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Hello and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Maxine Morrey’s Best Little Christmas Shop!  I am so excited to be able to share an extract from the book and there’s a fab competition to win some goodies and a signed book too!

TBLC - Cover

Description:

Come home for Christmas to the Best Little Christmas Shop – the snowiest, cosiest place you can be!

Home for the holidays…

Icing gingerbread men, arranging handmade toys and making up countless Christmas wreaths in her family’s cosy little Christmas shop isn’t usually globe-trotter Lexi’s idea of fun. But it’s all that’s keeping her mind off romance. And, with a broken engagement under her belt, she’s planning to stay well clear of that for the foreseeable future…until gorgeous single dad Cal Martin walks through the door!

Christmas takes on a whole new meaning as Lexi begins to see it through Cal’s adorable five-year-old son’s eyes. But, finding herself getting dangerously close to the mistletoe with Cal, Lexi knows she needs to back off. She’s sworn off love, and little George needs a stability she can’t provide. One day she’ll decide whether to settle down again – just not yet.

But the best little Christmas shop in this sleepy, snow-covered village has another surprise in store…

You can buy a copy of The Best Little Christmas Shop now via Amazon UK


Extract:

The Four Seasons had started life as a quirky little gift shop many years ago – opened by my newlywed parents. It had a USP before that was even a thing in that it followed the seasons. In summer, it was stuffed to the roof with bunting, picnic blankets and baskets, tiki lamps, parasols and everything else you could think of, and plenty you hadn’t, for a perfect summer’s day.

But now, in the grips of winter, it was overflowing with Christmas-related goodies and a warm, cosy ambiance. This was enhanced by a massive tree that had only just fit in the door and was topped off with classy but festive instrumental music playing softly in the background.

Much of the stock was locally made, some by my family, others by friends, and the rest sourced from artisans both here and abroad. My parents had always loved discovering and nurturing new talent, although since Dad’s heart scare a couple of years ago they’d stepped back a little and my brothers now took it in turns to do the travelling for this side of the business, cramming it in around everything else including their families.

From a little shop in the village, over the last forty years, the business had grown into a very successful online one too and my brothers still had more plans for it.

The shop was part of my childhood, part of the fabric of my life. I’d actually taken my first steps in it, and growing up, I’d help choose new stock for the next season. Talking shop was never banned at our dinner table. It was positively encouraged. My brothers and I had been chief toy testers for many years and now my nieces and nephews had taken over that mantle.

Even though my own career had taken me out of the country for over half the year, my family had always made sure I was still included as much as I had the time for. Mum would email me a few pictures, or send me some product samples, asking what I thought. Depending on my mood, and how far away from home I was at the time, it was sometimes a bittersweet experience. I loved that they made a point of keeping me involved in any way they and I could manage, but I knew that had I been closer, I’d have been sat around the big, timeworn pine table discussing that same product with my family in person. Laughing, teasing, talking. And the truth was, I’d never stopped missing that.

Running a business was hard work but the shop had grown along with our family and, as such, it was almost another family member. Even when it took nearly every minute of our time, we loved it. And, much to my surprise, I now found myself sat back behind the project desk next to the till and experiencing exactly what Matt had meant about orders having shot up.

I put aside a completed wreath, gave a glance around my currently quiet surroundings, smiling at the warm fuzzies it set off somewhere deep in my soul, and began work on the next one.

Winding mistletoe around the main structure, I held it up, eyeballing it and sussing where the holly would go. The process was remarkably soothing and although I’d been doing much the same thing for the past week, in between serving customers, I’d felt some of the tension I’d been carrying around for a long time very slowly begin to ebb out of me.

Creating was good for the soul my parents had always said, and although I’d been taught some basic skills, I’d always been more interested in tinkering with the old Jag Dad had in the garage below my room. It was one of those projects he always meant to get around to but never had, and then his heart attack had happened. It had been a huge scare for all of us. Dad had always seemed full of life and indestructible – big and broad like my brothers – but his heart attack had brought us down to earth and now we all fussed him probably a little too much for his liking.

But, thank goodness, he’d been sensible and my parents took the opportunity to step back a little, leaving much of the day-to-day running to Dan and the others. And leaving the Jag to me. But it was still sat in much the same condition as when he’d given it to me. I just never seemed to get the time to do anything on it. During the times that I did get to visit home, I wanted to be with my family and friends, catching up on everything I’d missed, not stuck out on my own in a chilly garage. As much as I loved cars, and that Jag particularly, I loved my family more.

Who knows? Maybe now that the career I’d worked so hard to build was swirling around the plughole, I might finally have the time to do something on it. Not exactly the way I’d planned things to go but still. Although I loved the shop and had worked in here since I could remember, possibly as more of a hindrance than help in my early years, I never thought for a moment that I’d be sat back here in my thirties. A sharp jab in my thumb from a particularly robust holly leaf brought me painfully out of my reverie.

‘Oh f –’ I glared at the leaf now firmly attached to my digit. And then I looked over it and directly into the wide, soft grey eyes of a little boy around five years old who was regarding me curiously. Behind him stood a pair of long, indigo-denim-clad legs. My gaze followed them up and I found myself on the end of an intense stare from a similar pair of eyes.

But these were a much stormier grey, set in the ridiculously good-looking face of a man I assumed to be the boy’s father. I cleared my throat and swallowed my words, making a mental note to get one of my brothers to fix a bell to the back of the door as soon as possible.

‘I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you come in.’

