Delighted to be a part of the #blogtour for #TheBlackbird by Claire Allen and featuring a discussion with Dr Sophie Oliver. Keep scrolling for an opportunity to win a copy of this book #giveaway with huge thanks to @HenninghamPress

Published by Henningham Family Press

The Blurb

It is 1941. Hope’s father, Jenner, builds Liverpool Cathedral while the Luftwaffe’s bombs fall. It is 2014, and Hope cares for her husband Robert as Alzheimer’s destroys his personality.

Hope’s husband Robert is a retired civic sculptor. As Alzheimer’s unravels his mind, a secret he has kept for her threatens to emerge, breaking the fragile peace she has made with her parents’ memory: the truth of what happened to her mother during the Liverpool Blitz.

Hope brings in Louise to be home-carer. A young mother, the last resident of the Blackbird Estate, harassed by her ex-partner. But now they are together, can they find a way the past can’t hurt them?

My thoughts…

I’m absolutely delighted to be a part of ‘The Blackbird’ Blog Tour for @HenninghamPress with thanks to David for the invitation. I’m also delighted to be adding a conversation between Claire Allen and Dr. Sophie Oliver.

Firstly, and importantly, I loved reading this book. It’s also a joy to look at and there are lovely little illustrations dotted throughout the pages.

The story is constructed via two narrative timelines, there’s a mix of character perspectives, and the reader moves between 1941 and 2014. I soon became absorbed in the unfolding stories, albeit initially contrasting in nature. From the war threatened city of Liverpool and those connected to the challenging building of its imposing, dominating Cathedral, and to London’s Blackbird Estate, which is dilapidated, and the tenants are slowly being evicted.

Forgive my oxymoronic phrasing, but there’s both simplicity and complexities in its syntax, expression and figurative style. It’s both minimal and detailed; there’s a deep control to the writing, and I loved it. For more than one reason, the book also resonated with me. Last year I visited Liverpool and spent time at the Cathedral with my daughter. It’s a stunning building, and whilst I was there, an organist was rehearsing; the music seemed to dominate every space and people were absorbing the atmosphere, and reflecting in their own ways. It was an almost sublime and cathartic experience – reading about its challenging construction brought back these memories.

Our family is also dealing with dementia at the moment, and it’s a very hard journey, so the story of Hope and Robert was very emotional for me. There’s loss, heart-break, turmoil, grief wrapped in its pages, but it’s also a story of how the past remains within us, construction of the physical and the spiritual, and how relationships form and break. I loved this historical character led novel and would highly recommend it.

Please keep reading for a discussion of this novel between the author and Dr. Sophie Oliver, lecturer in Modernism at the University of Liverpool.

Claire Allen and Dr Sophie Oliver discuss ‘The Blackbird’.

The Blackbird is preoccupied with construction, with building things, but also with things being destroyed. The book itself is carefully built around several storylines in different places and different times. How did you construct the novel? What was your process of building? Tell us about the components.

I began with characters and small, specific things about them.  For example, with the older character, Hope, my starting point was when I noticed a small block of nineteen-thirties flats built in a gap between rather grander, older houses in one of the roads that leads up to Telegraph Hill, near where I live, and I imagined an elderly woman living there.  Her character and elements of her story grew from that.  And I had, for a long time, wanted to write a novel about the building of Liverpool Cathedral.  I’d originally thought of a kind of multi-generational saga but, in the end, I found the old lady living on Telegraph Hill kind of wove herself into things and I decided she belonged in the novel about Liverpool.

With the construction/destruction theme, I did try to knit everything together with underpinning threads which run through the whole novel, and they all tended towards oppositions: as well as construction/destruction, I was also thinking about memory/truth, control/independence and the idea of random chance versus things being connected.

How do you teach your students how to ‘knit everything together’?

I tend to deal with structure on a micro level, rather than on the bigger scale.  Partly because of the kind of creative writing courses I teach, which are made up of very short, free-standing sessions, generating new ideas each week, so we don’t work on shaping a single piece over a longer period of time.

One thing I do focus on with students is how a good piece of writing can be a kind of choreographed plate-spinning exercise, in which the various separate elements that might be teased apart in creative writing classes are all working together.   The trick is to keep all the plates spinning at the right speed and keep the joins seamless.  So, for example, we will do an exercise on dialogue, but we also keep the ‘setting’ plate spinning and have the characters interacting with their environment while they’re speaking.  And we keep the ‘character’ plate spinning by incorporating the characters’ movements, gestures, habitual actions, etc into the section of dialogue. 

It’s funny because in The Blackbird, I felt that the threads you mention are actually visible. I think you can see the seams as a central part of the book. Not in a clunky way at all, not in the way you might want to iron them out – their visibility is poetic because the construction is also thematic. Perhaps it’s not always desirable to make the joins seamless?  

