blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Set My Heart to Five – Simon Stephenson*

Set in 2054, when humans have locked themselves out of the internet by forgetting the names of their favourite teacher and first pet, Simon Stephenson’s dazzling debut, Set My Heart to Five, is a hilarious, touching, strikingly perceptive story of the emotional awakening of an android named Jared, and a profound exploration of what it truly means to be human.
Hi!
My name is Jared.
I am sincerely pleased to meet you.
Also, I am a bot!
Unless you have been living under a rock in North Korea or New Zealand – Ha! – you of course know what a bot is.
Nonetheless I am programmed to relay the following dialogue to each new human I encounter:
Please do not be fooled by my human-like appearance.
I am a mere bot!
I do not have feelings or anything else that might be misconstrued as a ‘soul’.
Instead, I have been programmed to a high level of proficiency in dentistry!
Should you have any concerns please immediately report me to the Bureau of Robotics.

Simon Stephenson is a Scottish writer based in Los Angeles. He previously worked as an NHS doctor, most recently in paediatrics in London.

His first book, LET NOT THE WAVES OF THE SEA (John Murrays, 2011), was a memoir about the loss of his brother in the Indian ocean tsunami. It was serialised as ‘Book of the Week’ on BBC Radio 4 and won ‘Best First Book’ at the Scottish Book Awards.

Simon moved to the US followed the success of his spec screenplay, FRISCO, a semi-autobiographical story about a depressed doctor who desperately needed a change. The script was at the top of the Blacklist – an industry-voted list of Hollywood’s favourite unproduced scripts – and opened the door to a screenwriting career in the US. In 2015, Simon was photographed alongside Phoebe Waller-Bridge as one of Screen International’s ‘Stars of Tomorrow’. His friends never tire of telling him that Screen International were at least half right.

As a screenwriter, Simon nonetheless continues to be much in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. He spent two years writing at Pixar in San Francisco, and originated and wrote Amazon’s forthcoming feature film LOUIS WAIN (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy). Julia Roberts attached to his screenplay TRAIN MAN, and the film rights to SET MY HEART TO FIVE were pre-emptively acquired by Working Title Films, Focus Features, and Nira Park’s Complete Fiction Pictures. Edgar Wright is set to direct the film from Simon’s screenplay.

One of Simon’s most memorable moments from his time in Hollywood was taking a meeting with an actor he admired most, and then having said actor kindly insist on driving Simon home in his distinctive vintage Porsche while telling him about his mind-blowing stories about his canonical body of work. As a token of thanks, Simon then gave that car to the villain in Set My Heart To Five!

My thoughts:

This is an interesting book, written partly in screen play extracts as well as the thoughts of bot Jared, who might look pretty human but doesn’t think or feel like one.

He’s in search for more than his humdrum existence as a dentist bot, programmed to provide excellent tooth based health care. It starts with old movies, then he’s on the run.

It took me a little while to get into the story because of the narrative voice – Jared has a very specific way of communicating and it took me a few chapters to adapt to the style.

But Jared is an endearing soul, with his cat and his desire to be someone and understand humans.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Under Your Skin – Rose McClelland*

Where is Hannah?
When Kyle’s wife Hannah goes missing, the whole town is out in force to try to find her. One person knows where she is. One person is keeping a secret.
Detective Inspector Simon Peters and Detective Kerry Lawlor have been brought in to investigate the case, but Hannah has left no traces and Kyle has no clues.
Local Belfast resident Julia Matthews joins the #FindHannah campaign and becomes friendly with Kyle, sympathising with his tragedy. As Julia becomes more involved in the case than she bargained for, she begins to uncover more secrets than the Police ever could.
Julia was only trying to help, but has she become drawn into a web of mystery that she can’t escape?

Discover a gripping thriller that has you on the edge of your seat!

“Under your skin” is Rose’s fourth novel. Her previous three novels were romantic fiction published by Crooked Cat. She has made the genre jump from “chick lit” to psychological thriller and is enjoying delving into a darker corner of her mind!

Rose has also written two short plays which were performed in the Black Box theatre in Belfast.

She discusses book reviews on her You Tube channel and writes theatre reviews for her blog.

She loves nothing more than curling up with her cats and a good book. She has two rescue cats – Toots, who is ginger with an inquisitive face and Soots, who is black and hops along on his 3 legs looking ever so cute.

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My thoughts:

Kyle is a horrible worm of a man and Hannah and Julia both deserve better than being drawn into his web.

