Friday, 22 September 2017

The Limehouse Golem by Peter Ackroyd

This a quite a complex story, so I am interested to see how it translates to the big screen.

It starts with the impending death of Elizabeth Cree aka Lizzie. Charged with the murder of her husband John Cree, the reader is taken back to her childhood, her first days of freedom and her life on the boards performing as everyone but herself.

Other than the Victorian setting, the other aspect of this murder mystery with a gothic vibe, is the deliberate confusion about who the guilty party is. We are given a tour of the mind of the Golem, often during the brutal killings. Then there are the incidents Lizzie is involved in, and let's not forget what happens after Lizzie meets her unfortunate end. (Sorry, you will have to read all about it)

My point is, Ackroyd leaves the reader with a certain question of doubt. Is the 'Golem' really responsible or is Lizzie more than a determined young woman with a troubled past? Is everything as it seems, and what are the chances of different killers coming into contact with each other?

The story gives the reader a great taste of life in the music-halls, the streets of London, and the bawdy entertainment that brightened up the bleary and tough era. Ackroyd brings a macabre and twisted flavour to the bleakness of the setting.  It's all about the killing, and yet at the same time it has nothing to do with it at all.

Buy The Limehouse Golem at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Blog-Tour: Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill

Today is my stop on the Blog-Tour for Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill. It really is my pleasure to introduce you to this controversial little gem of a book. I'm sure it will generate plenty of discussions and reactions.
About Melissa Hill
A USA Today and No. 1 Irish times and Italian best-seller, Melissa Hill’s books are translated into 25 different languages. One of her titles has been optioned for a movie by a major Hollywood studio, and another is currently in development for TV with a top US production company. Visit her website at www.melissahill.ie or contact her on Twitter @melissahillbks, or melissahillbooks on Facebook and Instagram. Follow @HQStories
Buy Keep You Safe
About the book
What if your choice for your child could harm someone else’s?

Every mother faces impossible choices. Vaccination is one of the hardest. For single mum Kate O’Hara, there was no decision to make. Her daughter Rosie is one of a small percentage of Irish children who can’t be vaccinated against measles. All Kate can do is hope that her little girl is safe.

For mummy blogger Madeleine Cooper, it was a leap of faith she wasn't prepared to take when she and her husband declined controversial measles jabs for their daughter Clara. All she can do is pray that it’s the right decision.

But when classmates Clara and Rosie both become sick will Kate pay for Madeleine’s choice?
Review
There is no denying that this is a hot topic. There are plenty of parents, who choose not to vaccinate their children. They will hit you with a multitude of arguments of why it's the healthier choice for their children, of course it may be at the expense of your child or mine, but the most important factor is that their conscience is clean.

They are convinced the vaccines can be linked to autism, a false fact that has been debunked. The one in every thousand statistics make it seem as if every child will be the one who has a severe reaction. I can understand and feel empathy for the parents trying to protect their children, however the fact these same parents rely on the so-called herd-immunity to keep their own children safe and healthy automatically negates all their arguments for not vaccinating. If you are so convinced that vaccinations are a bad choice and a danger to children then surely you would want them abolished entirely instead of hoping the rest of the vaccinated herd keeps your own baby healthy, right?

Although I believe in vaccinations I also firmly believe that Health Services have a duty of care to children and parents. Vaccines need to be regularly checked and researched. Eradicating dangerous illnesses whilst keeping patients safe should be a priority, as opposed to the growing wealth and influence of big pharmacy. I have lived in a variety of European countries and the vaccines differ from country to country, so over-vaccination and unnecessary vaccinations need to be vetted better. Fact is that anti-vaxxers are the reason certain diseases are making a reappearance again, for instance polio in certain western societies.

At the same time the Health Services need to inform people better and make a more concentrated attempt to debunk myths and wrong information being spread by worried parents.

I really smirked at the 'it wasn't as if she used the blog or any other media she was involved in to foist her opinions on anyone else, and it was just a bit of light-hearted fun' paragraph. The sad thing is Madeleine truly believes that, and I'm guessing the majority of Mommy bloggers would say the same thing, however subconsciously they know that is the farthest thing from the truth. It's all about telling the world your opinion, and of course about how many followers you can attract while doing so. The more funny, snarky or original you sound the better. Regardless of whether you may be spreading dangerous information and pseudo science disguised as facts. Goop springs to mind. There is nothing worse than a sanctimonious supposed do-gooder being able to convince an audience of false facts, just because they are popular.

If you are putting your opinions out there then you also have a duty of care. I think many people who have a social media following tend to forget or rather they decide not to acknowledge it, because the end count is more important.

Kate and Madeleine both made choices for their children, however Kate makes hers because the vaccine does present a proven danger to her child, as opposed to the presumed danger Madeleine thinks exists..

Hill gives an excellent balanced view of both sides of the argument, there is no bias towards either side of  the vaccination issue. Both the anti-vaxxers and vaxxers get their day in court. She also plays around with the question of guilt when it comes to sending an ill child into society when they are a probable danger to other children. It made me think of these idiotic chicken pox lollipops and parties some parents have, when they think having the child contract a contagious disease sooner rather than later or at all, is a brilliant idea.

Ultimately the reader decides, and the author makes sure all the opinions are well-represented and both her main characters are flawed and realistic. We all have to make these decisions as parents, and we try do it to best of our ability. with the welfare of our children at heart.

Hill manages to keep the story well-paced and captivating, despite the seriousness of the topic. It never bows under the pressure of blame or conscience, instead it informs and educates. A good book doesn't always have to be entertaining. Sometimes, and this was one of those moments, it needs to be more than that.

Buy Keep You Safe at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Insidious Intent by Val McDermid

I don't think I have ever read such an unusual request by an author in an actual book. I have read impassioned pleas on social media and in blog posts, but never as an add-on author's note after the read.

