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Archive for October, 2019

First Monday Crime is back after the summer break and November is set to be an exciting event with some great authors and there’s bound to be amazing chatter – head along if you can!

Date: Monday 4th November at 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

So who’s appearing I hear you ask … well

The moderator for the evening is Sophie Goodfellow, and the authors taking part are:

Alex North – The Whisper Man

Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son. He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in their sociology department. The Whisper Man was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, and has been optioned for film by the Russo Brothers.

Louise Candlish – Those People

Louise Candlish is the bestselling author of twelve novels. Her thriller Our House was a number one bestseller in paperback, ebook and audiobook and is shortlisted for a 2019 British Book Award – Crime & Thriller Book of the Year. It has been optioned for TV by Death in Paradise producers Red Planet Pictures, and was picked as a Book of the Year 2018 by the Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Real Simple, the Guardian, the Daily Mail, the Sunday Express, Red and Heat. Louise lives in London with her family. 

Abir Mukherjee – Death in the East

Abir Mukherjee is the bestselling author of the Wyndham & Banerjee series of crime novels set in Raj-era India.
His debut, A Rising Man, won the CWA Endeavour Dagger for best historical crime novel of 2017, was shortlisted for the MWA Edgar for best novel, was a Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month, and Waterstones Thriller of the Month. His second novel, A Necessary Evil, won the Wilbur Smith Award for Adventure Writing, was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of 2018, and was featured on ITV as a Zoe Ball Book Club pick. His third novel, Smoke and Ashes, is out now. Abir grew up in Scotland and lives in London with his wife and two sons.

Victoria Selman – Snakes and Ladders

After graduating from Oxford University, Victoria Selman studied Creative Writing at the City Lit and wrote for the Ham & High and Daily Express newspapers. In 2013 she won the Full Stop Short Story Prize, and her first novel, Blood for Blood, was shortlisted for the 2017 Debut Dagger Award. Victoria lives in London with her husband and two sons.

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I am thrilled to welcome another fantastic author to join me today for a chat about books and writing processes, what’s on the horizon and cause some giggles! Today’s author is none other than the lovely Gina Kirkham, the woman behind the Constable Mavis Upton series. Her previous books are Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – The Further Adventures of Constable Mavis Upton, both are available via these Amazon links.


Gina was born during the not-so-swinging 50s to a mum who frequently abandoned her in a pram outside Woolworths and a dad who, after two pints of beer, could play a mean Boogie Woogie on the piano in the front room of their 3-bed semi on the Wirral.

Trundling a bicycle along a leafy path one wintry day, a lifelong passion to be a police officer gave her simultaneously an epiphany and fond memories of her favourite author Enid Blyton and moments of solving mysteries. And thus began an enjoyable and fulfilling career with Merseyside Police. On reaching an age most women lie about, she quickly adapted to retirement by utilising her policing skills to chase after two granddaughters, two dogs and one previously used, but still in excellent condition, husband. Having said goodbye to what had been a huge part of her life, she suddenly had another life-changing epiphany. This time it was to put pen to paper to write a book based on her experiences as a police officer. Mavis Upton was born, ready to star in a humorous and sometimes poignant look at the life, loves and career of an everyday girl who followed a dream and embarked upon a search for the missing piece of her childhood.

Constable Mavis Upton is back in July 2018 in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

The lovely people I meet, either in person at events, LitFest, talks etc., or through social media, has got to be one of my favourites. Being an author has gifted me that opportunity. The reading/blogging/writing communities are not only supportive, they’re great fun too!
I love being able to create and describe characters too, give them a voice, express feelings, sights and smells through words and if a reader gets my sense of humour or suffers a bout of watery eyes at a poignant moment, it makes the many hours of self-doubt worthwhile.
To have someone say they enjoyed my book, that it cheered them up or made them giggle is the icing on the cake.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

Oh gosh, I think it’s got to be when you get a not so good review. You know you will get them, but if you’re not naturally comfortable in putting yourself out there, then it can really knock what little confidence you have. Having said that, reviews can be negative but still constructive so you can learn and develop your writing with help from the readers and reviewers. It’s the ones that are a little mean that sting, like when someone hasn’t enjoyed your book, calls it a ‘turkey’ and tags you on Twitter to let you and the world know how dreadful they thought it was…….
…..I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy a Christmas dinner again (unless we have chicken) without squirming in embarrassment at the memory of that one!

