blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Neon – GS Locke*

A detective desperate for revenge. A hitwoman with one last job. A killer with both on his list.

Detective Matt Jackson has reached the end. His beloved wife, Polly, is the latest victim of ‘NEON’ – a serial killer who displays his victims in snaking neon lights – and he can’t go on without her. Unable to take his life, Jackson hires a hitwoman to finish the job. But on the night of his own murder, he makes a breakthrough in the case, and at the last minute his hitwoman, Iris, is offered an irresistible alternative: help Jackson find and kill NEON in return for the detective’s entire estate.

What follows is a game of cat and mouse between detective, hitwoman and serial killer. And when Jackson discovers it’s not a coincidence that all their paths have crossed, he begins to question who the real target has been all along…

My thoughts:

This was an interesting take on the police procedural, with a hit woman drafted in by a suspended detective to help catch a serial killer.

The killer is a strange person, building neon light displays and incorporating the bodies of his victims as sinister art pieces.

I enjoyed this, tight and clever writing, with several twists you don’t see coming.

*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 Waiting Rooms – Eve Smith*

Decades of spiralling drug resistance have unleashed a global antibiotic crisis. Ordinary infections are untreatable, and a scratch from a pet can kill. A sacrifice is required to keep the majority safe: no one over seventy is allowed new antibiotics. The elderly are sent to hospitals nicknamed ‘The Waiting Rooms’ … hospitals where no one ever gets well.

Twenty years after the crisis takes hold, Kate begins a search for her birth mother, armed only with her name and her age. As Kate unearths disturbing facts about her mother’s past, she puts her family in danger and risks losing everything. Because Kate is not the only secret that her mother is hiding. Someone else is looking for her, too.

Sweeping from an all-too-real modern Britain to a pre-crisis South Africa, The Waiting Rooms is epic in scope, richly populated with unforgettable characters, and a tense, haunting vision of a future that is only a few mutations away.

Eve Smith writes speculative fiction, mainly about the things that scare her. She attributes her love of all things dark and dystopian to a childhood watching Tales of the Unexpected and black-and-white Edgar Allen Poe double bills. In this world of questionable facts, stats and news, she believes storytelling is more important than ever to engage people in real life issues.

Set twenty years after an antibiotic crisis, her debut novel The Waiting Rooms was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize First Novel Award. Her flash fiction has been shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and highly commended for The Brighton Prize.

When she’s not writing she’s romping across fields after her dog, trying to organise herself and her family or off exploring somewhere new.

My thoughts:

Honestly, this sent chills through me. While the pandemic in this book is to do with antibiotic resistance reading it during the Covid-19 lockdown made it feel all too real and the science is fairly sound. Bacteria are being resistant to antibiotics, it’s why everyone admitted to hospital is checked for MRSA, get the wrong infection and you could die.

There’s also the way the government have treated the elderly in care homes – the horror stories from Spain of the army finding the dead and dying abandoned springs to mind.

A harrowing look at our possible future, but also a compelling mystery. In a world where getting the smallest cut could mark your doom, where is the hope trapped in the bottom of the box?

*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 Women Writers Handbook – ed. Ann Sandham*

A revised edition of the publisher’s inaugural publication in 1990 which won the Pandora Award from Women-in-Publishing. Inspirational in its original format, this new edition offers insight and motivation for budding writers from dozens of distinguished authors, celebrating the breadth of women’s writing in all its forms. Also includes the original writing workshops from the first edition plus quirky B/W illustrations as well as a foreword by Cheryl Robson, publisher and Managing Editor, who was a recent finalist in the ITV National Diversity Awards – Lifetime Achievement category. Aurora Metro Books was a finalist in the 2019 IPG Diversity in Publishing Awards and has a 30 year history of ground-breaking publishing, featuring both diverse and international authors.

