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!
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!
A thank you to Anne Cater and Wildfire Books for the invite to the blog tour for #TheMurderGame by Rachel Abbott. Welcome to some bookish chat…
A year ago today, we all gathered for Lucas’ wedding at his glorious Cornish home overlooking the sea. But no one was married that day. Now Lucas has invited us back to celebrate the anniversary. But the anniversary of what? The wedding that never happened, or the tragedy that occurred just hours before the ceremony was due to begin? He’s told us that tonight he has planned a game. We have our costumes, we have our parts, and everyone must play. The game, he tells us, is about to begin. What does Lucas want from us? What are we not being told? And what’s going to happen when this terrible game is over?
I had such a great time reading this book! I hadn’t realised it was the second in the Stephanie King series, but it didn’t matter one bit. Abbott’s narrative places the central characters at the heart of the story, so King arrives later, when the police become involved, to lead the investigative aspect of this psychological thriller.
This is one of those books that has shades of an Agatha Christie novel. The careful line up of characters, from the charming to the acerbic, the desperate to the fragile. I loved the backdrop of lazy summer living at Polskirren, a beautiful manor house next to the Cornish coastline; a house where a group of friends meet, and where tragic events quickly unfold. It’s a joy to be introduced to all the players and the set-up is a delicious mash of furtive glances, eye gestures, huddled conversation and ambiguous comments.
The narrative is split between several of the female voices, so the perspectives change, which is a great way the book plays with the reader. I absolutely loved trying to work out the puzzle Abbott provides in this thriller story: the drip feeding of information; the slow unfurling of the central characters; the introduction of the ‘game’ in the prologue, and the female voices all slowly building the jigsaw pieces from the past. It is genuinely hard to put this book down!
This is a highly recommended psychological thriller read where an old mystery has woken up, as past friends meet on the cusp of a new wedding. Memories are stirred and questions answered, questions that some people desperately want to remain buried. With themes of trauma, forgiveness, friendships, secrets and love, this is an immersive read that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Check out the other fabulous bloggers on this tour:
Rachel Abbott began her career as an independent author in 2011, with Only the Innocent, which became a No.1 bestseller on Kindle, topping the chart for four weeks. Since then, she has published eight further psychological thrillers and sold over 3 million copies. She is one of the top-selling authors of all time in the UK Kindle store, and her novels have been translated into 21 languages. Rachel splits her time between Alderney – a beautiful island off the coast of France – and the Le Marche region of Italy, where she is able to devote all her time to writing fiction.
I was delighted to be asked to join this blog tour for ‘Conjure Women’ by 4th Estate books. Welcome to more bookish chat…
The pale-skinned, black-eyed baby is a bad omen. That’s one thing the people on the old plantation are sure of. The other is that Miss Rue midwife, healer, crafter of curses – will know what to do. But for once Rue doesn’t know. Times have changed since her mother Miss May Belle held the power to influence the life and death of her fellow slaves. Freedom has come. The master’s Big House lies in ruins. But this new world brings new dangers, and Rue’s old magic may be no match for them. When sickness sweeps across her tight-knit community, Rue finds herself the focus of suspicion. What secrets does she keep amidst the charred remains of the Big House? Which spells has she conjured to threaten their children? And why is she so wary of the charismatic preacher man who promises to save them all? Rue understands fear. It has shaped her life and her mother’s before her. And now she knows she must face her fears – and her ghosts – to find a new way forward for herself and her people.
This is a debut novel from the pen of Afia Atakora and it’s a brilliant but challenging read set around the American Civil War. The focus of the story is through three generations of women on a plantation: Miss May Belle, her daughter Rue and the daughter of their plantation owner/master, Varina.
Atakora is a beautiful writer, her skill with prose weaves the reader into the lives of these women: it’s an immersive journey back into the past. It is about the women, their roles based on their gender and skin colour. It’s about loss, hope, friendship, society, cruelty, violence, lust and magic. This is a challenging book to read, it’s emotional and uncomfortable at times but Atakora’s writing craft balances this well. Slavery and oppression are always difficult to digest, but it’s such an important read, speaking out beautifully about womanhood, motherhood and the bonds created between people.
