blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Fractured Lives – Russ Colchamiro

In the cosmic realm of Eternity, there’s only one private eye to hire when your world gets turned inside out—Angela Hardwicke.

Darla Fyne, a college freshman and galaxy design savant, is suffering from a nervous breakdown—or is she the victim of an urban legend known as the Scarlet Raj?

As Hardwicke follows the intersecting worlds of art galleries, college dorms, and a semi-secret clan that patches up tears in the Universe, her investigation will either uncover a hoax gone wrong or a plot that could shift the balance of power across the entire realm. If only she can fight through her own paranoia to tell the difference.

In Russ Colchamiro’s new Sci-Fi mystery Fractured Lives, Angela Hardwicke is confronted by a PI’s worst nightmare—dark secrets from her past that will irrevocably change her future.

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Excerpt
I reach inside my jacket, hand on the grip of my weapon. I don’t want to use it. I don’t want to need it. I want this to be nothing more than another awkward, misconstrued moment in an awkward, misconstrued career taking on awkward, misconstrued cases.
I want to be free of danger. I want to stop putting myself in danger. I want to come home every night and hug my son. I want him to hug me back. I want to let go of the demons that haunt me, the past that defines me, and a future that frightens me.
I want to sleep at night.
I want to wake up in the morning believing my life doesn’t have to be one mystery after another, one dark path leading down a darker alley of a bitter, lonely labyrinth that inevitably reveals someone’s pain. Their ugly secrets.
But most of all, I want to be Angela Hardwicke.
Not Angela Hardwicke, Private Investigator. Just Angela
Hardwicke. Me. Whoever that is, and whatever that means. Which is all well and good, but if I don’t get myself out of this particularly awkward, misconstrued moment, I might not have the chance to find out.

Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the zany SF/F backpacking comedy series Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the SF anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.

Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two ninjas, and crazy dog Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, Camelot 13, TV Gods 2, They Keep Killing Glenn, Thrilling Adventure Yarns, Camelot 13, and Brave New Girls.

He is now working on the first novel in a new series featuring his hardboiled private eye Angela Hardwicke, and the first of three collaborative novella projects.

Russ ColchamiroFacebook | Twitter | Goodreads  

My thoughts: this is the second Angela Hardwicke book I’ve read and while some of the concepts take a little while to wrap my brain round – I like science-y things but I don’t always get them, I really enjoyed this. I think the characters are great, not just Angela but all her PI contacts, her eccentric cabbie friend, her tech guru, her sidekick, the whole team. Plus her adorable son who’s still getting his words together and has a sweet lisp (I have one too). We get a lot more of Angela’s past too, and it’s really sad. It explains her tough exterior and refusal to get too close to people.

I’m starting to understand the concept of the city a lot more too – they literally live in the building blocks of the universe – at least I think that’s right. The case has Angela delving into the designs for new universes – and a really messed up system that treats the designers as a conveyor belt – they don’t even get credit for their work. I’m intrigued to see where this series goes next as there’s some clever concepts at play here and a PI can go almost anywhere.

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

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Blog Tour: Love and Other Sins – Emilia Ares

Over on Instagram today I’m reviewing Love and Other Sins by Emilia Ares, but as getting lots of info onto a tiny square is tricky, I’m posting more about the book here. Read on for a Q&A with the author and check out the link above for my thoughts.

Oliver and Mina develop a strong bond as the threads of their old lives begin to unravel and they are forced to reckon with family history that violently refuses to remain in the past. Love and Other Sins is a moving story about what it means to be young and vulnerable in today’s society.

“I wanted to tell the story of a first-generation Russian immigrant girl and a street-wise foster care system boy who find love,” Ares, known as an actress for roles in American Horror Story and Bosch. “Love and Other Sins discusses the nuanced experience of growing up in America with immigrant parents as well as the critical flaws of the foster care system.”Readers who fell for Looking for Alaska and Thirteen Reasons Why will devour Love and Other Sins.

