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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

March 2021 Reading Round-Up

March 2021 Reading Round-Up

I have consumed an unbelievable 22 books this month, and there are some absolute crackers among this selection. Please click on the links below the photos to see my reviews!

The Adbuction by A.A. Chaudhuri

The Muslim Prince by Roger Ley

Nick by Michael Farris Smith

History of a Drowning Boy by Dennis Nilsen

Masters of Rome by Gordon Doherty and Simon Turney

Dangerous Women by Hope Adams

Phone Box At The Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

A Cold Dark Heart by Stephen Pulleston

While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende

The Forgotten Life of Arthur Pettinger by Suzanne Fortin

The Lip by Charlie Carroll

Future Perfect by Felicia Yap

Behind Closed Doors by Catherine Alliott

Bound by Vanda Symon

Rosie Shadow by Louise Worthington

Blackstoke by Rob Parker

Trust Me by T.M. Logan

The Fall of Koli by M.R. Carey

Rites of Spring by Anders de la Motte

More wonderful books coming next month!

If you have enjoyed my photographic efforts, please head to my Instagram page 
@brownflopsy for more!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Rites of Spring by Anders de la Motte


Rites of Spring (Skåne Quartet) by Anders de la Motte.

Published 1st April 2021 by Zaffre.

From the cover of the book:

Southern Sweden: Beautiful countryside, endless forests, coastal walks, dark days - and even darker nights. But beneath the beauty lies a dark heart . . .

Skåne, 1986: On the night of Walpurgis, the eve of May Day, where bonfires are lit to ward off evil spirits and preparations are made to celebrate the renewal of spring, a sixteen-year-old girl is ritualistically murdered in the woods beside a castle. Her stepbrother is convicted of the terrible deed and shortly after, the entire family vanishes without a trace.

Spring, 2019: Dr Thea Lind moves into the castle. After making a strange discovery in an ancient oak tree on the grounds, her fascination with the old tragedy deepens. As she uncovers more and more similarities between her own troubled past and the murdered girl, she begins to believe that the real truth of the killing was never uncovered.

What if the spring of 1986 claimed more than one victim?

Rites of Spring was a number one bestseller in its native Swedish on publication in March 2020.


Give me a book about small town secrets and lies and I am always going to be happy. Throw in a gorgeous Scandinavian location, a mystery to be solved, and some fabulous folklore, and I will be a very happy bunny indeed - which certainly proves to be the case with this glorious Scandi thriller by best-selling Swedish author Anders de la Motte.

Dr Thea Lind is newly arrived in the Skåne village of Tornaby, the childhood village of her husband David who hopes to open a Michelin starred restaurant in the old castle with the help of the Bokelund Foundation.

Thea is unsure of how her relationship with her husband lies, but feels obliged to back him in his newest venture after all the support he has given her with her recovery from the PTSD that troubles her after serving in war-torn Syria. But she still feels like a fish out of water and under close scrutiny in the tight-knit community she now finds herself a part of, and more than a little suspicious that the whole situation has been arranged by the machinations of her formidable mother-in-law, who co-incidentally heads the Bokelund Foundation.

As Thea settles into small town life, she comes across a strange token and polaroid photograph hidden in an old tree dedicated to the legend of the Green Man, near the castle. The picture shows a young girl tied down on a slab in the middle of the nearby ancient stone circle, surrounded by four young children in animal masks, and is clearly intended to be some sort of re-enactment of the old spring sacrifice ceremony. 

When Thea discovers that a sixteen-year-old girl, Elita Svarts, was murdered at the stone circle in 1986, and that her husband is one of the children in the photograph, she is desperate to find out what happened all those years ago. No one wants to talk about the tragedy, least of all David, but Thea is adept at solving puzzles and the connection she feels to Elita, through their shared childhood experiences, compels her to pursue her investigation - leading her to find out that not only was Elita murdered, but that her step-brother was convicted of killing her, and strangely, the remaining members of Elita's family disappeared without a trace after the funeral.

Thea is convinced that there is something funny about the whole business and the way mouths clamp shut once she raises the subject, and as the puzzle pieces fall into place she is certain that the wrong man was blamed for Elita's death. At the same time, more than one person is unhappy about her prying into the past, and her quest is leading her into dangerous waters - and the risk that her own closely-guarded secrets may come to light too.

The tension mounts beautifully as Thea goes about solving the mystery of Elita's death, and we learn of her own secret past and repressed feelings. The action in the present is also broken up by glimpses of what actually happened all those years ago through the eyes of those present, giving some slick red-herrings to distract you, and short narrative passages in Elita's own words which make you question exactly what her intentions were. Both timelines collide beautifully with an eventful climax on Walpurgis Night during the inaugural dinner at the castle - but Anders de la Motte is not done with revealing all there is to know quite yet, and there are still some eventful scenes that play out before the sad truth is known in full.

The plot is deliciously twisty, the menacing mood draws nicely on the underlying supernatural themes of the folklore surrounding the legend of the Green Man and sacrifice, and the claustrophobic location of the forest backdrop and creepy castle is perfection. Think a mix of Stieg Larsson and C.J. Tudor, with a big dollop of The Wicker Man and you will get the glorious picture. I really enjoyed the way de le Motte uses the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle being put together throughout, and the similarities he draws between Thea and Elita's backgrounds - especially the way Thea draws strength from this.