A thought-provoking, beautifully crafted novel of the female and enslavement.
Afia Atakora was born in the United Kingdom and raised in New Jersey, where she now lives. She graduated from New York University and has an MFA from Columbia University, where she was the recipient of the De Alba Fellowship. Her fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and she was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers
Snap review and chat today is about ‘The Library of the Unwritten’, a first in series book, written by A.J. Hackwith. Described as:
“It’s like The Good Place meets Law & Order: Bibliophile Crime Unit. This book is so much fun.”
“A muse, an undead librarian, a demon, and a ghost walk into Valhalla… what follows is a delightful and poignant fantasy adventure.”
Every book left unfinished by its author is filed away in the Unwritten Wing, a neutral space in Hell presided over by Claire, its head librarian. Along with repairing and organising books, her job consists of keeping an eye on restless stories whose characters risk materialising and escaping the library.
When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto. But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong, in a chase that threatens to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell… and Earth.
I loved the idea of this book: the library setting in Hell; an Unwritten Wing for unfinished books; a librarian watching and hunting book characters; an escaped Hero! Merging the undead, ghosts, book characters, demons and fallen angels in a fantasy adventure seemed great escapism.
And it was, for the most part. I’d certainly recommend this book to fantasy bibliophiles, it’s full of what we delight in: musty and bountiful shelves of books in Gothic underworld arches; there’re battles between good and evil, with an extreme amount of blurring the lines; a potentially catastrophic battle keeping the boundaries intact between Heaven, Hell and life on Earth, and some fabulous characters with bucketful depth between them. I loved the idea of book characters coming to life, every bibliophile’s dream. Hackwith certainly plays about with this idea and our perceptions.
Overall, this books does get a thumbs up from me for its creativity. I did enjoy the descriptive escapism it provided, and the biblio-fantasy world; it would make a great film! Looking forward to seeing how the ‘Hell’s Library’ series develops. It’s fun, creative, some great humour and a solid mystery at its core. Oh and I love the book cover design it’s a fabulous addition to my little library.
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.’
I’m very pleased to be part of this Blog Tour for ‘Beast’, with thanks to the lovely Anne and Orenda Books.
In the wake of the ‘Beast from the East ’ cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old vlogger, Elizabeth Barton, had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as ‘ The Vampire Tower ’, where she was later found frozen to death.
Three young men, part of an alleged cult, were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a ‘prank gone wrong ’. However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible.
Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses – people who knew both the victim and the three killers – to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, and the tragic and chilling legend of the Ergarth Vampire…
This is, in a nutshell, brilliant storytelling. It’s the fourth book in a series of similarly presented books: ‘Six Stories’, ‘Hydra’ and ‘Changeling’. I haven’t read any of the other books, so ‘Beast’ is my first taste of Matt Wesolowski’s work. I am hugely impressed, what a dark and addictive read. It’s one of those books that would work brilliantly as an audio-book (just checked and I can see the first are all available on Audible – so I’ll be adding them to my collection soon), as it’s designed around a series of six interviews for a podcast. I must admit, I’m only a minor book blogger, and I don’t completely understand the more commercial blogging world, so I found the concepts running through this book fascinating, and particularly as a social study of our ever-modernising world. It also contains the central theme of power and the impact social media has on people, and considering the awful news about Caroline Flack this week, the resonances are incredibly disturbing. This awful power-play for importance and ‘deemed’ value is very scary, and as a parent slightly terrifying. I’m currently in a room with a teenager who is flicking through her phone, and I have no idea what’s going on in her mind and on her phone screen (she’s 17, and we’ve had many discussions and I am 99.9% sure she is honest, caring and compassionate to others).
But back to ‘Beast’ which is built around the brutal murder of a blogger in a site connected with the legend of a local vampire, and considering she was beheaded, it builds questions and fear from the local community. Her crime is solved, and the perpetrators imprisoned, so when a new question arises, a new interest in her cases emerges. This introduces our online journalist Scott King and we follow his investigation via six reports. It’s clear I have missed something about Scott’s personal life from the previous books, but it by no way affects the read, it does make me want to order the previous three books pretty pronto though.