The complete list of contributors:

A.S. Byatt, Saskia Calliste, April De Angelis, Kit de Waal, Carol Ann Duffy, Sian Evans, Philippa Gregory, Mary Hamer, Jackie Kay, Shuchi Kothari, Bryony Lavery, Annee Lawrence, Roseanne Liang, Suchen Christine Lim, Jackie McCarrick, Laura Miles, Raman Mundair, Magda Oldziejewska, Kaite O’Reilly, Jacqueline Pepall, Gabi Reigh, Djamila Ribeiro, Fiona Rintoul, Jasvinder Sanghera, Anne Sebba, Kalista Sy, Debbie Taylor, Madeleine Thien, Claire Tomalin, Ida Vitale, Sarah Waters, Emma Woolf

A wide-ranging collection of over 30 essays, poems and interviews from top, international women writers, poets, screen writers and journalists.

20% of profits to go to the Virginia Woolf statue campaign.

The Virginia Woolf statue campaign: The proposed statue will be located in Richmond on Thames where Virginia and Leonard Woolf lived from 1914-1924 and set up the Hogarth Press. A public consultation by the local council was 83% in favour of the statue and planning permission has been granted to site the first life-size statue in bronze of the famous author on Richmond riverside where the author walked her dog daily. Over 20% of the £50,000 target has been raised so far.

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My thoughts:

This is a fascinating, engaging and timely collection of essays, interviews, poems and other short pieces by women on a range of topics from feminism to writing, written by an incredible selection of writers.

Not a cover to cover read but more something to dip in and out of, I very much enjoyed learning more about some of my favourite writers, like Sarah Waters and Kit de Waal, as well as new to me writers.

This is an excellent way to celebrate women’s writing and raise funds for a statue of Virginia Woolf, one of our most intriguing and talented writers. A Room of One’s Own was on my Women Writers syllabus at university and has stuck with me ever since. A powerful argument for women to be seen as important as men in terms of their work and given space to do so.

Every woman, especially those who write, needs a copy of this inspiring collection.

*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: Not My Daughter – Suzy K Quinn*

I told my daughter a terrible lie…

Lorna never told her sixteen-year-old daughter the chilling truth about her real father. But one morning, she finds Liberty missing — and realizes the teenager has left to find the man she once fled from…

My thoughts:

This was a clever thriller where every has a story and an agenda but it’s not sure who’s playing who and why until the very end.

I’ve read some of the author’s other books but wasn’t aware of how good a thriller writer she is till this book, with its twists and turns and throwback narrative and so many secrets.

This is the kind of thriller I devour in one sitting, even forgetting my snack! (Doritos and grapes fyi for this one).

*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: No Regrets – Tabitha Webb*

Best friends Stella, Ana and Dixie have always lived life to the full. But now they’re approaching their forties, reality is starting to kill the mood…

Stella loves her children, but misses her glittering career. Plus she can’t even remember the last time she had sex.

Ana is trying for a baby with her partner Rex. So why can’t she stop thinking about the one that got away?

Dixie is the wildest of them all. A Tinder addict who’ll never settle down. But has she accidentally found Mr Right…?

It’s time for the friends to shake things up and start having some fun. Because you only regret the things you don’t do, right?

My thoughts:

This is a fun, funny romp of a book about embracing your life and living in the moment, even if you are headed for 40 and feeling stuck in a rut.

Stella, Dixie and Ana have been friends a long time, through all of life’s ups and downs and need each other more than ever as Stella tries to return to work after taking time off to raise her sons and finds out her husband has been keeping secrets of his own, Ana wants a baby but is her relationship the right one, and Dixie thinks she’s met The One but is he?

So whizzing off for an unforgettable (and not always in the right way) trip to New York opens several cans of worms (do worms really come in cans? If so, why?) and means their bond is tested.

This is a perfect summer read, even if, like me, you’re going nowhere near a beach with coronavirus still ravaging the planet. Instead, plonk yourself on the sofa with a good snack (I had some mango and chocolate digestives with this one) and read!

*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 Rules – Tracy Darnton – Guest Post from the Author*

Amber’s an expert when it comes to staying hidden – she’s been trained her whole life for it. But what happens when the person you’re hiding from taught you everything you know?
When a letter from her dad arrives, Amber knows she’s got to move – and fast. He’s managed to find her and she knows he’ll stop at nothing to draw her back into the extreme survivalist way of life he believes in.
All of a sudden the Rules she’s spent so long trying to escape are the ones keeping her safe. But for how long?

