Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Blog Tour: Corpus by Rory Clements


Corpus is published by Bonnier Zaffre on 26th January 2017. My thanks to the publisher and the author for the review copy.

1936.
Europe is in turmoil. 
The Nazis have marched into the Rhineland.
In Russia, Stalin has unleashed his Great Terror.
Spain has erupted in civil war.

In Berlin, a young Englishwoman evades the Gestapo to deliver vital papers to a Jewish scientist. Within weeks, she is found dead in her Cambridge bedroom, a silver syringe clutched in her fingers.

In a London club, three senior members of the British establishment light the touch paper on a conspiracy that will threaten the very heart of government. Even the ancient colleges of Cambridge are not immune to political division. Dons and students must choose a side: right or left, where do you stand? 

When a renowned member of the county set and his wife are found horribly murdered, a maverick history professor finds himself dragged into a world of espionage which, until now, he has only read about in books. But the deeper Thomas Wilde delves, the more he wonders whether the murders are linked to the death of the girl with the silver syringe - and, just as worryingly, to the scandal surrounding King Edward VIII and his mistress Wallis Simpson...

Set against the drumbeat of war and moving from Berlin to Cambridge, from Whitehall to the Kent countryside, and from the Fens to the Aragon Front in Spain, this big canvas international thriller marks the beginning of a major new series from bestselling author Rory Clements. 


My Thoughts:

This book was a bit of a challenge for me, I don't read very much historical fiction at all. It is something that I have always struggled with. It took me a while to settle into this book but once I was a couple of chapters in I was utterly absorbed and transported. 

Rory Clements has cleverly written this book in a way that is accessible to all readers. The plot is tight and the story rolls along at a steady pace. This book is set in 1936 and our main character is Thomas Wilde. He is a history professor and he manages to find himself embroiled in some calamities. A young girl has been found dead, a syringe found by her side. Elsewhere a well to do couple are found horribly murdered. Thomas Wilde can't help wondering if the two things are connected. 

Meanwhile on a national level there is more than a whiff of scandal as King Edward VIII has taken a mistress by the name of Wallis Simpson. This book is packed full of political intrigue. It is thrilling and exciting at the same time. 

Set at a time of unrest within the world of politics, this provided a perfect backdrop for this story and its many twists and turns. I am in awe about the sheer amount of research that goes in to writing a novel of this stature and I am pleased to hear that there will be a second book in the series. 

This book has managed to convert me into trying more historical fiction in the future. 


About the Author:

RORY CLEMENTS won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award in 2010 for his second novel, Revenger. He is the author of the John Shakespeare series of novels which are currently in development for TV by the team behind POLDARK and ENDEAVOUR. Find out more at www.roryclements.co.uk

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Monday, 16 January 2017

Blog Tour: Wait for Me, Jack by Addison Jones


This book is published on 19th January 2017 by Sandstone Press. My thanks to them and the author for the review copy and having me on the blog tour.

Set near San Francisco, this warm and funny novel follows the fortunes and failures of Jack and Milly for sixty years. They marry in 1952, and typical of post-war couples, shift up a class. Optimistic and full of plans, they see themselves living the American Dream. Through the years they cling to each other despite having little in common. But the clinging doesn’t always preclude infidelity or disappointment, and the social changes they live through impact on their relationship in complex and surprising ways. Ultimately, though, what holds them together is stronger than what pulls them apart. This is a love story that tells the truth – or one or two truths – about love and marriage.

My Thoughts:

This book appealed to me from the very first moment I heard about it, I was not disappointed as I delved into the lives of Jack and Milly across the span of so many years of their marriage. Addison Jones is an astute writer who has crafted a wry look at the 'love' within a marriage and how to make it last. Shot through with a pithy humour I found this book captivating. 

At the start of the book it is 1950, back then Jack and Milly were known as Jacko and Billie. They were full of life and love and met each other when they were working for the same company. The next chapter takes us forward to 2014 when both characters are ailing, their ages and temperaments starting to get the better of them. 

The rest of the book works backwards from the current time to when they got married. This was an excellent tool by the author and I very much enjoyed the story playing out like that. Rather than building forward towards an end we as a reader get to go back to the start. 

Addison Jones has skilfully written nuanced characters, neither without their faults. She has gone into depth with them both individually and as a couple and she writes so beautifully I found it hard not to be captivated. 

This book is a unique and individual take on love and what it really takes to make a marriage last and what personal costs and sacrifices it takes to make it work. I would guess that the overall thing that I will take from this book is that love endures. 

Really recommend this one. It is both tender and stark and had me turning the pages as the years of our characters lifes rolled past. It was beautiful. 




