Desert Island Books: The Edge by Dick Francis @felix_francis #BookReview #racingcrime #thriller #crime #bookbloggers #bookblog #desertislandbooks #readinggoals @VIA_Rail @ExploreCanada #TheCanadian #CanadaByTrain #VIARail #ExploreCanada #bucketlist

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Tor Kelsey, an undercover agent for the Jockey Club’s security service is involved in the attempt to rid racing of one of its most notorious villains, Julius Apollo Filmer. The court however, does not go along with their beliefs, but Tor knows that to let Julius even suspect the service are still on his tail would mean certain death for a number of witnesses.

Meanwhile, several racehorse owners have planned a luxurious train trip across Canada, with race meetings fixed for every major city. Julius Apollo Filmer and Tor are on the passenger list. The beautiful journey through the Rockies gets uglier by the minute and Tor finds himself pushed to dangerous limits to defeat Filmer’s wily scheming.

I can’t remember exactly when I read my very first Dick Francis novel, but I know it was some time early in my horse-mad, teenage years. I know that it was lent to me by my friend, Mary, and that the first one I read was one of his books featuring racing detective, Sid Halley. I also know I was hooked from that very first book and quickly raced through his back catalogue. I then waited eagerly each September for his latest book to come out and bought every new one in hardback. He wrote 44 thrillers before his death in 2010, the later ones with his son, Felix, as co-author. Since his death, Felix has continued to write racing thrillers under the Francis name, and I have continued to buy them.

I have huge nostalgic affection for these books, as Dick Francis was one of the first authors I discovered for myself, without the books being parentally approved, and he was an author that was just my own. No one else in my family was particularly a fan, I didn’t have to share the books with my sisters (who never took care of my books properly- remember the Freya North book you left in Australia, Catherine? Remember the book you dropped in the bath, Rebecca?), these were just mine.

Do you want to see my Dick Francis shelf? Of course you do, here it is:-

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Anyway, of all of these excellent books, The Edge is my standout favourite. I must have read it at least a dozen times over the years. In fact I could probably recite it off by heart by now, but I never get bored of it and it was a no brainer as one of my Desert Island Books.

The blurb of this book singularly fails to do the plot justice, so I will try and explain to you what exactly is so marvellous about it, even to people who are not remotely interested in horses or racing.

Although Dick Francis is dubbed the king of the racing thriller, his books are about so much more than horse racing. His plots have involved stories centring around reporters, photography, gold mines, movie-making, wine experts, air taxis, art fraud, diamond dealers, authors, medical experiments, hurricane-chasing and toy making, amongst many other subjects, all of them meticulously researched. To say that he writes racing thrillers does not do his imagination justice, and The Edge is one of the best examples of this diversity in his writing.

The book follows Jockey Club investigator, Tor Kelsey, a man who works undercover investigating racing crimes. When the Jockey Club believes the biggest villain in racing might be plotting a major sting, Tor is sent on the trip of a lifetime across Canada to try and discover and foil his plans.

So far, so ordinary. However, there are things about the book that make it a cut above the average thriller. Firstly, it has the topsy-turvy plot device of the reader knowing who the villain is from the off, but both the investigator, and the reader, not knowing what crime he is planning and having to find this out together. Secondly, the action is set mostly on a glamorous train travelling coast-to-coast across Canada with the elite of the racing world, plus their horses, aboard. There is also a murder mystery being acted out on board for the entertainment of the passengers, so there is fun in trying to work out which parts are the real mystery and which are part of the entertainment. There is also a love interest sub-plot for added spice. A huge cast of great characters, descriptions of a great train journey visiting some of the amazing sights of Canada, and a gripping mystery plot which delivers continual twists and turns and highs and lows – what’s not to love?

This book has a special place in my heart. It has also inspired one of my top Bucket List destinations which I blogged about here (picture below might give you a clue!). Having read it again, I am also struck by how well the book has stood the test of time, despite it being 30 years old and not featuring cell phones, the internet or other modern equipment. There are not many crime books that I can read over and over and still enjoy, despite knowing whodunnit, but all of Dick Francis’s books fall into this category and this is the best of the crop IMHO. Definitely a keeper.

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The Edge might be difficult to get your mitts on new now, but try your local library or you should be able to track down a copy in some format here. Sorry, there is no way I am lending out my copy, no matter how much you beg!