Comfort camping food for after the SHTF – Tracy Darnton, author of The Rules

The Rules has just been published – my YA thriller about a girl on the run from her prepper dad. Amber’s whole childhood was about preparing for a SHTF scenario – when the Shit Hits the Fan. Civil unrest or global pandemic, you name it, Amber and her family are ‘Prepared. Not scared’. Except her dad takes it to extremes and builds a whole set of Rules for living by which he scrawls on the walls. Amber has skills – foraging, camping, first aid, survival, to name a few.

Before we all ended up living in our own nightmarish SHTF scenario – something I didn’t ever contemplate when writing the novel last year – I was drawing on my own experience of wild (and not so wild) camping for research.

I grew up going on camping trips, mostly in Snowdonia.

Since then I’ve travelled round Australia with a tent, wild-camped on Dartmoor, stayed at endless campsites with friends and family and more recently sent my kids off to wild-camp in all manner of exciting places while I’ve looked for the nearest luxury glamping site.

I thought I’d share a couple of my favourite campfire recipes – the kind of thing Amber would be able to rustle up. I love the smell of the woods in spring when they fill with pungent wild garlic so I could share my recipe for wild garlic pesto served with hot damper bread and nettle tea. BUT instead I thought I’d share the comfort food recipe that reminds me of many camping trips. As we say in our family, camping is always an experience (just not necessarily a good one) so it helps to have a comfort recipe ready for all eventualities. Prepared. Not scared.

You will need to forage (probably from the campsite shop):

banana

Cadbury’s flake (other chocolate bars are available)

foil

Cut a thin slot part way down the banana skin and squash in half the flake. (Eat the other half)

Bake the banana direct on the fire coals/BBQ, or wrap in foil if you have some, until the skin has

blackened and the inside has turned into a delicious warm, gooey chocolatey mess.

Now that leaky tent with your nearest and dearest won’t seem so bad. And don’t forget to pack The Rules for torchlight reading, home or away.


Tracy Darnton’s The Rules is published by Stripes. Her first novel The Truth About Lies was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and was a World Book Night title. She lives in Bath and longs to get out of the house and go camping in Devon or Wales. She promises she will never moan about being on a camping holiday ever again.

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My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book, Amber’s a smart, determined protagonist and when the Shit Hits The Fan, in the form of the reappearance of her awful dad, she grabs her Bug Out Bag and goes.

She doesn’t quite make the clean getaway she needs but with guts aplenty and a new friend she finds the strength to stand up to the tyrant in her life and make her own rules.

This is a fantastic read that reminded me a little of Meg Rosoff’s The Way We Live Now and that’s no bad thing.

I love a strong female lead and Amber is definitely one, I’ve met a few domineering men over the last few years and the growing number of paranoid preppers, especially in the States makes this a timely read.

*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: Storms Gather Between Us – Clare Flynn*

Life can change in a single moment…

Living under the watchful eye of her controlling and abusive father, Hannah Dawson’s hopes for freedom and happiness seem a distant dream. Her mother, passive and ashamed of her self-preservation, refuses to challenge her husband. It is the mysterious circumstances of her long-lost Aunt Lizzie’s disappearance in the 1920s that inspires Hannah to seek a better life.

Since escaping his family’s notoriety in Australia Will Kidd has spent a decade sailing the seas, never looking back. Content to live the life of a wanderer, everything changes in a single moment when he comes face to face with a ghost from his past on a cloudy beach in Liverpool.

Hannah and Will are thrown together by fate and bonded by secrets from long ago. Now, they discover a love like no other. But with Hannah’s father determined to see her wed to a man of his choosing they must fight against a tyrant who has ruined many lives. Even if they succeed, can they escape the chains of their histories? And will their plans for a future be possible when the whole world is changing forever…?

A compelling tale of family secrets and undeniable love against the odds, perfect for fans of Susanne Goldring and Fiona Valpy.

