Orenda Books ~ LGBT characters and novels. #Orentober #TeamOrenda.

 

LGBT characters

Today as part of the celebrations during October for the incredible books published by Orenda Books, I’m featuring novels with LGBT characters.

The Closer I Get by Paul Burton

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A compulsive, disturbingly relevant, twisty and powerful psychological, social-media thriller from the bestselling author of The Black Path

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…

 

LONGLISTED for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize

You can read my review here.

The novel can be bought from AmazonWaterstones and directly from the publisher.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech 

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Be careful what you wish for…

Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t… Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined… Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it? What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?

A dark, consuming drama that shifts from Zimbabwe to England, and then back into the past, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a devastatingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart…

NOMINATED FOR THE SAPERE BOOKS POPULAR ROMANTIC FICTION AWARD at the  2019 ROMANTIC NOVEL AWARDS

 

Long listed for The Polari Prize

You can read my review here.

This novel can be purchased from AmazonWaterstones and directly from the publisher.

Attend by West Camel

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SHORT LISTED for The Polari First Book Prize

LONG LISTED for the Guardian‘s Not the Booker Prize

Under their feet lies magic…

When Sam falls in love with South London thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.

Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, the mysterious world that lies beneath their feet and, ultimately, the solution to their crises.

With echoes of Armistead Maupin and a hint of magic realism, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters that you will never forget.

You can read my review here.

This novel can be purchased from AmazonWaterstones and directly from the pubisher.

The Reykjavin Trilogy 

Snare by Lilja Sigurdardottir 

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First in the Reykjavik Noir Trilogy

After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonia is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies. Things become even more complicated when Sonia embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial crash. Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

You can read my review here

This novel can be purchased from AmazonWaterstones and directly from the publisher.

Trap by Lilia Sigurdardottir

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High stakes jeopardy presides when young mother is forced into smuggling cocaine, in a dark and original, nail-bitingly fast-paced thriller from one of the queens of Icelandic Noir…

Happily settled in Florida, Sonja believes she’s finally escaped the trap set by unscrupulous drug lords. But when her son Tomas is taken, she’s back to square one … and Iceland. Her lover, Agla, is awaiting sentencing for financial misconduct after the banking crash, and Sonja refuses to see her. And that’s not all … Agla owes money to some extremely powerful men, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it back. With her former nemesis, customs officer Bragi, on her side, Sonja puts her own plan into motion, to bring down the drug barons and her scheming ex-husband, and get Tomas back safely. But things aren’t as straightforward as they seem, and Sonja finds herself caught in the centre of a trap that will put all of their lives at risk…

Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Trap is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

You can read my review here

This novel can be purchased from AmazonWaterstones and directly from the publisher.

The third in the Reykjavin Trilogy Cage is released on 10th October and I’m really looking forward to reviewing it here on booksaremycwtches on 17th of October. 

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Drugs, smuggling, big money and political intrigue in Iceland rally with love, passion, murder and betrayal until the winner takes all … in the masterful, explosive conclusion to the award-winning Reykjavík Noir trilogy…

The prison doors slam shut behind Agla, when her sentence ends, but her lover Sonja is not there to meet her.

As a group of foreign businessmen tries to draw Agla into an ingenious fraud that stretches from Iceland around the world, Agla and her former nemesis, María find the stakes being raised at a terrifying speed.

Ruthless drug baron Ingimar will stop at nothing to protect his empire, but he has no idea about the powder keg he is sitting on in his own home.
At the same time, a deadly threat to Sonya and her family brings her from London back to Iceland, where she needs to settle scores with longstanding adversaries if she wants to stay alive.

With a shocking crescendo, the lives of these characters collide, as drugs, smuggling, big money and political intrigue rally with love, passion, murder and betrayal until the winner takes all … in the masterful, explosive conclusion to the award-winning Reykjavík Noir trilogy.

 

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Review ~FoxFire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women by Sharon Blackie #BlogTour.

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“A deeply evocative and haunting collection… Part rally cry, part warning, part manifesto and all parts enchanting, Sharon Blackie’s Foxfire, Wolfskin is a deeply evocative and haunting collection. I want to press this powerful book into the hands of everyone I know and say listen.” — Holly Ringland, author of The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

Charged with drama and beauty, this memorable collection by a master storyteller weaves a magical world of possibility and power from female myths of physical renewal, creation and change. It is an extraordinary immersion into the bodies and voices, mindscapes and landscapes, of the shapeshifting women of our native folklore.

