Monday, 22 August 2016

#MondayMusing with Guest Blogger: Anne Cater

A product of contemplation; a thought: "an elegant tapestry of quotations, musings, aphorisms, and autobiographical reflections" (James Atlas).

 I am thrilled to welcome Anne Cater to the blog today, she blogs over at Random Things. I really do advise having a look her blog, it's wonderful. Anne is one of the biggest book peddlers, encouragers, enthusiasts, shouters, and advocate of reading I know. She encouraged me to start my blog, helped and continues to when I falter. I am also proud that she is my friend. Thank goodness for her and her middle of the night ideas...

Book Connectors on Facebook

Just over a year ago I had a middle-of-the-night idea that has turned out to be one of my better ideas …. I’ve had lots of not-so-good ideas during my life, but those are for a different post!

I believe that you can never be bored if you have a book in your possession. An author can fill your life with vibrant characters and whisk you off to other lands. You can be witness to a murder, to a love affair, or become part of history. I don’t think I’ve uttered the words ‘I’m bored’ since I was a ten-year-old being dragged around yet another garden centre by my mum.

Being a reader can be lonely though. Sometimes I don’t actually want to read my book, I want to talk about it to someone else. I want to discuss the plot, or how the author knits their words together. I want to compare the book to the author’s other works, or discuss books that are similar. I like to talk about anything that’s book-related.

The internet is a wonderful place to find like-minded people. Ten years ago I was part of an on-line forum, we talked about books, it was great. I met some amazing people who have become some of my dearest friends. 

Along came Facebook, and the rise of groups. I joined a few groups, I’m still a member of a couple that I enjoy, but I was getting so frustrated by the constant ‘Books v Kindle’ debates, which are pretty pointless really, and I was quite offended when I was called a ‘book snob’ because I said that I don’t want a Kindle!  Then there’s the comments about price; the ‘oh, I’m not paying more than £1.99 for a book’ …. what?  Are you serious? You can’t get a decent cup of coffee for that!  Oh, and the ‘I’m going to start a book blog, then I’ll get free books’ …… I can’t even respond to that one.   There were so many RULES too!  And WARNINGS!  And things that you JUST CAN’T DO OR SAY!  I’m a bit of a gob-shite, and when I was slapped with a WARNING when I asked a question, I was (a la Dragon’s Den) out.

I just wanted to talk about books, and about blogging. I wanted to talk to authors, to find out what they were writing, to find out about their latest releases. I wanted to share my blog reviews, and read other blog reviews …. all in one place. 

So, the middle-of-the-night idea struck me and I created Book Connectors; a Facebook group just for bloggers and authors.  It would be place with no rules, but I wanted everyone to be nice to each other. It would be a place where authors could promote their work, and bloggers could share their posts. It would be a place where authors could ask bloggers if they’d like to read their book, where blog tours could be arranged, where bloggers could ask authors if they’d like to take part in something they’d planned for their blog.  It would be a place where established authors could advise new authors, and old-hand bloggers could encourage new ones.

Book Connectors is not a reading group, or a book club. It’s a place where authors and bloggers can connect. We do discuss books, of course we do, but it is so much more than that. Everyone is equal, it doesn’t matter if members post in the group every day, or every month, or just a couple of times a year. Book Connectors has four admin members who keep an eye on things, that’s it, nothing more. The admin members are just the same as other members, there is no hierarchy, no labels, no top-dog.

There are over a thousand members, but believe me, it could be five times that amount as we get requests to join all the time, but if someone is not a blogger, or an author they’re not eligible to join the group. There are loads of book groups on Facebook for readers, Book Connectors is not the right place for everyone.

I think members enjoy Book Connectors, we get great feedback and I know that there have been some wonderful blog tours, blog posts, events and friendships made over the last year or so.

So, if there are any bloggers or authors out there who would like to join Book Connectors, please find us on Facebook and click the ‘Join Group’ button … you will be made very welcome.


Anne Cater blogs at Random Things Through My Letterbox
Follow her on Twitter @annecater

Monday, 15 August 2016

#MondayMusing with Guest Author Tracey Sinclair...

A product of contemplation; a thought: "an elegant tapestry of quotations, musings, aphorisms, and autobiographical reflections" (James Atlas).