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. I read this in my English Literature class at high school and it made such a huge impression on me. It is such a haunting tale of courage and passionate principles through the eyes of a child. I remember alternating between great sadness and anger that there were people in the world who could actually carry such prejudice in their hearts and act upon it. I think growing up with a mum who taught me to
be inclusive and accepting of everyone, it was such a shock to immerse myself in a story that was educating me to realise that not everyone thought or felt the same way as me.

How do you spend your time when you are not writing?

I am incredibly blessed to have three wonderful grandchildren, Olivia 10 years, Annie 7 years and a new addition this year, Arthur who is just 5 months old. They fill my hours with laughter, fun and silly games, I’m often squished into their Wendy House/teepee/pirate ship with my knees wedged under my chin drinking pretend tea and savouring mud pies. Hubby and I are very keen gardeners too, so we’re often found wandering around garden centres looking bemused whilst clutching money off coupons
and borrowing each other’s glasses to read how much spread a plant (not our waistlines) will have.

Do you have a set routine for writing? Rituals you have to observe? i.e specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

Oooh, definitely a massive mug of tea (or bucket as my hubby calls it) to start. Then my two Westie boys beside me in their Home Bargain fleecy beds, a view of the garden, a sneaky packet of biscuits that I promise myself will last my whole writing session but in truth are normally devoured before I’ve even typed two paragraphs, my Harry Potter notebook hubby bought me and complete silence. I tend to write when my characters speak to me, I get an uncontrollable urge to put their words down and that’s when I have my most productive days. The downside is when Mavis decides to strike up a conversation in my head at 3 am and won’t shut up. I have to get up, find the bucket mug and a packet of Garibaldi’s and write to keep her happy.

What’s on the horizon?

I have been doing a lot of Speaker events for branches of the Women’s Institute over the last eighteen months, which have been great fun. I’m a terrible ‘people watcher’ which is probably quiet disconcerting for those who come under the focus of my gaze, but it’s where I get my inspiration for characters from. These meetings are always full of wonderful ladies with fabulous stories to tell. Cora and Agatha in Blues, Twos and Baby Shoes are based on two WI ladies I met at one of my talks. I really enjoyed developing these two characters who were not police related, so now I’m busy drafting a new idea for a series of mystery books, still with humour but a touch of pathos and quirkiness too.

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be?

I know from experience that life is incredibly fragile and comes with no guarantees. Have dreams, bucket lists and savings, but don’t wait for that rainy day to enjoy them. There are plenty of wonderful days with sunshine to live those dreams now.
Don’t ever find yourself saying ‘I could have….’
When the time comes you want to be able to say ‘I did…’

….. oh, and there can never, ever be too many books in a bookcase! ☺

Can you tell me a little about your latest book? How would you describe it and why should we go read it?

Blues, Twos and Baby Shoes (The Further, Further Adventures of Constable Mavis Upton) is the third in the series of books loosely based on my career as a Police Officer with Merseyside Police. The trilogy follows a ‘thirty something’ single mum of a little girl, who reaches for her dream and joins the police. The stories chart the highs and lows of juggling everyday life, love, career and family with humour and a little sadness.

In Blues, Twos Mavis is pregnant, as is her daughter Ella, and whilst coming to terms with becoming a geriatric mum and a grandmother at the same time, the last thing she needs is problems at work. But a new sexist dinosaur of a Sergeant is more bully than mentor, and a mysterious case involving a blackmailer sending poison pen letters is baffling the police and tearing the community apart.

Can Mavis juggle late life motherhood and her career, maintain a loving relationship with her other half Joe and deal with being a grandmother, all whilst solving the case?

Well, this is Constable Mavis Upton…literally anything is possible!

Gina’s books are a wonderfully hilarious escape from everyday life and came highly recommended to me by some friends, especially the lovely Jill over at Jill’s Book Cafe. I’ve bought copies of the first two books to read before I get reading this new book and I cannot wait to find out what Constable Mavis has been up to!

A huge thank you to Gina for joining me today for a natter and being so open about her writing and her life outside of her books. I do love a wander around a garden centre too, and I’m so pleased that her grandchildren keep her out of mischief with their tea parties!

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When I started this feature all those many moons ago, it was my way of shining a wee spotlight on a book or an author, and I had no idea about the many brilliant books or authors I would discover on this journey. But I am happy to say that the books I’ve bought have been fantastic, the authors who’ve taken part in the Q&As have all been brilliant and I’ve fallen in love with so many new books. I hope that others have found a new book or two to love!

Today’s book in the spotlight was written by a wonderful Irish author who I discovered a wee while ago, having read one of her recent books, I was keen to go back to her earlier books because I loved the way she could weave a tale effortlessly and bewitch me with her words.