Drawing on myth and fairy tales found across Europe from Croatia to Sweden, Ireland to Russia – Sharon Blackie brings to life women’s remarkable ability to transform themselves in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances. These stories are about coming to terms with our animal natures, exploring the ways in which we might renegotiate our fractured relationship with the natural world, and uncovering the wildness and wilderness within.

Beautifully illustrated by Helen Nicholson, Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women is Blackie’s first collection of short stories.

“Sharon Blackie has wrought a new-old magic for our times: glorious, beautiful, passionate myths. They show who we could have been, and they give us a glimpse of a world-that-could-be.” — Manda Scott, author of A Treachery of Spies and Boudica

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My thanks to the author, the publisher and the bog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.

The last year has seen me looking to widen my reading horizons and as a result I have developed a yearning to read more short story collections. I love them and appreciate the talent needed to write a perfectly formed story in miniature.

Sharon Blackie’s Foxfire, Wolfskin and other Stories of Shapeshifting Women, is stunning.  She has taken the essence of older tales and reimagined them for the modern reader.  Each of the individual stories had an intense emotional impact, from laughter to sadness.  I found myself contemplating the fact that women still remain in many ways constrained by misogyny and how we are connected to our forebears and the struggles they endured. Yet she also helped me to understand that women now and then have a reservoir of  patience and tenacity, that our mothers and grand mothers have passed to us and we pass on down the generations; both through actions and the power of stories.

It is hard to pick a favourite individual story, I loved them all for very different reasons. The Last Man Standing was one of the most beautiful stories I have read in quite some time, it was tender and melancholy.  I cried a little and when I finished, I closed my eyes to absorb the beauty of the language. My soul ached a little and I felt an immediate need to share this and the other stories with everyone I knew.

While The Bogman’s Wife had me smiling at the image of a spouse, determined to wreak revenge on the husband who has wronged her. In failing to understand that in trying to tame her essential being, he was both deeply selfish and cruel.  This is a tale of a powerful and vengeful shape shifting women, not defined by a world constructed by man. Her very essence is made up by the natural world around her and as the elements around us are mercurial and volatile so is she.

The richness of this reading experience came not only from the power of the tales themselves, but how the author provided a set of notes, outlining the inspiration for each of her stories. I was unfamiliar with many of these myths and fairy tales and they helped me understand the background to each.  It really enhanced my enjoyment of Sharon Blackie’s stories and became an integral part of the reading experience for me.

But what makes this collection so remarkable, is that no story feels that it shouldn’t be there. All are magical, powerful and inspiring.

Special mention must go to Helen Nicolson’s illustrations which are exquisite, complementing each story perfectly. They capture the magical nature of the stories and bring an added sense fascination to each.

This is a remarkable collection of short stories from a writer of immense talent. Magical, powerful and it is literature at its most affecting. I want the world to read it.

You can purchase this book from Amazon

Or from Waterstones

About the author

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Dr Sharon Blackie is a writer, mythologist and psychologist, and an internationally recognised teacher of the mythic imagination. Her bestselling book, If Women Rose Rooted, won a 2016 Nautilus award, and laid out a haunting heroine’s journey for every woman who finds power, inspiration and solace in the natural world.  She has an international following through her online communities, and the courses and workshops she offers through ‘The Hedge School’.  Her first novel, The Long Delirious Blue, was described by the Independent on Sunday as ‘hugely potent’. She lives in Connemara, Ireland.

Learn more about the author and her books at https://sharonblackie.net

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Review ~Death By Indulgence by A B Morgan #Thriller #BlogTour

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This book was previously published as FAT CHANCE

Ella Fitzwilliam’s world is about to spiral out of control.

She’s not cut out to be a private investigator. With little or no aptitude for the job, she’s been sent undercover to expose the hidden lives of two men who meet nearly every week at Buxham’s – a private members’ club where portions are large and secrets are held in strictest confidence.

One of those men is Harry Drysdale, a defence barrister.The other is Marcus Carver, an eminent surgeon with a tarnished past and much to lose.

