Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen #FavouriteReadsof2019

Everyday through December I’m publishing a blog post with a short review of one of my favourite books of 2019. Then I will publish a post with my favourite top ten at the beginning of January.
Today it’s Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen


A man with dark thoughts on his mind is racing along the remote snowy roads of Hurmevaara in Finland, when there is flash in the sky and something crashes into the car.
That something turns about to be a highly valuable meteorite. With euro signs lighting up the eyes of the locals, the unexpected treasure is temporarily placed in a neighbourhood museum, under the watchful eye of a priest named Joel.
But Joel has a lot more on his mind than simply protecting the riches that have apparently rained down from heaven. His wife has just revealed that she is pregnant. Unfortunately Joel has strong reason to think the baby isn’t his.
As Joel tries to fend off repeated and bungled attempts to steal the meteorite, he must also come to terms with his own situation, and discover who the father of the baby really is.
Transporting the reader to the culture, landscape and mores of northern Finland Little Siberia is both a crime novel and a hilarious, blacker-than-black comedy about faith and disbelief, love and death, and what to do when bolts from the blue – both literal and figurative – turn your life upside down.


This might sound like a story about events so paradoxical that it couldn’t work, yet I promise you it does. That in fact it is so hilarious and theatrical, I read well into the early hours of the morning unable to stop, until I knew if Joel had found peace with his own life and survived the violence of those willing to kill to get what they wont.  It is another superb read from a very accomplished author.

About the author 


Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011, Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. Two years later, in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. The recently published Palm Beach, Finland has been a massive critical success, with Marcel Berlins of The Times calling him ‘the funniest writer in Europe’, and making it one of his books of the year.

The Whimsy of Dank Ju-Ju by Sascha Akhtar #Extract #BlogTour



Sascha Aurora Akhtar’s poems revel in the richness and possibilities of language and liminal space. Colours, tastes, textures, scents and moods are smashed together with great energy, dragging the reader into a shimmering world of magic, heat… and whimsy.
“I love a poet who loves language and Sascha Aurora Akhtar most certainly does. Each line of her poetry is a journey into the unknown as she manoeuvres her way around words and rearranges them into new verbal experiences of fascination and delight.” Geraldine Monk

I’m delighted to welcome port Sascha Akhtar to booksaremycwtches with a poem from her new collection. 


The Moon On Wednesday
the brown & red
the black & blue
hurts me when I hear / see

a measurefold
singing angular
I hold my knees
smiling at the sun
coming in through the leaves
in the rain park
journey me on, on
it rides as a fisher-king does
in the back dark.

I saw the moon on Wednesday
I was beside myself in twos
listening carefully to the man in tattoos
there are reasons you know yourself now

you know.

I was beside myself
surmise this ~ that trees in winter
have sharper tonguepetals
to lick the sky with

The grassblades poke tiny holes
in balloon people, rising
We are funny shapes, us
We hold onto each other’s parts, us
melting in summer
plastic puddles of rubberglass
Colours survive, only
if we let them.

I see the sidewalk
glistening like a dream in banarsi
a naked man entwined with a lamppost,
whispering ‘picture’ in Italian

Jesus in his skin
Allah in his eyes
Jah on his lips
Gautam in his heart
Shiva in his spine
& Nothing on his mind.

You can purchase it from the publisher and Amazon

About the author 

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About Sascha Aurora Akhtar: Sascha Aurora Akhtar feels deeply connected to her ancestral roots in Lancashire, South Yorkshire and Pakistan. Her first poetry collection was The Grimoire of Grimalkin (Salt, 2007), followed by 199 Japanese Names for Japanese Trees (Shearsman, 2016) & the first of its kind a deck of Poetry cards with fine art Only Dying Sparkles (ZimZalla 2018). In 2019, she has published The Whimsy Of Dank Ju-Ju (Emma Press 2019) & #LoveLikeBlood (Knives, Forks & Spoons Press 2019). Her fiction has appeared in BlazeVox, Tears In The Fence, The Learned Pig, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Storgy. Sascha has performed internationally at festivals such as the Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam, Avantgarde Festival in Hamburg, and Southbank Centre’s Meltdown festival in London, curated by Yoko Ono.