  • Title: Betwixt
  • Author: Evie Gaughan
  • Publisher: Self published
  • Publication Date: 25th August 2015

Copy purchased via Amazon.

Description:

An atmospheric short story set in the Irish countryside.

Catherine returns to Hollowbrook Cottage on a cold November night, looking to escape her present life and lose herself in the past. However, her journey crosses the path of a mysterious stranger who will change her life forever.

My Thoughts:

I should admit that I’ve had Betwixt on my Kindle for a wee while now, I kept saying to myself that I would read it soon, but as we all know, the best laid plans and all that … so in an attempt to read more of what I fancy and when I hunted it out on my Kindle the other night and curled up on the sofa.

Although it’s a short story, only 36 pages, there’s a lot of detail and atmosphere packed into this story.
The emotions of the main character Catherine are so strong from the outset, taking readers along with her as she attempts to navigate the foul weather and reach Hollowbrook Cottage and the sanctuary it will provide, but first she has to contend with the owner of the cottage Mrs Donnelly. Mrs Donnelly is an old fashioned, perhaps brusque woman who is curious about the young woman renting her cottage in the winter season, but she’s not one for doing favours for anyone and soon makes it clear that the accommodation is barely adequate due to it being so out of season for rental.

Navigating narrow country lanes in pitch dark and torrential rain would be a challenge for any driver, but Catherine has a lot on her mind. She’s trying to remember exactly where along this unmarked stretch of road Hollowbrook Cottage is in relation to where she is when she happens upon another traveller on the road.

I’ll leave you to discover the plot for yourself, but I will say that I found myself utterly spellbound by this story. The scenes were brought to life with vivid descriptions, I could almost smell the peat that warmed the cottage, I could see the inside of the cottage, it all felt so real. The characters feel so real, their stories written in such a way that they come alive for the reader, even in a short story. I felt that I could understand the emotions of Catherine, make sense in the things she said and heard, absolutely loved one line in particular “Life doesn’t get easier, we get stronger”, so much sense in those seven words, a message from the author perhaps.

If you’re after a captivating tale to curl up with on an autumnal afternoon or evening then this is a book worth checking out. It’s packed with detail, beautifully descriptive and well written.

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Today on Celebrating Indie Publishing I am thrilled to share a mini review of a fun read that my little reader and I shared as a bedtime story this week and really enjoyed.

  • Title: Timothy Mean and the Time Machine
  • Author:William A.E. Ford
  • Publisher: Independently published
  • Publication Date: 17th January 2019

Copy kindly provided by the author for review purposes.

Description:

WINNER OF READERS FAVORITE SCI-FI FANTASY CHILDREN’S BOOK AWARD 2019
With Timothy Mean’s amazing imagination and time machine, anything and anywhere is possible!
Join Timothy on a magical rhyming adventure as he skips through time and pranks with pirates, gets daring with dragons, and even teases a T-Rex!
“It’s Monday. Hip hip hooray! Where shall we travel in time today?”
With Timothy Mean, every day is a rhyme in time!

My Thoughts:

We love a book that has a fun character, adventure and lots of moments for laughter, and so when we stumbled upon Timothy Mean and the Time Machine we couldn’t wait to read it! We enjoyed it so much we bought a paperback copy to add to our book shelf.

Fun illustrations help to bring the story of a bored Timothy alive as he adventures through time to visit different times and landscapes, causing mischief wherever he ends up. The pranks that Timothy plays in each new time gave us a great point for discussion as my daughter told me why she thought that some of his pranks were mean and how they might have affected people.
As well as speaking about the pranks, we also spoke about ideas the book brought on, where would we like to go if we had a time machine, what would we see? What is the moon made of? Where did the dinosaurs go? Were there dinosaurs around when daddy was a boy (he father was not so pleased about this idea), the list goes on and we’ve plans to use a box to make a time machine of our own for adventures.

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  • Title: The Scent of Death
  • Author: Simon Beckett
  • Publisher: Transworld
  • Publication Date: 3rd October 2019

Copy received from publisher and blog tour organiser for review purposes.

Description:

Once a busy hospital, St Jude’s now stands derelict, awaiting demolition.

When a partially mummified corpse is found in the building’s cavernous loft, forensics expert Dr David Hunter is called in to take a look. He can’t say how long the body’s been there, but he is certain it’s that of a young woman. And that she was pregnant.

Then part of the attic floor collapses, revealing another of the hospital’s secrets: a bricked-up chamber with beds inside. And some of them are still occupied.

