Saturday, 23 July 2016

The Name I Call Myself - Beth Moran

"All Faith Harp wants is a quiet life – to take care of her troubled brother, Sam, earn enough money to stop the wolves snapping at her heels, and to keep her past buried as deep as possible. And after years of upheaval, she might have just about managed it: she’s engaged to the gorgeous and successful Perry is holding down a job, and Sam’s latest treatment seems to actually be working this time. But, for Faith, things never seem to stay simple for long. Her domineering mother-in-law-to-be is planning a nightmare wedding, including the wedding dress from hell. And the man who killed her mother is released from prison, sending her brother tumbling back into mental illness. When secretly planning the wedding she really wants, Faith stumbles across a church choir that challenges far more than her ability to hold a tune. She ends up joining the choir, led by the fierce choir-mistress, Hester, who is determined to do whatever it takes to turn the motley crew of women into something spectacular. She also meets Dylan, the church’s vicar, who is different to any man she has ever met before."

In all honesty, I am a crime fiction girl at heart, and was never expecting be a fan of Beth Moran. She just seemed a little too nice from the blurb. This is the second of her novels that I've read though, and you know what? She isn't as nice as the blurb makes out (this is a GOOD THING, trust me). I really enjoyed Beth's last novel, and it came as a refreshing treat after months of reading about psychos and serial killers. This novel is even better.

This book takes a slightly darker tone than the previous novel, and that was something that I liked. Beth always has very likeable characters, and this time Faith, while likeable, also has a dark secret that she's trying to hide from her new future family. The plot line pulled me in, and there are some really brilliant characters - I loved Marilyn - and the focus on women and how we are so much stronger when we are all together was another element that I really loved. 

Yes, it's chick lit but there's nothing fluffy or two-dimensional about it. The focus isn't on how the main character can get her man, or whatever. It's about being yourself, opening up to others, and showing how we are there to lean on each other - to help each other. It's the kind of chick lit I'd want my daughter to be reading. Basically, I loved it - and I'm looking forward to the next Beth Moran book.

The Name I call Myself is out now and you can get it here:

**My thanks to the publisher for my ARC**

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Silent Scream - Angela Marson (repost)

So, I first posted this review months and months ago when Silent Scream was published as an ebook by Bookouture. Now, the incredibly brilliant Angie Marsons has just had it published in paperback by Bonnier, so it seems natural for me to need to shout about it again! This is the first in what has now become one of my favourite crime series - if you haven't read it yet, then you need to. See that, NEED. Y'all need to read it. And then the next one. And the next one....etc. My original review is below....and yes, I still love it just as much. 

"Five figures gather round a shallow grave. They had all taken turns to dig. An adult sized hole would have taken longer. An innocent life had been taken but the pact had been made. Their secrets would be buried, bound in blood … 

Years later, a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the first in a spate of gruesome murders which shock the Black Country. 

But when human remains are discovered at a former children’s home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim Stone fast realises she’s on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades. 

As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer, can Kim confront the demons of her own past before it’s too late?"

I seriously love a good crime novel. It's got to be my favourite genre, but it can be so hard to find a really excellent crime thriller where everything all fits together just perfectly - the plot, the characters, the writing. Generally, I always find one thing that, even though I may love the book, there's a little niggly bit that makes me think "meh" and it's rare that I find one without the 'meh' factor at all. The thing I love most about book reviewing is that you get to find some absolute gems - debut authors that you've never heard of before that make you sit up and think, "I need more of this!". Angela Marsons has TOTALLY done of these things with Silent Scream. I don't think I've been so hooked by a new author since the discovery of Mark Edwards or Mark Billingham, (the only other winners of the 'zero meh' factor, congrats boys).

I loved the plot - totally twisty-turny as a good crime thriller should be. I thought I knew who was behind it all, then I really didn't have a clue, and then another curve-ball was thrown right when I thought everything was all coming together. I loved the characters - Kim Stone is a fantastic lead character, just the right mix of slightly damaged crossed with woman on a mission to see that justice is done. I actually want to be Kim Stone when I grow up. 

Silent Scream gets 5 stars from me - if you finish a crime thriller feeling like you just need to have a lie-down and a cup of tea to get your breath back, then the writer has done their job. Angela Marsons, I still don't have my breath back. 