The man quirked a dark brow almost imperceptibly. ‘Evidently.’ His expression was firmly set to unamused. I gave him a fixed smile and looked back to my desk, hoping he’d leave to go and practise his ninja shopping skills elsewhere. The young boy’s eyes were focused on my hands as I picked up the holly again, a little more carefully this time.

‘Come on, George, let’s –’

‘What are you doing?’ George asked, seemingly not hearing his father and sitting the teddy he’d been holding on the table at the end of my supplies so that he could observe too.

I smiled at them both, almost expecting the father to repeat his request to leave but he remained silent, evidently happy to let George’s curiosity be fulfilled and probably aware that the glare he’d given me moments earlier was enough to stop me even thinking about swearing again for the rest of my life. Well, at least until they left anyway.

‘I’m making Christmas wreaths for people to hang on their doors.’

His eyes widened as his fingers reached out and touched the mistletoe. ‘It’s real?’

‘It is. Mind the holly though. That can be a bit spiky.’ I risked a glance up through my lashes and met his father’s eyes, a glimmer of a smirk on a mouth that some might call tempting. I’d probably call it that too but I already had way too much to worry about.

‘We had one like that last year but it was plastic.’

‘Some of those can be very nice too.’ I smiled.

‘Not as nice as yours,’ George said, moving to peer around me at the others he had now noticed hanging behind, ready for shipping out later.

‘Thank you.’

George came around the front of my desk again and watched for a moment as I continued to work. His father had taken a couple of steps away and was now looking at the rows of chutney, fudge, and other delicious temptations on the shelves to my right.

‘I do like your bear,’ I said to George. ‘Does he have a name?’

‘He’s just called Bear.’

‘That sounds like the perfect name to me.’ I gently took Bear’s paw and shook it. ‘It’s very nice to meet you, Bear.’

George giggled. ‘I’m George.’

I shook his hand in the same way. ‘My name’s Lexi. It’s very nice to meet you too.’

George smiled. ‘This is my daddy.’

‘Hello, Daddy … I mean …’

Oh God, that sounded so weird!


 

Giveaway time!

For your chance to win the goodies in the picture below just click on this link
Please note this is for a Rafflecopter giveaway and is open to UK entries only.

TBLC - Giveaway Prize

 

About the author:

Maxine has wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember and wrote her first (very short) book for school when she was ten. Coming in first, she won a handful of book tokens – perfect for a bookworm!

As years went by, she continued to write, but ‘normal’ work often got in the way. She has written articles on a variety of subjects, aswell as a book on Brighton for a Local History publisher. However, novels are what she loves writing the most. After self publishing her first novel when a contract fell through, thanks to the recession, she continued to look for opportunities.

In August 2015, she won Harper Collins/Carina UK’s ‘Write Christmas’ competition with her romantic comedy, ‘Winter’s Fairytale’.

Maxine lives on the south coast of England, and when not wrangling with words loves to read sew and listen to podcasts. As she also likes cake she can also be found either walking or doing something vaguely physical at the gym.

Follow Maxine Morrey

Website           www.scribblermaxi.co.uk

Twitter                        @Scribbler_Maxi

Instagram        @scribbler_maxi

Facebook         www.Facebook.com/MaxineMorreyAuthor

Pinterest          ScribblerMaxi

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** My thanks to the wonderful Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my copy of this book and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour **

 

Description:

Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kálfshamarvík. Did she jump, or did something more sinister take place beneath the lighthouse and the abandoned old house on the remote rocky outcrop? With winter closing in and the snow falling relentlessly, Ari Thór Arason discovers that the victim’s mother and young sister also lost their lives in this same spot, twenty-five years earlier. As the dark history and its secrets of the village are unveiled, and the death toll begins to rise, the Siglufjordur detectives must race against the clock to find the killer, before another tragedy takes place. Dark, chilling and complex, Whiteout is a haunting, atmospheric and stunningly plotted thriller from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.

My Thoughts & Review:

For fans of Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series a huge sigh of relief can be breathed, the next instalment has landed!

Whiteout sees readers reunited with Ari Thór who is investigating the case of a young woman found dead at the bottom of the cliffs in Kálfshamarvík, a deserted village.  He and Tómas have their work cut out for them with a tight time frame to solve this one, but when they discover that the young woman’s mother and young sister died at the same spot some years ago the investigation becomes as dark and chilling as an Icelandic winter.
The plot also has a wonderful strand relating to the personal lives of Ari, Tómas and Ari’s girlfriend Kristen.  Kristen is heavily pregnant and ends up agreeing to join Ari and Tómas on their trip to Kálfshamarvík, using the time to research her family history.

If you are new to the Dark Island series, I would thoroughly recommend going back and reading the books in order, this will build up a better picture of Ari Thór and give you a wonderful grounding of the skill of Ragnar Jónasson.  He incorporates the eeriness of the setting perfectly into the plot of his novels leaving a reader feeling chilled and wrapped up in the darkness.  I love the way that this feels more like an old fashioned investigation story, relying on intuition and investigative techniques, and it feels like an exercise in mental capabilities trying to puzzle the mystery together with Ari.

There is so much more to this novel than I first expected and I truly am glad.  The character development was superb, it was good to see more about the personalities and  felt that I learned more about Ari and Kristen in Whiteout.  The other characters in this were equally interesting in their own way, some that readers can empathise with and feel invested in, but equally there were ones that you could not help but loathe.

As always, the wonderful scenery that is described in Ragnar’s books really sets the scene and tone for the novel.  I’ve never been to Iceland, and only ever googled images but from what I’ve read in the series it feels like I’ve trudged through the snow, battled biting winds and been lost in the dark of Iceland on several occasions.  The imagery that the writing conjures is so powerful and intense.  The narrative holds your attention perfectly and draws you in slowly making this a superb read!