About the Author

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Richard Stanley Francis (31 October 1920 – 14 February 2010) was a British crime writer, and former steeplechase jockey, whose novels centre on horse racing.

After wartime service in the RAF, Francis became a full-time jump-jockey, winning over 350 races and becoming champion jockey of the British National Hunt. He came to further prominence in 1956 as jockey to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother riding her horse Devon Loch, which fell when close to winning the Grand National. Francis retired from the turf and became a journalist and novelist.

Dick Francis was widely acclaimed as one of the world’s finest thriller writers. His awards include the Crime Writers’ Association’s Cartier Diamond Dagger for his outstanding contribution to the crime genre, and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Tufts University of Boston. In 1996, Dick Francis was made a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master for a lifetime’s achievement and in 2000 he received a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

LAST CHANCE TO ENTER! #RNA60 Romantic Fiction Book Club Facebook Group Launch Competition. Win 60 Romantic Novels from 0ne More Chapter! @RNATweets @0neMoreChapter_ #Competition #Giveaway #RomanticFictionBookClub #RomFicBookClub

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Today is the closing date for the Romantic Fiction Book Club’s huge launch competition, so if you haven’t already join the new Facebook group for readers, authors and bloggers who love Romantic Fiction, you’d better get on to it quickly!

As a reminder, this year marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and, to celebrate this momentous occasion, the RNA have launched a new Facebook group, the Romantic Fiction Book Club, which aims to be a warm and cosy place for lovers of romantic fiction to engage with other readers, bloggers and authors of romantic fiction. The group is open to anyone who loves to read any type of romance, bloggers, and all authors of novels with a romantic element, not just those who are members of the RNA.

To launch the new group with a bang, we have an amazing competition for you. In conjunction with publisher 0ne More Chapter, members of the new Romantic Fiction Book Club Facebook group have the chance to win an amazing bundle of 60 romantic novels, donated by 0ne More Chapter. There are also 60 runner up prizes of a single, signed romance novel, so there are a total of 61 prizes up for grabs. What amazing odds of winning something! The competition is running from 14th to 29th February., i.e. TODAY!

All you have to do to enter the competition is join the new Romantic Fiction Book Club here and then follow the link below to the competition:

One More Chapter & RNA Diamond Anniversary Giveaway

There is detailed information about how to enter on the new Facebook page, including how to increase your chances of winning by subscribing to the RNA and 0ne More Chapter’s social media links, plus, there is lots of fun interaction going on in the group. UK entries only I’m afraid. What are you waiting for, go and sign up now!

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Friday Night Drinks with…. Emily Royal @eroyalauthor @RNATweets #FridayNightDrinks #LondonLibertines

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Thrilled to be joined for Friday Night Drinks tonight by fellow RNA member and historical romance author, Sally Calder, who writes under the pen name…. Emily Royal.

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Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

It’s a pleasure! Thanks for having me. I’ll be drinking gin & tonic. I’m picky, so if I’m allowed to mention brand names, it has to be Bombay Sapphire with a slice of lime or Monkey 47 with a slice of pink grapefruit. And for the tonic, only Fevertree will do.

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I agree, Bombay Sapphire is the best. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

An Italian restaurant – not a chain, but something family run with an authentic menu. Can I recommend Cosmoba in London? Failing that, I’m always up for a curry! Most of my favourite nights out centre around food.

Italian is my favourite cuisine so I would love that. If you ever find yourself in Dublin, do check out Il Vicoletto in Temple Bar, it’s my favourite. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

This is so tough! There’s lots of famous people I admire but I don’t know if I’d enjoy being in their company for a whole night out.

I’m a big fan of Tommie Smith, the athlete who won the gold medal in the 200m sprint in the 1968 Mexico Olympics and staged the silent protest on the podium together with John Carlos, the bronze medalist. But as our male guest, I’ll go for Peter Norman, the Australian athlete who won the silver medal in the same race. He supported Tommie and John, and was heavily criticized for it, but he always seems to get forgotten. I’d love to hear his story.

For the female I was tempted to go for either Tonya Harding, another controversial athlete – or Christine Keeler, whose story I’ve always been fascinated by. But I’ll plump for Eleanor of Aquitaine. The toughest of tough ladies, she was a duchess in her own right, queen consort of France, queen of England, acted as regent for a while and gave birth to three kings, weathered an unhappy marriage, was imprisoned for 16 years, staged a rebellion against her husband and lived into her 80’s which is quite remarkable for the thirteenth century! I think she’d have a lot to talk about to keep us entertained.

