Monday, 28 November 2016

** BLOG TOUR ** When the Floods Came by Clare Morrall

Delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for the paperback publication of When the Flood Came by Clare Morrall. My thanks to the author and Sceptre for the review copy.

In a world prone to violent flooding, Britain, ravaged 20 years earlier by a deadly virus, has been largely cut off from the rest of the world. Survivors are few and far between, most of them infertile. Children, the only hope for the future, are a rare commodity.
For 22-year-old Roza Polanski, life with her family in their isolated tower block is relatively comfortable. She's safe, happy enough. But when a stranger called Aashay Kent arrives, everything changes. At first he's a welcome addition, his magnetism drawing the Polanskis out of their shells, promising an alternative to a lonely existence. But Roza can't shake the feeling that there's more to Aashay than he's letting on. Is there more to life beyond their isolated bubble? Is it true that children are being kidnapped? And what will it cost to find out?
Clare Morrall, author of the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted Astonishing Splashes of Colour, creates a startling vision of the future in a world not so very far from our own, and a thrilling story of suspense.

My Thoughts:

I actually really like Dystopian fiction, so was intrigued by the premise of this one from the outset. In her latest novel Clare Morrall has managed to create a post apocalyptic landscape that is as interesting as it is scary. Scary in the fact that it had me thinking, could this actually one day happen!

The Polanski family live in Birmingham, one of very few families left. The families live in four tower blocks. Over 20 years ago a virus called Hoffmans swept across Britain bringing with it flooding and a strange infertility that affects the few survivors. There are no cars left, the survivors use the Motorways for bicycles instead. This book, I would suggest is an examination of the fall out of Global Warming, pollution and the marginalisation of people.

In a time when all of the machines are beginning to stop working and parts can no longer be found the families have to survive by themselves in what is at times a desolate situation.

Roza is about to be married to Hector, she met him on the computer. A mysterious stranger called Aashay arrives on the scene. There is where the story gets more intriguing. 

I found this book to be complex in so many ways, at some points I admittedly found it a tad confusing. The author has a spectacularly vivid imagination that has created the landscape on somewhat familiar territory. I found the landscape and the plot far more interesting than the peculiar characters that are contained within the story.

Throughout the story there are little bits of nursery rhymes that seemed to work well in tying the past to the present. This seems to me to be a good way to understand that words, stories and rhymes can survive great harshness and they will still be recounted in time to come with familiarity. As such they are a lasting reminder of different times.

I can't help thinking that Clare Morrall has written something of an allegory of the world and the direction in which it is heading. Of which some admittedly went over my head. I had to persevere with it, not finding it an easy read. I am glad to have read it. all be it that I found the ending a little ambiguous.

An unusual book within its genre, if you have read it I would love to hear your thoughts. 

About the Author: 

Clare Morrall's first novel, Astonishing Splashes of Colour, was published in 2003 and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize that year. She has since published the novels Natural Flights of the Human Mind, The Language of OthersThe Man Who Disappeared, which was a TV Book Club Summer Read in 2010, The Roundabout Man andAfter the Bombing.
Born in Exeter, Clare Morrall now lives in Birmingham. She works as a music teacher, and has two daughters.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Lost in Static by Christina Philippou

Lost in Static

Sometimes growing up is seeing someone else's side of the story.

Four stories. One truth. Whom do you believe? 

Callum has a family secret. Yasmine wants to know it. Juliette thinks nobody knows hers. All Ruby wants is to reinvent herself. 

They are brought together by circumstance, torn apart by misunderstanding. As new relationships are forged and confidences are broken, each person's version of events is coloured by their background, beliefs and prejudices. And so the ingredients are in place for a year shaped by lust, betrayal, and violence... 

Lost in Static is the gripping debut from author Christina Philippou. Whom will you trust?

Lost in Static is available from, amongst others, Amazon UKAmazon US, and direct from the publisher, Urbane Publications.

My Thoughts:

I am delighted that I finally found the time to read Christina Philippou's debut novel, Lost in Static. She was a guest on my #MondayMusing feature earlier this year where she discussed her route to publication.

