Bone Deep by Sandra Ireland #BookReview #BlogTour (@22_ireland) @PolygonBooks @LoveBooksGroup #BoneDeep #LoveBooksGroupTours

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“What happens when you fall in love with the wrong person? The consequences threaten to be far-reaching and potentially deadly.

Bone Deep is a contemporary novel of sibling rivalry, love, betrayal and murder. This is the story of two women: Mac, who is bent on keeping the secrets of the past from her only son, and the enigmatic Lucie, whose past is something of a closed book. Their story is underpinned by the creaking presence of an abandoned water mill, and haunted by the local legend of two long-dead sisters, themselves rivals in love, and ready to point an accusing finger from the pages of history.”

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for Bone Deep by Sandra Ireland. My thanks to Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group for the invitation and to the publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book is very different to anything I have read recently. A contemporary novel with a Gothic slant that is a slow burn but utterly compelling and powerful. It really took me buy surprise.

It is told in alternating chapters in the first person voices of Mac and Lucie, which gives us two very different perspectives on the narrative. Mac is a retired history lecturer writing her first fiction book based on local folk lore, who becomes increasingly obsessed with the local legend of two sisters and their fraught relationship. Lucie is a woman running from her own family problems who arrives on Mac’s doorstep hiding a secret of her own, to take up the position as Mac’s Girl Friday. As time passes, their relationship becomes increasingly fractured as the past and present narratives begin to take parallel turns, secrets are revealed and Mac’s mental health seems to unravel alarmingly.

This book has a very small cast of characters, a tight plot, limited scope of place and a slow pace, but it is completely engrossing. I was totally enthralled from page one and read the whole thing in a single day, as I simply could not put it down, and this is purely due to the consumate skill of the writing.

The characters are brilliantly drawn, and their journey through the book and the way they develop from start to finish, starting off seemingly fairly ordinary but gradually revealing their secrets over the course of the book in a way that paints them in a totally different light to us by the end, is masterful. I started off with one set of opinions and had a totally different viewpoint by the end.

The plot is very cleverly drawn, interwoven with scenes from Mac’s book and the story of the two sisters, which may or may not be based on historical fact; the lines between fact and fiction, truth and lies, past and present become increasingly blurred until neither the reader nor the characters are entirely sure what real and what is imaginary and we are left trying to work out what really happened right until the end of the book. It makes the book seem to exist in a slightly other-worldly, dreamlike state which I really loved.

This impression is compounded by the setting which is so atmospheric and wonderfully captured in the author’s descriptions. The decrepit old mill, which starts up at odd times of day and night, the ramshackle Miller’s Cottage with its winding corridors and strange noises and Mac’s disorganised and chilly house which she is reduced to closing off in large part to preserve heat. It all adds up the menacing and increasingly creepy atmosphere and its remoteness increases the feeling of being cut off from reality. The setting is oppressive and this feeling ramps up as the events in the book grow increasingly dangerous. It was perfectly portrayed and an integral part of my enjoyment of the book.

The author’s use of language is beautiful. I revelled in phrases such as ‘The pond, blackberry-dark, glints juicily under the full moon.’ The book is studded with gorgeous and evocative language that I had to stop and just savour for a moment before moving on. However, the book also flows brilliantly, drawing you form chapter to chapter. It was a joy to read.

I loved this book. It is totally unique, original and gripping. It got under my skin and had me thinking about it for a long time afterwards. It really made an impression on me, which is the most one can ask for from a good read.

Bone Deep is out now and you can purchase a copy here.

If you would like to read other bloggers’ opinions of the book, you can follow the tour here:

Bone Deep

About the Author

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Sandra Ireland was born in England but lived for many years in Éire before returning ‘home’ to Scotland in the 1990s. She is the author of Beneath the Skin, a psychological thriller, which was shortlisted for a Saltire Literary Award in 2017. Her second novel, Bone Deep, a modern Gothic tale of sibling rivalry, inspired by an old Scottish folktale, will be published in the UK by Polygon in July, and in the US (Gallery) and Germany (Penguin) next year. She also writes poetry, often inspired by the seascapes of Scotland’s rugged east coast. Her poems have been widely published in anthologies, including Seagate III (Dundee), and New Writing Scotland. She won the Dorothy Dunbar Trophy for Poetry, awarded by the Scottish Association of Writers, in 2017 and 2018. Sandra is Secretary of Angus Writers’ Circle and one third of the Chasing Time Team, which runs writing retreats in a gloriously gothic rural setting.

