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.


Friday, 11 August 2017

The A to Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson

If my mother did this to my sister and me, then I would conjure up her spirit to tell her what a fool she is. My sister and I would both find this process a complete waste of time, and one that would probably end with one or the other in jail. (Makes note not to buy this book for my mother)

I would however do this for my daughters if I felt they needed to reconnect and be there for each other after my death. Not that I would ever let things become so bad that I wasn't speaking to my children on a regular basis.

Blood is thicker than water, however blood doesn't mean you automatically have to be friends. In fact the reality is that many take a step back from family members because they are related but don't like them.

Andrea has planned everything in fine detail. She wants Rose and Poppy to reunite and become the friends they once were. She wants them to support each other and get over the problems that keep them apart.

Poppy and Rose used to be as thick as thieves until something ripped them apart. Now they are like strangers, and Poppy doesn't even know her nephew.

Rose is just as guilty as Poppy, as far as I am concerned. It takes two to tango and yet Rose places all the blame on Poppy. Of course it is more of a betrayal if it is your sister, but come on now blaming one person is ludicrous.

The idea itself is quite an interesting one. You don't know what you've lost until it is gone forever. It is all about taking people for granted and letting relationships get to the point of no return. Both women have to learn to put the past behind them and to move forward with a clean slate. It is an emotional and honest read, possibly because it is a realistic scenario.

Buy The A to Z of Everything at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @Debbiemjohnson@HarperImpulse or @HarperCollinsUk

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Ride the Storm by Karen Chance

My head is spinning and the little grey cells are hurting after all the time-hops, battles and intrigues. At times I felt it was a bit much, and then the author would bring it all back to the Cassie we know and love.

There are perhaps one too many action scenes, too many moments that are almost repetitive, which then takes the pleasure out of the story, because you know what is coming.

One of the aspects I particularly enjoyed was the way Chance brought in facts and story-lines from older books and even from the Basarab series. It is no secret that I think the Dorina Basarab series is superior to the Cassie Palmer one, so I was really excited to see her appear in this book. It was more of a secondary and explanatory role, but it was still a nice touch. I would love to see a Basarab and Palmer novel with both receiving the same amount of attention.

Mircea spent a certain amount of time clearing up certain things about Dory, and in doing so also reveals a secret that connects all of the Pythias throughout the centuries. It is also a betrayal on a certain level, as far as I am concerned, because he admits to planning ahead and wanting to use the Pythia, ergo Cassie, to achieve his greatest desire.

Now she is armed with this information will Cassie finally stand by her attraction to Pritkin and accept that perhaps she was nothing more than a means to an end for Mircea.

I find that Karen Chance manages to create more complex plot-lines and scenarios as the series goes on, as opposed to less interesting as the ideas dwindle. The trick is keeping the element alive that keeps the readers coming back for more. Chance is one of the more underrated stars of the urban fantasy genre, especially when it comes to the Basarab series, and definitely an author whose books I look forward to.

Buy Ride the Storm at AmazonUk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Reap the Wind by Karen Chance

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Autopsy of a Father by Pascale Kramer

I think it is fair to say that Kramer manages to sneak into your head-space and then lets the events unfold in front of you like slideshow of personal memories.

Family can give you the best experiences in life, but also the worst.

Parental relationships can be the foundations of your identity, however the flip-side of the coin can also be a dysfunctional relationship that means there is no foundation of identity at all or a lack of one.

Although the relationship between Ania and Gabriel takes the main stage in this story, it is so much more than a daughter's autopsy of the relationship with her father.

Kramer rips a plaster off of the pus filled boil of immigration. She has chosen the suburbs of Paris to point a spotlight at this and the underlying racial tensions in France. To be completely fair, to France that is, it is a topic of contention in quite a lot of western countries at the moment. An issue that has swayed elections and given fodder to the right-wing. We are living in an era where we have to be very careful that we don't repeat mistakes of the past.

Gabriel is a well-known and admired journalist until he decides to publicly support a group of young French men, who ruthlessly murdered an innocent African immigrant. The victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gabriel is vilified for his xenophobic rant. He loses his job, and his neighbours and fellow villagers aren't afraid to show him how displeased they are by his opinion.
The former left-wing intellectual has suddenly taken on an anti-immigrant stance, which is sort of hypocritical considering that his wife was Iranian.