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield #FavouriteReadsOf2019

Everyday through December I’m publishing a blog post with a short review of one of my favourite books of 2019. Then I will publish a post with my favourite top ten at the beginning of Janury.

Today it’s Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield


On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames, the regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open and in steps an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a child.
Hours later, the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.
Is it a miracle?
Is it magic?
And who does the little girl belong to?
An exquisitely crafted multi-layered mystery brimming with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.


Once Upon A River is a stunning read, with a brooding atmosphere that seems to drift off the page, as the fog drifts off the river in the book’s title. The elements of myth, suspense and love come together to tell a story of breathtaking artistry,  that left me spellbound. It has been weeks since I read it, yet I can still picture both the words and the story they told in my imagination, such was the impact it had on me as a reader. Truly a book that should grace all bookshelves. Give it as a gift, buy it for yourselves, but don’t let this wonderous read pass you buy!

About the author 

DianeSetterfield’s bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale was published in 38 countries, sold more than three million copies, and was made into a television drama scripted by Christopher Hampton, starring Olivia Colmanand Vanessa Redgrave. Her second novel was Bellman & Black, and her new novel is Once Upon a River. Born in rural Berkshire, she now lives near Oxford, by the Thames.

Shadow by James Swallow


A ruthless far-right terrorist is broken out of captivity

A mysterious bio-scientist with a terrible secret is abducted

A lethal contagion threatens millions of lives across Europe and the Middle East

Ex-MI6 officer Marc Dane faces a deadly challenge against all odds, to stop a devastating attack before a new kind of weapon is unleashed . . .

Today I’m delighted to author James Swallow to booksaremycwtches discussing the books that inspired him to become a writer. 

I’ve often been asked to single out the book that inspired me to become a writer, but it’s impossible to limit that choice to just one! I could go way back to the fiction I grew up reading and choose something from there – and have no doubt, those books had a massive effect on my perception of fiction – but if I look objectively, I can draw a line back to three specific works that still hold a special place in my heart decades later.

The James Bond movies were a big part of my entertainment landscape when I was young, but it wasn’t until the early seventies that I got into the original books, beginning with Ian Fleming’s THUNDERBALL. It was like discovering the character of 007 anew, and the distinctive photo cover of the edition with a broken SCUBA mask still sticks in my mind. I was fascinated by his descriptive method and that certain kind of whip-crack sentence structure he excelled at. Reading Fleming taught me lessons about the essential pacing of a thriller, and inspired me to write my own spy stories.

William Gibson’s NEUROMANCER blew me away when I read it in the Eighties, around about the time I was starting to believe that I might try to be a writer, and his terse authorial voice and proclivity for hyper-nuanced detail undeniably left its mark on me.  This is the definitive cyberpunk thriller novel, gritty and rough-edged urban science fiction that comes together with such confidence. The unbroken sense of place and the pace made me want to write with the same self-assurance. Few books have resonated so strongly with me, and decades later, if I look through the pages, I feel the same pull to put down whatever I’m doing and start reading all over again.

THE HITCH HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams never fails to make me laugh, even though I’ve read it innumerable times. It perfectly merges humour and science fiction, and his use of language is just great. This was a book that made me want to write my own stories, partly because of the cheerful way it stretched my imagination and partly because the tone seemed to always ring true, no matter how crazy the narrative gets. The novel is full of wild ideas but it’s always grounded in the real and human.

You can buy Shadow from Amazon

About the author 


James Swallow is a New York Times, Sunday Times and Amazon bestselling author, a BAFTA nominee, a former journalist and the award-winning writer of over fifty books, along with numerous scripts for video games, radio and television.