Emilia Ares is an American film and television actress. Love and Other Sins is her debut novel. She graduated UCLA with a BA in Economics, and a minor in Russian. Literature and storytelling have always been her true passion.

Connect with Ares at EmiliaAres.com, and on Instagram and TikTok @EmiliaAres.

Q&A with Love and Other Sin author Emilia Ares


1) You’ve been a working actress for many years, how has writing fit into your life or how did you transition to writing?

Funny enough, I began writing while on one of my sets. I was doing a film and sometimes we have to wait for hours in between takes. In those situations, it’s best to do something to take your mind off the scene in order to keep the acting fresh and the reactions surprising. Reading is a great go-to but there had been this story and these characters–Oliver and Mina, who were living in my head and nagging at my brain. I just had to get them on paper, so-to-speak. I wrote a chapter of their story into my notes on my iPhone and I also jotted down what else would probably happen later on in the story. When I got back to town, I wanted to show it to my younger sister, Sofia, who was reading a lot of YA at the time–she ended up becoming an English major. She’s the one who encouraged me to keep writing and turn it into a book. She said she loved it and couldn’t wait for more. I don’t think Love and Other Sins would have existed without her encouragement.


2) What have you learned about storytelling from TV projects you’ve acted in like American Horror Story and Bosch?

I’ve learned a ton about storytelling from the TV and film projects I’ve acted in, especially the importance of a strong emotional connection with my characters. Creating a backstory for my characters on and off the screen was vital. More times than not, my character’s backstory was not provided to me either because the project was high profile and the full script was kept under-wraps or because I was playing a guest-star whose history was not explicitly discussed or mentioned in the script itself. So, I’d have to invent the backstory.

That process is very similar to writing characters in a book. I used my knowledge of how the character was described in the breakdown that was provided during the casting process including any traits, qualities, strengths, weaknesses, quirks. I would then make an educated guess about what this person ultimately wants/needs from life, taking into consideration the character arc in the scene/overall story to create a reasonable history for them. In the case of American Horror Story, I would ask myself where does Princess Anastasia Romanova come from? What makes her tick? What life events shaped her? Empowered her? Scarred her? What are her secrets? And how do those things effect how she walks, talks, speaks, ect. The backstory is usually never discussed but always exists in the thoughts of these characters which ultimately informs their actions. The more specific the backstory, the richer–what actor’s call–“the life” of the character is.

This was great practice for when it came time to create Oliver and Mina’s backstories. I would just pretend they were characters I was going to play. I entered their minds the way I would when I played my characters on set. This might be a different approach than most traditional writers and it’s most likely why I wrote in first person. I was documenting the moments as if they were happening to me in real time. Later, I rewrote the novel into past tense to give the story­telling and pacing more flexability.


3) Why was it important for you to write young people who are independent and self-reliant on parental support to go after their goals?

I honestly didn’t set out with the goal to write independent and self-reliant characters. I just wanted them to be interesting and as it turns out, self-reliant people must interest me. But I’m glad Oliver

and Mina developed into the people they became because there are plenty of teenagers out there who are on their own and could use someone like Oliver to identify with.

Mina is actually very reliant on her mother for moral support when we first meet her. However, this novel begins during the part of her life when she starts to break free from that support and she ventures off to discover who she is and what she wants. She will have many hardships ahead. We get to follow her down that tumultuous road and witness her slay the dragons or succumb. Oliver, on the other hand, built himself up from the most terrible circumstances and found his own silver-lining. He doesn’t have any family. He’s alone, therefore he’s independent out of necessity, not choice. I hope his story is inspirational to the youth that feel hopeless.


4) How did your own young adulthood prepare you to write this book?

My time as a teenager was as dramatic and angsty as anyone else’s. Everyday there was drama, rumors, gossip, bullying. No matter how hard I tried to keep my head down it felt as though it was inescapable. When I talk to my adult friends about their high-school experiences, I come to understand that we all felt that way. You know, it’s funny…as trivial as everything seems now, in the grand scheme of things, some of those moments really did matter and did shape me into who I am today. The most painful moments became the biggest life lessons. I knew what I had to do to never feel that way again. I learned who I had to stay away from and who I had to gravitate toward. It wasn’t all bad though, I had some great friends to get me through the tough parts. Those were the parts that were most similar to my life. Nyah was written based on a combination of a few of my friends and my sister. Lily was inspired by my mom.