Rites of Spring is by far the best Scandi thriller I have read in ages, and I was unable to put this page-turner down until I had consumed the gripping story in full. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I have already pre-ordered the next book in the Skåne Quartet, End of Summer, which is coming in August, and will be making Anders de la Motte one of my auto-buy authors from now on.

Rites of Spring is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Zaffre for providing me with an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Anders de la Motte (b. 1971) made his debut in 2010 with Geim, which won the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers' 'First Book Award'. He is a former Police Officer and was until recently Director of Security at one of the world's largest IT companies. He is currently an International Security Consultant. With his blend of fast-paced suspense, humor, and informed commentary on IT and social media, Anders de la Motte represents a distinct new voice in Scandinavian crime fiction: wild, playful and full of references to popular culture, including his literary cousin Philip K. Dick.


Monday, March 29, 2021

The Fall Of Koli (The Rampart Trilogy Book Three) by M.R. Carey


The Fall Of Koli (The Rampart Trilogy Book Three) by M.R. Carey.

Published 25th March 2021 by Orbit.

From the cover of the book:

The Fall of Koli is the third and final novel in the breathtakingly original Rampart trilogy - set in a strange and deadly world of our own making.

The world that is lost will come back to haunt us . . .

Koli has come a long way since being exiled from his small village of Mythen Rood. In his search for the fabled tech of the old times, he knew he'd be battling strange, terrible beasts and trees that move as fast as whips. But he has already encountered so much more than he bargained for.

Now that Koli and his companions have found the source of the signal they've been following - the mysterious "Sword of Albion" - there is hope that their perilous journey will finally be worth something.

Until they unearth terrifying truths about an ancient war . . . and realise that it may have never ended.


Welcome to the final part of the gripping dystopian Rampart trilogy, The Fall of Koli - the book where all the little bits and pieces of M.R. Carey's well crafted The Book of Koli and the Trials of Koli come together in a stunning finale.

Starting exactly where the previous book left off, we find Koli and his disparate band of friends Ursula-from-elsewhere, the feisty Cup, and Monono Aware on the verge of discovering the truth about The Sword of Albion. And what they find is shocking indeed - although it reveals much about what happened to bring about the fall Ingland all those years ago in the Unfinished War, and rather worryingly, that it might truly be unfinished...

As before, the story splits between the quest of Koli and co. to find a cure for the sickness that ails the land and her people, and what is happening back home with Spinner and the folk in Mythen Rood, and there is lot to take in from both story lines. I am very conscious not to give away too much of what goes on here, but can tell you that Spinner really shines in her endeavours, and her desire for peace and unity has a great effect on what happens, even if she and her folk have to pass through much conflict to get there. But for me, it is Koli's side of this adventure that is most significant, and the stream of brilliant reveals that Carey drops on you as you follow what happens are delicious in the extreme. Be prepared to learn so much more about my favourite character Monono, who always keeps me entertained with her pop-culture references, and what she is capable of  too.

I must admit that I did approach this final book in the trilogy with some trepidation, especially given its portentous title, but The Fall of Koli has proven to be my favourite of the three books, by far - and that is saying something. The well conceived threads that sprang to life way back at the start of the epic series play out beautifully to their triumphant conclusions here, and the pitch perfect ending is hard to beat - even if I did shed some tears in the reading of it. The way Carey plays with the future direction of the 'old world' tech here is rather clever too, and fits nicely with Spinner's long held ideals, which made me smile. 

This is a series where you really do have to have read all the books, and in the correct order, for the story to work, but it really is worth your time and attention if you enjoy a post-apocalyptic yarn. Although I am a bit sad to get to the end of the journey, I have thoroughly enjoyed being along for the ride.

The Fall of Koli is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Orbit for providing me with an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

M. R. Carey has been making up stories for most of his life. His novel The Girl With All the Gifts was a word-of-mouth bestseller and is now a major motion picture based on his own screenplay. Under the name Mike Carey he has written for both DC and Marvel, including critically acclaimed runs on Lucifer, Hellblazer and X-Men. His creator-owned series The Unwritten appeared regularly in the New York Times graphic fiction bestseller list. He also has several previous novels, games, radio plays, and TV and movie screenplays to his credit.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Trust Me by T.M. Logan


Trust Me by T.M. Logan

Published 18th March 2021 by Zaffre.

From the cover of the book:


Ellen was just trying to help a stranger. That was how it started: giving a few minutes respite to a flustered young mother sitting opposite her on the train. A few minutes holding her baby while the mother makes an urgent call. The weight of the child in her arms making Ellen's heart ache for what she can never have.

Five minutes pass... Ten...

The train pulls into a station and Ellen is stunned to see the mother hurrying away down the platform, without looking back. Leaving her baby behind. Ellen is about to raise the alarm when she discovers a note in the baby's bag, three desperate lines scrawled hastily on a piece of paper: 
Please protect Mia... Don't trust the police... Don't trust anyone...

Why would a mother abandon her child to a stranger? Ellen is about to discover that the baby in her arms might hold the key to an unspeakable crime. And doing the right thing might just cost her everything . . .