His latest novel SHADOW – the next in a series of fast-paced action thrillers featuring protagonist Marc Dane – is out soon from Bonnier Zaffre. For exclusive content, information on new releases and a FREE deleted scene from his novel NOMAD, sign up to the Readers’ Club here:
You can also follow James on Twitter at @jmswallow for more updates or visit his official website at


The Jeweller by Caryl Lewis #FavouriteReadsOf2019

Everyday through December I’m publishing a blog post with a short review of one of my favourite books of 2019. Then I will publish a post with my favourite top ten at the beginning of Janury.
Today it’s The Jeweller by Caryl Lewis 

the jeweller cover

Mari supplements her modest trade as a market stall holder with the wares she acquires from clearing the houses of the dead. She lives alone in a tiny cottage by the shore, apart from a monkey that she keeps in a cage, surrounding herself with the lives of others, combing through letters she has gleaned, putting up photographs of strangers on her small mantelpiece.
But Mari is looking for something beyond saleable goods for her stall. As she works on cutting a perfect emerald, she inches closer to a discovery that will transform her life and throw her relationships with old friends into relief. To move forward she must shed her life of things past and start again. How she does so is both surprising and shocking…


The things that mark this novel out as exceptional are the characterisation, the story and the glorious writing, which created images in my mind of intense beauty and tenderly wrought emotion.
This is not a book for me primarily about events, it is a tale of human frailty and our ability to rise above all the memories that shape our past, to create a future full of possibilities. Each sentence evokes moments of intense beauty and the language has the lyrical musicality of a song in written form, which floating off the page creates haunting images both fleeting and tender, yet also shocking and unforgettable. Caryl Lewis’s writing is fresh, free from the need to create stories of grandiose events, and able with great skill, to write a story where the tale, the thoughts and feelings of her character Mari, become the bedrock of the story and not its afterthought.

About the writer 


Caryl Lewis has published eleven Welsh-language books for adults, three novels for young adults and thirteen children’s books. Her novel Martha, Jac a Sianco (Y Lolfa, 2004), won Wales Book of the Year in 2005. Caryl wrote the script for a film based on Martha, Jac a Sianco, which won the Atlantis Prize at the 2009 Moondance Festival. Her television credits include adapting Welsh-language scripts for the acclaimed crime series Y Gwyll / Hinterland.



Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson #FavouriteReadsof2019

Everyday through December I’m publishing a blog post with a short review of one of my favourite books of 2019. Then I will publish a post with my favourite top ten at the beginning of January.

Today it’s Blood Song by Joanna Gustawsson 

Blood Song Final Jacket

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Teresa witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Teresa gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.
Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.
Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells, and they soon find themselves on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer, in an investigation that takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule…
Terrifying, vivid and recounted at breakneck speed, Blood Song is not only a riveting thriller and an examination of corruption in the fertility industry, but a shocking reminder of the atrocities of Spain’s dictatorship, in the latest, stunning installment in the award-winning Roy & Castells series.


Johana Gustawsson has in this the third instalment of the Roy and Castells series delivered a tour de force in thriller writing, with a historical backdrop both shocking and heart achingly hard to read on times. But read on you must, because to not would be denying yourself a novel of great breath and herculean achievement. On one hand it is a stunningly controlled account of the atrocities of Spain’s rulers much akin to Victoria Hislop’s account of Greece’s military dictatorship in Those Who Are Loved. On the other, it is a spine chilling thriller, where the crimes of the past, come to haunt the present with horrifying consequences.

About the writer 

Johana Gustawsson

Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series, including Block 46, Keeper and, soon to be published, Blood Song, has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons.

The Closer I Get by Paul Burston #FavouriteReadsOf2019

Everyday through December I’m publishing a blog post with a short review of one of my favourite books of 2019. Then I will publish a post with my favourite top ten at the beginning of January.

