Friday, 5 March 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Double - Ann Gosslin

 
Following a violent outburst at an awards ceremony, Vidor Kiraly, a prize-winning neuroscientist and Cambridge don, is sent to an isolated psychiatric clinic in the Swiss Alps.

When the clinic’s director, Anton Gessen, tries in vain to unearth the missing pieces of Vidor’s life, he suspects his reluctant patient is not who he appears to be. After one of the patients at the clinic goes missing, Gessen has reason to doubt Vidor’s self-proclaimed innocence. But what is he hiding, and who might be next?


What did I think?

The Double is a very unusual psychological thriller, focussing more on the psychological aspect of the workings of the brain rather than fast-paced thrills.  Although the pacing is rather slow it was nice to just to relax in the stunning virtual environment of the Swiss Alps and immerse myself in the soothing and mesmeric writing of Ann Gosslin.  

Vidor Kiraly is a very interesting main character and I suspected from the very first chapter that there was more to him than meets the eye.  He may seem confident but underneath he is clearly insecure and seeking validation; and that's not all that is lurking beneath the surface.  After having some kind of psychotic break, Vidor is sent to a psychiatric clinic in the Swiss Alps to be assessed by Dr Anton Gessen.

I really enjoyed Dr Gessen's sessions with Vidor.  Dr Gessen is like a detective wearing kid gloves, gently probing Vidor's mind to try to ascertain whether diminished responsibility is a valid claim for Vidor's violence.  I found the use of aroma to evoke memories really interesting; it's so true that a smell from your past can transport you through time and space to a forgotten place.

Dr Gessen and Vidor prove worthy adversaries as one tries to uncover the truth and the other tries to remain one step ahead.  Tension and suspense mounts like snow falling flake by flake on the Alps and an ominous feeling descended over me in the latter half of the book as the pacing picked up speed.  

Atmospheric and mesmerising, The Double is a literary study of the mind and all its foibles.  It may be a slow burner but it constantly simmers and boils with the underlying threat of explosion.  I enjoyed it but it's perhaps a book that will appeal more to the discerning reader who likes to explore the intricate workings of the human mind.  

Many thanks to Legend Press for sending me an ARC to read and review for the blog tour; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Wednesday, 3 March 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Devil's Mark (D.I. Graves Book 3) - WD Jackson-Smart

 
Bloody remains. Multiple victims. Ritual sacrifice?

When a blood-stained effigy of body parts is found in a central London park, D.I Daniel Graves must set about trying to discover what it could mean and find the person responsible. Symbols at the crime scene suggest the occult. Who would leave a murder victim in such a way, and why?

As Graves and partner DI Charlie Palmer begin to investigate the ritual and the act of human sacrifice, they enlist the help of Charlotte Gooding, a talented professor specialising in the subject. They hope to narrow down on a motive. Could the killer believe in the supernatural? Witchcraft even?

Then the next crime scene is found. More blood, more symbols, and out in the open. It seems the killer wants the world to pay attention, but why? How are they choosing their victims?

The pressure is on for Graves to put an end to the murders before more remains show up in brutal tableaus. One thing is for sure, this killer is out for blood and is not afraid to make it a very public display.

There's just one problem. Grave's past is still not behind him. Someone is eager to make sure he doesn't forget, cannot move on. And they're not playing games anymore. There may be an occult killer out there, but now there's another out for blood, Daniel Grave's blood.


What did I think?

I've really been enjoying the Palmer and Graves partnership in WD Jackson-Smart's novels; they're police procedurals but with an element of supernatural so absolutely anything can happen and it frequently does.  Although I've kept up with the series, you can definitely read The Devil's Mark as a standalone as any recurring characters are given a good introduction so that new readers are not disadvantaged.

In quite a grisly instalment, Palmer and Graves are on the trail of a killer who dismembers bodies and surrounds the crime scene with bloody symbols suggesting human sacrifice.  They aren't sure who or what they are hunting but as the body count rises, there is officially a serial killer in London.