I guess it says a lot about how much McDermid wants her readers to enjoy the story completely without any spoilers.

I have to say I can understand why she wants this particular twist and spectacular ending to be experienced during a subjective reading experience.

Carol has ended up on the wrong side of the law. The powers that be made sure that she can still do her job, but that has dire consequences. She is finding it hard to cope with some of her past decisions, which makes her doubt her current actions.

The team are confronted with a meticulous killer. The type, who plans every last detail and pre-empts every possible scenario the police may investigate. Have they finally met their match?

There is a sub-plot in the midst of the serial killer storyline about an issue that happens far too often in this age of social media, so first of all kudos to McDermid for presenting both sides of this particular issue.  I have actually come across a similar scenario at our local high school, just without the blackmail element. Both parents, young adults and teens have difficulty comprehending that sending, receiving, sharing and owning of certain material is also considered a crime when you are a teen. McDermid has created a realistic scenario, which should give some readers some food for thought.

The ending is way out of left field, and it happened so quickly it left me slightly bewildered, and I'm sure I am not the only one who wants to know where the heck do they go from there?

Once again McDermid proves why she is such a revered crime writer.

Buy Insidious Intent at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailers.

Follow @valmcdermid

Friday, 15 September 2017

The Betrayals by Fiona Neill

I think I might put this book on my list of favourites for this year. It wasn't at all what I expected, and yet at the same time it was.

I don't even think the betrayals are the driving force in this story. The deterioration of Daisy, the codependency of her brother Max, and of course the triggers, they are what propel the story forward with quite a lot of force.

First of all kudos to the author for the in depth research and description of the obsessive compulsive disorder. It controls and rules Daisy, her life and to a certain extent the lives of those around her. Like many other disorders, it has become somewhat of a blasé throwaway phrase that people mention in a jokey kind of way. The truth is it can control and take over your entire life, and indeed people who suffer from severe OCD are often unable to cope with the demands of everyday life, due to their condition.

I enjoyed the perfect imperfections of the characters and the story. In general life isn't an ice cream sundae with a cherry on top. It tends to be more like a melted mess that drips faster than you can eat it.

The lives of two families are changed forever when Nick and Lisa decide that lust is stronger than loyalty. Their spouses and children are less than thrilled. In fact Daisy believes their betrayal is the trigger for her OCD and every other problem in her life. To be more specific she believes Lisa is the root cause of her problems, and what Daisy thinks Max thinks too.

It's interesting how Daisy suffers from selective memory and fixates on her father and his mistress. Memory and in particular false memories and the way our brain works in relation to memories is Nick's speciality, which makes some aspects of the plot all the more ironic.

It really is an engrossing read, perhaps more so because the complete disintegration of families and relationships is so commonplace, and it leaves many victims in its wake. Neill writes a compelling plot with relatable characters.

Buy The Betrayals at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Monday, 11 September 2017

The Wife - To Have and to Hold (Book 1) by M.L. Roberts

This definitely has a Dr. Foster feel to it, and if you haven't seen that particular programme then be prepared for a paranoid and vengeful woman, and the close scrutiny of a marriage.

Marriage, relationships and friendships are at the forefront of this story. The story starts after specific events, which lead to the deterioration of her mental health and her marriage. The reader remains unaware of what those events are specifically until the author starts to reveal some of the details towards the end of this book.

It's hard to feel a lot of empathy for Ellie. because she seems so unstable. She is jealous, paranoid and isn't adverse to the occasional bouts of stalking. She doubts everything her husband says and does, perhaps with good reason though.

Roberts describes the charismatic husband really well. The charmer, the kind of man women want attention from, even if it is just the faintest of touches or a short moment of eye-contact. I think they thrive on the energy, the heavy feeling of lust and danger in the air. The short culmination of spiked desire, albeit only in a brief second of imagined abandonment. Michael is that type of man. The kind of man who holds the attention of the room, and enjoys every second of it. You have to be a strong woman or partner to accept this particular vice or personality trait. Why? Well, because he will only ever belong to you completely when there is only the two of you and no other person to stroke the ego of the prettiest peacock in the room.

No wonder Ellie is driven to distraction, especially after the damage her marriage has already incurred. It's interesting to note, and yet absolutely the norm, that as a woman she is expected to forgive, forget and go back to being the happy little wife. Regardless of the pain, horror and irreparable damage to her life and well-being she has had to endure.

The author writes a good game. In book one the nails are being slowly driven into the coffin one by one, whilst the reasons for her obsessive and paranoid behaviour are revealed at a calculated pace. Some characters look guiltier than others, however there are always three sides to every story. Her side, his side and somewhere in the middle is the truth.This is a four part series and I am looking forward to reading the next book For Better, For Worse.

Buy To Have and to Hold -The Wife (Book 1) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @AuthorMLRoberts @michellebetham @HarperImpulse

Order:
The Wife - Book One: To Have and to Hold
Pre-order:
The Wife - Book Two: For Better, For Worse
The Wife - Book Three: In Sickness and in Health
The Wife - Book Four: Till Death Us Do Part

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Blog-Tour: House of Spines by Michael J. Malone


Today is my stop on the Blog-Tour for the fabulous House of Spines by Michael J. Malone. Be prepared to be drawn in by this eerie mystery and you may even start to wonder about reality, dreams and hallucinations.What is real and what is taking place in his darkest corners of his mind?

About the Author
Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage and The Bad Samaritan. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.
Follow @michaelJmalone1 on Twitter or facebook.com/themichaeljmalonepage
Visit mjmink.wordpress.com
Buy The House of Spines
About the book
Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who it seems has been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, it seems Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror … the reflection of a woman…
A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…
Buy The House of Spines
Review
Imagine not only inheriting a whole house and the kind of library every bookworm dreams of, imagine inheriting a lifetime of secrets and lies too.

