Welcome to my book-blog. I've spent the last 22 years as a teacher of English Literature and running a Stage School and Theatre. Alongside that, I spend as much time as I can within the pages of a book and hope you'll get some reading inspiration from my library. Catch me on Instagram as well as books.tea.and.me – I'm always looking for recommendations!
THE WAITING ROOMS, published by the brilliant Orenda Books, and thanks to Anne Cater for the tour invite!
GIVEAWAY for a digital copy of ‘The Waiting Rooms’ – I will pick a winner at RANDOM on Monday, all you need to is LIKE and COMMENT, if you’d like to FOLLOW me that would be AMAZING, but not a requirement of the GIVEAWAY. Do keep reading for info about the book, and the other brilliant bloggers reviewing this new novel.
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.
Eve Smith writes speculative fiction, mainly about the things that scare her. 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 20 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. Eve’s previous job as COO of an environmental charity took her to research projects across Asia, Africa and the Americas, and she has an ongoing passion for wild creatures, wild science and far-flung places.
With thanks to Beth for the tour invite. This is the third book in the Washington Poe crime thriller series, and to find out more do keep reading…
A serial killer is leaving displayed body parts all over Cumbria. A strange message is left at each scene: #BSC6
Called in to investigate, the National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are faced with a case that makes no sense. Why were some victims anaesthetised, while others died in appalling agony? Why is their only suspect denying what they can irrefutably prove but admitting to things they weren’t even aware of? And why did the victims all take the same two weeks off work three years earlier? And when a disgraced FBI agent gets in touch things take an even darker turn. Because she doesn’t think Poe is dealing with a serial killer at all; she thinks he’s dealing with someone far, far worse – a man who calls himself the Curator. And nothing will ever be the same again . . .
Don’t you just love that moment when a new book arrives from one of your favourite series; it’s like meeting up with old, and missed, friends. M. W. Craven’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw series is one of those books, and ‘The Curator’ is the latest adventure into the crime thriller world, and what a crime fighting team! The SCAS (Serious Crime Analysis Section) are back and headed by D.I Stephanie Flynn, who is now heavily pregnant. Poe and Bradshaw are soon working with her again on an unusual and macabre case. All the books work easily as stand-alone, so don’t hesitate to pick up this book if you’re new to the series.
‘The Curator’ – I love the title – is a tightly plotted and tense puzzle, where a series of crimes is being orchestrated from the shadows. It’s up to Poe and Bradshaw to unravel the threads of some rather gruesome crimes and capture the villain. For me, the highlight of these books are the characters and their interplay, there are lovely personal relationships continuing to develop, and an intense dedication to hunting down the culprits. I loved the plot in this book; the idea of a ‘Curator’ controlling the ‘players’ was fun to watch develop.
A twisty, puzzling and satisfying read, placing Craven’s cerebral dexterity firmly in centre stage position. Disturbingly dark, sharply plotted with a dash of panache!
A highly recommended read: I can’t wait to see what Craven comes up with next!
I’m delighted to be on the blog tour today for Sharon Bolton’s ‘The Split’, I’ve not read a Bolton book or series that I haven’t loved, and this is no exception. With thanks to Alex for the tour invite! Please read on for more information and bookish chat…
SHE’S GOT NOWHERE LEFT TO HIDE.
A year ago, in desperation, Felicity Lloyd signed up for a lengthy research trip to the remote island of South Georgia.
It was her only way to escape.
AND NOW HE’S COMING FOR HER.
Freddie Lloyd has served time for murder. Out at last, he’s on her trail.
And this time, he won’t stop until he finds her.
BECAUSE NO MATTER HOW FAR YOU RUN, SOME SECRETS WILL ALWAYS CATCH UP WITH YOU…
If you like a puzzle, then this is the book for you. From the extreme, isolated landscape of South Georgia, to the city of Cambridge nine months earlier, the reader is taken on a journey through a multi-layered narrative with a fascinating unreliable narrator: Felicity Lloyd.