I would like to welcome you all to a brand new feature on the blog. Monday Musing is hopefully going to be a series of posts on a variety of subjects. Authors and Bloggers are welcome. I hope to have guest posts, interviews, and lots more. 

My very first guest on this shiny new series is Tracey Sinclair. Welcome to the blog Tracey and thanks so much for taking part with a fabulous post about book purchasing habits, which very much mirror my own!

Can books be a disposable pleasure?

There’s nothing I love more than a packed bookshelf. It remains a fantasy of mine to have a library, a reading nook, walls lined with shelves after shelves of beautiful books, and I can often be found swooning enviously over friends’ generous shelvage.

Yet, when it comes to my own collection, I rarely keep a book after I’ve read it: a few old favourites aside, once something is read, it’s out the door – passed to a friend or given to charity, but out of my house for good. You’d think this would mean I would economise: wait until things are in paperback or, better yet, since it’s partially a space issue (I live in a one-bedroom rental with no shelves and no storage space) simply download what I want. But no: I continue to spend a ridiculous amount of money on glossy, pretty hardbacks, despite the transient pleasure I know they’ll bring.

The roots of this are tangled but obvious. I grew up in a working class household that was big on learning but tight on funds: there weren’t a lot of books at home, but I was an avid reader who spent an inordinate amount of time in my local library (one of the reasons I’m so angry about Government attacks on the library service is I remember what a lifeline it was for kids like me). As I went onto university (all those library visits having paid off), I started to connect book collections with affluence, and having one became an aspiration for me – despite being undermined as I regularly had to sell my used text books to boost my funds.

But my twenties were peripatetic – at one stage I moved a staggering 13 times in under 3 years – and the fantasy of owning a huge amount of books clashed with the reality of having to move them around so much. You love hardbacks a lot less when you’ve had to lug 5 boxes of them up four flights of Glasgow tenement stairs, let me tell you.

Although I am (hopefully!) more settled now, that sense of transience stuck – I rarely buy anything with the idea that it will be forever, books included. And yet I can’t face taking the sensible option, and just switching to digital, like many of my friends – I know people who haven’t bought a single physical book since they purchased their Kindles.

Not that I’m against digital. I don’t at all buy into the argument that being a ‘real’ book depends on something being a physical entity. I’m a huge fan of digital – as an author, it’s been invaluable, and as a reader it’s been nothing but a blessing. The convenience of being able to download a book the minute I want to has many a time catered to a binge read of an addictive series, and I’ve discovered a lot of authors I would never have read, since digital books tend to be cheaper, making me more willing to take a punt on an unknown entity. It’s also encouraged me to read more short works, since I resent paying the best part of a tenner (or more!) for a book that takes half an hour to read (disclaimer: I still sometimes buy these, but I feel annoyed at myself for doing so). Through digital I have discovered treasures like We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, or one-off short stories that I would never have paid ‘hard copy’ prices for. (I’d like to say digital is more convenient for travel, but since I usually take my iPad and a ridiculous amount of physical books on any trip, I’d be lying.)

There is, however, an undeniable tactile pleasure to a physical book, and one I am happy to pay for, even if the enjoyment is short-lived. I’ve been swayed by striking covers or nice paper or even a different format (I have a weakness for American paperbacks – every time I go to the States, I return with half a dozen books straining my baggage allowance). I’m content to have them sitting there looking pretty, if occasionally making me feel guilty – the downside of only keeping books I haven’t read is my tottering stacks are one giant TBR pile. And, when they are done, I get a thrill from knowing they’ll be going to another home, and someone else will enjoy them.

Tracey Sinclair is an author and freelance editor and writer. Her books include the romcom The Bridesmaid Blues and the Dark Dates/Cassandra Bick series, the latest of which, Angel Falls, is out now.

It isn't easy to surprise Cassandra Bick. When you run a human-vampire dating agency, your colleague is a witch who is engaged to a shifter and your business partner is one of London's most powerful (and sexiest) vampires, there's no such thing as a normal day at the office. But when a mysterious Dark Dates client brings a dire warning of a new threat to the city's supernatural community, Cass and her friends realise they are up against their deadliest foe yet – and that this time, the danger is far closer to home than they could ever have imagined. Sexy, snarky and with more bite than a crypt full of vampires, Angel Falls is the latest in the Dark Dates: Cassandra Bick series.