Ran seems to be pleased, and yet at the same time unnerved by Newton Hall. The question is whether his gut instinct is warning him about some danger in the house or are his mental health issues starting to reappear now that he is off his medication. Instead of enjoying being the man of the manor he seems to be looking over his shoulder and jumping at shadows.

I'm just saying I wouldn't be displeased if someone decided to give me a huge house with a massive library filled with books. I wouldn't mind putting up with all the weird spooky stuff, the passive-aggressive relatives and the leftover staff from the Adams Family.

Newton Hall has secrets hidden in the walls and in the mirrors. The kind of secrets that haunt and torture people, especially the guilty. Ran is starting to unravel the mysteries or are they starting to slowly unravel him. He is losing his grip on reality, drifting back and forth from moments of lucidity and nightmare scenarios.

Mental health issues play a pivotal role in the plot, which is done in a subtle and a realistic way. The author manages to portray the illness and the way society, and loved ones react to the illness. The constant suspicion, doubt and lack of trust is a constant factor on both sides.

Malone invites the reader into his little shop of horrors and let's them wrestle with the question of whether the nightmare is real or just the meanderings of a sick man. House of Spines may have a gothic feel to it, but it also has the interesting aura of a Hammer Horror. Some readers might not remember Hammer, however they were renowned for evoking an eerie and haunting sense of horror. The kind of hair on the back of your neck creepy you never quite forget.

The house will drag you in and may not let you go again, well at least not until she gets what she wants.

Buy House of Spines at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Visit orendabooks.co.uk  Follow @OrendaBooks

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

If you have read the Magpie Murders by Horowitz then this book won't seem at all bizarre or unusual. He is an author who likes to think outside the box. His plots are wee bit like Conan Doyle does Schrödinger’s Cat in the form of a murder mystery. While I'm on the subject it is worth mentioning that in 2011 the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle gave Horowitz the official endorsement to write a continuation of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

The Word is Murder more or less features Anthony Horowitz as himself in the main role. It is an interesting way to approach a crime story. I'm sure readers will start to wonder how much is fiction and how much of the actual crime story is fact.

It isn't until Horowitz actually mentions a few of his accolades that you realise just how accomplished and successful he is. In this scenario his diminishes his success, and plays with the fact he has prominent contacts.

A woman walks into a funeral parlour to plan and arrange her own funeral, and a few hours later she is ready to use the coffin she just bought. Is it just a huge coincidence or did someone end her life prematurely? Well the cord around her neck speaks volumes.

Horowitz is unaware of this particular event until an ex-police detective asks him to write a book about the murder with himself starring as the savvy detective. Horowitz finds it hard to work with this eccentric, obstinate and yet very observant detective, however he can't help but be pulled into the intriguing story that unfolds in front of him. Hawthorne is like a grumpy Columbo with Sherlock's deductive skills.

I enjoyed it, just like I really enjoyed the Magpie Murders, because the author isn't afraid to mix it up and challenge his readers. Thinking outside of the crime and mystery schemata to create unusual and yet captivating reads. The word is murder, but in this case the word is also Horowitz and Hawthorne are the new Watson and Sherlock.

Buy The Word is Murder at Amazon uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @AnthonyHorowitz  @penguinrandom

Visit anthonyhorowitz.com

Darien, Empire of Salt by C.F. Iggulden

I do like bit of well-written fantasy and Iggulden is certainly quite talented at spinning a fantastical tale. Darien is the first in the Empire of Salt series.

Although the magic plays a pivotal role it doesn't overpower the individual stories. Each of those stories and characters are interesting enough to hold their own in a standalone novel, but bringing them together in this book makes the idea all the more intriguing.

Their lives and stories do eventually come together at a certain point in time during great conflict. This collision sets them all on completely different paths.

Elias has always used his gift to help himself and others. Selfless acts of magic to help everyone survive another day. When he accidentally reveals his gift to someone ruthless he falls into a trap that puts his family at risk. Having to use his magic for evil instead of good goes against every grain in his body. It's the beginning of the end.

Daw and Nancy come together under less than auspicious circumstances. He wants to use her null potential to steal, however the two of them end up finding more than they bargained for. Nancy ends up becoming a strategic player in an unexpected coup.

Then there is the old swordsman Tellius, who happens to stumble upon Arthur, a young orphan. It doesn't take Tellius long to discover that he has found a magic being older than time itself. His kind hasn't been seen or heard of for centuries. Unfortunately that also makes the being very desirable to a lot of people. What follows is a intrigue laden battle for power in the midst of a coup, and the possible assassination of a king.

It has all the ingredients for a great read, and it certainly lives up to the hype and Iggulden's reputation. It's as if the magic draws all of them together for the greater cause, and yet none of them can see the individual threads. I am eager to see where this tale goes from here. I have to admit that Arthur and his story might have made me aww a little. It reminded me of the little boy in AI (Spielberg). It tugs on the heartstrings a little.

It's a really good read.

Buy Darien at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

This will be a difficult read for any reader, but especially those who have experienced anything of this nature.

Lane is called back to Kansas when her cousin goes missing. Returning to the place her mother ran from, that Lane ran away from and quite a few other Roanoke girls have run from. There seems to be some reason the women in the family try to escape from the seemingly idyllic ancestral home.

What Engel captures well is the co-dependent relationships in these scenarios. The people and relatives who remain silent, condone and often even facilitate the abuse. She also hits the nail on the head when it comes to the insidious nature of sexual abuse.

In this case it's grooming in the form of family loyalty, devotion and love.

The reactions of both Lane and Allegra may seem a contradiction at times, however they are a true representation of the complex emotions victims of abuse go through.

