything I’ve read before, yes it’s a crime thriller but it’s written from the perspective of a gender reversal.  Where we readers would usually see a male detective leading a team of officers, we see that the top positions are held by females and they call the shots, whilst the males juggle careers, home life and childcare.
I have to admit that it did take me a little time to get my head round this reversal, and there were points at which I found it challenging.  However, I do think that this is a very clever way to have written this novel, challenging the preconceived notions that society holds, and it certainly did give me pause for thought.

The main character in this really is a madcap creation!  DCI Jayne Wayne is a tough, sexist, rude protagonist, and with her habits of drinking and smoking dope whilst on duty it’s little wonder that she is demoted.  Her flagrant disregard of policing policy and behaviour towards colleagues means that she becomes even more entertaining to read about when she is placed on a team headed up by a male officer.  The case they are working on is one of a serial strangler targetting teenage boys, a gruesome and graphic case that’s not for the faint-hearted.

The language used in this book is different from other crime thrillers, the word “suck” being used in place of an expletive beginning with F is just one such example of this.  Whilst some of the language used in this book is of a stronger nature, I do think that it is used to enhance the points being made and was done well.  The dark humour that Triona Scully pours into her work does work well, but it does take a little getting used to.

On the whole, an interesting and challenging read that will have readers thinking.

 

 

You can buy a copy of “Nailing Jess” via:

Amazon

Wordery

The Book Depository

My thanks to Triona Scully for the opportunity to read and review a copy of her book and for taking part in “Celebrating Indie Publishing” on The Quiet Knitter.

 


 

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If you are an independent publisher or author and would like to feature on “Celebrating Indie Publishing” Friday please get in touch – email and twitter links are on the “About Me & Review Policy” page.

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Published: 29 May 2017

 

Description:

Allie Jones loves her cosy cottage café in the picturesque village of Heatherlea. She has her independence, two grown-up children and two cute cats. Life is settled and she thinks she’s happy.

Author Chris Monroe has it all. Critical success, a luxurious London apartment, and the kind of jet-set lifestyle most people dream of. But something’s missing.

When a family bereavement throws these two old friends together, they begin to question the true meaning of happiness.

Love is in the air, but do Allie and Chris have room in their hands-on lives for more than a summer fling?

This is the first of four short stories in The Cosy Cottage Café series.

My Thoughts & Review:

Summer at the Cosy Cottage Cafe was a book I came across by chance and as soon as I started reading it I knew it was fate that had brought this book to me.  It’s utterly divine, from the beautiful cover, the superb writing and the incredibly mouthwatering delights mentioned this is a book that is perfect for the summer (or anytime you want to read it!).

Usually with novellas there is a danger that the story is over before it really has a chance to begin, or too much is squeezed in but here this is not the case.  The plot is well structured and thought out to ensure that enough happens to keep readers entertained but the pace is gentle enough to let readers feel that they can curl up with this story and become utterly lost in it.

Allie is a 40 something woman who has thrown herself into her business following the death of her husband Roger a few years ago, it has taken hard work and determination but she has built a successful business in the village that is now the go to place for events and the choice caterer for many people.  It’s through this connection that she is catering the funeral for the mother of an old friend.  The old friend in question is Chris, a famous author that Allie and her husband Roger were once friends with in their youth.

From the moment Chris is introduced the story becomes even lovelier, Allie determined not to start anything but realising she is attracted to Chris and it would seem he feels the same way about her.  Both characters work well together and are a delight to read about, the gentle humour, the familiar friendship they have all adds to the overall appeal of the story.

A word of caution perhaps, do not read this book when hungry.  There are cakes and pastries mentioned that will have you drooling and desperately ransacking the kitchen in search of cake, and if it’s anything like this house you’ll have to make do with some digestive biscuits instead and that just isn’t the same.

Rachel Griffiths has a wonderful way of bring her characters and story alive, with such rich details about settings and characters it’s not hard to imagine the cramped upstairs of Allie’s cottage, the hilarity of *that* moment in the pub, or indeed the loveliness of the cafe.  I cannot wait to read more of the Cosy Cottage Cafe series, and will be adding Rachel Griffiths to my list of favoured authors.

