Guest Post ~Tangled Roots by Denise D Young

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A beautiful witch lost in time. A brooding farm boy with magic in his blood and a chip on his shoulder. Dark secrets and shadowy magic. Paranormal romance with a time slip awaits in the first book of this new series.
Cassie Gearhart casts a spell in the forest in the summer of 1974. The next thing she knows, she wakes up to find the world irrevocably changed.
It’s 2019, for one thing. For another, all of her coven members have vanished, leaving behind only one man who holds the key to their secrets.
Nick Felson has sworn off magic, until a confused Cassie knocks on his door in the middle of the night, somehow missing forty-five years’ worth of time. But Nick knows falling for the captivating witch means letting magic back into his life—and that’s one line he swore he’d never cross.
Can Cassie unravel the mystery that transported her decades into the future? And can Nick resist the powerful magic and heart-pounding passion that swirl in the air whenever he and Cassie are together?
The Tangled Magic Series is intended for readers 18-plus who enjoy fast-paced reads, wild and witchy magic, swoon-worthy kisses, and small-town charm. The series is best read in order.

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I’m delighted today to welcome author Denise D Young to booksaremycwtches with a guest post.

The Perils and Pleasures of Being A Discovery Writer 

There’s always plenty of curiosity about writer’s creative processes. “Are you a plotter or pantser?” writers always ask each other. (Plotters are those who outline before they write a draft. Panters, on the other hand, wing it—or fly by the seat of their pants.)
For years, I balked at the term pantser. It felt silly, a bit dismissive of what feels to me to be a sort of magical yet arduous process. One day, there’s a seed of an idea and, through nurturing and tending and plenty of hard work, it becomes a full-fledged story, a world of magic and mystery populated by fascinating characters, each with their own struggles, sorrows, secrets, and dreams.
So, when I heard the term “discovery writer,” I was overjoyed. That’s it. I’ve always felt that I wasn’t exactly “flying by the seat of my pants”—that some deep, intuitive, hidden part of my writer-self knew where I was going. I didn’t have a map, but I let the stars guide me. There weren’t markers on the path, but whenever I strayed, a muse with her gossamer gown appeared and guided me in the right direction.
What is a discovery writer?
The short answer is that plotters are outliners. They create a detailed, point-by-point outline of their stories before they begin to write the story. They are strategic and are planners by nature. I completely respect this, and, honestly, sometimes I envy their ability to plan out their stories when I’m a bit lost in my manuscript.
Discovery writers, on the other hand, work without a predetermined guide. We might know a few key details, but often they’re not written down anywhere. I might know how a story will end, but not how my characters will get there. I have a destination, but no formal directions, save, perhaps, a few cryptic notes scrawled on a Post-It note or yellow legal pad.
There are perils on the path of the discovery writer.
For one, sometimes we end up with what a writer friend referred to as “bunny trails”—unfinished plot threads that don’t tie into the overall story or end up unresolved. But, hey, I figure that’s what revisions are for. We can remove bunny trails from later drafts or even find entertaining ways to tie them into the overarching plot, with sometimes wonderful results.
Yet another peril? Getting stuck. I’ve been writing paranormal romance since 2008, and I’ve learned to listen to my instincts. Since I’m writing largely by intuition, I have to closely listen to that inner voice, that voice that knows when I’ve veered off course. Sometimes this means stopping and retracing my steps or rewriting a few chapters.
And yes, all of this means that discovery writers often take longer to finish their manuscripts than plotters—but not always. Dean Wesley Smith is notoriously a discovery writer, and he’s also incredibly prolific. (He even wrote a book about his writing process, fittingly titled Writing into the Dark.)
But there are pleasures, too, on this journey.
Those “Eureka!” moments when all of the plot threads come together in glorious harmony. The moments when a character whispers some secret to us, and we find the joy of surprise, suddenly understanding why a character behaves a certain way.
There’s a joy and a magic in moving through a story by intuition. And I’ve learned that much of my creative process happens away from the page. Part of my routine is to walk the dog in the morning, and then sit quietly with a cup of coffee, turning ideas over in my mind. Often, plot solutions come to me during these times, or when I’m doing simple chores like folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher, things that leave my mind free to wander.
So, if not the trusty outline, what are the tools of the discovery writer?
I’d say we often embark on our journey armed with nothing more than a cup of tea, our writing implements, and a fierce belief in the ability of the stars, the magic of the muse, and our own inner voices to guide us.
And for a discovery writer, that’s how the magic happens.
I feel that I should end on this note: We should never assume there is one writing process that is superior to another. What matters most is the stories that get told and the journeys readers embark upon as they turn page after page.
Plotter or pantser, outliner or discovery writer, it makes no difference. I love discussing these processes because it sheds light on an often mysterious process. But just like there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, there’s no wrong way to write a book.
To put it simply, when the magic happens, it happens.

