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Monday, July 6, 2020

The Girl From Widow Hills by Megan Miranda

The Girl From Widow Hills by Megan Miranda.
Published in ebook 4th June 2020, and hardback and audio formats on 2nd July 2020.
Read June 2020.

Twenty years ago, Ardon Maynor, then aged just six years old, was the centre of a media frenzy after she went missing for three days. Thought to have been swept away in a downpour while sleepwalking, she was found alive against all the odds, clinging desperately to a storm drain.

Ardon's misadventure brought her fame and unwanted celebrity, and sadly made her the object of creeps and stalkers. As soon as she was old enough, Arden said goodbye to Widow Hills and her birth name, and embarked on a new life as the unknown Olivia Meyer.

As she nears the twentieth anniversary of her traumatic ordeal, Olivia discovers that the mother she had become estranged from has died leaving just a few possessions that have found their way to her new home in Central Valley. The news of her mother's death has awakened the feeling that she is being watched, and with it the night terrors and sleep walking that plagued her childhood.

Then one night, Olivia jolts awake in the yard of her remote house with the corpse of a murdered man at her feet... a man from the past she had left in Widow Hills.

Olivia is about the become the focus of unwanted attention once more - attention that may force her to reveal the secrets she has been keen to hide for so long. What really happened all those years ago in Widow Hills, and why can't she remember?

*************************************************************

I am a big fan of Megan Miranda's thrillers, so was really looking forward to reading The Girl From Widow Hills - and dear readers, I was not disappointed!

This time, our tale centres on Arden Maynor, the girl who miraculously survived three days in the drainage system under the small town of Widow Hills: the girl who was only found after an extensive search that involved the emergency services and American citizens from near and far, after an impassioned plea from Arden's mother for help to find her missing child. She is the girl who became a celebrity and brought her the kind of fame that made her public property in the eyes of many.

The story picks up from the time nearing the twentieth anniversary of the finding of the girl from Widow Hills, where we find Arden now living as Olivia Meyer, a young woman content with her life in Central Valley, where she has been living quietly for a couple of years. working as an administrator in a local hospital. Olivia's past experiences have made her wary of confiding in others, but she has tentatively made a few friends and sees herself making this small town her home. Until events take a turn that Olivia was not expecting; events that shatter her new found peace and bring the past back into sharp focus... but no spoilers from me!

I really enjoyed how the action is broken up by delicious snippets from the past in the form of witness interviews, news reports and emergency call transcripts that allow the reader to piece together what happened not only twenty years ago, but also on other significant anniversaries of the event. So, as the story races along, and the tension increases, you get to learn more about Olivia's background, the events that have formed her into the person she has become, and how she finds herself mixed up in the difficult situation that now presents itself - and why she reacts likes she does.

The pacing is nigh on perfect, and I found myself so caught up in Olivia's story that I raced greedily through the pages, desperate to reach the conclusion - which, by the way, was fabulously twisty and shocking - and certainly blindsided me!

Although this story is fictional, it asks some interesting questions about the fallout from the media furore, and resulting public attention, that traumatic events like this can foster, particularly where missing children are involved. It's all too easy for individual's to become famous in these circumstances and for them to be seen as public property for the rest of their lives - especially when the public feel that have invested time and energy in the victim's survival (even if this is only watching the situation play out in the media). Very thought provoking indeed, even if there are no easy answers.

I can't really say much more about The Girl From Widow Hills without giving something away too much of the gripping story, so I will leave it here by telling you that this is an excellent, creepy thriller that will keep you awake at night - both turning the pages and listening carefully to every little sound in the darkness. Get yourself a copy now. you won't be sorry!

Thank you to Megan Miranda and Corvus for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

The aftermath of the media frenzy that surrounded Arden's traumatic experience, 
and the book that her mother wrote about the incident, brought her celebrity 
and made her public property in the eyes of many. 
Although her mother seemed to enjoy the fame, and the money that came with it, 
Arden could not wait to escape all the attention and live an ordinary life.

When Arden Maynor was six years old, she was swept away in a terrifying storm 
and went missing for days. Against all odds, she was found alive, clinging to a storm drain. 
Fame followed, and so did fans, creeps and stalkers. 
As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name 
and left Widow Hills behind.

Twenty years later, Olivia, as she is now known, is plagued by night terrors. 
She often finds herself out of bed in the middle of the night, 
sometimes streets away from her home. 
Then one evening she jolts awake in her yard, with the corpse of a man at her feet.

The girl from Widow Hills is about to become the centre of the story, once again...

About the author:

Megan Miranda is the author of All The Missing Girls, The Perfect Stranger, and The Last
House Guest, which was the August 2019 Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine pick. 

She grew up in New Jersey, graduated from MIT, and lives in North Carolina with her husband
and two children.
Follow TwitterInstagram and Facebook.




Friday, July 3, 2020

Boy Parts by Eliza Clark

Boy Parts by Eliza Clark.
Published 23rd July 2020 by Influx Press.
Read June 2020.

Irina likes to take photos, but these are not your normal selfies or holiday snaps.. oh no, these are highly explicit photographs and they are of the men she scouts when going about her normal business in Newcastle - average looking men, from the likes of the local Tesco, or passengers on the bus.

When an incident at work gets Irina an opportune break from life serving drinks in a dead-end bar, and the prospect of an exhibition of her work in a trendy London gallery is on the horizon, she gets the chance to revive her once promising career as an artist.

But rather than bringing the break Irina was looking for, musing over her collection of work for the exhibition sends her on an odyssey of self-destruction, all tied up with the strange relationship she has with her best friend and the shy young man from the local supermarket who has become her latest muse.

******************************************************

What a deliciously dark and unexpected delight this book turned out to be. This is definitely not for the faint-hearted, but if you like your novels to grab you by the throat and take you down a K-hole (ok, I had to look up the meaning of this, because I am old, but it fits perfectly!) into the surreal, then you are in for an absolute treat.

When we first meet Irina, doing her thing in her beloved home-town of Newcastle, she seems stuck in a rut of drink and drugs, tied in an unhealthy love-hate relationship with her best friend, and constantly on the look out for her next photographic subject. She makes a decent, if sporadic, income from her special breed of photographs, and has some particularly dodgy sounding regular clients, but she is not really going anywhere.