About the Author:

Addison Jones is the author of four novels and a collection of short stories, all written under the name of Cynthia Rogerson. Her short stories have been broadcast, anthologised, short-listed and included in literary magazines. She holds a RLF Fellowship at Dundee University, and supervises for the University of Edinburgh’s creative writing program.


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Blog Tour : A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart


This is book was published in Paperback and ebook on 5th January 2017. My thanks to the publisher and author for the review copy and having me on the blog tour.

A beautiful, funny and surprising story of family and love, perfect for fans of The Rosie Project, David Nicholls’ Us and Nick Hornby’s About a Boy.
MEET THIRTY SOMETHING DAD, ALEX… He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn't understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.
MEET EIGHT-YEAR-OLD SAM… To him the world is a puzzle he can't solve on his own.
When Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other… When life starts to tear one family apart, can they put themselves back together, one piece at a time?
A Boy Made of Blocks is a beautiful, funny and heartwarming story of family and love inspired by the author’s own experiences with his autistic son.

My Thoughts:

I read this book in one sitting such was my involvement with the story and primarily the relationship between Sam and Alex. 

Sam is eight and is autistic, his father Alex is struggling in more ways than one. He feels like he can't communicate with his son, or his wife for that matter. He feels trapped and feels guilty about an event that happened in his childhood. 

Sam is struggling at school, struggling to fit in. It seems like he is an outsider but so is his Dad in many ways. This story is a lot about both father and son finding some common ground and a medium to help them to communicate their thoughts and fears. In this case the medium is Minecraft. There is a logic to the brick building game, a logic that seems missing from both father and sons lives. This time and space when they are playing the game allows both father and son to open up a little and that was a wonderful part of the story to read about. 

This book is touching and endearing, full of warmth and written from some personal experience on the authors behalf. I can't pretend to know that much about Autism but this book made me want to know and made me want to understand. 

I found the characters to all be likeable and the story to be told with great skill and tenderness. An absolutely charming read that I would have no doubt in recommending to everyone. 

Keith Stuart writes with a great deal of realness. He doesn't sugar coat Autism but instead he writes about it with all of the tears, tantrums, frustrations, also though this is balanced out with the love and the joy and the privilege of parenthood. 

This book is wonderful and one I won't forget in a hurry. 

About the Author:

 In 2012 one of KEITH STUART's two sons was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The ramifications felt huge. But then Keith and both boys started playing videogames together - especially Minecraft. Keith had always played games and, since 1995, has been writing about them, first for specialist magazines like Edge and PC Gamer then, for the last ten years, as games editor for the Guardian. The powerful creative sharing as a family and the blossoming of communication that followed informed his debut novel.

You can find him on Twitter @KeefStuart


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Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Blog Tour: #TheDry by Jane Harper


The Dry is published in Hardback by Little Brown on 12th January 2017. My thanks to the author and publisher for the review copy.

I just can't understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn't rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.
Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke's death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend's crime.

My Thoughts:

Set in the fictional town of Kiewarra in Australia, during a drought this book packs a massive punch. Taut and tense throughout, the author has used the landscape of her novel as the canvas on which to paint the story. 

The landscape is harsh and dry and the characters are mysterious. Aaron Falk has returned to his hometown after many years away. His best friend Luke Hadler has allegedly killed his wife and son and then committed suicide. Although there are some that believe this is not the case. 

There are flashbacks to earlier events in the boys childhood, things that were kept secret all those years ago. What really happened back then, what happened with Luke Hadler and why is Aaron Falk still in town. 

So many questions rolled around my head as I was reading this book, the suspense was kept high throughout as the story slowly played out until the end. The people of Kiewarra do not have much money. Everybody is tense, the land is dry and water is a luxury. The tension of the people and the landscape proved atmospheric and claustrophobic at the same time. 

This book is fantastic and a great way to start my reading off this year. Jane Harper has managed to take this novel to places that kept me gripped through the entirety whilst managing to write a unique story with an individual voice. 

I highly recommend this one. It is a beautifully written and expertly crafted crime novel. I found the ending to be satisfying and it was the type of book that had me turning just one more page. I can't wait to read what this author writes in the future, she is a talent for sure. 

About the Author:

Jane Harper was born in Manchester but now lives in Australia. The Dry is her first novel. She has pursued a career in Journalism and this encouraged her to take her creative writing seriously and she took part in a course via Curtis Brown Creative. She lives in St Kilda with her Husband and Daughter. 