His family structure sort of mirrors that of his home country. His half French and half Iranian daughter embraces her dead mother's culture and religion. He loved his wife, and yet he rejects his daughter. He used to embrace the diversity in his country and now he rejects anything but the French culture.

Ania is unaware of all of this. The two of them have a fractured relationship. She never lived up to his expectations and he never accepted her shortcomings. The two of them are strangers bound by nothing more than blood. Ania isn't really bothered by the lack of interest, at least that is what she tells herself. What really gets her goat is when her father treats his grandson, her son, with the same disinterest. I think most readers will be able to comprehend the difference. You get used to the indifference or the negative qualities your parents have and accept them as part of their eccentricities, however we react like protective parents when our children are subjected to the same personality flaws.

There is a moment in the story when Gabriel and Ania are in the same train compartment, and yet he pretends he hasn't seen them. Almost as if he doesn't want to associate himself with the two of them in public. Are these the actions of a xenophobe or of a man ashamed of his past actions? Is this realisation the reason he commits suicide?

In a way the story ends without any definitive answers. There is no clarification between Ania and Gabriel, and no resolution in general. Of course that is the reality of life and relationships, sometimes conflicts aren't resolved.

Aside from the parallels Kramer draws to the political situation in France, which is quite cleverly done in the context of a family setting, I really think she portrayed the relationship between daughter and father well. The dysfunctional side of family, the distances that grow between people, and the hard and hurtful truth that usually remains unspoken.

Buy Autopsy of a Father at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @bellevuepress

Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

The Hidden Legacy series is young fresh and quite steamy. It has the complexity of a more seasoned urban fantasy and the lightness that will attract younger readers.

The whole marry and procreate to create the perfect magical being for your magical house has a eugenics feel to it. Perhaps not so distanced from real life and the quest to create the perfect human.

In a world where we can already manipulate the choice of gender, hereditary diseases and general appearance, the need for magical or indeed perfection is actually quite a popular topic.

Nevada has done some growing up and is stepping up to protect her family by making the correct political moves and planning strategically instead of with her heart. To beat the the rules of the houses you have to be able to think and act like them.

One of the highlights of the story is of course the romance between Nevada and Rogan. The two of them are like a well-tuned machine in both a professional and personal sense. The chemistry is explosive, which of course is one of Andrews specialities. Being able to create tension, longing and pure animal attraction between the main characters.

It is what readers have come to expect from Andrews, a solid urban fantasy with memorable characters and plenty of potential for further development.

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

Follow @ilona_andrews @AceRocbooks

Visit ilona-andrews.com

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Blog-Tour: Let Us Be True by Alex Christofi

Today I have the pleasure to host the Blog-Tour for Let Us Be True by Alex Christofi. Featuring a fantastic Q&A with Alex Christofi and my review. The answers to the Q&A are just as captivating as the novel itself. The last four questions contain some spoilers, so for anyone who hasn't read it yet and wants to read it without any extra info I will be adding a fair warning before and after those particular questions.
About the Author
Alex Christofi was born and grew up in Dorset. After reading English at the University of Oxford, he moved to London to work in publishing. He has written a number of short pieces for theatre, and blogs about arts and culture for Prospect magazine. Glass is his first novel. His second novel, Let Us Be True, is published by Serpent’s Tail.

Follow @alex_christofi @serpentstail Visit alexchristofi.com

Buy Let Us Be True
About the book
Paris, 1958. After a chance encounter, Ralf and Elsa begin a love affair that will mark their lives. Both already bear scars from their continent's violent upheavals. The end of the war brought Ralf to Paris, where he feels he can hide from the past. Elsa meanwhile tries to hide not just her past from Ralf, but her present too. As they fall more deeply in love they face a dilemma: can you really love someone without giving yourself away?In a Paris recovering from the Second World War but riven by protests and discontent as the old world order falls away, Ralf tries desperately to hold on to the only person he has ever felt he belongs with, while facing the prospect of a reality where love might not be enough. Deeply moving and sweeping in scope, Alex Christofi's second novel is an unforgettable love story as well as a profoundly affecting study of the personal cost of Europe's bloody twentieth century.
Q&A
Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call 'Breaking the Ice.' (readers love to get to know all about their favourite and new authors)

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know)
I tend to consume books like tapas, so this is actually quite hard to answer. Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis, or a selected volume of Voltaire, or Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari, or Stories of Your Life by Ted Chiang.