That’s fantastic to hear! I’m really pleased that those thematic threads are visible because it’s always so difficult to know, when you’re writing something, how it’s going to work for the reader.  And because the construction of the book is as much thematic as it is narrative I always imagine the themes, rather than the plot, as the skeleton that holds it all together and I absolutely do want that to be visible.  So you’re right – it isn’t always desirable to have seamless joins.  I suppose what I was talking about with the seamlessness was more the nuts and bolts stuff of how to put a passage of prose together so that it is fluid and as potent as it can be.  And to avoid that thing where people will sometimes skip bits that describe the setting when they’re reading.  If that descriptive passage also incorporates character development, for example, because it’s showing a character experiencing the setting, rather than just describing it from a more distanced, authorial point of view, then it feels more likely the reader won’t be tempted to skip it, and chances are it’ll be a richer, more effective few paragraphs into the bargain!

I’m new to Liverpool, having been in London for the best part of 20 years. You can see the cathedral in Liverpool from so many places in the city, and when I lived in south London I would pass the Heygate estate – which for me was brought to mind by the Blackbird estate – every day on the bus, until it was demolished. That symmetry pleased me, a sense of connection between the two cities that otherwise are only connected in my mind because I decided to move recently. How are the two cities connected for you? Is connection important in a wider sense?

Yes, my experience of watching the Heygate Estate gradually disappear as I passed it on the bus every day was very similar to yours and, in fact, The Blackbird Estate is very much based on the Heygate, (with a nod to other estates with bird names, eg The Nightingale Estate in Clapton, the Woodpecker Estate in New Cross, and an estate in Oxford called Blackbird Leys, which was at one time notorious for joyriding.)

The two cities are very connected for me in a personal sense, because they are the two main places I have lived.  I grew up in Liverpool and lived there until I left to go to university, and I’ve now lived in London for well over 20 years.  There was a time a few years ago when I became very aware of the fact that I was approaching the point where I would have lived in London for as long as I’d lived in Liverpool, and the question of where I belonged, where I was ‘from’, started to nag at me.  I’ve now passed that pivot point and have lived in London for far longer than I ever lived in Liverpool, so I guess I’m now undeniably a Londoner, but I still find the idea of ‘belonging’ really interesting.  

And yes, connection is something I find very important in a wider sense.  I love reading novels where there are echoes and parallels between characters’ experiences or between different times and different stories and I’ve enjoyed creating my own echoes and connections in The Blackbird.

Are there any specific novels that influenced you?

William Golding’s The Spire was the most obvious influence, in the sense that the 1941 sections of The Blackbird have lots of narrative parallels with Golding’s novel.  I also enjoyed playing around with the way I echoed the earlier text, so, for example, in my opening chapter I kept the beginning of The Spire very much in mind, but, instead of using sunlight to create a sense of joy and divine chosen-ness, which is how Golding begins The Spire, I tried to create a sense of discomfort.  

I’m not sure there are any other similarly direct influences, but the idea of connection– the ability of some to see or seek connection and others to deny its existence or importance, and to what extent it is possible to bridge the divide between the two – was something I always had at the back of my mind as I was writing and creating relationships between characters.  

I have a feeling that you think of ‘connection’ in a gendered way – the women in the novel are the ones building relationships, taking care of others. Is there something in that?

That’s a really good point!  I’d never really thought about it as being gendered, and it’s not something I did consciously in The Blackbird, but you’re absolutely right – it is the female characters who do more of the connecting and the relationship-building.  Hmmm.  It’s interesting, because in the novel I’ve been working on since The Blackbird, I have been developing two characters who are shaping up to be slightly Forsterian older women who just sense stuff.  And my narrative point of view has, so far, been deliberately female-only, so I think there is definitely something in what you’re saying!

‘Sensing stuff’ suggests a way of knowing that isn’t about facts, but more about intuition, and it might even be faulty. There seems to be something similar happening with your approach to the past, for example, in The Blackbird. It’s partly a historical novel, half set in the 1940s, but apart from the war you quite deliberately avoid giving too much historical detail in terms of time and place. Can you say a bit more about your approach to the past generally?

Yes, I think that ‘sensing stuff’ is about intuition, and it can, as you suggest, sometimes be wrong.  I think the character of Mary is maybe a good example of that: her tendency to see connections everywhere is certainly seen by her husband and her friend Thomas as something based too much on feeling and sensitivity.  And I think I, too, thought rather as they did and felt that she tended to read too much into things.  But it’s ambiguous, because in the end she is right about the need to accept one’s own responsibility and culpability and it’s Thomas’s inability to do that which makes her so disappointed in him.

The idea of ambiguity was really important to me, and I used the instability of memory, and offered alternative versions of what might have happened in the past, as ways of exploring this.  I enjoyed not giving answers and exploiting the tension between that need to know ‘what really happened’ on the night Mary Jenner died, and the genuine possibilities that are offered by not knowing. 

With the point you make about avoiding giving too much historical detail, I think maybe that’s to do with being so close-up to the characters rather than stepping a bit further back and taking a wider view that incorporates more of the surrounding time and place.  It’s not necessarily another influence from The Spire, but that is a novel that does something similar, I think, although to a more extreme degree, in the sense that the whole book is from such an incredibly close-up, blinkered point of view that it is difficult to see anything outside the point of view of the main character, so you don’t really get a sense of a wider historical context.   I think, in general, I tend to zoom in on characters, so perhaps the effect that has on historical period is that it gives only a partial view.