I felt like I was part of a secret club as the storyline played out; the reader is able to see a lot more of the picture than Palmer and Graves can see.  They do say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but a fearful woman at the end of her tether can also make rash decisions.  It seems like there's always someone waiting to pounce on vulnerable people and profit from their insecurities.

The Devil's Mark is a fast-paced, gripping and chilling thriller; it's pretty dark and often squeamishly vivid but I couldn't tear my eyes away from the page.  It has made me want to read the earlier books all over again now as it really is a cracking series.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour; all opinions are my own.

My rating:

Buy it from:
Amazon US




About the author:

WD Jackson-Smart, 35, is a London-based horror and crime fiction author who has been writing crime and horror fiction since 2011. His novel Red Light was self published on Amazon and charted in the top twenty best selling Suspense / Thriller Kindle books on release. 
 
His horror short story, What's Yours Is Mine, was shortlisted for the Horror For Good anthology.
 
His first crime thriller Slasher, about a serial killer targeting slasher movie actresses in Hollywood, is out now, and he has launched a brand new crime series set in London and starring D.I. Graves. The Demons Beneath is the first in the series, and the sequel From Inside The House was published on July 1st 2019.
 
As well as his passion for horror and crime thrillers in all forms, WD Jackson-Smart also loves art and design, having studied Fine Art and Art History in Leeds and Toronto and working as a graphic designer for the majority of his career.


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Monday, 1 March 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Phone Box at the Edge of the World - Laura Imai Messina


We all have something to tell those we have lost . . .

On a windy hill in Japan, in a garden overlooking the sea stands a disused phone box. For years, people have travelled to visit the phone box, to pick up the receiver and speak into the wind: to pass their messages to loved ones no longer with us.

When Yui loses her mother and daughter in the tsunami, she is plunged into despair and wonders how she will ever carry on. One day she hears of the phone box, and decides to make her own pilgrimage there, to speak once more to the people she loved the most. But when you have lost everything, the right words can be the hardest thing to find . . .

Then she meets Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of their loss. What happens next will warm your heart, even when it feels as though it is breaking . . .

The Phone Box at the Edge of the World is an unforgettable story of the depths of grief, the lightness of love and the human longing to keep the people who are no longer with us close to our hearts.


What did I think?

What an incredibly moving book!  I didn't realise how much it had affected me until I was telling someone about it and I became quite emotional.  This book feels like two sides of the same coin as whilst it's predominantly about loss and grief, it's also about love and hope.  The writing is so beautiful that I highlighted several passages whilst I was reading so I could return to them and re-experience the beauty all over again. 

"Death, in this place, felt like a beautiful thing."

Yui and Takeshi are both grieving and they meet after making the journey to Bell Gardia in search of the wind phone.  Takeshi is comforted by talking on the phone to his wife whereas Yui is happy to sit peacefully in the garden.  Yui and Takeshi make monthly journeys to Bell Gardia where they come into contact with a variety of different characters.  I loved reading all the different stories that showed grief in its many forms and reminded us that everyone grieves differently.

"...everybody's grief looked the same at first but was, ultimately, unique."

The structure of the book is really interesting; there are alternating chapters listing or detailing seemingly mundane things which I found a bit odd at first, but it reminded me that it's the little things that often mean the most.  I used these chapters as an emotional anchor, giving me a chance to order my thoughts after reading some highly emotional stories.

"...when people disappear from our everyday lives, it doesn't mean they vanish completely."

Yui lost her mother and daughter in the devastating tsunami that hit Japan on 11 March 2011, killing more than 18,000 people.  Both the visual and emotional impact of the tsunami is explored in the book and I found it incredibly poignant.  The bodies of Yui's family were found and identified but there are so many more who still remain missing today and I just can't imagine how this must feel for their families.

"And if you didn't see them one last time, the grief had no end."

I find it quite amazing that the 'The Wind Phone' is a true story and throughout the book I was overcome with admiration for the man who welcomes strangers to his garden to use it; strangers who no doubt become friends.  It's such a lovely thing to do and proves that some people are completely selfless and genuinely kind; I'm sure there aren't many of us who would welcome thousands of strangers trampling through our garden.

"Perhaps it doesn't do any harm, she thought, to continue talking to those who are no longer with us."