When the prospect of a career changing exhibition drops in Irina's lap, it looks like things may finally be on the up...and she has found herself a new muse too, in the form of Eddie from Tesco - the shy young man who has also kindled some unexpected romantic feelings in Irina's heart.

But as Irina begins to go back though her stored collection of work, looking for appropriate material to exhibit, something happens to her already fragile psyche and she begins to shatter - much like the broken glass she always seems to be seeing out of the corner of her eye. And the reminiscences she shares along the way lead the reader to understand why, as they are often sad, bleak, sardonic and shocking.

As Irina goes into freefall, self-destruction is the order of the day, and her life comes to imitate the transgressive art that is her forte - raw, brutal and bizarre.

Irina is a complicated character. There are shades of Patrick Bateman here (Newcastle Psycho?) in terms of the double life she leads, and especially in her love of a business card, which was a stroke of genius. She is tough, glamorous and bold on the outside, which makes you admire her front, but inside she is more than a little broken, and ever so afraid of emotional intimacy - even though her work is of the most intimate kind. Her actions become more and more extreme in an attempt to call attention to the fact that she is disintegrating, but it seems impossible to break through the persona she has created and to make others see that she is in need of help. 

There is also a lot to take away from this about the ridiculous nature of the world of Art, especially the more avant garde side, which is rather interesting.

Boy Parts is one of the darkest romps I have read in recent years, but it is also full of pitch black humour, and uses social media and forms of communication beautifully. I absolutely loved it. This is impressive writing, that leads you away from the straight and narrow down a twisted path into the dark underbelly of life, and I am hungry for more from Eliza Clark!

Boy Parts is available in ebook, paperback and audio formats (read by the amazing Eliza Clark herself) from 23rd July 2020, so get ordering now - ideally, direct from Influx Press HERE.

Thank you to the superlative Jordan Taylor Jones and Influx Press for sending me a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

From the cover of the book:

Irina obsessively takes explicit photographs of the average-looking men she persuades to model for her, scouted from the streets of Newcastle. 

Placed on sabbatical from her dead-end bar job, she is offered an exhibition at a fashionable London gallery, promising to revive her career in the art world and offering an escape from her rut of drugs, alcohol, and extreme cinema. 

The news triggers a self-destructive tailspin, centred around Irina's relationship with her obsessive best-friend, and a shy young man from her local supermarket who has attracted her attention... 

BOY PARTS is the incendiary debut novel from Eliza Clark, a pitch-black comedy both shocking and hilarious, fearlessly exploring the taboo regions of sexuality and gender roles in the twenty-first century.

About the author:

Eliza Clark has relocated from her native Newcastle back to London, where she previously attended Chelsea College of Art. She works in social media marketing, recently having worked for women’s creative writing magazine Mslexia.

In 2018, she received a grant from New Writing North’s ‘Young Writers’ Talent Fund’. Clark’s short horror fiction has been published with Tales to Terrify, with an upcoming novelette from Gehenna and Hinnom expected this year. 

She hosts podcast You Just Don’t Get It, Do You? with her partner, where they discuss film and television which squanders its potential.

Fresh Eggs And Dog Beds 2 (Audio Book) by Nick Albert


Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds 2 - Still Living "The Dream" In Rural Ireland (Audio Book) by Nick Albert.

Audio book released 24th January 2020. Narrated by Andy Stevenson. Originally published in ebook and paperback June 2018 by Ant Press.
Listened/Read June 2020.

Fresh Eggs And Dog Beds 2 is the second part of the continuing adventures of Nick and Lesley Albert, as they pursue their dream of living the good life in rural Ireland.

Nick and Lesley are now living in their rural retreat and it is time to settle down to the good life and embark on their ambitious programme of DIY improvements to their ramshackle home.

Will their new life live up to expectations, or will the Irish weather, dangerous roads, and a cruel twist of fate turn this dream into a nightmare?

***************************************************************

Welcome to part two of the continuing adventures of Nick and Lesley Albert, as they set about making friends, learning what life is all about in Ireland, and expanding their menagerie of animals, all while beginning the mammoth task of DIY ahead of them - with Nick's trusty secondhand DIY manual at the ready.

It was so lovely to meet up with Nick and Lesley again, as they really get stuck into their new life in Ireland, and this time Nick talks us through the start of the DIY work that needs to be done to their ramshackle house in order to make it their home. There is lots to do, and with the DIY successes come the inevitable disasters too - malfunctioning equipment, accidents, and the vagaries of the Irish way of doing things all provide fodder for Nick's tale, and inevitable targets for his gentle humour.

As the work progresses, Nick and Lesley begin to fall in love with the beauty of their new surroundings, and appreciate how different their life has become away from the hustle and bustle of Essex. There are plenty of tales to be told about the 'special' Irish weather and the wildlife around them. Talking of wildlife, Nick and Lesley's personal menagerie also starts to expand quite significantly this time around, as they acquire more chickens, ducks and dogs, which all add to the fun.

This episode also brings a cruel twist of fate that brings home the consequences of the isolated life that Nick and Lesley have now chosen for themselves, but in a strange way this reinforces the meaning of the new beginning they have made in Ireland - and confirms that this has been just the right move for them.

As in the first book, this audio book is narrated by the voice talents of Andy Stevenson, who now seems to have a real feel for what the Alberts' adventures entailed, and I think, he carries off the parts rather well (especially the accents!).

I find these books strangely enchanting, and there is so much of real life in these tales - the highs and the lows - that truly connect you with what Nick and Lesley are trying to achieve here. I am really looking forward to finding out what comes next for the Alberts!

Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds 2 is available to buy now from your favourite book/audio retailer, or via the links below:

Amazon UK Kindle   Amazon UK Paperback    Audible UK

Amazon US Kindle    Amazon US Paperback    Audible US

Thank you to Nick Albert for providing me with a copy of this audio book in return for an honest review, and to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel's Random Resources Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

Will their new life live up to expectations, or will the Irish weather, dangerous roads, and a cruel twist of fate turn this dream into a nightmare?