 

You can buy a copy of Summer at the Cosy Cottage Cafe via Amazon

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Hello and welcome along to my stop on the blog tour for Catch 52, I am delighted to share a character overview with you.

Catch 52 Cover

 

What do you do when your love affair with Europe comes to an undignified end?

On 24th June 2016, Mike McCarthy wakes up to the news that Britain has voted to leave the EU. A committed European, he is shattered. Over the coming weeks and months, he takes a long, hard look at himself, determined to uncover the reasons why this travesty has occurred, scrutinising the faces of everyone he meets for those he believes may have voted in or out.

As he tries to cope with the looming horror of Brexit, Mike fondly recalls his visits to Europe as a young man, the relationships he formed and how these have moulded his pan-European outlook.

Digging too deeply into issues has always been his problem. Mike begins to question the views he holds so dear and discovers new things about those closest to him. As McCarthy staggers on from The Referendum to the unthinkable triggering of Article 50, he finds himself plunged himself into a different world of social comment and political media. As the strategy for Brexit emerges, he wonders where his future lies and questions his commitment to a cause that may yet plunge his and Britain’s hopes and dreams into the abyss.

You can buy a copy of Catch 52 via Amazon here


 

Michael McCarthy – 58 years. Art Teacher. English, from Liverpool. The novel revolves around McCarthy. His experiences, thoughts, lifestyle, relationships and history. He is a committed pro and pan-European; his views established early in life growing up in Britain’s ‘first Multi-Cultural city’ and later as a traveller on the mainland of Europe. His development from a naïve youth in Paris in 1979 to the cosmopolitan, resourceful man in Berlin in 1985 is striking. Although initially devastated by the result of the EU Referendum he picks himself up and moves on without giving up his ideals. He is thrown into a world of media political debate, almost by de-fault, which he is surprisingly good at. He is cosmopolitan and erudite, obviously much influenced by his travels around Europe. The book is an existential journey and explores some of his personal relationships with various men and women who have influenced him and continue to influence his views.

 

Inspiration

McCarthy is an ordinary man in an ordinary job. This was a primary requirement for me as I embarked upon the book. Like millions of other people his life is affected by decisions that in realty we have no control of; decisions and events that often throw everyday, ordinary people into situations that are generally alien to them. I am intrigued and amazed how often this happens: as I write the UK has suffered two terrible terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. ‘Ordinary people’ have been killed and injured, lost loved ones and been caught up in some way in terrible events that will have a bearing on their lives. They are thrown into something they have little or no control of. Many have taken to social media to express their views, some have been interviewed by television, radio and newspapers. We live in a world that just 25 years ago seemed futuristic and fantastical. Yet this is the world we live in today, a model for the ordinary man and woman. The mid-20th Century dreams and statements of people like James Joyce (Here comes everyone) and Andy Warhol (In the future everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame) have largely come true.

McCarthy is at an age that has seen both worlds. Born into post-WW2 austerity Britain yet old enough to remember and be influenced to a degree by the social revolutions of the 1960s and early 70s he is a product of his generation. It’s his generation that came of age during the middle period of the Cold War, witnessed and adapted to social strife, riots, terrorism, political upheaval, post-industrialism, post-modernism and the digital revolution. He has a foot in both camps, the old and the new and like many others of his age exhibits great adaptability. He is the ‘Ordinary Man’ of his generation.

Likes

He doesn’t have any fixed political views, is not a member of a political party yet is very politically aware and  astute. He can see the other person’s point of view without becoming partisan. He has an open, inclusive relationship with his two teenage children (Sam & Georgie) always seeking their views and opinions. I like his commitment to his job as a teacher and his students which nothing seems to deflect from, even his media and political activities. He is extremely adaptable and when thrown into the media limelight takes to it like a fish to water, surprising even himself. He retains a strong, if slightly sarcastic sense of humour especially when the going gets tough. Throughout the novel he has many different relationships with different women and is very comfortable in their company, whatever their role, not chauvinistic, perhaps even gentlemanly at times. He is non-judgemental and in no-way bigoted towards those who differ from him politically and socially, in fact as the book progresses he quickly comes to terms with the fact that the UK will leave the EU, without compromising his ideals.