From 20th February you can get Silent Scream here:

*I received an ARC from the publisher through Netgalley*

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Beauty of the End - Debbie Howells

After reading Debbie's first book, The Bones of You, I was super excited to be offered an advance copy of The Beauty of the End. A hauntingly brilliant psychological thriller, I found myself intrigued and captivated by Noah's attempts to uncover exactly what has been happening to his ex-girlfriend for her to end up in hospital, accused of murder. This was one read that I really wasn't able to put down until the very last page. Today, for my stop on the tour, I have a piece from Debbie on her writing space.

"I was fourteen when I fell in love with a goddess . . .
A love he'd never forget
Ex-lawyer Noah has never forgotten his first love. When, years later, he hears that she's suspected of murder, he knows with certainty that she's innocent. With April on life-support and the evidence pointing towards her guilt, he's compelled to help her. But he's also unprepared as he's forced to confront what happened between them all those years ago.

A secret she would never reveal
April Moon had loved Noah. She never wanted to hurt him. But there was something - and someone - dark in her life which made happiness together impossible.
A family she could never forgive
Ella is a troubled teenager with her own secrets to tell. But no one will listen. What Ella knows holds the key to finding the killer. But as Noah, April and Ella's stories converge, shocking revelations come to the surface. The truth is obvious. Or so everyone believes . . ."

My writing space:

At the moment, I mostly write from the comfort of an old leather sofa, the floor around me piled with my notebooks, flowers on the coffee table – whatever’s growing outside, which at the moment is sweet peas and herbs.  On the subject of notebooks, I have dozens of them, all sizes – pocket sized to large artists’ sketch books.  I could not write a book without them.

The room is filled with natural light from the huge windows which are usually open, so that I can hear the wind in the trees and the birds.  This spring, there’s been a noisy nest of magpies.  At my feet, I have faithful Bernard, our large and very dear golden retriever.
I write in silence (apart from the magpies) or maybe with music, quietly, in the background.  Lyrics are too distracting, so it’s classical or instrumental - or sometimes, Ibiza chillout – a reminder of the times I’ve spent out there.  But it depends what I’m writing.  Music’s a powerful mood thing – the twisted, dysfunctional people I write about suit a dark, atmospheric soundtrack!

The Beauty of the End is out now and you can get it here:

**My thanks to the publisher for my ARC**

Monday, 18 July 2016

Cut to the Bone - Alex Caan

I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of Cut to the Bone - a gripping, thrilling tale of the murky world of vlogging. Now, I am an old hand at blogging, but had literally NO IDEA about vlogging so I was intrigued to find out exactly how this story was going to pan out. In short, it was BRILLIANT. Strong characters, brilliant premise, and some cracking little plot twists meant that I devoured this over the course of two days. And THEN I got to have a little chat with extremely talented author, Alex Caan. A pleasure, and a privilege.

"Ruby is a vlogger, a rising star of YouTube and a heroine to millions of teenage girls. And she's missing. She's an adult - nothing to worry about, surely? Until the video's uploaded. Ruby, in the dirt and pleading for her life.

Who better to head up the investigation than the Met's rising star, Detective Inspector Kate Riley? She's leading a shiny new team, high-powered, mostly female and with the best resources money can buy. It's time for them to prove what they can do. Alongside her, Detective Sergeant Zain Harris - poster boy for multiracial policing and the team's newest member - has his own unique contribution to make. But can Kate wholly trust him and when he's around, can she trust herself?
Ruby's millions of fans are hysterical about what may have happened to her. The press is having a field day and as the investigation hurtles out of control in the glare of publicity, it becomes clear that the world of YouTube vloggers and social media is much, much darker than anyone could have imagined in their worst nightmares.
And the videos keep coming . . ."

So Alex, now I've got you here, describe your book deal moment when you knew someone wanted to publish you.

I’m glad I got to answer this, because it was just so cool. My mum’s not been well for a while, and ended up in hospital for months. It was while I was with her in a rehabilitation unit that I got the call from my awesome agent Luigi to say that Bonnier were going to be my publisher. And so I could share it with my mother, and it made her happy seeing how thrilled I was, and it just felt so right. Sorry this all sounds a bit like an X Factor/The Voice sob story, but really it couldn’t have been better! What about you? How did you get to become super successful Lisa Hall Number One Best Selling author?