** BLOG TOUR ** Blood Sister by Dreda Say Mitchell

Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 11 August 2016. My thanks to the publisher for my review copy and inviting me on the blog tour.

There are two ways out of Essex Lane Estate, better known as The Devil. You make good, or you turn bad.
Jen Miller is determined not to make the same mistakes her mother did. She's waiting to find herself a good job and a decent man.
Her younger sister Tiff is running errands for a gangster and looking for any opportunity for fun and profit. But she might just be in over her head...
The choices you make and the plans you have don't always turn out like you expect. Especially if you live on The Devil's Estate. When their paths cross with the unstoppable Dee - a woman with her own agenda - Jen and Tiff will learn that lesson the hard way.
At least they can rely on each other.
Can't they?

My Thoughts:

I have read and reviewed one of Dreda's previous novels, Vendetta in 2014. If you follow the link you can see my review for that one. 

Blood Sister is the first in a new and exciting trilogy called 'Flesh and Blood'. The trilogy will follow one family over forty years. I was excited to read this book as I enjoyed Vendetta so much. This book did not disappoint. A gripping and gritty thriller set on a housing estate in East London, it left me on the edge of my seat. 

It is about the lengths people will go to, to escape the lives that they have and it is about having a dream of something better. The London Underworld comes to life as people make the wrong choices and mix with the wrong people. 

This author has an ability to write tight plot lines that are exhilarating, whilst having a cast of characters that are all individual and that feel as if they are people you might know. I love the way that most of the central characters are strong, feisty, independent women that are not without their flaws. This makes the story shine with a certain harshness and realism. 

The three main characters are Jen, Tiff and Dee. Jen is trying to improve herself by the normal routes, college and the like. Tiff is a bit of a live wire and does things before she engages her brain, usually with disastrous consequences. Dee is well, Dee, she knows what she wants and she knows how to get it and god forbid anybody that tries to stand in her way!

I loved the fact that when I picked up this book up I was immediately transported to 1970's London. Pure escapism from the outset written with real grit and occasional violence but also with a giant beating heart. Full of suspense and twists, that left me surprised at the end. I can't ask for any more from this style of book. 

I know that I totally loved a book when as soon as I close the cover I look to see when the next one is out. A tense wait until February 2017. Dreda is a tremendous writer and her love and knowledge of London shines through, she is a writer that I will turn to time and time again. 

I can't recommend this enough and Dreda Say Mitchell is quickly becoming my Queen of Crime. 


I am absolutely thrilled that Dreda was able to answer some of my questions, it was a real treat for me to be able to ask them. My thanks to her for taking the time. 

1) What made you decide to become a writer and more specifically, a writer of crime fiction?
As a child I loved listening to my dad and his friends tells stories and I was introduced to a world of books when my mum made sure I went off to Whitechapel Library. But it wasn’t until much later on in my life that I decided to write and the reason was I had a story to tell. My first book – Running Hot – I thought was a social commentary piece about redemption, (which it was), but it wasn’t until a well-known crime writer said it was a chase thriller; my lead character has got seven days to get out of the London underworld that I started thinking. After it received the CWA’s John Creasey Dagger for best first British crime novel I thought I’m in the crime world to stay.
2) I notice that you are from London yourself, how important is it as a setting and why did you choose it?
London! Just hearing the word makes me sigh with pleasure. I’m a London girl and so putting the city in my books was important. It’s a thrilling place, but at the same time dangerous, filled with people getting along but also rubbing each other up the wrong way. It’s those clashes and the many different faces of London that make it such a great place to set a crime book. 
3) Who do you look up to in the literary world and what books would you recommend to others?
Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple is a standout book for me. It made me laugh, cry, get angry, feel joy. Love Lee Child and Martina Cole because they introduced me to two very different types of crime/thriller genres. Lee’s Killing Floor, his first Jack Reacher book, is just brilliant.
Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects blew me away with its beautiful writing and intense story.
4) I have noticed that throughout your books you have created strong, feisty, female and independent characters, is this intentional?
Yes. A big thing for me is writing about strong, feisty working class women. I think that in real life they can be talked down to or not talked about at all. My women demand to have their voice heard. They’re women who have dreams like anyone else, but often it’s their flaws and other people who hold them back.
5) What can we look forward to in the future from you and your writing?
Blood Sister is the first in the Flesh and Blood Trilogy. The second book is Blood Mother, which takes the story right back to 1972. Oh, did I have a ball writing it. It’s out in February 2017 followed by the final book, Blood Daughter, which is released later that year.
About the Author:
Dreda Say Mitchell grew up on a housing estate in East London. She is an award winning novelist, broadcaster, journalist and freelance education consultant. She was named one Britain's 50 Remarkable Women by Lady Geek. She is the author of five novels, with her first book having been awarded The CWA's John Creasey Dagger for the best debut crime novel. 
She has appeared on Newsnight, Daybreak and Canadian television's Sun New Live. She has presented BBC Radio 4's Open Book, and is a frequent guest of Radio 4's The Review Show, Front Row and Saturday Review. She is the founder of the creative writing programme 'Write-On', which she has run in both YOIs and prison.
She has worked in education for over twenty years, including positions as a primary school deputy head teacher and local authority consultant. Dreda has an African history degree and an MA in Education Studies. She is also a patron of The National Youth Arts Trust.