Lost in Static is the story of a group of teenagers embarking on their first year of University. It is full of new challenges, freedom and opportunities. It is somewhat of a coming of age story, but there is a sinister note to the story. From the outset of the story there is a crumpled body at the bottom of a stairwell and not everything is as straightforward as it appears. 

This author has a unique writing style, managing to give all of her characters their own voice and writing style. This was an important aspect of why this book worked for me. I particularly liked the email sections that Callum was sending, I think this more to do with the fact that I was desperate to know who they were to!

It was easy to become drawn into this story as it slowly unravelled as it was being told from each person and their own experience and perspective. I found it difficult to find any of the characters particularly likeable and found some of them a bit annoying and immature. Although this didn't detract me from reading the story.

I love the way that this author has portrayed University, whilst being a fun time and a journey of discovery there are also challenging and confusing times. Important themes tackled in this book are sexuality, friendship, betrayal, drink and drugs. Whilst this book wasn't as light hearted as I expected I really enjoyed the way the themes were tackled sensitively. 

This was an assured debut and I look forward to reading more by this author in the future. 

About the Author:

Christina Philippou’s writing career has been a varied one, from populating the short-story notebook that lived under her desk at school to penning reports on corruption and terrorist finance. When not reading or writing, she can be found engaging in sport or undertaking some form of nature appreciation. Christina has three passports to go with her three children, but is not a spy. Lost in Static is her first novel.

Christina is also the founder of the contemporary fiction author initiative, Britfic.

You can connect with Christina on TwitterFacebook, Instagram and Google+.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

A Year and a Day by Isabelle Broom

A Year and a Day was published by Michael Joseph Books on 17th November 2016. My thanks to the Author and Publisher for the review copy.

A heartwarming and heartbreaking story about love and life in one of Europe's most romantic cities, Prague.
Welcome to a city where wishes are everywhere
For Megan, a winter escape to Prague with her friend Ollie is a chance to find some inspiration for her upcoming photography exhibition. But she's determined to keep their friendship from becoming anything more. Because if Megan lets Ollie find out about her past, she risks losing everything - and she won't let that happen again . . .
For Hope, the trip is a surprise treat from Charlie, her new partner. But she's struggling to enjoy the beauty of the city when she knows how angry her daughter is back home. And that it's all her fault . . .
For Sophie, the city has always been a magical place. This time she can't stop counting down the moments until her boyfriend Robin joins her. But in historic Prague you can never escape the past . . .
Three different women.

Three intertwining love stories.

One unforgettable, timeless city.

My Thoughts:
This novel was engaging and captivating from the outset. Set in Prague, this city seemed to hold the magic and was the perfect place for the story to be set. I have been to Prague and I loved it, it is one of the most interesting places I have been and I think it is a special place. 
This is a story of love in its various stages and about friendship and relationships. Centered around three couples who meet in the hotel bar. They formed a group bond throughout their trip and would join up now and again. 
The characters in this story are all very well written but are all different, this book mainly focuses on the three women. Megan is a keen photographer and that is her passion and seemingly the only thing she is interested in. Hope is having a rocky time, she has lost herself, is Prague the place where that changes, can she be inspired to find herself. Finally Sophie, throughout the story there is a melancholy and wistfulness about her. She is absolutely devoted to Robin and he is due to join her at the end of the trip. Is everything with her as it seems?
I loved the way that these characters and their stories came to life in those restaurants, bars and on the streets of Prague I could really visualise myself being there. There is a magic and a spark about this novel that makes it very special indeed. 
This book examines thoughts and feelings that we all have at life defining moments when we take stock of where we are and what the future might hold. 
I wasn't expecting to be as emotionally invested in this story but it swept me up and at times I had a lump in my throat. It is a beautiful read to curl up with at this time of year.
This author has a previous novel out called My Map of You, how lucky am I that I haven't read that one and still have some more to read.
Pure and delightful escapism that was well written and beautiful, what is not to like. 