Books or authors who have inspired you to put pen to paper?
Mikhail Bulgakov, Emmanuel Carrere, George Orwell, George Saunders, Michel Faber, David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith, Gustave Flaubert, Joseph Roth, Albert Camus. I love writers who can fuse beauty and cleverness with social purpose.

The last book you read, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet...you name it)
The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante. Everyone has been talking about her for years so it’s not exactly a hot tip, but that’s the honest answer.

Are you more of a movie night or series-binger kind of guy? (Combinations are possible)
Movie night. There are enough hanging plot threads in my actual life – I want to be able to sit back and look at the whole story. I don't need Scheherezade feeding me cliffhangers every night forever. It's like asking if you'd rather have limbo or a quick death.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?
Not probably any of the people I most admire. Marcus Aurelius was objectively a top guy, but would be a terrible date – after two drinks he would leave citing moderation in all things. You'd want someone with a wicked sense of humour who knew how to live. Hunter S Thompson would probably kill me, but maybe Angela Carter or Ernest Hemingway. Or Obama. Everyone wants to meet Obama.

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let's talk about Let Us Be True.

Where did you get the inspiration for Let Us Be True? Probably a question you have been asked before, but I am genuinely interested in the inspiration for the story of Ralf and Elsa.
It's strange, because what I have ended up with is really a character novel – one that devotes a lot of space to investigating the particular psychology of two particular people – but I first conceived it as a novel about the moment after the Second World War that is rarely written about, after the initial reconstruction efforts but before the individualistic, consumer-driven sixties was in full swing. I wanted to write about what it was like to find yourself on the very cusp of the modern era.

Why Paris? Did you pick this particular setting because you know it well or because it made sense logistically, culturally and from an historical point of view?
I wanted to write about a place very like our own, but different enough that people could judge it for what it was – a bit like the way Shakespeare tore into society by setting everything in Italy. But Paris in 1958 was also a fascinating place in its own right: the Fourth Republic was collapsing; the communists were still one of the biggest parties, but there was a fascist fifth column in the police; French Resistance hero Charles de Gaulle was returned to power in a military coup and suspended the constitution; France was effectively at war with its own Muslim population; there were peaceful protests, but people were still being guillotined. Parts of Paris were already petrifying into an eerily timeless postcard city, and at the same time some of its residential neighbourhoods were 'îlots insalubres', dirty islands of slum housing, where no one owned a fridge and tenants shared a squat toilet. I can't think of a better (or more intense) analogue for the conflicts we are worrying about here and now.


Although you don't play on the underlying theme too much, do you think Ralf and Elsa connect in such a monumental way because they share a common denominator in their home country and war-trauma?
Absolutely – it is a part of why they connect and also one of the reasons why they clash. But the war itself can’t be spoken about directly, because it simply wasn’t done. It could be referred to, or implied obliquely, but very few people who were involved had any desire (or perhaps even ability) to talk about what they had been through. It is an elephant in the room – the clearest metaphor in the book is of Ralf and his mother sitting at the dining table, painfully aware of the father that isn’t present. Ralf eventually opens up about some of his childhood experiences, but Elsa doesn’t reciprocate, and we implicitly understand why.

Does Elsa accept the negative aspects of her marriage, because she feels guilty and believes she deserves to be punished? Is her separation from Ralf a form of penance?
I don’t know if I could be that specific, but sadly it wasn’t uncommon for women to accept physical abuse as a fact of life at that time (which is not to say we have resolved the problem now). Whenever we make choices, we weigh them up relative to our life experience. Elsa’s life with Theo isn’t the worst thing that has happened to her, and its great virtue is that it’s secure and predictable. She has never had that before – for me at least it becomes hard to judge her choice, even if we wish she could make the leap.

