An intriguing, magical fantasy debut #BlogTour #TheBoneShardDaughter by @AndreaGStewart with thanks to @orbitbooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #readers #newbook #bookchat

It’s lovely to be chatting about THE BONE SHARD DAUGHTER today for the Blog Tour – many thanks to Tracy for the invite, and Orbit for the review copy. I enjoy reading fantasy, so this appealed to me straight away, and I wasn’t disappointed…

The Blurb…

The Sukai Dynasty has ruled the Phoenix Empire for over a century, their mastery of bone shard magic powering the monstrous constructs that maintain law and order. But now the emperor’s rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.

Lin is the Emperor’s daughter, but a mysterious illness has stolen her childhood memories and her status as heir to the empire. Trapped in a palace of locked doors and old secrets, Lin vows to reclaim her birthright by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.

But the mysteries behind such power are dark and deep, and wielding her family’s magic carries a great cost. When the revolution reaches the gates of the palace itself, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her throne – and save her people.

My thoughts…

THE BONE SHARD DAUGHTER is certainly an eye-catching book, and the title an intriguing one. I enjoy reading fantasy novels, so was delighted to read this one as part of its Blog Tour.

Firstly, I’m not usually a fan of too many narrative perspectives, in this book we see the story through several eyes, written either in the first or third person. Lin and Jovis are connected via their first-person narratives, and I personally enjoyed the immediacy and drive of these sections. I really liked both Lin and Jovis. Jovis in particular is very endearing as he copes with what life throws at him, but also the thought and dedication to maintain the search for his missing wife is very emotive; I loved the snatches of memory built into the story as we piece together the past. Ah, and then there’s the adorable evolving relationship with Mephi – a magical horned cat/otter type creature. Loved every moment with Mephi! I also enjoyed the third person narrative pulling into the story the lives of Ranami and Phalue that explores the relationship between two social classes and pulls in the revolution theme.

Overall, meticulous planning and structural format creates a multi-layered perspective fantasy set in a creative island-based world ruled by a failing Emperor. There’re all the elements fantasy readers expect, and importantly the world is carefully crafted in detail, so the transference from reality is seamless. This is a book of layers with a thought out embedded magical system – I found Pullman’s Dark Material vibes made creepy with the creature constructs lurking and spying. The idea is menacing, and Frankenstein vibes underscore the reanimated creatures. It’s really creative and explores more modern themes of experimentation and exploitation.

With themes of identity, control, loss, the past, memory, and connection this is an impressive debut; I’m be looking forward to the second book in the Drowning Empire Trilogy.

The Blog Tour

Please buy from independents if you can XX

Pleased to be a part of the #BlogTour for #Innocent by @KinsleyErin @headlinepg @RandomTTours

I’m very excited and grateful to be a part of the Blog Tour for Erin Kinsley’s Innocent – many thanks to Anne for the invite and Headline for sending the book. I love a good thriller with a large dose of drama, and this was billed as great for people who enjoyed LIAR and BROADCHURCH. As soon as I started reading, I could see this as a TV drama, and please do keep reading to find out why…

A MURDER TEARS A SMALL TOWN APART. BUT WHO DID IT?

The pretty market town of Sterndale is a close-knit community where everyone thinks they know everyone else. But at a lavish summer wedding a local celebrity is discovered slumped in the gardens, the victim of a violent assault that leads to a murder investigation.

As the police search for answers, suspicion and paranoia build – and the lives of the locals are turned upside down.

Secrets that lurk beneath the pristine façade of Sterndale come to light as detectives close in on the truth…

Please do check out these other brilliant book bloggers for more bookish chat about ‘Innocent’

My thoughts…

This book from the start was so easy to visualise as a TV series, I could picture the mix of close and long shots, and the switches in perspectives, as all the central players come into focus. In all good thrillers, you need a great location and great diverse characters, and Innocent provides all of this in abundance. I really enjoyed it.

The book is set in the small town of Sterndale, and begins with a brutal assault of a celebrity, Tristan Hart, who lives in the town with his wife, Izzy and their young daughter. This novel certainly begins with ‘the calm before the storm’, as the perfect couple leading a perfect life, fractures within the opening pages and is pulled apart over the course of the novel. Secrets, lies and betrayals take centre stage as the reader is tasked with working out what’s behind the surface and who could possibly have acted so violently.

From the start, there are plenty of suspects to choose from, and this only builds as the investigation progresses. I enjoyed the Police investigation perspective as those who knew Tristan Hart are investigated, and secrets are revealed. The investigation and interviews are written in detail, and sometimes repeated back, some may find this a repetitious, but I enjoyed the reflection time to wonder about the suspects.

This is not a fast-paced book, it takes its time to describe this community and the events that shake it up, I enjoyed taking my time reading it as well, and loved the heart behind the story. I enjoyed the tensions, the reveals and the emotional depth within this thriller. With some smart red herrings to put you off the scent, there’s some super plotting in this book that makes you want to keep reading.

A emotionally charged, intelligently designed thriller that demands you keep turning the pages. Highly recommended.

Please buy from Independents if you can XX

Very pleased to be on the #BlogTour for #TheQuickening by @sarahrward1 #Bookreview with thanks to @TrapezeBooks and @alexxlayt

A huge thanks to Alex for sending me a copy of The Quickening , it’s a gorgeous looking book, and seemed a perfect genre match for me, and I was right; I had such an enjoyable ride reading this one.

Keep scrolling for more bookish chat…

A séance recreated. A secret revealed.

Blurb

An infamous séance. A house burdened by grief. A secret that can no longer stay buried.