Nick and Lesley's desire for a better life in the countryside was a long-held dream. Unforeseen events and a leap of faith forced that dream into reality, but moving to rural Ireland was only the beginning of their story.

Foreigners in a foreign land, they set about making new friends, learning the culture and expanding their collection of chickens and unruly dogs. But their dream home was in desperate need of renovation, a mammoth task they attacked with the aid of a DIY manual, dwindling funds and incompetent enthusiasm. With defunct diggers, collapsing ladders, and shocking electrics, what could possibly go wrong?

Will their new life live up to expectations, or will the Irish weather, dangerous roads, and a cruel twist of fate turn this dream into a nightmare?

About the author:

Nick Albert was born in England and raised in a Royal Air Force family. After leaving College he worked in retail management for several years before moving into financial services where he quickly progressed through the ranks to become a training consultant.

As a very passionate and reasonably talented sportsman, Nick had always wanted to use his training skills towards creating a parallel career, so in the mid 1980's he qualified and began coaching sport professionally.

After a health scare in 2003 and in search of a simpler life, he and his wife Lesley, cashed in their investments, sold their home and bought a rundown farmhouse in the rural west of Ireland - a country they had never before even visited.

With little money or experience and armed only with a do-it-yourself manual, they set about renovating their new home, where they now live happily alongside a flock of chickens, two ducks and several unruly, but delightful dogs.

In 2017 Nick was signed to Ant Press to write a series of humorous memoirs about his life in rural Ireland. Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds (book one) was published in September 2017 and soon became an Amazon bestseller. Book two in the series was published on 1st June 2018 and book 3 in August 2019. Book four is due out in early 2020.

Nick is also the author of the twisty thriller, Wrecking Crew, the first in a series of books featuring reluctant hero Eric Stone.

Nick Albert's Website
Nick Albert on Instagram
Nick Albert on Twitter




Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith

The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith.
Published in ebook 9th April 2020 and paperback 9th July 2020 by Orenda Books.

What happens in a future where antibiotics no longer have the power to fight infection?

The world becomes a terrifying place, where minor infections can kill, and people are afraid to do things they once took for granted: where sacrifice is required in order to keep the majority safe.

Anyone over the age of seventy is not allowed access to the new treatments being developed, and should they become ill, they face internment in the hospitals for the elderly - the hospitals nicknamed 'The Waiting Rooms', where no one ever recovers.

It is now twenty years after the antibiotic crisis that changed the landscape of human existence, and nurse Kate begins the search for her birth mother. She knows very little about the woman that gave birth to her, other than her name and age, and is unsure about whether she really wants to know more, because her adoptive mother gave her all she ever needed - but something drives her to find out about her own history.

As Kate uncovers some disturbing facts about the mother she has never known, she unwittingly puts herself and her family in danger. It seems that the woman she is searching for has more secrets to hide than just an illegitimate child, and someone else is looking for this woman too...someone with revenge in mind.

*************************************************

The Waiting Rooms is an absolute chiller of a novel, made all the more terrifying by the fact that this could easily become the dystopian future we are all heading for.

I imagine there can be few of us that have not heard the reports of infections increasingly becoming resistant to modern antibiotics, due to their overuse (and often misuse), and if you are in any doubt about what this might lead to then you need look no further than this book.

For me, the best kind of speculative novel is one which develops a future that is just beyond our experience - one that is so realistic we can almost taste it - and Eve Smith has most certainly achieved this here, in her debut book. I absolutely loved the way she has picked up the scary facts about antibiotic resistance and run with them to develop a future that may well come to pass if we do not stop and take a different path from the one we seem destined to follow, and used this as a backdrop to a gripping story.

But this is not just a book based around hard science, because our author makes it all the more personal in the way she uses her characters to tell the story. 

Kate works as a nurse in one of the 'waiting room' hospitals, albeit one of the nicer ones, so we get to see a close up view of how the elderly are treated, including a hint of the range of treatments that are now no longer possible because of the risks associated with reduced immunity, and the acceptance of euthanasia as an alternative to a prolonged and painful death. But Kate shows us what it is like being a mother in this time too, with the added burden of the additional worries this brings.

We also get a glimpse of the past, through the eyes of Kate's birth mother, a woman now facing the cut-off that comes with her approaching seventieth birthday, which allows us to see the horror that came with the crisis, the uncomfortable political truths behind it and the choices people are forced to make to protect those they love - as well as the reality of being elderly in this world.

And, as an added extra, we get an idea of what it is like to be a young person who has never had the chance to experience the freedoms we all take for granted, from the point of view of Kate's own daughter.

Three women tell us all we need to know about how all aspects of life have changed, and this works beautifully - the fear, the shades of responsibility and guilt, and the consequences of love are all tied up in their stories. 

The Waiting Rooms is certainly dark and compelling, and very accomplished for a debut novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it a proper page-turner, even though it absolutely scared me to death, but maybe that is what we all need to be to head-off Eve Smith's vision? This is a must read, with more than a little relevance to the strange days we find ourselves in, and is available now from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Eve Smith and Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

Decades of spiralling drug resistance have unleashed a global antibiotic crisis. 
Ordinary infections are untreatable, and a scratch from a pet can kill. 
A sacrifice is required to keep the majority safe: no one over seventy is allowed new antibiotics. 
The elderly are sent to hospitals nicknamed ‘The Waiting Rooms’ … 
hospitals where no one ever gets well.

Twenty years after the crisis takes hold, Kate begins a search for her birth mother, 
armed only with her name and her age. As Kate unearths disturbing facts about her mother’s past, she puts her family in danger and risks losing everything. 
Because Kate is not the only secret that her mother is hiding. 
Someone else is looking for her, too.

Sweeping from an all-too-real modern Britain to a pre-crisis South Africa, 
The Waiting Rooms is epic in scope, richly populated with unforgettable characters, 
and a tense, haunting vision of a future that is only a few mutations away.