You can purchase this novel follow this LINK.

About the author 

Equal parts bookworm, flower child, and eclectic witch, Denise D. Young writes fantasy and paranormal romance featuring witches, magic, faeries, and the occasional shifter.
Whatever the flavor of the magic, it’s always served with a brisk cup of tea–and the promise of romance varying from sweet to sensual.
She lives with her husband and their animals in the mountains of Virginia, where small towns and tall trees inspire her stories. She reads tarot cards, collects crystals, gazes at stars, and believes magic is the answer (no matter what the question was).
If you’ve ever hoped to find a book of spells in a dusty attic, if you suspect every misty forest contains a hidden portal to another realm, or if you don’t mind a little darkness before your happily-ever-after, her books might be just the thing you’ve been waiting for.
Social Media Links –

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/ddyoungbooks
Websitewww.denisedyoungbooks.com
Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/denisedyoungwriter/

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Review ~ The Art of Murder by J S Strange. #BlogTour #WelshThriller #LGBTWriter #LGBTCharacters.

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‘I felt that I had been sucked into a well thought out Agatha Christie novel.’ – Danielle at The Reading Closet.

Wales at its best.

The second in the Jordan Jenner Mysteries series. The follow up to Murder on the Rocks.

Artist Xander Draper is being threatened by a dangerous group. With PI Jordan Jenner’s help, Xander hopes to remain unscathed.

But when Xander is murdered, his body displayed as his final exhibit, Jordan realises the extent of the trouble Xander was in. Now, there are people following Jordan. They know his name, and they want him dead.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s brother Ashley has returned, and he has a secret. As time runs out to solve the murder of the famous artist, Jordan begins to fear his brother may be responsible.

A classic cosy mystery set in the heart of Cardiff.

A perfect read for fans of Agatha Christie.

A murdered artist. A brother with a deadly secret. A group intent on killing. The Art of Murder is the second in the Jordan Jenner Mysteries series, a cosy murder mystery set in Wales.

Review

Many thanks to the author and publisher for the ARC in return for an honest review.

I am so happy that Jorden Jenner, described by other bloggers as the Welsh Agatha Christie/Sherlock Holmes is back, because I adore him. I totally agree with this description, and would add, that he also has elements of so many other modern day classic PIs!

So why do I enjoy both character and story?

Firstly, I know many writers suffer from a lack of confidence, but really J S Strange, has a bright future ahead of him. This second book, builds on the promise of book one and delivers an exciting read, full of suspense and drama.

The character Jordan comes across again as likeable, intelligent, passionate, flawed and vulnerable; pitch perfect characterisation. You can’t help but alternately wanting to cwtch him, cheer him on, read through your fingers when he puts his life in danger and want to open his eyes to how special he is. The author peels away the fences he has put up to protect him, allowing the reader to develop a more intimate relationship with him in this second novel. We get to meet his brother, whose secrets threaten their relationship, helping us not just to understand the main character more, but the family dynamic that shapes him.  I loved how we saw more of the protective side of Jenner and yet also how real he is. We all love our brothers or sisters, but having them living in your personal space is not easy and the caring side of Jenner is balanced out by something we can all understand, his need for his own space to think. Then there is his complicated love life, Jordan finds it hard to let people in, but when he tries, you just want it to be okay. It’s like being a protective sibling and the writer makes you care so much, that when he is happy so are you, when he is struggling, so to did I, with him! That is how good the characterisation is, J S Strange made me care and that is priceless to a reader. Because his internal struggles give this book its heart and emotional depth.