Connect with Sandra:

Website: https://sandrairelandauthor.com

Facebook: Sandra Ireland Author

Twitter: @22_ireland

Instagram: @sireland22

Goodreads: Sandra Ireland

Calamity in Camberwell by Alice Castle #BookReview #BlogTour (@DDsDiary) @crookedcatbooks @RaRaResources #Giveaway #LondonMurderMysteries #cozycrime

Calamity in Camberwell

It’s my turn on the blog tour for Book 3 in The London Murder Mysteries Series by Alice Castle which is called Calamity in Camberwell. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’S Random Resources for the opportunity. make sure you scroll down to enter the giveaway for a signed copy of the book.

Calamity in Camberwell

“Beth Haldane, SE21’s answer to Miss Marple, worries she is losing a kindred spirit when her friend Jen, the only other single mum in the playground, suddenly gets married and moves to Camberwell. 

Soon Beth has to face much more pressing fears. Has something gone horribly wrong with Jen’s marriage? What is her husband really up to? Why is her daughter leading Beth’s son astray? And where on earth IS Jen anyway? 

As Beth’s friends push her to start dating again, Beth turns to Met Police DI Harry York for help. But will they solve the mystery in time, or will it turn out that in south east London, not everyone gets to live happily ever after?”

My second review of the day is another crime novel but is a total contrast to the first one, so hopefully all crime fans will find something they will enjoy in today’s reviews. This book would be categorised as ‘cosy crime’ with a much more gentle and light-hearted approach than the grittiness of the first book and would appeal to fans of Miss Marple, Agatha Raisin and Midsomer Murders.

This is Book 3 in The London Murder Mysteries series but the first one I have read. It works well as a standalone but I think I would have got even more out of it had I read the first two and be more familiar with the  build up of Beth’s character and her back story. I also got the feeling that there were some spoilers in here for Book 2 The Girl in the Gallery so it would probably be better to read them in order. I definitely intend to go back and read the first two in the series.

The central character in the book, Beth, is just an ordinary woman. Widow and mum, I found her a novel choice for a sleuth and the whole aspect of her trying to juggle parenthood and singled with crime solving leant a new and interesting twist to a crowded genre and it really held my interest. On the flip side of this, there was more emphasis in this book on Beth’s personal life outside of the crime investigation than you would usually find in a book of this type. Whether that is a positive or negative will be down to reader preference. I personally enjoyed it and Beth’s forays back into the world of dating and her single mum angst about this was funny and very relatable to me as a single mum myself.

On the crime front, this was a compelling mystery that explored one of the taboo subjects of today, domestic abuse. I guess this could trigger some people with sensitivities in this area so bear this in mind when picking it up but the issue is handled very adroitly. The book starts with a slow burn as we see Beth become suspicious of her friend Jen’s new marriage and we see the contrast between the public facade of a relationship and what can happen behind closed doors. We are then drawn into the mystery of where this leads and held through the twists and turns of the book. There were lots of clues and red herrings scattered throughout the book and I truly did not see where this was going to end up, so it was very successful from this perspective for me.

The relationship between Beth and DI Harry York is joyful. I really warmed to him and would love to see how this develops. The focus on romance in this book may be off-putting for people who are not interested in this topic and just want a focus on the crime but I think it was a nice balance and I really like to see the human side of sleuths and police, it makes the story more honest, no matter how ludicrous the storyline, which these are if you really think about it. After all, how many murders do the yummy mummies of affluent south London really stumble across? But suspend your disbelief and you will find yourself drawn in by the charm and intriguing plot of the book.

I really enjoyed this book, it was a nice, light, easy crime story which was a beautiful contrast to the darkness of my previous read. This author is a talent I will watch out for and I look forward to going back and reading the previous two books, as well as whatever comes next. Fans of cosy crime would do well to pick up the books by this author, they definitely won’t disappoint.

Calamity in Camberwell is out now and you can buy a copy here. If you would like to catch up on the first two books in The London Murder Mysteries series, they are Death in Dulwich and The Girl in the Gallery.

Giveaway

To win a signed copy of Calamity in Camberwell, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494117/

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

If you would like to follow the blog tour, the details are below:

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About the Author

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Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks. 

Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, will be published this summer, with Homicide in Herne Hill due to follow in early 2019.  Alice is currently working on the fifth London Murder Mystery adventure. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Connect with Alice:

Website: https://alicecastleauthor.com

Facebook: Alice Castle Author

Twitter: @DDsDiary

Goodreads: Alice Castle

Broken Dolls by Sarah Flint #BookReview #BlogTour (@SarahFlint19) @aria_fiction @HoZ_Books #BrokenDolls #NetGalley

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“A baby lies abandoned amongst the rubbish; her tiny face as white as alabaster, her body as stiff as a miniature doll.

A young prostitute lies beaten, her figure lying like a mannequin on the frozen concrete, her blood spilt, her life ebbing away.

As DC ‘Charlie’ Stafford and her boss DI Hunter struggle to identify the victim from the violator their hunt brings them to the crack houses of Lambeth, littered with damaged people, their lives scarred by tragedy and violence, most broken beyond repair.
As further lives hang in the balance Charlie must enpower the weak to speak out against those who seek to cause harm.

But can a broken doll ever truly be mended; or will the wounds of the past, fashion the events of the future?”

Delighted to be finally taking my turn on the tour for Broken Dolls by Sarah Flint. My thanks to Melanie at Head of Zeus for inviting me to be on the tour.

This is the fourth book in the DC Charlie Stafford series but the first one I have read. It worked fine as a standalone book but there were a few aspects about her history and relationships that I may have appreciated more if I had read her previous books first. However, this did not detract from the power of the story.

And powerful it is. The opening scenes of this book are harrowing and hit you like a punch in the face, which pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the book. The author does not hold back on the imagery and some readers may find the opening events a little hard to stomach and upsetting. This is not a crime book for the faint of heart or easily squeamish but if you like your books gritty and in your face, you will be gripped from the start as I was. I read this book in a single four-hour sitting without taking a break, i could not put it down.

There are fascinating and well drawn characters on both sides of the legal divide, some likeable and some despicable but all rounded and believable and some of them are morally ambiguous, which is always interesting to read. The main character on the police side is DC Charlie Stafford, a young detective constable who is strong and feisty but also compassionate. I really liked her and thought she was a great character to carry the story, rather than someone further up the hierarchy. Being on the lowest rung of the CID ladder, she was right at the heart and on the ground of the investigation, so we could see every development of the investigation which allowed for our full immersion in the story.

There are two other central characters telling the story. Caz, a very young prostitute who is caught up in the midst of a series of deaths in the community of working girls in Streatham and ‘The Punter’ a shadowy character whose darker thoughts and acts are peppered throughout the book. There are two separate investigations in the book which may or not be related and you have to concentrate to work out the strands of each. The stories give a fascinating insight into the world of prostitution, pimps, drugs and sex trafficking and, as previously mentioned, is not the most comfortable of reads but it is gripping.

The pace of the book is fast and furious and the plot twisty enough and with sufficient surprises to keep the reader hooked from page to page. The writing felt very authentic as to tone and language which allowed for a very smooth read. I would hesitate to say I enjoyed the book, given the harrowing subject matter, but it definitely held my interest and was a compulsive read and I would definitely look for more by this author. I love finding new authors with a back catalogue to explore and would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dark, pacy crime novels. Not for the delicate or squeamish.

Broken Dolls is out now and you can buy a copy here.

My thanks to NetGalley, Aria Fiction and Head of Zeus for my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

If you would like to see what other bloggers thought of the book, you can follow the tour below:

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About the Author

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With a Metropolitan Police career spanning 35 years Sarah has spent her adulthood surrounded by victims, criminals and police officers. She continues to work and lives in London with her partner and has three older daughters.

Connect with Sarah:

Facebook: Sarah Flint Books

Twitter: @SarahFlint19

Goodreads: Sarah Flint

The Cottage on Lily Pond Lane – Part Three: Autumn Leaves by Emily Harvale #BlogTour #BookReview (@emilyharvale) @RaRaResources #LilyPondLane #AutumnLeaves

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Regular readers of the blog will know I have been loving Emily Harvale’s new four part serialisation, The Cottage on Lily Pond Lane (you can read my reviews of Part One: New Beginnings here and Part Two: Summer Secrets here.) So I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Part Three: Autumn Leaves today. Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for having me back.