The narrative seems disjointed for a substantial part of the book, but stick with it, it mirrors the central plot and the narratives will come together in a tense climax that will have you holding your breath!
I love the setting of South Georgia. It provides a harrowing and unforgiving landscape that opens and closes ‘The Split’ and provides the setting for an intriguing opening and a nerve-wracking finale, there is also a final twist for the reader that is hard to see coming.
This the story of Felicity, who is a glaciologist and a young woman on the edge; she is living in fear and we first meet her when she is working in the freezing waters of South Georgia with her colleague Jack. What soon becomes clear is that Felicity is running from someone, and that person is close on her trail. Before we can learn more, the narrative shifts back to the past. It is here the reader must adjust to a new setting; it seems like a completely different book and the reader is introduced to a new set of characters and an unsettling mystery.
There are several interesting characters, some more mysterious than others, I liked the character of Joe, the psychologist and councillor; he is not without flaws, but it makes him a more realistic character. I enjoyed finding out about his work, his relationship with this police officer mum, and the difficulties he is dealing with. Both he and Felicity have suffered trauma, and both are battling with their demons.
Also embedded into this story is a murder investigation in the rough sleeping community, this adds yet another dimension to a multi-layered plot and narrative voices. There are several subtle clues along the way, and I would recommend using a notebook and working on your inner Sherlock! I read 80% of the book with the Pigeonhole reading community (the book is split into 12 sections over 12 days, and you read with others and can leave digital comments in the margins), there are advantages and disadvantages reading this book with the group. The advantage is you are forced to read slowly, this enables you to think more about that section. I think I would have missed several clues if I had been reading in my usual pace, so this is your disadvantage of the book club, if you can call it that, as you’re forced to slow down.
This was not the expected read from the blurb, in fact it is completely different story to what you’d be expecting, but it’s a super puzzle of a novel. I always enjoy Sharon Bolton books, and this was no exception.
‘The Split’ is a puzzle of a thriller read, it’s emotional, challenging and meticulously plotted! Highly recommended.
Thank you to Anne Cater and Karen Sullivan @OrendaBooks for the invite onto the #Sister blog tour. I hadn’t read the other books in this series, so was excited to find out all about the Oslo Detectives in this Nordic Noir thriller.
Oslo detective Frølich searches for the mysterious sister of a young female asylum seeker, but when people start to die, everything points to an old case and a series of events that someone will do anything to hide… Suspended from duty, Detective Frølich is working as a private investigator, when his girlfriend’s colleague asks for his help with a female asylum seeker, who the authorities are about to deport. She claims to have a sister in Norway, and fears that returning to her home country will mean instant death. Frølich quickly discovers the whereabouts of the young woman’s sister, but things become increasingly complex when she denies having a sibling, and Frølich is threatened off the case by the police. As the body count rises, it becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation, and the mysterious sister, who is now on the run… A dark, chilling and up-to-the-minute Nordic Noir thriller, Sister is also a tense and well-plotted murder mystery with a moving tragedy at its heart, cementing Kjell Ola Dahl as one of the greatest crime writers of our generation.
I really enjoyed this Nordic Noir, what begins as a seemingly straightforward investigation becomes increasingly more complex. A topical issue of asylum seekers and deportation introduces themes of abuse, the immigration system, twisted truths, and murder. I loved the plotting and the drip feeding of clues as our investigator, and suspended detective, Frolich pieces the clues together in missing persons case that develops into murder and heart-break.
I haven’t read the previous books in this series, but it didn’t matter at all and ‘Sister’ works perfectly as a standalone. It’s an atmospheric novel, that is grounded in realism; the contours of the novel are meticulous and authentic. The social aspect is the standout message, rather than the crime aspect, and through the asylum story-line the reader is immersed into harrowing corruption and cover-ups. The core of this novel is dark and it forces you to open your eyes to the world that is often hidden.
Addictive, dark and complex.
One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.
Blog Tour Dates
With thanks to Orenda Books for the gifted book and Blog Tour invite!