Dislikes

He tends to cling onto the past, looking back at things through rose-coloured spectacles. He can be too nostalgic at times, again probably a generational trait (he won’t throw away his old leather jacket!)  He has a secretive, maybe deceitful side to him – he has carried on a correspondence with his former French lover Suzanne for 30 years, unknown to his wife Jane. He has never told her details about Berlin and especially Maria-did he get together with Jane on the rebound from Maria? Possibly. He appears to be more open with his 18-year-old daughter than his wife at times. He can look at things and people to deeply, too analytically, too intellectually – his Headteacher, his local MP, Tristram, Jack Nelson, even Guy Simpson. This may well be an anti-establishment, generational feature of his personality-he came of age in the wake of the Counter Culture, of 1970s and 80s rock music, street protests and strikes. When he tells us of the 1985 Liverpool School Children’s Strike he speaks with emotion and nostalgia, completely at one with the kids and their cause, which takes me back to nostalgia-a key theme of the novel and of course, Brexit.

 

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wolves in the dark cover

Description:

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

My Thoughts & Review:

Impressively, this is the 21st book in the Varg Veum series, and indeed 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the series – the sign of an amazing character and author I would say!  And whilst not all of Gunnar Staalesen’s books are not available in English, it is possible to become utterly immersed in this series as you read.  The previous books “We Shall Inherit the Wind” and “Where Roses Never Die” have been published by Orenda Books and are available to buy now.

Varg Veum is a fantastic character that most readers will take to, despite his flaws and obvious dependence on alcohol, readers will connect with him and will find they are quietly cheering him on when things get tough.
The blossoming relationship with his new girlfriend is put under immense pressure when he is arrested for being part of a paedophile ring and for the possession of child pornography.  His reputation is hanging by a very frayed thread and he needs to work out quickly who is setting him up and why.  If I say anything else about the plot I fear that I will give something away (zips mouth shut).

With a plot revolving around a sensitive topic, this could make for difficult reading.  But I do believe that Staalesen has handled it well without becoming overly graphic and certainly includes only what is necessary to enhance the plot.  This is a hard hitting novel that truly encapsulates the very essence of Scandi Noir and I can see why this series and character have been so successful.  There’s an elegance in the writing, the plot is so intricate and clever that it challenges the reader, it’s not the sort of book to half look at whilst cooking the supper that’s for sure (yes I did burn the supper whilst reading this book and no I don’t recommend taking your eyes off the oven, otherwise the toad in the hole will be VERY caramelised).
The skill in bringing Veum to life was astounding, the more I read of this book the more I felt that he was real and found myself enjoying his sense of humour.

A fantastic instalment in the series and I cannot wait for more!!

It’s only right to make mention of Don Bartlett’s translation, again an impeccable job with a seamless translation.

You can buy a copy of “Wolves in the Dark” via:
Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository

 

My heartfelt thanks to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for the opportunity to read an early copy of this and for inviting me to participate in the blog tour.

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DECEIVED

Published: 24 June 2017

 

Description:

How well do you know your loved ones?

A girl struggling to cope with the murders of her mother and five-year-old brother.
A journalist chasing the ghost of a potential serial killer.
A thirteen-year-old girl who slaughtered her parents.
And a revenge-driven psychopath who is about to destroy everyone’s life.

After 9 years, a young writer is still coping with the brutal murders of her mother and five-year-old brother, as she moves into a house of horrors, to start a new life with her lover. Will friends and family be able to redeem Ally out of the impending doom in time? Will her infallible love become the key to the destruction of her already fragile world? Will madness prevail over love; true love over revenge?

Deceived is a gripping psychological thriller that mazes through the deepest, darkest emotions of human mind through the story of a vulnerable girl who treads in the mist of deception bred from a long unforgiven betrayal.

My Thoughts & Review:

“Deceived” was a book that I read a review of and was intrigued, not something I would usually pick up but this book screamed out “read me” and I was only too happy to oblige.