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Saturday, 7 January 2017

#LyingInWait by Liz Nugent: Blog Tour


Lying in Wait is published by Penguin and is available now.  I am delighted to be taking part in the paperback blog tour as this book was one of my favourites of 2016. I adore the updated cover and am thrilled to be able to repromote my review and share with you again the guest post that Liz Nugent wrote on Opening Lines....

A MOTHER’S LOVE CAN BE MURDER

Lydia Fitzsimons lives in the perfect house with her adoring husband and beloved son. However, there is one thing Lydia desperately yearns for to make her perfect family complete, and nothing can stop this mother from getting what she wants…


Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons are on the surface an upstanding couple in the community. He is a judge and she is, although a little reclusive a housewife. They have a son called Laurence, but Lydia has always wanted more children. One fateful night a young girl called Annie is murdered by the Fitzsimons. You would imagine here that I have given something remarkable about the plot away but when you consider the opening sentence which is fantastic, it becomes clear that I haven't.

"My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it".

The murdered girl is buried in their back garden and what ensues is a gripping and sad story of domestic noir. A tale that had me on the edge of my seat, well if I am honest on edge altogether. I think this book is clever and well written. The author has managed to create a host of flawed characters and unreliable narrators. This is where the biggest skill of the story lies for me. The development of these characters and the paths they take and their thought processes proved insightful and at times frightening. 

Told in mainly narrative from Lydia (who by the way I found absolutely terrifying!), Laurence and Karen, this gave the story real voices and an authenticity that I found very realistic. The author managed to create a darkness around the mansion where the Fitzsimons lived and it created a bit of a Gothic feel, the darkness seemed to spread from the house and seep into their souls. 

Laurence was intriguing to me, he had a naivety about him and a slight innocence of nature. I think this is more to do with his upbringing and it is here that I began to realise the effects humans can have on one another without the other person realising it. 

Gripping and shocking, what frightened me most about this book is the lack of remorse. It is really excellent and I sped through it such was my need to get to the bottom of things. 

This book has left me with much to think about. There are thoughts of what happens when the events of our childhoods have repercussions in adulthood and it is also a story of a Mothers love and how far someone is prepared to go to protect the ones they love. It is also a story of truth and lies, cat and mouse and a story of control. 

Addictive reading, I would definitely recommend it. 



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Guest Post:

Intriguing Opening Lines

I was not the best student in my school days but some things made it through the Sun-In dyed hair and registered in my cerebral cortex! When we started reading Pride & Prejudice, our teacher pointed out the opening line as a perfect example of how to start a novel:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

I agreed and began to note great opening lines when I came across them. A few years later, I discovered Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude and it’s opening:
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

And then my particular favourite from Iain M. Banks’ The Crow Road:
It was the day my grandmother exploded.

All of these openers, although quite different, made me want to continue reading the book. They all suggested that something was going on. These lines raised questions that needed to be answered.

About ten years ago, I thought of an opening line for a story. I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her. I carried the line around in my head for about a year before I wrote it down. I didn’t know who was speaking, I didn’t know if it was a male or female voice and I didn’t know why he/she had hit her. Eventually, I got around to writing down the line and continued to write.
After a week, I had a full short story that I entered into a competition. It was shortlisted but didn’t win any prizes. Afterwards, I realised that within that short story, I had still never explored why he (‘I’ was now a middle-aged man) had hit her and I realised I still had questions to answer. I continued that short story until I had a novel- Unravelling Oliver.
The real challenge was to live up to that opening line. If you are going to grab the reader by the throat, you need to hold them there until the last page. I had to keep twisting the story, to confound expectations. There isn’t one big twist in the story, just a series of surprises and revelations that should keep readers interested.

When I began to write Lying in Wait, I knew I needed an attention grabbing opening line, as Unravelling Oliver’s had been quoted so much. In the first draft of the book, Laurence was the main character and he began by saying ‘We were all liars in our family, but Mammy was the best liar of all.’ But in the drafting and redrafting process, I realised that Lydia needed to be the main character and so I had to come up with a line that would be consistent with her character, that would seize the reader’s attention, and would make the reader want to read on. I toyed around with it. Originally, the line was: ‘Technically, it was manslaughter’, but that didn’t tell me enough about the character, so I cut that line completely and the second line became the first line ‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it’. Now, we have an idea of what kind of person we’re dealing with. She is ruthless and feels superior. Does the reader want to know more? I hope so!
I was very pleased when Penguin Random House put the line on the front cover!




 Liz Nugent has worked in Irish film, theatre and television for most of her adult life. She is an award-winning writer of radio and television drama and has written short stories for children and adults. Her first novel, the No 1 bestselling Unravelling Oliver, won the Crime Fiction award in the 2014 Irish Book Awards. She lives in Dublin with her husband.


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