I’m really happy to be hosting a ‘Guest Post’ today from Marian Womack, author of the fabulous ‘The Golden Key‘ and published by one of my favourite publishing houses, Titan Books, on 18th February 2020. Marian Womack is writing about the real life inspirations behind the characters in her novel – scroll down to read.
The book blurb:
After the death of Queen Victoria, England heaves with the uncanny. Séances are held and the dead are called upon from darker realms. Helena Walton-Cisneros, known for her ability to find the lost and the displaced, is hired by the elusive Lady Matthews to solve a twenty-year-old mystery: the disappearance of her three stepdaughters who vanished without a trace on the Norfolk Fens.
But the Fens are an age-old land, where folk tales and dark magic still linger. The locals speak of devilmen and catatonic children are found on the Broads. Here, Helena finds what she was sent for, as the Fenland always gives up its secrets, in the end…
The Golden Key – Real Life Inspirations
by Marian Womack
My new novel, The Golden Key, is a work of fiction. Its protagonist, the detective Helena Walton-Cisneros, came to me gradually, over the course of many years. I wanted to explore a world in which things are not what they seem, in which women are forced to perform a role in society, at times hiding their real abilities. I soon realized that, in order to make this world more plausible, it would help if I populated it with real-life people and events. Luckily, my research for the novel helped a lot, as it uncovered many interesting people and events that spoke so much of the epoch, of the trials women feared and the tribulations they faced, that it was no problem to pick a few and include them in the book. These real-life inspirations, both people and places, include the following:
George MacDonald: I have always loved fairy-tales. The first short stories that I ever wrote were fairy-tale retellings, as dark and strange and unnerving as I could manage. I have a large collection of fairy-tale books from around the world, covering many cultures and epochs. I am not an expert, though, and my knowledge of the vast Victorian fairy-tale corpus was patchy, composed of what had found its way to my hands via second hand bookshops. I was introduced to George MacDonald’s work as an adult, and it shook my entire conception of what “a story in the fairy-fashion” should be. I became obsessed with MacDonald. He seemed to speak to my deeper concerns as a writer: the unavoidable sense of indeterminacy of his tales, of porous borders surrounding us, between the real and the unreal. I think it is fair to call MacDonald a true weird-fiction fairy-tale writer. His world found its way into my novel, partly because I could not write about worlds that mixed together without recognising a huge debt to him.
Peter Henry Emerson: I thought I had seen Norfolk, I thought that I knew Norfolk. Then I was introduced to the work of the early photographer, Peter Henry Emerson. The eeriness of his Norfolk images helped redefine the “feeling” of the entire novel. Here was a pictorial representation of everything I had felt about the place since I first set foot on it in 2002-2003: a haunting, ghostly feeling about the Fens and the Broads; a sense of more things, hidden, happening beyond the frames of the pictures. Even in his more “normal” rural scenes, one has the sense of looking upon another realm, a sort of parallel world. True, he did not own a camera until 1881, so it is a stretch to think that he might have photographed the hunting weekend for the Matthews family, but a writer has to imagine, after all, and my active imagination placed him firmly in the middle of the events.
Eunice Foote: Foote is perhaps the most important real character mentioned in the novel. An American physicist, she was the first person to establish a connection between the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and what we now identify as climate change. However, she has been swallowed by history, and now it is John Tyndall whom everyone associates with this scientific discovery.
Wishing ‘Soot’ every success on its blog tour and with the publication. I’m really pleased to be contributing today with some content into the characters of the novel, and the world they inhabit. With thanks! Check out the tour list below for other fabulous contributions from the book loving community.
Welcome to a world where every desire is visible, rising from the body as a plume of Smoke. A world where bodies speak to one another and infect each other with desire, anger, greed. It is 1909 and this world stands on a precipice – some celebrate this constant whisper of skin to skin, and some seek to silence it forever.
Enter Eleanor, a young woman with a strange power over Smoke and niece of the Lord Protector of England. Running from her uncle and home, she finds shelter in a New York theatre troupe.