I really do recommend you pick up this book, it’s addictive and underneath the witness accounts there festers a dark and gothic tale of elusive, satanic behaviour waiting to inflict pain and misery. There’s also the valid and current debate of our modern society and its narcissistic and needful personalities thriving in the world of social media and the consequences of this. I was hooked from start to finish. Loved the mystery, the darkness and the debate it raises.
Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller
Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme. Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four ’s Book at Bedtime. Six titles have been shortor long-listed for the CWA Daggers. Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Sarah Stovell. http://www.orendabooks.co.uk @OrendaBooks
I’m delighted to be on the blog tour for ‘The Woman Downstairs’ with thanks to Orion Fiction and Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers.
Can you ever really know your neighbours?
When human remains are found in a ground floor flat, the residents of Nelson Heights are shocked to learn that there was a dead body in their building for over three years.
Sarah lives at the flat above and after the remains are found, she feels threatened by a stranger hanging around the building.
Laura has lived in the building for as long as she can remember, caring for her elderly father, though there is more to her story than she is letting on.
As the investigation starts to heat up, and the two women become more involved, it’s clear that someone isn’t telling the truth about what went on all those years ago…
‘The Woman Downstairs’ is a story told by two women, Sarah and Laura. The book is split into two parts, and once you begin to read part two it’s practically impossible to book this book down!
Sarah is training to be a journalist, whilst trying to support herself and her teenage son after splitting from her husband. We find her in a new relationship with the elusive and questionable Rob. However, her ex-husband Andy is also popping in and out of her life.
Laura, on the other hand, has led an isolated life, looking after her ailing father. After her father died, she had to build the confidence to find employment and meet new people. She soon attracts attention, from new colleagues and a past school friend. Her life soon changes and there’s the potential of a relationship… but it soon it becomes clear that maybe she’d have been safer staying at home!
These two women’s stories overlap in the book’s central mystery of a body found in a ground floor flat.
For me, this read took its time to get to the addictive stage (this is by no means a negative comment), but when it did, wow, it completely hooks you in. What a page turner! It’ll also make you think more carefully about those around you, about what are truths and what could be lies. Who is hiding behind a ‘mask’?.
With embedded themes of appearance and reality, this is a thoroughly enjoyable mystery thriller that wraps its hooks into the readers and demands you keep turning its pages.
A thumbs up from me!
Elisabeth Carpenter lives in Preston with her family. She completed a BA in English Literature and Language with the Open University in 2011.
Elisabeth was awarded a Northern Writers’ New Fiction award and was longlisted for the Yeovil Literary Prize (2015 and 2016) and the MsLexia Women’s Novel award (2015). She loves living in the north of England and sets most of her stories in the area, including the novel she is writing at the moment. She currently works as a bookkeeper.
It’s lovely being on the blog tour for ‘Never Look Back’ with Compulsive Readers – thanks to Tracy and Orion Books.
When Robin Diamond is contacted by true crime podcast producer Quentin Garrison, she assumes it’s a business matter.
Quentin’s podcast focuses on a series of murders in the 1970s committed by a teen couple and Quentin has reason to believe Robin’s mother may be intimately connected with the killings.
Robin thinks Quentin’s claim is absurd. But is it?
Robin knows her mother better than anyone. Or does she?
This story is told via a split narrative of letters to ‘my future child, Aurora Grace’ from Alice Cooper throughout the year of 1976 and the central dual perspectives of Quentin and Robin with some supporting points of view as the story develops. Quentin being a true crime podcast producer, and Robin, whose mother Quentin suspects could be one half of the infamous Inland Empire Killers. The significant issue here, is both the Inland Empire Killers both died in a fire.
I was thoroughly fascinated reading this book; the inclusion of the letter form worked brilliantly and told the events of the story from a completely different time-frame perspective. It’s gripping, addictive and thoroughly entertaining.