About the Author:
Isabelle Broom was born in Cambridge nine days before the 1980s began and studied Media Arts at the University of West London before starting a career first in local newspapers and then as a junior sub-editor at heat magazine. She travelled through Europe during her gap year and went to live on the Greek island of Zakynthos for an unforgettable and lifeshaping six months after completing her degree. Since then, she has travelled to Canada, Sri Lanka, Sicily, New York, LA, the Canary Islands, Spain and lots more of Greece, but her wanderlust was reined in when she met Max, a fluffy little Bolognese puppy desperate for a home. When she's not writing novels set in far-flung locations, Isabelle spends her time being the Book Reviews Editor at heat magazine and walking her beloved dog round the parks of north London. 
You can follow her on Twitter @Isabelle_Broom or find her on Facebook under Isabelle Broom Author. 

Friday, 11 November 2016

** BLOG TOUR ** My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood

 I am delighted to be taking part in the My Sister's Bones blog tour today. Published by Penguin in hardback and audio on 9th February 2017. The eBook is available now. My thanks to the publisher and author for the review copy and inviting me on the blog tour.

Kate Rafter is a high-flying war reporter. She's the strong one. The one who escaped their father. Her sister Sally didn't. Instead, she drinks.

But when their mother dies, Kate is forced to return to the old family home. And on her very first night she is woken by a terrifying scream. At first she tells herself it's just a nightmare, a legacy of her time in Syria.

But then she hears it again. And this time she knows she's not imagining it...

What secret is lurking in her mother's garden?
And can Kate get to the truth...before she loses her mind?

My Thoughts:

It was with great anticipation that I started reading this book. Due in no short part to the publicity that I had seen around twitter with teaser snippets and an email I received with a voice recording. 

I really did not know what to expect when picking this book up. The cover and synopsis gave little away. What I found was an astonishing debut that was gripping and shocking in equal measure. Nuala Ellwood is a fine writer that is superbly skilled at writing flawed and damaged characters and unreliable narrators. So much so that it is hard to know who to believe and who not to. 

Kate Rafter has just returned from Syria, she is a war reporter that has seen things that we could only imagine. Her sister Sally is an alcoholic that struggles with everyday life. The sisters seem to have little in common and do not seem particularly close at all. There was some moving passages about what it is like in a war zone. 

The sisters are brought back together when their mother dies and Kate returns to the family home. Set in Herne Bay, this place is almost another character within the story. At the outset we discover that Kate is being interviewed by police about events that have occurred recently. She seems agitated and confused, and appears to be having a Mental Health crisis. Can her version of events be trusted? Is she hearing voices? Is she seeing things? 

My Sister's Bones is clever, complex and has an intricately weaved plot. This is really accomplished writing and I gasped as I read the last few chapters. Difficult issues are contained within this book but all are tackled with intelligence and sensitivity. Issues such as Domestic Violence, PTSD, alcoholism and bereavement. There are twists and turns aplenty and there is a feeling of tension throughout. It is hard to know which characters to trust, this is where this book was the most thrilling for me. I was on the edge of the seat as I didn't know what was coming next. 

Nuala Ellwood brings something new to a crowded genre and not only that she manages to stand out. This book is going to be huge, and it deserves to be so. 

About the Author:

Nuala Ellwood moved to London in her twenties to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter, but ended up writing novels instead. She comes from a family of war reporters, and they inspired her to get Arts Council funding to research and write a novel dealing with psychological trauma in the industry. My Sister's Bones is her debut thriller.

You can find her on Twitter: @NualaWrites

It would be lovely if you stopped by some other stops on the month long tour.

Monday, 7 November 2016

#MondayMusing with Guest Author: G.J. Minett

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

I am delighted today to welcome Graham Minett to the blog and want to thank him for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. I have recently purchased both of his books as they look like just my kind of thing. Oddly, I know the location settings of both books very well!


Ellen has received a life-changing inheritance. If only she knew who had left it to her . . . 