Then Nil, a thief hiding behind a self-effacing name. He’s an orphan snatched from a jungle-home and suspects that a clue to his origins may lie hidden in the vaults of the mighty, newly-risen East India Company.
And finally Thomas, one of the three people to release Smoke into the world. On a clandestine mission to India, he hopes to uncover the origins of Smoke and lay to rest his doubts about what he helped to unleash.
In a story that crosses continents – from India to England’s Minetowns – these three seek to control the power of Smoke. As their destinies entwine, a cataclysmic confrontation looms: the Smoke will either bind them together or forever rend the world.
I. The Story
Imagine a symphony made up of distinct themes and melodies. It starts with a young woman, Eleanor, afraid that the long reach of her uncle will at last discover her in her Canadian exile and summon her home. She has a ‘talent’—a special relationship to the Smoke—that she fears others will want to put to use. Then she meets a playwright, a master of the new art of Smoke Theatre, and he offers her shelter within his troupe. Then there is Nil—No-One, Nothing—a thief and confidence man, getting by on his wits. His latest mark is the New York City branch of the mighty East India Company, a trading corporation that controls the Indian Raj and is one of the dominant economic powers in this world after the ‘Second Smoke’, for they hold a monopoly on the only substance that can supress the Smoke. Nil is an orphan who does not know where he was stolen from when still a young child. He suspects that somewhere in the Company vaults slumbers the truth of who he is. And then there is Thomas, hero of Smoke, who has travelled to India to learn what really happened in the revolution he helped to start ten years ago. He meets the Singhs, a local couple who themselves are revolutionaries of sorts, dreaming of freedom from Company rule. Will what Thomas finds lay to rest his guilt and doubts about what he helped to unleash? These three melodies soon begin to intertwine, tying together events in North American and on the Indian subcontinent, and leading back to Britain, that sundered, Gale-haunted ‘Isle of the Smoke’, where the Smoke-affirming North of Minetowns and the Smoke-denying South under the stewardship of its Lord Protector are fighting over the country’s future.
About Dan Vyleta
Dan Vyleta is the author of four previous novels: Pavel & I, which gathered international acclaim and was translated into eight languages, The Quiet Twin, which was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, The Crooked Maid, which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and winner of the J.L. Segal Award, and the critically-acclaimed Smoke.
His is the son of Czech refugees who emigrated to Germany in the late 1960s. After growing up in Germany, Dan left to attend university in the US, where he completed a PhD in History at King’s College, London.
He lives in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Praise for Dan Vyleta
‘For once both comparisons (with Harry Potter and Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights) are apt . . . this is a novel that stays in the imagination long after it has been read’
‘It’s detailed, multi-layered and feels authentic – and might just win over historical fiction fans too’
‘Mr. Vyleta writes with intricacy and imagination and skillful pacing’
New York Times
‘Vice is made visual in Vyleta’s sprawling, ambitious novel, a Dickensian tale tinged with fantasy’
‘One of the most original and enthralling books I have read in a long time.’
Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath…He’s currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.
So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.
Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?
What a deliciously creepy and utterly brilliant opening! Huge applause to M.W. Craven – you hooked me in with style! An utterly grotesque style… but it certainly does the job and creates an extremely tense and repulsive moment for the readers to start to unpick. It was even worse when I googled the Ortolan Bunting and found out the dish is actually true!!! I was truly horrified! To understand what I am referring to it’s best to order the book and read it yourself…so off you go, get it ordered!
There are other reasons to order this book, Craven’s plotting and pace is exceptional. The crime solving duo of Washington Poe (what a name!) and Tilly Bradshaw (you can’t help but adore her), make this book extra special. Oh, and if you don’t already know, this is the second book featuring Poe and Bradshaw; the first book is ‘The Puppet Show’ which I would also highly recommended reading.