The story is, for use of a better word, THRILLING. Jordan becomes caught up in the murder of an artist, a gang determined to kill. On top of this, his brother returns from Australia with dangerous secrets.  From page one, I was metaphorically sat on the edge of my reading chair, as each of the threads were teased apart, brought together and then blown apart throughout the story.  As we weave in and out of Cardiff and it’s suburbs, the story builds up into a complex web of murder, mystery and betrayal, with a touching element of family drama. It’s the way every part of this story is laden with tension and conflict that really marks it out as a great thriller. There is conflict between the gang of art thieves and the art establishment, between Jordan and his brother, creating layers of troubles and a narrative that never relents.

I read somewhere that a great thriller needs an interesting setting and call me biased, but this book makes Cardiff feel like an exciting place to live. It is one of my favourite things about Art of Murder that my home is used as a backdrop in the book, it’s such a refreshing change to have a story set outside the big metropolitan cities like London and Manchester. You don’t have to be familiar with Cardiff to enjoy it though, because he brings the city alive for all to enjoy. It gives this story quite an intimate feel, set as it is, in Wales small and yet metropolitan capital city.

I do hope that there is going to a third Jordan Jenner novel, because I for one, want to read many more adventures.

About the author

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J.S. Strange is an author from Wales, United Kingdom. He writes crime, mystery and horror. His first novels, published in 2016 and 2017, were set in an apocalyptic London. His up-coming novel, titled Murder on the Rocks, is the first in a cozy crime mystery series, featuring a leading gay male detective.

Murder on the Rocks was written by Strange for many reasons. One of those reasons was a lack of representation within the crime genre, particularly with detectives and sleuths. Strange created Jordan Jenner, a private investigator, who lives and works in Cardiff. Murder on the Rocks was written with the intention of shining light on Cardiff, and bringing Cardiff, and furthermore, Wales, into the crime genre.

Strange’s previous works, such as ‘Winter Smith: London Burning’, also explored LGBT themes, and featured socialite Winter Smith escaping a zombie apocalypse. ‘London’s Burning’ became an Amazon best-seller in LGBT fiction.

When Strange doesn’t write, he works in television. He also presents a radio show all about the paranormal. He has an enthusiasm for Britney Spears and cats.

Jack can be reached on Twitter: @JackSamStrange

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Review~Breakers by Doug Johnstone. #Orentober #TeamOrenda

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Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings, he’s also trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addict mum. On a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead, but that’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because the woman is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord, Deke Holt. With the police and the Holts closing in, and his shattered family in devastating danger, Tyler meets posh girl Flick in another stranger’s house, and he thinks she may just be his salvation … unless he drags her down too. A pulsatingly tense psychological thriller, Breakers is also a breathtakingly brutal, beautiful and deeply moving story of a good kid in the wrong family, from one of Scotland’s finest crime writers.

Today as part of the month long celebration of Orenda Books I’m resharing my reviews of stunning  breakers by Doug Johnstone.

Review

Many thanks to the author, publisher for the ARC in return for an honest review.

What can I say about this book, other than it is bloody fantastic.  It had me engrossed throughout. The story is all too plausible and full of the gritty reality of life on the edge of a city, tucked away from the romance of Edinburgh tourist laden streets.