Beautifully written and completely breathtaking, The Phone Box at the Edge of the World is a stunning novel and one I will return to again and again.  Unforgettable and extraordinary, it's a book that speaks to the heart and soul of anyone who has loved and lost.

Many thanks to Manilla Press for sending me an ARC to read and review for the blog tour; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Sunday, 28 February 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Abduction (Kramer & Carver, Book 2) - A. A. Chaudhuri


The gripping sequel to Amazon bestselling thriller, The Scribe.

Kramer and Carver are back…

Madeline Kramer has finally got her life back on track at top City law firm Sullivan, Blake, Monroe. But when two armed, masked men burst into a conference room one lunchtime, kidnapping a trainee and a partner, Maddy’s life is plunged into disarray once more—particularly when charismatic DCI Jake Carver, who caught a heartless killer when they last met and with whom Maddy shared a mutual chemistry, is called to the scene.

Things become more complicated when a disturbing video reveals two more trainees have been taken. What initially appears as a random kidnapping for mercenary gain soon evolves into something far more complex, the horrifying events of thirty years ago motivating the abductors and having colossal implications for those in the present...

Against a backdrop of sleaze, sex, lies and murder in The Abduction, Maddy and Carver must work together to unravel the truth, and ensure that no crimes—past or present—are left unpunished.


What did I think?

I listened to The Abduction, the second book in the Kramer & Carver series, straight after I'd listened to the first book, The Scribe.  Although you could listen to The Abduction as a standalone, it does contain plot spoilers from The Scribe so I would advise that you listen to them in order.  They are both brilliant, so you will definitely want to listen to them both.

To try to put events from The Scribe behind her, Maddy Kramer has got a new job as an associate in a different London law firm.  It seems like her bad luck has followed her when three trainees and a partner are kidnapped in broad daylight and held to ransom.  Every cloud has a silver lining though and it brings DCI Carver back into her life.  

Kramer and Carver are such a great pairing; Carver is a natural investigator and Maddy is so nosy but she's as sharp as a tack.  I loved seeing how the characters developed and hearing their voices rather than reading about them really made me feel as if I know them.  There was definite chemistry between them last time but, with a seventeen year age gap, neither of them acted upon it.  Now that they are back in touch, we may finally get an answer to the question of will they/won't they?

I was completely intrigued and gripped by the thrilling and razor-sharp plot.  Nothing is as it seems and it contains more backstabbing and deception than an entire season of Dynasty.  Secrets and lies always make for a good story so I was on the edge of my (bicycle) seat and couldn't listen fast enough.  I listen to audiobooks while exercising and the fast pacing sure did make me pedal faster!

Once again, David Thorpe's narration is outstanding.  The narration is so good that the characters don't really need to be announced as I could recognise them by their voices.  David 'multi-voiced' Thorpe really brings not only the characters but the whole book to life and I'm not ashamed to admit that I found myself actually speaking out loud to the characters on more than one occasion.

The partnering of A. A. Chaudhuri's compelling writing and David Thorpe's expressive narration is as perfect as the Kramer and Carver pairing in the book.  Outstanding from beginning to end, The Abduction is thrilling, gripping and filled with deception.  I absolutely loved it and unreservedly recommend it.  5 huge stars!

I chose to listen to an audiobook ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Saturday, 27 February 2021

BLOG TOUR: Old Bones - Helen Kitson

 
Diana and her sister Antonia are house-sharing spinsters who have never got over their respective first loves. Diana owns a gift shop, but rarely works there. Antonia is unemployed, having lost her teaching job at an all girls’ school following a shocking outburst in the classroom after enduring years of torment. Diana is a regular at the local library, Antonia enjoys her “nice” magazines, and they treat themselves to coffee and cake once a week in the village café.

Naomi lives alone, haunted by the failure of her two marriages. She works in the library, doesn’t get on with her younger colleagues, and rarely cooks herself a proper meal. Secretly she longs for a Boden frock.

When a body is discovered in the local quarry, all three women’s lives are turned upside down. And when Diana’s old flame Gill turns up unexpectedly, tensions finally spill over and threaten to destroy the outwardly peaceful lives all three women have carefully constructed around themselves.