Please do have a look at the other stops on the tour.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

I'm Still Here by Clélie Avit

Translated from French by Lucy Foster. Published 14th July 2016 in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton. My thanks to them for my review copy.

Elsa has been in a coma for five months. With all hope of reviving her gone, her family and doctors are having to face the devastating fact that it might be time to turn off her life support... They don't realise that in the past few weeks Elsa has regained partial consciousness; she knows where she is and can hear everyone talking around her bed, but she has no way of telling them she's there.
Thibault is in the same hospital visiting his brother, a drunk driver responsible for the deaths of two teenage girls. Thibault's emotions are in turmoil and, needing a retreat, he finds his way into Elsa's room. Seeing her lying there so peacefully, he finds it hard to believe she is not just sleeping.
Thibault begins to visit Elsa regularly. As he learns more about her through her family and friends, he begins to realise that he is developing feelings for her. And when he talks to her, he can't help feeling that she can hear his every word...
For Elsa, his visits are like a breath of fresh air. Here is finally someone who speaks to her as if she is a real life person. Who makes her laugh. And who gives her something to fight for...
And so begins a love story that might just save both their lives...

My Thoughts:

This book could be described as a modern day Sleeping Beauty that centres around our two main characters Elsa and Thibault. Elsa is in a coma and the Dr's are considering turning off her life support apart from she can hear what is going on around her and she is thinking clearly. Thibault is deeply upset when he stumbles upon Elsa's room, he is avoiding seeing his brother who is also a patient at the hospital. His brother has killed two young girls after drunk driving. What ensues is something of a love story like no other. 

I am sure that there is real heart to this original love story, that proved to be very thought provoking. It is about two people who for different reasons are trapped by the circumstances that surrounds both of their lives. Thibault is depressed and troubled and he begins to seek solace within the walls of Elsa's room. Elsa begins to enjoy the company of Thibault and looks forward to his visits. He treats her and speaks to her like a human being even though she is in a coma. 

The way that Thibault behaved when he was with Elsa raised some questions for me. I found this book quite disturbing in places and the ending a little predictable but all in all an interesting debut. I am afraid that I personally couldn't suspend quite enough belief to make this one work for me fully. That being said the author has managed very well to make the voices of her characters individual and able to portray the desperation of their emotions. 

Drawing on the visceral this book is very unique. The author writes with a sparseness that stops the story from being absolutely bleak. 

About the Author:

Clélie Avit was born in Saint Etienne in 1986 and grew up in Auvergne. She studied at the University of Lyon and her passions include mountains and dance. She trained to become a physics and chemistry teacher and a dance teacher. This is her first novel and she now writes full time and continues to teach contemporary dance. 

Saturday, 13 August 2016

The Confession of Stella Moon by Shelley Day

Published on 7th July 2016 by Contraband. My thanks to the Author and the Publisher for my review copy.