The atmosphere is incredible, you can feel the tension ebbing off the pages, the threatening events and living nightmate than envelopes Tyler and his family.  I was so engrossed in the story, I forgot to turn out the lights at night and get some sleep. It all felt so real that when I did, I’m struggled to sleep, because I felt so unnerved and the slightest noise had me wondering who might be around.  For me that’s the mark of a top notch thriller, when it gets so far under your skin and sets the nerve endings firing on all cylinders.

On top of this, the story is quite moving in places. Tyler is forced into crime by an brutal brother, while caring for his little sister and drug addicted mother and his situation is written with a understanding of what poverty and hopelessness can do to a underclass robbed of all hope. Tyler is written with a survival instinct as part of his very being, which is sad because a child should never have to face the horror and violence which is part of his very existence. I found it near impossible to judge him for some of his actions, so nuanced was the writing and so real he felt to me as a reader.

Superb in its ability to distract me from real life troubles, addictive in that I found it near impossible to put down, Breakers by Doug Johnstone will certainly feature in my favourite reads of 2019.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones

 

About the author

Doug Johnstone

Doug Johnstone is an author, journalist and musician based in Edinburgh. He’s had eight novels published, most recently Fault Lines. His previous novel, The Jump, was a finalist for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Several of his other novels have been award winners and bestsellers, and he’s had short stories published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines. His work has been praised by the likes of Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Irvine Welsh. Several of his novels have been optioned for film and television. Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow. He’s worked as an RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University, taught creative writing at Strathclyde University and William Purves Funeral Directors. He mentors and assesses manuscripts for The Literary Consultancy and regularly tutors at Moniack Mhor writing retreat. Doug has released seven albums in various bands, and is the drummer for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He also reviews books for The Big Issue magazine, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club and has a PhD in nuclear physics. Follow him on Twitter @doug_Johnstone and visit his website: dougjohnstone.com.

 

Guest Post ~ Havenwakes by Fi Phillips.

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What if we lived in a world where magic and robots existed together? A world where hidden cities lie just beyond the next door, hidden in plain site and guarded by mystical creatures?

Steve Haven is just another ordinary twelve-year-old boy, who just happens to be the nephew of Rex Haven, founder of the world-famous Haven Robotics Corporation.

When Rex dies in mysterious circumstances, Steve finds himself the guardian of a strange artefact known only as the Reactor. But there are people out there who want the Reactor; dangerous and powerful people.

With his parents missing and no one in the normal world he can trust, Steve must join forces with a strange collection of magical beings to save the world by stopping the Reactor from falling into the wrong hands.

What is the truth behind Rex Haven’s death?

What is the secret behind the Reactor and its power?

Do the answers lie in the magical land known only as Darkacre?

Haven Wakes is the debut novel by Fi Phillips and the first in The Haven Chronicles, an exciting and enthralling journey through new worlds, both futuristic and magical.

If you enjoy fantastic settings, magical powers and futuristic devices, then you’ll love Haven Wakes.

Today I’m delighted to welcome Haven Wakes author Fi Phillips to booksaremycwtches with a fascinating guest post about the inspiration behind her novel.

Haven Wakes – the inspiration

“What inspired you to write Haven Wakes?”
“What’s the inspiration behind the book?”
I’ve been asked those questions so many times over the last few weeks they should be easy to answer by now, surely.
The reality is that a lot of what inspired my fantasy fiction novel crept up on me unawares, sidling its way into my periphery until I couldn’t remember when it became part of my story. Maybe that’s always the way with a story’s evolution, and Haven Wakes has certainly evolved over the last few years.
Adding a little grit to the setting
The initial inspiration came from a decision to change a story I’d been working on, The Crystal Prince, from a full-on, Tolkien-style fantasy fiction into something altogether more futuristic and scientific.
As a medieval fantasy, I just couldn’t get the story to work. I fiddled, and re-wrote, and got critiques, and scribbled some more, but the story just refused to behave.
It wasn’t until I took a long, hard look at the story that I realised what was wrong. All that fantasy, with its wizards and mystical settings and evil rulers, didn’t have enough reality. What I mean, is that it just wasn’t grounded enough to be believable. I know, I know, fantasy fiction is supposed to be all about suspending our disbelief for a while, but even a fantasy tale needs real relationships, real physical rules (darn gravity) and real consequences.
What I needed to do, to inject that reality, was to move my story into a more recognisable setting. The here and now was a little too close and mundane, so I made the decision to re-write my story in a futuristic version of our world.