1966. A horrifying crime at a secondary school, with devastating consequences for all involved.

2008. A life-changing gift, if only the recipient can work out why . . .

Recently divorced and with two young children, Ellen Sutherland is up to her elbows in professional and personal stress. When she's invited to travel all the way to Cheltenham to hear the content of an old woman's will, she's far from convinced the journey will be worthwhile.

But when she arrives, the news is astounding. Eudora Nash has left Ellen a beautiful cottage worth an amount of money that could turn her life around. There's just one problem - Ellen has never even heard of Eudora Nash. 

Her curiosity piqued, Ellen and her friend Kate travel to the West Country in search of answers. But they are not the only ones interested in the cottage, and Ellen little imagines how much she has to learn about her past . . .

A powerful and suspenseful tale that has been compared to Val McDermid and Liane Moriarty

A man is dead. A woman is missing. And the police have already found their prime suspect... 

Owen Hall drives into a petrol station to let his passenger use the facilities. She never comes back - and what's more, it seems she never even made it inside.

When Owen raises a fuss, the police are called - and soon identify Owen himself as a possible culprit - not least because they already have him in the frame for another more sinister crime.

Owen's always been a little different, and before long others in the community are baying for his blood. But this is a case where nothing is as it seems - least of all Owen Hall...

A dark, addictive thriller, ingeniously plotted with a twist that will make you gasp, LIE IN WAIT is perfect for readers of Angela Marsons or Rachel Abbott.

My Interview with Graham:

1.      When did you begin writing? Is it something you’ve always done or something you’ve fallen into?

I’ve written since childhood really. My earliest memory is of a piece of homework which our teacher in the top primary class set for us. She asked us to write a short story and gave us two nights to produce it and mine bore a startling and entirely coincidental resemblance to a TV series that was on at the time about a race to reach the summit of some mountain or other. When we came into school after the first night everyone was talking about the fact that I’d done 5 sides (!!!!) until Robert Williams – are you out there Robert? – came strolling in and said he’d done 7 sides. So I promptly went home that night and made sure mine was 11 sides by the time I handed it in and Miss Yabsley was thrilled that I’d put so much time and effort into it. If I ever kid myself about the reasons why I write I only need to remember that. I’m sure there are authors who genuinely feel they write because they have to, because it defines them, because they can’t conceive of doing anything else. You do have to wonder though whether just a small part of their motivation isn’t the desire for approval. I want to marry anyone who gives me a 5* review and suffer huge confidence crises when someone doesn’t like what I’ve written so I don’t think I can fool myself.

I’ve written pretty steadily since then and was nearly published when I was in my 20s – Darley Anderson spent a year trying to place a novel called One Degree Under which was very noble of him under the circumstances because it really wasn’t very good. Then I sort of played at writing for far too long, using family, relationships, work etc as excuses for not really putting myself to the test. It wasn’t until I did the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester that I finally knuckled down and gave it the level of priority it requires.

2.      Where does your inspiration for your books come from?

From characters – they come first and the plot grows out of them rather than the other way round. With my debut novel, The Hidden Legacy, I carried Ellen around with me for months until I knew her inside out. Then it was merely a question of identifying her weakness, coming up with a situation that would most put her to the test and the plot developed from there. I did the same with Owen Hall in Lie In Wait and part of the problem I’ve had with getting to grips with book 3 has been the fact that I came up with a storyline that appealed to me but no real character in mind. I now have the character and as Billy Orr has developed, so the plot has altered slightly to fit in with him. I’m comfortable with it now and know where to go from here.

3.      What is the strangest thing you have ever researched for your writing?

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t had to do a great deal of research for either The Hidden Legacy or Lie In Wait. I knew the locations of both well as I was brought up in Cheltenham and the Cotswolds and have spent the past 40 years or so in the Chichester/Bognor area so all I really needed to do was look into things such as how young offenders were treated by the media in the 60s and 70s and also check out minor details like the role of the Appropriate Adult when dealing with a vulnerable suspect.