A thank you to Quentin Bates for this wonderful translation, it’s always a joy when you see him listed as the translator of a book as you know that he will have ensured that the English version of a book will read as though it were the original.

 

You can buy a copy of Whiteout via:

Orenda Books eBookstore
Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

About the Author

Ragnar_Photo_TwoRagnar Jónasson is author of the international bestselling Dark Iceland series. His debut Snowblind went to number one in the kindle charts shortly after publication, and Nightblind, Blackout and Rupture soon followed suit, hitting the number one spot in five countries, and the series being sold in 18 countries and for TV. Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he continues to work as a lawyer. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. He has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik with his wife and young daughters.

Follow Ragnar on Twitter and his website.

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I am so excited to be part of the blog tour for The Good Samaritan by John Marrs, not only because I’ve enjoyed a lot of his books, but because I am joining some of the best book reviewers and bloggers on this tour, especially my tour buddy Sharon Bairden who blogs over at Chapterinmylife she’s also my go to person when I need recommendations for Scottish Crime Fiction – seriously, head over there and check out her blog if you’ve not done so already…but perhaps after you’ve read my review.

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** My thanks to Tracy Fenton and Thomas & Mercer for my copy of this and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour **

 

Description:

She’s a friendly voice on the phone. But can you trust her?

The people who call End of the Line need hope. They need reassurance that life is worth living. But some are unlucky enough to get through to Laura. Laura doesn’t want them to hope. She wants them to die.

Laura hasn’t had it easy: she’s survived sickness and a difficult marriage only to find herself heading for forty, unsettled and angry. She doesn’t love talking to people worse off than she is. She craves it.

But now someone’s on to her—Ryan, whose world falls apart when his pregnant wife ends her life, hand in hand with a stranger. Who was this man, and why did they choose to die together?

The sinister truth is within Ryan’s grasp, but he has no idea of the desperate lengths Laura will go to…

Because the best thing about being a Good Samaritan is that you can get away with murder.

My Thoughts & Review:

After I read and enjoyed The One by John Marrs earlier this year I was delighted to hear that he had written another book and was ecstatic to be offered an early copy to read for the blog tour (the perks of being a complete book nerd!).
I do love the creeping unease that builds throughout John’s books, there’s a danger that lurks just out of sight in the narrative that you can’t quite put your finger on, but you know that it’s coming and you know that it will catch you completely unawares but you can’t help but devour the book waiting for it to jump out at you.

In The Good Samaritan we meet Laura who is the epitome of the perfect character written by John Marrs, you can’t quite work her out.  To others, she seems perfect.  She’s caring, helpful, bakes cakes to bring into her co-workers, offers to sew clothing that’s lost a button or needs hemming, and on top of all of this, she has survived cancer so she stands out as someone who is noticeable.  But underneath it all, there’s something sinister about her, she gets a kick out of helping people end their lives and working in  a call centre where suicidal people call is the perfect setting for her to cherry pick her victims.

With some impressive plotting, readers are taken on a journey through Laura’s twisted and fiendishly devious mind as she recounts moments from her past that shock and alarm at times, she’s tortured by her earlier life and wants to escape the memories by helping others who truly want to die.  And I admit, I did feel incredibly saddened for her at times, but like a yo-yo my sympathies lessened when I learned more about her, she seemed ruthless and cruel, before sneakily John Marrs changed tact and had me feeling empathy towards her again.  This is offset perfectly with the character of Ryan.  Where Laura evokes horror and shock, Ryan elicits emotions of sadness, pity and sympathy, but as the plot moves on at a rate of knots the emotions switch around as each of the lead characters assume the position of power.

The way that the story hooks readers in is absolutely key, and for those out there who love an unreliable narrator then you’re in for a treat with The Good Samaritan.  There are moments where you think you can preempt where the plot is heading only for John Marrs to swiftly pull the carpet from underneath you and leave you reeling.  The plot twists are clever and downright brilliant in places.
This is the sort of book that you can’t read whilst cooking supper or you may well end up cremating it all, or end up reading into the wee hours of the morning because you’ve been so wrapped in what happens.  And if you do manage to put the book down, you may well find that it plays out in your head, taunting you to get back to reading, making you wonder what might happen next, or make you ask what you might do in that situation.

A gripping thriller that really gets into your head!

You can buy a copy of The Good Samaritan via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

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Hello and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend.  I am delighted to share an extract from this funny and heart warming book with you!

MGPEB_artwork KINDLE_1

 

Description:

Adrian Turner, Mountaineer, Secret Agent, Fireman… Ade would dearly like to be any of these things, though he’d trade them all to win the heart of feisty Public Relations Executive, Paige.

Instead, he’s a disillusioned school teacher, on suspension, after an unfortunate incident with a heavy piece of computer equipment. And somebody’s foot. And Paige? Despite being his girlfriend for the past eighteen months, she still seems to have one foot out of the door and hasn’t quite committed to leaving a toothbrush in the bathroom.

Of course, it doesn’t help that she’s working with her ex-boyfriend, Sebastian. A man who in almost every way imaginable is better, taller, wealthier, hairier, and infinitely more successful than Ade.

Is Paige still in love with Sebastian? Why then did she suggest they get away for a few days? Some place romantic…

But when Adrian finds himself in Slovenia – with Sebastian in the room down the hall – he realises there’s serious possibility that he’s in danger of losing his job, his mind, and the woman he loves…

From best-selling author Peter Jones comes this hilarious romp about love, and the things people do to keep it from getting away.