5) What books and authors inspired you along the way?

The Stranger by Albert Camus because it challenged everything I ever knew or thought I knew about the hero of a story and made me feel so uncomfortable reading it.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky not only for the revelation this novel brought to literature but also for the story behind writing it. Dostoevsky didn’t write it because he wanted to, he wrote it out of necessity. He wrote what he knew, the conditions and ramifications of a sick, drunk, impoverished Russia.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins because by the time 2008 rolled around, so much had already been written and said about a potential post-apocalyptic nation but somehow, Collins was able to put forth a fresh take on dystopia. I admire that very much. There is always more room for your voice, your perspective, your story.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe because, again, it was very critically controversial. People didn’t know how to feel about it. On the one hand, Achebe ended up writing it in English, the language of colonialism which caused disagreement amongst many African critics in regards to the ultimate message of the novel. On the other hand, this was a novel that went against most of what was written about African culture at the time. It showed European colonialism from a different perspective portraying Igbo life from the point of view of an African man, a rich and sophisticated culture with a deep history, language, and beliefs.

But some of the first books and authors who inspired my love for storytelling were, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.


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

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Blog Tour: Rising Star – Michele Kwasniewski

In the first book in THE RISE AND FALL OF DANI TRUEHART series, RISING STAR, fifteen-year-old Dani Truehart is living a life that is not quite her own. Driven by her mother’s desire for fame and fortune, she has spent her childhood dutifully training for a career as a pop star. On the brink of discovery, doubts begin to creep into Dani’s mind as she questions her own desire for fame, and she wonders whether she can trust the motivations of the adults who are driving her forward.

Following a brilliant audition arranged by her vocal/dance coach and former ’80s pop icon Martin Fox, Dani is thrown full-force into the music industry. She leaves her friends, family and scheming mother behind to move with Martin, who has become her legal guardian, into the Malibu compound of her new manager, Jenner Redman. Jenner, the former swindling manager of Martin’s boy band, leverages what’s left of his depleted fortune to launch Dani’s career.

Isolated from her life at home and trying to stay apace with her demanding schedule, Dani struggles to keep in touch with those she loves, connect to her withholding mother and find her voice as an artist. With Martin and Jenner at odds over their rocky past and finding herself unprepared to handle the pressures of her future singing career, Dani’s debut album and future stardom are at risk of falling apart.

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Excerpt
I walk back to the couch, sit down and stare at my parents. I feel like I’ve aged a lifetime in the past few hours I’ve listening to my mom haggle over every detail of my contract like I’m a piece of meat at the butcher. “Mom, I’ve been working for this my whole life. Stop causing problems and let Martin do his job. You can’t threaten to stop me now after you’ve already given guardianship to Martin. Acting like a concerned parent this late in the game isn’t going to work. If you really wanted to protect me, you would have never handed me over to Martin.”
I shake my head and narrow my eyes at my mom, so furious I can barely speak. “I’m sorry that the money I make isn’t going directly into your pockets like you’d hoped. I promise the first thing I’ll do is to pay you and Dad back for all the lessons you’ve given me. You deserve some return on your investment. But if the past few hours have shown me anything, it’s why you really pushed me to do this all these years. I’m sorry that you won’t be getting the big payday you’d hoped for.”
My parents just sit there, stunned.
Tears stream down my face as I get up to leave. I’m a mess of anger and sadness, and I just want to be alone.