This is a very fast paced thriller that grabs readers from the very beginning, the explanation of the differences between a psychopath and a sociopath makes for very interesting reading and really sets the tone for this book – a book that will get under the skin of the reader.

Without retelling the plot, I will say that the book centres around Allison Stone (Ally), whose mother and younger brother were brutally murdered.  She suffers debilitating nightmares and is slowly working towards recovery from the painful memories of this loss with the help of her friend Sam, his dog Max, and her boyfriend Danny.  The plot then cleverly weaves together narrative from both the past and current time to keep the reader hooked.  The use of journal entries is fantastic, a great insight into the mind of a psychopath.   Running through the plot is also the story of Elizabeth Lawson, a 13 year old girl who murdered her parents in cold blood before running away in 1978.

This was a quick read for me, finding that I wanted to keep reading to find out if my suspicions were correct about the killer.  And I have to admit that I did like the way the ending was written, the author giving the reader something to ponder long after the book has been carefully placed on the bookshelf.  It’s a very impressive debut, and if I’m honest, it didn’t read as a debut.  It was well written, well thought out and very interesting.

My thanks to Emily at Citrus Publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book.

 

 

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Valerie Keogh TOTMS

 

Description:

When Kelly Johnson’s husband disappears, her perfect world in the Foxrock suburb of Dublin falls apart. Then she stumbles on a dead body in the graveyard behind her house.
A coincidence? Garda Sergeant Mike West thinks so until he finds a link between the dead body and Kelly’s missing husband.
And then to add to the problem, Kelly disappears.
The investigation takes West first to Cornwall and then to Cork, on the trail of a tangled case involving identity theft, blackmail and illegal drugs. And as if the complications of the case weren’t enough there is the constant, irritating – and definitely unsuitable – attraction, to the beautiful Kelly, who will keep disappearing!.

My Thoughts & Review:

There’s something about Scottish and Irish crime fiction that I adore, perhaps it calls to my roots being a humble 1/2 and 1/2 lass, or perhaps its the wonderfully rich personalities that inevitably shine through in these books…

“That One May Smile” begins with Kelly Johnson beginning another day, barely surviving after her husband vanished three months ago without any explanation.  Her life has fallen apart, she fails to see that her beautiful home as turned into a midden, that personal hygiene is no longer of importance to and all she wants is her husband Simon home.  Realising she is without her lifeline coffee, she quickly dashes out to the shops and on the way  back home she discovers a dead body in the graveyard behind her home.  Suitably shaken, she phones the Guards to report it who come out to investigate.

Garda Sergeant Mike West is curious about the case, and as a detail driven character he is determined to find out every minor detail that he can to tie things up.  He discovers a link between the dead body and the missing Simon Johnson and quickly realises there is far more to this case that initially thought.  The case would be a whole lot less troublesome if Kelly Johnson stayed put, making discoveries of her own she heads off to search out answers to her own questions.

From the very outset this was a very intriguing read, and I had many questions.  What happened to Simon Johnson, who was the body in the graveyard, what did that clue on the body mean, what was the connection between it all??  Valerie Keogh spins a fantastic tale that twists and turns, keeping her readers guessing at what might happen next.  The characters that have been created are interesting and challenging.  I found that initially I struggled to connect with Kelly Johnson,  but on reflection the situation that she was in was not an easy one and who knows how they would react in those circumstances.  The development that she undertakes throughout the book is well thought out, when revelations are unearthed Kelly is shocked but processes them logically and finds an inner strength to keep going.  Despite Kelly being the main character, I felt that I got to know Mike West better.  The details given about the detective showed a wonderful insight into this character, his torturous past is detailed later on in the story and gives a great understanding of why he is a stickler for detail and directions.  I really want to mention Detective Peter Andrews, one of West’s colleagues.  Whether this character was intended to be funny I do not know, but the quick wit of this character alone makes this book worth reading!

A very well written book with a gripping plot and well paced.  I cannot wait to read the next book in the series “Close Ranks”.

You can buy a copy of “That One May Smile” via Amazon here

 

My thanks to Noelle and Kate at Thick as Thieves Book Publicity and Promo for the opportunity to read and review this book, and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

 

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