About the author:

Eve Smith’s debut novel The Waiting Rooms was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize First Novel Award.
Eve writes speculative fiction, mainly about the things that scare her. She attributes her love of all things dark and dystopian to a childhood watching Tales of the Unexpected and black-and-white Edgar Allen Poe double bills. Eve’s flash fiction has been shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and highly commended for The Brighton Prize.

In this world of questionable facts, stats and news, she believes storytelling is more important than ever to engage people in real life issues.

Eve recently contributed a piece of flash fiction, Belting Up, to an anthology of crime shorts called Noir From the Bar. The collection of stories has been launched to raise money for the NHS.

Eve’s previous job as COO of an environmental charity took her to research projects across Asia, Africa and the Americas, and she has an ongoing passion for wild creatures, wild science and far-flung places. 

A Modern Languages graduate from Oxford, she returned to Oxfordshire fifteen years ago to set up home with her husband.

When she’s not writing, she’s chasing across fields after her dog, attempting to organise herself and her family or off exploring somewhere new.





Thursday, June 25, 2020

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams.

Published 6th February 2020 by Trapeze.

Read June 2020.

Queenie Jenkins feels like she is not in control of her life anymore - if she ever was. She is on a break from her long-term boyfriend, Tom, which she hopes is a break rather than a break-up anyway... she has nowhere to live... work is getting on top of her (along with a lot of dead-beat men)... and her family is showing her zero sympathy.

Queenie was named to be queen of everything, but she is struggling to rule her own life.

This darkly comic take on life, love, race and family will have you rooting for the lovely Queenie all the way!

******************************************************

I have been meaning to read Queenie for quite while now, and my copy has been sitting on a shelf in all its delicious pinkness for longer than I intended - so I am very glad to have finally become acquainted with the lovely lady herself, as she is quite simply wonderful.

Queenie is struggling with her life and doesn't seem to know which way to turn to get back in control. Having lost the stability she believed she had with her ex-boyfriend, Queenie falls into a pattern of casual sex with a string of highly unsuitable, and not very nice, men and who treat her like an object - and all other areas of her life are suffering too.

The lovely Queenie deserves so much more, but she cannot even begin to see this until she confronts a few home truths about herself and her background, and she is going to need some help doing this.

For most of the story, all you want to do is give Queenie a great big hug and make her see that she is worth so much more than she thinks she is. Although she feels her life is on the slide from the time she and Tom begin their break, as the reader you can see that she has actually been a ticking time-bomb for some considerable time - and Tom was hardly the perfect boyfriend she thought him to be. Queenie needs to find out who she really is and what she really wants before she can be happy - and she is not going to do this by relying on men like Tom, even if he is the best of a bad bunch.

There is a lot to unpackage from this book, and it is so much more than the humorous account of the ups and downs of one London black girl's life, which really surprised me as it is normally promoted as a funny book. Although there is an awful lot of laugh out loud humour, especially from Queenie's interactions with her friends and family, this book asks some very deep and timely questions too.

The significance of Queenie's cultural heritage, and her traumatic upbringing, weigh very heavily on her. She has been brought up to believe that the traditional "strong black woman" trope is the only way to live, by both her own family and society in general, and this is really not working out well for her.

Queenie's mental health needs addressing, but how can she do this when she should be able to take everything life throws at her on her own broad shoulders, and her family would rather die than acknowledge that counselling is an option? I found this rather sad as Queenie's difficulty in reaching out for help comes not only from feeling that she is letting herself and her family down, but that she is somehow betraying the expectations placed on her as a black woman too. Everyone is telling her she should be behaving in a certain way, particularly the kind of men she associates with, and it's not surprising that she is struggling. That is a lot of pressure to be dealing with.

One of the really interesting things that this book also highlights is the effect of gentrification on parts of London like Brixton, where redevelopment is actually wiping away black heritage from neighbourhoods of the city where they have been a defining part of the character of the area since Windrush days. It's all too easy to say that this is a necessary evil, when there is demand for new housing and amenities, but we should all be more aware about how much is being lost in the name of progress.

Ultimately, this is a book about finding your strength from family and friends, and making peace with yourself and the expectations that are placed on you. Queenie's loved ones are a great source of her problems, but they are all there for her in their own special way, and this is where much of the humour comes from in this tale - especially her friends, The Corgis (and I think we all need a Kayzike and her sizeable handbag in our lives).

Yes, it is a funny book, but it also so much more, because there is so much to think about from Queenie's tale - I will be very surprised if it doesn't make your heart sing, and your eyes brim with tears that are not laughter related too.

If you haven't read this one yet, then you really should.

Queenie is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer.

From the cover of the book:


She just can't cut a break. Well, apart from one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. 
That's just a break though. Definitely not a break up. 
Stuck between a boss who doesn't seem to see her, a family who don't seem to listen 
(if it's not Jesus or water rates, they're not interested), 
and trying to fit in two worlds that don't really understand her, it's no wonder she's struggling.

She was named to be queen of everything. 
So why is she finding it so hard to rule her own life?

A darkly comic and bitingly subversive take on life, love, race and family, 
Queenie will have you nodding in recognition, crying in solidarity 
and rooting for this unforgettable character every step of the way.


Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds

Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds.
Published in ebook 11th April 2020 and paperback on 23rd July 2020 by Orenda Books.
Read June 2020.

Journalist Lydia Wright is sent a video, apparently showing a murder on a London train, and she thinks she may have just the scoop she needs to revive her flagging career. But when she starts to investigate the story, it seems that there is no report of a crime having taken place.

At first, Lydia thinks she may have been pranked, but when an old colleague gets in touch with further details, she knows that she is on to something.

As Lydia goes about trying to find the witness who made the video she crosses paths with fixer Michael Stringer, who has his own reasons for wanting to find out what has happened to the  victim.

Stringer deals in information, but the mystery murder has left him exposed and in danger from one of his heavyweight clients. He needs to find out what Lydia knows and fast if he is to stay ahead of the game.

As the clues lead Lydia into a nightmare world of corruption, gangsters and dodgy dealings, she finds herself in way over her head and in need of help - and Stringer finds that he may have been set up to take the fall for someone else. 

They are both in mortal danger with little chance of walking away from the mess they find themselves in. How will they survive in this landscape where information has more power than a bullet?