After graduating from Loyola Marymount University with a BA in Technical Theater, Michele Kwasniewski spent over fifteen years in film and television production. Starting out as a film set assistant on movies such as INDEPENDENCE DAY, FACE/OFF, PRIMAL FEAR, and EVITA, she worked her way up to production manager on TV shows including BIG BROTHER, ADOPTION STORIES, EXTRA YARDAGE and MEET THE PANDAS. She is also a proud member of the Producers Guild of America. Michele’s colorful experiences in the industry inspired her to write THE RISE AND FALL OF DANI TRUEHART series. Michele lives in San Clemente, California with her husband, their son, and their disobedient dachshund. RISING STAR is her first novel. Michele KwasniewskiTwitterFacebook

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My thoughts: this was a fun YA read, with Dani getting to live the dream of becoming a pop star. She’s also juggling her education and relationships – the hardest being with her mum, who’s a bit of a nightmare.

She worries about her boyfriend leaving her for the high school bitch, even though he insists he would never. Being holed up in a fancy mansion recording her first EP is all well and good, but she’s missing out on a lot of normal teenage life. Can she make it as a star and will it all be worth it?

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

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Blog Tour: Dark Secrets – Sally Rigby

An uninvited guest…a deadly secret….and a terrible crime.

When a well-loved family of five are found dead sitting around their dining table with an untouched meal in front of them, it sends shockwaves throughout the community.

Was it a murder suicide, or was someone else involved?  

It’s one of DCI Whitney Walker’s most baffling cases, and even with the help of forensic psychologist Dr Georgina Cavendish, they struggle to find any clues or motives to help them catch the killer.But with a community in mourning and growing pressure to get answers, Cavendish and Walker are forced to go deeper into a murderer’s mind than they’ve ever gone before.

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Sally Rigby was born in Northampton, in the UK. She has always had the travel bug, and after living in both Manchester and London, eventually moved overseas. From 2001 she has lived with her family in New Zealand (apart from five years in Australia), which she considers to be the most beautiful place in the world.

After writing young adult fiction for many years, under a pen name, Sally decided to move into crime fiction. Her Cavendish & Walker series brings together two headstrong, and very different, women – DCI Whitney Walker, and forensic psychologist Dr Georgina Cavendish. Sally has a background in education, and has always loved crime fiction books, films and TV programmes. She has a particular fascination with the psychology of serial killers.

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My thoughts: it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of this series, and its spinoff, so I was thrilled to start reading this new book. It’s another cracking case for Walker and Cavendish, with a family murdered and a rather odd meal left on the table for them. It seems the parents both had secrets, and one of them has led to the deaths of the whole family.

As well as that both Whitney and George have plenty going on in their personal lives, but manage to keep their investigative skills sharp as they sort through the suspects and find not only the killer but the motive too. Unfortunately the delightful Chief Super, aka Dickhead, is connected to the case personally and is breathing a little too heavily down Walker’s neck. It’s a race against the clock before he finds a reason to reassign the case. Another cracking read. And now I impatiently wait for the next one!

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

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Blog Tour: Women Writers 1920s; The Love Child – Edith Oliver

She had saved her. But at what a cost! Her position, her name, her character – she had given them all, but Clarissa was hers. Upon the death of her mother, Agatha Bodenham finds herself alone for the first time in her life. Solitary and socially awkward by nature, she starts to dream about her imaginary childhood friend – the only friend she ever had. Much to her surprise, Clarissa starts to appear, fleetingly at first, and engage with her, and eventually becomes visible to everyone else. Agatha, a 32-year- old spinster, must explain the child’s ‘sudden’ appearance. In a moment of panic, she pretends that Clarissa is her own daughter, her love child. Olivier constructs a mother/daughter relationship which is both poignant and playful. As the years roll by and Clarissa grows into a beautiful young woman, Agatha’s love becomes increasingly obsessive as she senses Clarissa slipping away, attracted by new interests and people her own age.

Edith Olivier (1872–1948) Biography

Edith Olivier’s life encompassed the conservative and the bohemian in quite an extraordinary way: the circles she moved in later in life could not have been predicted from her upbringing. Born on the last day of 1872, Olivier was one of ten children of the Canon of Wilton and the granddaughter of a bishop. Though she had no formal schooling, or even a governess for much of her childhood, Olivier won a scholarship to St Hugh’s College (then St Hugh’s Hall) at Oxford University (see page 163). While there, she got to know Charles Dodgson – also known as Lewis Carroll. She had to leave after four terms, due to severe asthma. 