Helen takes us back to the fictional Shropshire village of Morevale in this, her brilliant second novel which exposes the fragilities and strengths of three remarkably unremarkable elderly women.


What did I think?

Old Bones is a bit of a change of pace from books I've been reading lately and it's nice to sit back and relax with a good book rather than being perched on the edge of your seat.  I think I'd call this book alluring rather than addictive; it certainly drew me in and caught me in its spell as I untangled the stories of the three main characters.

The title of Old Bones could actually have a double meaning; not only the bones found in the local quarry but the weary sixty year old bones of Diana, Antonia and Naomi.  Although the characters are in their sixties, it certainly doesn't feel like they are that age and I think that has something to do with how you seem to regress to your childhood when you return home.  Spinster siblings Diana and Antonia are living together in the family home and Naomi is someone they have known since childhood, which means that there are old scores to be settled in a kind of schoolyard 'I'm not your friend anymore'.

With such wonderfully complex and completely flawed characters there is a lot to discover about these women, especially some secrets that they would prefer to keep hidden.  Unreliability of memory is explored as memories from childhood are revealed and I always find this a very interesting subject.  Our brains can bury memories that are painful to us and it can also fill in any blanks with the best fit scenario so any distant memory has to have some element of unreliability about it.

I actually felt quite sorry for Diana, Antonia and Naomi as life has not turned out quite the way they expected.  Diana is haunted by a lost love (and don't get me started on Gill whose selfishness infuriated me), Antonia is scarred by a devastating event in her past and Naomi is tortured by a deeply buried secret.  So much mystery and intrigue, and that's without the discovery of the bones!

Old Bones is a wonderfully alluring character driven story filled with mystery, intrigue and buried secrets.  I really enjoyed it and will definitely be looking out for more Helen Kitson books.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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About the author:

Helen lives in Worcester with her husband, two teenaged children and two rescue cats. Her first poetry collection was nominated for the Forward Best First Collection Prize. She has published three other poetry collections and her short fiction has appeared in magazines including Ambit, Feminist Review and Stand. She holds a BA (Hons) in Humanities.
Helen's debut novel The Last Words of Madeleine Anderson was published in March 2019. Her second "Morevale" novel, Old Bones, will be published on 16 January 2021.


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Thursday, 25 February 2021

How's the Pain? - Pascal Garnier


Death is Simon’s business. And now the ageing vermin exterminator is preparing to die. But he still has one last job down on the coast, and he needs a driver. 

Bernard is twenty-one. He can drive and he’s never seen the sea. He can’t pass up the chance to chauffeur for Simon, whatever his mother may say. As the unlikely pair set off on their journey, Bernard soon finds that Simon’s definition of vermin is broader than he’d expected … 

Veering from the hilarious to the horrific, this offbeat story from master stylist Pascal Garnier is at heart an affecting study of human frailty. 


What did I think?

Pascal Garnier is certainly what I would consider one of my great finds of 2020 and I was so looking forward to reading more of his books after I'd read and enjoyed A Long Way Off.  I picked up How's the Pain? and I was hooked from the first shocking chapter, unable to put the book down until I had greedily devoured every single perfect word, flawlessly translated once again by Emily Boyce.

At 171 pages, How's the Pain? is a short book but my goodness, there's lots going on in it.  I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions as, although it's considered to be in the noir genre, it's very funny.  By carefully choosing his words, Pascal Garnier creates such well developed characters that the reader really gets to know over the course of the book.  Even though he has a dubious career, I really liked Simon and I loved the interaction between him and his new acquaintance Bernard.

The writing is sublime and the narrative is sharp and witty, making the story flow beautifully and it's easy to read in one short sitting (I think it took me about 90 minutes to read).  It's definitely a book I'll read again, as I'm sure I'll have missed some things at the rate I was reading, and I've no doubt that I'll still find the same parts hilarious.

Filled with dark humour and quirky characters, How's the Pain? is completely magnifique!

Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for me to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Wednesday, 24 February 2021

COVER REVEAL: Songs in Ursa Major - Emma Brodie


I'm so excited to be part of the Songs In Ursa Major Cover Reveal today! Check out the gorgeous cover below, coming 24th June 2021

 

  • Full of atmosphere, sun-soaked hedonism, rock ‘n’ roll edge and an electric love story, Ursa Major is the perfect escapist read for summer 2021
  • Fans of The Girls by Emma Cline & Daisy Jones and the Six will be captivated
  • Partly inspired by the relationship between Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, we’re publishing to coincide with the 50th anniversary for Joni Mitchell’s classic album, Blue








Oh this looks absolutely stunning!  I'm definitely adding this to my wishlist and I can't wait to read it.



Here's a little bit about the book:




Preorder links:

BLOG TOUR: Singapore Fire (An Ash Carter Mystery-Thriller Book 6) - Murray Bailey


The Endgame.

Once again caught between the government and the criminal gangs, it's time for Carter to choose.

Escape now or stand and fight?


What did I think?

I jumped into the Ash Carter thriller series at book 5 (Singapore Killer) and absolutely loved it, proving that each novel can be read as a standalone.  The same can indeed be said for book 6, Singapore Fire,  which is the final instalment in the series.  Whilst I delighted in catching up with some old characters, I certainly wouldn't have lost any enjoyment in the novel if I hadn't read any of the previous books.

Ash Carter is a private investigator in 1950s Singapore.  Being ex-army, he has great rapport with local police and has useful contacts in the military.  When he starts investigating Andrew Yipp, a businessman and head of a secret society, Carter has a slight conflict of interest: he's in love with Yipp's niece, Su Ling.  Yipp also has his eye on Carter and both men are willing to fight to the death, but neither man wants Su Ling caught in the crossfire.  With Carter and Su Ling planning to flee Singapore, will Carter choose love over getting his man?

So I thought I had the ending of Singapore Fire all worked out then BAM!, Murray Bailey totally took the rug out from under me!  It actually couldn't have been a better conclusion but I really didn't see it coming at all.  My lips are sealed so I don't spoil it for others but take my word for it, it is jaw-droppingly good.

I should also mention that there are elements of grooming, child abuse and rape in the novel that make for slightly uncomfortable reading.  It's not particularly graphic but rape is never pleasant reading.  I just think that perhaps a trigger warning might be useful for some readers to be made aware of this in advance.

Blisteringly fast paced and atmospheric, with a plot that sizzles like a stick of dynamite, Singapore Fire is a stunning conclusion to the Ash Carter series.  If you read Singapore Fire as a standalone, you will definitely want to read all the earlier books in the series.  Gripping, breathtaking and heartpoundingly thrilling, Singapore Fire is well worthy of 5 stars.

Many thanks to the author for providing a copy of his book for me to read and review for the blog tour; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Monday, 22 February 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Colour of Thunder - Suzanne Harrison


One small island, six troubled lives, and the storm of the century is on its way.

In one of the world’s most vibrant international cities, present day Hong Kong, the lives of six people become irreversibly intertwined. The past is catching up with those running from it, while the futures of others hangs dangerously in the balance. But who knows the most? And what will they do to keep it that way?


What did I think?

The Colour of Thunder captured my attention from the very start with a murder at an orphanage in China.  The story then moves on to Hong Kong and the reader is introduced to a multitude of colourful characters, all the while wondering how this would all link back to the first chapter, which it does beautifully when all is revealed later on.

The synopsis mentions six troubled lives and as each character was introduced, they brought their own little backstories with them.  I made a note of nine characters as I was reading, as I wasn't sure who would turn out to be pivotal to the story, and I'm glad I jotted them down as I sometimes got confused as to who was who.  Five of the main characters are vividly drawn, multi-dimensional women who are linked together by businessman Johnny Humphries and the intertwining of their lives makes for compelling reading.  

There isn't just the mystery of the murder at the orphanage to unravel, there's also the mystery of the kidnapping and ransom of Madeline Chung.  I loved this tantalizing thread weaving through the story and it really held my interest and it's particularly personal to one of the characters.  Two mysteries in one kept me rapidly turning pages, especially as the stories ebbed and flowed like the tide and I couldn't wait for the direction to change so I could unravel more of each tale.