New friends and old familiars
Setting my story in a new future setting meant that I needed to create characters who would fit in that world but to keep the essence of my original story, I brought across some old familiar friends too.
My two favourite characters – a wise-cracking travelling salesman with a knack for finding just the right thing for every occasion and a shadowy assassin – were a major inspiration in building the new world from the old.
Magic and robots
My novel was always going to be full of magic but the more I thought about this future world where magic was hidden, the more the idea of a world reliant on science, and especially robots, appealed.
I began to imagine how we would use robots in a world where they were everywhere. Servants? Drivers? Walking the dog?
And what would those robots look like? Humanoid? Animalistic? Something else?
How would humans change if robots could do most things for them? Would it be like the spaceship-held humans in Wall-e or something altogether more dark and harder to recognise like in Bladerunner?
What would the laws be around the use of robots? Isaac Asimov? Something that gave rights to robots?
Home-grown inspiration
A lot of what you will find in Haven Wakes was inspired by my upbringing:
communities that lived in red brick period terrace houses, that looked out for each other and were almost an extended family in themselves
colourful characters who lived by their own rules
the appreciation of family, even where that family is made up of friends, old and new
the ability to find magic in the most mundane of things, like a stranger’s smile or the smell of freshly cut grass
The journey continues
And now, with Haven Wakes due for release on 1st October, that story has provided even more inspiration for the next novel in the series and all the books that will come after. Who knows where Steve Haven will go from here?

The novel can be purchased Amazon

About the author

For many years Fi Phillips worked in an office environment until the arrival of her two children robbed her of her short-term memory and sent her hurtling down a new, bumpy, creative path. She finds that getting the words down on paper is the best way to keep the creative muse out of her shower. Fi lives in the wilds of North Wales with her family, earning a living as a copywriter, playwright and fantasy novelist. Writing about magical possibilities is her passion. You can follow her on Twitter  @FisWritingHaven–  Or at fiphillipswriter.com – where you can also sign up for an exclusive short story from the universe of Haven Wakes – absolutely FREE!

Review ~ Turbulent Wake by Paul E Hardisty. #Orentober #TeamOrenda

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A stark, stunning and emotive new novel from the bestselling author of the Claymore Straker series

Ethan Scofield returns to the place of his birth to bury his father. Hidden in one of the upstairs rooms of the old man’s house he finds a strange manuscript, a collection of stories that seems to cover the whole of his father’s turbulent life. As his own life starts to unravel, Ethan works his way through the manuscript, trying to find answers to the mysteries that have plagued him since he was a child. What happened to his little brother? Why was his mother taken from him? And why, in the end, when there was no one else left, did his own father push him away? Swinging from the coral cays of the Caribbean to the dangerous deserts of Yemen and the wild rivers of Africa, Turbulent Wake is a bewitching, powerful and deeply moving story of love and loss … of the indelible damage we do to those closest to us and, ultimately, of the power of redemption in a time of change.

‘This is a remarkably well-written, sophisticated novel in which the people and places, as well as frequent scenes of violent action, all come alive on the page…’ Literary Review

As Orentober continues I’m looking back to my review of Turbulent Wake. Another superb novel from publisher Orenda Books. 

Review

My thanks to the author, publisher for the ARC in return for an honest review.

I’m usually found gushing about any book published by Orenda Books for good reason.  Today is no different. Turbulent Wake is a profoundly moving read about love, loss and discovery.