Oh, that is SO lovely - not at all X Factor! Mine all happened really quickly - within three weeks of sending out my manuscript I had a two-book deal. So quickly in fact, that I'm still waiting for them to knock on the door and tell me it was all a huge mistake! I personally LOVED Cut to the Bone – what has the response been from your family and friends?

Thank you! You really have championed it and me, so for that you will always be an aubergine! (Readers should stalk us on Twitter to find out exactly what that means…and no it’s not rude!!) My family think writing is a ‘hobby’ not a calling, so don’t think they’ll take me seriously unless I’m J K Rowling. So, never basically. My friends have been amazing. None of them have been allowed to read it yet, but they have supported me for decades in my dream to become a proper author, and never let me quit. I hope they still talk to me after they read such a twisted, creepy novel! How did your family react when they read Between You and Me? Did they get really worried??

Aubergines rule! My family and friends were all lovely and dead supportive when they read BYAM...although I did have to reassure my Dad that it's not true life and that Mr H is not really an evil villain. I know one question I have been asked by various people is whether any of my characters are based on real life people. Spill the beans, Alex - are any of your characters based on people you know?

No. But in the next one…Hisa Lall will be ruling the world! Lol. I think my lead characters are all versions of me, so how I would like to be. Ok when people read about how damaged they are they are seriously going to think I’m bonkers! I just mean it’s natural, bits of yourself end up in your novel. I’ve totally stolen names from real people though. And with the vloggers I had to change them about a million times, everytime I thought I’d invented an original vlogger I saw a video on YouTube of someone doing exactly what Ruby et al did! Please tell me Charlie isn’t based on anyone you know?

I can't wait to meet Hisa Lall...I've heard that she is very beautiful and absolutely does not drink too much Prosecco. Hahah nooooo Charlie is not real! But Sal does have certain elements that I have stolen from someone that I DO actually know! People say “write what you know” – I wrote about domestic violence, even though I didn’t have personal experience of it, and needed to do heaps of research. Cut to the Bone ventures into the world of vlogging (which I also know nothing about, I’m not down with the kids) – how much experience do you have of the vlogging community and did you have to go undercover to get the low down on it all? (I am secretly hoping that you did)

Lol yeah in a shady anorak and sunglasses at Videocon! Not really, before I get arrested. Luckily for me the vloggers lives are all available for public consumption, so I just watched videos non-stop. I did a four day stint at the beginning. I started to believe they were my friends, and that they were speaking to me…oh wow I am so getting arrested! Next!! Lol. Seriously though it’s addictive, and you feel like you’re part of their lives. I did do a lot of research about locations, and the science behind what I wrote, so read some really interesting academic papers on the psychology of online personalities and there was research about mineral ore extraction after which I had to lie down in a darkened room somewhere for a week. In my next one there is loads of complex science and my head hurts just thinking about what I learnt. And we discussed this already. We are so down with the kids we are in Australia! What?? Even I don’t know what that means. Oh and I HATE that rule btw. Write what you want to, or what you want to know, or about a life you secretly would want to live. I’m curious now-what research did you do? Was it harrowing? I really want to ask you about the research you did for some of it, but I’m not going to, it will spoil stuff.

Yes, lips are sealed! I did do lots of research and it was very harrowing - it certainly opened my eyes to things that go o around us! Now back to you - who was your favourite character to write? I have to confess to secretly loving writing the baddies – do you prefer the dark side too?

Lol you do baddies so well though!! Seriously compelling to read them! And yes totally. Even my leads, Kate Riley and Zain Harris, have loads of shade about them. I like messed up people, people who live in the crease of normality. Kate’s got some major secrets which are going to blow people’s minds in future books. It’s that Joni Mitchell song ‘Case of You’ about being drawn to people who aren’t afraid of the dark side, even though I am too scared to venture near it.

Ohhhhh, I can't wait to find out about Kate's major secrets...I might need to bully them out of you when I see you! One of my top reads for the year so far has been Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker (yes, I am STILL going on about it!) What has been your top read so far this year? Which book have you been subtly bullying people into buying? (I know I’m not the only one who does this, so just confess to it now).