1977: A killer is released from prison and returns home to a decaying, deserted boarding house choked with weeds and foreboding. 

Memories of strange rituals, gruesome secrets and shame hang heavy in the air, exerting a brooding power over young Stella Moon. 

She is eager to restart her life, but first she must confront the ghosts of her macabre family history and her own shocking crime. Guilt, paranoia and manipulation have woven a tangled web of truth and lies. All is ambiguous. Of only one thing is she certain... 

Stella Moon killed her own mother.

My Thoughts:

The Confession of Stella Moon is a story of families and a story of identity. Dark and full of foreboding, this book opens with the Statement for court proceedings in 1970 when Stella Moon killed her mother. The atmosphere was tense, the plot taut from the outset and it hooked me in right away.

We pick up Stella's story upon her release from prison. Stella can't remember killing her mother, but she must have done. Stella returns to her former home, a boarding house and the author has managed to create an atmosphere that is as unhappy as the way poor Stella feels. It is not the sort of place you wanted to grow up that is for sure. Stella is searching for the past and she is searching for her memories which seem to be confused and jumbled. 

A story of redemption and personal freedom and also an in depth examination of the Mother and Daughter relationship. There were some characters who on the surface appeared ghastly, that just added to the despair that I felt for Stella. The author has cleverly allowed the reader to form their own opinions and as such, sympathies can fly all over the place. Stella was let down by those around her and wasn't allowed the opportunity to grow up properly and find her own space in the world. 

The author's experience in Psychology has made this book the triumph that it is, an exploration of memory and of truth and reality. A melee of past and present,  I have found few other books as compelling this year. It made me sad in places and it make me feel angry and I think that it is a great skill of writing to be able to provoke reactions and thought. 

I found this book so insightful and thought provoking and I find it hard to believe that this is a debut, if this is a sign of what can come in the future, well I will wait with bated breath. 

About the Author:

Shelley Day has been a litigation lawyer, a psychology lecturer and a research professor. These days she mainly writes fiction. The Confession of Stella Moon, is her first novel and won the Andrea Badenoch Award, was long-listed for the Bath Novel Award, and shortlisted for the Charles Pick Fellowship and the Dundee International Book Prize. She spends her time in Edinburgh, Northumberland and Norway.

Twitter: @PascaleBientot

Monday, 8 August 2016

An Honest Man by Simon Michael

An Honest Man is published by Urbane Publications, my thanks to the Publisher and the Author for my review copy.

Criminal barrister Charles Holborne may have just escaped the hangman by proving he was framed for murder, but his life is now in ruins. His wife is dead, his high-flying career has morphed into criminal notoriety, and bankruptcy threatens. When the biggest brief of Charles's career unexpectedly lands on his desk, it looks as if he has been thrown a lifeline. But far from keeping him afloat, it drags him ever deeper into the shadowy underworld of 1960s London. Now, not only is his practice at stake, but his very life. Can Charles extricate himself from a chess game played from the shadows by corrupt police officers and warring gangs without once again turning to crime himself? Based on real Old Bailey cases and genuine court documents, An Honest Man is the second in the series of Charles Holborne novels by barrister, Simon Michael, set in the sleazy London of the 1960s.

My Thoughts:

An Honest Man sees a welcome return to reading about the adventures of Charles Holborne, whom I first read about in The Brief. This book although follows on, can be read excellently as a standalone. 

Part thriller, part courtroom drama, Charles Holborne and this series hasn't lost it's spark for me. Charles Holborne is a bit of an enigma, his love life is a disaster and whilst making correct decisions in some areas, he makes completely silly ones in others. What remains true throughout is that he is one hell of a character and a top notch Criminal Barrister. 

The setting remains the same, 1960's London, sleaze and scandal abound, seedy pubs and potentially corrupt police officers, gangsters and criminals. Even the notorious Kray twins feature amongst the plot. 

I love the grit and the ease with which the author writes, creating scenes from a previous time, but managing to bring them to life like they were yesterday. The author manages to create scenarios for the reader so that it is easy to get swept up amongst all of the action, never sure which way the plot will turn next.

I particularly liked the court documents, transcripts and witness statements. These served to make the plot more realistic and created a way for the drama to unfold before the readers eyes.