The hook and central conundrum in ‘Black Summer’ is how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time. It is soon apparent that Poe and Bradshaw are embroiled in a twisted, dangerous game that might defeat them both and even destroy Poe’s life. Craven is the ‘King of Plotting’ and I love the journey he takes the reader on, inserting inventive clues with great subtly, and dropping dastardly clever red herrings. It’s smart and pulls in all the devices required of this genre and more.
I’m not saying anything else about the actual plot; I don’t want to spoil anything at all, (the book blurb is enough) you really need to pick this book up. It’s inventive, character driven, complex, tense with delightful touches of humour to lighten the darkness of the crimes, and balance the character relationships.
I loved it and am lucky to also have one of the Goldsboro first 250 editions! Thank you to Beth, at Little Brown, for also sending me the paperback, I can re-read the book without fear of spilling my tea on those precious first edition pages. Thank you to Mike for getting in touch so I could be a part of this blog tour and for the most marvellous storytelling!
Inventive, dark, witty and addictive – if you haven’t met Poe and Bradshaw yet… what are you waiting for?
A brand new voice in British crime fiction, M.W.Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle. He joined the army at Sixteen, leaving ten years later to complete a social work degree. Seventeen years after taking up a probation officer role in Cumbria, at the rank of assistant chief officer, he became a full time author.
The first in the Washington Poe series, The Puppet Show, won the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger, has sold in numerous foreign territories and has been optioned for TV by Studio Lambert. M.W.Craven has been shortlisted for the Goldsboro Glass Bell Award, an Amazon Reader Award and a Cumbria Life Award. He is also the author of the Avison Fluke novels, Born in a Burial Ground (shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger) and Body Breaker.
A ruthless far-right terrorist is broken out of captivity.
A mysterious scientist with a terrible secret is abducted.
A lethal contagion threatens millions of lives across Europe and the Middle East.
Ex-M16 officer Marc Dane faces a deadly race-against-time to stop a devastating attack before a new kind of weapon is unleashed…
This is the fourth book in the Marc Dane action thriller series. It’s my first read of this series… although that really didn’t seem to matter at all.
This book doesn’t mess about, and you are hurtled into an action packed opening, swiftly moving between two high pressured and dangerous situations. It’s a relief (and great plotting) to calm down as we are introduced to people on a smuggler’s ship and the plot develops and deepens; it’s not long before the tension and action creeps back. I don’t read that many action thrillers, but I was drawn easily into the story. The central characters of the book series were introduced well and with enough background information to easily pick up who these people are and what has lead them to this point. Marc Dane, our lead and Ex-M16 officer, and Lucy Keyes, Ex Delta Force and now a private contractor with Dane, are brought into a kidnapping case and are soon off on a dangerous mission.
‘Shadow’ is an action thriller novel that is driven, well-researched with engaging lead characters that work aplenty to hook the reader into a dramatic plot of kidnapping, terrorism and mass destruction as a new threat is uncovered. Thank goodness Marc Dane has at least 9 lives; he’s literally leaping constantly into dangerous situations! Keyes is not much better, so they’re quite a pair. It’s one of those novels where you need to suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the ride. I had a great time reading this. Dane’s character make-up is along the lucky lines of characters like Bond, Bourne, Reacher and Ryan and it’s dramatic action fun. I think the difference here with some lighter reads, is the book is very well researched, I found it easy enough to pick up unfamiliar subject areas of the military, technology, digital and terrorism. The world building and descriptions of the landscapes were also really atmospheric and detailed. The scene on the Icelandic tundra made me turn my heating up!
If you are looking for an incredibly pacy, very well-written action thriller read, that is tense, full of drama with non-stop action moments – then join Marc Dane and Lucy Keyes in ‘Swallow’.
James Swallow is a New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author and script writer with over 750,000 books currently in print around the world. He was nominated for a BAFTA for his writing on the acclaimed video game DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION. His new novel and Marc Dane thriller Rogue is coming in May 2020.
Follow James on Twitter @jmswallow
Previous books in the Marc Dane series: Nomad, Exile and Ghost.