Oh man not again. That Whitaker fellow has followed me into too many of my blogs. It’s my blog tour, he didn’t mention me even once! Yes Chris that is a hint!
I can’t pick just one, I’ve read so many novels this year and I don’t want to upset everyone by not picking theirs! I tweet about all the novels I love regularly though, and once I get my sh… into gear I will make sure I review them on Goodreads and on my website…which is erm being developed…very slowly! And not just saying this, but Between You and Me is one of them. Seriously I can’t love your novel enough! I couldn’t put it down and had to read it again when I finished! And I’m not alone because not only are you a NUMBER ONE superstar you are also one of the top selling books on Amazon this year!!

Oh shucks...hahaha, thank you so much - it's always a bit thrilling when an author whose book you've loved likes yours back! (I'm talking you liking mine, not blowing my own trumpet here haha) Finally – what writing advice would you give to new and aspiring writers? Personally, my favourite bit of writing advice has been get your face out there and known…and never run out of teabags.

Lol!! Teabags!! How random!! You make me laugh soooo much! I would say write what you want to write, not what you think you should or what someone told you to or what you think might sell. I like your advice, and it is important. I have to say the crime writing community has been so brilliant, really supportive and encouraging. The Twenty7 authors have been like a rock, seriously couldn’t have done this without them and they all write blazing books! I really wish I could name all the fantastic people I’ve met, but it would take ages. I tweet my love regularly though so they know who they are! Especially that Lisa Hall, who is an aubergine!! (Again-not rude!!)

Thank you Alex, for what has probably been the most brilliant interview I've ever had the joy of doing...Cut To The Bone is a bloody marvellous read! Folks, I really don't want you to miss out on what promises to be one of the most exciting thrillers this year....

Cut to the Bone is out now and you can get it here:

**My thanks to the gorgeous peeps at Bonnier for my ARC**

Sunday, 17 July 2016

High Season (The Polo Season Series) - Nacho Figueras & Jessica Whitman

"World-renowned polo player and global face of Ralph Lauren, Nacho Figueras dives into the world of scandal and seduction with a new fiction series set in the glamorous, treacherous world of high-stakes polo competition. 
Georgia never wanted to be a jetsetter. A plain old country vet was fine for her. But one distress call from her best friend and the next thing she knows she's neck deep in the world of polo's most elite international players--complete with designer dresses, fine champagne and some of the most gorgeous thoroughbreds she's ever seen. Some of the most gorgeous men too... 
Alejandro Del Campo needs his team to win the season's biggest polo tournament or else he's not sure how much longer they're going to be in business. What he doesn't need is some sassy new vet telling him how to run his business--and distracting him at every turn. But as they come closer and closer to the championship match, it soon becomes clear that Alejandro wants to win Georgia just as much as the tourney trophy. But can he ever convince her his world is where she truly belongs?"

I was offered an ARC of this novel, as I had confessed to being a Jilly Cooper fan. Which I am. A massive fan. So, although I was looking forward to reading this, it wasn't without some trepidation. Lots of writers have been compared to Jilly, but the only other one I've found who stands up to Jilly's high standards is Zara Stoneley. I was ever so slightly worried that this wouldn't compare. In a way, it didn't - although I liked a lot of the characters, I didn't have the emotional attachment that I have built up with other characters, but this IS the first in a series, so I'm sure the character attachment will come over time.
That said, it did compare in other ways - the storyline uses a very similar formula to Jilly Cooper (handsome rider-type guy, beautiful girl, he-loves-her-but-doesn't-want-to-and-vice-versa), and it's a formula that WORKS. And it works in this case too - I did really like Georgia and Alejandro, and despite feeling like I didn't connect with some of the other minor characters, I still want to know what happens next in the series, and I know that once I read the next in the series I'll be glad to be re-visiting old familiar faces.
So, in short, NO it's not in Jilly's league JUST YET, but I still give it four stars, as I'm already looking forward to reading the next in the series, and that can't be a bad thing at all. 

High Season is out on 27th July and you can get it here:

**My thanks to the publisher for my ARC**