To know it's wrong on a base level and at the same time to crave the love and attention of the abuser, it's all part of the spider-web of incestuous relationships. In a scenario with multiple children or teens there is also the question of why her/him and not me? Feelings of guilt are mixed with fear, confusion and disgust.

Yates is charming, enigmatic and has all the power in each relationship he has. There is no ugly monster lurking in the shadows or a stranger trying to persuade them into a dark corner. Instead the real monster is a handsome loving father and grandfather. Of course he believes it is just a meeting of the minds and soul-mates. They are simply made for him.

Yes, it is that creepy. At the same time it draws you in, despite the subject matter and the sheer horror of the scenario. The fact that this happens all the time, and isn't just an outlandish fictional idea, is what makes the plot even more compelling.

Buy The Roanoke Girls at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any retailer.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Binding Song by Elodie Harper

Janet has her work cut out for her at HMP Halvergate. A series of suicides has rocked the prison and it doesn't seem as if they are going to stop any time soon.

Not only does she have to deal with the insidious nature of her clients crimes and their questionable characters, she also has to cope with staff members with ulterior motives. Inmates seem convinced that a ghost, a spirit or perhaps even a demon is killing fellow inmates.

The real question is whether the evil spirit is real or is it just mass hysteria. Mass hysteria spreading through the prison from inmate to inmate and also to the staff. The power of suggestion is strong, especially in a somewhat solitary environment.

At the same time Janet is trying to deal with the disintegration of her relationship. It seems impossible to fit two ambitious careers under one roof.

I have to be honest Arun was a bit of a toad and Janet should have used some of that tough guy attitude on him. Take no mercy, instead of being a simpering weakling afraid of being alone. There are plenty more fish in the sea.

What Harper does quite well is to portray the prisoners as vulnerable men, and in the same breath she reminds the reader that they are criminals and some of them are sexual deviants. The type of men who wouldn't think twice about committing an act of brutality upon an innocent person, and yet still want the support, comfort and safety they secretly crave.

Personally I do think Janet should have been more diligent about her own safety, which was put at risk quite a few times. A prison isn't a playground for the pseudo intellectual to practice their theoretical knowledge in.

The story has a gothic feel to it, which is mixed with a plain old crime scenario. The creepier element could have been drawn out more and given more depth. Harper brings the crime and the ghostly together to create a tense and often worrying read.

Buy The Binding Song at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah

I do appreciate a story with a few hard facts or home-truths.The only downside is that I tend to want to go on about it when an author makes a particularly valid point.

We live in an era where the majority of media outlets is no longer focused on reporting the truth or any semblance of it.

Instead fiction becomes fact, fame and notoriety are more important than reporting what really happened. Everyone wants their 15 minutes of celebrity.

The 21st century has seen the rise of TV showmen and women, as opposed to the revered journalists of the 20th century. Nancy Grace is a great example of this gaudy and dangerous phenomenon, and one that is mentioned in the story.

In this scenario the guilty party is discovered and proven guilty by trial via public opinion. In the end it doesn't matter whether there isn't enough evidence to prove they did it, because the TV viewers have already been told they are guilty. This anything but objective opinion continues on through to the courtroom.

Cara has decided to escape reality and the uncomfortable stress at home by treating herself to a few days in a five star spa hotel in the US. The tired and upset Cara accidentally stumbles upon a man and young girl, only to find out the next day that the young girl in question has been dead for quite a few years. Did she imagine it, is someone having a laugh or is it just a case of mistaken identity? Did she see Melody?

What emerges from this one simple question is a myriad of crimes and even more unanswered questions. Guilt isn't a clear concept in this story. Would you commit a crime to prevent another? Do you believe the court of public opinion instead of checking all the available facts? Do two wrongs make a right?

I'm sure this story will make readers wonder about the choices they would make if confronted with the same situation. Begs the question whether, in a world full of police states and dictatorships, some of us have to be strong enough to be vigilantes, because the justice systems fails victims on a regular basis.

It's a read that gives plenty of food for thought.

Buy Did you see Melody at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @sophiehannahCB1 @Hodderbooks

Visit sophiehannah.com #ISawMelody

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

It is quite witty, probably unintentionally so and possibly because there were many things that rang a bell for me. I personally know someone who talks as much as a tribal leader telling a tale that takes twenty paths and fifty corners before coming to a conclusion.

Graham introduces us to his life, his second wife and the autistic son they have together. The way he describes his wife could be perceived as mocking or as a slightly ironic take on his own situation. He loves her and yet he finds her traits annoying at times, despite the clear advantages he has from being married to a woman with connections and one who talks like a waterfall. What they do have in common, he often wonders, what is it that keeps the two of them together?

The one thing he can't deny is the way they come together when it comes to their son and his Asperger's. They are both willing to go the extra length to make sure he is comfortable, at ease and happy.

One of the things that makes him feel at ease is origami, the art of paper folding. The whole joining the origami club is one of the funnier aspects of this story, despite the serious element of why the young boy loves folding paper.

It isn't uncommon for people in couples to wonder whether the grass is greener on the other side or in this case if the grass he has already walked on has suddenly become greener and more inviting. Graham knows why he left his first wife, and yet the forbidden fruits they dangle in a way that makes him question his decisions. Quite bizarrely he is a jealous man, and the thought of his second wife doing anything similar drives him up the wall.

In the midst of all the humour there is a serious tone to the story. Taking care of children on the autism spectrum, coping with the complexities of divorce and marriage, and mystery of the workings of the male mind.

Buy Standard Deviation at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @katherine_heiny

The Cosy Canal Boat Dream by Christie Barlow

It is difficult to ever imagine a world without the person you expect to spend the rest of your life with. There one minute and gone the next. Nell still hasn't regained her feet after the sudden death of her husband, but takes solace in their floating home The Nollie.