Two strangers meet on a train: one of them, Ellen, a woman who knows she will never carry a child of her own, and the other, a young mother with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Although Ellen is uncomfortable in the presence of the young woman and her baby, at first, she quickly finds herself besotted with the tiny bundle when she offers to hold her while the mother takes an apparently urgent phone call. When the mother fails to return to her seat, Ellen is at a loss to explain why anyone would abandon their child, but she is also compelled to protect the baby in any way she can - especially when she finds the note that the young woman has left behind...

Please protect Mia... Don't trust the police... Don't trust anyone...

Ellen's life is about to be turned upside down in her quest to shelter this tiny human from harm - a child that holds the key to solving an appalling crime. Even if this means putting herself in the path of a dangerous serial killer...

Trust Me finds T.M. Logan at the top of his thriller game, with a story so deliciously complex and twisty that you will find yourself unable to decide who the murderer is until the thrilling climax is actually upon you. There are dodgy characters galore here and Logan throws red herrings and distraction techniques your way pretty much non-stop, so, very much like the feisty Ellen herself, you don't know who to trust.

The whole premise to this book is rather clever. It lies in the way Logan uses Mia as the focus of the story all the way through. Why is a tiny baby so important in solving a string of crimes? The truth, when it comes, is shocking, and I have to say, refreshingly quirky. As usual, T.M Logan writes his women well in this tale, and, in using a baby to also underpin Ellen's personal story, it allows our well-drawn protagonist to find a life-line to pull herself out of the sad place she has found herself in - her compulsion to save Mia helps her to save herself at the same time, and I found that really heart-warming.

I thoroughly enjoyed this latest thriller from T.M. Logan's growing stable of gripping reads and consumed the whole book in a single sitting. If you like our thrillers complex and twisty, with a great central character and a slick storyline then this is going to be for you too!

Trust Me is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Zaffre for providing me with an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review and to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

TM Logan's thrillers have sold more than a million copies in the UK and are published in 19 countries around the world including the USA, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Greece and the Netherlands.

Tim's brand new thriller, Trust Me, begins when a woman is asked to look after a stranger's baby on a train – only for the mother to vanish. When she looks in the baby’s things, she finds a note that says: ‘Please protect Mia. Don’t trust the police. Don’t trust anyone.’ Trust Me is out now in hardback, e-book and audiobook.

His previous novel, The Catch, is about a father who becomes convinced his daughter is about to marry a man with terrible secrets. Terrified that his cherished only child is about to marry a man who is not what he seems, Ed sets out to uncover the truth - before it’s too late...

His thriller The Holiday was a Richard & Judy Book Club pick and spent ten weeks in the Sunday Times paperback top ten. The Holiday takes place over a sweltering summer week in the south of France, as four best friends see the holiday of a lifetime turn into a nightmare of suspicion, betrayal and murder. Tim's debut Lies was one of Amazon’s biggest selling e-books of 2017 and was followed by 29 Seconds in 2018.

Tim was a national newspaper journalist before turning to novel-writing full time. He lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children, and writes in a cabin at the bottom of his garden.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Blackstoke by Rob Parker


Blackstoke by Rob Parker.

Published 23rd March by Red Dog Press.

From the cover of the book:


In a quiet cul-de-sac on the newly-opened, much sought-after Blackstoke housing development, the first handful of families are moving in. 

These neighbours, thrown together for the first time, are looking forward to settling into their bright new lives-with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The estate couldn't be nicer, but it's a big change for everyone.

Then things start to happen. Bad things. As if something doesn't want them there.

As the new residents try to make sense of events, the buried history of the area makes itself suddenly, deeply apparent-with a series of shocking, violent escalations.

Soon, no one is safe, as the original powers of Blackstoke return to reclaim their territory and birth right in a final night of dark revelations, gore and bloodshed.


Welcome to Blackstoke, a new development of executive homes in a gated community, for those who can pay the price for 24-hour security and a swanky postcode.

The first group of residents have moved into their quiet cul-de-sac and are looking forward to settling down in their little corner of, what the glossy brochures assure them will be, rural heaven. Each of them is finding the move a little difficult for reasons of their own.

Meet Quint and Wendy, the retired couple looking for peace and quiet; David and Christian settling into new parenthood with their adopted baby daughter, Olivia; Grace the young, ambitious lawyer, with her Irish wolfhound, Dewey; boorish MP Peter, his long-suffering wife Joyce, and their twin boys; and the latest Blackstoke arrivals, Peter looking to make a impression on his less than impressed wife Pam, and teenage children Alice and Jacob. Each of them have their own trials and tribulations that they would prefer to keep secret behind their brand spanking new front doors, and inevitably the forced familiarity with their new neighbours does lead to tension.

So, a domestic drama set in a refined cul-de-sac, in the leafy countryside you imagine? Well, dear reader, think again... for while we are getting to know our new neighbours and their little ways, we start to get the idea that there might be more than meets the eye about this residential development. Why is there zero work going on in the rest of the sizeable, planned development? Where is the promised 24-hour security, especially when odd things are going on in the middle of the night? And what is that damned awful smell? 