England, 1925. Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex to photograph the contents of the house for auction. Desperate for money after falling on hard times, she accepts the commission.

On arrival, she learns Clewer Hall was host to an infamous séance in 1896, the consequences of which still haunt the family. Before the Clewer’s leave England for good, the lady of the house has asked those who attended the original séance to recreate the evening. Louisa soon becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of the house, unravelling the longheld secrets of what happened that night thirty years before… and discovers her own fate is entwined with Clewer Hall’s.

My thoughts…

I love gothic fiction, so jumped at the chance to read Rhiannon Ward’s The Quickening, described as a supernatural, chilling historical mystery; centering around a séance at a crumbling, isolated hall in Sussex. With that introduction, there’s no way I’m not in!

We begin with two quotes, a definition of quickening, which is a time in pregnancy where the female can feel dizzy, nervous or experience hysteria. The other from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, from his collection of essays, The History of Spiritualism, that explores the question of life after death, and seeking to know if communication is possible with passed loved ones to seek ‘the touch of a vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still.’ This sets up the tone of the narrative, that is split over two time periods.

Our story begins in 1925, where the central protagonist wakes from a dream, filled with memories of the past and those she has lost. This is Louisa Drew, and she is a woman ahead of her time, with a strong determination to achieve and contribute to her life and wider world. She’s a photographer, and despite being heavily pregnant takes on a job at Clewer Hall, to photograph household items for a auction. She knows her second husband will object, so she arranges to leave before he gets home and finds out. I liked Louisa from the start, and soon we begin to realise that Clewer Hall and its inhabitants are hiding many secrets, and that Louisa’s new commission will not be straightforward.

I love crumbling expansive mansions in isolated settings, adding a heavy dose of gothic atmosphere and I’m hooked. This is my kind of book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the merging of mystery thriller, gothic deliciousness, supernatural events and murder. However, it’s the additional depth that really resonated with me, from the devastation of World War One, to female empowerment, photography methods of the time, grief and finding the strength to change your life, even in difficult circumstances.

Added to all this, there’s the intrigue of the recreated séance, the mysterious behaviour of the characters, and Louisa’s increasingly dangerous position that racks up the tension. The séance adds an intensely creepy tone that adds malevolence with increasingly odd, and unexplainable events to add turmoil to Louisa’s commission. There’s a darkness lurking in the shadows of the house, and this drives the narrative; the reader begins to piece together the clues, that reveal the truth of the house. Along the way, Louisa makes both enemies and friends, but she remains determined. There’s a little of a romance sub-plot which is nicely handled, and adds to Louisa’s spirit and determination to live her life, and build her future in her own terms.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to people who enjoy historical gothic fiction, and enjoy some supernatural thrills.

I struggled to put it down, a goose-bump inducing supernatural ride! Read it!

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.

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

#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 for #TheGirlFromWidowHills by @MeganLMiranda @CorvusBooks #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater

It’s lovely to be a part of this blog tour for Megan Miranda’s ‘The Girl From Widow Hills’, with thanks to Anne Cater for the tour invite, and to Corvus Books for the gifted copy. Please keep reading for some bookish chat…

The Blurb

Everyone knows the story of the girl from Widow Hills.

When Arden Maynor was six years old, she was swept away in terrifying storm and went missing for days. Against all odds, she was found alive, clinging to a storm drain. A living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book, and fame followed. But so did fans, creeps and stalkers. It was all too much, and as soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and left Widow Hills behind.

Now, a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden is known as Olivia. With the twentieth anniversary of her rescue looming, media interest in the girl who survived is increasing. Where is she now? The stress brings back the night terrors of Olivia’s youth. Often, she finds herself out of bed in the middle of the night, sometimes outside her home, even streets away. Then one evening she jolts awake in her yard, with the corpse of a man at her feet.

The girl from Widow Hills is about to become the centre of the story, once again

My thoughts…

I do love a good mystery thriller, and ‘The Girl from Widow Hills’ is a hurtling page turner that I devoured in one sitting. This is the story of Olivia, well actually Arden, before she decided to change her name and begin again. This is a mystery at its core, but it’s also a tale of trauma, greed and murder.

During the story of this carefully plotted novel, we join Olivia as she tries to make sense of what’s happening around her – via sleep walking blackouts, blood-covered hands, missing weapons, strange behaviours and figures from her past. There’s not much time for pause, as the reader begins to piece together events from the past, told via transcripts, interviews, press reports, voicemail, 911 call logs, and stirring memories. I enjoyed these snippets and they created additional interest to the main narrative.

I really enjoyed this book, it’s atmospheric, well-plotted and from the opening pages I was immersed into Olivia’s story, and the puzzle of the girl from Widow Hills. There’s a hard to spot twist, (always welcome) some disquieting psychological interplay, and a compelling group of suspects to track to the nail-biting climax of the dramatic closing pages.

I was hooked, so definitely a recommended read from me.

The Author

Megan Miranda

Megan Miranda is the author of All The Missing Girls, The Perfect Stranger, and The Last House Guest, which was the August 2019 Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine pick. She grew up in New Jersey, graduated from MIT, and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children.

Follow @MeganLMiranda on Twitter and Instagram, or @AuthorMeganMiranda on Facebook.

Blog Tour

Please buy from independents if possible XX

#BlogTour #TheCurator @MWCravenUK @LittleBrownUK @TheCrimeVault @BethWright26

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…

And nothing will ever be the same again . . .

The Blurb

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 . . .

My Thoughts

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!