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Archive for January, 2019

2019 sees the return of First Monday Crime, the first event taking place on 4th February 2019 at the usual place with a line up that spoils crime fans!

The Important Details
Date: 4th February 2019

Time 6.30pm

Location: College Building, Room A130, City University London

Tickets are free, but you must book so that the organisers can ensure they have enough seats for everyone.

Reserve your seat here

Moderating the evening/making sure the panelists are on their best behaviour is Barry Forshaw.

Barry is one of the UK’s leading experts on crime fiction and film. Barry’s books include American Noir, Nordic Noir, Sex and Film and The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction. Other work includes Death in a Cold Climate, British Gothic Cinema, Euro Noir and the Keating Award-winners Brit Noir and British Crime Writing Encyclopaedia. He writes for various papers and edits Crime Time  (www.crimetime.co.uk).

Will Dean – Red Snow

Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying law at the LSE, and working many varied jobs in London, he settled in rural Sweden with his wife. He built a wooden house in a boggy forest clearing and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes. He is the author of 2018 bestseller Dark Pines, selected for the Zoe Ball Book Club on ITV. Dark Pines was shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize, the Dead Good Readers Awards, the Hearst Big Book Awards, and the National Book Awards.

Christopher Fowler – The Lonely Hour

Christopher Fowler is the multi award-winning author of 45 novels and story collections, and the author of 17 Bryant & May mysteries. His novels include ‘Roofworld’, ‘Spanky’, ‘Psychoville’, ‘Calabash’ and two volumes of memoirs, the award-winning ‘Paperboy’ and ‘Film Freak’. In 2015 he won the CWA Dagger In The Library for his body of work. His latest novel is ‘Bryant & May: The Lonely Hour’.

Gytha Lodge – She Lies in Wait

Gytha Lodge is a writer and multi-award-winning playwright who lives in Cambridge. After studying creative writing at UEA, she was shortlisted for the Yeovil Literary Prize and the Arts’ Council England fiction awards, and developed a large online following for her young adult and children’s writing, with over five million reads accrued on platform Wattpad. She Lies in Wait is her debut novel.

Lucy Foley – The Hunting Party

Lucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages. Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more. She has taken part in literary festivals across the country including Greenwich, Chichester, Isle of Wight and Wilderness Festival.

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** My thanks to the publisher for our copy of this book **

Description:

At the annual Cloud Summit in The Mopery, there s a dastardly plot afoot to snatch the North Star and stop its return to the North Pole. If the plan succeeds then the world will darken and Christmas won’t happen. Accompanied by a snow goose in pink wellies and an award winning super-dog, will Badger and his new friends survive The Bobsleigh Burrow and the Panic Station and manage to rescue the star before the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve? And will Badger really abandon his grumpy cloud friend Nippy Nimbus once and for all, to save Christmas? With so much at stake, the Mystical Mutt needs his haphazard spells to work more than ever.

Our Thoughts:
Although this was the first of the series that we’d read, I think it’s fair to say we will be buying a few more of the books to enjoy!
The writing is exciting and snappy, meaning that younger readers aren’t getting bogged down with too many words while waiting for the next thrilling event in the narrative. We found that part the way through reading we’d pause to speak about the descriptions of things – asking my daughter to tell me what she thought Nippy Nimbus looked like and she would happily grab her pencil case to try drawing her version of the cloud.
Equally, for grown ups reading the book (along with the child, or on their own), there is wit and humour sprinkled in the narrative, but be warned, you may end up having to explain why you’re giggling to a younger one who may not have got the joke.

The adventures and laughter start at the opening pages of this book, and you find that it’s definitely one of those that falls into the category of “one more chapter”, and soon you’re so hooked that you don’t want to put it down! We ended up changing this from a bedtime reading book to an afternoon treat as it was almost too exciting to read before my daughter went to bed! There’s plenty to make you think when reading this, important topics such as friendship, trust and love appear and make a good starting point for conversation or help the intended age range understand a wee bit better.


A really fun book (& series) aimed at ages 5-9, but enjoyable for all readers!

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Celebrating Indie Publishing has a review from a much loved series, and as we’ve reached the third book of the series, I’m now eagerly searching online to see if there is a fourth book due!
We originally reviewed the first book of the Teacup House series in July 2018, and book two in September 2018, so I am thrilled to share our thoughts on book three now!

The Teacup House series is the work of the wonderful Hayley Scott and talented illustrator Pippa Curnick. All three books are available to purchase now from a variety of bookshops and online.


Description:
Open up the Teacup House – and meet four little rabbit heroes with big ideas! Watch out, Twitches – Stevie’s got a furry visitor.