In 1916, Olivier helped form the Women’s Land Army in Wiltshire, which became a model for a national scheme (see page 177). In 1920, she was awarded an MBE for this work. Wilton and Wiltshire remained important to Olivier throughout her life, and she was mayor of Wilton in 1938–41. 

It wasn’t until Olivier was in her fifties that she turned to writing, after the death of her dearest sister, Mildred. The Love Child was her first novel in 1927, started when the idea came to her in the middle of the night: ‘Before morning I had finished two chapters,’ she relates in her autobiography (see page 141). The novel reflects Olivier’s keen belief in the supernatural, or what she called ‘things past explaining’ – for instance, she believed herself to have witnessed a pre-1800 fair at Avebury stone circles (see page 145), and to have seen the lost city of Lyonesse off the coast of Cornwall, a legendary kingdom that was supposedly submerged in the eleventh century (see page 157). 

After The Love Child, four other novels followed by 1932, after which she turned her attention to non- fiction, including biographies of Alexander Cruden (who wrote a concordance to the Bible) and Mary Magdalene. 

From childhood, she had aspired to a more creative life – the title of her autobiography, Without Knowing Mr. Walkley, is a lament on never having become an actor and thus not knowing Mr Walkley, the dramatic critic of the Times. But Olivier’s late career as a writer brought her to a new social circle, and she got to know many of the ‘Bright Young Things’ of the period. The artist and illustrator Rex Whistler was a particularly close friend, and others included Cecil Beaton, Siegfried Sassoon, William Walton and the Sitwell family. When Olivier died in 1948, Cecil Beaton noted that she was mourned by ‘young and old, those who had shared in her widely different interests’, recognised both as a bohemian creative and as a celebrator of Wiltshire. 

About this Series

A curated collection of forgotten works by early to mid-century women writers. The best middlebrow fiction from the 1910s to the 1960s, offering escapism, popular appeal and plenty of period detail to amuse, surprise and inform. Stories about women’s lives, often written, performed and directed by women, are becoming more and more popular among audiences of film and TV series. The Women Writers series taps into this growing trend.

My thoughts: this is an interesting little story about loneliness and wish fulfilment. Agatha is alone after her mother’s death and remembers her childhood imaginary friend – another girl like herself, called Clarissa. My imaginary friends were penguins and rabbits, I think I wanted to be a zookeeper! But for an only child, it makes sense to imagine a playmate.

In this case however, Agatha is now in her 30s, unmarried, possibly as a “surplus woman” following the First World War, and childless. This version of Clarissa is as much a daughter as a companion. But she slowly becomes more real, appearing to others, eating, drinking and growing up. Gradually Agatha’s hold on her becomes weakened and Agatha fears she might lose her.

There’s a terrible sadness at the heart of this story, it reminded me of The Little Prince a bit – this magical creature from the stars, who leaves behind a sadness at their parting. The afterword compares its genesis (as per the author’s own recollection) to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a story born from a dream. Much like Agatha’s imagining into being of Clarissa.

The author herself seems to be have been an incredible and fascinating woman, studying at Oxford where she knew Lewis Carroll, then helping found the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War. The extracts from her autobiography included in this edition were almost more compelling a read than the story.

It’s why the British Library’s work in bringing these women writers and their books back into print is so important. When I studied Literature at university, even in a module called Women Writers, the focus was on ones we all know – Brontes, Austen, Eliot, Woolf, etc. Not these equally fascinating, but somehow forgotten writers. I have enjoyed everyone I’ve read so far and am pleased more are to come.

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

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Blog Tour: The New Mother – Julia Crouch

Who would you trust with your precious family?

Wanted: full-time, live-in help for expectant mother. Must be organised, friendly and willing to do anything.