As the police investigate Hannah’s disappearance, and the cracks begin to show in Kyle’s nice guy visage, the truth is revealed in flashbacks.

The ending is very satisfying and suggests that there is light after the darkness of domestic abuse and coercive control.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Miss Benson’s Beetle – Rachael Joyce*

“The differences between them – all those things she’d once found so infuriating she now accepted. Being Enid’s friend meant there were always going to be surprises. However close they were it didn’t entitle her to Enid’s memories and neither did it allow her to be part of Enid’s life before they met. Being a friend meant accepting those unknowable things. It was by placing herself side by side with Enid that Margery had finally begun to see the true out­line of herself. And she knew it now: Enid was her friend.”

It is 1950, two unlikely women set off on a hare-brained adventure to the other side of the w orld to try and find a beetle, and in doing so discover friendship and how to be their best of themselves. This is quintessential Joyce: at once poignant and playful, with huge heart and the same resonance, truth and lightness of touch as her phenomenally succcesful debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

Britain, post Second World War. In a moment of madness Margery Benson abandons her sensible job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. She is going to travel to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist.

Enid Pretty, in pink hat and pompom sandals, is not the companion she had in mind. But together they will find themselves drawn into an ad­venture that exceeds all expectations. They must risk everything, break all the rules, but at the top of a red mountain they will discover who they truly are, and how to be the best of themselves.

This is a novel that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story but it is also about what it means to be a woman and a tender exploration of a friendship that defies all boundaries.

Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Music Shop and a collection of interlinked short stories, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Her books have been translated into thirty -six languages and two are in development for film.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the CommonwealthBook prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Rachelwas awarded the SpecsaversNational Book Awards NewWriter ofthe Yearin December 201 2 and shortlisted for the UK Author of the Year201 4. Rachel was a Costa prize judge and University Big Read author in 2019.

She has also written over twenty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Bronte novels. She moved to writing after a long career as an actor, performing leading roles for the RSC, the National Theatre and Cheek by Jowl. She lives with her family in Gloucestershire.

My thoughts:

This book was a delight. Margery and Enid are such an entertaining odd couple as they travel across the world to find a beetle most people don’t believe exists in the rainforest of New Caledonia.

Their adventures are bittersweet and I am with the author’s sister on this – I don’t like the ending!

The two women are such characters, I could so easily picture them, Margery with her old fashioned suits and eternal spinster air and flighty Enid, all baby pink and hair dye. But underneath these exteriors are two remarkable souls searching for something more than just beetles – connection.

There are some genuine laugh out loud funny moments, and ones of sudden sadness, balancing the levity.

Beautifully written and one of those stories you’d really rather didn’t end.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Eleven Lines to Somewhere – Alyson Rudd*


In a world of what-ifs, a connection has been made …

When Ryan spots a young woman on the tube on his commute, he can’t take his eyes off her. Instantly attracted and intrigued, he’s keen to find out more about his mysterious fellow passenger.

The woman he thinks of as Millie spends all day travelling the Underground, unable to leave for reasons unbeknownst to Ryan. For some inexplicable reason, he just can’t shake the feeling he wants to help her escape her endless commute.

My thoughts:

This is a rather sweet story that could have become something creepy but redeemed itself.

Ryan keeps seeing a beautiful woman on the Tube, then he starts following her (see what I mean about creepy), luckily he’s convinced to speak to her and meets Sylvie, a young woman riding London’s rails trying to fix something in herself.

They fall in love and begin to build something, other stories cross their paths, like the lines of the Underground, and it reminds us that we’re all connected in tiny ways.

A smile might make someone’s day and change their life, and being in the right place at the right moment can save them.

Weirdly I know the area of North London the characters travel into town from well, I used to catch the Piccadilly every day to uni so it was strange to imagine these stories playing out in the stations and carriages I’ve been in myself. While this is fiction, there are real stories going on around us every day.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Life We Almost Had – Amelia Henley*

This is not a typical love story, but it’s our love story.

Anna wasn’t looking for love when Adam swept her off her feet but there was no denying their connection, and she believed they would be together forever.

Years later, cracks have appeared in their relationship. Anna is questioning whether their love can really be eternal when a cruel twist of fate delivers a crushing blow, and Anna and Adam are completely lost to one another. Now, Anna needs Adam more than ever, but the way back to him has life-changing consequences.

Is a second chance at first love really worth the sacrifice? Anna needs to decide and time is running out…

My thoughts:

This is a sad, sweet tale of love, loss and finding a new way to live. It tackles some big issues as well as some futuristic science.