Rob Parker has a few tricks up his sleeve when it comes to where this story takes us, and the direction is a truly shocking one. The odd happenings escalate into something far more dangerous with the advent of mysterious abductions and bloody violence, with an abruptness that sends you completely off balance - almost as if you have been hit with a sharp thwack to the head (pretty pertinent this reference) and off we go into nightmare country!

And, boy, does Parker let his imagination run away with him when his full intentions become clear. Be prepared for some very unsettling scenes, menacing monsters with morbid motives, and our gang of new neighbours fighting for survival as they discover the true nature of Blackstoke and its history - all while the lights have rather inconveniently gone out.

Knowing Parker's penchant for an oldie but goodie when it comes to film and literary gems, there are definite nods to some of the thriller and horror greats to be spotted among the macabre twists and turns of his own creation, all of which kept me entertained all the way through. The pace never lets up once the full-blown grisly action kicks off, and I lapped up the whole lovely lot in a single glorious sitting.

I have many thoughts about where this story leaves off. It's just the kind of unsettling conclusion a bloodbath horror story deserves, but I really want to know what happens next! I would also really enjoy hearing more about Jacob and his unexpected allies, the twins (who reminded me a bit of the Frog brothers from The Lost Boys, bizarrely), as they really needed more of a moment to shine once they had formed their band of brothers outfit - scope for their own spin-off story here Rob?! 

I thoroughly enjoyed this mad-cap ride into the gates of Hell, and even though this something of a departure from Rob Parker's tried and tested broken-hero-with-a-heart or Northern noir story, he pulls it off with style. I am a big fan of Parker's books and think he can now confidently add the title 'horror writer' to the growing CV. I am looking forward to seeing where his imagination takes me next!

Blackstoke is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer, or direct from Red Dog Press  HERE.

Thank you to Meggy Roussel from Red Dog Press for sending me an e-book copy of this book in return for an honest review, and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I have also purchased a hardback copy.

About the author:

Rob Parker is a married father of three, who lives in Warrington, UK. The author of the Ben Bracken thrillers, Crook’s Hollow and the #1 Audible bestseller Far From The Tree, he enjoys a rural life, writing horrible things between school runs. Rob writes full time, attends various author events across the UK, and boxes regularly for charity. He spends a lot of time in schools across the North, encouraging literacy, story-telling and creative-writing, and somehow squeezes in time to co-host the For Your Reconsideration film podcast, appear regularly on The Blood Brothers Crime Podcast, and is a member of the Northern Crime Syndicate.

The Colour Of Hope: 'Poems of Happiness in Uncertain Times’ By Jen Feroze


The Colour Of Hope: 'Poems of Happiness in Uncertain Times’  By Jen Feroze.

Published 28th January 2021 by Troubador Publishing.

From the cover:

The Colour Of Hope is a poetry collection with happiness at its heart. The 45 poems inside were created during the first lockdown in the UK, at a time when finding beauty and comfort in the everyday seemed at once fraught with difficulty and vitally important. Each was written for a specific recipient, based on three things they guaranteed would make them feel happy. 

I received a wonderful range of briefs. From the beautifully universal - a longing for nature and freedom, time spent with family, summers spent in other lands - to the gloriously specific - snaffling a Toffee Crisp from the fridge late at night, Fleetwood Mac songs, making the perfect scrambled eggs, and Ceilidh dancing. 

The result is a collection of poems that serves both as a record of this intense and intensely strange year, and as an uplifting reading experience that will connect and resonate with a much wider audience than the individuals they were initially written for.

2020 will be one for the history books, a year that has created emergencies on many fronts, not least the emotional. 60% of adults, and 68% of young people in the UK reported a decline in their mental health during lockdown. As such, 20% from the sale of this book will be donated to Mind, to help provide a bit of light in these uncertain times.


As part of the blog tour for Jen Feroze's beautiful poetry collection, I am delighted to bring you an extract to enjoy here:

For Gayle

The sky is stained with the soft pink of evening
and you ask me where I’ve been.
Look closely, and you’ll see
waves cresting behind my eyes.
Let me paint you a picture with sea glass
and sand treasures. Gently gnarled driftwood,
a mosaic of mussel shell pieces,
the bluest blue there is.

Sit with me a while in the garden,
let me tell you a story of the ocean’s music.
Of pale sunlight and salt air that raises
the hairs on my arms. Of the low cliffs
starred with daisies and sea thrift.
We’ll sip lemon-scented tea,
while the bees play drowsy symphonies
among the young flowers,
and the sun slips away to other gardens,
other distant shorelines.

Jen Feroze, The Colour of Hope

The Colour of Hope is available to buy in paperback now from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Isabelle Kenyon of Kenyon Author Services for kindly sending me a an e-copy of this book and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Jen has been in love with language for as long as she can remember. A former Foyle Young Poet of the Year, her poetry has appeared in national and international journals and anthologies. The Colour of Hope is her debut collection. Jen is a bookworm with a love of baking, conversation that makes your brain fizz and really good cheese. She lives by the sea in Essex with her husband and two young children.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Rosie Shadow (The Black Tongue Series Book 1) by Louise Worthington


Rosie Shadow (The Black Tongue Series Book 1) by Louise Worthington.

Published 1st March 2021 by Red Escape Publishing.