The teacup house is turned upside down when a bouncy puppy comes to stay! Silver and Mama Bo hide in the garden, and meet a creature who needs their help.

Now it’s Twitches to the rescue…

Our Thoughts:

Before we’d finished reading book two of this series I had already ordered a copy of book three. The Twitches were fast becoming a firm favourite with my little bookworm, and she’s regularly asked for a few chapters of these books as a bedtime read, and often the go to books that have to be packed in her backpack when she visits grandparents in case they want to read a book … think it’s safe to say she loves these books!

In this outing, we meet up with Stevie just after the events of the party in The Twitches Bake a Cake, she and new best friend happily playing with the bunny family and their lovely house in the garden, when as you can guess from the book title and cover … a puppy comes along to cause havoc! This caused no end of giggles and gasps of horror as the excitable young pup bounds about the garden, investigating new smells and sights before upturning the Teacup House and the contents.

But in usual Twitch style, there is an adventure to be had, and this time it’s the turn of Mama Bo and young Silver. Although, I’m beginning to notice a trend here, Silver Twitch seems to be getting up to no end of mischief, if there’s an adventure to be on, you can guarantee she’s around or involved – my kind of heroine! Can the Twitches save the day? Will their beautiful home survive the puppy? And will Stevie finally learn that the toys aren’t what they seem?

As always, the writing is just perfection. It’s exciting, descriptive and makes for an incredibly enjoyable read. The illustrations bring the story to life, they are crisp and vivid, and match the writing so wonderfully, there’s’ something so special about being able to see some of the events in the book as you read as well as being able to imagine them.

We absoltely love this series and I cannot wait to see what Hayley writes next!

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** My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to take part in the blog tour **

Description:

A page-turning thriller about secrets and revenge, told from the perspectives of a husband and wife who are the most perfect, and the most dangerous, match for each other.

Rebecca didn’t know love was possible until she met Paul, a man with a past as dark as her own. Their demons drew them together, but twenty years later, the damage and secrets that ignited their love begin to consume their marriage.

When Paul catches the attention of the police after two women go missing, Rebecca discovers his elaborate plot to build a new life without her. And though Rebecca is quickly spiralling out of control, it doesn’t stop her from coming up with her own devastating plan for revenge… they made a promise to each other, afterall.

Til death do us part.

My Thoughts:

Life seems to be perfect for Rebecca; a good job, a husband she loves and a healthy saving account balance … as long as you over look her dipping into the drug samples she’s supposed to be handing out and life unravelling around her.

With narration that switches between different voices and time frames throughout, readers are able to experience events through the eyes of Rebecca, her husband Paul, Paul’s once mistress Sheila and the detectives investigating the disappearance of two women. In doing so, readers get a glimpse into the twisted and dark mindsets of some truly dysfunctional characters. Watching the plot unravel and seeing the events unfold makes for an interesting and often gripping read, it’s the sort of read that you start trying to guess ahead and don’t quite know where it will end up.

As far as plot goes, there’s so much happening in 300 ish pages, almost like a wee whirlwind rampaging and taking you along for the ride. But for me the exploration of drug dependency and relationships was one of the key areas of interest whilst reading. As readers watch Rebecca slowly losing her grasp on reality and questioning things around her, her suspicions and paranoia feel real, and I found that I wanted to find out how much of it was the drugs or whether her suspicions were right, and someone was messing with her.

It’s fair to say that the majority of the characters are flawed, their unreliability leads to a narrative that twists and weaves around, leaving readers wondering what and who they can trust.

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Today I am thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Will Dean’s second book Red Snow which was published on 10th January 2019. Here’s my review from October 2018, when I was lucky enough to get an early copy to review from the publisher.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

The Quiet Knitter

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** My greatest thanks to the publisher and author for my very early review copy of this book **

Description:

Red Snow is the eagerly awaited follow-up to Dark Pines, selected for ITV’s Zoe Ball Book Club

TWO BODIES

One suicide. One cold-blooded murder. Are they connected? And who’s really pulling the strings in the small Swedish town of Gavrik?

TWO COINS

Black Grimberg liquorice coins cover the murdered man’s eyes. The hashtag #Ferryman starts to trend as local people stock up on ammunition.

TWO WEEKS

Tuva Moodyson, deaf reporter at the local paper, has a fortnight to investigate the deaths before she starts her new job in the south. A blizzard moves in. Residents, already terrified, feel increasingly cut-off. Tuva must go deep inside the Grimberg factory to stop the killer before she leaves town for good. But who’s to say the Ferryman will let her go?

My Thoughts:

The much anticipated…

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Today’s Celebrating Indie Publishing features a review of a book that’s not yet published. It’s a book that I was extremely lucky to get an early copy of, and for that I am very grateful to Karen at Orenda Books for this.