The relationship between Anna and Adam is recognisable as pretty normal – not perfect but not terrible, they’ve faced difficulties and it’s caused strain, which feels familiar to anyone in a relationship, we all have our ups and downs.

Be warned, this is a tearjerker, so have tissues handy. The ending is very bittersweet and lovely.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Written in Blood – Chris Carter*

A serial killer will stop at nothing…

The Killer. His most valuable possession has been stolen. Now he must retrieve it, at any cost.

The Girl. Angela Wood wanted to teach the man a lesson. It was a bag, just like all the others. But when she opens it, the worst nightmare of her life begins.

The Detective. A journal ends up at Robert Hunter’s desk. It soon becomes clear that there is a serial killer on the loose. And if he can’t stop him in time, more people will die.

If you have read it. You must die.

Born in Brazil of Italian origin, Chris Carter studied psychology and criminal behaviour at the University of Michigan. As a member of the Michigan State District Attorney’s Criminal Psychology team, he interviewed and studied many criminals, including serial and multiple homicide offenders with life imprisonment convictions. He now lives in London.

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My thoughts:

This is a dark thriller with a determined detective and a man insensible to others’ suffering pitched against each other in a race against time.

When a pickpocket steals a serial killer’s diary and the LAPD become involved, the killer determines to get back his property – no care for the consequences.

Hunter is a sympathetic protagonist, the hero cop with nothing but his job to live for, I would have liked Angela to have been a bit more central, but the cat and mouse game between Hunter and the mysterious murderer is very cleverly done. The killer’s diary is an interesting plot device, the cold dispassionate tone of his observations clinical and then emotionally driven.

The denouement is satisfying and the final showdown cinematic in its execution.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Paris Savages – Katherine Johnson*

Fraser Island, Australia 1882. The population of the Badtjala people is in sharp decline following a run of brutal massacres. When German scientist Louis Müller offers to sail three Badtjala people – Bonny, Jurano and Dorondera – to Europe to perform to huge crowds, the proud and headstrong Bonny agrees, hoping to bring his people’s plight to the Queen of England.

Accompanied by Müller’s bright daughter, Hilda, the group begins their journey to belle-époque Europe to perform in Hamburg, Berlin, Paris and eventually London. While crowds in Europe are enthusiastic to see the unique dances, singing, fights and pole climbing from the oldest culture in the world, the attention is relentless, and the fascination of scientists intrusive. When disaster strikes, Bonny must find a way to return home.

KATHERINE JOHNSON lives in Tasmania with her husband and two children. She is the author of three previous novels and her manuscripts have won Varuna Awards and the Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Prizes. She recently completed a PhD, which forms the basis of her latest novel, Paris Savages.

Website

My thoughts:

A moving and at times shocking portrait of the experiences of three Aboriginal people, brought to Europe to be exhibited in “human zoos” alongside other ethnic peoples from around the world.

Treated as animals or objects by scientists and onlookers alike, the dignity and courage of Bonny, Jurano and Dorondera is impressive.

We’d like to think we live in more enlightened times but the continued “othering” of people of colour around the globe suggests we’re no better than the gawking crowds of the 19th century.

This is a timely and powerful novel, reminding us of the humanity of others and that we are all the same, regardless of our skin colour and origins.

K’gari, the island homeland of the Badtjala, was only officially returned to its people in 2014, the author’s note tells us, I hope that the ancestors of the real Bonny, Jurano and Dorondera still live there, among their families and friends, free from the kind of exploitation and trauma their ancestors suffered at the hands of so-called scientists, the real savages.

This is a book I imagine that will linger long after the reader finishes it, as it has with me.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Mechanical Maestro – Emily Owen*

London, 1857. Brothers George and Douglas Abernathy are clockmakers who are barely scraping a living in their family’s shop. They are also brilliant inventors with a sideline building custombuilt androids and other technology ahead of its time. Their sixteen-year-old sister, Molly, is also a genius, specialising in transformative plant biology, but earns her keep by sewing.

The Abernathys’ fortunes improve dramatically when the brothers invent a clockwork automaton composer named Maestro, whose musical artistry takes London by storm. But there are those who believe Maestro is a fake, and others who think him a monstrosity. As Maestro tries to make sense of the world of London’s highsociety which he is thrown into, he incites the interest of sinister figures who would go to any lengths to discover what makes him tick.