Interesting choices. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m currently traditionally published with a handful of small presses. But I’ve just recently begun to make plans for some indy projects. I’m researching the whole process of formatting and publishing as well as cover design, to see which parts of the process I can confidently do myself and which parts I’ll need to contract out. Ideally I’d love to be a hybrid author with my projects split between traditional and indie. My current draft-in-progress is the fifth book in my Regency series which makes references to a famous chess match.

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I’m tempted to say the proudest moment was when I had my first offer of a contract on a novel – but I think it has to be the first time I had a formal critique. The reviewer’s positive feedback was a pivotal moment which made me believe I was capable of writing a novel which didn’t suck! If I’m allowed to state another, I think it was when I was sent the first rough cut of a cover for my debut novel and it began to sink in that this was really happening!

The biggest challenge has been to force myself to keep on writing. When I get a stinky review on Amazon which dents the rating, or when I’ve been waiting weeks for a publisher or agent to respond to a query/pitch, it’s really easy to talk myself into believing the negatives and ignore the positives. But I force myself to shift focus onto a new project and concentrate on that. Another big challenge is accepting that time is a finite resource. I have a lot of ideas for different projects and genres, but a) there’s only 24 hours in a day, and b) for many of those, I’m working on my day job, rather than writing.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

An orange bestseller flag on Amazon. I’d love one of those. Even if just for one hour!

Great ambition! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

Quite a lot! I released three novels last year and I’m currently drafting another three in the same series and have some early ideas for a series of novellas in the same genre. I have three more books I’d drafted a few years ago – same genre, different time period – which I’ve earmarked for indy projects, so that will be exciting as it’s all part of my plan to branch out into being a hybrid author. As well as that, I have outline plans for some secret projects in a completely different genre and under a different name.

Busy woman. I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

Favourite place has to be Rotorua in New Zealand where we spent our honeymoon. It’s close to loads of sulphur springs and volcanoes, and is one of the friendliest towns I’ve ever been to. Top of my bucket list would be the Galapagos Islands.

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Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I once hijacked a passenger train at a major airport.

What? You can’t leave that hanging! We need more details! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Skallagrigg by William Horwood, One of my keepers which I can never get through without crying!

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Skallagrigg unites Arthur, a little boy abandoned many years ago in a grim hospital in northern England with Esther, a radiantly intelligent young girl who is suffering from cerebral palsy, and with Daniel, an American computer-games genius.

Skallagrigg – whatever the name signifies, whoever he is – will come to transform all their lives. And William Horwood’s inspired, heart-rending story of rescue and redemptive love will undoubtedly touch your life too.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Before going out, in anticipation of a heavy night: drink a pint of milk

While you’re out: eat lots of carbohydrates while drinking

If you’re young enough: go clubbing. I always had a clear head after a bout of energetic dancing

On arriving home drunk and before going to bed: drink at least two pints of water

The morning after: A fizzy drink with Vitamin C in, and a big greasy fry-up

Very specific, thank you. I think my clubbing day are behind me, alas. After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

A log cabin in the mountains, tucked away from the rest of civilization.

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Emily, I have had a wonderful evening, thank you for spending it with me and I wish you huge success with your future projects.

Emily is the author of historical romances, including the London Libertines series, Henry’s BrideHawthorne’s Wife and Roderick’s Widow.

Readers signing up to Emily’s newsletter will receive a free novella (a prequel to London Libertines, but a standalone story).

Emily Royal is a confessed mathematics geek and a hopeless romantic with a passion for alpha heroes. From an early age she dreamed about knights in shining armour, Medieval castles, Highland Heroes and Regency rogues. She lives in rural Scotland with her husband, children and menagerie of exotic pets, including Twinkle, an attention-seeking boa constrictor.

From an early age she devoured romance novels but set aside her passion to focus on university, work and raising a family. But after a long career in financial services she re-ignited her love of romantic fiction when she stumbled across the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s website and joined their New Writers’ Scheme.

You can find out more about Emily and her work via her websiteFacebook and Twitter.

Next week I am having Friday Night Drinks with author, Lizzie Chantree, so please do join us.