Extract:

So in this scene, Adrian Turner (burnt out, disillusioned computer science teacher… and our hero) and his girlfriend Paige, have arrived on holiday in Slovenia, only to discover that Paige’s ex-Boyfriend (Sebastian) is in the same hotel. But more than that, he seems to have a new love in his life…

 

“Aren’t you going to introduce us?” says Paige. So much for playing our cards close to our respective chests. Sebastian’s companion turns to face us, and a deliberate moment later, so does Sebastian.

“Paigeypoos,” he says in mock surprise. “Adrian! Hi guys.”

“Hi,” says Paige flatly, her arms folded again.

“I don’t believe you’ve met Nikki—”

“Nikita,” corrects the woman.

“Or Nikki for short,” says Sebastian, nodding his head from side to side.

“I prefer Nikita,” she says.

“Yes,” says Sebastian. “Of course you do. My love.”

“Nikita is very nice name,” she says, and offers me her hand. I’m not sure what to do at first – in the end I shake it.

“Nikki’s nice too,” says Sebastian.

“Meh, not so much,” she replies, moving on to shake the hand of my reluctant girlfriend. Sebastian forces a laugh, though it’s barely in the same league as his usual rat-a-tat-tat guffaws.

“You’re… not English,” I find myself saying.

“Polish,” she says. “Though I live in England now for the very long time.”

“Right,” I say, painfully aware that my girlfriend is just staring at Nikita so intently I swear I can hear the fizz of dust particles being incinerated as they float into Paige’s narrow field of vision. “And what is it… that you… do… Nikita?”

“I am detective,” she says. Out of the corner of my eye I see Sebastian wince.

“A detective?”

“Yes.”

“You mean, a police detective?”

“More like the Private Eye.”

“How fascinating.”

“It is very interesting work,” she continues. “I meet all kinds of peoples.”

“Yes,” I agree. “I’m sure you do.”

“And what is it you do, Adrian?” she says earnestly.

“I’m a schoolteacher,” I say without thinking, but as the words tumble out of my mouth, I’m reminded – for the first time since this morning – that actually I might not be a teacher for very much longer, and that I’m standing next to the man who at the very least is the catalyst of my current dilemma, and could, with a couple of quick phone calls, save my doomed career. “At least I…” I shoot Sebastian a look, but his face gives nothing away. “For the moment at least,” I continue, “… I’m a… teacher.”

“How interesting,” says Nikita, her eyes never leaving mine. “I think perhaps you are teacher of science.”

“Science?” I say. “No! No. Computing. IT and Computing.” I glance again at Sebastian. Still nothing.

“And your wife?” All eyes turn to Paige, who says nothing.

“Oh, er, Paige isn’t my… at least not yet! You work in PR, don’t you. Paige. For Sebastian, in fact.”

“Really,” says Nikita. “I did not know this.”

“So,” says Paige in the same casual manner that you might adopt were you, for instance, tightening a set of thumb screws, “how did you two meet?”

Sebastian jumps in. “Oh, it’s a very long story,” he says.

“But very romantic,” adds Nikita.

“Yes, but we don’t want to bore them with it, do we. Darling.”

“It can not be boring if it is romantic,” reasons Nikita.

“Well, no,” admits Sebastian, “not to us maybe, but to others…”

“We met in Istanbul,” says Nikita.

“Really?” says Paige, suddenly becoming very interested indeed. “In Turkey?” She looks directly at Sebastian. “When were you in Turkey?”

“Oh, a while back,” he says, shuffling slightly from one foot to the other. “It was on the way back from one of my African trips. The flight got diverted – you remember?”

“No,” says Paige.

“Really? I’m sure I mentioned it.”

“Anyway,” continues Nikita, “Sebastian was buying the carpets.”

“You were?” asks Paige, again directing her question to Sebastian, rather than Nikita.

“I, er…”

“So you left the airport, and went into the city… to buy a carpet?”

“Well, as I was in… Istanbul… so… I figured… why not!”

“Exactly,” says Nikita. “And I was also buying the carpets,” she adds.

“In Istanbul?” asks Paige.

“Yes,” says Nikita, “my sister she lives there, and she says, ‘come to Istanbul, it is like carpet capital of the world.’”

“I didn’t know that,” says Paige.

“I see this carpet,” continues Nikita, “And it is like the most beautiful of carpets, many colours – and I must have it, for my lovely apartment, in London. But suddenly, now there is this very tall man. And I think maybe I have the big problem.”

“Really?” asks Paige. “Why?”

“Because he is very handsome,” she says. “But also, he is annoying.”

“Annoying?!” says Sebastian, offended.

“Yes,” says Nikita matter-of-factly. “Because you are trying to buy my carpet.”

“Honestly, darling, I don’t think Paige or Adrian want to hear about our carpet buying antics!”

“No, really,” says Paige, an humourless grin plastered all over her face, “please go on. It’s all absolutely fascinating. So this is how the two of you met?”

“Exactly,” says Nikita.

“And remind me when this was again?” asks Paige, but before Nikita or Sebastian have a chance to reply, the lights flicker, and then die, plunging the room into semi-darkness, the setting sun through the windows overlooking the lake, our only illumination.

 

I don’t know about you, but that has me really keen to read more!

You can buy a copy of My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend via Amazon UK

 

About the author:

 

Peter Jones started professional life as a particularly rubbish graphic designer, followed by a stint as a mediocre petrol pump attendant. After that he got embroiled in the murky world of credit card banking. Fun times.