Amazon

Historical novelist Clare Flynn is a former global marketing director and business owner. She now lives in Eastbourne on the south coast of England and most of her time these days is spent writing her novels – when she’s not gazing out of her windows at the sea. Clare is the author of eight novels and a short story collection. Her books deal with displacement -her characters are wrenched away from their comfortable existences and forced to face new challenges – often in outposts of an empire which largely disappeared after WW2. Clare is an active member of the Historical Novel Society, the Romantic Novelists Association, The Society of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

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My thoughts:

I found this an enjoyable and interesting book, for various reasons. I used to work for an agency that supports merchant seafarers like Will so I was interested in the historical aspect of his job (my father-in-law was a captain in the merchant navy) and I enjoy history, especially when it’s as well researched as this.

I also really liked Hannah, she was a strong, intelligent woman with a huge heart who loves books, I think we would be friends.

Their disparate lives and tragedies bring them together in a surprising way and with the Second World War looming, there’s a lot to fight against, not just Hannah’s horrific, brutal, Bible misquoting, misogynist father.

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

books, fun stuff, tag posts

Hamilton Book Tag Post

I’ve seen this pop up on a few blogs recently and considering I’ve been watching it (repeatedly) on Disney + like everyone else, I thought why not.

💥The Room Where It Happened – a book world you’d put yourself in

💜I read a lot of books set in worlds where things are pretty grim it seems but maybe the world of The Strangeways Travel Agency – I love the idea of slipping between worlds in magical suitcases.

💥The Schulyer Sisters – an underrated female character

💜Hazel Wong of the Wells & Wong Detective Agency series – Daisy gets all the credit with her quick wits and star power but it’s Hazel who backs her every move and is often the smarter one in the long run.

💥My Shot – a character that goes after what they want and doesn’t let anyone stop them

💜Alanna of Trebond in the Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. She wants to be a knight and lets nothing, not even her gender, stop her. When I need a boost of confidence I say to myself “Be more Alanna”.

💥Stay Alive – a character you wish was still alive

💜Granny Weatherwax – her death scene in The Shepherd’s Crown, so soon after Terry Pratchett’s own, broke me in ways I still don’t fully know how to handle. I can’t bring myself to re-read the book.

💥Burn – the most heartbreaking end to a relationship you’ve ever read

💜When Jack dies in Nancy Turner’s These Is My Words. The love story between him and Sarah is the backbone of the book and his death, just as they’re so happy, was awful.

💥You’ll Be Back – sassiest villain

💜the plague – in multiple books this awful disease pops back to ruin lives, much as it really did in the non-fictional world. And nothing seems to be able to keep it down. Most recently for me in Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, in which Agnes/Anne Shakespeare’s heart gets utterly broken by her son’s terrible death. Stupid plague.

💥The Reynolds Pamphlet – a twist you didn’t see coming

💜I used to be really good at spotting the twist in many whodunnits but recently writers have been getting better at confounding me. However, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is still the original so-gripping-I-could-not-go-to-sleep-until-I-knew-who-the-murderer-was book.

💥Non Stop – a series you marathoned

💜Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St Mary’s and I almost died laughing doing it. Those books are so clever and funny.

💥Satisfied – favourite book with multiple POVs

💜I very much enjoyed Jade City and Jade War by Fonda Lee with the different members of the Kaul family sharing their perspectives. It gives you a real sense of the events from every angle that makes it so much richer.

💥Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story – a book/series you feel will be remembered for all time

💜Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. The fact that people are quoting bits from The Night Watch (a truly excellent book) regarding police brutality in discussions about Black Lives Matter shows how much it’s part of our culture already.

💥Helpless – a relationship you were pulling for from the beginning

💜Nick and Charlie in the Heartstopper series. I love them.

💥Ten Duel Commandments – favourite fight scene

💜the utterly ridiculous ones in Bloodlust & Bonnets, which features the most hilarious version of Lord Byron (he of mad, bad & dangerous to know fame) ever.

💥Say No To This – guilty pleasure read

💜I don’t believe pleasure should be guilty but the Redwall Abbey books are delightful even now.

💥What Comes Next – a series you wish was longer

💜The Daevabad series by S.K Chakraborty – 3 books, 3 books only! Not enough. Although they are magnificent and Empire of Gold is *chef’s kiss*

💥What’d I Miss – book/series you were late to reading

💜The Shadowhunter books – I only started reading them last year and although they’re not exactly high literature (thank goodness) they’re fun and silly and enjoyable.