I adore Charles Holborne for all of his nuances, although I think I would have a few words to say to him!

This series excites me, it is solid, well written, well plotted and imagined. What excites me the most is that this author brings something new to the crime and courtroom genre and that is why I will continue to read this series and am waiting patiently for another one. 

If you enjoy crime books with a bit of originality then I think you would like this one. 

About the Author:

Simon Michael was called to the Bar by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in 1978. In his many years of prosecuting and defending criminal cases he has dealt with a wide selection of murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy.
A storyteller all his life, Simon started writing short stories at school. His first novel (co-written) was published by Grafton in 1988 and was followed in 1989 by his first solo novel, The Cut Throat, the first of the Charles Holborne series, based on Simon’s own experiences at the criminal Bar. The Cut Throat was successful in the UK (WH Allen) and in the USA (St Martin’s Press) and the next in the series, The Long Lie, was published in 1992. Between the two, in 1991, Simon’s short story “Split” was shortlisted for the Cosmopolitan/Perrier Short Story Award. He was also commissioned to write two feature screenplays.
Simon then put writing aside to concentrate on his career at the Bar. After a further 25 years’ experience he now has sufficient plots based on real cases for another dozen legal thrillers. The first, The Brief was published in the autumn of 2015.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

** BLOG TOUR ** Beneath the Apple Blossom by Kate Frost

This book was published by Lemon Tree Press on the 1st August 2016, my thanks to the author for sending my review copy.

Four women, linked by blood ties, friendship, betrayal, loss and hope, struggle with the choices they’ve made and the hand that life’s dealt them. 

All Pippa’s ever wanted is marriage and kids, but at thirty-four and about to embark on IVF, her dream of having a family is far from certain. Her younger sister Georgie has the opposite problem, juggling her career, her lover, a young daughter and a husband who wants baby number two. 

Pippa’s best friend Sienna has a successful career in the film world, and despite her boyfriend pressurising her to settle down, a baby is the last thing she wants. Happily married Connie shares the trauma of fertility treatment with Pippa, but underestimates the impact being unable to conceive will have on her and her marriage. 

As their lives collide in a way they could never have predicted, will any of them get to see their hopes realised? 

My Thoughts:

This is a story that is told from the viewpoint of four different women. Connie, Pippa, Sienna and Georgie are all very realistic characters, and are extremely well written. 

I would say this book is a portrayal of the pressures of modern life on women and of course it is a story of infertility and motherhood. Pippa longs to have a baby and is going down the route of fertility treatment, her sister Georgie has a baby already but doesn't seem to be enjoying the experience, Sienna doesn't have a thought of having a baby and is far too interested in her career to conceive. 

Different women and different lives that intertwine within this novel. I don't have children, nor do I particularly want them. So in context please don't be put off this book. The characters and their lives shine through. I liked some of the characters more than others but that is what made them so realistic. 

I found the sections about infertility the most emotive and you could feel Pippa's pain coming off the page on occasion.  This book highlights the fact that real life is never perfect and sometimes far from it. There are sometimes hard times to bear and conflicts and pain but also there are the good days.

If you like women's fiction and enjoy intertwined stories of friendship, motherhood and lifes decisions and actions then you may well enjoy this one. 

I found it realistic and emotive and actually felt quite invested in the outcomes of the stories. 

About the Author:

Kate Frost has wanted to be an author ever since she wrote her first novel during the long months she spent off school following open heart surgery when she was seven. The novel was called London's Burning and was a time travel story set during the Great Fire of London. 

Over the years Kate has worked in a cinema, a bookshop, a factory and at NHS Direct. She's also worked as ground staff at Edgebaston Tennis Tournament, as a Virgin Vie consultant and as a Supporting Artist in the films Vanity Fair, King Arthur and The Duchess. Kate has a MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and has also taught lifewriting to Creative Writing undergraduates there. She has had articles and short stories published in The London Magazine, New Welsh Review and QWF. 

Kate lives in the UK with her husband, young son and their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Her debut novel The Butterfly Storm was published in 2013.

To find out more about Kate and her writing you can visit her at

Kate is also on Twitter: @Kactus77

Please do have a look at the other stops on the blog tour.