Very well plotted and wonderfully atmospheric, The Colour of Thunder is a very intriguing and compelling mystery set against a vividly painted backdrop of Hong Kong.  Suzanne Harrison's writing is filled with so much suspense and intrigue that I couldn't tear my eyes from the page until I had read every single word.  It's very addictive reading and I really enjoyed my virtual trip to Hong Kong from the comfort of my sofa.

Thank you to Legend Press for sending me an ARC to read and review for the blog tour; all opinions are my own.

My rating:

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About the author:

Suzanne Harrison is an Australian journalist and Editor who has lived in Hong Kong since 1999. She currently works freelance writing lifestyle and news features for the South China Morning Post.

Twitter: @suzannej123
Instagram: @suzannejs.455 










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Saturday, 20 February 2021

BLOG TOUR: Not Having It All - Jennie Ensor

Not Having It All by Jennie Ensor has had a makeover and to celebrate the new cover some fabulous bloggers are sharing guest posts, extracts and reviews along with news of a fabulous giveaway (see the end of my post for details).  

I'm sharing an extract which follows the details about the book below, but you can also click HERE to read my review.


“I read most of the book with a smile on my face; a fabulous bit of feel-good fiction” – The Book Magnet


This is the story of four middle-aged people who are definitely NOT having it all. Meet Bea, Kurt, Maddie and Colin.

Senior lecturer Bea Hudson juggles her job at the ‘Psycho Lab’ with looking after her demanding five-year-old daughter, badly-behaved dog and next-to-useless au pair. When her chief exec husband is sent overseas and she’s left without childcare, Bea turns to best friend Maddie for help.

Kurt, downing whiskies in his hotel room as he imagines what his wife is up to, is convinced that Bea is becoming a little too friendly with Maddie. With characteristic obsession he enlists his neighbour’s help in a secret surveillance operation.

Found-object artist Maddie longs for a child of her own with a man she can trust – and he must love cats.

Divorced, risk-averse Colin is a senior manager at ‘the nation’s number one pussy insurer’. When he meets Maddie in a lift he’s smitten, and resolves to displace Maddie’s feline companions on her sofa. But he starts to fear that Maddie sees him only as ‘a handy stud with a fat wallet’.

Can Bea and Kurt find happiness again? Can Maddie and Colin risk falling in love?
 

A story about love, relationships and second chances, perfect for fans of Marian Keyes and Jojo Moyes, and anyone who loved Bridget Jones’ Diary or Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. If you enjoy novels with depth, heart and laugh-out-loud humour, you’ll love this razor-sharp romantic comedy like no other.

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EXTRACT

Bea’s journal
Portrait of a stranded scientist, make-do mother and weary wife 

Right now, I can confidently tick all of the above. All three strands of Bea Hudson seem to be plummeting to a nadir.

Where to begin? Too many thoughts to put down. But if I don’t, they’ll spend what’s left of the night partying in my cerebral cortex and sleep will be even more impossible.

Before I forget, I’d better mention it’s 3.03am sometime in late May – or is it June already? My brain has switched off. It’s definitely still 2018.

Academically, I’m still floundering in a sea of two-star journals without hope of rescue any time soon. On the plus side, there’s still some way to go before self-annihilation George Price style – or some other style, as I’m not good with gore. (He killed himself after being fleeced by homeless alcoholics – so my tutor at uni impressed upon us – while trying to perform random acts of kindness to disprove his theory of altruism as he didn’t want to believe that everyone is essentially selfish.) Perhaps I need a more positive role model than an underappreciated, mentally questionable biologist.

Motherhood ranking is nearing an all-time low following another battle with Fran over her habit of putting Mr Gruffy on top of the wardrobe so he falls on anyone opening the door, hot on the heels of yesterday’s announcement at dinner that from now on she will not be eating anything orange in addition to anything green (thus excluding runner beans, Katya’s carrot and parsnip mash, and the mango I’d bought for dessert). 