Rachel is determined to be the perfect mother. She has a birth plan, with a playlist and a bag ready by the door. She’s chosen a lovely light cream paint for the nursery, and in wide-eyed, innocent Abbie she’s found the perfect person to help her with her baby.

After all, every mother needs a bit of help, don’t they?

But Rachel needs a little more than most.

She still makes sure her bedroom door is locked before she goes to sleep. She still checks the cameras that are dotted throughout the house.

Rachel trusts Abbie. Even if Abbie’s smiles don’t always reach her eyes, and the stories she tells about her past don’t always add up, it doesn’t matter.

Because Rachel knows better than to trust herself…

From the bestselling author of Her Husband’s Lover, this is a truly gripping story about how far people will go to find a family. Filled with tension and twists to keep you glued to every page, it is perfect for fans of Ruth Ware, Shari LaPena and The Girl on the Train.

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Julia started off as a theatre director and playwright. While her children were growing up, she swerved into graphic design. After writing and illustrating two children’s books for an MA, she discovered that her great love was writing prose. The picture books were deemed too dark for publication, so, to save the children, she turned instead to writing for adults. Her first book, Cuckoo, was published in 2011, and she has been writing what she calls her Domestic Noir novels ever since. She also writes for TV and teaches on the Crime Writing MA at the University of East Anglia. She has three grown up children and lives in Brighton with her husband and two cats, Keith and Sandra.

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My thoughts: at first I felt sorry for Abbie, her life seemed lonely and Rachel’s behaviour was exploitative and a little cruel, making her change her body to fit an unrealistic ideal just for social media. But then the balance shifted and Rachel became a lot more sympathetic.

Both women have had hard and traumatic childhoods, with loss and violence, but they’ve reacted in different ways, Rachel has, over a long time, chosen to make the most of herself and move on, while Abbie has internalised her pain and blames everyone else. In this case, Rachel.

I really liked Fran, she might get frustrated with Rachel, and worry endlessly about her, but she has her back through everything. And she’s prepared to do whatever she has to to protect her friend.

A really interesting, twisted thriller about friendship, dealing with our pasts and learning about who to trust.

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

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Blog Tour: The Hiding Place – Amanda Mason*

Some secrets can never be concealed . . .

Nell Galilee, her husband and twelve year old step-daughter Maude rent a holiday cottage by the sea, needing time and space away from home. Nell grew up in this small, wind-blown town and has mixed feelings about returning, and it isn’t long before she is recognised by a neighbour, seemingly desperate to befriend her. The cottage has been empty for some time, and from the start Nell feels uncomfortable there. Something isn’t quite right about this place . . .

Maude, furious about being brought here against her will, soon finds herself beguiled by the house’s strange atmosphere. There are peculiar marks in the roof beams above her bedroom, and in another room, a hiding place, concealing a strange, unnerving object.

As the house gradually reveals its secrets, Nell becomes increasingly uneasy – and Maude spellbound. But these women – and the women that surround them – are harbouring their own secrets too, and soon events will come to a terrible head . . .

A brilliant, unsettling and chilling novel of mothers and daughters, truth and deception and the lengths people will go to, to obtain power over their own lives, The Hiding Place is the second chilling novel from the acclaimed author of The Wayward Girls.

My thoughts: I do like a creepy house, possibly because neither my parents’ almost 200 year old house or any of the ancient cottages of my childhood holidays were suitably spooky. No ghosts roamed the tumbling down Devon farm hands’ home turned holiday lets we stayed in, and the creepiest thing about my parents’ was the yellow nicotine stained ceilings when we first moved in.

Thankfully books deliver a nice line in sinister houses, filled with witch marks and strange artifacts hidden away in the walls and under the floor. Like this cottage in Whitby. Nell and her family are supposed to be enjoying a holiday and attending a party. But instead she and step-daughter Maude are being haunted and become obsessed with a tiny shoe (not explaining that, read the book).

