The Vanishing Girls by Lisa Regan @Lisalregan @bookouture #blogtour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Vanishing Girls by Lisa Regan! Many thanks to Kim Nash at Bookouture for the opportunity and for the review copy, which I received via Netgalley. Here’s what the book is all about.

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Author : Lisa Regan
Title : Vanishing Girls
Series : Detective Josie Quinn #1
Pages : 334
Publisher : Bookouture
Publication date : January 17, 2018

aboutthebook

Everyone in the small American town of Denton is searching for Isabelle Coleman, a missing seventeen-year-old girl. All they’ve found so far is her phone and another girl they didn’t even know was missing.

Mute and completely unresponsive to the world around her, it’s clear this mysterious girl has been damaged beyond repair. All Detective Josie Quinn can get from her is a name: Ramona.

Currently suspended from the force for misconduct, Josie takes matters into her own hands as the name leads her to evidence linking the two girls. She knows the race is on to find Isabelle alive, and she fears there may be others…

The trail leads Josie to another victim, a girl who escaped but whose case was labelled a hoax by authorities. To catch this monster, Josie must confront her own nightmares and follow her instinct to the darkest of places. But can she make it out alive?

mythoughts

Vanishing Girls is the first instalment in a new detective series by Lisa Regan and as far as firsts go, you can’t ask for much more than this!

Josie Quinn has been suspended from her job as a detective in Denton, PA. But that won’t stop her sticking her nose into the search for seventeen year old Isabelle Coleman, who disappeared from her home. The investigation is slow-going and unearths another girl nobody even knew was missing in the first place. Josie is determined to find Isabelle but there are dark forces at play and she may be getting a lot more than she bargained for.

As far as main characters go, Josie is a strong and kick-ass lady. She’s flawed, damaged and there’s an intriguing background story that I hope will be explored further in future but she’s also stubborn, fierce, not afraid to pull any punches and has the uncanny ability to often find herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s also the perfect balance between her professional and personal life as she deals with the break-up of her marriage and tries to move on with her new partner.

Denton has this fantastic small town vibe, which I enjoy immensely. Everybody seems to know everybody and their business, or do they? Josie quickly finds herself questioning everyone and everything as her search for Isabelle reveals a disturbing and harrowing town secret. Some events may make for some uncomfortable reading although it’s not too gruesomely detailed.

I’m not at all familiar with Lisa Regan’s work but with Vanishing Girls, she delivers a gripping and compelling story that had me hooked from start to finish, putting my faith into the wrong people, not trusting the ones I maybe should have and always second-guessing everything. This is a fantastic start to a new series and I very much look forward to reading more about Josie.

The Vanishing Girls is available for purchase!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Lisa Regan is an Amazon bestselling crime novelist.  She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Master of Education Degree from Bloomsburg University.  She is a member of Sisters In Crime, Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter.

Facebook | Twitter | Website

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Veronica’s Bird by Veronica Bird and Richard Newman @Authoright @gilbster1000 #blogtour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Veronica’s Bird by Veronica Bird and Richard Newman. I have an extract to share with you all but first, here is what this true story is all about.

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Author : Veronica Bird and Richard Newman
Title : Veronica’s Bird
Pages : 290
Publisher : Clinkstreet Publishing
Publication date : January 23, 2018

aboutthebook

Veronica Bird was one of nine children living in a tiny house in Barnsley with a brutal coal miner for a father. Life was a despairing time in the 1950s, as Veronica sought desperately to keep away from his cruelty. Astonishingly, to her and her mother, she won a scholarship to Ackworth Boarding School where she began to shine above her class-mates.

A champion in all sports, Veronica at last found some happiness until her brother-in-law came into her life. It was as if she had stepped from the frying pan into the re: he took over control of her life removing her from the school she adored, two terms before she was due to take her GCEs, so he could put her to work as a cheap option on his market stall. Abused for many years by these two men, Veronica eventually ran away and applied to the Prison Service, knowing it was the only safe place she could trust.

This is the astonishing, and true story of Veronica Bird who rose to become a Governor of Armley prison. Given a ‘basket case’ in another prison, contrary to all expectations, she turned it around within a year, to become an example for others to match. During her life inside, her ‘bird’, she met many Home Secretaries, was honoured by the Queen and was asked to help improve conditions in Russian Prisons.

A deeply poignant story of eventual triumph against a staggeringly high series of setbacks, her story is laced with humour and compassion for those inside.

extract

Prison riots and escapes

Prison riots and escapes are top of the agenda incidents in the prison service: they have to be, because of their unpredictability. A riot, fully flared up is like a raging fire, uncontrollable until highly trained prison officers are brought to bear. In the short time before their arrival, prisoners will often smash the entire contents of their own cells, thus depriving themselves of their own possessions and making it difficult for them, to settle down again after the madness of the moment. They can be extraordinarily unsafe places to be, just as an elephant in musth will destroy anything in its path.

Escapes are of huge concern because the staff, under Veronica’s control, were charged to keep the public safe from what can be very dangerous individuals. If an inmate escapes it is usually because of a singular lapse in the normally tight security which surrounds the prison population twenty-four hours a day.  Prisoners have all the time in the world to plan.  They have the opportunity and will seek out every weakness in the system even before the staff become aware.