The Author

Claire Allen spent her childhood in Liverpool and lives in London. She teaches English literature and creative writing at City Lit. Her first two novels, The Mountains of Light (2004) and Protection (2006) were published by Headline Review. Her books have been translated into French and Greek.

Henningham Family Press

Henningham Family Press is the collaborative art and writing of David and Ping Henningham. We are both Artists and Authors, and we are curious about every aspect of writing, printing and publishing. We complete and represent our writing through fine art printmaking, bookbinding and performance.

Books and Prints are machines for communicating ideas, and the ideas that fascinate us tend to involve Money, History and Religion. We exploit the fact that reading makes the dead available for comment. We make live shows that bring our books and ideas to life.

HFP have teamed up with G.F Smith, paper merchant to Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press, to celebrate small presses. All editions of the book will be covered with Gmund Urban, which uses “genuine pulverized cement” to recreate concrete’s subtle texture and sparkle. The Römerturm paper mill has created “tradition and dynamic modernism in one material.” Especially apt for a book that is set in a post-war housing estate: The Blackbird. It is a sculptural material, perfect for HFP’s hand-bindery.

WIN A COPY OF CLAIRE ALLEN’S ‘THE BLACKBIRD’

For a chance to win a copy of this book, please comment on this post, and I’ll add you into the prize draw. Winner chosen on Friday 14th August, 2020. The winner will be contacted shortly after. Huge thanks to David, at Henningham Family Press for the generous offer of the gifted book for this giveaway. The giveaway also runs across Twitter and Instagram.

I’m delighted to be a part of the #blogtour for #Mime by @ChrisseyWrites with thanks to Anne @RandomTTours #readers #newbook #bookchat

I’m quite an eclectic reader, so when I was asked to join the blog tour for ‘Mime’, I jumped at the opportunity to read a genre that’s not my typical choice. In all honesty, it was not a book I’d probably pick up if I saw it in a bookstore, mainly because the cover doesn’t appeal to me personally (because I’m not a supernatural/horror reader), but I’m really glad I got to read this. Keep scrolling to find out why…

Blurb

There’s a supernatural killer on the loose…

Elliot Cross didn’t believe in monsters. At least, not until his brother died at the hands of something unnatural.

Four years later and a string of impossible deaths leave the police baffled. Consumed by a desire to shine a journalistic light on the supernatural world, Elliot sees a chance to make a difference. Enlisting the help of his (only) employee, Samantha, he quickly identifies the culprit – a demonic mime artist whose invisible creations are fatally real.

Way out of his depth, Elliot’s only hope is renowned demon hunter Gabriel Cushing. But tracking down Gabriel is only the beginning… The search for a way to end the demon forever will take Elliot and Sam across the country, uncovering lost history, buried secrets, and a few new truths about themselves.

My thoughts

Mime is one of those books that’s pure escapism, and fun to read. It’s on the long side, coming in at 520 pages, but don’t let that put you off! It’s an adventure from start to finish, and I relaxed straight away into Harrison’s clear and uncomplicated storytelling. I’ve always loved being told stories since I was little, and this is one of those books you can just sink into. It’s described as a supernatural thriller, and it certainly is that, however you also get a flawed and haunted lead character, Elliot Cross, whose investigation into the strange and weird wraps the reader very quickly into a battle with a supernatural demon nemesis. Along the way, he enlists support from other like-minded people, and suddenly we have a varied demon fighting team, but it’s certainly a battle to stay alive.

Cross’s main sidekick is Sam, and she becomes more than an employee as the story develops, this adds a side romance plot, but it doesn’t overtake at all. The focus remains on the battle to remove Mime from its host and stop it murdering innocents. There’s a hidden past to uncover, as the team race across the country to find a way to exorcise the demon that is after them, and one of the secrets has deeply personal implications. This adds needed depth, and is plotted in extremely well.

If you like supernatural reads, than I’d highly recommend ‘Mime’. A driven mystery, a supernatural thriller, an evil demon in a battle with flawed, but driven, dedicated demon hunters and a fun adventure. I really enjoyed the variety of the cast of characters, and as we discover more about them, they also realise there’s so much more going on under the surface. The story sets itself up really well for the sequel.

A thrilling supernatural adventure with heart! Recommended Read.

The Author

Chrissey Harrison

Author of supernatural thrillers and other spec genre fiction.

Subscribe to my newsletter for free bonus content: https://bit.ly/3d3ar0k

What can you expect from my books? Monsters, magic, action and adventure, and fragile human characters trying to muddle through as best they can. They make mistakes and bad choices sometimes, and they have to learn to recognise their own strengths and weaknesses and turn to their friends and loved ones for help and support.

My debut novel, “Mime”, released June 2020. Working on this book has been an epic 10 year journey learning how to be a writer. Although Mime was my first project, it has routinely been on the back burner while I worked on other projects. You can discover the published ones in the books section of my website, and novelette “The Star Coin Prophecy” is available as a free download for subscribers.