Unbeknownst to Ralf Elsa represents the root cause of why his life changed in such a drastic way. Does Elsa make a choice against Ralf because she believes the truth about her past would be an insurmountable hurdle between them?
Yes, I think so. But more than that, in order to reveal her past to him, she would have to give him access to parts of herself that she hasn’t shared with anyone, including her husband and family, and it would make her vulnerable in a way she hasn’t been since she was a young girl hiding in a forest, muddy, shivering, terrified and alone. The war didn’t end when the last shots were fired. There was a whole generation of survivors whose lives were irrevocably scarred by what they saw and did, and they were out there, walking in the world, for the best part of the twentieth century. We’ll never know whether so many of them remained silent to protect themselves or to protect the rest of us.

One could argue that Elsa presents a certain coldness, a lack of emotion even, and one could suggest that her experiences in childhood, and as a very young woman, have defined her personality and the choices she makes. However that specific sense of survival and ability to detach herself from emotions was already evident at an early age. This information in combination with the actions of many Germans during the Nazi era begs the question whether Elsa really is the lovable enigma who has managed to enchant Ralf like a personal Mata Hari or is she a woman who is a ruthless survivor?
In some sense Elsa is, if not the Nazi ideal, at least a Nietzschean ideal, a forceful, self-directed character. She can’t or won’t be absorbed into a group mentality, which exposes a fundamental contradiction in Nazi ideology: they simultaneously exult exceptional individuals and demand people subsume themselves to the herd. Are some people more valuable than others, or are we all interchangeable members of a group?
I did also really want this to be a story about love, and I don't think it's a huge spoiler to say that love is one of the best answers to some of the questions posed in the book. But I wanted to resist this idea that's very common in romance, that the underlying purpose of women's behaviour can always be explained with reference to sex. Perhaps she is not stringing him along; perhaps it has nothing to do with him.


Thank you for answering all of my questions, even the odd ones!
It was a pleasure – thank you for reading it with such care and attention. I think all writers dream of having careful readers!

Review
This read brings a sense of nostalgia with it and an aura of hidden emotions and unfulfilled desires. It is so much more than just a love story. It is about fractured identities and the trauma of war.

It is often hard for non-nomads or people who stay in one place their entire lives to understand what it is like to not feel as if you have a home or a country that feels like home. Being uprooted and becoming a displaced person can rock the very foundation of your existence.

I believe Elsa and Ralf share this feeling of not belonging and loss. Their home country and country of birth is their common denominator, despite their completely different paths in life.

Ralf doesn't even feel at home in his surrogate country, and he also refuses to maintain a relationship with his mother. His landlord has become his family, a port of call in dire situations and France has become his safe haven.

Elsa is a survivor, albeit one from the other side of the battlefield. Her experiences have made her emotionally unresponsive, which is why she finds it hard to connect with her child and why she struggles to find a sense of peace in her life. It is also the reason she accepts certain negative aspects of her marriage including the occasional  bouts of violence.

I wonder if Elsa believes her guilt is something that would eventually come between them. A secret she can never reveal and perhaps never completely move on from.

Overall Elsa gives off a sense of detachment, a cold and hard face she presents to the world. It's easy to forget her age at the time of her crimes and her complicity. Her trauma is no more than a footnote in history, although it is ultimately what steers and directs her sense of unhappiness.

In that sense the two of them share another bond in the form of very specific trauma. One could argue that his will always be greater because of the historical implications, however I would argue that trauma cannot be measured by what outsiders think.

France, like many other countries are often guilty of revisionism, especially when it comes to history. They like to forget and hide their guilt and crimes, and the part they played in some of the bloodiest and politically disruptive times in the twentieth century. They like to sweep a lot of uncomfortable truths under the carpet of national charm.

This is a love story taking place during some of those periods in time, so it isn't just about two broken people finding a safe haven in each other, it is also about shining a light on the past. A past that is in danger of being repeated as we speak.

The author brings a maturity, insight and wisdom to the pages. He writes as if he has experienced decades of longing, pain and heartbreak. He is an author I will be revisiting. Oh and kudos to him for the Vélodrome d'Hiver part of the story. It's a very significant and poignant part of history. A small moment in the book, but those are the ones that count.

Buy Let Us Be True at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.


Monday, 7 August 2017

Reported Missing by Sarah Wray

One could argue that the real victim in this scenario is Rebecca. She has committed no crime other than being married to a suspect in the disappearance of a teenage girl. There is no concrete proof other than the fact that both Chris and young Kayleigh vanished on the same day. Does a simple coincidence have more sinister connotations or has Chris been leading a double-life?