As an example, four prisoners escaped from Armley jail, a large prison in Leeds during Veronica’s watch. She was in charge, as the senior Governor was away on holiday, and was woken at three in the morning to be given the news. She threw some spare clothes into the back of her car and roared off towards Armley from Wilmslow where she lived. Arriving, she was told by a policeman she ‘…can’t park there, four prison-’   ‘I know, I’m the Governor.’ ‘Oh yes, Madam’, the Copper replied, seeing a lady in front of him dressed in a nightdress and wearing pink slippers. He received her car keys in his lap with some force. Now was not the time for niceties, she felt, as she quickly set up a Command Post to take charge of the necessary actions according to a plan already drawn up for such emergencies. This involves the police as well as the Prison staff and the media to advise the public accordingly.

Of the four men, three were on the prison roof having dug out the mortar in a new concrete block building with a knife, and were still there. The fourth was a different problem entirely, for he was dangerous, and it was not for the public to do their duty to try and stop such a bad man. Hence the need of the police for the search outside.

Gradually the news was passed up to the Command Post that this man had climbed out of a window and shinned down knotted sheets to a builder’s yard and was away before anyone knew of it. The search operation first learned of it later being told that a milkman had seen a man walking alone up the side of the M1. The milkman stopped and gave the  walker a pint of milk even though he had no money to pay for it, before driving on to make his deliveries.

In the middle of directing operations from her office, Veronica heard on the local radio she was, apparently, up in a helicopter, hovering over the prison, over-seeing the action. It is not always wise to believe everything one is told.

The prisoner had disappeared into the morning mist with the milkman never stopping to think it might have been a bit strange to have encountered a man on the motorway at that time of the morning. Eventually, the three men were returned to their cells with loss of remission, the fourth took longer to find but, as always, he ended back inside Armley. The enquiry exonerated Veronica on the basis the building works had created the opportunities for escape. The prisoners had been very quick to see a route out.  The enquiry did, however, issue recommendations for lockdowns whenever a knife, say, or a tool disappeared. The following search would continue until the missing item was found.

Riots put the staff most at risk; escapes put the public at risk. Veronica always recognised this and strove to ensure that prisoners grievances did not grow until they became unmanageable. There was always something she could do to keep the prison population calm: ‘…it’s not rocket science, just common sense.’

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Veronica’s Bird will be published on January 23rd.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

After thirty-five years working for the Prison Service, Veronica Bird is now retired and living in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. She is still an active proponent of the justice system and continues to lecture across the country and is a supporter of Butler Trust, which acknowledges excellence within the prison system.

A qualified architect and Swiss-trained hotelier, Richard Newman enjoyed a forty-year career designing and managing hotels worldwide before retiring in 2001. Since then he has gone on to publish a number of novels: The Crown of Martyrdom, The Horse that Screamed, The Potato Eaters, The Green Hill, Brief Encounters and most recently The Sunday Times bestseller, A Nun’s Story. He is currently working on a new novel about retirement and an autobiography of his time in the Middle East. He lives happily with his wife in Wetherby, West Yorkshire where he enjoys being close to his family.

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Stand By Me by S.D. Robertson @SDRauthor @AvonBooksUK #blogtour #extract

It’s such a pleasure to be able to kick off the blog tour for Stand By Me today and to wish author S.D. Robertson a very happy publication day! I have a rather moving extract to share with you all but first, here is what the novel is all about. My thanks to Sabah at Avon for the opportunity to join the tour!

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Author : S.D. Robertson
Title : Stand By Me
Pages : 432
Publisher : Avon UK
Publication date : January 11, 2018

aboutthebook

They’ll always have each other…won’t they?

Lisa and Elliot have been best friends ever since the day they met as children. Popular, bright and sporty, Lisa was Elliot’s biggest supporter when the school bullies made his life a misery, and for that, he will always be grateful.

Twenty years later, life has pulled the pair apart and Lisa is struggling. Her marriage is floundering, her teenage kids are being secretive, and she’s so tired she can’t think straight. So when Elliot knocks on the door, looking much better than she remembers, she can’t help but be delighted to see her old friend again.

With Elliot back in their lives, Lisa’s family problems begin to improve – he’s like the fairy godmother she never had. As their bond deepens, she realises how much she’s missed him, and prays that this is one friendship that will last a lifetime. But sometimes, life has other ideas…

extract

Chapter 5, pp.33-34

Tears were streaming down her face, although she’d been determined not to cry any more. Elliot was tearful too and she knew from the tender look in his eyes how touched he was that she’d made the trip.

They’d done this already the night before. He’d called around at her house and stayed for tea one final time. They’d spent ages chatting in her bedroom, focusing as much as possible on the excitement of their respective futures, rather than the obvious negative of them being apart. And then suddenly – far too soon – it was time for him to go. They’d said goodbye then, amid the obvious hugs, kisses, tears and promises to keep in touch. But it hadn’t been enough and, after an awful night of barely sleeping, Lisa had found herself knocking on her parent’s door at 5.30 a.m., begging to borrow the car to drive to the airport.

‘I need to see him one last time,’ she’d bawled. ‘I can’t bear it if I don’t.’

Her mum had taken pity on her. Not wanting Lisa to make the journey alone, as a new driver in an emotional state, Christine had agreed to take the wheel, despite her husband’s tired groans that it was ridiculous. They’d made it in the nick of time, with an out-of-breath Lisa catching up to Elliot right before he and his mother disappeared through security into the departures lounge.

‘Is everything okay?’ Elliot asked, his face a cocktail of surprise, confusion and affection.