She isn't expecting to find another chance at love or to find something special to put all emotions and aspirations into. Her pet project is the restoration of an old movie theatre, which seems to hold more than a few secrets. More than she can even imagine.

The only downside is the fact she may have to let her best friend down when it comes to helping out in her local bakery. She has to choose whether to follow her own dreams or those of her friend.

It's a tale of grief and the painful discovery that life can and does go on after the death of a loved one. New doors open, new people appear and lot of new opportunities arise.

If you are looking for the kind of read that will help you relax and forget about your worries and your strife, then this will do the trick. Barlow brings the drama, there is no doubt about that, but she also delivers it with a huge portion of humour and love.

Buy The Cosy Canal Boat Dream at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @ChristieJBarlow @HarperImpulse @HarperCollinsUK

Visit christiebarlow.com

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Dead Seekers by Barb Hendee and J.C. Hendee

Mari finds herself in a bit of a predicament, because Tris isn't exactly what she envisioned the enemy to be. Instead of steering steadfast in the direction of revenge she finds herself distracted by others in need, and by the realisation that Tris isn't the cold-blooded murderer she thinks he is.

Then again perhaps he is and she is just blinded by her constant need to be the one at the front of every single conflict. Mari is a Mondyalitko, a shape-shifting traveller She runs head-first into any trouble that comes her way.

Tris appears to be able to control the dead, which is why he is known as The Dead's Man. Perhaps a better description would be that he is capable of helping some of the more vicious spirits move on towards true death.

He also has his own set of baggage when it comes to his birthright and heritage and the choices he decided to make regardless of where he comes from. He is drawn to death and yet battles it at the same time. I think this is his own personal battle, the way he feels attracted to the more evil aspect of his gift. His birth defines his entire future.

Both the characters and premise are solid, but the world-building could do with a step-up. Overall I liked the read, however I did feel as if too much time was spent on the whole guards, ghosts and river malarkey. Probably because I was eager to find out more about Tris and Mari, and find out a few more answers to their secrets.

Buy The Dead Seekers at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @BarbHendeeOrg @NobleDeadOrg Visit barbhendee.org

Blog-Tour: The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett

Today is my stop on the Blog-Tour for The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by Lilly Bartlett. I am delighted to introduce you to this fun summer read. Prepare to be captivated by the eccentric characters and feisty main character with quite a few trust issues. Read Chapter 1 right here, and of course to top off this brilliant post you can also read my review at the very bottom.
About the Author
Lilly Bartlett’s cosy romcoms are full of warmth, quirky characters and guaranteed happily-ever-afters.
Lilly is the pen-name of Sunday Times and USA Today best-selling author, Michele Gorman, who writes best friend-girl power comedies under her own name.
To connect with Lilly Bartlett aka Michele Gorman go to:
www.michelegorman.co.uk
Blog: michelegormanwriter.blogspot.com
Instagram: @michelegormanuk
Twitter: Follow @MicheleGormanUK and @HarperImpulse
Facebook: www.facebook.com/MicheleGormanBooks

Buy The Big Dreams Beach Hotel
About the book
Three years after ditching her career in New York City, Rosie never thought she’d still be managing the quaint faded Victorian hotel in her seaside hometown.

What’s worse, the hotel’s new owners are turning it into a copy of their Florida properties. Flamingos and all. Cultures are clashing and the hotel’s residents stand in the way of the developers’ plans. The hotel is both their home and their family.

That’s going to make Rory’s job difficult when he arrives to enforce the changes. And Rosie isn't exactly on his side, even though it’s the chance to finally restart her career. Rory might be charming, but he’s still there to evict her friends.

How can she follow her dreams if it means ending everyone else’s?
Extract from The Big Dreams Beach Hotel:
Chapter 1