Taking A Chance On Love by Erin Green #BookReview (@ErinGreenAuthor) @Headlinepg @RNATweets @NetGalley #NetGalley #TakingAChanceOnLove

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One question can change everything.

Meet Carmen, Polly and Dana – all happy and successful women, with very different views on relationships.

Carmen has made a life with Elliot for the past eight years. She’s ready for the next step but a proposal seems to be as far away as ever.

Polly is devoted to her family. But after her parents’ bitter divorce, she’s wary of marriage – even after sharing twenty years and one son with Fraser.

Single mother Dana longs for companionship, despite her dedication to raising her son Luke. Finding the right person to bring into their lives feels impossible – until a unique way to select a potential Mr Right comes along.

With 29th February fast approaching, will they each take the chance this Leap Year to take control of their fates?

So, it’s a leap year and we’ve been given an extra day to play with. What an earth should we do with it? Well, tradition dictates that this is the one day every four years where women can propose to the man in their lives. The Irishman keeps dropping hints that he has certain expectations of me on Saturday, but let’s gloss over that for now and concentrate on a book which has this tradition at its heart.

This book follows the story of three different women living in the same small town who are all at different stages of their lives and relationships, but for each of whom February 29th is going to be a day that alters their futures forever. It’s amazing what a difference a single day can make.

This book is a fun but thoughtful read that weaves together the lives of three diverse characters which touch each other lightly at various points in the book and offer us a myriad of individual issues to consider. Polly has been with Fraser for twenty years but it still scared of marriage, having see how her parents ended up. But as the birthday of her almost-grown son approaches and she watches him dealing with relationships in his own life and how it affects them all, it makes her take stock. Dana hasn’t had time for love between juggling her floristry business and being a single mum to her son, but decides it is time to take a risk and put herself out there again, but chooses a very unusual way of doing it. Carmen is desperate for the fairytale wedding and future and decides to take matters in to her own hands in the face of her boyfriend’s apathy.

The author draws some beautiful and believable characters to carry us through the book and then uses them cleverly to explore many facets of love and relationships, from romantic love to parental and filial relationships, and the special bond between parent and child. Everyone will be able to find one of the ladies, and some aspect of the challenges they face, to relate to and make the book pertinent to them. I felt most keenly for Polly, because of my current situation in life, and I am sure the author would be as interested as I am to find out which of the characters spoke most to other readers of the book.

I found the book very touching in places, particularly the relationship between Dana and Luke and Dana’s parents, and also the situation that Carmen finds herself in towards the end of the book. I found myself staying up very late one night in order to finish the story, desperate to know what the outcome was going to be for each of the ladies, always the sign of a great book that has managed to bring a story and characters to life and make them important to the reader.

I always enjoy Erin’s novels, they are consistently approachable, honest and full of warmth and this was no exception. I would highly recommend this book to all lovers of romantic fiction, and, you never know, it might give some ladies out there some ideas (although, not me, sorry to disappoint, N!)

My thanks to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Taking A Chance On Love is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Erin was born and raised in Warwickshire. An avid reader since childhood, her imagination was instinctively drawn to creative writing as she grew older. Erin has two Hons degrees: BA English literature and another BSc Psychology – her previous careers have ranged from part-time waitress, the retail industry, fitness industry and education.

She has an obsession about time, owns several tortoises and an infectious laugh!
Erin writes contemporary novels focusing on love, life and laughter. Erin is an active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and was delighted to be awarded The Katie Fforde Bursary in 2017. An ideal day for Erin involves writing, people watching and drinking copious amounts of tea.

Connect with Erin:

Website: http://www.eringreenauthor.co.uk

Facebook: Erin Green Author

Twitter: @ErinGreenAuthor

Instagram: @erin_green_author

Lady Edith’s Lonely Heart by Audrey Harrison #Spotlight #BlogTour (@AudreyHarrison2) @RaRaResources #RachelsRandomResources #LadyEdithsLonelyHeart

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I’mdelighted to be taking part today fin the blog tour today for Lady Edith’s Lonely Heart by Audrey Harrison with this spotlight post. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for asking me to take part in the tour.

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She is under pressure to find a husband she doesn’t want. He keeps to the fringes of society because of family constraints. Will the written word be enough to bring two lost souls together?