‘Don’t worry,’ Lisa said, looking at Wendy, his mother. ‘I’m not here to try and change his mind, but I had to say goodbye one more time.’

And so she did. They only got a few extra minutes together, but Lisa didn’t regret going there for an instant. Before Elliot finally left on his one-way trip to the other side of the globe, she wanted him to know exactly how important he was to her; how much she’d miss him being around.

‘Don’t forget me.’ That was the last thing she’d whispered in his ear as their wet cheeks pressed together and Wendy’s voice softly insisted that they really had to go.

‘Never,’ he replied. ‘How could I forget the girl who saved my life?’

And then she watched her best friend leave.

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Aw, I’ve gone all teary-eyed. How moving was that?

If this extract has convinced you Stand By Me is the book for you, then you can go ahead and buy/order your copy right now as it’s published today!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Kobo | Wordery | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Former journalist S.D. Robertson quit his role as a local newspaper editor to pursue a lifelong ambition of becoming a novelist.

An English graduate from the University of Manchester, he’s also worked as a holiday rep, door-to-door salesman, train cleaner, kitchen porter and mobile phone network engineer.

Over the years Stuart has spent time in France, Holland and Australia, but home these days is back in the UK. He lives in a village near Manchester with his wife and daughter. There’s also his cat, Bernard, who likes to distract him from writing – usually by breaking things.

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Make sure you check out these fab bloggers on their stops on the blog tour!

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Hydra by Matt Wesolowski @ConcreteKracken @OrendaBooks @annecater #blogtour

I am thrilled to bits to be able to share my thoughts with you on Hydra by Matt Wesolowski on my stop for the blog tour. Many thanks to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for the opportunity to join the tour and my review copy!

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Author : Matt Wesolowski
Title : Hydra
Pages : 320
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : January 15, 2018

aboutthebook

One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the north west of England, 26-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, father and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the “Macleod Massacre.” Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.

King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was as diminished as her legal team made out. As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden “games,” online trolls, and the mysterious Black-eyed Children, whose presence extends far beyond the delusions of a murderess.

mythoughts

Oh … my … word! My brain can’t compute this level of awesomeness! How do you even review something like this?!

When I started reading Six Stories last year, it only took a few pages to make me realise I had something rather extraordinary in my hands and I had no doubt the book would end up in my Top 5 list of the year. So Hydra was one of my most anticipated books of this year and, rather unfairly perhaps to the author, my expectations were somewhere near the end of our solar system. However, I’m guessing you can already tell I absolutely loved it and I am utterly convinced this book too will be in my list of books of the year by December.

When I read Six Stories, I was completely unfamiliar with the concept of podcasts and I thought it would throw me off. It didn’t but upon reading this one, I felt even more comfortable with the concept and the way the story is presented. You may think, but well, it was original and unique at first but it’s been done now. Believe me, it’s every bit as refreshing and fantastic. Dare I say, it’s even better! This story will hook you from the first page and not let go. By the end, I felt utterly wiped out and unable to string sentences together.

In Hydra, Scott King sets out to investigate the “Macleod Massacre”. Back in 2004, Arla Macleod murdered her stepfather, mother and younger sister. There was never any doubt Arla was the killer but as the murders were completely unprovoked, what lead her to do these atrocious acts? Was her responsibility as diminished as her legal team made it out to be? Should she be held in a mental institution, a place many feel is not the right punishment for her, or should she have been in prison? Scott King is determined to find out the truth behind these acts but when he is targeted by a relentless online troll, will he admit defeat and let the story go?

What I love about these stories, is that I know it’s fiction and yet it feels so incredibly real that I’m left reeling as much as I would be if I’d been watching a true crime documentary. There’s no end to the level of suspense and creepiness. At times I took a little break after a podcast, desperately in need of a little breather while also checking to see my doors and windows were locked. Arla’s story is utterly disturbing and harrowing. Between her interview with Scott and the tapes she records for her psychiatrist, my heart just broke for her.  Throw in the presence of the Black-Eyed Children and I didn’t sleep for days.

I’m still lost for words, to be honest. I could mention things like compelling, addictive, engrossing, gripping and they’re all true but none really accurately convey the sheer brilliance and genius that is Matt Wesolowski and his latest offering. It’s just impeccable, an incredibly crafted masterpiece, a true gem which stands out effortlessly. I feel incredibly proud and honoured to have Hydra sitting comfortably on my bookshelf. While I’m not entirely sure my review does it any justice, I do hope it will convince you to pick up a copy. All that’s left for me to say is, please can I have some more, sir.

Hydra is available in ebook format. The UK paperback release is set for January 15th.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Kobo | Wordery | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Matt Wesolowski is from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie

Creature Feature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio.

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On The Bright Side : The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen @MichaelJoseph #blogtour

I’m absolutely delighted to welcome you all today on my stop for the blog tour for On The Bright Side : The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen. Many thanks to Sam Deacon at Michael Joseph for the invitation to join and for my review copy!

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Author : Hendrik Groen
Title : On The Bright Side : The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen
Series : Hendrik Groen #2
Pages : 440
Translator : Hester Velamns
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Publication date : January 11, 2017

aboutthebook

The Old-But-Not-Dead Club return, in the sequel to the INTERNATIONALLY BESTSELLING The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old, bringing with them some life-affirming lawlessness.

Chaos will ensue as 85-year-old Hendrik Groen is determined to grow old with dignity: to rise up against the care home director. NO more bingo. NO more over- boiled vegetables. NO more health and safety.