FIND ME:
Website: http://chrisseyharrison.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/chrisseywrites
Facebook: http://facebook.com/authorchrisseyharrison

I’m a science geek, gamer, fan of sci-fi and fantasy, and wearer of many hats. Metaphorical hats, that is, not so much real hats. At the moment I mostly wear my writer hat, my designer and my crafter hat. I also used to wear my film maker hat when producing movies with my amazing colleagues over at The Great Escape.

I live in Clevedon in a creaky old Victorian terrace with my partner and my 17 year-old goldfish Ambition. One day I will own a cat… one day.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mime-Supernatural-Thriller-Chrissey-Harrison/dp/1838593608

Check out the other blog tour chat for ‘Mime’

2020 Blog Tour Dates for MIME

Pleased to be joining the #blogtour for #TheOneThatGotAway by @Egan_Hughes #compulsivereaders @Tr4cyF3nt0n #newbook #readers with thanks to @BooksSphere

You love him. You trust him. You can’t escape him.

The blurb

Mia thinks she has escaped her controlling ex-husband, Rob. She’s found herself a new home, a new boyfriend and a new life.

But when the police arrive to tell her that Rob has been found dead on his boat, things quickly fall apart. Mia is terrified she’ll be suspected, however the police are keeping all options open. They know Mia had reason to hate her ex-husband, but she’s not the only one. Plenty of people wanted Rob Creavy dead, not least his new wife, Rachel.

What they don’t know is that Mia has a secret, one she’s desperate to protect.

But someone else knows. Someone with very dark secrets of their own . . .

My thoughts

‘The One That Got Away’ is a tense thriller built on lies, abuse, manipulation, jealousy and deceit that ends with murder. The story is told in different time frames via our frame narrator, so it’s really enjoyable piecing everything together. One of the things I enjoyed about this story is controlled plotting of the narrative, and the insight into gaslighting behaviour.

The story begins with a death, and the reader finds themselves questioning what really happened, as we find out more about Mia, her current life and her past as Jess. In the present day, Mia is dealing with the aftermath of her ex-husband’s murder, and its implications on her current life. This story is split up with the experience of Jess, as she falls in love, gets married and finds her life becomes anything but happy.

This book is a strong debut, for me personally it stalled a little in the middle, and I wanted the narrative to develop at a quicker pace, but that’s just my experience. The narrative drive comes from the question, why now? why does this murder happen at this particular time and who are the suspects? I enjoyed how little clues and red herrings were implanted carefully into the story.

Overall, a solid psychological thriller debut. Huge thanks to the author, and publisher for the review copy.

Please buy from independents if you can XX

July reads and… whoopsie also May and Junes! #readingwrapup #bookchat #readers #bookblogger

I’ve just realised I didn’t post about my May and June reads, I think the ‘RONA’ pandemic has taken my focus away! I’ve been shutting down my costume and fancy dress hire shop (it sadly is a victim of RONA) and putting into stasis the Stage School, Touring Theatre, rehearsals rooms and other theatrical work, in the hope that they’ll come back to life in the future. So, like many others, these are tough times. If you’re having a difficult time too, I really wish you well, and keep the faith!

So back to books, I thought I’d tag the May and June reads into my July reads blog post, so if you are interested then do keep scrolling. 🙂

Book totals: July 13, June 5, and May 18

July 2020

Cape May by Chip Cheek – set in the 1950s and explores the loss of innocence; lots of potential, but soon turned into the unexpected, and not in a good way for me. Disappointed.

The Girl from Widow Hills by Megan Miranda – I enjoyed this one, see my blog post for further chat: https://booksteaandme.blog/2020/07/10/blogtour-for-thegirlfromwidowhills-by-meganlmiranda-corvusbooks-randomthingstours-annecater/

Descendent of the Crane by Joan He – I personally found this a little slow going, but a solid fantasy read about an unstable kingdom, power, magic and the fight for justice.

Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver – not your typical murder mystery thriller; creative, disturbing and addictive. For more chat, check out my earlier blog post: https://booksteaandme.blog/2020/07/21/blogtour-for-hintonhollowdeathtrip-by-will_carver-dspace-orendabooks-annecater/

Written in Blood by Chris Carter – the third Robert Hunter book, and another cracking read. For more chat, check out my blog tour post: https://booksteaandme.blog/2020/07/23/blogtour-writteninblood-by-chris-carter-simonschusteruk-harriett_col-randomthingstours/

Good Samaritans by Will Carver – a writer who doesn’t hold back; it’s dark, sexual and disturbing. Controversial and addictive.

Anna Undreaming by Thomas Welsh – a complex fantasy world, and a decent debut. For more chat: https://booksteaandme.blog/2020/07/18/bookchat-annaundreaming-calmdowntom-owlhollowpress/

The Resident by David Jackson – creepy, full of black comedy and a recommended read.

Wounding PB by Heidi James – not for me, just didn’t hold my attention.

Shed No Tears by Caz Frear – the third book featuring DC Cat Kinsella, and the best to date. Blog chat here: https://booksteaandme.blog/2020/07/23/blogtour-shednotears-cazzif-zaffrebooks-compulsivereaders-tr4cyf3nt0n/

The Cry of the Lake by Charlie Tyler – a solid debut novel about murder, passion and secrets. Blog tour chat: https://booksteaandme.blog/2020/07/31/happy-to-be-on-the-blogtour-today-for-thecryofthelake-by-charlietyler17-randomttours-with-thanks-to-anne-for-the-invite/

The Wind Dancer by Iris Johansen – entertaining historical saga , enjoyable but features a dominating relationship.

Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry – really enjoyed this high tension thriller with depth, see blog for further chat. https://booksteaandme.blog/2020/08/03/its-blogtour-day-for-dontturnaround-by-jessbarryauthor-harvillsecker-jazminamarsh-vintagebooks-newbook-readers-bookrecommendations/

June 2020

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout – I enjoyed this, a fantasy novel about protected maidens waiting for Ascension, until one decides to make a different choice, and with the help of Hawke, changes her course.

The Official Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Cookbook – delightful cookbook, full of cookery history and delicious recipes.

The First Lie by A.J. Park – entertaining thriller, about a man coming home to find his wife over the body of a dead man.

Daughters of Cornwall by Fern Brittain – an enjoyable family saga from 1914 to 2020.

Very Nearly Normal by Hannah Sunderland – funny rom-com and entertaining escapism, enjoyable.

May 2020

A Murderous Relation (Veronica Speedwell 5) by Deanna Raybourn – the lastest book in the Speedwell and Stoker mysteries, always entertaining!

The Seduction by Joanna Briscoe – creatively written book of desire, obsession and the female. https://booksteaandme.blog/2020/06/20/blogtour-theseduction-joannabriscoe-bloomsburybooks-randomthingstours-annecater-readers-bookchat-newbook/

Poison Study (Study 1) by Maria V. Snyder – the first book in a fantasy series about a food taster, who risks her life daily keeping the king safe, but soon her world falls apart. Fun.

The Split by Sharon Bolton – this is a layered perspective novel, with unreliable narrators, gives the brain a workout. Enjoyable, Bolton never seems to deliver a bad book. https://booksteaandme.blog/2020/05/26/blogtour-the-split-by-sharon-bolton-and-published-by-orion-books/

The Deck of Omens (The Devouring Grey 2) by Christine Lynn Herman – the second in the series set in Four Paths, and the Beast that threatens the town may once again return, enjoyable.

The Devouring Grey by Christine Lynn Herman – the first book in the duology, set in a town threatened by an ancient curse, and as a new girl arrives in town, she soon notices something is very wrong. Fun,

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren – Perfect summer garden read, lots of laughs and your predictable but necessary happy ever after.

The Truants by Kate Weinberg – a coming of age drama, full of lies, desires, manipulation and murder. Recommended. https://booksteaandme.blog/2020/06/16/blogtour-thetruants-by-kateweinberg-bloomsburybooks-with-thanks-to-annecater-randomthingstours/

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – the first book in a YA fantasy series. A great start, about power, control, slavery, freedom and corruption.

The Curator by M.W. Craven – Always a fantastic read, this is the third book in the Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw crime series, and there’s an evil mastermind to be defeated, but it’s a challenge. Highly recommended. https://booksteaandme.blog/2020/05/29/blogtour-thecurator-mwcravenuk-littlebrownuk-thecrimevault-bethwright26/

The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman – absolutely loved this book. Read it! https://booksteaandme.blog/2020/05/30/blogtour-thesecretsofstrangers-by-charitynorman1-randomthingstours/

The Sixth Window by Rachel Abbott – book 6 in the DCI Tom Douglas series, a hit and run, dark intentions and a search for the truth.

Kill Me Again by Rachel Abbott – DCI Tom Douglas investigates a missing husband and a murdered wife case, that soon becomes far more complex.

Sleep Tight by Rachel Abbott – after blood is found, and a woman is missing DCI Tom Douglas begins to investigate.

The Glass House by Eve Chase – really enjoyed this story, highly recommended. https://booksteaandme.blog/2020/05/29/blogtour-theglasshouse-evepollychase-michaeljbooks-gabyyoung/

The Back Road by Rachel Abbott – Another DCI Tom Douglas investigation where a tragic hit and run causes strife in a small community.

Only the Innocent by Rachel Abbott – this is the first book in the DCI Tom Douglas series, a crime drama with sordid secrets and murder to the plot, good series start.

Happy #paperback Publication Day to #LostYou by Haylen Beck @stuartneville @JazminaMarsh @vintagebooks

You’re looking for your son. But she found him first.

When a little boy goes missing, his mother desperately wants to find him . . . before someone else does.

Libby would do anything for her three-year-old son Ethan. And after all they’ve been through, a holiday seems the perfect antidote for them both. Their hotel is peaceful, safe and friendly, yet Libby can’t help feeling that someone is watching her. Watching Ethan. Because, for years, Libby has lived with a secret.

Just days into their holiday, when Libby is starting to relax, Ethan steps into an elevator on his own, and the doors close before Libby can stop them. Moments later, Ethan is gone.

Libby thought she had been through the worst, but her nightmare is only just beginning. And in a desperate hunt for her son, it becomes clear she’s not the only one looking for him.

Who will find him first?