Ella knows he has unhealthy appetites, she’s sure he’s feeding his perverted habits and putting his female patients at risk but she has to prove it.

When Harry Drysdale goes missing, Konrad Neale TV journalist tries to reveal the truth behind the lies, but some of the secrets start to reveal themselves… and they are big.

Review

Today I’m sharing my review of Death by Indulgence written as part of the blog tour when this story was originally released as Fat Chance. 

I would like to thank the author and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.

Having read all the authors previous books I was excited to be asked to review this new novel.  What I really love is that with each book she publishes Alison Morgan’s writing goes from strength to strength and she has once again delivered a first class read.

There were many things I liked about this book, for one the characters felt real, you can imagine the reality of Ella’s battle with severe mental health and the triggers that set off a manic episode; the pressure of the need for constant self care, to prevent a downward spiral. Ella was painfully authentic and I dare anyone to not read this novel and not take from it, a better understanding of the intense bravery she displays throughout the story. Then you have Konard Neale’s desperation to save his career, even if that means he often doesn’t judge his own actions well enough or those of others. What I loved about him though, were his flaws, especially the feelings we all get when the future of something we love and is an integral part of our personality and life is threatened. Both beautifully written and endlessly intriguing to read about.

As well as that I was kept guessing about the fate of these two characters and the host of supporting ones as well. It’s true that the ending came as an utter surprise, the writer having wrong footed me, just when I was getting smug thinking I knew what would happen. This is a thriller that deals with some difficult subjects, the portrayal of characters whose mental health is fragile and body image and does so with grace and senstivity, while maintaining the much loved elements of a great thriller.  It’s a balancing act, that the author achieves with great skill.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this novel to anyone who appreciates a great read.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon

About the author 

A B Morgan

Alison Morgan: A former mental health nurse, country bumpkin at heart, married to a hairy biker, fascinated by words, loves live music and she has an innate ability to make people smile and laugh.

Her crime thrillers have a strong cast of characters helping to define the style and pace of each story inspired by her life and career as a Psychiatric Nurse, and her fascination with the extremes of human behaviour.

AB Morgan is the critically acclaimed author of A Justifiable Madness, Divine Poison, The Camera Lies and Stench.

Her latest psychological suspense has again been applauded for being refreshingly different within its genre.

“I thought that the plot was superb, I loved the writing style and the characters were excellent. Ella is a fantastic character! This is a crime read with a difference, hands down, her best yet. Very highly recommended.” Donna Maguire – Donna’s Book Blog

You can follow the author on Twitter

BLOG TOUR (2)

 

A book series in focus ~ Roy & Castells series by Johana Gustawsson #Orentober #TeamOrenda

 

 

 

The Roy and Castells series by Johana Gustawsson 

Today as part of Orentober, a month long celebration of the books and authors published by Orenda Books, I’m celebrating one of my very favourite series of books.  The Roy and Castells series by Johana Gustawsson is stunning, a group of novels I would recommend to anyone who cares to listen. They are consistently exciting and moving, written by a writer at the very top of her game.

Block 46 

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Evil remembers…

Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina. Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light. Plumbing the darkness and the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, Block 46 is a multi-layered, sweeping and evocative thriller that heralds a stunning new voice in French Noir.

You can read my review by following this link.

You can purchase this novel from AmazonWaterstones and Publisher ebookstore

Keeper

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Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror.

London 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets murders of some ten years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman’s body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims. With the man arrested for the Tower Hamlets crimes already locked up, do the new killings mean he has a dangerous accomplice, or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose?

Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down. Following the highly acclaimed

Block 46 and guaranteed to disturb and enthral, Keeper is a breathless thriller from the new queen of French Noir.

‘Gustawsson’s writing is so vivid, it’s electrifying.  Utterly compelling’ Peter James

You can read my review by following this link.

You can purchase this novel from AmazonWaterstones and publisher’s ebookstore. 

Blood Song 

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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.

‘ I don’t think there’s a crime writer who writes with such intelligence, darkness and deep sadness as Johana Gustawsson. This was extraordinary’ Louise Beech.

You can read my review by following this link

You can purchase this novel from AmazonWaterstones and publisher’s ebookstore.

About the author 

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 author can be followed on Twitter

Morecambe & Vice Crime Writing Festival ~ Interview with author Jennie Finch

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The Morecambe & Vice Crime Writing Festival is taking place between Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th of September at the Midlands Hotel in Morecambe. 