85-year-old Hendrik Groen is fed up to his false teeth with coffee mornings and bingo. He dreams of escaping the confines of his care home and practising hairpin turns on his mobility scooter. Inspired by his fellow members of the recently formed Old-But-Not-Dead Club, he vows to put down his custard cream and commit to a spot of octogenarian anarchy.

But the care home’s Director will not stand for drunken bar crawls, illicit fireworks and geriatric romance on her watch. The Old-But-Not-Dead Club must stick together if they’re not to go gently into that good night. Things turn more serious, however, when rumours surface that the home is set for demolition. It’s up to Hendrik and the gang to stop it – or drop dead trying . . .

He may be the wrong side of 85, but Hendrik Groen has no intention of slowing up – or going down without a fight.

mythoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed Hendrik’s first diary so I was incredibly excited to be asked to review the follow-up and it’s every bit as special.

A year after events from his previous diary, Hendrik Groen once again picks up his pen. After losing Eefje, he hadn’t felt like writing but now the time has come to get back into the swing of things, exercise his brain and fill us in on happenings at the care home and the adventures of the Old-But-Not-Dead Club.

I must say, I’ve never been one for clubs but if I’m fortunate enough to get to the ripe old age of 86 or thereabouts, I would absolutely jump at the chance to join the Old-But-Not-Dead Club. Their sheer determination to keep living life to the fullest does really prove that age is nothing but a number as they keep broadening their horizons, stay active as best as they can, laugh and have a good time.

New members are joining the fold. They will dine out on numerous occasions, try new things and even go on little trips. I adore the friendships between these members but the one that will always hold a special place in my heart, is the one between Hendrik and Evert. We should all be so lucky as to have a wonderful friend like them in our lives.

As in Hendrik’s previous diary, his entries are often moving and rather emotional. As is to be expected in this environment, some residents won’t make it to the end of the book. But Hendrik’s diary is also inspiring, uplifting and funny with many moments where I found myself chuckling. The inclusion of world news and statistics is often thought-provoking. Especially when talking about the closure of care homes and the amount of elderly people who never receive visitors and spend way too much time on their own.

Hendrik remains one of the most fantastic characters I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. He’s intelligent, thoughtful, still rather sharp witted for his age, a fabulous grandfather figure and an even more brilliant friend to have in your corner. I do so hope there will be a third diary as I am convinced there are plenty more stories to tell and I would really love to spend more time with the Old-But-Not-Dead Club again in future.

On The Bright Side will be published on January 11.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Bookdepository | Wordery | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Hendrik Groen started his diaries on the literary website of Torpedo Magazine. He says about his work: ‘There’s not one sentence that’s a lie, but not every word is true.’ His first diary, the international bestseller The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old has been translated into over thirty languages and is being adapted for television. His second diary went straight to number 1 in the Netherlands. He is currently working on a standalone novel.

About the translator.

Hester Velamns is the author of two popular children’s novels and a translator specialising in modern fiction. Her translation of Renate Dorrenstein’s A Heart of Stone won the Vondel Prize for Translation and was Barnes & Nobele Discover Great New Writers selection. Her translation of Lulu Wang’s The Lily Theatre was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

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Make sure to follow the rest of the tour and don’t forget to pick up your copy on the 11th!

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Divine Poison by AB Morgan @AliMorgan2304 @Bloodhoundbook #blogblitz #qanda

Welcome to my stop on the blog blitz for Divine Poison by AB Morgan! Many thanks to Sarah Hardy and Bloodhound Books for the invitation and to AB Morgan who has kindly taken the time to answer a few questions for us but first, here is what Divine Poison is all about.

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Author : AB Morgan
Title : Divine Poison
Pages : 284
Publisher : Bloodhound Books
Publication date : January 4, 2018

aboutthebook

For a community psychiatric nurse, Monica Morris has an unhealthy interest in poison, and when, on impulse, she buys an antique Ship’s Doctor’s Cabinet with a set of leather-bound journals she becomes fascinated by the content.

A few days later, she discovers the body of her patient, Jan Collins, and although police assume suicide by overdose, Monica is not convinced.

When more unexplained deaths involving poisoning occur, Monica realises they are linked and so does DS Adams who is investigating. But how are they connected? And why?

When it becomes obvious that she’s unwittingly stepped into a trap set for someone else, Monica’s career, her own sanity and her life are placed at risk. But where can she turn to for help?

qanda

* What did you learn from writing your first novel that you have benefitted from since?

 I could probably write a whole book about lessons learnt through writing and achieving publication. ‘How to Deal with Rejection in Twenty-four Easy Lessons,’ that sort of thing.

 The biggest lesson was to listen to advice from those that know. When I read through the first draught of A Justifiable Madness, my very first attempt at writing a novel, I thought it was pretty sound. I was wrong. Then I spent hard-earned cash having the raw manuscript critiqued and had to swallow the painful truth that it was far from publishable. That was the best money I’ve ever spent.

Once I’d taken on board the advice, revised, reviewed, rewritten and grasped the core skills … I was away.

However then came the rest of my lessons:

            Buy a book about punctuation.

            Read out loud. If it doesn’t sound right then it won’t read well.

            Edit, edit and edit again.

            Play to your strengths.

And the rest.

* How best would you describe your style of writing?