Lady Edith Longdon is an heiress, in danger of being classed a spinster, and disillusioned with the fops, dandies, and fortune hunters surrounding her in society. Deciding it’s time to take her future into her own hands, she devises a foolproof way of finding someone she can love. She’s convinced nothing could go wrong…

Lord Ralph Pensby, overwhelmed by a sense of obligation, and with no one he can turn to, is adrift from those around him…

Two people drawn together, both on a journey which will affect them in ways they could never have foreseen. Secret correspondence, mistrust and confusion, not to mention cads of the highest order, make this novel a fast-paced, heart-warming story.

I am not a big reader of Regency romance but I know there are a lot of fans out there who will love this book and I am thinking that it is a genre I should explore more!

Lady Edith’s Lonely Heart is out now and you can get your copy here.

Make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for reviews of the book and other great content:

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About the Author

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AMAZONUK KINDLE STORYTELLER COMPETITION FINALIST 2018!

Audrey was born about two hundred years too late. She wants to belong to a time when men were men and women were dressed in gowns and could float, simper and sigh.

In the real world she has always longed to write, writing a full manuscript when she was fourteen years old. Work, marriage and children got in the way as they do and it was only when an event at work landed her in hospital that she decided to take stock. One Voluntary Redundancy later, she found that the words and characters came to the forefront and the writing began in earnest.

So, although at home more these days, the housework is still neglected and meals are still late on the table, but she has an understanding family, who usually shake their heads at her and sigh. That is a sign of understanding, isn’t it?

Website: http://www.audreyharrison.co.uk

Facebook: Audrey Harrison Author

Twitter: @AudreyHarrison2

Instagram: @audrey.harrisonauthor

A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman #BookReview #BlogTour (@LucyColemanauth) @BoldwoodBooks @RaRaResources @NetGalley #RachelsRandomResources #Giveaway #NetGalley #ASpringtimeToRemember

A Springtime to Remember

I am thrilled to be one of the blogs taking part in the tour for A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman. A warm romantic read set in a lovely overseas location is just what I needed to counteract the grey weather! My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. Make sure you check out the giveaway further down the page.

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Paris and the Palace of Versailles have always meant a lot to TV producer Lexie. Her grandma Viv spent a year there, but her adventures and memories were never discussed, and Lexie has long wondered why they were a family secret.

When work presents the perfect excuse to spend Springtime in Versailles, Lexie delves into Viv’s old diaries and scrapbooks, and with the help of handsome interpreter Ronan, she is soon learning more about the characters that tend to the magnificent gardens, now and in the past.

In amongst the beauty and splendour of the French countryside, a story of lost love, rivalry and tragedy unfolds. Can Lexie and Ronan right the wrongs of the past, and will France play its tricks on them both before Lexie has to go home? Will this truly be a Springtime to Remember…?

If you are looking for something sweet, uplifting and really easy to read when you are snuggled up against the weather on a Sunday afternoon, this is the book to pick up. Have you ever seen one of those TV adverts where someone opens a book or a holiday brochure and a beam of sunshine bursts out of the pages? This book feels just like that. You will feel the warmth on your face, hear the birds singing and know that all is right with the world whilst you are between its pages.

This isn’t the most complex of stories, but that isn’t a negative as far as this book goes. Don’t you sometimes just want something undemanding that you can let wash over you like a gentle wave as you revel in the descriptions of somewhere stunning and bask in a happy glow? Not every book has to be challenging and intellectually demanding. This is really a book to relax with, not worry that there is going to be a very unpleasant twist to deal with and be confident that it will probably turn out okay. That’s not to say it doesn’t deal with difficult issues, because it does, but it is at a step removed from the main protagonists which allows the reader to have some distance from the trauma.

The setting is a place I have visited once but do not know intimately, and I really enjoyed exploring it a little more through the excellent writing and finding out a bit more about the place and its environs. The author really brought the place to life, and how delightful it would be in the spring. She made the location charming and peopled it with fantastic and likeable characters that brought the plot to life in support of Lexie and Ronan who carry the story beautifully.

A tender and touching story that was a pleasure to read and left me with a happy, warm glow. (By the way, does anyone else think that the girl on the cover bears an uncanny resemblance to Scarlett Johansson?)