*****************************************************

Blood Red City takes us right into the heart of the gritty dealings of the under-the-counter side of London's financial world. A world where huge sums of ill-gotten gains are funneled through complicated systems of shell-corporations, trades and investment deals under the nose of the authorities, in order for it to be secretly laundered into legitimate business funds.

Wright is no stranger to investigating the murky dealings of the high and mighty of London's political and property scenes, but when her big story was nixed by the management of her paper, and she was sidelined to reporting celebrity gossip, she was sure that her chance to be taken seriously as an investigative journalist was over. So when what looks like another big story has fallen into her lap, she is very keen to see it through to the bitter end. Little does she know what she is getting herself in to.

Stringer, on the other hand, is more than used to working both sides of the law in pursuit of his clients' needs. He deals in information and is a fixer for some very wealthy and powerful people. His modus operandi is polished and frighteningly believable in an age were social media is king, and almost everyone is reliant on the world wide web. 

As the thrilling story begins to unfold from two different sides, that of Wright and Stringer, it is soon clear that they are working towards the same goal - to find out why a man was killed on a London train - and you find yourself yearning for them to work together to find a way to survive the fall out from the great big perilous can of worms they have opened. Both of them have skills that could complement each other - Wright is driven and desperate to uncover the machinations of the unworthy and, despite spending so much time in the underbelly of London's less seemly side, Stringer is still capable of making the right call when necessary.

I absolutely loved this tale of greed and gangsters, fixers and fraud, news and negotiations, money and menace! This is an intelligent thriller, which has such a realistic edge to it, that it will leave you wondering how much of this dodgy dealing actually goes on in the real world - rather a lot, I fear. There are baddies galore, even though many of them operate secretly under the veneer of respectability, and Wright and Stringer both make excellent characters to get behind.

This has all the elements you could ever want in a pacy, slick caper based in the financial heart of London, with the delicious hard-edge of an undercover spy story to boot - Bonds (investment) with a touch of Bonds (James), if you will. Rod Reynolds skillfully handles all the deliciously twisty threads as they beautifully come together into a very satisfying ending. I absolutely loved it and was rather sad to reach the end - in fact, I would dearly love to see the pairing of Wright and Stringer again Mr Reynolds, should you ever be so inclined! 

Another highly recommended corker from the Ordena Books stable, Blood Red City is available to buy now in ebook format, and pre-order in paperback, from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Rod Reynolds and Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of this book  in return for an honest review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book: 

A witness but no victim. A crime but no crime scene…

When crusading journalist Lydia Wright is sent a video of an apparent murder on a London train, she thinks she’s found the story to revive her career. But she can’t find a victim, much less the killers, and the only witness has disappeared. Wary she’s fallen for fake news, she begins to doubt her instincts – until a sinister call suggests that she’s not the only one interested in the crime.

Michael Stringer deals in information – and doesn’t care which side of the law he finds himself on. But the murder on the train has left him exposed, and now he’ll stop at nothing to discover what Lydia knows.

When their paths collide, Lydia finds the story leads through a nightmare world, where money, power and politics intersect … and information is the only thing more dangerous than a bullet.

A nerve-shattering and brutally realistic thriller, Blood Red City bursts with energy and grit from the opening page, twisting and feinting to a superb, unexpected ending that will leave you breathless.

About the author:

Rod Reynolds is the author of four novels, including the Charlie Yates series. His 2015 debut, The Dark Inside, was longlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger, and was followed by Black Night Falling and Cold Desert Sky; the Guardian has called the books "Pitch-perfect American noir."

A lifelong Londoner, Blood Red City is his first novel set in his hometown. Rod previously worked in advertising as a media buyer, and holds an MA in novel writing from City University London.

Rod lives with his wife and spends most of his time trying to keep up with his two young daughters







Monday, June 22, 2020

Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly

Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly.
Published in ebook 25th June 2020 and in paperback 23rd July 2020 by Agora Books.
Read June 2020.

Fifteen Years ago, Heidi was the victim of an attack that she barely survived; an attack that also left her little sister, Anna, missing and her best friend, Nina, dead. No one has ever been found guilty of these crimes.... and Anna has never been traced.

Heidi does not remember what happened that day. In fact there are big chunks of her memories missing, seemingly gone for ever, and she lives her life with little recollection of her history.

Now, for some reason that Heidi cannot fathom, she has started to remember bits and pieces from the past - memories of events, things and faces that might help solve the mystery of what happened all those years ago.

As Heidi follows the trail of clues, she uncovers a web of secrets, lies and betrayal that she is not prepared for. And there are some very dangerous people would rather their guilt stayed hidden....

************************************************************

Heidi is the victim of a horrible attack that left her best friend dead and her sister missing, but she cannot remember what happened or why. She lives her live as an outsider, afraid to get close to anyone, and unsure of who she really is and what she is capable of.

When flashes of memory start to come back to Heidi, she opens a whole can of evil worms connected to a paedophile ring that was involved in the abuse and disappearance of boys and girls around the time of her assault - and with the help of one of the detectives connected to the original investigation, it seems the chance may finally be here to find out who was responsible. 

As the new investigation starts to take shape, it becomes clear that the original inquiry was seriously flawed - perhaps deliberately. Someone did not want the truth exposed.... and that someone is apparently still around and directing things behind the scenes. How far does this web of corruption reach and how far was Heidi herself involved?

As more and more of the past comes back to Heidi, she begins to feel that she may have been responsible in some way for Nina's death and Anna's disappearance, but the truth, when it comes, is so much worse than she realised.

What an absolutely cracking thriller! Monstrous Souls is a masterclass in perfect pacing and seamless plotting that will keep you turning the pages all the way to the shocking end. This is absolutely heart in your mouth stuff, full of secrets, lies, corruption, and betrayal - all beautifully packaged in a dark and compelling story.

And this is tale that has chilling echoes of some of the most distressing real life cases that have been in the news in recent years - stories of grooming and abuse of young people on a huge scale, especially those from socially deprived backgrounds, that involve perpetrators in positions of trust and power that were able to cover up their activities for years with a conspiracy of silence. This is also a book that asks some interesting questions about the nature of guilt and how much someone's silence can make them complicit in the acts of others - very thought provoking indeed.