Marital satisfaction index is in steep decline after this week’s arguments with Kurt – who left the freezer door open and who should be responsible for vetting Fran’s use of stray computing devices, come to mind (and other arguments I’m too weary to recall). 

Then there’s Kurt’s cattier-than-ever comments about Maddie – our text messages to each other take up more bandwidth than a week’s output from BBC iPlayer (!) and she’s a bad influence on our daughter, not to mention me, for exposing us to foreign films about transvestites and Channel 4 documentaries about bodily hang-ups. (A huge exaggeration, apart from that Almodóvar film we watched one Friday afternoon while Fran was trampolining and a program about people with tattoos in unusual places, which I turned off at the first sniff of age-inappropriate content). Soon I won’t even be able to ask Maddie over for a cup of tea without Kurt dissecting the teabags afterwards.

Things can only get better. 

I wonder – what are the chances of Kurt finding this? 

Probably shouldn’t worry too much. If anyone manages to extract this clapped-out WH Smith exercise book from the bottom of my stack of Neuron journals, has the slightest inclination to open it, wade past the evidence of how much I’ve spent on cappuccinos at every conference I’ve attended since 2013 and then has the gumption to decipher this scribble, good luck to them. 

That’s what the man from the halfway house wished me yesterday when I was walking back from the park with Big Ears. ‘Good luck’ I mean. That’s the only thing he seems to say, apart from ‘With looks like that you shouldn’t be allowed out.’ (??) I certainly could do with some good luck. Maybe the reason my research never yields gobsmackingly brilliant results isn’t because I’m not doing the right experiments or my team is too small or I’m too damn tired most of the time to do anything properly – I’m just unlucky. 

Picked up another batch of hairs from the shower yesterday (long and brown so not Kurt’s). At this rate, I’ll soon be going bald as well as grey. Hope Kurt won’t mind – better book an appointment at the hair salon. My hair is no longer as big as a squirrel’s tail, as he used to tell me in wonder and admiration. At least I still have my big eyes, big hips and big bosom. 

Better stop, Kurt’s hissing about a pencil rustling.




About the author:

A Londoner with Irish heritage, Jennie Ensor began her writing career as a journalist, obtaining a Masters in Journalism (winning two awards) and covering topics from forced marriage to accidents in the mining industry. She isn’t afraid to tackle controversial issues in her novels, either: Islamic terrorism, Russian gangsters and war crimes in her debut BLIND SIDE (a psychological mystery blended with a love story), domestic abuse and sexual exploitation in her second, THE GIRL IN HIS EYES. 

Her third novel NOT HAVING IT ALL, a relationship comedy, is an excursion to the brighter side of life. A new edition was published in January 2021. 

Ms Ensor’s poetry has appeared in many publications including Poetry Salzburg Review, Ink Sweat and Tears. Her poem ‘Lost Connection’ placed second in the Breakout Prose category of the Fish Lockdown Prize in 2020. 

In her spare time (?) she reads, walks and attempts twice-weekly yoga. She regularly cycles the punishing hills of north London and at the end of the day enjoys collapsing with a bar of chocolate/glass of strong alcohol in front of a TV crime drama.

Author links
Author website: https://jennieensor.com




GIVEAWAY
A prize draw to celebrate the relaunch will be held at 6pm on 23 February on Jennie Ensor's FaceBook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JennieEnsorAuthor (the giveaway post is pinned to the page). 




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Friday, 19 February 2021

BLOG BLAST: Allegation - R. G. Adams


An evil monster exposed?

Or an innocent father condemned?

A scandal will shake a small community to its very foundations.

Sandbeach, South Wales. Two women have come forward to make historical sexual allegations against a pillar of the local community, Matthew Cooper. And child-safeguarding protocol demands that Social Services remove the accused from his home and his family, while a formal assessment is carried out.

The Cooper case lands on the desk of inexperienced Social Worker, Kit Goddard. Although intrepid and intuitive, she is ill-prepared for such a high-profile case.

Kit finds herself navigating a local minefield of connections and class, reputations and rumour. Unsure whether her interference is a heroic intervention or a hurtful intrusion, she knows one thing: it will have an impact. The question is whether this impact will be to expose an iniquitous lie, or destroy an innocent life...