Why not take a look  at their website because they have a cracking line-up of events ~ https://www.morecambecrimefest.co.uk/

Midland Announce

Welcome to booksaremycwtches Jennie Finch, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions about yourself and your book as part of the Morecambe & Vice Blog Tour.

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To start off with, a few questions about you as a writer and your novel.
•1 What inspired to become a writer?
I have always wanted to tell stories and began to write them down – albeit with very bad spelling – from an early age. It helped me make sense of the world and place myself somewhere I felt in control. My mother kept my first real offering, written when I was eight, and I found it when going through her scrap book recently. I’ve attached it for your amusement!
•2 What was the inspiration for your book?
I took a module on writing detective and mystery stories for my MA and the tutor told us to begin with a strong setting. The setting, she said, should be a character in the story. I lived in Somerset for 5 years in the 1980s and found the Levels beautiful, evocative and rather creepy, especially at night. They seemed perfect as a starting point and the characters and plots grew from this. I have some experience of working alongside probation officers from this time too so I had a good foundation for the books.
•3 If your book were to be made into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?
There was some debate about this amongst my friends. Several thought Amelia Fox should play Alex but I see her as more hesitant and less physically neat. My choice would be Anna Maxwell Martin. Pam Ferris would be perfect for Ada and maybe Freddie Highmore for the hapless Kevin. I was tempted by Philip Glenister for Derek but I decided to keep him in reserve for the next few books and cast him as Tom from “The Drowners” onwards!
Bloggers and writers

•4 There has been a huge amount of debate within the blogging community about posting reviews of books they have not liked! Do you read book reviews and how do you feel about the idea of bad review?
I do read reviews but try to keep in mind they are always subjective to some extent. I think it is important to know what people think about the books. After all, I want them to keep reading! I have also agreed with a number of comments people have made and I think this can help me become a better writer.
•5 In a time where more and more authors are self publishing, do you think that bloggers and authors working together have the power to influence the success of a book? To give a voice to smaller publishing houses and emerging talent, that don’t have big publicity budgets to work with?
I think they are vital. There are so many books (especially self-published books) now and it is very hard to be noticed outside of the few big publishing houses. This is especially true when the major sellers only stock the “top 100 bestsellers”. I would include the wonderful work done by Independent book shops in this as they can give a space and opportunity to a new or local writer.
Reading
•6 Who is your favourite author to read?
My absolute favourite is the American sci-fi writer Sheri S Tepper. I have everything she ever wrote, even obscure short stories and books written under another name and re-read them regularly. They never disappoint.
•7 Just because I’m curious about other people’s reading tastes, what is your favourite under-appreciated novel?
When I was 13 my family moved to a new town with a much bigger library – the only good thing about the whole event for me. I discovered a book by Sheila Grahame called “Things have gone to Pieces” and borrowed it at least once a month for years. It is a little strange and a little depressing (perfect for a lonely teenager) but I found it very comforting in an odd way. I was so happy to find a copy in Barter Books several years ago.
•8 If you could be a character in a book, which would you choose?
I think I’d like to be one of the Dragon Riders from Anne McCaffrey’s “Pern” series, just so I could fly.
About you
•9. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I spend some time looking after our four dogs. One is very old and needs careful walking and a lot of company.
I have always enjoyed jigsaw puzzles. My mother started me on them when I was young as a way of developing my spatial skills and visual memory, though she probably didn’t articulate it quite like that. I find I do some of my best “deep thinking” whilst doing a jigsaw and often solve writing problems without meaning to.
My guilty pleasure is playing computer games, especially simulations such as the Civilization series. I’m not a fan of battle games and actually get car sick playing driving sims. I need something with a narrative.

•10 Finally….

Cwtch is the welsh word for a hug. It’s about snuggling and cuddling. It has elements of loving and protecting. It can also a safe place in a room or in the hearts of those that care about you and whom you care about. It can be an embrace shared between a parent and a child or lover’s . You can also give a non-romantic cwtch, a heartfelt hug to a friend or someone who simply needs to be comforted.
Who would you want to share a cwtch with? Doesn’t have to be a celebrity if you don’t want it to be!
My immediate choice would be my wonderful partner without whom I would not be the writer I am today. But also –
I would like to share a cwtch with my cousin, Aroha, in New Zealand. When I found my “missing” family she welcomed me in, shared her life and made me feel like a real member of the family. She’s had a hard year so far so maybe a cwtch would make her feel better.