For a debut thriller, this is a most impressive and accomplished book. I can't wait to see more from Rebecca Kelly.

Monstrous Souls is available to pre-order now from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Rebecca Kelly and Peyton Stableford at Agora Books for gifting me a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

What if you knew the truth but couldn’t remember?

Over a decade ago, Heidi was the victim of a brutal attack that left her hospitalised, 
her younger sister missing, and her best friend dead. 
But Heidi doesn’t remember any of that. She’s lived her life since
then with little memory of her friends and family and no recollection of the crime.

Now, it’s all starting to come back.

As Heidi begins retracing the events that lead to the assault, she is forced to confront the pain 
and guilt she’s long kept buried. 
But Heidi isn’t the only one digging up the past, and the closer she gets to
remembering the truth, the more danger she’s in.

When the truth is worse than fiction, is the past worth reliving?

An addictive thriller about a case gone cold and the dangers lurking on our doorsteps, 
Monstrous Souls will have you gripped to the very end.


About the author: 

Rebecca Kelly was brought up with books but denied the pleasure of a television. Although she hated
this at the time, she now considers it to have contributed to a life-long passion for reading and
writing.

After a misspent education, Rebecca had a variety of jobs. She’s spent the last years raising her
children but has lately returned to her first love – writing.

Rebecca lives in the UK with her husband and youngest son and an over-enthusiastic black Labrador,who gives her writing tips.





Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor.
Published 23rd July 2020 by Scribner.
Read June 2020.

It's July, 1962, and Evie Epworth is looking forward to the summer holidays on the Yorkshire dairy farm that is home to her and her widowed father. Time to make some decisions about what sort of future she wants for herself, now she has finished her 'O' Level exams. What sort of woman should she become?

She dreams of becoming a smart, independent woman in the big city (London, or maybe Leeds?), but more than that she does not know - and her posters of "Brooding/Sophisticated" Adam Faith are not being much help.

But before Evie can start her new life, she has a problem to resolve - a big pink problem - in the shape of the buxom, gold-digging Christine, who has her sights on becoming Evie's step-mother and getting all she can out of Evie's mild-mannered father, including trying to persuade him to sell off their beloved farm.

How can Evie rescue her poor old dad from the clutches of the determined Christine and save her home - all while working out who she is meant to be? This is going to take some planning - and the help of some amazing friends....

****************************************************

The Miseducation Of Evie Epsworth is a coming of age story, set in 1960s East Yorkshire. Sixteen and a half and on the cusp of womanhood, Evie is trying to decide what to do with her future. If this wasn't difficult enough, her quiet life has been disrupted by the arrival of the manipulating scarlet woman, Christine, who is intent on getting between Evie and her father, and taking him for all he is worth - as well as gradually erasing all reminders of Evie's mother from their home.

Evie needs a plan to scupper the ambitions of the formidable Christine, and it seems she has a variety of friends and allies to help her along the way, some of whom she did not even know existed until recently - friends who will also teach her about the world and the mother she does not even remember. I adored each and every gorgeous one of them - except the grasping Christine and her mother obviously, who Matson Taylor draws deliciously as the despicable villains of the piece!

The story is told through the eyes of the clever, young Evie as she undergoes her campaign against the evil Christine, interspersed with romantic and heart-breaking episodes from the  history of her mother and father's relationship. Evie's observations on life are both funny and poignant, and filled with all the moments of teenage drama you would expect (and more!), as she tries to fathom what this becoming an adult lark is all about.

There is so much humour - of the Yorkshire, London and even French variety - and lots of touching and emotional moments that will have your heart and eyes brimming over, especially to do with friendship and family reconciliations.

I was particularly impressed by how much our author was able to bring the 1960s alive too, especially with his references to popular culture, as he must surely be just a slip of a lad! There is a real feel that the times they are a-changing for everyone, especially women, and that Evie may be on the brink of a whole new life. Although I was not born until the end of the 60s, I found all this very nostalgic, which was absolutely blooming lovely!

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this romp through the East Yorkshire countryside. It is an utterly fabulous read, and I found it such a tonic. This is just the kind of book we should all be reading at the moment, so do yourself and favour and order a copy right now!

The Miseducation of Evie Epsworth is available to pre-order in ebook and hardback formats, and to buy as an audio book, from your favourite book retailer right now.

Thank you to Matson Taylor and Scribner for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.


From the cover of the book:

July, 1962

Sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. 
But what kind of a woman will she become?

The fastest milk bottle-delivery girl in East Yorkshire, Evie is tall as a tree 
and hot as the desert sand. She dreams of an independent life lived 
under the bright lights of London (or Leeds). The two posters of Adam Faith 
on her bedroom wall (‘brooding Adam’ and ‘sophisticated Adam’) 
offer wise counsel about a future beyond rural East Yorkshire. 
Her role models are Charlotte Bronte, Shirley MacLaine 
and the Queen. But, before she can decide on a career, 
she must first deal with the malign presence of her future step-mother,
 the manipulative and money-grubbing Christine.

If Evie can rescue her bereaved father, Arthur, from Christine’s pink 
and over-perfumed clutches, and save the farmhouse from being sold off 
then maybe she can move on with her own life 
and finally work out exactly who it is she is meant to be.

Moving, inventive and richly comic, The Miseducation of Evie Epworth is the most joyful 
debut novel of the year and the best thing to have come out of Yorkshire 
since Wensleydale cheese.


About the author:

Matson Taylor grew up in Yorkshire, but now lives in London. 

He is a design historian and academic-writing tutor and has worked at various universities and museums around the world; he currently teaches at the V&A, Imperial College, and the RCA. 

He has also worked on Camden Market, appeared in an Italian TV commercial, and been a pronunciation coach for Catalan opera singers.




Monday, June 15, 2020

Don't You Know There's A War On by Janet Todd

Don't You Know There's A War On by Janet Todd.
Published 9th March 2020 by Fentum Press.
Read June 2020.

1975: Joan Kite, widowed since World War II, lives with her only daughter, Maud, trapped in a brittle love-hate relationship that neither of them seem able to escape.