Things go bump in the night, Nell’s oblivious husband has to leave, they meet the slightly strange neighbours and the previously good relationship between Maude and Nell deteriorates further. Gradually the house gives up its secrets, thanks to two intrepid teenage girls who go digging in the local museum, and the weird hold it exerts meets a match.

This was really good, well written and solidly sinister. The half answers and not quite unravelled history of the house and the land it stands on was cleverly done, while Nell feels safer at the end, the house still isn’t quite right. Probably best to head home.

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

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Blog Tour: The Woman in the Woods – Lisa Hall

She’s out there. Waiting for you.

A haunting read about witchcraft and superstition from Lisa Hall…

When Allie moves to a quaint old cottage with her husband, it’s their dream home. Nestled in the village of Pluckley, it seems a perfect haven in which to raise their two children. But Pluckley has a reputation. It’s known as England’s most haunted village. And not long after the birth of their new son, Allie begins to notice strange things…

What’s the flash of white she sees moving quickly through the woods to the back of their house? And what’s the strange scratching noise coming from the chimney?

As Allie discovers more about the history of their new home, she uncovers a story of witchcraft and superstition, which casts a long shadow into the present day. And not everything is as it seems. Her family might well be in danger, but it’s a danger none of them could have foreseen…

Bestseller Lisa Hall’s The Woman in the Woods is full of creeping unease and nerve-wracking tension, and will have readers on the edge of their seats…

My thoughts: this was really intriguing, it reminded me a tiny bit of Little Darlings, probably because both feature new mums dealing with something creepy and supernatural.

Allie’s new home seems full of ghosts, and she finds some creepy things stashed about it, things associated with witchcraft and curses. Just the thing a sleep deprived mother of two small children needs. And then there’s her husband, Rav, who’s gone for long periods of time at work and leaves her alone with the kids even though he knows she’s exhausted and struggling. Her friend Naomi seems to be ever present and I didn’t warm to her much.

Allie needs proper support, she’s leaning on her aloof mother and while her mother-in-law seems nice, she also doesn’t offer much comfort. Allie’s seeing conspiracy everywhere and is losing her grip somewhat. I think moving to a small village, doing two of the most stressful things you can do – move house and have a baby, at the same time, pushes her too far and then she hears stories of murdered children and witches living in her house in previous centuries. It’s enough to stress anyone out.

I know that postpartum depression and psychosis are terrible conditions, I’ve seen friends really struggle with their mental wellbeing after having a baby. I live with depression and anxiety so I recognise some of the symptoms in others. One of my close friends was very ill after her first baby, she struggled a lot. Thankfully she got better with the right help and her children are quite grown up now.

I think it’s important for writers to discuss things like PPD and help destigmatise them. There is nothing wrong with asking for help, no one will think less of you. The stories Allie hears about her new home would be easy to shrug off ordinarily but as she’s not well, and isolated, it feeds her fears and adds to her poor mental health. The ending is so ambiguous, is there something there or did Allie conjure it all up while she was sick?

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

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Blog Tour: The Mother’s Fault – Nicole Trope

She’ll do anything to save her son. But what if telling the truth means losing him for ever?

On a crisp winter’s evening, Beverly is cooking for her son. Eight-year-old Riley is climbing a tree in the garden, and Beverly smiles as she watches him. Nothing makes her happier than her precious child having fun – she never thought they’d be happy again.

The water on the stove is boiling, and Beverly slides in a handful of spaghetti. When she glances out of the window again, Riley is not there.

She races outside, her heart thumping. Riley is nowhere to be found.

Instinctively, Beverly knows that her son has not just run away. She knows this because of her secret – the one she has kept for eight years. The one that means she has no choice but to keep neighbours at a distance, that stops her sleeping at night.

She thought she’d made the right decision, that she was protecting her son. But now he’s gone. Could this be all her fault?

She’ll do anything to save him. Yet if she tells the truth, she could lose him for ever…

A totally gripping psychological thriller that will get your pulse racing like crazy as it hits you with twist after twist after twist! If you loved The Wife Between Us or The Girl on the Train you’ll be utterly glued to this page-turner.