New York is where I fell head over heels for a bloke named Chuck. I know: Chuck. But don’t judge him just because he sounds like he should be sipping ice-cream floats at the drive-in or starring in the homecoming football game. Rah rah, sis boom bah, yay, Chuck!
Believe me, I didn’t plan for a Chuck in my life. But that’s how it happens, isn’t it? One minute you’ve got plans for your career and a future that doesn’t involve the inconvenience of being in love, and the next you’re floating around in full dozy-mare mode.
I won’t lie to you. When Chuck walked into our hotel reception one afternoon in late October, it wasn’t love at first sight. It was lust.
Be still, my fluttering nethers.
Talk about unprofessional. I could hardly focus on what he was saying. Something about organising Christmas parties.
To be honest, I don’t really know what I’m doing,’ he confided as he leaned against the reception desk. His face was uncomfortably close to mine, but by then I’d lived in New York for eighteen months. I was used to American space invaders. They’re not being rude, just friendly. And Chuck was definitely friendly.
I only started my job about a month ago,’ he told me. ‘It’s my first big assignment, so I really can’t fuck it up. Sorry, I mean mess it up.’ His blue (so dark blue) eyes bore into mine. ‘I’m hoping someone here can help me.’
It took all my willpower not to spring over the desk to his aid. Not that I’m at all athletic. I’d probably have torn my dress, climbed awkwardly over and landed face-first at his feet.
Keep him talking, I thought, so that I could keep staring. He looked quintessentially American, with his square jawline and big straight teeth and air of confidence, even though he’d just confessed to being hopeless at his new job. His brown hair wasn’t too long but also wasn’t too short, wavy and artfully messed up with gel, and his neatly trimmed stubble made me think of lazy Sunday mornings in bed.
See what I mean? Lust.
I noticed you on my way back from Starbucks,’ he said.
At first, I thought he meant he’d noticed me. That made me glance in the big mirror on the pillar behind him, where I could just see my reflection from where I was standing. At five-foot four, I was boob-height behind the desk in the gunmetal-grey fitted dress uniform all the front-desk staff had to wear. My wavy dark-red hair was as neat as it ever got. I flashed myself a reflected smile just to check my teeth. Of course, I couldn’t see any detail from where I stood. Only my big horsy mouth. Mum says giant teeth make my face interesting. I think I look a bit like one of the Muppets.
Do you have the space for a big party?’ he said. ‘For around four hundred people?’
He didn’t mean he’d noticed me; only the hotel. ‘We’ve got the Grand Ballroom and the whole top floor, which used to be the restaurant and bar. I think it’s even prettier than the ballroom, but it depends on your style and your budget and what you want to do with it.’
Based on his smile, you’d have thought I’d just told him we’d found a donor kidney for his operation. ‘I’ve been looking online, but there are too many choices,’ he said. ‘Plus, my company expects the world.’ He grimaced. ‘They didn’t like the hotel they used last year, or the year before that. I’m in over my head, to be honest. I think I need a guiding hand.’
I had just the hand he was looking for, and some ideas about where to guide it.
But instead of jumping up and down shouting ‘Pick Me, Pick Me!’, I put on my professional hat and gave him our events brochure and the team’s contact details. Because normal hotel receptionists don’t launch themselves into the arms of prospective clients.
When he reached over the desk to shake my hand, I had to resist the urge to bob a curtsy. ‘I’m Chuck Williamson. It was great to meet you, Rosie.’
He knew my name!
And thank you for being so nice. You might have saved my ass on this one. I’ll talk to your events people.’ He glanced again at my chest.
He didn’t know my name. He’d simply read my name badge.
No sooner had Chuck exited through the revolving door than my colleague, Digby, said, ‘My God, any more sparks and I’d have had to call the fire department.’
Digby was my best friend at the hotel and also a foreign transplant in Manhattan – where anyone without a 212 area code was foreign. Home for him was some little town in Kansas or Nebraska or somewhere with lots of tornadoes. Hearing Digby speak always made me think of The Wizard of Oz, but despite sounding like he was born on a combine harvester, Digby was clever. He did his degree at Cornell. That’s the Holy Grail for aspiring hotelies (as we’re known).
Digby didn’t let his pedigree go to his head, though, like I probably would have.
Just doing my job,’ I told him. But I knew I was blushing.
Our manager, Andi, swore under her breath. ‘That’s the last thing we need right now – some novice with another Christmas party to plan.’
That is our job,’ Digby pointed out.
Your job is to man the reception desk, Digby.’
Ya vol, Commandant.’ He saluted, before going to the other end of the desk.
But we do have room in the schedule, don’t we?’ I asked. Having just come off a rotation in the events department the month before, I knew they were looking for more business in that area. Our room occupancy hadn’t been all the company hoped for over the summer.
Plenty of room, no time,’ Andi snapped.
I’d love to tell you that I didn’t think any more about Chuck, that I was a cool twenty-five-year-old living her dream in New York. And it was my dream posting. I still couldn’t believe my luck. Well, luck and about a million hours earning my stripes in the hospitality industry. I’d already done stints in England and one in Sharm El Sheikh – though not in one of those fancy five-star resorts where people clean your sunglasses on the beach. It was a reasonable four-star one.