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“Mia Ward was amazed to inherit her great-aunt Matilda’s thatched cottage in the tiny seaside village of Little Pondale – especially as Mia didn’t know she had a great-aunt Matilda. She was equally astonished to discover she’d only inherit the place if she lives there for a year. 

But it didn’t take long for Mia and her friends, Ella and Garrick to settle in. Now Mia’s mum, Lori has joined them, and they’re all enjoying village life. Mia’s keen to overcome her fear of water and with Garrick by her side, she’s confident about the future. 

Until a fortune teller’s predictions give everyone cause for concern. Now Mia’s not so sure of anything, except that someone still wants her to leave. That makes her more determined to learn all she can about Matilda – and the codicil. 

But as the mists roll in over the sea, are autumn winds making passions cool? And when more than one unexpected visitor gives Mia a shocking surprise, is everything about to change?”

The weather may be cooling down in Little Pondale as the seasons change but events are hotting up! After their readings by the fortune teller at the summer fayre, everyone seems to be on edge and reluctant to reveal what she predicted for them, especially as a lot of the predictions start to come true – it has really stirred up a hornet’s nest in the little community. I love how spooked everyone is by the prophecies, it really fits in with the small community mentality. There is a lovely innocence and naivety in the scenario which is very appealing.

This series continues to be enchanting as Mia makes new friends and overcomes some of her fears as the year moves from summer to autumn. Her love life is not going as smoothly and at times I got quite frustrated with her as she struggles to admit her true feelings to herself, as well as those around her, but that is part of the fun of the book, watching the characters going wrong and wondering how they are going to put things right! There are lots of exciting revelations to keep the book moving forwards but still enough unanswered questions to make you impatient for the next instalment – my favourite kind of book that keeps you racing from page to page!

Emily continues to introduce new characters in to the story to keep things fresh, as well as developing the plots and challenges for the existing ones and I am just as invested as I was after book one. I am desperate to get to the denouement now and find out what Aunt Matilda’s big secret is – especially after the revelations in this latest instalment – and we still haven’t found out who is behind the unpleasant pranks that keep being played on Mia and I have to say I am none the wiser! There is also the big will they, won’t they on the romance front to be decided, so lots to look forward to in the final part.

This series continues to exceed my expectations and I am really enjoying it and as eager for the final book, if not more so, than I was in the beginning. Keep up the good work, Emily, I am desperate to find out how it all ends. Happily I hope!

The Cottage on Lily Pond Lane – Part Three: Autumn Leaves is out now and you can buy a copy here. Part Four: Trick or Treat is also available and you can order a copy here. I will be reviewing the final part here on the blog on 26 August. Let’s have a sneak peek at it. This might be my favourite cover – the black cat in the corner looks like my cat, Barney!

Lily Pond Lane Trick or treat-NEW-VAL-DAVID-3 JULY

“Mia Ward was amazed to inherit her great-aunt Matilda’s thatched cottage in the tiny seaside village of Little Pondale – especially as Mia didn’t know she had a great-aunt Matilda. She was even more astonished to discover she’d only inherit the place if she lives there for a year. 

But a lot can happen in a very short time, and life in Little Pondale is not going quite as Mia hoped. She may have finally beaten one fear, but now heartbreak threatens to drown her.

And when at last, she starts to unravel the mystery of Matilda’s past, she uncovers an extraordinary plan for her own future. Now just who can Mia trust? 

As the nights draw in and cold winds steal through Sunbeam Cottage, she turns to an unlikely source for comfort and support. But with the fortune teller’s warning still ringing in her ears, is Mia about to make the biggest mistake of her life?”

If you would like to follow the blog tour for Part Three: Autumn Leaves, the details are below:

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About the Author

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Having lived and worked in London for several years, Emily returned to her home town of Hastings where she now spends her days writing… and chatting on social media. Emily is a Member of the SoA, a PAN member of the RWA and a Pro Member of ALLi. She’s an Amazon bestseller and a Kindle All Star. Emily loves writing and her stories are sure to bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart.
Emily says, “I write about friendship, family and falling in love. I believe in happing endings.” When she isn’t writing, she can be found enjoying the stunning East Sussex coast and countryside, or in a wine bar with friends, discussing life, love and the latest TV shows. Chocolate cake is often eaten. She dislikes housework almost as much as she dislikes anchovies – and will do anything to avoid both.