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About Jennie Finch

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I did not expect to be a crime writer. Although I have always read a lot of crime and detective novels I always thought my work leaned more towards science fiction or horror so no-one was more surprised than I when “Death of the Elver Man” was short-listed for the Impress Prize in 2010 under its original (and rather insipid) title “On the Level”. Since its publication I have been working on the series which now consists of “The Drowners”, (published in January 2013), “The Mothman” (September 2014) and “Smoke and Adders” (September 2016). I am exploring the idea of writing some shorter, stand-alone stories based around specific characters from the novels. Ada Mallory will probably feature in the first but if there are specific people you would like to read about, please visit my web page and leave a request.

Whilst I was never a probation officer like Alex I do live with an ex-probation officer and in the 1980s did a lot of work with offenders and young people at risk. I used to teach psychology for the Open University and still assess and tutor students and young people with learning difficulties.

A note about the setting.
The Somerset I write about is in many ways a lost world. It is the place I remember rather fondly from my time there and though geographically it is as accurate as I can make it, a lot has changed in the past 20 years or so. Some changes are for the better – areas of the Levels themselves are now rich sites for wildlife and rare plants and the industries on these precious lands are far more aware and responsible than in the past. The mix of people living in the towns has changed however and new hazards such as the flood last November (2011) may alter the fabric of the area once again.
The Carnival is still a major feature of life in the towns and if you have the opportunity go and see it for yourself. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

You follow the author on https://www.jenniefinch.me.uk/biography/

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Review – Death Of The Elver Man by Jennie Finch. #BlogTour #Morecamb&Vice #CrimeWritingFestival

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Probation officer Alex Hastings is struggling with the customs, dialect and prejudice she faces as an incomer to the Somerset Levels. When one of her probationers, Kevin Mallory, is charged with murdering the Elver Man , who operated in the poaching underworld, she is embroiled in the investigation. Determined to prove Mallory is innocent, Alex puts her own career at risk as she searches for the truth behind the Elver Man s death, but her efforts attract the attention of the real killer. Alex finds herself drawn into a web of family feuds, gang loyalties and revenge killings as an unknown predator stalks her across the eerie landscape of the Levels. This is a stunning debut by a new force in crime fiction and the first in a quartet of Alex Hastings novels.

Review

I would like to thank the author and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.

There are a few reasons I enjoyed this book.

The story felt original and fresh. Most murder mysteries feature police officers as their primary characters, but Jennie Finch gave us a story based around over worked and harassed Probation officer Alex Hastings! I loved being taken into the world of a character willing to risk her career to help a man she is convinced did not kill the Elver Man of the title. It felt fascinating to see the work of this part of the criminal justice system, whose work was the backdrop for the story. There is a lot to be said for originality, it gives the book an edge, a difference that reels you in and leaves you wanting to spend more time with the complex and often frustrated Hastings.

The atmosphere was tense and filled with moments of suspense and surprise. Amidst gang led crime and feuds I felt quite worried for Alex and her colleagues.  It felt real that she could get caught up in this mess. New to the job, she wants to prove to her colleagues she can hack the constant pressure and therefore puts herself in danger. She is naïve and angry, often unsociable, but highly idealistic, she felt so real. Right from the beginning we know she wants to prove to her boss she can do the job and that’s why her desperation to help her charges, felt so realistic and it led to a connection with her and her story. The writer helped us to understand her greatest fear was failure and made me care that that she did not become another victim of a deranged killer. I will leave you to find out if she did, but throughout the novel, I felt constantly anxious about her fate. There is one scene in which she is alone with a ‘client’ in a secluded cottage that had me a bag of nerves, so thick was the tension and sense of menace.

It is well written by an author that really understands how to make the landscape it is set in another character in the story. I have never been to the Somerset Levels, but as I read the book, I felt I could have been. The sense of isolation created was a massive part of why the book worked so well.  The small community at the heart of the story and the dramatic landscape that surround it, all added to the sense of remoteness from help and safety. The concealment of past mistakes and feuds, amplified by this brooding and threatening landscape the story is set in.