Book Chat

This book draws its horror from a mother’s worst nightmare: your child goes missing. It’s an incredibly tense thriller read with a strong emotional journey, and an additional layer to make this a twisty ride for the reader. It was a one sitting read for me, and once you start this reading the pace is intense and driven.

The story is about Libby, who finds herself in a nightmare situation early on in the book; slowly we find out that there’re dark secrets under the surface of the story. Libby is a single mother and whilst on holiday loses her son. It’s also Anna’s story, a young woman who, through desperate times, becomes involved in shady dealings with a surrogate business, and her story is entwined dramatically with Libby’s. I loved how the reader’s perspective is played with, as reveals are made; the final climax is incredibly tense, and heart-breaking.

This is a book about personal needs, relationships, motherhood, secrets and tragedy. I would have no hesitation recommending this thriller book. Out now!

Praise for ‘Lost You’:

‘A tense, heart-wrenching thriller’ T. M. Logan, author of The Holiday

‘A twisty, action-packed adventure that never draws breath and will strike an emotional chord in the heart of every mother’ Daily Mail

‘Far too few thrillers have genuine suspense, twists that give you goosebumps and – most importantly – characters that you really care about. Lost You has it all’ Mark Billingham

Please buy from Independents if you can XX

It’s #blogtour day for #Don’tTurnAround by @jessbarryauthor @HarvillSecker @JazminaMarsh @vintagebooks #newbook #readers #bookrecommendations

Delighted to be chatting about ‘Don’t Turn Around’ by Jessica Barry today, with thanks to Harvill Secker, and Jasmine at Penguin Random House. Please keep scrolling down for the book blurb, some bookish chat, about the author info, and a letter to the reader from Jessica Barry about ‘Don’t Turn Around’.

Two Strangers. Dangerous Secrets. Their only chance is each other.

The Blurb

Two strangers, Cait and Rebecca, are driving across America. Cait’s job is to transport women to safety. Out of respect, she never asks any questions. Like most of the women, Rebecca is trying to escape something.

But what if Rebecca’s secrets put them both in danger? There’s a reason Cait chooses to keep on the road, helping strangers. She has a past of her own, and knows what it’s like to be followed.

And there is someone right behind them, watching their every move…

My Thoughts…

Okay, when someone has said to me ‘don’t turn around’ it often strikes fear in me… in my world mainly because there’s some spider crawling towards me, or there’s someone I’m avoiding 😉 However, in Jessica Barry’s book, ‘Don’t Turn Around’ has more deadly consequences!

This is a new thriller read that jumps between the stories of two women: Cait and Rebecca. The narrative is choppy, and moves from a journey in ‘real time’ to Albuquerque to the months preceding the road trip. I really enjoyed the narrative splits; the reader is filling in the pieces during the higher paced momentum of the road trip. We begin to discover the missing pieces of these women’s lives and how they find themselves in the situation they are currently in. On the surface, Cait has collected Rebecca in secret to drive her to safety, although we soon realise there’s much more to both of their stories. So, what a hook! I was fully engaged right from the start in this tense, scary and layered thriller read. I really enjoyed the drama behind the road trip as the women become hunted by an unknown assailant, who is determine to scare, chase and hunt.

I really enjoyed the strength behind the female protagonists, both women have difficult back-stories but both use this to become braver, and stronger. There’s a lot of tension and drama in this book, and it’s genuinely hard to put it down.

I love books that make you question everything you are reading, and I’m sure, like me, you’ll have a whole page of questions when reading this book. The pacing works really well, holding enough back until the right moments: it’s great fun!

For me, what made this thriller different, was the depth of the backstories, the controversial storyline elements, the emotional and psychological complexities, and the strength of the women that were weaved into an action led chase thriller.

A heart-pounding, hurtling, drama packed ride with heart and empowerment holding it all together. Highly recommended for thriller readers who are looking for additional qualities in their stories.

The Author

Jessica Barry is a pseudonym for an American author who has lived and worked in London for the past fifteen years. Look for Me (previously published as Freefall), her debut thriller, has sold in more than twenty-two territories around the world and has also secured a major Hollywood film deal.

‘Don’t Turn Around’ is available now and please buy from Independents if you can XX

Happy to be on the #BlogTour today for #TheCryoftheLake by @CharlieTyler17 @RandomTTours with thanks to Anne for the invite.

What is hiding in the lake?

Blurb

A gruesome discovery unravels a dark trail of murder and madness.

A six-year-old girl sneaks out of bed to capture a mermaid but instead discovers a dead body. Terrified and unable to make sense of what she sees, she locks the vision deep inside her mind.

Ten years later, Lily is introduced to the charismatic Flo and they become best friends. But Lily is guilt-ridden – she is hiding a terrible secret which has the power to destroy both their lives.

When Flo’s father is accused of killing a schoolgirl, the horrors of Lily’s past come bubbling to the surface. Lily knows that, whatever the consequences, she has to make things right. She must go back to the events of her childhood and face what happened at the boat house all those years ago.

Can Lily and Flo discover what is hiding in the murky waters of the lake before the killer strikes again?