 That’s a tricky question to answer. I’m not very poetic or overly descriptive, and I aim to create an easy read through narrative that entertains and moves the story along but also represents real life. Even when I try to immerse myself in a character’s desperate situation I can’t escape from my own sense of humour, despite writing about the darkest of subjects. It’s a nurse’s coping strategy… gallows humour.

A bit like me, my style is more casual than formal, jeans and a cosy jumper, rather than a business suit or long flowing gown.

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Divine Poison is published today and available for purchase!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Alison Morgan started writing a couple of years ago to address that niggling question: could she write a book? The answer was a simple yes. She’s had to retire from the NHS a little earlier than planned, but has discovered a new passion. Writing. Her debut novel, A Justifiable Madness, was published by Bloodhound Books in September 2017 attracting great reviews for its refreshing premise and dark humour. With two further novels being published at the beginning of 2018, it seems Alison has a promising future as an author. Divine Poison is the second novel to feature Monica Morris, a mental health nurse, as the main protagonist in this crime mystery, but there are no plans for a series. Alison’s third suspense novel, The Camera Lies, steps away from the field of nursing and into the world of real crime documentary films.

Alison lives with her husband Andy and their dog Sadie, in a small village north of Bedford. She’s not the type to let life get in the way of adventure and so, always up for the next challenge, she decided to have a proper midlife crisis and learn to ride a motorbike. In August she passed, first time. Her husband was impressed until she swung her leg over his prized Triumph and roared off with a big grin on her face. ‘Research for the next book,’ she cried. The fourth book is under construction and does indeed feature motorbikes.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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BLOG TOUR (2)

Solitaire by Jane Thynne @janethynne @SianLauraMae #blogtour #guestpost #review

It’s a pleasure to welcome you all to my final blog tour of the year. Today I’m closing down the tour for Solitaire by Jane Thynne and I have an interesting guest post as well as my thoughts on the book. But first, here’s what Solitaire is all about.

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Author : Jane Thynne
Title : Solitaire
Series : Clara Vine #5
Pages : 451
Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK
Publication date : November 17, 2017

aboutthebook

June 1940: Nightly blackouts suffocate Berlin. Then France falls and a shadow descends across Western Europe now under German occupation.

A shadow has fallen over Clara Vine’s own life, too. She is an Anglo-German woman in a country that hates Britain. Virulent anti-British propaganda is everywhere.

Then she is summoned to meet the Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels who has decided that Clara should adopt a new role – as his spy — and that she must go to Paris on a mission.

Much as she dislikes the idea, Clara realises this might be the chance to find an escape route to Britain. But Goebbels has other ideas and soon Clara is drawn into a web that threatens to destroy her. As everything she holds dear is taken as ransom, she must fight to protect her family – and to survive.

guestpost

Espionage and spies.

I’ve always adored spy stories. In many ways, the spy is the ideal novelistic protagonist. Everything that a spy needs to be – observant, logical, meticulous, thinking three steps ahead – is much the same for the novelist. Spies, like writers, need to see ordinary situations from a different perspective, to carry their secrets close, weave a convincing tale and seek out hidden perils in everyday environments.

And for me, it had to be a female spy. Espionage writing has always been male dominated, from Erskine Childers’ The Riddle of the Sands, to John Buchan, Ian Fleming and John Le Carré, but I wanted the woman’s view. I wanted to explore how a woman copes with espionage in the midst of, sometimes at the expense of, close personal relationships with lovers, friends, even children, so I created Clara Vine, an Anglo-German actress who arrives in Nazi Germany in 1933 and comes into contact with the VIPs of the Third Reich. From there she falls, almost by accident, into espionage, and by the time of Solitaire, which is set in 1940, she has been spying for Britain for seven years.

I chose the background of Nazi Germany because I’m fascinated by the way people survive in a regimented totalitarian society where everyone feels watched and normal human relationships are fraught with mistrust. Nazi Germany was the ultimate misogynist dystopia, where women were primarily valued for their breeding potential, and when I discovered the Berlin Bride School, where girls took residential courses in becoming  obedient wives, it was like a real life Handmaid’s Tale that I subsequently used in The Winter Garden.

In Solitaire, Germany and Britain are at war, so Clara’s existence is even more perilous. In classic spy story tradition she is approached by Joseph Goebbels, who is of course unaware of her work for British intelligence, and asked to act as a honey-trap. This is another major difference between male and female spies – sex appeal is undeniably a weapon in the toolkit of the female agent and Clara often uses her own attractiveness for higher ends. Her mission takes her to Lisbon, which in July 1940 was neutral, and packed with refugees fleeing from Nazi occupied Europe. It was also swarming with spies of both sides – British and Gestapo – who staked out different hotels and frequented separate bars. At one point both Graham Greene and Ian Fleming were spying in Lisbon, and as luck would have it, it’s Fleming who Clara encounters.

The Clara Vine novels do not fit neatly in the espionage genre – they’re historical and romantic and thrillers too. Yet I love spy writing because all the elements of life that most novels address – love, loyalty, betrayal, hope, sacrifice – are compressed in the universe of the spy. We all, to some extent, live double lives and present different faces to the different people in our worlds, but spies live a constant double life. They are always on stage, always acting a role, and there is always a marked gap between what they think and what they say. It’s this gap that interests me.

mythoughts

Solitaire is the fifth book in the Clara Vine series. Not having read any of the previous ones, I was slightly worried I wouldn’t be able to follow but I feel the author has done a great job filling in the background for those who are new to the series and I didn’t feel lost at all. I did however have a hard time connecting to Clara and didn’t particularly like her very much, which made me wonder if that would have been different if I’d gotten to know her better beforehand.