This is one of those great reads, that steadily lays trails of information and points of view for the reader to piece together. I really enjoyed the diverse group of characters who are all caught up in some awful events and the steady climb to the big reveal.
A highly recommended character driven, compulsive psychological crime thriller. Read it! I’m certainly going to be working my way through Gaylin’s back-list. Huge thanks to the author and publishing team for inviting me to join in the chat about ‘Never Look Back’.
About the author Alison Gaylin is the award-winning author of ‘Hide Your Eyes’ and its sequel, ‘You Kill Me’; the standalones ‘Trashed’, ‘Heartless’, ‘What Remains Of Me’ and ‘If I Die Tonight’; and the ‘Brenna Spector’ series: ‘And She Was, Into the Dark’, and ‘Stay with Me’. A graduate of Northwestern University and of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she lives with her husband and daughter in Woodstock, New York
Well, what happened to January? It disappeared as quickly as 2019! I finished 9 books this month, and four seasons of ‘The Mentalist’ – my new TV obsession.
First up is ‘The Snowdonia Killings’ a debut crime series novel by Simon McCleave introducing DI Ruth Hunter. A promising start, I’ve a blog post with a full review if you’re interested in finding out more. 3.5 stars
‘Killing Beauties’ by Pete Langman is an historical read about female spies and the wider network during Cromwell’s 17th century world of secrets and lies. 3 stars.
‘Dreamland’ by Nancy Bilyeau was a really enjoyable read, there’s also a blog post on this one. This book is an adventure and a murder mystery; it’s about first love, loss, addiction, power, corruption, and the battle for independence. 4.5 stars
‘Eros Element’ by Cecilia Dominic – a fantasy steampunk inspired adventure. It was okay for a little escapism. 2.5 stars
‘The Last Day’ by Andrew Hunter Murray is all bleak, apocalyptic and dystopian – uneven narrative issues for me, but lots of positives. 3.5 stars
‘The Foundling’ by Stacey Hall is one of my top reads this month. I loved Hall’s first book, ‘The Familiars’, and this one is even stronger. Built around the many ‘foundlings’ left in London’s Foundling Hospital; this is a story of despair, hope, isolation, lies and family bonds. 5 stars.
‘The Duke’s Desire by Erica Ridley was a review read, and it’s pretty much as you’d expect – a fiesty historical romance with the expected HEA. 3 stars
‘Six Wicked Reasons’ by Joe Spain was a great thriller, whodunit book and centres on a very dysfunctional family governed by a narcissistic patriarch. 4 stars.
Finally, ‘The Rose in Winter’ by Sarah Harrison – not really for me, I found myself disengaged several times. 2.5 stars
Publishing today is ‘The Stars We Steal’ by Alexa Donne. It’s a new standalone, set in the farthest reaches of space and earth is remembered as ancient history. Described as a sci-fi romance that ’embraces the idealism that true love exists under the most cutthroat of scenarios’.
Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, has only one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?
But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love, Elliot, returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one who got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself falling for her first love in a game of love, lies and past regrets.
This is a charming and entertaining YA fantasy read, set in space many years after the earth is made uninhabitable by an environmental disaster. It’s also charming, as it’s a reinvention of Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’. The tragic relationship between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth is brought to life again through Princess Leo and Eliott on-board a spaceship.
If you’re unaware of Austen’s ‘Persuasion’ then in a nutshell, it’s about second chances and regrets of the past being healed; it’s a beautiful love story. In Alexa Donne’s version love is at the heart of this narrative too. ‘The Stars We Steal’ begins with a space version of a marriage mart, where Leo is being forced to attend to attract the attention of a potential husband. It some becomes clear that there’s trouble ahead, particularly when she meets Elliot, and their past bitterness causes new conflict.
This YA fantasy book will suit readers who enjoy an enemies to love story line; Sci-fi, (although there’s not too much of this in the action, it serves more as the setting) a bit of political intrigue and plotting, with a large dash of adventure.
Out now from @Titanbooks
Also out today is ‘Double Feature’ by Donald E. Westlake – publishing for the first time in 40 years! I’ll be chatting about this book soon.