From the cover of the book:

'Whatcha crying for, sissy? Why don’t you grow a pair?’ Rosie says to her mother...‘Send me to school and I’ll rip off your arm! Beat you with the stump.’

Abandoned by her terrorised mother at the age of six, Rosie Shadow will do anything to win the affection of her father Archie, an undead cannibal in charge of Her Majesty's Prison Shortbury, now operating as a visitor attraction.

Clare is sent reeling into Archie’s arms with the grief of losing her boyfriend in a mysterious car accident when he collides with an ancient yew tree.

The secrets in the Medieval dungeon beneath the prison are under threat when Clare becomes suspicious of Archie’s true identity and his progeny.

Rosie Shadow is the first book in The Black Tongue Series, a gripping zombie horror by the author of Rachel's Garden, The Entrepreneur, Willow Weeps and Distorted Days.


Rosie Shadow, with a blurb that promises creepy delights, is just the kind of horror book that does exactly what it says on the tin.

It starts with an off-kilter family reunion that introduces us the the fearsome Rosie and her terrorised mother, Elly, and proceeds via a car accident that results in the death of poor unsuspecting Lennie, to set the scene nicely for the nightmarish goings on that follow. Throw in Lennie's grieving girlfriend, Clare, firmly in the sights of undead cannibal Archie; an abandoned prison complete with Medieval dungeon that acts as both torture chamber and larder; a malevolent, ancient yew tree that it is very unhealthy to be around; a few weirdoes of the human kind; and a host of do-gooders who are slow to recognise evil when they see it, and you have the makings of a cracking horror tale that that will keep you up at night.

A sense of dread pervades the whole stomach churning story, and you cannot shake the feeling that no one is going to come out of this tale of evil unscathed. Louise Worthington uses the theme of creatures from your nightmares which sustain themselves by feeding off the weak rather well in this book, and mixing in a few corrupt predators of both the supernatural and human kind proves to be a clever and winning combination - especially when set against the pitch perfect background of a location that has long been the stamping ground of the sinful and the unhinged.

There are definite shades of The Omen, The Exorcist and many of Stephen Kings dark tales in this book, and it comes with the requisite unsettling ending that draws you inexorably towards the next instalment in the series - which I am looking forward to immensely.

Here, there be monsters... and it was lots of fun reading about them!

Rosie Shadow is available to buy now in paperback and e-book formats from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Louise Worthington and Helen Lewis of Literally PR for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Born in Cheshire, England, Louise studied literature at the University of Essex. As a teenager she read until the small hours, enjoying the darker worlds conjured by Stephen King and Daphne du Maurier.
Louise’s first novel, Distorted Days, was described by Kirkus Review as ‘a formidable work’. Her chilling blend of the lyrical and the dark is the most gripping in her thrillers and, forthcoming, horrors.

When Louise isn’t reading or writing, you’ll most likely find her outside enjoying the Shropshire countryside with her husband or messing about with her daughter, and furry and feathered friends.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Stay Mad, Sweetheart (BBNYA Third Place Tour) by Heleen Kist


Stay Mad, Sweetheart by Heleen Kist.

Published 19th November 2019 by Red Dog Press.

From the cover of the book:

There's a fine line between innocence and guilt. 
An even finer line between justice and revenge.

Shy and sensible Laura prefers the company of her books to the real world – let alone that cesspit online. But when her best friend Emily becomes the victim of horrific cyberbullying, she makes it her all-engulfing mission to track down the worst culprits using her finely-tuned data skills. 

Petite corporate financier Suki is about to outshine the stupid boys at her firm: she's leading the acquisition of Edinburgh's most exciting start-up. 
If only she could get its brilliant, but distracted, co-founder Laura to engage.

Event planner Claire is left to salvage the start-up's annual conference after her colleague Emily fails to return to work. She's determined to get a promotion out of it, but her boss isn't playing ball. 

As the women's paths intertwine, the insidious discrimination they each face comes to light. Emboldened by Emily's tragic experience, they join forces to plot the downfall of all those who've wronged them.

But with emotions running high, will the punishments fit the crimes?


The brilliant, but introverted, software designer Laura lives somewhat of a sheltered existence, so when she learns of her friend Emily's experience with on-line trolling she is horrified, and cannot believe that there is no way to seek legal redress for what has happened. She is equally upset to learn about the blatant sexism shown to her two new friends, Suki and Claire, who we also see equally powerless, but she does not realise she is also a victim of male treachery too...

I absolutely love the way this story unfolds, as these three women gradually discover that they do have power after all, and the ending Heleen Kist has in store for you, dear readers, is an air punching delight! These are all strong, clever women, who deserve the recognition they have been denied. But it is not my intention to give any spoilers away here - this is one of those books that you just have to read for yourself. 

So no spoilers, but I can talk about the way this book cleverly tackles the range of subjects mentioned above. There are some issues brought to the fore here that we will all recognise as bad news (well us decent people anyway!) - for example, the way women can be belittled in the workplace and treated to casual sexism and abuse as a matter of course, and the relentless torrent of vile abuse that can be unleashed on social media - but Heleen Kist also covers issues that have massive grey areas about which many of us will have very different opinions.

I think this book will lead to much debate about the issue of consent, which is definitely very topical given the recent #MeToo movement. I thought that Heleen Kist handled this with a very deft touch. There are some fine lines drawn here and although we can see that some of these characters leap across the barrier of what is right, other behaviours are not so clear-cut.