For those unfamiliar with the series, set in the World War II era, Clara Vine is an English/German actress who’s been living in Berlin for the past seven years. Due to her background and heritage, she never feels quite safe despite having German citizenship. Not only does Germany not look kindly upon the British but Clara is also desperately trying to hide her Jewish heritage. Especially as she often finds herself moving around in the circles of the higher Nazi party members and their wives, which gives an incredible insight into their lives.

I must admit it took me a while to get into this story. It was a bit of a slow-burner and needed a bit more oomph to really grab me. I did however thoroughly enjoy Katerina’s chapters and found them highly addictive. Katerina is a young girl who finds herself in a children’s home when her father dies, where she’s being raised by Brown Sisters. A lot of it is more brainwashing than anything else and some of it beggars belief. Katerina suffers from a leg problem and her life may be in danger and I quickly found myself rooting for her.

This story is certainly incredibly atmospheric and I immediately felt myself transported to the streets of Berlin, Paris and Lisbon. It’s clear the author has done a lot of research and I learned quite a lot about how the war affected the German population, for instance. As someone who regularly reads stories about the second World War, a lot of it is set in England so it was fascinating to see the other side for a change which isn’t something that’s often talked about but it should be noted that the average German suffered too.

Despite never warming to Clara, I enjoyed this historical setting and the various characters that make an appearance, like Ian Fleming and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. There’s also a subtle threatening level throughout the story and I have nothing but admiration for those who put their lives on the line during the war to make sure the right side won. Jane Thynne effortlessly manages to combine fact with fiction and a healthy dose of intrigue with some romance. The ending seems to imply there’s much more to come for fans of Clara Vine so keep an eye out for that!

My thanks to Jane Thynne and Sian Devine for the invitation to join the tour and my ebook copy of the book!

Solitaire is available for purchase now!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

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Tall Chimneys by Allie Cresswell @Alliescribbler @rararesources #blogtour #extract

It’s my pleasure to join the blog tour for Tall Chimneys by Allie Cresswell today! My thanks to Rachel for the invitation! I have a wonderful extract to share with you, right after I tell you a little something about the novel.

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Author : Allie Cresswell
Title : Tall Chimneys
Pages : 417
Publisher : n/a
Publication date : December 12, 2017

aboutthebook

Considered a troublesome burden, Evelyn Talbot is banished by her family to their remote country house. Tall Chimneys is hidden in a damp and gloomy hollow. It is outmoded and inconvenient but Evelyn is determined to save it from the fate of so many stately homes at the time – abandonment or demolition.

Occasional echoes of tumult in the wider world reach their sequestered backwater – the strident cries of political extremists, a furore of royal scandal, rumblings of the European war machine. But their isolated spot seems largely untouched. At times life is hard – little more than survival. At times it feels enchanted, almost outside of time itself. The woman and the house shore each other up – until love comes calling, threatening to pull them asunder.

Her desertion will spell its demise, but saving Tall Chimneys could mean sacrificing her hope for happiness, even sacrificing herself.

A century later, a distant relative crosses the globe to find the house of his ancestors. What he finds in the strange depression of the moor could change the course of his life forever.

One woman, one house, one hundred years.

extract

Tall Chimney’s remote and secluded situation means that it is the ideal place for clandestine political meetings. In 1936, its owner, Colin Talbot, uses the house to entertain his right wing friend Oswald Mosley and to try to espouse others to the Fascists’ cause. One of those invited is Edward VIII, a known admirer of Hitler’s Nationalism, and, with the King, comes Mrs Simpson.

Tea with Mrs Simpson

She was huddled into a small armchair she had pushed as close as possible to the fire. She was poking ineffectually at it but it hardly emitted any heat – somebody had put damp logs on it and only a thick, acrid, yellowish smoke rose from the grate. Mrs Simpson wore a thin cardigan over a plain blouse. The scarf she had worn earlier was draped across her shoulders. I have no doubt the cardigan was cashmere and the blouse and scarf both silk, but they seemed to provide no warmth. Her face was pinched; a deep frown slashed her bony forehead which her starkly parted hair made very prominent in her face. I could see she wore a good deal of make-up but it did not disguise her discomfort. Bright red lipstick made her mouth seem very wide, and emphasised a blemish on the left side of her chin. Apart from the poker her hands were empty; she didn’t seem to have any reading material with her, or anything at all to occupy the lonely hours she must have known she faced while the men talked.

I bobbed a curtsey – probably wrong – and went across to fire to mend it, taking the poker from her hand, which was ice cold.

‘I’ve been sent to see if you need anything, ma’am,’ I said. ‘I can see immediately that you do.’

She gave me a wan smile and leant back in her chair as though exhausted. I soon had the fire burning better, and pulled the thick curtain across the window, to block out the draught. I lit the lamps and rang the bell. ‘Bring tea,’ I said, ‘hot tea, and toast, and that thick mohair blanket from the settle in the hall.’

I took the liberty of tucking the blanket around her legs while she dozed, easing off her high heeled shoes and chafing her feet, which were frozen. She allowed my ministrations without a murmur, and when the tea came I poured her a cup without asking and placed it on a table at her side. She roused herself enough to drink it, both hands cupping the fine porcelain, before lapsing back into sleep. Satisfied I had done everything I could to bring her ease, and with the fire now burning very brightly and the room altogether more cheerful and comfortable, I gingerly took another armchair and settled to my sewing.