My Thoughts…

‘The Cry of the Dark’ is a debut novel from Charlie Tyler that explores deep manipulation, darkness, abuse and family bonds. And, it all begins with a murder…

The story is told via a mix of multiple first-person narratives, via Lily, Grace and Flo, providing the reader with starkly alternative perspectives. It’s very soon clear that there’s something dark at play as the eerily casual response to a murder victim at a table is dealt with. The story develops into an interplay between two sisters and their lives, and as their memories surface we find out more about the past and why they are behaving as they are. Outside of this is the narrative of Lily’s friend Flo, which is needed to balance the storytelling, and her narrative becomes tragically and disturbingly joined up with the sisters, Lily and Grace, and leads to a heart-pounding climax.

There’s also the gradual uncovering of the past, of the childhood between two girls and fractured home-life around them. There’s an underscore of abuse and forbidden love.

I love the puzzle read structure, slow reveals are made and the pieces start coming together; this keeps you turning the pages. It’s a story wrapped in a psychological plot of manipulation and murder. There’s a study of grief and loss, identity, young love, passion and trauma. A strong character led debut novel.

The Author

Charlie has been writing for years but it was taking a creative writing course in 2018 which gave her the gentle kick she needed to finish her debut novel. Charlie is very much a morning person and likes nothing more than committing a fictional murder before her first coffee of the day. She studied Theology at Worcester College, Oxford and now lives in a Leicestershire village with her husband, three teenagers and golden retriever.

http://www.charlietyler.com/

Twitter @CharlieTyler17

Blog Tour – for further insights and reviews, so do check out the rest of the blog tour:

Please buy from independents if you can XX

#BlogTour #ShedNoTears @CazziF @ZaffreBooks ~CompulsiveReaders @Tr4cyF3nt0n

It’s lovely to be on the blog tour chatting about the third DC Cat Kinsella book, particularly as I’ve really enjoyed the previous two. With thanks to Tracy at Compulsive Readers. See below for the full blog tour, and for more bookish chat, please keeping scrolling down…

The Blurb

Four victims.
Killer caught.
Case closed . . . Or is it?

Christopher Masters, known as ‘The Roommate Killer’, strangled three women over a two-week period in a London house in November 2012. Holly Kemp, his fourth victim, was never found.

Until now.

Her remains have been unearthed in a field in Cambridgeshire and DC Cat Kinsella and the major investigation team are called in, but immediately there are questions surrounding the manner of her death. And with Masters now dead, no one to answer them.

DCI Tessa Dyer, the lead on the 2012 case, lends the team a hand, as does DCI Steele’s old boss and mentor, the now retired Detective Chief Superintendent Oliver Cairns.

With Masters dead, Cat and the team have to investigate every lead again.

BUT IF YOU’D GOT AWAY WITH MURDER, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WHEN THE CASE IS RE-OPENED?

My thoughts…

What’s really enjoyable about these books is the blending of Cat’s rather challenging personal life and the cases she works on. In this book, Cat’s facing an unusual challenge with a closed case coming into question. I really enjoyed the plotting, and how a previous conviction begins to fall apart; it’s something to get your teeth into and puzzle out.

Frear writes great characters and backstories; the reader is given great depth, which adds to the superb storytelling. In this book, Cat’s personal life is on the up, however, she is still hiding many secrets that could not just damage her new relationship, but also her career. I feel, the crime takes the lead in this book, and it’s a great balance. The interplay with Cat and her colleagues is enjoyable, and she has a great, mixed team of characters around her.

‘Shed no Tears’ comes highly recommended from me, it’s smart, carefully plotted, and at its core is an intelligent, flawed, but likeable protagonist to follow. A crime thriller with heart, drama and camaraderie; there’re twists, turns, red-herrings, all ending with a tense, heart-pounding climax.

My favourite of the DC Cat Kinsella books so far ~ thanks to Caz Frear for the wonderful storytelling, throughly enjoyable.

Previous books:

Please buy from independents if you can XX

#BlogTour #WritteninBlood by Chris Carter @simonschusterUK @harriett_col #RandomThingsTours

So happy to be a part of the Blog Tour for WRITTEN IN BLOOD – if you’re not aware, this is the 11th book in Chris Carter’s Robert Hunter thriller series, and… there’s a serial killer to catch. With huge thanks to Anne for the tour invite, and do keep scrolling for some bookish chat…

The Blurb

A serial killer will stop at nothing…


The Killer
His most valuable possession has been stolen.
Now he must retrieve it, at any cost.
The Girl
Angela Wood wanted to teach the man a lesson. It was a
bag, just like all the others. But when she opens it, the
worst nightmare of her life begins.
The Detective
A journal ends up at Robert Hunter’s desk. It soon
becomes clear that there is a serial killer on the loose.
And if he can’t stop him in time, more people will die.


If you have read it
You must die

My thoughts

I first met Robert Hunter in ‘The Crucifix Killer’ and have really enjoyed this series – if you are a new reader, then don’t worry, each works as a stand-a-lone. In this case, Hunter is pitted against a serial killer, who comes to the attention of the Ultra Violent Crimes Unit, via the theft of a journal. This brings both the thief and Hunter to the attention of the journal’s author and the game begins. It soon becomes clear that there has been a serial killer in circulation for a considerable time, and this person is truly a ‘professional’ and needs to be caught.