Joan has grown increasingly bitter over the years, out of step with the world she is living in; mourning the loss of the life she once envisioned for herself; regretting the sacrifices she believes she has made for her daughter; and ruing the person Maud has become under her guardianship.

In a rare act of spontaneity on Maud's part, she suggests that Joan should write about her life to make sense of the past that has brought her to where she is now, and although she is reluctant at first, Joan soon takes some relish in venting her spleen in her notebooks.

When Joan begins to tell her story, we start to understand why she has become alienated from the world around her, and she holds nothing back in the telling, including the details of a long held secret that binds her daughter to her, and has helped form the complex and twisted relationship they enjoy.

As the compelling story plays out to its shocking conclusion, we are left in no doubt about how disappointments and power plays within family relationships can make them go terribly awry, especially between mothers and daughters.

***********************************************************

Don't You Know There's A War On? is a novel that positively oozes with the weight of past disappointments, the bitterness they cause, and how they can affect the relationships between family members.

When we meet Joan and Maud, it is soon evident they are trapped in some kind of corrupted mother-child relationship that has brought them spiraling downwards into a poisonous pit of deep dark resentments. To comprehend how they have got here we need to understand Joan, and it is through her account of the life she has led, especially that part played out against the War years, that we get to appreciate how she has been shaped into the person she is - and has subsequently shaped her daughter too. 

Joan's upbringing is one of loneliness and emotional neglect, and the arrival of the Second World War puts paid to her ambitions to be free of her past. Instead Joan becomes a widowed single mother, the result of circumstances that will eventually hit us like a punch to the gut as the story plays out, and she sees her chance for a better life taken away by the small human being who is now dependent on her. Although the War also brought the chance of some independence and companionship to Joan, through working towards the war effort, this too is eventually taken away as women are "demobbed" when peace time comes around again - consigning them back to their former domestic lives. She has been promised great things by King and country, but the reality is hard indeed, especially for a war widow with no prospects. 

'Oh to come from somewhere else, to be going to a place far away. Somewhere where the air was crisp and the talk witty, brittle and allusive. You don't forgive a person for messing this up. You don't forgive your country for fooling you either.' 

Motherhood does not come naturally to Joan, and she has no experience of love. The only way she can cope is by adhering to the strict standards she imposes on herself, and her child, and maintaining the appearance of gentility. She has been told that sacrifice is required of everyone in wartime, so there is no point in complaining, and the phrase "Don't You Know There's A War On?" is for ever ringing in her ears. 

As the years go by, Joan finds she understands the world around her less and less. Her ethos of discipline and self-sacrifice has little to do with the modern age in which she now lives. She has never allowed herself to drop her guard, or to come to terms with her own repressed desires and resentments, and she has no notion about how to be a nurturing mother to her equally lost and confused daughter. Rather than bringing her child up to be strong and forceful, she finds her a great disappointment, and has no compunction about making this clear to Maud.

But Joan is also unable to let go of the daughter she has raised and made the centre of her life, and when Maud has a chance of happiness Joan can't help but destroy this, even if it leads to the destruction of them both.

"What sort of private hell have the two women created in this house?"

And the road to their destruction is most beautifully written by Janet Todd, and she drags you down into the pit of torment Joan and Maud have made for themselves in the most deliciously seductive way imaginable. There is so much unsaid between these women, unable as they are to break through the barriers they have built up between them over the years - so much is hinted at by our writer, especially in terms of repressed sexuality, that has never been allowed to break through the veneer of cold, if threadbare, respectability fostered by Joan.

"This writing, this memory, this scratching with jagged nails 
in the graves of one's head, is not for the fainthearted. 
Not everyone welcomes the dead coming up from deepwater."

But Joan finds herself holding nothing back in her diary. Her reminiscences are heart-rending and painful, sharply observed, sardonic and sometimes downright funny, but there is an underlying bitterness that is difficult to overlook - even when you know the truth behind Joan's story, and see the unfairness behind her plight - that makes it difficult to like her. A feeling which is compounded by her tendency towards the uncomfortable realms of the taboo as her strength begins to fail and her ideas of love become ever more warped. Ultimately, the cruelty and coldness towards Maud colour your view of Joan to the point that it is impossible to forgive her behaviour towards a child that has no responsibility for the loss of the life her mother feels she deserved.

This is a complex and powerful book, exploring the difficult relationship between a mother and daughter that has been irrevocably disrupted by events beyond their control. Janet Todd chooses her words with utmost skill throughout this incredible novel, and I was particularly struck by the clever way she uses the senses, principally smell and touch, to elicit strong emotion and longings in her characters.

I found myself jotting down many extracts of sublime writing from this book, and could so easily reproduce quote after delicious quote for your reading pleasure in this review, but I would be doing you a disservice if I did as you should really discover them yourself - I promise that you won't be sorry you did.

Don't You Know There's A War On? is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer, in ebook and paperback formats.

Thank you to book publicist Ruth Killick for sending me a copy of this novel in return for an honest review, and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

From the cover of the book:

'Oh to come from somewhere else, to be going to a place far away. Somewhere where the air was crisp and the talk witty, brittle and allusive. You don't forgive a person for messing this up. You don't forgive your country for fooling you either.' 

Joan is a widow, an outsider in a diminished England, where she lives with her only daughter, Maud, angrily conforming to a culture she feels has left her behind. 

When Maud is threatened, Joan begins a diary to make sense of her alienated past, before and during the War. Giving rein to a loathing for the society that has thwarted her aspirations, she is merciless, her writing often sublimely funny; but Joan has a secret, never confided, which binds Maud to her. 

As Joan chronicles her life, her observations reveal psychological dramas, which, once uncovered, lead to a shocking conclusion. 

Played out against the turbulence of the Second World War and its aftermath, Joan's story is one of a complex mother-daughter relationship, an evocation of the complicities that poison familial attachments and affect intimacies between women. 

Its nuanced portrayals of the power plays in unbalanced relationships make for a compelling tale of human and political failings. An adroit satire of disintegrating worlds, the novel enthrals and surprises; it confirms Janet Todd as one of the most original voices in contemporary literature.