It’s different for book 3 though because I’ll be dealing with two areas I’ve visited and researched rather than lived in. One is East Sussex around the Rye, Winchelsea and Camber Sands area. The other is a fantastic place called Peak’s Island, a 15 minute ferry ride off the coast of Portland, Maine. Not saying anything more than that for now.

4.      Which writers do you admire or would recommend?

My favourite author of all time would be William Faulkner but I’m not sure I’d recommend him as he’s far from an easy read. I just think he was a genius though at bringing characters to life and Benjy in The Sound And The Fury brings tears to my eyes every time I read it (every 4 years or so!)

Nowadays though I worship at the feet of Maggie O’Farrell and Kate Atkinson. Fortunately I have enough self-awareness about me to avoid the trap of trying to imitate them because I wouldn’t come near but the absolute dream has for some time been to sit down with the pair of them and talk about writing . . . or anything really. They set the bar very high indeed and, if you haven’t yet read any of their novels, I envy you because you have such a wonderful time ahead of you. Start with The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox and A God In Ruins. Absolute quality!

5.      What can we expect from you next?

Planning for Book 3 is underway at last. It’s a couple of months behind schedule to be honest, not just because I still have a job that takes up a lot of my time at certain points of the year but also because I’ve been taken by surprise – mugged really – by the demands that having a new novel out can place on you as a writer. Social media, blogs, personal appearances, promotional work – they all gang up on you and deny you the opportunity to identify blocks of time which can be used for writing. I’ll catch up though. The first draft is due to reach my editor in April and I imagine that means it will come out in the autumn of next year although nothing is set in stone as yet.

The working title is What She Does but that means very little, as I’ve discovered with books one and two which both had their provisional titles altered once the sales/publicity people started to really get moving. It’s about a pile of clothes found on the beach, the presumed suicide of a young woman which may be nothing of the sort and Billy Orr’s desperate need to find a version of the past that he can live with. Bit of a tease but I can’t say anything more than that without giving too much away.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to answer these questions – thoroughly enjoyed it.

Graham Minett studied Languages at Churchill College, Cambridge before teaching for several years in Gloucestershire and West Sussex. In 2008 he completed a part-time MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester and subsequently won both the inaugural Segora short story competition in 2008 and the Chapter One competition in 2010. The latter consisted of the opening sections of what would eventually become The Hidden Legacy, which earned him contracts not only with Peter Buckman of the Ampersand Agency but also Twenty7, part of the Bonnier publishing group.

The Hidden Legacy is his first novel and his second, Lie In Wait, was published as an eBook in August 2016 with a paperback version to follow in March 2017. He is at present planning his third and is still working at the Angmering School.

He lives in West Sussex with his wife and children but retains close links with Cheltenham, where the rest of his family live.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Cut-Throat Defence by Olly Jarvis

This book was published in ebook by Canelo on 3rd October 2016. My thanks to the Publisher and the Author for my review copy.

There is no man richer than a man without a price

Jack Kowalski is a young and newly qualified barrister, who finds himself working on the biggest drugs importation trial ever played out on English soil. With the assistance of his equally inexperienced instructing solicitor, Lara Panassai, Jack argues a savage ‘cut-throat’ defence – a risky tactic where the defendants blame each other – and quickly embroils some of the most eminent QCs in the land.
As the son of Polish immigrants, the sensitive Kowalski has always found it hard to fit in, with a sense of inferiority and constant nervousness in Court. Now he must face his demons and fight not only for his clients, but for his very future at the Bar.
But when the defendant then unexpectedly absconds, Jack and Lara must fight on regardless, following a tip that leads them out of the courtroom and into Manchester’s seedy underworld – crime bosses, strip clubs, corrupt lawyers and all manner of hidden sins.
As the case grows darker with each new discovery, who in this viper pit of deception can Jack and Lara trust?
Ingeniously plotted and embellished with real-life insider expertise, Cut-Throat Defence is a story of rivalry, ruthlessness and – above all – survival.

My Thoughts:

I was delighted to read this new book from Olly Jarvis having read and loved Death by Dangerous last year. If you would like to see my review for that one, you can do so here.