The public believes Rebecca has been harbouring a deviant and they also think she supports him. The fact that she is searching for him seems to imply a sort of complicity. Her actions would be perceived as those of a caring and worried wife under other circumstances.

Rebecca starts to admit to herself, as the story progresses, that perhaps her life with Chris wasn't so picture perfect. She has a selective memory, which is probably why she finds it hard to accept the reality of his betrayal.

As I mentioned before, I think Rebecca is the real victim. She is completely vilified by nearly everyone she encounters, especially a certain group of youngsters. Her life has disintegrated into a fog of sleeping pills and alcohol. Her husband is presumed guilty just based on circumstantial evidence and a heck of a lot of rumours.

Wray has written a cracking read, there is no doubt about that, but I believe she deserves a kudos for perhaps unintentionally calling out the media and society for pointing fingers without proof. For showing the negative aspects of social and mass media where fake news and false rumours are prevalent and reputations are destroyed in the blink of an eye, and the actual truth has become almost inconsequential to the majority of people.

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

Follow @Sarah_Wray   and @bookouture Visit sarahwraywrites.co.uk

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase

Eve Chase has a thing for old houses and families, so it isn't a surprise that this story has Applecote Manor smack bang in the middle of the plot. Everything is woven around the families who inhabit or used to inhabit this house.

Chase creates a very nostalgic atmosphere, which is part of the charm of this book. The story wanders from past to present, and the chapters in the past are especially good. They evoke a sense of familiarity, warmth and belonging. The reader basks in the sun next to the river and feels the cool water as the girls swim in the river.

Throughout the book there is a sense of a presence watching over every event and word. Audrey Wilde is as much a part of the story, as her disappearance is.

Although this is in every sense of the word a mystery it is also a book about identity and coming of age. It is also a story about non-typical families. The patchwork family of the present is also haunted by their very own personal ghost. In fact the ghosts need to be laid to rest for both families to finally get some peace.

One day Audrey Wilde suddenly vanishes into thin air, and the mystery of her disappearance is something that her cousin Margot never really gets over. At a time when everyone has accepted the possibility that they may never find out the truth, Margot is almost obsessed with discovering what happened to her.

I loved the feel of this story, especially everything about Margot and her sisters. I thought that element of the story was strong enough for the plot without adding Jessie and her family to the mix. I also thought it was intriguing how the crime element never overshadowed the story, despite it being the thread that held everything together.

The truth isn't pretty at all, and perhaps that cold breath of brutality should have changed the whole feeling of the story, but it didn't. It remains a charming tale until the end.

Buy The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde at AmazonUK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @evepchase @MichaelJBooks

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Girl Zero by A. A. Dhand

Girl Zero is an echo of the recent Rotherham child sex ring scandal with the added complication of a family swept up in the controversy of opposing religions. It is the second novel featuring Harry Virdee, who finds himself torn in multiple directions on both a personal and professional level.

His family, devout Sikhs, are unwilling to acknowledge or accept his wife, a devout Muslim. His wife finds herself in the same position, which means the two of them and their young son have no immediate family to support them or be part of their lives.

The message society should be receiving loud and clear is the number of vulnerable children who are falling prey to gangs of pedophiles and ephebophiles without anyone noticing or as we saw in Rotherham, they would rather deny than accept the reality that this type of crime is on the rise. There are scores of children falling through the cracks in the system, and becoming easy targets for child trafficking rings. The truth is so uncomfortable that the majority would rather look the other way than be confronted with the facts.

Harry finds himself balancing precariously on the boundaries of crime and the rule of law when his latest case turns out to be the corpse of someone who is really close to him. He has to make sure his brother doesn't break the rules he imposed on him, and juggle the hatred he receives from his family.

It's really great to read a story with a set of characters that doesn't fit into the usual and expected format. It makes for a more diverse and different set of problems or scenarios, which in turn allows readers to experience a little less white toasted bread with a bit of butter on it.

It's a fast-paced thriller with a lot of action, well let's say brutal beatdowns and characters with a serious lack of control instead.

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

Follow @aadhand