Nowadays, Peter spends his days writing, or talking about writing. He’s written three novels; a Rom-Com (Romantic Comedy), A Crim-Com (Crime Comedy), and a Rom-Com-Ding-Dong (a sort-of Romantic-ish Comedy, with attitude). He’s currently working on his fourth novel, which – if it’s a musical – he’ll no doubt describe as a Rom-Com-Sing-Song. (Spoiler: It isn’t).

He is also the author of three and a half popular self-help books on the subjects of happiness, staying slim and dating. If you’re overweight, lonely, or unhappy – he’s your guy.

Peter doesn’t own a large departmental store and probably isn’t the same guy you’ve seen on the TV show Dragons’ Den.

Follow Peter Jones

Website  http://www.peterjonesauthor.com

Amazon  http://amzn.to/2h17Tav

Twitter: https://twitter.com/peterjonesauth
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peterjonesauthor

 

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** My thanks to the lovely Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be part of this tour **

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** My thanks to Clara Diaz at Little, Brown Book Group for my copy of this  book and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour **

 

Description:

Yorkshire, 1927. Eclipse fever grips the nation, and when beloved theatre star Selina Fellini approaches trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton to accompany her to a viewing party at Gigglesiwkc School Chapel, Kate suspects an ulterior motive. 

During the eclipse, Selina’s friend and co-star Billy Moffatt disappears and is later found dead in the chapel grounds. Kate can’t help but dig deeper and soon learns that two other members of the theatre troupe died in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past year. With the help of Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden, Kate sets about investigating the deaths – and whether there is a murderer in the company.

When Selina’s elusive husband Jarrod, injured in the war and subject to violent mood swings, comes back on the scene, Kate begins to imagine something far deadlier at play, and wonders just who will be next to pay the ultimate price for fame . . .

My Thoughts & Review:

Kate Shackleton is back with another cosy crime mystery, Death in the Stars is the ninth book in the series and I am sure it will be a hit with her fans.  For those not familiar with the Kate Shackleton mysteries, they are a little like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books.  There are mysteries aplenty and many suspects for our sleuth to investigate along the way before eventually arriving at a definitive conclusion with none of the modern day gore or danger.

In this book, Shackleton is invited to accompany theatre star Selina Fellini to view an eclipse at a local school chapel, and ever the investigator, Kate’s suspicious mind begins to start ticking over.  During the eclipse Selina’s friend and co-star Billy Moffat is found dead in the grounds of the chapel, and this highlights Selina’s fears about other members of the theatre group having met suspicious endings in the past year.
Shackleton is soon on the case with the help of her good friends Mrs Sugden and Jim Sykes and together they are determined to find answers for the mysterious circumstances of the deaths of the members of the theatre group as well as Billy Moffat’s death.

This is only my second meeting with Kate Shackleton, having previously read book eight in the series Death at the Seaside and I have enjoyed the change of pace that both of these books have brought.  These are more gentle mysteries that my usual crime thriller reads, and there is something nice about the way these books get your brain working, trying to link the clues together and working out how it all goes together like the investigative team are doing.  Despite not being an action packed, adrenaline filled reading, this is a very enjoyable read and very well written.

A cast of very interesting and well crafted characters bring the tale alive, the plot is well thought out and the small details really make this stand out as one not to miss!

You can buy a copy of Death in the Stars via:

Amazon UK
Wordery
Book Depository

 

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I am so excited to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for “99 Red Balloons” by Elisabeth Carpenter (stop singing the 1980s pop song by Nena!) and share an extract from this gripping thriller!

Description:

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Two girls go missing, decades apart. What would you do if one was your daughter?

When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge.

What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems?

Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared…

This is a gripping psychological thriller with a killer twist that will take your breath away.

You can buy a copy of “99 Red Balloons” via:

Amazon
Wordery
Book Depository


Extract: Chapter 20 p.105-107

The bingo restarts, but I still can’t concentrate. Without saying, Jim has taken over my next card. I look at him from the corner of my eye. He never was a looker, bless him, but he looks better now he’s older. What’s it they say about growing into your face? It must be the case with Jim. I think about what’s happened over the last couple of days and I don’t know what I’d have done without him.

‘Come on then, let’s get your winnings,’ he says.

‘They can’t have played three games already.’

‘They have indeed. You’re away with the fairies. But I don’t blame you. You’ve enough on your plate.’

Jim’s up and ready in seconds. He kept his coat on the whole time we’ve been here. He must have cold bones these days. He stands waiting, patiently. I know I’m being slow, but there’s something about that woman that unnerves me. I’m in no rush to get to her.

He almost drags me there; my feet are so heavy. She watches us while we walk and stands when we reach the table.

‘It’s nice to see you, Maggie.’

She holds out her hand. I’ve never seen her before in my life. Her hair is too dark for her age; she must dye it – there’s not a grey in sight. She’s wearing a velvet blouse in maroon that reminds me of my great-grandmother’s curtains.

‘Do you two know each other?’ asks Jim.

‘I’ve never met you before,’ I say to her.

‘Sorry about that, love,’ Jim says to the stranger. ‘Not one for niceties, isn’t Mags.’

‘That’s okay. Sorry,’ she says. ‘I could’ve sworn we’d met before.’

She sits back down. I look at the table and what I thought were playing cards have strange pictures on them, rimmed with gold.

‘I’ll just get your prize ready.’

She counts out five ten-pound notes and puts them in an envelope. Before she seals it, she puts in what looks like a business card. She looks up. ‘Just in case you need to contact me.’

I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous. Why would I need to contact her?

Jim rubs his hands, again. ‘I’m just off to the gents while we wait for the taxi. Won’t be a min.’