My thoughts:

A delightful steampunk tinged tale of a machine that can think and feel, a musical genius made of pistons and clockwork.

Maestro and the Abernathys are tremendously fun characters and the story is a real romp through Victorian London, with dodgy professors, dastardly villains, an Earl with more money than sense (though he turns out to be kind) and mad inventors.

Molly is easily the best Abernathy, with her weird and wonderful plants and dangerous fruit, flying Spuggy and saving the day, because obviously everyone underestimates the girl!

I hope this evolves into a serious as there’s definitely scope for more hijinks and magical machines. I also want more clockwork mice nibbling things and little machines tidying up – it was marvellous.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Resident – David Jackson*

THERE’S A SERIAL KILLER ON THE RUN
AND HE’S HIDING IN YOUR HOUSE

Thomas Brogan is a serial killer. With a trail of bodies in his wake and the police hot on his heels, it seems like Thomas has nowhere left to hide. That is until he breaks into an abandoned house at the end of a terrace on a quiet street. And when he climbs up into the loft, he realises that he can drop down into all the other houses through the shared attic space.

That’s when the real fun begins. Because the one thing that Thomas enjoys even more than killing is playing games with his victims – the lonely old woman, the bickering couple, the tempting young newlyweds. And his new neighbours have more than enough dark secrets to make this game his best one yet…

Do you fear The Resident? Soon you’ll be dying to meet him.

My thoughts:

The second creepiest thing I ever saw on TV was an episode of CSI where the murderer was living in the victim’s ceiling. My parents’ house has a huge empty attic, there was a chimney in my room (hello very old house) and I don’t think I slept for a week after that.

The Resident is as creepy but also funnier than that. Honestly bits of it are quite ridiculous, which alleviates the shivers. Thomas might be a very bad man but he is also very human and not the most ingenious of people.

His fixations on the people living in the terrace houses he haunts are pretty bizarre, but wouldn’t we all secretly like to know what goes on in other people’s houses, even if not quite to this extent.

This was really enjoyable, gripping and clever. I now live in a flat and know my upstairs neighbours so no nightmares for me over this thankfully.

(And the number one creepiest thing I’ve ever seen on TV? The human mushroom farm on Hannibal – genuinely makes me want to hurl.)


*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Lost Souls – Jonathan & Jesse Kellerman*

A DETECTIVE UNDER PRESSURE

Deputy Coroner Clay Edison is juggling a new baby who won’t sleep with working the graveyard shift. For once he’s trying to keep things simple.

A HAUNTING DISCOVERY

When infant remains are found by developers demolishing a local park, a devastating cold case is brought back to light.

A DESPERATE SEARCH FOR ANSWERS

Clay has barely begun to investigate when he receives a call from a man who thinks the remains could belong to his sister – who went missing fifty years ago. Now Clay is locked in a relentless search that will unearth a web of violence, secrets and betrayal.

Because in this town, the past isn’t dead. It’s very much alive. And it can kill.

About the authors

Jonathan Kellerman is the Number One New York Times bestselling author of more than forty crime novels, including the Alex Delaware series, The Butcher’s Theater, Billy Straight, The Conspiracy Club, Twisted, True Detectives, and The Murderer’s Daughter.

With his wife, bestselling novelist Faye Kellerman, he co-authored Double Homicide and Capital Crimes.

With his son, bestselling novelist Jesse Kellerman, he co-authored Crime Scene, The Golem of Hollywood, and The Golem of Paris.

He is also the author of two children’s books and numerous nonfiction works, including Savage Spawn: Reflections on Violent Children and With Strings Attached: The Art and Beauty of Vintage Guitars.

He has won the Goldwyn, Edgar, and Anthony awards and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association, and has been nominated for a Shamus Award.

My thoughts:

This was a compelling novel of investigation and excavating the past. There are two cases, one that of a dead child’s remains found buried in a park and the other of a child, missing or perhaps dead, fifty years ago.

Clay is an engaging protagonist, juggling his job as a coroner’s deputy and new fatherhood, the scenes between him and his tiny daughter are gentle relief to the cases he’s working.

The deaths of children are highly emotive, and the remains found spark protests and political wrangling, even as Clay is trying to reunite them with their family.

The cold case of the missing child from fifty years ago isn’t remotely clear cut – there’s little to no evidence that there even was a child, making Clay’s life even harder.

The cases are compelling and the investigations detailed and engaging, it’s clear the authors are confident and knowledgeable in their field, making the narrative flow and keeping the reader connected.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.