Apart from Alex there are many other fascinating characters, but I wanted to say a massive thank you for giving us the portrayal of a prison officer, who is intelligent,  proactive and kind. It is such a change from the usual portrayal of thuggish men, who are just caretakers and not great ones at that. It made the book extra special that for once, there was a positive portrait of a unfairly maligned part of the justice system.

Will it stay with me for a while. Indeed it will. I loved the story and all the characters who seemed as much a part of the landscape as the players in the mystery around the Death of the Elver Man. It had all the elements of a great thriller, but it’s originality marked it out as a really enjoyable and exciting.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon

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The Morecambe & Vice Crime Writing Festival is taking place between Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th of September at the Midlands Hotel in Morecambe.
Why not take a look at their website because they have a cracking line-up of events ~ https://www.morecambecrimefest.co.uk/

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About the author 

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I did not expect to be a crime writer. Although I have always read a lot of crime and detective novels I always thought my work leaned more towards science fiction or horror so no-one was more surprised than I when “Death of the Elver Man” was short-listed for the Impress Prize in 2010 under its original (and rather insipid) title “On the Level”. Since its publication I have been working on the series which now consists of “The Drowners”, (published in January 2013), “The Mothman” (September 2014) and “Smoke and Adders” (September 2016). I am exploring the idea of writing some shorter, stand-alone stories based around specific characters from the novels. Ada Mallory will probably feature in the first but if there are specific people you would like to read about, please visit my web page http://www.jenniefinch.me.uk and leave a request.

Whilst I was never a probation officer like Alex I do live with an ex-probation officer and in the 1980s did a lot of work with offenders and young people at risk. I used to teach psychology for the Open University and still assess and tutor students and young people with learning difficulties.

You can follow the author at https://www.jenniefinch.me.uk/

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Blog Tour ~ Review ~ Dead Flowers by Nicola Monaghan.

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Hardened by ten years on the murder squad, DNA analyst Doctor Sian Love has seen it all. So when she finds human remains in the basement of her new home, she knows the drill.

Except this time it’s different. This time, it’s personal…

A page-turning cold case investigation, Dead Flowers is an intriguing, multi-layered story perfect for fans of Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories and British crime dramas like Line of Duty and Unforgotten.

Shortlisted for the UEA Crime Fiction Award 2019

Review

I would like the author, publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.

I really really enjoyed this book. It made me jump, it made me shriek out loud in more than one place and it kept me on the edge of my metaphorical reading chair from page one to the final page.  In a thriller, you want to be thrilled and you certainly are when reading Dead Flowers.  Nicola Monaghan has created an atmosphere full of menace, you feel constantly that at any moment, something unbearable could happen to Sian. Your reading like crazy to reach the end, to find out if the peril she finds herself in, will destroy all she holds dear.

Doctor Sian Love used to be a detective, so having left the police disillusioned, she decides to take action to solve the mystery of why two bodies have been hidden away in her basement herself. What makes this extra gripping is the way the writer has made this story personal to Sian on more than one level. She gives her protagonist a personal connection to the events themselves and that what I really loved about this book. Not only is it well written, but I found myself rooting for Sian, who had the most to lose, and in making me invest so much in her, the writer created an emotional connection that had my nerves on edge. I felt almost bruised by the end, so buffeted was I by the constant fear she might become a victim herself.

I was absolutely hooked. The images of the bodies in the basement still make me shudder and it is one of the best thrillers I’ve read this year. Not only would I recommend it, I think its going to feature heavily in the Christmas gifts I buy for friends this year.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon

About the author 

Nicola Monaghan

Nicola Monaghan was born in Nottingham in 1971, and grew up there on a number of different council estates. She studied Mathematics at the University of York, and went on to work as a teacher, and then in finance. She has lived in London, Paris and Chicago, but moved back to her home town in 2002 to study Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent. She has since written several novels and novellas, as well as scripts for short films. Her first book, The Killing Jar, won a Betty Trask Award, the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Prize, the Waverton Good Read, and was selected for the New Blood Panel at Harrogate in 2007. She was the first fellow of the National Academy of Writing, based at Birmingham City University, and now teaches creative writing at De Montfort University. More recently, she studied crime writing at the University of East Anglia, where she wrote Dead Flowers, which was shortlisted for the UEA/Little Brown Prize. She lives in Nottingham with her husband, son, two dogs and – the real boss of the household – a cat called Dream Tiger.