So there you go, those are my picks. Now I have to go listen to the Hamilton soundtrack nine million more times. Over to you.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Rodham – Curtis Sittenfeld*

‘Awfully opinionated for a girl’ is what they call Hillary as she grows up in her Chicago suburb. Smart, diligent, and a bit plain, that’s the general consensus. Then Hillary goes to college, and her star rises. At Yale Law School, she continues to be a leader— and catches the eye of driven, handsome and charismatic Bill. But when he asks her to marry him, Hillary gives him a firm ‘No’. The rest, as they say, isn’t history. How might things have turned out for them, for America, for the world itself, if Hillary Rodham had really turned down Bill Clinton? With her sharp but always compassionate eye, Sittenfeld explores the loneliness, moral ambivalence and iron determination that characterise the quest for high office, as well as the painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world ruled by men. Uncannily astute and witty in the telling, RODHAM is a brilliant reimagining – an unmissable literary landmark and truly a novel of our times.

In addition to Rodham, Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the Sunday Times bestseller American Wife, in which she painted a picture of an ordinary American girl – a thinly-disguised Laura Bush – who found herself married to a President. It was longlisted for the Orange Prize, as was her debut novel Prep. Her other books are Man of My Dreams, Sisterland (a Richard & Judy Book Club pick), Eligible, and the acclaimed short story collection You Think It, I’ll Say It. Her books are translated into 30 languages. She lives with her family in the American Mid-West.

My thoughts:

I was really intrigued by the premise of this book – what if Hillary didn’t marry Bill, didn’t become First Lady and instead did her own thing?

Having read American Wife, a more straightforward fictionalised life of Laura Bush, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Sittenfeld, whose first book was the criminally underrated Prep (which I really like).

Having said that, I really struggled with the narrative voice of Hillary. I don’t know if it’s based on her own written voice (I haven’t read any of her own books) but I found it oddly detached and emotionless while relaying her life’s events.

It made it extremely hard to relate to or connect with the character, she was so dry and distant. Maybe that’s how the author felt she was as a politician and speaker. Who knows?

Hillary herself has said it took 3 proposals before she said yes to being Mrs Clinton and moving to Arkansas.

Is their marriage the American love story? I don’t have a clue. She stood by him when he cheated and publically humiliated her. She seems like a very strong person. The fictionalised version certainly has that steel in her core, but it puts her at a distance to the reader and I don’t think it ever shortens.

The fact that much of the novel continues to revolve around Bill Clinton is frustrating and the decision to never marry or have children but focus on her career, which feels very hollow, is equally frustrating. Is it Bill or nothing? Why not invent another law professor she can actually build something with? Why make her personal life so lonely?

As a thought experiment it’s a clever and interesting idea, as a novel it struggles with the fact that Hillary Rodham is as closed a book as the real Hillary Clinton. That’s not to say it’s badly written, it isn’t, Sittenfeld is a great writer, but I think the subject matter is just so big and it just struggles with the what ifs of a real life.

I enjoyed aspects of it more than others and I really want to know if Hillary C reads it and what she thinks.

*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: Ride or Die – Khurrum Rahman*

JAY QASIM is finally out of the game and trying to lay low. But then he gets news that rocks his world and drags up everything that he thought he’d left behind. Jay must break his vow never to work with MI5 again and turn to the person who sold him out. But this time he’s determined to do it on his terms.

IMRAN SIDDIQUI once tried to kill Jay but now they have a common adversary. The one thing worse than death is watching the people closest to you die. And after the happiest day of Imran’s life becomes the most tragic, he will stop at nothing to take revenge on the people that have taken away his family.

But when everyone has their own agenda, who can you really trust?
Your most deadly enemy is about to become your closest ally.

My thoughts:

I hadn’t read the first two books in this series but it didn’t matter as the author includes enough back story to root this in a longer narrative with Jay. I know some of the parts of London Jay drives through which helped ground it for me.

Jay’s a personable, engaging protagonist and he has a realistic, recognisable voice as he and Imran alternately narrate their adventures in Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan, attempting to carry out the dangerous mission MI5 have sent them on.

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