I want to follow him, but that would be a little undignified.

‘I’ll wait in reception,’ I say, trying not to look at her.

I only get a few feet away when I feel a hand grab my elbow.

‘Wait, Maggie.’

I turn slowly, knowing it’s her. ‘How do you know my name?’

She glances at the floor, before looking me straight in the eye.

‘I’m sorry,’ she says. ‘My name’s Dee. I remember you from years ago. When your poor granddaughter went missing.’

‘Right.’

I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before, but strangers haven’t approached me for years. I knew they meant well, but it was mortifying, heartbreaking. It was why we hardly went out.

‘I’d better be going,’ I say.

‘Maggie, please wait a minute.’

‘Hang on. Why do you keep calling me Maggie? I was always Margaret in the newspapers.’

She comes closer to me; I step back.

‘I know you probably think I’m insane – I get that a lot. But . . .’ She takes a few breaths and taps her chest. ‘Zoe’s still alive.’

 


I don’t know about you, but that’s got be seriously intrigued and desperate to know what happens next!

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour:

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37 hours

 

** My thanks to Noelle & 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 **

 

Description:

The only way to hunt down a killer is to become one.
Imprisoned by MI6 for two long years in solitary, Nadia suddenly finds herself free again. But there is a price to pay for her release. Another dangerous and near impossible mission – retrieve the Russian nuclear warhead stolen by her old nemesis, the deadliest of terrorists.
But he is always one step ahead, and soon Nadia finds herself at the front line of preventing London from disappearing into a cloud of ash. Only this time, she is ready to pull the trigger at any cost.
And with the clock counting down from 37 hours, time is running out…
My Thoughts & Review:
You know that feeling when you finish a book and cannot wait to get started on the next one in the series?  Well that’s a tiny bit like the anticipation I had for this book, 37 Hours is the second in the Nadia Laksheva series and it begins with a bang that sets the pace throughout.
For readers new to this series, you can read 37 Hours straight away, there is more than enough information included in the narrative to explain who people are and the connections between them, but I would highly recommend reading 66 Metres first as the writing is fantastic and the small details you will pick up from that book will absolutely enhance your enjoyment of 37 Hours.
As always, I won’t say too much about the plot, there is a blurb above to give you some idea of what goes on in this book, and suffice to say Nadia seems to be back in the middle of a dangerous situation that will push her to the limits of her abilities and mental capacity.
When I read 66 Metres I was astounded by how strong a character Nadia is (you can read my review here) and this instalment has firmly cemented my liking of this character.  Her tenacity in the face of danger is almost chilling, she’s calculating and careful in some aspects, but at other times she will take risks which increase the tension and enjoyment of the book.  Her strong connection to her family makes her that little more relatable, often a female protagonist such as this ends up being portrayed in a less realistic way.
I am a big fan of Kirwan’s writing style, it’s easy to follow despite it covering some topics I have no knowledge about.  I don’t profess to know anything about diving and yet I was able to read this book and not feel that I was missing any details because of the care that the author has taken to ensure that all of his readers will be able to grasp the facts of what is happening.  The vivid images I could conjure of scenes were down to the wonderful descriptions included, and for me this makes a book more enjoyable as I feel that I can “see” everything as it plays out.
Now to wait patiently to see what happens next……….
You can buy a copy of 37 Hours via:
 
About the Author:

In his day job, J. F. Kirwan travels worldwide, working on aviation safety. He lives in Paris, where he first joined a fiction class – and became hooked! So when a back injury stopped him scuba diving for two years, he wrote a thriller about a young Russian woman, Nadia, where a lot of the action occurred in dangerously deep waters. It was the only way he could carry on diving! But as the story and characters grew, he realised it was not one book, but three…

You can connect with the J. F. Kirwan via:
Follow the blog tour & pop over to my tour buddy’s blog to check out what Meggy has to share with you at  Chocolate ‘n’ Waffles
37 Hours Blog Tour

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** My thanks to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for my copy of this wonderful book and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour ***

 

Description:

Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who appears to have been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, he finds that Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror … the reflection of a woman … A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…

My Thoughts & Review:

For anyone not familiar with the superb writing of Michael J Malone I would thoroughly recommend acquainting yourself with one of his books as soon as possible, a skilled author with the ability to make readers shiver and feel the coldness that flows from the pages of his books.

With writing that is almost poetic in nature, this is beautifully written book that keeps readers guessing throughout.

Ran McGhie is an interesting character that I could not help but feel for him.  His life has been far from easy or straightforward and the way that Malone captures the subtle nuances of Ran are spectacularly spellbinding.  As Ran’s life begins to take on some major changes, Malone cleverly but subtly charts the slow descent into something not being right (I won’t call it madness, that seems to abrasive a word to use, but at the same time perhaps this character does become a little “off kilter” and lean towards a form of madness….I’ll let you decide).  Inheriting a huge house in a wealthy part of town would probably be a dream come true for most people, and here Ran is no different.  Initially he is awed by the library and the books that his great uncle has bestowed upon him, but soon he feels a haunting presence and begins to question what happens around him.
I am loathe to say more about the plot, I hate spoilers and think that readers experience the full impact of the plot on their own.

This has all the hallmarks of a great read, it’s creepy and leaves the reader questioning whether that was just a shadow they caught out of the corner of their eye…but it also makes you feel a little uncomfortable as you slowly follow Ran into the darkness of uncertainty.  With the mental health issues that the protagonist suffers being incorporated into the plot, it becomes almost impossible to be certain whether Ran is suffering from delusions linked to his condition or whether these events are actually happening.
On top of all this, the descriptions of Newton Hall are utterly spectacular and I think that Malone has really outdone himself here.  I could feel the looming menace that lurked within the house, I was aware of a feeling of claustrophobia while Ran was in the house, although there was splendour and beauty it was also a place of unknown danger and mystery.