A Springtime to Remember is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Giveaway

Springtime PrizeTo be in with a chance of winning a paperback copy of The French Affair and a brass bookmark, click on the Rafflecopter link below:

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link 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 Rachel’s Random Resources reserves 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 Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Please make sure you follow the rest of the tour as detailed below:

A Springtime to Remember Full Tour Banner

About the Author

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From interior designer to author, Linn B. Halton – who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Coleman – says ‘it’s been a fantastic journey!’

Linn is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels – including Summer on the Italian Lakes, Snowflakes over Holly Cove, The French Adventure and A Cottage in the Country. She is represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either upcycling furniture, working in the garden, or practising Tai Chi.

Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she is an eternal romantic.

Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the SoA and writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.

Connect with Lucy:

Website: https://linnbhalton.co.uk

Facebook: Lucy Coleman Author

Twitter: @LucyColemanauth

Beast by Matt Wesolowski #BookReview #BlogTour (@ConcreteKraken) @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #Beast #DeadFamous #SixStories

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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…

So excited to be on the blog tour today for Beast by Matt Wesolowski, the fourth book in his Six Stories series. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

So hopefully my mini reviews of the first three books in the Six Stories series yesterday will have whetted your appetite for this one. (If you missed that post, you can find it here.) Having read the first three, I was champing at the bit to get to this one, knowing how much I had enjoyed them and then, reading that blurb! It sounds fantastic, right? Who wouldn’t want to dive right in?

The central theme of this book is extremely current and relevant in the present day, as it deals with the quest for internet fame and the lengths people will go to to get it. It really struck me how much of an issue this is while I was reading the book because, at the same time, I was enjoying the half term holiday in Wales with my five daughters/step-daughters aged between 12 and 16. They are all, to different degrees, obsessed with the app Tik-Tok, how many followers they have, how many followers you need to start earning money from your videos, learning the dances, and talking about people who are ‘Tik-Tok famous,’ and live in something called the ‘Hype House’ without their parents. It is all double Dutch to me but it is actually quite terrifying that this is something that young people strive to achieve these days, such superficiality of ambition. The author has captured this moment in the zeitgeist perfectly and written a story that ramps up this mild unease that I was feeling listening to them to the power of a thousand. It is a morality tale for our times.

The setting for the book in a grim, forgotten town on the bleak North Eastern coast during the worst winter storms in living memory. A more barren and hopeless place you could not imagine, and it is the perfect foil to the story because, what else is there for the young people of this town to aspire to outside of the bright thrall of the internet and the shiny, fake worlds that social media tantalises them with? The reality of their immediate surroundings are a decaying town that no one cares about and where there are no jobs. There is no hope for them but escape, either by moving away or by moving into the virtual world. Like the previous books, Matt manages to bring the location to vivid life, I could picture it perfectly, and imbue it with menace and darkness on every page. The darkness punches out of the page and squeezes a fist around the reader’s heart, and never eases its grip for a minute until the final page. I was almost breathless throughout my reading of the book, inhaled it in practically a single sitting and my heart was pounding the whole time. He really is a master storyteller, holding the reader in the palm of his hand as he plays deftly with every emotion in his arsenal, whilst making you think at the same time.

The plot was labyrinthine, with the pendulum of suspicion swinging wildly from suspect to suspect as every chapter unfolds. The format of presenting this as a podcast and interviewing six people with different roles in the story continues to work brilliantly. I was particularly impressed this time as Matt manages to tell the story without having access to any of the four main protagonists, the victims and the three convicted killers. All the people we hear from are on the outskirts. Or are they? Once again, things are not always what they seem and the reader’s perspective changes with the turn of every page, as the light shines on the prism from different sides and casts a new shadow with every twist. Again, there is the hint of the supernatural with the legend of the Ergarth Vampire and the allegation of cult activities factoring into the murder. But, as always, things are never what they seem and this story takes probably the most dramatic of turns so far.

This is my favourite of Matt’s books so far and, given how much I loved the others, that is a high bar to cross. This is a writer who is going from strength to strength, you can see the confidence in the format and his writing increasing with every novel. Aside from the masterful writing, the ominous atmosphere that seeped from the pages and into my bones, the fascinating character studies and clever and absorbing plot, this book brings to light a very real and very scary trend amongst the younger generation obsessed with online fame and the dangers that this can bring. It really made me stop and take notice of what he was saying, more so than any of the previous books, but in an entertaining way. This is no schlocky, superficial thriller, this is a book that has something to say that is worth listening to.

How long do I have to wait for the next one?