For Hunter, what began as a straightforward case is about to become a twisted nightmare. And it soon becomes clear that St Jude’s hasn’t claimed its last victim . . .

Chilling, visceral and masterfully paced, Simon Beckett’s new crime thriller will leave you gasping.

My Thoughts:

I absolutely love the Dr David Hunter series, there’s something so addictive about these books and I was thrilled to be offered the chance to read an early copy!

Although the the sixth book of this series, this can be read without having followed Dr Hunter through the previous books and cases. The author has ensured that the connecting story arc is detailed throughout the narrative to keep readers up to speed with what has passed before, without bogging down the longstanding followers with repetitiveness.

The discovery of an almost mummified corpse in an abandoned hospital building is bound to get the attention of the police, and when they bring in Dr David Hunter, you just know that there’s going to be more the case than first meets the eye. His intrepid sixth sense is practically screeching at the possibilities of what might have happened to the deceased when a catastrophic floor collapse unearths more corpses and mysteries, especially when they realise that the room has been bricked up and those people weren’t left there by accident …

As the investigation opens up, Dr Hunter battles to uncover the answers from the bones of those on his examination table, the impact that one set of bones has on him makes this such a moving and poignant read. The introduction of new characters brings much intrigue and it’s always exciting to see them develop throughout the pages, seeing how they interact with the existing cast and watch their actions.

Hunter’s personal life never runs smoothly, and Simon Beckett really puts his character through the wringer, and in turn his readers. This is an addictive and thrilling read that has you holding your breath in anticipation of what will be uncovered next. I gave up trying to guess where the plot was going and just sat back to enjoy the journey, greedily lapping up every twist and turn.

There’s something so wonderful about Beckett’s writing, you don’t realise how much you are learning while you read. I’ve picked up various nuggets of information throughout the series, things that I’ve gone on to research later and have found it really interesting. Don’t you just love a book that offers you the chance to learn while you read?

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Today I am utterly thrilled to share my review of Caroline Logan’s debut novel, the first book in the Four Treasures Series.

  • Title: The Stone of Destiny
  • Authors: Caroline Logan
  • Publisher: Gob Stopper (an imprint of Cranachan Publishing)
  • Publication Date: 1st October 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:
Ailsa doesn’t believe in faerie tales, only the monsters in them. But, with the mark on her face, most people consider her one of them—a changeling.

Her secluded life shifts when she rescues two selkies from bloodthirsty raiders. Now she must act as their guard as they travel to the capital and then, with the help of the Prince of Eilanmòr, journey north to find The Stone of Destiny—the only object protecting them all from the evil faerie queen.

But all her life a malignant creature has stalked her through the forest. Can Ailsa find The Stone of Destiny before something wicked finds her?

My Thoughts:
Before I say anything about the insides of this book, can we take a wee moment to appreciate the loveliness of that cover … it’s stunning! The moment I saw it, I was captivated and wanted to reach out and touch it. Just a hint at the magic and wonders that are contained within the pages of Caroline Logan’s debut novel.

From the moment we meet Ailsa, the reader can see that she is a strong character, one who can fend for herself and isn’t easily put off by hard work. And as you progress through the first pages, there is so much to take in, from the breathtaking beauty of the wild beach and surroundings, the intrigue of the screams Ailsa hears and the moments packed with action that have you on the edge of your seat.
The adventure that Ailsa and the rescued selkies go on makes for a highly entertaining read, a thrilling and addictive one that kept me turning pages long into the evening. I’d started reading The Stone of Destiny, intending to read a chapter or two in the evening, but was curled up on the sofa hours later, lost in the world of Eilanmòr and faerie tale creatures.

Strong and well constructed characters are a key element of this book, from the wonderfully heroic Ailsa, the humorous and quick witted Harris, the cool and calm Iona, each of these creations are superbly detailed, multidimensional, they become real as you read more about them and spend time in their company.
The vivid descriptions are not limited to the characters, the landscapes that appear in the book are so clearly described that it’s hard not to envision them, experience the merriment of ceilidhs, the luxury of the foods and the perilous dangers that our intrepid adventurers face.
Faerie tale creatures are always fascinating, and the cast that appear in this book are wonderfully captivating, and as the story unfolds we learn more about them and the folklore associated with them, opening up another thread of spellbinding storytelling from a very promising author.

Although this book is aimed at a Young Adult audience, readers aged 13 plus, it will appeal to readers of all ages. It’s the sort of magical read that carries you off on a wave of excitement and has you desperate to find out what will happen next!

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