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Nicole Trope went to university to study Law but realised the error of her ways when she did very badly on her first law essay because, as her professor pointed out, ‘It’s not meant to be a story.’

She studied teaching instead and used her holidays to work on her writing career and complete a Masters’ degree. In between raising three children, working for her husband and renovating houses, she has published six novels. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

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My thoughts: this was very clever and I didn’t see the twists coming at all. I got the identity of Riley’s abductor completely wrong, all signs pointed to different people, very nice work. The slow build up to Beverley’s nightmare, having her son taken, then the unravelling of all her secrets was very enjoyable. That second epilogue! I need a sequel.

*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

Cheltenham Literature Festival Blog Tour & Book Review

Something a little different today, to celebrate this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival. Read on for info on the Festival and a review of one of the books being celebrated there.

Cheltenham Literature Festival is the world’s first literature festival, leading the way in celebrating the written and spoken word, presenting the best new voices in fiction and poetry alongside literary greats and high-profile speakers, while inspiring over 9,000 school children with a love of books through its Literature for Schools programme. 

Cheltenham Literature Festival is part of Cheltenham Festivals – a charity delivering a pioneering year-round educational programme culminating in four internationally-acclaimed Jazz, Science, Music and Literature Festivals. Cheltenham Festivals creates experiences that bring joy, spark curiosity, connect communities and inspire change.

The Festival has an accompanying year-round programme of education and talent development outreach including its flagship Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils project which has rolled out nationally, enabling teachers and their pupils to rediscover the joy of reading. The other programmes include: the award-winning Beyond Words, a creative writing project working with vulnerable young people unable to access mainstream education in Gloucestershire, Words That Burn, a national human rights poetry project created in partnership with Amnesty International and Write Now, a unique mentoring, workshop and networking project that nurtures young people’s creative writing abilities.

One of the writers featured at the festival is crime writer Mick Herron, who will be at an event celebrating the life and career of John Le Carrè. Herron is sometimes seen as Le Carrè’s literary heir and his most recent title is Slough House, which I was kindly sent to review below.

Slough House – the crumbling office building to which failed spies, the ‘slow horses’, are banished – has been wiped from secret service records.

Reeling from recent losses in their ranks, the slow horses are worried they’ve been pushed further into the cold, and fatal accidents keep happening.

With a new populist movement taking a grip on London’s streets, the aftermath of a blunder by the Russian secret service that left a British citizen dead, and the old order ensuring that everything’s for sale to the highest bidder, the world’s an uncomfortable place for those deemed surplus to requirements. The wise move would be to find a safe place and wait for the troubles to pass.

But the slow horses aren’t famed for making wise decisions.

My thoughts: this was very enjoyable, with lots of intrigue and conspiracies to keep the characters occupied in chasing around London and out into the countryside after a pair of Russian assassins, who are chasing after Jackson Lamb’s team and he’s not happy about it.

Diana Taverner might be First Desk at M15 but she’s not as in control as she thinks, stupidly getting entangled with dangerous men who play the political long game and far better than she can. She’s in it up to her neck and only Lamb and his band of misfits can sort things out, whatever their reputation as slow horses suggests.

Jackson Lamb is probably the unhealthiest spy around, overweight, chain smoking, perpetually drunk and living on a diet of terrible takeaways, he’s hardly the suave, sophisticated ideal, but he’s survived a long time in this world and under the dishevelled appearance is a top notch brain. Same goes in many ways for the rest of his team – they might not be the ones pipped for bright futures but they’ve got skills and are innocuous enough that they don’t look like much of a threat.

I’ve only read one other book in this series, a while ago, but the writing is very clever and the plot gripping, just the right amount of convoluted. I might just have to check the rest of the series out, see what else Lamb and his slow horses have been up to.

This ends with question marks over the future for the team and indeed the life of one member. Will they be allowed to stay at Slough House, quietly doing boring busy work for MI5 or will there be changes coming?

*parts of this blog post were created using a press release but the opinions expressed in the book review are my own.*