What did I think?

With allegations of child sexual abuse, I was expecting Allegation to be an uncomfortable read but there are so many strands to this amazing story that once I got into it I was completely gripped and couldn't put it down.

The main storyline is the allegation of historical abuse and it's one that really got under my skin.  The women haven't come forward before because they feared that nobody would believe them; they are from a rough part of town and Matthew Cooper, the man they are accusing, is well connected so it could appear that they are just after a big pay-off.  The "did he/didn't he" question constantly hovered in the back of my mind while Social Worker, Kit Goddard assessed the safety of the Cooper children.

Kit is a fantastic character; although inexperienced, she's very good at her job and will do whatever it takes to make sure the children are safe.  I didn't envy her at all, locking horns with the Coopers and constantly being threatened that they were going to make a complaint.  The way that Kit kept a clear head and put the children first is really admirable, especially when Kit has so much going on in her personal life.  The gradual revealing of Kit's backstory makes her such a well-developed character and this thread added another dimension to the story.

It took me a couple of chapters to get hooked but once I did, I absolutely raced through the book.  The chapters are quite long, there are only 16 chapters in the whole 313 page book, but the plot is so gripping that I couldn't tear my eyes away from the page.  The author has first-hand knowledge of social services and I loved getting a glimpse into the life of a social worker.  There are so many minefields to dodge and hoops to jump through that it sounds like a total nightmare and it must be awful to be so unwelcome in a home where they are carrying out an assessment.

Thought-provoking, intriguing and completely compelling, Allegation is a very impressive debut.  I'm delighted to find that it's the first book in the Kit Goddard series; I'll certainly be looking out for more.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog blast; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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About the author:
R. G. Adams is a former social worker with thirty years of experience across all areas of social services. She lives in Wales with her family, and Allegation is her first novel.




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Wednesday, 17 February 2021

These Violent Delights - Chloe Gong

 

The brilliantly imaginative New York Times bestselling fantasy retelling of Romeo and Juliet set against the immersive backdrop of 1920s Shanghai.

In glittering Shanghai, a monster awakens . . .

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city in the grip of chaos. At its heart is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang - a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette's first love . . . and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns - and grudges - aside and work together, for if they can't stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Filled with romance, intrigue and betrayal, this heart-stopping debut is perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane.


What did I think?

I haven't read a lot of Shakespeare but everyone knows the story of Romeo and Juliet so I was intrigued by the idea of Chloe Gong's debut, These Violent Delights.  This retelling brings the story into a more modern but vintage era by setting it in 1920s Shanghai rather than 16th century Verona and it works brilliantly.

The Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers run the streets of Shanghai but neither of them can fight a monster they can't see.  A monster that strikes both gangs, infecting them with madness that results in people committing suicide by ripping their own throats out.  Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov are former lovers and heirs to rival gangs but they know they can only defeat the monster if they work together.

I was a little daunted when I started the book as I don't know Shakespeare well but I was charmed from the start just by the slight change to the characters' names.  I was surprised by how many Shakespearean references I did actually pick up but, whilst paying homage to the bard, it is clear that Chloe Gong has made the story her own and written an engaging, compelling novel that effortlessly drew me into the story.  I was completely captivated and flew through the pages faster than I expected.

Although I sometimes forgot the 1920s setting, the whole novel does have a vintage feel about it; just little things like clothing and the way that people act reminded me of the time period.  I also loved the addition of the monster which gave a fantasy edge to the story and made it something extraordinary.  If Shakespeare had written fantasy, I don't think he could have bettered These Violent Delights.

As this is the first book in a series, the story isn't over yet.  So although I felt rather bereft when I reached the end of the book, I know I shall be returning to Roma and Juliette's Shanghai some time soon.

These Violent Delights is a highly original and ambitious retelling of a classic tale by a very talented new author; Chloe Gong is certainly one to watch.  This is an astonishing debut; a tender, brutal, dark and imaginative novel that blows apart the genre boundaries and sets itself in a league of its own.  I can't wait to continue the story.

I received an ARC from the publisher for the purpose of review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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