Connect with Emily:

Website: https://www.emilyharvale.com/

Facebook: Emily Harvale Writer

Twitter: @emilyharvale

Instagram: @emilyharvale

 

All The Hidden Truths by Claire Askew #BookReview (@OneNightStanzas) @HodderBooks @NetGalley #AllTheHiddenTruths #NetGalley

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“This is a fact: Ryan Summers walked into Three Rivers College and killed thirteen women, then himself.

But no one can say why.

The question is one that cries out to be answered – by Ryan’s mother, Moira; by Ishbel, the mother of Abigail, the first victim; and by DI Helen Birch, put in charge of the case on her first day at her new job. But as the tabloids and the media swarm, as the families’ secrets come out, as the world searches for someone to blame… the truth seems to vanish.”

I’m stunned that this is a debut. I’m not at all surprised that it has been nominated for, and won, prizes. I loved everything about this book, the writing, the characters – it is so accomplished that the author has shot straight on to my list of writers that I will be eagerly awaiting more from.

The subject matter of this book is topical but not easy to tackle and the author was very brave to do it, especially as a debut, but she does it with such compassion and consideration and with such a careful balance that she has pulled it off perfectly. The main reason why it works is that it is told from the perspective of three people on every side of the tragedy – the mother of the shooter, the mother of the first victim and the police officer in charge of the case. These different perspectives make us sit and think about the tragedy from every angle and in ways we perhaps don’t think about these tragedies. It is very easy, following these shootings, to consider and empathise with the victims and they families, but the ramifications are much wider and the victims go beyond the families of the murdered children; this book reminds us of that.

The characters in this book are as complex as the issues they are struggling with. The author carefully balances things so that everything is not clearly black and white. The victims are not painted as angels and the shooter not as pure evil because we all know that life is much more complicated and nuanced than that. This is what makes the book so compelling. We all want things to be clear cut, but they aren’t and what makes these shootings so terrifying is that they are often carried out by seemingly ordinary people who displayed no outward violent tendencies beforehand and there is no obvious motives. And to their families who loved them it is especially difficult to accept that their children were capable of doing what they did. These are complicated issue that are hard and unpleasant to face but facing them is necessary to tackle the problem.

The setting of the book is Edinburgh, which I think makes it more immediately relevant for those of us the the UK who sees these things happening at arms’ length in the US where we have no direct connection. It has been a long time since we had a mass shooting in a school in this country thankfully so we may feel that we are immune from the constant fear and horror that regularly hits communities in the States. However, with a spate of gun violence in London over the past few months, this issue is one that is becoming more and more relevant here and we should not be complacent about it. The Edinburgh of the book is not the side the tourists see, but is the every day side with ordinary people going about their ordinary lives, which makes the extraordinary events even more shocking.

This is a book that will make you think. About what motivates someone to commit this type of atrocity and can we ever really know. Is there a way to spot and stop these people before they do what they do, and if not, how far can blame extend beyond the actual perpetrator. About the effects this has on the victims’ families, the wider community, the police and how these people react and can be helped afterwards. And about how we, as onlookers, get our news and how the press report these things. One of the reporters in this book is the most loathsome character I have read in a long time, partly because his actions are believable and, if the portrayal is in any way accurate, we have some very hard questions to ask ourselves about what kind of people we have become if we are willing to tolerate this behaviour.

This is a must-read book, which raises a lot of difficult questions to which there are no simple answers but they are questions that we need to ask ourselves. I know I will return to this book again, and recommend it to my friends as a worthwhile read. I can’t give it a better endorsement than to say that, after reading the ARC, I have gone out and bought it in hardback to add to my shelf.

All The Hidden Truths is out today and you can buy a copy here.

My thanks to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

Claire Askew is a poet, novelist and the current Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh. Her debut novel in progress was the winner of the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and longlisted for the 2014 Peggy Chapman-Andrews (Bridport) Novel Award. Claire holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh and has won a variety of accolades for her work, including the Jessie Kesson Fellowship and a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award.

Her debut poetry collection, This changes things, was published by Bloodaxe in 2016 and shortlisted for the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award and a Saltire First Book Award. In 2016 Claire was selected as a Scottish Book Trust Reading Champion, and she works as the Scotland tutor for women’s writing initiatives Write Like A Grrrl! and #GrrrlCon.

Connect with Claire:

Twitter: @OneNightStanzas

The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway by Rhys Thomas #BookReview #PublicationDay (@rhysthomashello) @headlinepg @NetGalley #TheUnlikelyHeroicsOfSamHolloway #NetGalley

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“This is no ordinary love story and Sam is no typical hero…but he is a hero.