Similarly, she lets us see that there can be a fine line between justice and revenge. If your behaviour in the pursuit of justice is tantamount to the same as that of the person you are getting back at, does that make you just as bad as they are? This is an interesting question.

Having said all this, we are certainly made aware of the characters that do deserve to be brought down in this story (both male and female) and the way their demise is managed is glorious.

Stay Mad, Sweetheart covers a whole smorgasbord of issues - sexual politics in and out of the workplace, power struggles, sexism, consent and the minefield of social media - and combines this with a cracking story of the pursuit of justice, or is it revenge? Much of what you read in these pages will resonate with your own experiences if you are female, but there is plenty to take away from this is you are male too. 

So what is Stay Mad, Sweetheart about? Is it a contemporary examination of the workplace, the dating scene, the abuse of social media? Or is it a highly charged and intelligent thriller? Well, it is all of these things and a fast-paced, exciting read too. It will leave you with a lot to think about (and many water-cooler issues to discuss), but it will also keep you entertained along the way....and it has a winning title!

I absolutely loved it and think you will too.

Originally reviewed in November 2019 as part of the blog tour to celebrate the publication of this book, I am delighted to re-share by thoughts to mark the fact that Stay Mad, Sweetheart was awarded third place in the BBNYA 2020 awards. Thank you to Heleen Kist and Red Dog Press for providing me with an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review.

About the author: 

Heleen Kist has been fondled, patronised and ordered to smile by random men. So she wrote ‘Stay Mad, Sweetheart’, a feminist tale of revenge. Whilst her professional knowledge of technology start-ups fed the novel’s setting, its theme of harassment and workplace discrimination required no research: it is familiar to all women.
Heleen was chosen as an up and coming new author at Bloody Scotland 2018. Her first novel, ‘In Servitude’ won the silver medal for Best European Fiction at the Independent Publishers Book Awards in the USA and was shortlisted for The Selfies awarded at London Book Fair.

A Dutch strategy consultant living in Glasgow and married to a Scotsman, she’s raising their son to be a good man and their daughter to kick ass.

About BBNYA (The Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Award):

BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score
books written by indie authors.
If you are an author and wish to learn more about the 2021 BBNYA competition, you can
visit the official website ( or our Twitter account, @BBNYA_Official.
If you would like to sign-up and enter your book, you can find the BBNYA 2021 AUTHOR
. Please make sure to carefully read our terms and conditions before

If you are a book blogger or reviewer, you can apply to be part of BBNYA 2021 by filling out
this form  (also remember to read the terms and conditions before signing up)!
BBNYA is brought to you in association with the Folio Society (If you love beautiful books
you NEED to check out their website!) And the book blogger support group TheWriteReads.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Bound (Sam Shephard Book 4) by Vanda Symon


Bound (Sam Shephard Book 4) by Vanda Symon.

Published 4th March 2021 by Orenda Books.

From the cover of the book:

When the official investigation into the murder of a respectable local businessman fails to add up, and personal problems start to play havoc with her state of mind, New Zealand's favourite young detective Sam Shephard turns vigilante..

The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.

The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad's terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation.

And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it's up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect.


Bound picks up nicely where Sam Shepard's previous adventure, Containment, left off - with Sam now a fully fledged Detective, although still struggling to get the recognition she deserves from her less than pleasant boss, DI Johns. Things on the personal front are also going well with fellow cop Paul, now working in Dunedin with Sam, although they are trying to keep their relationship low-key at work, but Sam's father's illness is now in its later stages and she can no longer avoid the fact that his end is near.

However, Sam has little time to dwell on her own triumphs and tragedies when an apparently respected businessman is brutally murdered in his own home, with his bound and gagged wife forced to watch. The plot thickens when it seems the 'respectable' victim was involved in various murky business practices and had a habit of rubbing shoulders with some of Dunedin's less than reputable crowd. 

As events play out, it looks like this is a cut and dried case, but Sam can't shift the nagging feeling that something is not quite right about where the clues are pointing them. It's up to her to go out on a limb on this one and take action that is going to make her less than popular with her fellow cops, especially when she discovers more than she bargained for - but everyone deserves the right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty, don't they?

It was an absolute delight to meet up with Detective Sam Shephard once more, and this time Vanda Symon has a devilishly delicious plot up her sleeve that takes you right round the houses before the truth is revealed. Sam is in the middle of quite a lot as far as her private life is concerned in this book, but, even so, she remains every bit as dedicated and focussed on the job in hand as ever, and the strength of her conviction to uphold the law and ensure that justice is served, whatever the personal cost, really shines through here - just what I love about her. 

The pacing of the story is perfection, as usual, with short punchy chapters that keep the business end of the story flowing, and there is plenty of heart mixed in to ensure you are completely invested in the characters too. The twists and turns on both Sam's professional and private fronts in this book throw up rather a lot of interesting moral dilemmas and juicy themes to pick through once you are done with this one - the right to a fair trial, unconventional love stories, family dynamics and parental responsibility, sexism in the work place, the care of the terminally ill, among others - all wrapped up in a cracking crime story that takes draws you right into life in Dunedin. I am never sorry that Orenda's lovely Karen Sullivan encouraged Vanda Symon to make things 'more Kiwi' in these books, as I enjoy lapping up every little crumb about New Zealand life - the people, the backdrops, and even the weather all play an important part.