There’s a big misconception about hotelies that I should probably clear up. People assume that because we spend our days surrounded by luxury, we must live in the same glamour. The reality is 4a.m. wake-ups, meals eaten standing up, cheap living accommodation and, invariably, rain on our day off. Sounds like a blast, doesn’t it?
But I loved it. I loved that I was actually being paid to work in the industry where I did my degree. I loved the satisfied feeling I got every time a guest thanked me for solving a problem. And I loved that I could go anywhere in the world for work.
I especially loved that last part.
But back to Chuck, who’d been stuck in my head since the minute he’d walked through the hotel door.
I guess it was natural, given that I hadn’t had a boyfriend the whole time I’d been in the city. Flirting and a bit of snogging, yes, but nothing you could call a serious relationship.
There wasn’t any time, really, for a social life. That’s why hotelies hang out so much with each other. No one else has the same hours free. So, in the absence of other options, Digby and I were each other’s platonic date. He sounds like the perfect gay best friend, right? Only he wasn’t gay. He just had no interest in me. Nor I in him, which made him the ideal companion – hot enough in that freckle-faced farm-boy way to get into the nightclubs when we finished work at 1 or 2a.m., but not the type to go off shagging and leave me to find my way home on the subway alone.
I hope you’re happy,’ Andi said to me one morning a few days later. The thing about Andi is that she looks annoyed even when she’s not, so you’ve got to pay attention to her words rather than the severe expression on her narrow face. Nothing annoyed Andi like other people’s happiness.
But I had just taken my first morning sip of caramel latte. Who wouldn’t be happy?
You’ve got another assignment,’ she said. ‘That Christmas party. You’re on it.’
But I’m on reception.’ My heart was beating faster. She could only be talking about one Christmas party.
Yes, and you’re not going to get any extra time for the party, so don’t even think about it. I can’t spare anyone right now. You’ll have to juggle. He’s coming in at eleven to see the spaces and hopefully write a big fat cheque, but I want you back here as soon as you’re finished. Consider it an early lunch break.’
Even though my mind warned me to stop questioning, in case she changed her mind, I couldn’t resist. ‘Why isn’t Events handling it?’
They would have if he hadn’t asked for you especially. It’s just my luck that it’s a huge party. We can’t exactly say no.’
I’m sorry.’
Then wipe that stupid grin off your face and next time try not to be so frickin’ nice.’
I need to use the loo,’ I told her.
Pee on your own time,’ she said.
I didn’t really have to go, despite the industrial-size caramel latte. I just wanted to put on some make-up before Chuck arrived. Instead he’d see my green eyes unhighlighted by the mascara and flicky eyeliner that I rarely remembered to use. Pinching my cheeks did bring up a bit of colour behind my freckles, at least.
Every time the revolving doors swung round, I looked up to see if it was Chuck.
You’re going to get repetitive strain in your neck,’ Digby pointed out. ‘And you know our workmen’s comp sucks, so save yourself the injury. Besides, you look too eager when you stare at the door like that.’
I’m putting on a convivial welcome for our guests,’ I said. ‘Just like it says in the Employee’s Manual.’
He shook his head. ‘There’s no way that what you’re thinking is in the manual.’
The weather had turned cold, which was the perfect excuse for woolly tights and cosy knits or, if you were Chuck, a navy pea coat with the collar turned up that made him look like he’d been at sea. In a suit and dress shoes.  
I’m so sorry I’m late,’ he said. ‘I hate wasting people’s time.’
It’s not a waste,’ I told him. ‘I’m just working.’ I caught Andi’s glare. ‘I mean, I’m on reception. I can show you the rooms any time you want.’
Anytime you want, Digby mimicked behind Chuck’s back. Luckily Andi didn’t catch him.
Thanks for agreeing to take on the party,’ he said as we shared the lift to the top floor. ‘Not that I gave your colleagues much of a choice. I told them I’d book the party if you were the one organising it. I hope you don’t mind. It’s just that you seemed … I don’t know, I got a good feeling about you.’
No, that’s fine,’ I said, willing my voice to sound calmer than I felt. Which meant anything short of stark raving mad. ‘Once you decide which room is most suitable, we can start talking about everything else.’
I knew you’d get it,’ he said.
The lift doors opened on the top floor into the wide entrance to the former restaurant. ‘As you can see, there’s still a lot of the original nineteen thirties decor,’ I said. ‘Especially these art deco wall sconces. I love them. Ooh, and look at that bar.’
I’d only been up there a few times, so I was as excited as Chuck as we ran around the room pointing out each interesting feature, from the geometrically mirrored pillars to the sexy-flapper-lady light fixtures.
I’m such a sucker for this old stuff,’ he said. ‘I grew up in a house full of antiques. Older than this, actually, in Chicago.’ Then he considered me. ‘You probably grew up in a castle from the middle ages or something, being English.’
That sounds draughty. No, my parents live in a nineteen fifties semi-detached with pebble-dash.’
I don’t know what any of that means except for the nineteen fifties, but it sounds exotic.’
Hardly. Let’s just say it looks nothing like this. Will this be big enough, though? You said up to four hundred. That might be a squeeze if we want to seat them all.’
My guest list has halved, actually,’ he said, shoving his hands into his coat pockets. ‘The company isn’t letting spouses and partners come. Isn’t that weird, to exclude them from a formal social event like that? It’s going to be black tie with dinner and dancing. They were always invited wherever I’ve worked before.’
The painful penny dropped with a clang. Of course he’d have the perfect girlfriend to bring along. A bloke that cute and nice wasn’t single.
Which company?’ I asked, covering my disappointment. ‘Your company now, I mean.’
Flable and Mead. The asset managers? Sorry, I should have said before.’
Of course I’d heard of them. They were only one of the biggest firms on Wall Street. No wonder Andi had to say yes when Chuck made his request. We were talking big money.
And big egos. ‘I’m not surprised that other halves aren’t invited,’ I told him. Surely he’d worked out why for himself. ‘They usually aren’t invited in the UK either. The Christmas do is your chance to get pissed and snog a colleague.’
Chuck laughed. ‘I’m really glad I’ve seen all those Hugh Grant movies so I know what you’re talking about. So maybe it’ll be everyone’s chance at Flable and Mead to snog a colleague too.’ When he smiled, a dimple appeared on his left side. Just the one. ‘And as you’re working with me to organise the party, I guess that makes you my colleague, right?’
Did he mean what I thought he meant? The cheeky sod. ‘Come on, I’ll show you the ballroom.’
But the ballroom had nowhere near the ambiance of the top floor, and I knew before Chuck said anything that it didn’t have the right feel. Whereas upstairs had character and charm, the ballroom had bling. I’d only known Chuck for a matter of hours, but already I knew he wasn’t the blingy type.
Definitely upstairs,’ he said. ‘So it’s done. We’ll book it. Now we just need to plan all the decorations, the food, the band, DJ. I guess the fee goes up depending on how much in-house stuff we use.’ He laughed. ‘I’m sorry, I really am in too deep here. I talked my way into my job. I have no idea how. My boss is a Northwestern alum like me and that must have swung it for me. Before I only worked organising conferences and a few parties at the local VFW hall. This is the big time.’
I knew exactly how he felt. When I first started at the hotel I had to pinch myself. There I was, about to live a life I’d only seen on telly. All I had to do was not muck things up. Digby had been on hand to show me the ropes when I needed it. So the least I could do for Chuck was to help him as much as I could.
That’s what I told myself. I was paying it forward.
We’ve got a range of decorations we can do,’ I told him, thinking about how much I was going to get to see him in the upcoming weeks. I could really stretch things out by showing him one tablecloth per visit. ‘And we work with a few good catering companies, who I’m sure can arrange anything from a sit-down meal to a buffet. One even does burger bars, if you want something more quirky.’
What I’ll want is for you to help me, Rosie. You will be able to do that, right?’
Of course,’ I said. ‘Whatever you need. It’s a whopping great fee your company is paying. That buys a lot of hand-holding.’
I was hoping you’d say that,’ he said. ‘The second I came in and saw you, I knew this was the right choice. We’re going to be great together, Rosie.’
I was thinking the exact same thing.
Buy The Big Dreams Beach Hotel here


Review
The Big Dreams Beach Hotel has a brilliant cast of eccentric and very memorable characters. They are only topped by the American Floridean-like takeover of the Scarborough hotel, which is quintessentially English. Trying to bring two completely different cultures together becomes a bit of a liability for everyone involved. Flamingos don't look good on the English coast, the North Sea is always freezing and a funny shade of beige-brown, and the majority of people would rather eat a good fry-up than a plate of pretty looking nouvelle cuisine.