Sam Holloway has survived the worst that life can throw at you. But he’s not really living. His meticulous routines keep everything nice and safe – with just one exception…

Three nights a week, Sam dons his superhero costume and patrols the streets. It makes him feel invincible – but his unlikely heroics are getting him into some sticky, and increasingly dangerous, situations.

Then a girl comes into his life, and his ordered world is thrown into chaos … and now Sam needs to decide whether he can be brave enough to finally take off the mask.

Both hilarious and heart-warming, this is a story about love, loneliness, grief, and the life-changing power of kindness.”

It is publication day for this book, so happy Publication Day, Rhys, and thank you for the opportunity to read your book.

When one of the lines in the book you are reading is ‘Tonight was handkerchief-ironing night.’, you know you are not reading about an ordinary man, and the titular character in The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway is very far from ordinary. Even when he was a child, Sam was not ordinary. He was one of the socially awkward, uninspiring, wallpaper kids at school – too unattractive and uncool to be popular, but not different enough to be a stand-out in that way either. He always had few friends and was lonely and the passing of years and the occurrence of The Event have only exacerbated the problem.

Sam is an incredibly lonely, lost and unhappy person and it has been a long time since I have felt so acutely the simple pain of living from day to day for any character in a novel. The author does an amazing job of painting Sam and his desperate attempts to manage his life in the face of the gaping voids in his existence in such a way that the small slights and disappointments of his every day existence slice through you in exactly the same way as they do through him. He tries so hard to be a good person in a world where nobody cares, he is so unimportant, and it is excruciating to read.

Sam has managed to find a way to get through every day by way of an extremely ordered and routine life and he is unprepared for anything the upsets this routine. He mostly hides away in his house with his comics and movies, only venturing out occasionally with his very few friends who are as much misfits as he is, the only reason he believes they became friends. And on three nights a week, Sam dons a costume and mask and goes out onto the dark streets of his home town to fight crimes as The Phantasm. Then a girl comes into his life and threatens to turn everything upside down.

The plot sounds outlandish but the book is written in such a way that it is completely understandable as to why Sam is doing what he does and my heart broke for him all the way through because his pain and loneliness and feelings of impotence leapt off the page and made me totally sympathise with his actions. Any one who has ever struggled with any kind of anxiety or depression will recognise the need to try and impose some kind of control over their world, and also find means of escape. This passage particularly resonated with me – “He’d never read them all, but it didn’t matter. Just the sheer volume of stories made him feel safe.” He is talking about his collection of comic books but I feel exactly the same way about my huge library and my compulsive book buying. A lot of people will recognise elements of themselves in Sam if they really think about it.

All the way through the book I was willing things to work out for Sam but truly feeling that they wouldn’t, mostly because he isn’t even sure he wants them to, he is so afraid of stepping out of the comfortable cocoon he has hid himself in and he has a huge capacity for self-sabotage. There are even times where I disliked him slightly, because he acts in a way that is cruel, but it is all done through self-protection and fear. He is a really complex character and I was totally invested in the story from beginning to end, despite how uncomfortable I found parts of it to read.

I really enjoyed the chapters which were written as The Phantasm and the author does it very cleverly in a comic book style, it was easy to follow when he was in character and when he wasn’t.

This book is entertaining, heart-breakingly sad but ultimately uplifting and is one of then most worthwhile books I have read this year. They have described it as hilarious, I didn’t find it so, although it was amusing in places, but what it I did find it to be was a beautiful, moving and very truthful portrayal of loss, loneliness, awkwardness, second chances and the redeeming power of love, friendship and the kindness of people who refuse to give up on you, no matter what. It will stay with me for a long while.

The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway is out today and you can buy a copy here.

My thanks to NetGalley and Headline for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

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Hi, I’m Rhys and it’s nice to meet you. I’m a writer from Wales and have to date published three novels. My most recent is The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway – a story about a boy called Sam, his superhero alter ego The Phantasm, and a girl called Sarah.

My other two books are The Suicide Club, which is a coming of age story set in 2004, and On The Third Day, an apocalyptic adventure story that imagines a disease that dissolves hope – a kind of old school,  Old Testament kind of apocalypse that exists beyond science.