Intriguingly, there are some threads left hanging after the end of this one which serve as tantalising hooks to take us into book five, which I really hope will be on the horizon soon as I need to know what happens next!

If you are looking for an intelligent and gritty Down Under crime series that will keep you entertained all round, then this is definitely a series you should have on your reading pile. I love it!

Bound is available to buy now in paperback, e-book and audio formats from your favourite book retailer.

Thank you to Vanda Symon and Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books for providing me with a e-book copy of this book in return for an honest review, and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tour for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author:

Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. 

The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. 

She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

World Poetry Day Feature




Launching on World Poetry Day on 21st March 2021, inVERSE is a collection of five of the world’s oldest surviving poems re-imagined for the 21st century through the medium of film, by the award-winning film maker Jack Jewers. The inVerse series also features narration from Adam Roche, host of the Secret History of Hollywood podcast.

Each film takes an ancient poem as a prism through which to explore the world today. With historical poems ranging from the 1st Century Italy to 1500 BCE Mesopotamia, these five short films explore time and the human condition using the language of the ancients and the modern film making techniques of the 21st century. In celebration of humanity’s long relationship with poetry on World Poetry Day, these five films are a reminder that in these troubled modern times, poetry still has the ability to sooth and inspire.

Far from being dry, remote echoes of a long-gone age, each poem chosen for the collection feels like it could have been written yesterday. And why shouldn’t they? People are people. Our dreams are nothing new. Our ancestors had the same hopes and fears that we do. And if we can understand this, perhaps it helps to put some of the problems of our modern world into perspective.

The five films being released to mark World Poetry Day on Sunday 21st March are:

· Love Song - An Egyptian love poem written in 1400 BCE reveals a meditation on the meaning of relationship and gender in 2021.

· Long Wall - A poem about loss and suffering from the Han Dynasty in China, opens up a conversation about Europe’s refugee crisis.

· My Heart - Originating from ancient Mesopotamia, “My Heart Flutters Hastily” is a delightful reminder that those giddy, dizzy feelings you can get when you really like somebody are nothing new.

· The Look - A first century poem taken from Ovid’s Ars Amarosa is reimagined as a celebration of inclusivity and tolerance.

· The Dawn - The ancient Indian poet Kālidāsa’s Salutation to the Dawn transforms into a rallying cry for a better tomorrow led by young street protestors.


Love Song

Based on the poem The Flower Song Anon. Egypt, c.1400 BCE. (Abridged).

Watch the film: Love Song

A timeless declaration of love and desire, this poem feels as fresh today as it did when it was written – a long, long time ago. 

The imagery is strikingly sensual; how the narrator describes the sound of their true love’s voice as being like the taste of sweet wine; or wishing they were her very her clothes, so that they could forever be close to her body. It’s passionate, erotic, and quite beautiful.

About the film: 

None of the couples you see in the film had met before they came into the studio on the bright, spring day on which it was filmed – with one exception. The older couple are Alfred and Leila Hoffman, who were 92 and 83 at the time of filming, who have been together for over 60 years. The velvet-voiced narration is provided by Adam Roche, host of the Secret History of Hollywood podcast – required listening for all classic movie fans.

Long Wall

Based on the poem He Waters His Horse By A Breach in the Long Wall Anon. China, c.120 BCE.

Watch the film: Long Wall

Jack Jewers says: The first time I read this anonymous poem – dating from the Han Dynasty in China, sometime around 120BCE – I was blown away by its age. How can a poem this rich and vivid be so old? The idea for this whole series of films grew from there. 

The poem conveys such poignant feelings of separation and loss that it seemed to be perfectly suited to a tale of refugees, far from home.

About the film:

The refugee crisis is close to actress Sophia Eleni’s heart. Her mother fled the war in Cyprus in the mid-1970s, Most of the footage that ends the film was donated by the charity Refugee Rescue, who undertake tireless work saving desperate people at sea.

My Heart

Based on the poem My Heart Flutters Hastily Anon. Mesopotamia, c.1500 BCE.

Watch the film: My Heart

Originating from ancient Mesopotamia, “My Heart Flutters Hastily” is a delightful reminder that those giddy, dizzy feelings you can get when you really like somebody are nothing new. 

Whether it’s in a world of dating apps and socially-distanced love, or from a time that feels unimaginably distant, people have been falling in love the same way forever.

About the film:

inVERSE started life in a world before anyone had ever heard the word ‘Covid’ and lockdown was something to do with home security. So when the world ground to a half in the spring of 2020, Jack had to find alternative ways of finishing the project. Working with Los Angeles-based actress Joanne Chew, Jack devised a method of directing over Zoom while she recorded the takes on her phone, as selfies. The result is the lightest of the five films, and the sweetest.

The Look

Based on the poem Take Care With How You Look from Ars Amarosa by Ovid. Italy, 1st Century CE. (Abridged).