Call Me Star Girl is the fifth book from Louise Beech, and it’s the first psychological thriller she’s written. Publication date of the ebook is 18th February 2019 and can be pre ordered now!

Description:

Tonight is the night for secrets…

A taut, emotive and all-consuming psychological thriller, reminiscent of Play Misty for Me … from the critically acclaimed author of Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost…

Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.
Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.
Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …
What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.
Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…
With echoes of the Play Misty for Me, Call Me Star Girl is a taut, emotive and all-consuming psychological thriller that plays on our deepest fears, providing a stark reminder that stirring up dark secrets from the past can be deadly…

My Thoughts:
Everyone has a go to author, one you turn to when you need ‘that’ book, the one that will fill your heart with hope, or have your mind spiralling with the endless what-ifs and for me that author has become Louise Beech.

With a flowing writing style, I can easily be led into the worlds of her books without a second thought. Her vivid descriptions conjure the fictional settings so clearly, the characters are more than just names on pages, they become read. They take on a multidimensional feel, you become connected to them, invested in them….

Call Me Star Girl is Beech’s first foray into the dark world of psychological thrillers and I will admit, I was somewhat hesitant to delve into this. Louise Beech writes beautiful literary fiction, ones filled with human interest, brimming with emotion, characterisation and some of the most powerful writing I’ve had the pleasure of reading. But was I ready for her writing to turn dark? I put my faith in Louise and her writing and followed her into the world of murder and night-time radio.
The plotting of this novel is superb, so taut and clever. No matter how many times I tried to guess ahead or make a connection that wasn’t ready to be made, Louise craftily denied me the knowledge or threw me with some brilliant misdirection.

There’s something addictive about the way this story is told, the flicking between perspectives allows readers to see events from the view of someone else connected to it, and although we may not agree with their actions or mentality, it does give a shred of understanding to why they take the path that they do. Following events through the eyes of Stella and Elizabeth, is a startling look upon reality. The situations of past and present moulding these characters into the women they became.

As well as being a psychological thriller, this is also an exploration of the fragile nature of relationships and vulnerabilities. Delving into the fabric of what makes up the levels of relationships/connections between individuals, readers witness just how far people are willing to go to for another, what sacrifices they are willing to make and what secrets they are able to keep to protect others around them.
Watching the evolution of the relationships in this book, seeing how the power shifted, how things changed, makes for fascinating reading and does have a reader questioning how they might react in those circumstances, something intrinsically vital in Louise’s writing.

Would I recommend Call Me Star Girl? Absolutely! It’s a gripping and thrilling read, one that puts the reader on the edge of their comfort zone and asks for their trust as Louise Beech carefully and expertly leads them into the oft complex and dark world of relationships.

I raise my hat to Louise Beech for another brilliant book and word is that she’s already scribbling furiously on book number six!

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** My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and to Anne at Random Things Tours for my invite to take part in the blog tour **

Description:

From the author of THE UNSEEING comes a sizzling, period novel of folk tales, disappearances and injustice set on the Isle of Skye, sure to appeal to readers of Hannah Kent’s BURIAL RITES or Beth Underdown’s THE WITCH FINDER’S SISTER.

‘A wonderful combination of a thrilling mystery and a perfectly depicted period piece’ Sunday Mirror

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857 and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.

Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.

Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before.

My Thoughts:

I love folklore and tales, I love historic fiction and I absolutely love Scottish settings so this book just screamed “read me!” when I found out about it.

Mazzola is adept at spinning a tale that is so wonderfully rich in characters, detail and atmosphere, if you’ve not read any of her books before, I would implore you to do so, they are exceptional!

The use of folklore and island history make for an intriguing thread to the plot, and without a doubt the attitudes and beliefs of those who grew up hearing these tales make for mysterious and exciting reading. But unfortunately for Audrey, gaining the trust of the people on the Isle of Skye proves harder than she might have imagined. Even with her position of collecting the tales, songs and myths on behalf of Miss Buchanan, she still struggles to find acceptance of the local community, relying on good words from servants and suchlike to get her into closed gatherings.

Audrey is an interesting character, who I have to admit to being slightly hesitant about initially. Initially she appeared aloof, closed off, and not someone I could really connect with. However as the story develops, Mazzola slowly brings Audrey’s story out into the open, revealing more about her and giving readers an insight into what drives her, what lead her to the Isle of Skye.

Details are an important part in any historical fiction novel and I have to say that the ones in The Story Keeper are carefully and effectively used. Readers get a clear image of the settings used in this book, the damp, the dark, the cold, the arduous journeys … it’s all so evocative and realistic. The dialogue felt natural and befitting for the period, and so when combined with the brilliantly mysterious plot, this book becomes utterly addictive reading.

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