Yes there are moments of violence, but what has stuck with me, is the writers understanding of human nature and the things we fear the most, the passing of time and our own mortality.  Within a few pages he describes the passing of time in such clarity and with such tenderness that it took my breath away, for what we think of as an ocean of time stretched out before us, turns ‘out to be only a teardrop ‘. I often sit back and wonder how I have suddenly woken up one day to discover I’m older than my father was when he died and yet it seems only yesterday that he walked out of our door never to return.  For its the quiet moments at the heart of this novel that make it so special to me, in speaking about some of my greatest fears, yet still managing to entertain on so many levels.

This story in just overflowing with moments that seemed to speak directly to me and for that it will always sit front and centre amongst my favourite reads.  I often find myself thinking, after a passing comment, if the person speaking to me really understands who I am and if I even understand myself. One of my biggest regrets is never being able to get to know my dad as an adult and so the central narrative of this book, Ethan getting to know his father, through the pages of writing he left behind, resonated with me. For the engineer in writing of himself, in death gifts his son understanding, not just about the secrets he kept, but of how they shaped them both.

Both father and son are damaged and deeply flawed, just like us all and the writer explores how the effects of  fractured relationships have repercussions that reverberate through the generations that follow.  He takes us back and forth in time as we learn of the young engineers past and then back to the present and how Ethan rudderless and incapable of sustaining a relationship, begins to understand how similar they are and how understanding his father he can understand himself.

So why read this book? To learn if Ethan learns from his father’s words.  To understand how the engineers past shaped him, but also to spend time with these two wonderful characters and be moved by both the story and how it speaks to us as readers.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones

About the author

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Canadian Paul Hardisty has spent twenty-five years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).The first four novels in his Claymore Straker series, The Abrupt Physics of Dying, The Evolution of FearReconciliation for the Dead and Absolution all received great critical acclaim and The Abrupt Physics of Dying was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. Paul is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia. Follow him on Twitter @Hardisty_Paul

Review~ The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen. #Orentober #TeamOrenda

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A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists. With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, markinng a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir. . ‘I was glued to this book. It made me laugh and grimace at times, and also made me sad. 

Review

As part of #Orentober, I’m resharing my review of this deliciously dark thriller. 

Many thanks to the author, Orenda Books and blog tour organiser Anne Cater for the ARC copy of The Man Who Died in return for an honest review.
It’s not always guaranteed that a book in translation works outside the language it was originally written in, but this darkly funny and original story is an utter triumph. It’s compelling, intelligent, packed full of atmosphere and will make you smile, it will even make you laugh. Scandinavian Noir is not normally known for its comic element and this is what makes The Man Who died such a new and imaginative creation.
If you’re worried that the comedy element will ruin your enjoyment, because you read this genre for its edgy darkness, fear not, for it has this in abundance as well. Reading this book is like enjoying your very favourite choice of food, but adding a new ingredient, the balance and flavours are different, better, enhanced and deliciously appetizing.
From page one to the conclusion I was addicted to the story of Jaakko Kaunismaa who faces his own death, when he discovers he has been poisoned over a period of time by an unknown assailant. I smugly thought I had worked out who had poisoned the unsuspecting Jaakko, worked it out from the clues in the story, oh, how wrong was I, writer Antti Tuomainen is far too clever to reveal the guilty party so easily! He takes you down one road, smacks you with a literary u turn and only when he has beguiled you with unexpected twists and turns, do you find out who it is that wants Jaakko dead.
The novel is full of amazing characters, quirky individuals who each play a part in this very different thriller. From the yet to die victim, bear with me, his death is promised, to his fellow mushroom obsessed employees and crazy murderous competitors. You are never going to be bored by this cast of unusual characters.
As for those traditional elements you enjoy so much, all the twists and turns propel the story forward at a thrilling speed. You are sat on the edge of your seat, book in hand, turning pages over without pause, needing to know who is responsible for all that befalls Jaakko. While at its core the novel retains a darkness that envelops you the reader in it’s chilling embrace. You may find yourself laughing at some of the events, but the comedy is dark and shows human relationships at their worst.
I adored this book. Its differences from more traditional Scandinavian Noir were exciting. You get everything you love from this genre, but with an altogether more original element. It’s stunning and will stay with me for a long time. I will be very surprised if this book does not feature in my top reads of 2017.