Watch the film: The Look

The Romans knew how to have a good time. The Look is an abridged version of ‘Take Care With How You Look,’ a chapter from Ars Amarosa (“The Art of Love”), by the poet Ovid. Its themes of rejecting false nostalgia about the past, and embracing the richness of the modern age, sounded to me like a celebration of inclusivity and tolerance. 

Of course, Ovid was writing about a very different age to our own, but the message holds as true today as it always has been. And what more fabulous harbingers this message than Drag Queens United?

About the film:

This is the only INSIGHT short that was put together from found footage, rather than filmed specially for the series. The lovely, colourful, joyous shots of Drag Queens United were taken at Amsterdam Pride in 2017.

The Dawn

Based on the poem Salutation to the Dawn by Kālidāsa (attributed) - India, c.400 CE.

Watch the film: The Dawn

Considered the greatest poet of ancient India, Kālidāsa is a founding figure of world literature. And yet, a lot of mystery surrounds Kālidāsa. 

Some scholars even question whether he was a real person, suggesting instead that his work a kind of collected greatest hits of the ancient Sanskrit world. And perhaps it's appropriate that such an inspiring poem was written by a semi-mythical figure. It sounds to me like a rallying cry for a better tomorrow. And who better to get that across than young street protestors?

About the film:

‘Bullet time’ is an effect that makes objects and people look like they are frozen in thin air. Creating true bullet time requires two things we did not have – time and money. So instead, Jack took a low-fi approach. Aside from a few simple computer-generated touches to enhance the overall effect, everything you see is done for real. The protestors are all professional dancers, who had the strength and balance necessary to be able to keep still for extended periods of time – often in difficult and uncomfortable poses.

About Jack Jewers:

Jack Jewers is a filmmaker and writer. Passionate about telling stories in all media, his body of work crosses film, TV, and digital. His short films and web series have been shown in and out of competition at dozens of film and web festivals, including Cannes, New York, Washington D.C., Marseille, Dublin, and London’s FrightFest.

In 2014 he developed and directed Night School, a web series based on the popular young adult novels of the same name. It quickly grew from a couple of low-budget short films to become one of the highest-profile British web series to date. Jack’s numerous short films as director include the critically-acclaimed Shalom Kabul, a dark comedy based on the true story of the last two Jews of Afghanistan.

Jack has won several accolades for his film work, including an award from the Royal Television Society and a nomination for Best Short Film by BAFTA Wales. He has been invited to speak about his work at several major film and TV industry events, including Series Mania in Paris. Jack has also worked in advertising.

Through his production company, Queen Anne’s Revenge, Jack is currently in development on the fantasy TV series Whatever After, featuring Jessica Brown Findlay. He is also working on a small slate of feature film projects, including a thriller set in the international protest movement, entitled Generation Revolution.

Away from the cinema in all its forms, Jack has a deep interest in literature and history. He writes historical fiction, and is the co-founder of the publishing company Moonflower Books.

He lives near London with his wife, the author Christi Daugherty, a small menagerie of pets, and a friendly ghost. But that’s another story.

Film Credits:

The Long Wall
Poem: He Waters His Horse By A Breach in the Long Wall Anon. China, c.120 BCE
Directed, Produced & Edited by: JACK JEWERS
Director of Photography TOM BLOUNT
Colourist: PAUL FALLON
Makeup Artist: EMILY COLLINS
Camera Assistant: EMILY TAIT
Production Assistants: JUSTINE DUHART | SIMON HALL
Music: ‘Homecoming’ by Peter Broderick & Machinefabriek Published by Erased Tapes Music
©2021 Queen Anne’s Revenge Ltd.

Love Song
Poem: The Flower Song Anon. Egypt, c.1400 BCE. (Abridged).
Directed, Produced & Edited by: JACK JEWERS
Director of Photography: TOM BLOUNT
Narrator: ADAM ROCHE
Colourist: PAUL FALLON
Camera Assistant: EMILY TAIT
Makeup Artist: EMILY COLLINS
Production Assistant: JUSTINE DUHART
Filmed at Mowlam Studios, Bethnal Green, London
©2021 Queen Anne’s Revenge Ltd.

My Heart
Directed, Produced & Edited by: JACK JEWERS
Music: “Flight As A Feather” by Simon Porter Performed by the English Session Orchestra Published by Audio Network
©2021 Queen Anne’s Revenge Ltd.

Take Care/The Look
Narrated, Edited & Produced by: JACK JEWERS
Director of Photography: GUILLAUME VERSTEEG
Footage of ‘Drag Queens United’ at Pride Amsterdam © 2017 G3B Studios
Used by kind permission of G3B Studios and the Queens Themselves
Music: ‘Lightly Drift’ by Helen Jane Long Published by Audio Network
©2021 Queen Anne’s Revenge Ltd.

The Dawn
Poem: Salutation to the Dawn by Kālidāsa (attributed) - India, c.400 CE
Directed, Produced & Edited by: JACK JEWERS
Director of Photography: TOM BLOUNT
Narrated by EMMA KNIEBE
Colourist: PAUL FALLON
Makeup Artist: EMILY COLLINS
Camera Assistant: EMILY TAIT
Production Assistant: JUSTINE DUHART
Music: ‘Wake the Stars’ by Philip Guyler Published by Audio Network
©2021 Queen Anne’s Revenge Ltd.