Presently I looked up to find her eyes on me. ‘What’s your position here?’ she asked.

I decided it was pointless to prevaricate. ‘I hardly know,’ I admitted, putting down my work. ‘I am Colin Talbot’s sister. I live here permanently but you wouldn’t call me the lady of the house. Up until a few weeks ago I lived here alone, practically.’

‘Ah! You’re the reclusive sister.’ Her American accent was pronounced; it would be clichéd to call it a drawl but it certainly had a languorous quality to it.

I felt a brief surge of anger. Her privacy had been protected at all costs, I fumed. Everything had been cloak-and-dagger to the extent I hadn’t even known she was coming. My affairs, in contrast, it seemed, had been thoroughly discussed. ‘I’m not a recluse,’ I retorted. ‘At least, not by choice. It seems to have been my fate, though. It’s the part that has fallen to my lot, for good or ill. I can’t deny, before the visit of these gentlemen, and yourself, Tall Chimneys has had no visitors since 1929.’

‘Good God!’ she ejaculated, and then, more musingly. ‘What bliss.’

We sent for more tea. She smoked cigarettes. I told her what I could about the house – its history, as far as I knew it, about my brother George and the difficulties his death had caused. She seemed very interested to know how I had coped, all alone. ‘I wasn’t quite alone,’ I mumbled, ‘not all of the time, anyway.’

‘I see,’ she said, knowingly. ‘Now I think about it, something was mentioned. I know Mr Cressing’s work, in fact. I attended an exhibition of his, I believe.’

I said, wryly ‘It seems you know all my secrets.’

‘Don’t you know, dear, there are no secrets,’ she replied, bitterly.

We spoke of John for a while, and of the art scene in general. Mrs Simpson was surprisingly well informed. As I described John’s work I was conscious of a pit of longing for him deep in my stomach. ‘I wish he was here,’ I blurted out at last.

‘I’m sure you do,’ she said, warmly.

From the library the hum of masculine voices had been growing louder as we talked. Subliminally I had heard the tread of feet along the corridor, the chink of glasses on a tray. ‘The men have called for drinks,’ I said. ‘They must want whisky instead of tea. Perhaps the meeting has come to a close.’

‘I’d like some whisky too,’ Mrs Simpson said, stretching her feet out and groping with a silk-stockinged toe for her shoes. ‘I ought to go and freshen up. Will you show me the way?’

I showed her up to her room where, I was pleased to see, a fire burned and the best towels had been laid ready. Her maid stood by to draw her a bath, evening clothes were laid across the bed and on the dressing table a case of jewels stood open.

‘You won’t join us for dinner, I am told,’ she said to me as she paused on the threshold. I shook my head.

‘That’s a pity. Send the whisky, will you?’

***

Tall Chimneys is available for purchase!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Allie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil.

She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London.

She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners.

She has two grown-up children, one granddaughter and two grandsons, is married to Tim and lives in Cumbria, NW England.

Tall Chimneys is the sixth of her novels to be published.

Twitter | Facebook | Website

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Foul Trade by B.K. Duncan @BKDuncanwriter @Bloodhoundbook #blogtour

** advanced copy received via publisher **

It’s a pleasure to host a stop on the blog tour for Foul Trade by B.K. Duncan today! Many thanks to Sarah Hardy and Bloodhound Books! Read on to see what the book is all about.

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Author : B.K. Duncan
Title : Foul Trade
Series : May Keeps #1
Pages : 372
Publisher : Bloodhound Books
Publication date : December 12, 2017

aboutthebook

It is March 1920. May Keaps, the Poplar Coroner’s Officer, has never failed to provide a jury with sufficient evidence to arrive at a just verdict.

The poverty, drunken fights between visiting sailors, drug trafficking, and criminal gangs, haunting the shadows of the busiest docks in the world, mean that the Coroner sees more than its fair share of sudden and unnatural deaths.

May relishes the responsibility placed upon her but there are many who believe it’s an unsuitable job for a woman. Even May begins to wonder if that is the case when the discovery of a young man’s body, in a Limehouse alley, plunges her into an underworld of opium dens, gambling, turf wars, protection rackets and murder.

As her investigations draw her into danger, it becomes increasingly clear that whoever is responsible intends to avoid the hangman’s noose by arranging to have May laid out on one of her own mortuary slabs.

mythoughts

Two years after the events of the novella The Last Post, we meet up again with May Keaps. May is now 22 years old and working as the Coroner’s Officer in Poplar, East London. While many think this job isn’t suitable for a woman, May loves it and the responsibilities it gives her. But when a young man is found dead in an alley, May quickly finds herself involved in a murky criminal underworld full of drugs, gambling and murder. Meanwhile, she’s also taking care of her sister, Alice, and trying to deal with a past that has seen too much death.

Now, I must admit that it took me a while to get into this story. I felt it was a bit of a slow-burner, especially after reading the novella which packed quite a punch. May remains incredibly fierce and determined, even if her quest for truth and justice may land her in danger. Set in 1920’s Poplar, it seems danger is lurking around pretty much every corner as well. This isn’t exactly a thriving neighbourhood and being so near the docks, who knows what goods find their way into the area.

May’s boss is quite the judgmental character who makes up his mind about a possible inquest result way before any evidence has been presented to him. But May doesn’t work that way and together with James, a journalist, she will do whatever it takes to make sure the family of the victim finds closure. The investigation had me guessing until the end, utterly unable to figure out the culprit and not trusting anyone.