What I really enjoy about Carter’s books, and very much this one, is the ease of the story telling; you know you are in safe hands, as Carter crafts the plots, red-herrings, tensions, characters and reveals with such control and dexterity. I loved the puzzle narrative via the journal, as we slowly learn from the killer’s words about the victims, their lives, and begin to work out what’s behind the inconsistencies in the patterns.

Hunter is smart, and like his name he sets his sights on his prey and is relentless; this also comes with high personal costs. There’s a great balance between Hunter and his partner Garcia, and they make a great team. In addition, we have small-time thief Angela, who becomes caught in the killer’s sights and needs protecting; I really enjoyed her story, and how this added emotional depth to the overall crime thriller.

This is a dark book, that looks into the mind of a controlled and incredibly dangerous psychopath. Thoroughly enjoyable, and it’s a highly recommended read.

The Author

Chris Carter

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

BLOG TOUR DATES

Please buy from INDEPENDENT BOOKSELLERS if you can XX

#blogtour for #HintonHollowDeathTrip by @will_carver #DSPace @OrendaBooks @annecater

I’m delighted to be on the blog tour today for HINTON HOLLOW DEATH TRIP by Will Carver and published by the fabulous Orenda Books, with thanks to Karen, and to Anne for the tour invite. This is my first time reading one of Will Carver’s books, and it seems I’ve been missing out! Please keep scrolling for some bookish chat about the addictive, disturbing and unsettling world of Hinton Hollow… be brave, take the trip!

In this small town, nobody is innocent…

The Blurb

It’s a small story. A small town with small lives that you would never have heard about if none of this had happened.

Hinton Hollow. Population 5,120.
Little Henry Wallace was eight years old and one hundred miles from home
before anyone talked to him. His mother placed him on a train with a label
around his neck, asking for him to be kept safe for a week, kept away from
Hinton Hollow.
Because something was coming.
Narrated by Evil itself, Hinton Hollow Death Trip recounts five days in the
history of this small rural town, when darkness paid a visit and infected its
residents. A visit that made them act in unnatural ways. Prodding at their
insecurities. Nudging at their secrets and desires. Coaxing out the malevolence suppressed within them. Showing their true selves.
Making them cheat.
Making them steal.
Making them kill.Detective Sergeant Pace had returned to his childhood home. To escape the things he had done in the city. To go back to something simple. But he was not alone.

Evil had a plan.

My thoughts…

This is the third book featuring Detective Sergeant Pace, now admittedly I’ve not read either of the first two books (Good Samaritans or Nothing Important Happened Today) however, it really didn’t matter, as DS Pace is not the central character or the main narrator of the story; it is actually, Evil. Yes, Evil is our narrative voice, and that’s the creative and unusual second person narrative that begins the book. By directly calling out to the reader pulls you into the story in quite a personal way, and it also comes with a readers’ warning – ‘you can leave now, if you want… this is the last time I try to save you’. The brave, or inquisitive reader will of course continue, how could you not after that… and soon we are passing the crossroads and entering the world of Hinton Hollow, and how it becomes a living hell once Evil begins to play and manipulate its inhabitants.

I loved the creativity and drama of the story-telling – my goodness, it’s a struggle to put the book down. Crazy, as it’s creepy; it’s also disturbing, repulsive and traumatic. Be warned, children die, animals are tortured and killed, people are manipulated into the darkest of deeds, and overlapping all this is a stark message about human nature.

The structure is rather Brecht-like as the narrative is constructed to pull on our own consciousness. The book is split over a serious of days, with headers to summarise what you will learn. There are several other headers breaking down the story into units of focus; I really enjoyed the creativity of this. The reader is asked to reflect, consider, and evaluate as our narrator bombards us with signs and scenes; we have no choice but to question humanity and the essence of who we are.

Hinton Hollow questions what is ordinary? More importantly, what lies behind the ordinary. It’s a dark book and stalks the reader like a predator. You begin to question everything you think you know, as you fight through an often depressive bombardment of statements about humanity: its perversions, its vacuous selfish people and the detached predator lurking inside in our inconsistencies, ironies and collective consciousness.

This book is written with confidence, control and a significant level of darkness. Capricious in nature, and disturbing in tone this is a creative read, but definitely not for the sensitive or easily triggered reader. However, in all of the darkness there’s a shining ray of hope on day six, where we take a moment to think about our connection to time, to needing more time, for waiting; it’s blatantly clear the message is to stop. To stop delaying, trying to please, wasting time and try changing… and to be a good person. I loved this lift to the heavily, emotionally bleak world of this book. It has that Inspector Goole vibe, of the collective consciousness and responsibility to each other and ourselves. We actually question the notion of evil, and the puppet master controlling Hinton Hollow.

Far from your typical crime mystery novel, Hinton Hollow Death Trip pushes at the boundaries and then pushes at your consciousness – Will Carver’s head must be a full-on place to be! Bold, creative, absorbing and complex writing that hooks you in with a mighty grip. Be brave. Read it.

The Author

Will Carver

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series.
He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven,
when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby
contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.

Blog Tour