I live in a city called Cardiff with my partner Amy (who is a much more successful writer than I am) and my three cats, Henry, Sheldon and Aniseed.

In the day time I work at Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, helping the incredible researchers there get the word out about what they’re doing. They inspire me every single day.

Connect with Rhys:

Facebook: Rhys Thomas

Twitter: @rhysthomashello

Goodreads: Rhys Thomas

Dead of Night by Michael Stanley #BlogTour #BookReview (@detectivekubu) @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #DeadOfNight #RandomThingsTours

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“When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she’ll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, but within a week she’s been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that she doesn’t want, but can’t get rid of…

Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she’s exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it’s too late, both for the rhinos and for her. She has a powerful story to tell, if she survives long enough to tell it…

Fast-paced, relevant and chilling, Dead of Night is a stunning new thriller from Michael Stanley, author of the award-winning Detective Kubu series, introducing an intriguing new protagonist, while exposing one of the most vicious conflicts on the African continent…”

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Dead of Night by Michael Stanley. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me on to the tour and to the publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I’ve not read any of the previous books by Michael Stanley so I came in to this cold as to what to expect from plot and writing style. To say I was not disappointed is an understatement, I was completely swept off my feet by the plot, the pacing and the characterisation.

The book’s setting is divided between four locations, Minnesota (briefly), South Africa, Switzerland and Vietnam with the main bulk of the action taking place in South Africa, which made it an easy sell for me from the beginning because it is a country that fascinates me and I am desperate to visit. I really loved that the viewpoint was Crys, an American journalist of Vietnamese descent, who is also on her first trip to South Africa, so we were getting her first impressions of this amazing country.

However, Crys’ first impressions are different to most visitors as she is not a tourist but has travelled to South Africa to investigate the smuggling of rhino horn, ostensibly for an article she is writing for National Geographic magazine, but also so she can investigate the disappearance of a fellow journalist and friend who has gone missing chasing the same story. As a result, she is immediately drawn into a dark and dangerous world where people are prepared to kill chasing the huge amounts of money at stake and she has no idea who to trust.

The authors (they are a collaborative duo) do a great job of establishing Crystal as an interesting and tenacious character from the beginning as she competes in a gruelling biathlon in the opening pages. This carries her character believably through all the challenges she faces chasing down her story, and they are multitude! This book hurls the reader in to the heart of action the minute Crystal touches down in South Africa and does not let up for a minute until the conclusion some 300 pages later by which point we are left breathless and with adrenaline pumping. I tore through this in an afternoon whilst on holiday, refusing to put it down until forced to go out for dinner, at which point I was complaining that I only had 30 pages left to read and had to get back to see how it ended. Anything that can keep me hooked in preference for food and cocktails has to be good!

The settings in the book are portrayed very vividly, it is easy to picture them, and I was drawn completely into the story, feeling all the doubts, anger, fear, mistrust and other emotions that Crys was going through as she doggedly pushes ahead with her investigation in the face of a great deal of hardship and discouragement. I especially enjoyed the parts set out in the African bush, despite the fact she is not quite having the normal safari experience!

The smuggling aspect is fascinating and terrifying at the same time. It is a really important issue to address and bring to attention. I am not sure how much of what is portrayed is realistic but it has definitely made me want to investigate the facts surrounding the poaching of rhinos for their horn more and see how much of this is based on fact as the trade described in the book is truly horrifying and there does not seem to be an easy solution. It is rare and laudable for a thriller to raise these kind of questions in the plot and focus on them as important to the world, rather than just as a story device, and I think it is extremely well done. The message manages to come across loud and clear without detracting from the plot at all.

I had no idea who was involved in the smuggling and who was not, right up until the very end which is always very satisfying in a thriller and I don’t think I caught my breath properly the whole time I was reading it. It is the best thriller that I have read in a long while and I was sorry when it was finished. I have discovered an exciting, new (to me at least) thriller writer and I can’t wait to read more.

Dead of Night is out now and you can buy a copy here.

This book is taking a huge tour throughout July and August so there are plenty of reviews by fabulous bloggers to choose from. Check out the rest of the dates below:

Dead of Night blog poster 2018 (3)

About the Author

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Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award. Dead of Night is their first stand-alone thriller.

Connect with Michael Stanley:

Website: http://www.detectivekubu.com

Facebook: Michael Stanley Books

Twitter: @detectivekubu

Goodreads: Michael Stanley

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