There’s a feeling of safety with a book published by Orenda Books, each book has made an impression on Karen Sullivan and in turn she and her team have lavished love and attention on each page of a manuscript  before delivering a book to readers that will wow and delight.  When I initially saw this book being dubbed a “modern day horror story with a twist” I was a little hesitant, I don’t read many horror stories, they just don’t do anything for me.  But I had faith in the publisher and the friends who recommended this book to me and I was not disappointed.

You can buy a copy of “House of Spines” via:

Amazon
Wordery
Orenda eBookstore

 

Follow the blog tour:

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Welcome along to my stop on the blog tour for quite possibly the best book I’ve read this year, “Angels in the Moonlight” by Caimh McDonnell.  I am delighted to be able to share my review of this fantastic book with you, and even more excitingly I have a wee interview with the Caimh too!


Book Feature:

Description: ANGELS IN THE MOONLIGHT cover

For Detective Bunny McGarry, life is complicated, and it is about to get more so.

It’s 1999 and his hard won reputation amongst Dublin’s criminal fraternity, for being a massive pain the backside, is unfortunately shared by his bosses. His partner has a career-threatening gambling problem and, oh yeah, Bunny’s finally been given a crack at the big time. He’s set the task of bringing down the most skilled and ruthless armed robbery gang in Irish history. So the last thing he needs in his life is yet another complication.

Her name is Simone. She is smart, funny, talented and, well, complicated. When her shocking past turns up to threaten her and Bunny’s chance at a future, things get very complicated indeed. If the choice is upholding the law or protecting those he loves, which way will the big fella turn?

Angels in the Moonlight is a standalone prequel to Caimh McDonnell’s critically acclaimed Dublin Trilogy, and it is complicated.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

Angels in the Moonlight is a vastly different addition to the Dublin Trilogy in that it features Detective Bunny McGarry in a different light.  Yes, he is still the wise cracking, dangerous looking Cork man.  Yes his behaviour often leaves a lot to be desired, but there is a side to him that betrays the hard man image and it is written so beautifully that readers might forget for a moment who they are reading about.

From the opening pages of this book readers quickly fall into step with the wisecracking and quick witted detective as he takes on the role of negotiator with a vulnerable individual, granted he may not be everyone’s idea of the best person for the role, but he brings his own flair to the situation (as well as some manky sandwiches!) and I soon found I was laughing like a lunatic at what was written on the pages in front of me (a side note, this is perhaps not the best book to read when your other half is sleeping beside you, trying to hold in laughter will cause injury and or choking).

With a gripping and thrilling plot, readers are soon delving into the world of drugs, corruption and vendettas.  DI Fintan O’Rourke and the ever charming Bunny are up against one of the most skilled armed robbery gangs in Ireland, a case that will prove to be one of the most daring and dangerous they’ve worked together.
This case coupled with Bunny’s attempts to woo Simone, a jazz singer come bar manager makes for some brilliantly entertaining reading.  It is through his contact with Simone that we see a distinctly different side to Bunny.  He has a heart, a caring side and a softness about him that he would probably prefer to keep hidden. His coaching of the St Jude’s Hurling Team is a great example of one of the many sides to this character, his devotion to keeping the young lads away from crime is enriching to see, even if his methods are somewhat questionable.  By opening up this side of his main character, Caimh McDonnell takes this book to another level.  Each book of this trilogy has been superb, but there is something special about this one, it is more than just a police procedural, more than a crime caper, it’s a book with themes of friendship, history and heartache intricately interwoven throughout.

As it says above in the blurb, this book can be read as a standalone, but why would you want to deprive yourself of this series?  The writing is tremendous; Caimh McDonnell has a gift for storytelling and leads his readers on a merry journey through his books, regaling them with humour and wit.  The descriptions of each character and their traits allow readers to conjure some wonderfully vivid images, and I know that I’ve a clear idea in my head of Bunny McGarry, both sight and sound.  There are a wonderful array of personalities in this book, even a young Paul Mulchrone and Phil Nellis make an appearance (fans of the previous books will make the connection here), but for me Bunny McGarry stole the show.

 

I would urge you to buy copies of all books in the Dublin Trilogy, it’s a series you do not want to miss out on!

You can buy a copy of “Angels in the Moonlight” via:

Amazon

My absolute heartfelt thanks to Elaine Ofori and Camih McDonnell for the opportunity to read an early copy of this immensely hilarious book and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.


Author Feature: caimh

Caimh McDonnell is an award-winning stand-up comedian, author and writer of televisual treats. Born in Limerick and raised in Dublin, he has taken the hop across the water and now calls Manchester his home.

He is a man who wears many hats. As well as being an author, he is an award-winning writer for TV, a stand-up comedian and ‘the voice’ of London Irish rugby club. His debut novel, A Man with One of Those Faces was released in 2016 and it is the first book of the Dublin Trilogy series. The follow-up, The Day That Never Comes was published in 2017. Both books are fast-paced crime thrillers set in Caimh’s home town of Dublin and they are laced with distinctly Irish acerbic wit.

Caimh’s TV writing credits include The Sarah Millican Television Programme, A League of Their Own, Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. He also works as a children’s TV writer and was BAFTA nominated for the animated series ‘Pet Squad’ which he created.