Today it’s The Closer I get by Paul Burston 


Tom is a successful author, but he’s struggling to finish his novel. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone.

Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her father and her social-media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has.

When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world is turned upside down, and Tom is free to live his life again, to concentrate on writing.

But things aren’t really adding up. For Tom is distracted but also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he feels powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on.

A compulsive, disturbingly relevant, twisty and powerful psychological thriller, The Closer I Get is also a searing commentary on the fragility and insincerity of online relationships, and the danger that can lurk just one ‘like’ away…


The story is the perfect depiction of the seedier side of social media and its power to shock,  because anyone of us, by one random like on a post, could be caught up in this nightmare. The writer gives us the perfect depiction about obsession, exploitation and the downsides to living a life open to all on internet sites. When so many are telling us that creating an online presence is essential to our personal brand, this book is a powerful, exciting and relevant depiction of living a life in an age of all consuming social media.

About the author

Paul Burston Author Photo

Paul Burston is the author of five novels and the editor of two short story collections. His most recent novel ‘The Black Path’, was longlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2016 and was a bestseller at WH Smith. His first novel, ‘Shameless’, was shortlisted for the State of Britain Award. His third novel, ‘Lovers & Losers’ was shortlisted for a Stonewall Award. His fourth, ‘The Gay Divorcee’, was optioned for television. He was a founding editor of Attitude magazine and has written for many publications including The Guardian, The Independent, Time Out, The Times and The Sunday Times. In March 2016, he was featured in the British Council’s #FiveFilms4Freedom Global List 2016, celebrating “33 visionary people who are promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights around the world”. He is the founder and host of London’s award-winning LGBT+ literary salon Polari and founder and chair of The Polari First Book Prize for new writing.

Who’s There by Kerena Swan #BlogTour #Review


Appearances can be deceptive…

Arnold Eastwood is thrilled when social services allocate him a flat all of his own. Independence hasn’t come easily to a young man with Downs Syndrome but now he has the chance to live free from his mum’s nagging, find a girlfriend, watch endless movies and make new friends.
Meanwhile a London drug gang is setting up a supply line in Arnold’s town. They’re looking for someone to deliver drugs for them and somewhere to set up a base of operations.
Soon Arnold and his flat are in the drug gang’s sights. Drawn into the dark underworld of crack cocaine and modern slavery, Arnold soon discovers that friends can in fact be deadly enemies.
The question is: can he break free?


This thriller is very different from any other I have read this year; in that it has a main character has Downs Syndrome. It gives the novel a very different feel to it, with very adult themes of County Lines drug gangs, yet when told from Arnold’s point of view, it has a childlike quality, an innocence, very much at odds with the drama unfolding around him.

Yet at the same day, it does not shy away from telling a tale that reflects the violence involved and the tragedies that arise from drug taking. It tells a tale that is quite graphic in places, which shocks and scares the reader, but which in all it compelling depiction of events, never loses track of Arnold’s unique character and how and why the drug gangs target him. The tension levels ratchet up, because you are so worried about him. Of course you worry about the other characters caught up in the drama of it all, but what really drew me in as a reader, was how threatened he was and I certainly felt compelled to read on, because the writer made me care so much that he would be okay.

It is also a very fluid read. I managed to finish it in a few days and found myself really looking at the world around me in a very different way. These gangs pray on the vulnerable and I realised it could be happening around any door in a street near any of us. When that reality kicked in, I was hooked and appreciated the way the author took a very plausible story, gave it a very unique angle and gave me as the reader, a very exciting and thrilling read.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon

About the author

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Kerena Swan trained as a Social Worker and worked for Social Services for over 25 years. For the past 14 years she has owned and managed an ‘outstanding’ rated agency for children with disabilities.  Following serious illnesses she decided to fulfil her long-held ambition of writing a book and getting it published. ‘Dying to See You’, published by Bloodhound Books, was her debut novel.