Rosie is smack bang in the middle of the battle to save the hotel from the enthusiastic and often ruthless clutches of the new owners. She is torn between the loyalty she feels for her friends and the handsome mediator/fixer the owners have sent in to represent their interests.

Rosie has been dealt a harsh hand in life when it comes to trust. Her career, her friendships and her relationships have suffered, because of her poor judgement and naivety. The question is whether she can manage to put the past behind her, establish new relationships, and deal with her trust issues.

On a side-note, I'm with Chef by the way, when it comes to the chocolate sell-out issue. I haven't bought or touched a Creme Egg since they changed the recipe either. Power to the people!

Bartlett manages to capture the oddities of the English, especially those living on the east coast in Scarborough. They don't take kindly to change or to anyone trying to mess with their bingo. The charm of Scarborough is actually the nostalgic feeling of the past, so any attempt to disturb that feeling of a romantic seaside town would never go down well.

It is a story filled with many moments that should remind us of our humanity. The way we should care and look out for each other. Stand together in times of difficulty. This is especially the case in this story, because the characters are outsiders, lonely forgotten people and flamboyant eccentrics, which makes it even more important that we don't let them fall through the cracks of society.

Lilly Bartlett writes captivating romcoms with a subtle underlying flair of sociocultural issues.

Buy The Big Dreams Beach Hotel at AmazonUk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.


Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis

If Jemma needs anything at all then it is probably some sessions with a therapist and a thorough evaluation of her mental health, because she comes off as completely crazy. Talk about unreliable narrator.

Jemma wakes up on her honeymoon to find her brand new husband gone. Instead of telling anyone she decides to wait around a bit to see if he turns up, which of course makes her look terribly suspicious. Why would anyone think a happy newly-wed would want to rid herself of her new hubby?

Let me think, perhaps because she wasn't as happy as she pretended to be, and her mother-in-law hates her. Oh and there is the small matter of her ex-boyfriend, who just happens to be her brother-in-law too.

It is a mishmash of genres, a bit of psychological thriller, chic-lit and an ending I would put into the horror drawer. The plot and direction seemed to lack a consequent and determined captain at the helm.

It felt confused at times and the main character certainly had no clue what she wanted. At times it felt like the reader had taken up permanent residence in her head, and believe you me it isn't a pretty sight. She was a mess, too much of one, which was detrimental to the plot.

Don't get me wrong, I would never have guessed the ending. It is definitely a complete surprise. I can't decide whether it was planned or just a wicked and rather random twist. Seskis has an eye for the unusual and knows how to keep readers on their toes.

Buy The Honeymoon at AmazonUk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @tinaseskis & @MichaelJBooks

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Blog-Tour: Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

I am delighted to be taking part in the Blog-Tour for Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica. I am partial to a wee bit of Kubica, because she writes the kind of story that messes with your head. There is no definitive line between good or bad guy. Kubica explores the grey areas no person wants to acknowledge. The wasteland between black and white, and the darkest depths of human nature. In Every Last Lie she turns a spotlight on despair, grief and the emotional quagmire of an unexpected tragedy.

About Mary Kubica
Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and American Literature from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She lives near Chicago with her husband and two children.
Mary Kubica’s first book, The Good Girl, was one of the first psychological thrillers to the market. It has been optioned for TV by Anonymous Content, the production company behind the TV series True Detective and films Winter’s Bone, Babel and Being John Malkovich.

Follow @MaryKubica @HQStories @HarperCollinsUk
Visit Mary online at www.marykubica.com, on Facebook at MaryKubica
Buy Every Last Lie


About the book
She always trusted her husband…Until he died.

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed.

But when Maisie starts having nightmares, Clara becomes obsessed that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident.

Who wanted Nick dead? And, more importantly, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out the truth – even if it makes her question whether her entire marriage has been a lie…
Review
Kubica likes to twist the truth and stretch the lies to create the kind of read that makes you doubt and wonder whether everything is as it seems. Her characters are always balancing precariously on the boundary between good and evil. Grey areas are her forte instead of the usual black or white ones.

Clara is in the stressful and tiring months of taking care of a new baby. She has a picture perfect family, even if she is a wee bit too tired to notice at the moment. So exhausted that she doesn't notice her husband and young daughter haven't returned home. She is completely overwhelmed by the news of their accident and unable to process that she will never see Nick again.

Her grief is overridden by the suspicion that Nick was murdered and she is determined to prove it. The niggling doubt in her mind or rather her refusal to accept the official truth makes her seem unreliable and possibly unstable. All the doubts and disbelief are compounded by the nightmares Maisie starts having, and the things she has to say about the night of the accident.

What I liked the most about this particular Kubica story was the obsession. Clara is completely consumed by the thought that her husband was killed, as opposed to the accident just being a careless quirk of fate. She doesn't care about the facts, the possible scenarios or plain old common sense.

It is an incredible mixture of emotional turmoil. Kubica has combined the various stages of grief with the constructed frame of a psychological thriller, and the result is an unexpected pleasure. Clara is like us, faced with the normal banality and difficulties of life. A hungry baby and a distressed young daughter, an empty bank account and the responsibility of taking care of her elderly relatives.

It could happen to any of us, which is why this read will probably resonate with a lot of readers. It combines the fears we have and perhaps even the realities we have had to endure. When a tragedy occurs it sends most people into a tailspin, some never completely recover from them. It only takes one moment of distraction or recklessness to change many lives, and I suspect that thought is the one which will remain with most readers after reading Every Last Lie.
Buy Every Last Lie at AmazonUK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Pretty Baby, Don't You Cry and The Good Girl by Mary Kubica.