You can follow the author on Twitter

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Review – Blog Tour – The Jeweller by Caryl Lewis.

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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…

Review

I would like to thank the author, the publisher and the blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.

Honno Press is rapidly becoming one of my favourite independent publishers, not just because they publish female Welsh writers that otherwise might not be published, but because the novels they bring us are stunning pieces of literature.

As is the case with The Jeweller, a beautifully written tale of Mari, whose troubled past has left her wounded and vulnerable.

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.

I have always thought that buildings and objects retain an imprint of those that have been part of their history and to see this used with splendid effect in The Jeweller was my very favourite part of this novel.  Mari acts like a custodian of items left behind by those that have died, letters, photographs and jewellery. In hiding from her own pain, she seeks to understand the life imbued into these objects by those that once owned them, searching for a connection to her own origins. Yet perversely it is this inability to live in the present, typified by burying herself in the memories of others, that presents the possibility of moving forward.

Mari as a character is a delicious and  carefully wrought study of a woman caught up in a maelstrom of memories that haunt her. She is vulnerable and wounded, but to pigeon hole her as such, for me fails to see below the surface of the complex characterisation, to a women capable of shocking and surprising me. Caryl Lewis has written a character that challenged me as a reader, not to assume I knew all of her, until the last word was written, until the story had reached its end. I think she is one of the best female characters I have read about in many years. Taking the journey with Mari as she made discoveries with the power to transform her life was intense and rewarding. It’s a shame it’s over for me and I feel a fierce jealously of those yet to meet her. Mari, like the objects  imbued with the essence of those that owned them, has become part of my reading journey.

Special mention must go to Gwen Davies who with great skill has translated this story into English.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon

The Jeweller by Caryl Lewis (translated by Gwen Davies) is published by Honno Welsh Women’s Press on 19 September 2019 at £8.99 https://www.honno.co.uk/catalogue/forthcoming-titles/the-jeweller/

About the author

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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.

About the translator

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Gwen Davies grew up in a Welsh-speaking family in West Yorkshire. She has translated into English the Welsh-language novels of Caryl Lewis, published as Martha, Jack and Shanco (Parthian, 2007) and The Jeweller and is co-translator, with the author, of Robin Llywelyn’s novel, published as White Star by Parthian in 2003. She is the editor of Sing, Sorrow, Sorrow: Dark and Chilling Tales (Seren, 2010). Gwen has edited the literary journal, New Welsh Review, since 2011. She lives in Aberystwyth with her family.

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Review – Blog Tour – In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone.

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John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.
With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.
For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover. For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.
Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.

‘Beautiful, lyrical prose takes the reader through a perfectly constructed, often harrowing tale’ Denzil Meyrick

‘Engrossing, hard-hitting – even shocking – with a light poetic frosting. Another superb read!’ Douglas Skelton

‘A chilling tale of secrets, lies and the ultimate betrayal’ Theresa Talbot

‘Emotional. Brave. Dark. Raw. Utterly beautiful’ Louise Beech

Review

I would like to thank the author, publisher and the blog tour organiser for the ARC of this novel in return for an honest review.

It is an unsurmountable fact, that I have come to expect extraordinary things from Orenda authors. Original and challenging storylines, clever and intelligent writing.

So with each of their books that I read, I get a little nervous! Will it live up to all of this?

Well Mr Malone you have, In The Absence of Miracles, is a touching and haunting tale of a family riven by disturbing secrets. It deals with the deeply disturbing effect abuse has on it’s victims, yet it does so with sensitivity and with an honesty that refuses to let the silence win.

The writer takes a challenging storyline and delivers it with extraordinary skill. In my very humble opinion, it is one of the finest examples of domestic noir to grace any bookshelf.

The story centres around John Doherty who when clearing out his mother’s home ready for sale finds a shoe, setting off a terrifying journey to find a brother he could not remember.  What makes this such an emotive and compulsive read, is the way the writer takes us on a exploration of the minds staggering ability to hide memories behind a barricade. Once breached it leaves John facing emotional and physical collapse. Ultimately it leads us and him to a new reality, that will either free him or consume him.