After many years of writing professionally in the course of her work, Kerena has discovered the exhilaration and deep joy of writing fiction and can be found at all hours in front of her computer. Her second novel ‘Scared to Breathe’ is now available and her third book, ‘Who’s There?’ will be released on December 13th 2019.

Kerena lives with her family in a small village in Bedfordshire, UK and her books are set in the surrounding areas.

Drawing on her extensive knowledge and experience of the problematic world of social work and social studies, Kerena adds a unique angle to the domestic noir and crime genre.

If you would like to hear more about new releases, read Kerena’s blogs and download a free short-story – the prequel to Dying to See You – then visit   and join her mailing list.

You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter

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Bad Magic by A M Stirling #Review #BlogTour


When Richard meets his cousin Amanda for the first time in twenty years, he’s still afraid of her; she bullied him throughout his childhood and sexually abused him when they were teenagers. He owns a struggling art gallery that only survives because his wealthy grandmother pays for it. But now Amanda’s back in his life, things look set to change. She’s out to make trouble, drugging Richard with Rohypnol, faking a burglary and trying to persuade their grandmother to change her will. Richard’s heard a rumour she murdered her mother. Fearing for his grandmother’s life and his inheritance, he decides to give Amanda a dose of her own medicine.


What can I say about Bad Magic by writer A.M Stirling and why I found it such an enjoyable read?

Firstly it is full of damaged, multi layered characters. I enjoyed the fact that I actually found it hard to like the ‘hero’ of the piece Richard. Something about him, the way he manipulated those around him, made him seem a little blind to his own faults. Which given that many normal leading characters are too perfect, gave him an edge that is missing in so many traditional thrillers and I loved that. I know he was damaged by his own childhood neglect, but it has fed his use of others as well as creating the damaged individual that he is. A M Stirling cleverly makes Richard a product of all the neglect and abuse he suffered, but also showed that abuse can lead to victims who go on the try and control those they come into contact with. It is masterful and makes this a strong and dark story about revenge and control. It is also a character driven tale about victims who can never really be free of the abuse they suffered.

The story itself held more than one surprise. It’s littered which moments of real and addictive tension. I loved the way, I came to realise that Richard determination to gain revenge against Amanda is not straight forward and that the legacy of abuse is not always the outcome we expect, that damage leads sometimes to people hurting others, as they too were hurt. It is a tale full of themes such as domanice, manipulation and possible redemption.

Difficult stuff on times, but a first class thriller.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon

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About the author 


A. M. Stirling has had a varied career as a freelance photographer, an artist with several national and international exhibitions to his name, and an academic. After harbouring an ambition to write fiction for far too long, he completed an MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University in 2012.

Bad Magic is his first published novel. He lives in Newcastle upon Tyne.

The author can be followed on Twitter

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The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin #FavouriteReadsOf2019

Everyday through December I’m publishing a blog post with a short review of one of my favourite books of 2019. Then I will publish a post with my favourite top ten at the beginning of January.
Today it’s The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin 


It’s 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York’s Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. The four Gold children, too young for what they’re about to hear, sneak out to learn their fortunes.
Such prophecies could be dismissed as trickery and nonsense, yet the Golds bury theirs deep. Over the years that follow they attempt to ignore, embrace, cheat and defy the ‘knowledge’ given to them that day – but it will shape the course of their lives forever.


I was really excited, when this novel was picked to be read by the book group I’m a member of, because I’d wanted to read it for a while. It lived up to all my dreams about how it would be, moving and magical. It tells a deeply powerful tale about family, connections and destiny and I was entranced then and I still am.

About the author 

Chloe is a writer from San Francisco, CA. She is the author of The Immortalists, a New York Times bestseller, and The Anatomy of Dreams, which received the 2014 Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award. Chloe is a graduate of Vassar College and the M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Wisconsin. She lives with her husband in Madison, WI.