A special mention goes to David Hackston for the superb translation from Finnish to English.

The Man Who Died can be purchased from Amazon and Waterstones.

Author spotlight

Antti Tuomainen

 Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) 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. The Finnish press labeled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen “The king of Helsinki Noir” when Dark as my Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula.

Antti Tuomainen is a wonderful writer. His characters, plots and atmosphere are masterfully drawn.”

Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Antti  Tuomainen can be followed on Twitter

Review ~ A Modern Family by Helga Flatland. #Orentober #TeamOrenda

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When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce. Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history. A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change…

Today as part of Orentober, a celebration of all the amazing books published by Orenda Books, I’m resharing my review of A Modern Family.

Review

 

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

Just occasionally, you come across a book that is not just a delight to read, it is so special, it’s placed on the bookshelf labelled, My All Time Favourites. A Modern Family now sits proudly on that shelf, resplendent in its glory as one of the most perceptive reads I’ve had the joy of reading in many a long year. It joins many others from Orenda Books, small and yet incredibly special independent publisher, whose championing of its authors, has given us books that should be gracing the top literary prizes.

I don’t normally compare one writer with another, but in this case I think it is fair and a complement to both. Helga Flatland has the same ability to deliver a story that shines with poetic clarity and is peopled with a rich tapestry of descriptive characterisation as is Elizabeth Strout. Here we have a story that takes ordinary people, their rich and complex emotions and weaves a tale of their struggles to understand both themselves and their family.

Told from the points of view of siblings Liv, Ellen and Hakon it deals with the reactions they each have to their parent’s decision to divorce. From this moment on their lives and family begin to unravel. These amazingly characters could be you and me or our families; the beauty of the story being that as you read, you can’t help but begin to look at yourself and those around you, wondering if you really know them, despite what we think is the strongest of bonds. All the characters in this book, felt like friends, ones I wanted to spend a lifetime with. I think they will remain with me for many years to come. They are drawn with vivid strokes of the pen, so that you can’t help but feel deeply for them. Their power over the reader, born from their normality, from fact that the pain, love and troubles that grip them, have all been faced by many of us.

The story is told with a deceptive simplicity, characterisation being a shining beacon that lights up a powerful story, of the fragility of the threads that connect us. Yet the story is not one of hopelessness, it is in fact a tale of hope and the enduring power of love and forgiveness. I didn’t want it to end, I always wanted to be there with them. As the story, brought their thoughts and lives into my world, like a richly woven tapestry. Intricate, careful, yet perfectly written, I could find no fault with it.

I can not recommend this book highly enough, I still miss Liv, Ellen and Hakon ‘s voices now and I think I always will.

Utterly spellbinding and perfect in every way.

You can purchase A Modern Family from Amazon and Waterstones.

About the author 

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Helga Flatland is already one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors. Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize. She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards. Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller. The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies.

You can follow the author on Twitter

 

Review ~ Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen. #Orentober #TeamOrenda

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Sex, lies and ill-fitting swimwear … Sun Protection Factor 100

Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village – the ‘hottest beach in Finland’. The suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her old hometown. The mission: find out what happened, by any means necessary. With a nod to Fargo, and dark noir, Palm Beach, Finland is both a page-turning thriller and a black comedy about lust for money, fleeing dreams and people struggling at turning points in their lives – chasing their fantasies regardless of reason.