About the author:

Janet Todd was born in Wales and grew up in Britain, Bermuda and Sri Lanka. She has worked in Ghana, Puerto Rico, India, Scotland and England.

In the US, at the University of Florida and Douglass College, Rutgers, she became active in the feminist movement and began the first journal devoted to women's writing. She has published on memoir and biography, as well as on authors including Jane Austen, Mary Wollstonecraft, Aphra Behn, Byron and members of the Shelley circle. Her lifelong passion has been for female novelists, both the little known and the famous.

A Professor Emerita at the University of Aberdeen and Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, Janet Todd is a former President of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, where she inaugurated a festival of women writers and established the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. She lives in Cambridge and Venice.



Friday, June 12, 2020

SAS Great Escapes by Damien Lewis

SPOTLIGHT ON:

SAS Great Escapes:
Seven Great Escapes Made by Real Second World War Heroes
 by Damien Lewis

An Audible Audiobook – Original recording



Released exclusively on Audible on 28th May 2020. 
Available to pre-order HERE
for £13.12 or 1 credit.


Audible, the world’s leading provider of spoken-word entertainment, has secured worldwide English language audio rights to SAS Great Escapes: Seven Great Escapes Made by Real Second World War Heroes from internationally bestselling author, filmmaker, and former war reporter, Damien Lewis.

A heart-in-the-mouth real-life thriller, SAS Great Escapes is a fresh look at the most audacious escapes the SAS made during the Second World War.

Marking the first audio-exclusive from the SAS’s master chronicler and No.1 Sunday Times bestselling author, Damien Lewis, who spent twenty years reporting from the world’s war and conflict zones, SAS Great Escapes is white-knuckle listening of the highest calibre. 

From the mountains of Italy, to the deserts of Africa, SAS Great Escapes explores seven of the most dangerous and daring escapes during WWII by heroes who epitomise the bravery, esprit de corps and daring do of Britain’s finest elite fighting force. 

Damien Lewis is the author of over fifteen books including fiction and non-fiction (spanning military history, biography and memoir), and is published in more than thirty languages. His bestselling account of the SAS’s attempt to rescue British forces in Sierra Leone, Certain Death, is currently being produced as a film by the team that made Layer Cake, X Men and Snatch, while his fictional thriller, Cobra Gold, is being developed as a Hollywood film by Safady Entertainment (Machine Gun Preacher), with the production team behind Avatar.

Damien Lewis, author of SAS Great Escapes commented: “Working on an Audible Original has been a great new adventure for me, just as I hope SAS Great Escapes brings tales of incredible adventure and derring-do from WWII to a wider audience. The stories are better than fiction – you could not make up such epic escape and evasions, or the characters involved. A gift to author and publisher alike!”


PRAISE FOR DAMIEN LEWIS’ BOOKS:

'Reveals a true story of British courage and daring.' - The Sunday Times
'Riveting.' - Richard & Judy Show
'A gripping thriller,' - The Mail on Sunday
'Reveals the horror,' - Sky News
'Powerful, harrowing and brave … A triumph,' - The Economist
'Mesmerising,' - Vogue
'Compelling,' - FHM




About the author:

Damien Lewis spent twenty years reporting from the world’s war and conflict zones: the Balkans, Kosovo, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, South and Central America, Syria, Iraq and others. 
For a decade he filed stories with the Frontline News Agency, and he is a founding Member of London’s Frontline Club (named after the agency). In the course of his work he met, filmed with and interviewed warlords, child soldiers, genocidal leaders, victims, aid workers, rebels, priests, presidents, corporate leaders, soldiers and spies. 

For several years running he was nominated for what is arguably the British war-reporter’s accolade of choice – The Rory Peck Awards, named after the British journalist of that name who was killed on assignment. A personal friend of the Peck family, Lewis won a host of other awards for his frontline news reporting. As with many of those who choose to work at the most risk-laden end of the profession, he remained resolutely freelance – filing for top news networks (BBC, CNN, ITN, Channel 4, ZDF and others) but never wanting to have his wings clipped. 

He witnessed a number of friends and colleagues injured or killed in the line of their work. In 2000 he suffered a spinal injury and underwent major surgery, which entailed a year in rehabilitation and recovery. During that time he surfaced from the crazed reality of the profession that had claimed him, and crawled his way back to the ‘normal’ world; to the light. He had had little idea how deep down he had gone or how dark his life had become. 

He wrote his first book during recovery – Slave, with escaped Sudanese slave Mende Nazer – which evolved out of the last news assignment he had been working on. Slave was an international bestseller, it was translated into thirty-six languages and was made into the film, I Am Slave. He has since written a host of bestsellers and has rowed back more or less completely on the frontline reporting work.

In 2003 he wrote his first book about elite military operations, Operation Certain Death, which was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. Lewis’s elite forces books Bloody Heroes and Fire Strike 7/9 were Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, and Zero Six Bravo, was a Sunday Times number one bestseller. 

In 2014 Lewis wrote his first book about elite military operations in WWII – Churchill’s Secret Warriors, which was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller, and is presently being made into a movie, by Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Paramount Pictures. Lewis has had many of his other books optioned as films. Operation Certain Death is being produced as a movie by the team that made Layer Cake, X Men and Snatch. His military book, Cobra Gold, is being developed as a Hollywood movie by Safady Entertainment (Machine Gun Preacher), using the production team behind the mega blockbuster Avatar, amongst other films, and his recent elite forces book Operation Relentless is being developed as a US TV drama series by Entertainment One.

About Audible:

Among the acclaimed performers who have narrated works of literature for Audible are Zachary Quinto, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lily Collins, Emma Thompson and Jesse Eisenberg. Audible Studios has won a Grammy Award, for its production of Janis Ian’s memoir Society’s Child, and has also been recognised with the Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year, for Colin Firth’s performance of Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair
Audible invented and commercialised the first digital audio player in 1997, and has since been at the forefront of the explosively growing audiobook download segment. On average, Audible members listen to Audible content for 2 hours a day. In 2018, Audible customers downloaded nearly 3 billion hours of content.