Beyond this theme of abuse, the writer delivers a top notch domestic noir, because he roots the story in layers and layers of mystery.  Like the mirror and smoke effect, he reveals tantalising clues to the story behind the brothers disappearance. But then its like the smoke descends and your forced to wait, excruciatingly painful as that is, until he once again allows you to glimpse into the mirror and a view into the past. He gives us characters who have composed a life based on lies. As in life the unravelling of these lies has casualties, but the writer leaves you in no doubt, that though evil can lie behind any door, in any street, there is always a chance that the walls they build around them, can crash down as fast as they were built.

It was not an easy read, subject matters such as this never are. Michael Malone writes with such respect, while still delivering a hard hitting drama, that reading it remains a privilege. It will stay with me for a long time and for all the right reasons. It is a devastating exploration of abuse, yet still an exciting story of discovery, secrets and lies.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones.

 

About the author 

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Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings.Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritanand Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spinesand After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

You can follow the author on Twitter

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Review ~ Blog Tour ~An Echo of Scandal by Laura Madeleine.

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In the dead of night, with blood on her hands, she made her escape.

Accused of murder, Alejandra flees her home, escaping to the southern edge of Spain, where she faces a life of poverty and destitution.

Seduced by the power of the rich and the anonymity that waits across the water in Tangier, Ale makes a bid for a new start. But it will come at a cost: a life of deception. Because Ale’s new friends want to know what she is running from, they want to know who she is and whether they can trust her.

Fifty years later, a young American writer wanders the streets of Tangier, searching for inspiration. When he stumbles across a trace of Ale’s life, he finds himself tangled in a story of scandal, love and danger that has not yet reached its end.

Review

I would like to thank the author, publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC of this novel in return for an honest review.

I have always been a sucker for a well written historical drama, because handled well they can embrace you in times past, closing off current worries.  I’m glad to say that An Echo of Scandal did this. Wanting to escape the travesty of Brexit, I was taken back in time and to Tangiers, where we first meet Alejandra, who accused of murder flees to find safety in this exotic city. Then forward we go to meet a young American writer, Sam, who stumbles upon a scandal, that has reverberated through the years.

So why did I enjoy it?

First of course is the story, that manages to flip back and fore between two time periods with ease, creating a flawless dual time narrative. which by the end, comes together and delivers a first class historical mystery. It’s not easy to create a story over years, but Laura Madeline does it with skill and grace. None of the awkward, clumsy moves between periods, which makes it read with ease and turns it into a compulsive read.

I loved the use of cocktail recipes and instructions that often sign posted the changes in period within a chapter. It is both classy and original. I have never seen this before and the author uses it with considerable success. You might be a little drunk if you try them all while reading, but your going to end up with a fantastic group of receipies at the end of this really entertaining read.

It is full of numerous twists and turns that led me down many a wrong turn and then surprised me with yet another revelation I had not seen coming.  It is worth the ride because by getting to the end you have read a sumptuous historical novel, with a exciting mystery at it’s very core.

The atmosphere is truly magical. You really feel like your there is Tangier, walking through the grand souk. In one scene I felt encircled by the heady aroma’s and delectable looking food. My head left spinning from the cacophony of voices all around me.

Finally there is of course the characters.  It’s hard to discuss Alejandra without giving too much of the story away, but what I can say is she is fascinating.  She is everything I love in a female character, not defined by her gender, but brave enough to find her own way if given the chance.  Sam is just how I imagine a struggling writer to be, filled with self doubt, searching for  his muse, poor, but richer for pursuing his dream, Art is everything to him. As with Alejandra, I wanted him to find a way to success and fulfilment.

Whether he does, whether Alejandra survives and how they are tied together, I will leave for you to find out.

Its worth it!

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones

About the author

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After a childhood spent acting professionally and training at a theatre school, Laura Madeleine changed her mind, and went to study English Literature at Newnham College, Cambridge. She is the bestselling author of The Confectioner’s Tale, Where the Wild Cherries Grow, The Secrets Between Us and An Echo of Scandal, which have been translated into over a dozen languages. She lives in Bristol, but can often be found visiting her family in Devon, getting up to mischief with her sister, fantasy author Lucy Hounsom. You can find her on twitter @lauramadeleine
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