.. ‘Right up there with the best’ TLS

‘Deftly plotted, poignant and perceptive in its wry reflections on mortality and very funny’ Irish Times

‘Like the death cap mushroom, Tuomainen’s dark story manages to be as delicious as it is toxic’ Sunday Express

‘A roller-coaster read and extraordinarily poignant’ Guardian

‘A winner right from the first sentence … an offbeat jewel’ Publishers Weekly

‘A tightly paced Scandinavian thriller with a wicked sense of humour’ Foreword Reviews

‘Is it wrong that I really want to visit this Palm Beach even though its fictional and sit on an inflatable flamingo? Antti has one wicked sense of humour and this is no more apparent than in this book. It’s dark, humourous and darkly humourous. Palm Beach Finland is a destination you’ll want to have on your literary boarding pass this summer!’ The Book Trail

‘Finnish criminal chucklemeister Tuomainen is channelling Carl Hiaasen in this hilarious novel set in a bizarre Florida-style beach resort on Finland’s chilly shore. There are comically inept dim-crims, inventive psychos, a hot babe and even a blow-up pink flamingo — which is a lot for ace detective Jan Nyman to deal with when he arrives, undercover, to investigate a mysterious death.’ Palm Beach, Finland was recommended in the Times Crime Club. 

Today as part of #Orentober I’m resharing my review of an extremely dark and funny thriller, Palm Beach Finland. 

Review

Firstly I would like to thank the author, Publisher Orenda Books and blog tour organiser Anne Cater for the ARC in return for an honest review.

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Having read and LOVED Antii Tuomainen novel The Man Who Died, I have been looking forward to his next offering with great excitement. I can promise you fellow readers that the wait was worth it. This darkly funny and original tale is an utter triumph!

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There is a murder, a police officer sent to investigate, a victim, an assorted group of criminals and a failed beach resort. Now that sounds pretty much standard fair, but it is anything but formulaic. Antii Tuomainen takes the traditional elements expected in a thriller and adds in darkly delicious humour, to create a black comedy and an addictive page turner, I didn’t want to end.

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It’s compelling, clever, packed full of atmosphere and will make you beam with enjoyment, it will even make you laugh. Now I realise that most people don’t read thrillers to be amused, but that is what makes this book such a rich and rewarding read. It captures with perfect clarity the often farcical behaviour of those caught up in events in Palm Beach Finland. The humour gives it an edge and enhances the portrayal of human relationships at their worst, giving what would otherwise be overwhelmingly dark tale, an element of humanity. Humour can often be found in the darkest corners and Antii Tuomainen celebrates this aplomb.

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The novel is full of amazing characters, quirky individuals who each play a part in this very different thriller. Now I know you’re not meant to like the ‘bad’ guys, but bear with me, because I must confess, I adored them. Coco and Robert are a pair of life’s drifters, not great with the whole adult living thing and they are even worse criminals. I found myself wanting to hug them, because they are seriously incompetent. Then you have Jan Nyman the police officer working undercover to solve a murder, who is as lost and rudderless as the two unlucky criminals and immerses himself in his work to cover over the cracks in his life. Add in Olivia Koskia who is equally hapless at life, a psychopath bent on revenge and a inept business man and you have a stellar cast of characters who together are used by the author to write a character driven first class thriller.

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As for the story, it’s original, extraordinarily funny, sad, but also uplifting. It is also incredibly clever, in the way it weaves each character into the story and catching them up in a web of lies and deceit. The writer has taken a group of people all looking to change, chasing dreams that are fading from view and who in their desperation not to let go, leads them to actions they would otherwise deplore. When you’re reading, your caught up in the story and time just flaws past unnoticed. The characters become like old friends, you wish you could go back and visit again and again.

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I would recommend this book to all readers, not just thriller readers, because it is a real treat. From page one I was gripped in the human drama as it unfolded. I laughed, sometimes inappropriately and was also sad because I didn’t want it to end.

You can purchase Palm Beach Finland from Amazon and Waterstones.

About the author.

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Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) 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. The Finnish press labeled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen “The king of Helsinki Noir” when Dark as my Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula.

“Antti Tuomainen is a wonderful writer. His characters, plots and atmosphere are masterfully drawn” Yrsa Sigurdardottir

You can follow the author on Twitter

 

 

 

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.

 

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

Foxfire Illustration 1Review

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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