This book carries what is now becoming this authors trademark, a legal thriller with real edge and depth of plot with characters that stick around in the mind long after the story and the trial are over. I was hooked into the clutches of this story from the very first page.

Back in the day I read a lot of John Grisham, after a while I stepped away from those as I found the court scenes too arduous or similar. Olly Jarvis keeps this story alive with a frenetic pace and interesting and exciting scenes. Somewhat of an adrenalin rush to read and see if the culprit gets their just desserts. There is a razor sharp wit in there too which rounds the plot of nicely.

Set in gangland Manchester, this brings something new to the genre as we are faced with drugs, murder and threatening behaviour. Also new is Barrister Jack Kowalski, he is young and newly qualified, at first it seems that he is not going to make it, he seems to lack the respect of a lot of colleagues and has made some poor decisions. This character was a fantastic way to portray how hard a legal team have to work and sometimes I imagine not for much money. I loved Jack and what he brought to the story.

Olly Jarvis uses the depth of his experience to bring the reader an intricate and engaging plot. He manages to create scenes where the reader feels like that are actually in the gallery watching the case unfold. There were plenty of twists and cliffhangers to keep me turning the page. The legal jargon never got boring and actually I found it fascinating.

This book was gripping and I would have no fear in going back to this author time and time again. I would actually particularly love to read some more about Jack Kowalski.

If legal thrillers are your thing then you need look no further than Olly Jarvis. 

About the Author:
Olly Jarvis is a writer and criminal defence barrister, originally from London but now working in Manchester. Drawing on his experiences, he writes both fiction and non-fiction with a particular understanding of the pressures and excitement of life in the courtroom. He wrote the highly acclaimed Radio 4 drama Judgement, and wrote and presented the BBC documentary Mum Knows Best. He is also the author of Death by Dangerous. Olly has two children and lives in Cheshire.
You can find him on Twitter: @OllyJarviso

Friday, 4 November 2016

** Blog Tour ** Before I Let You In by Jenny Blackhurst

This book was published 3rd November 2016 by Headline my thanks to them and the author for the review copy.

If you don't know who is walking through the door, how do you know if you should let them in?

Karen is meant to be the one who fixes problems.
It's her job, as a psychiatrist - and it's always been her role as a friend.
But Jessica is different. She should be the patient, the one that Karen helps.
But she knows things about Karen. Her friends, her personal life. Things no patient should know.
And Karen is starting to wonder if she should have let her in . . .

My Thoughts:

Last year I read and reviewed this Authors debut novel How I Lost You, you can see my review here. I can still remember it clearly and it was with such anticipation that I wondered what she could do with this new one. I can certainly say she has surpassed itself. 

This was superb and spine tingling. A tense plot that built page by page, allowing a sense of suffocation and foreboding to form in the readers mind. As with Jenny's last book it is difficult to give too much away about the plot without leading to spoilers but essentially it a story of three friends. Karen, Bea, and Eleanor. 

One day a new patient walks through Karen's door. She is sinister and seems to want something from Karen and her friends. 

The author has tackled a bold and complex plot and managed to deliver at every level. I was gripped by this story and had to keep turning pages as the whole thing unravelled. I did kind of guess what the ending was but honestly when you see it there in black and white it is even more shocking. 

The story is delivered superbly by short, fast chapters that seem to ramp up the tension and keep the pace of the story hurtling along. 

Important themes have also been tackled here, such as infidelity, post natal depression and sexual assault. It is hard to believe the skill that the author possesses to bring all of this plot into one novel.

She is scarily good and if you like a psychological thriller then I am sure you will love this one as much as I did. 

About the Author:

Jenny Blackhurst grew up in Shropshire where she still lives with her husband and children. Growing up she spent hours reading and talking about crime novels - writing her own seemed like natural progression. Inspired by the emotions she felt around her own son's birth, How I Lost You was Jenny's thrilling debut crime novel. This is her second.
My thanks for reading my review. Please do have a look a the other stops on the blog tour.