This is a well-written, complex and multi-layered mystery. I found it slightly dark and depressing and maybe also a little bit too long. However, the historical setting is really brought to life and works like a charm. It adds something truly special to the story. From the busy docks, to the markets, to the prostitutes and the theatre … It’s easy to find yourself completely immersed and imagine the sights and the sounds. May is a formidable main character and she’s surrounded by a cast of interesting characters like James and her best friend Sally, whom I adored. It’ll be interesting to see what’s in store for all of them. If you like your mysteries with a historical setting, you’ll find this one highly enjoyable!

Foul Trade is published today!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

BK Duncan is the pen name Ruth Wade has adopted for the May Keaps series of historical crime novels.

Born on a steam railway and brought up on the South Coast of England, such beginnings were destined to leave BK Duncan with a love of vintage transport, crashing seas, and Art Deco architecture.

Following a career encompassing developmental learning and change-management consultancy she now combines producing her own work with lecturing part-time in creative writing in colleges and academies in Cambridge and Oxford. Her two great passions are longbow archery and the Argentine Tango. Sadly, she is not nearly as accomplished at either as she’d like.

BK Duncan also writes historical crime novels as Ruth Wade.

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The Silent Children by Carol Wyer @carolewyer @bookouture #blogtour

** advanced copy received via Netgalley **

I’m thrilled to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for The Silent Children by Carol Wyer today! This is the fourth book in the brilliant DI Robyn Carter series and I will share my thoughts with you right after I tell you a little something about the book. Many thanks to Kim Nash at Bookouture! Make sure you also check out my blog buddy Jen’s review!

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Author : Carol Wyer
Title : The Silent Children
Series : DI Robyn Carter #4
Pages : 360
Publisher : Bookouture
Publication date : December 7, 2017

aboutthebook

The boy studied the bruise turning yellow at the base of his neck. With quick fingers his mother tightened his tie, and pulled his collar high above it. Her eyes alone said, We will not speak of this…

Years later, a man is found shot dead in a local park. On his phone is a draft text: I can’t keep this secret any longer. The recipient is unnamed.

Detective Robyn Carter knows this secret is the key to the case, but his friends and family don’t offer any clues, and all her team have to go on is a size-ten footprint.

Then a woman is found in a pool of blood at the bottom of her staircase, and a seemingly insignificant detail in her stepdaughter’s statement makes Robyn wonder: are the two bodies are connected, and has the killer only just begun?

When another body confirms Robyn’s worst fears, she realises she’s in a race against time to stop the killer before they strike again. But just as she thinks she’s closing in, one of her own team goes missing.

Buried in the past is a terrible injustice. Can Robyn uncover the truth before another life is lost?

mythoughts

Cor! Way to hit the ball out of the park!

The DI Robyn Carter series is one of my favourites and I realise I say this quite a bit but it’s not my fault there are so many good ones out there! I can’t believe we’re already at book four and Carole Wyer shows no signs of slowing down. I do most heartily recommend you start with the first book so you get to know Robyn and her team and an especially intriguing background story.

Now, if you have read the previous ones and you’re hoping for some sort of conclusion after the mind-blowing ending of book three, weeeell, let’s just say Carol Wyer has this teasing thing down to an art. There are some breadcrumbs, some clues but the focus is more on a truly fabulous murder investigation. It’s pure torture but it’s also awesome and a surefire way to keep me coming back for more. Love it!

As for the investigation, a man is found shot to death at a local park. By all accounts, he seemed to be a much loved person so why would anyone want him dead? When a second person is found murdered, Robyn wonders if these cases are somehow connected. But how? Cue an incredibly complex and multi-layered plot that had me guessing until the end.

With a combination of utterly emotional, heartbreaking, harrowing chapters dealing with abuse set in the past and a hard-hitting investigation in the present, I was absolutely gripped! For the longest time, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on and I will always love an author who manages to do that. This is one of those stories where you start reading and the hours just pass by without you realising. Totally addictive and engrossing!

As if investigating murders and bumping into dead ends all over the place wasn’t enough, Robyn and her team are also dealing with some unwelcome guests when they are forced to share their office space with Shearer and his team. That can’t possibly go well, can it?! Again, as in the previous books, I’m loving these team dynamics, the diversity and the banter. Getting to know the other team members better each time adds that little something extra.

If you’re not reading these books, you are missing out and I strongly urge you to correct the error of your ways! This is an absolutely fantastic series which just keeps getting better and better. This latest instalment is immensely gripping and compelling and dare I say, the best one yet. I so can’t wait for the next one!

The Silent Children was published on December 7th!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Carol E. Wyer is an award-winning author whose humorous books take a light-hearted look at getting older and encourage others to age disgracefully. More recently she has chosen to write for the “dark side” and embarked on a series of thrillers, starting with the gripping best-seller, Little Girl Lost.

Her book Grumpy Old Menopause won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction 2015.

Carol has been interviewed on numerous radio shows discussing ‘Irritable Male Syndrome’ and ‘Ageing Disgracefully’ and on BBC Breakfast television. She has had articles published in national magazines ‘Woman’s Weekly’ featured in ‘Take A Break’, ‘Choice’, ‘Yours’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines and writes regularly for The Huffington Post.

Carol is a signed author with Bookouture and Delancey Press.

Twitter | Website

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