During his time on the British stand-up circuit, Caimh has firmly established himself as the white-haired Irishman whose name nobody can pronounce. He has brought the funny worldwide, doing stand-up tours of the Far East, the Middle East and Near East (Norwich).

Follow Caimh’s witterings on @Caimh

Facebook: @CaimhMcD

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

Being in control! For about a decade, I had sitcom scripts optioned by several different TV companies in Britain and you spend your time constantly making changes – some you agree with, some you don’t. Often times, you can find that what originally made an idea attractive to all concerned in the first place, can get lost under the weight of notes about notes. With a novel, while I have editors and readers whose opinion I of course value highly, ultimately, I’m the one in control and I can decide what I think works or doesn’t work. Only a TV writer knows how precious a thing that is.

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

Being in control! In particular, the proofing stage. Again, I’ve got a couple of great editors and a fantastic proof reader but ultimately as an indie author, you have to be the one to go through the final manuscript and be responsible for every last dotted I and crossed T – and in a 100,000 word novel, there is a lot of them. If I never see another semi-colon, I would die a happy man!

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

Oh, that’s a toughie. I think I’d have to go with Gone Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane – he is a stunningly good writer and for me, I think that is his best work. As a writer, you’re always aware of a plot and predicting where the story is going to go – be it in a novel, TV show or film. It is very hard to switch off and enjoy something without analysing it on some level. The ending of Gone Baby Gone completely blindsided me but at the same time, made perfect sense. It takes a special kind of genius to make an ending seem both surprising and yet feel totally right in hindsight.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

As my wife is always pointing out, I have no hobbies. Everything I like to do I’ve effectively made into a job. I’m still very much a professional comedian which is a nice change of pace from writing, and I’m also the announcer for my second-family, aka the professional rugby team London Irish. As I write, I am just back from our triumphant return to the English premiership in Twickenham. Frankly, that is my favourite thing to do. I get to work with my heroes and while on one level it is stressful, on another level, I’m ultimately not in control of anything. While I announce the scores, I’m not responsible for going out and making them.

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

Through trial and error, I’ve discovered I can’t write on my rather lovely Mac with the enormous screen that’s nice and easy to read. I need to work on a laptop, with the internet blocked and Brain.fm’s specially designed music for concentration playing on my headphones. I get distracted very easily so to get the work done, I try and shut myself off from any and all opportunities to forget what I’m supposed to be doing. I do often catch myself casually wondering if I ended up in prison, would they let me have a laptop? If they did – think of all the work I’d get done! I’d miss London Irish though of course, and my wife.

 

A huge thank you to Caimh for joining me today and sharing a little about himself, it’s been a blast!

 

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I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for Mário de Sá-Carneiro: The Ambiguity of a Suicide by Giuseppe Cafiero and share a guest piece written about Mário de Sá-Carneiro.

Description:

Print

The apparent suicide in 1916 of the writer Mário de Sá-Carneiro causes his friend, the poet Fernando Pessoa, great distress. Pessoa feels compelled to trace Sá-Carneiro’s final movements, to understand what could have caused him to lose all hope.
Exploring byways of the imagination and ambiguity with the investigator David Mondine and Dr. Abílio Fernandes Quaresma, solver of enigmas, the three men decide to uncover the conclusive certainties which led Mário to poison himself.
These suicide investigators travel to Lisbon – Mário’s birthplace – and to Paris, talking to strangers and friends who might shed light on the poet’s mysterious and sudden decline. As the city wrestles with the grief and tumult of war, the men hold court at the cafes and bistros Mário would have frequented. Their witty, enigmatic and sometimes obscure conversations illuminate the friendship between Mário and Fernando Pessoa, their poetry and their literary ambitions, revealing the tragic end of one of the founders of Portuguese modernism.

 

You can buy a copy of Mário de Sá-Carneiro: The Ambiguity of a Suicide via Amazon


Guest Post:

Mário de Sá-Carneiro with his chronic oddities. Mário who went about Paris in melancholy and shy solitude. Mário who believed it necessary to inflict heartache upon himself to atone for his dark irreverences. Mário who played the part of a fashionable anti-conformist. Mário who was so self-absorbed that he seemed to live in a constant dreamlike delirium. Mário who seemed to want to be surrounded by an atmosphere of non-involvement and thus to enjoy his disquietude. Mário who was afraid to retrace his steps because nothing could ever be the same as before. Mário who wallowed in his contemplative ecstasy because the rest was extraneous to him. Mário who complacently felt that he did not belong to any city or country. Mário who was extremely concerned about the dark sensations of his instinct. Mário who considered his mind able to create an inappropriate reality disturbing to the society he was compelled to endure. Mário who complained of a nostalgia which, in truth, he did not feel because no nostalgia could satisfy him. Mário who wasted time in remembrances that responded to memories recovered from a reality experienced in a distorted manner and never loved. Mário who wished to construct a world in his own image and likeness, even though an innate discontent forced him to presume that there could never be a world in his image and likeness. Mário who was tirelessly seeking a fictitious gratification of his intimate desires which seemed to him impossible on account of that kind of apathy in which he delighted in living. Mário who seemed to have a poor ability to reflect realistically about himself and his fantasies because he was a simple dreamer who did not wish to realize any dream. Mário who exhibited, according to many who knew him, a strong affective deficit and a smug reluctance to establish cordial friendships. Mário who seemed to feel the irrepressible desire to influence the world, to be a protagonist as a poet and playwright. Mário who had a true servile propensity for Pessoa, for which he was ready to satisfy any request or desire merely to please him.

 

My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Authoright for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Check out the other stops on the blog tour:

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