Beast is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Beast is taking a month-long tour with Random Things Tours so do make sure you check out some of the other reviews written by my fabulous fellow bloggers:

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About the Author

Matt Author Pic

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.

Connect with Matt:

Website: Beyond The North Waves

Facebook: Matt Wesolowski

Twitter: @ConcreteKraken

Instagram: @mattjwesolowski

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Tempted by…The Bookwormery: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow @lelbudge @AlixEHarrow @orbitbooks #TenThousandDoorsofJanuary #bookbloggers #amreading #readingrecommendations

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EVERY STORY OPENS A DOOR

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored and utterly out of place.

But her quiet existence is shattered when she stumbles across a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page reveals more impossible truths about the world, and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Today’s Tempted by… comes courtesy of Lesley over at The Bookwormery with this review of The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow.

There was one word from this review that made me buy this book, and I didn’t need any more than that to convince me to pick it up. ‘Mesmerising.’ Any book that Lesley describes as mesmerising is one that I want to read.

Aside from that, this is a book about books, about how books open the door to other worlds, or certainly that is how Lesley describes it in her review, and as a reader who understands tis completely, how could one not want to read it? There isn’t much more to the review than this, but it just goes to show that massively wordy reviews (much like the ones I tend to write!) are unnecessary and succinct reviews, if the words are chosen carefully and wisely, are just as effective, if not more so because people are less likely to get bored and switch off!

If you haven’t come across Lesley’s wonderful blog before now, you must go over and have a look. Lesley is a prolific blogger (and that is coming from someone who reads a lot), some days I can hardly keep up with her reviews but I always make sure I read them because I value her opinion and I don’t want to miss out on anything great. She is one of the reasons my TBR is so huge! If you want to take a look for yourself, you can find her blog here.

And if you would like to pick up a copy of The Ten Thousand Doors of January yourself after reading Lesley’s review, you can buy a copy here.

Backlist: Six Stories Series by Matt Wesolowski #BookReview (@ConcreteKraken) @OrendaBooks #SixStories #Hydra #Changeling #freereading #backlist

 

BACKLISTTomorrow, I will be reviewing Beast, the fourth book in Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series, as part of the blog tour for that book. In anticipation, I thought I would review the first three books in the series here for you, as a little amuse bouche before the main course. I think this might be the first in a new occasional series where I catch up with the previous books in a series before reviewing the latest release. It occurred to me this might be a good way to try and reduce my TBR a bit, which was, after all, the founding aim of the blog!

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One body. Six stories. Which one is true?

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivaled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame…

As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth.

The first book in the series introduces us to the slightly unusual format of the series, which takes the form of a podcast where the ‘host,’ Scott King revisits an old crime with the aim of exploring whether the accepted public story is actually the true one. He does this by allowing six different individuals connected to the case to tell their story, and for the ‘listener,’ (us, the reader) to draw our own conclusions. Anyone who has listened to the phenomenally popular podcast, Serial, will get the idea (in fact, Matt references Serial in the book.) As I was a massive fan of Serial, this premise really drew me in and, once you get your head around this unique approach and separate in your head who is talking throughout the chapters, it works brilliantly.

The author has a fantastic way of creating a menacing and claustrophobic atmosphere as he sets the scene, so the reader is immediately on edge and drawn in to the horror story that is unfolding before their eyes. And it is a horror story, but one written in a unique way, balanced with a mystery and a thriller and an exploration of teenage friendship dynamics and personality traits that can be hidden beneath a benign facade. This book sets up the premise that continues as a connecting theme throughout the series – things are not always as they seem on the surface.

Once I got in to the rhythm of the storytelling, I was completely hooked on the story, the tension, the twists and turns, the unexpected revelations that are cleverly unfolded as we hear stories from each of the individuals which come from different perspectives, which divert the reader down one path, then another, drawing us through a maze until we reach the heart of the story.

It is so clever and fresh and gripping, I absolutely loved it and could not wait to read the next one.

Six Stories is available by following this link.

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A family massacre. A deluded murderess. Five witnesses. Six stories. Which one is true?

One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the north west of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, father and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.

King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was a diminished as her legal team made out.

As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess…

On to the second book in the series (which is actually a prequel) and a completely different case for Scott King. This time he has managed to secure an interview with a notorious murderess who slaughtered her whole family for a reason that no one can quite comprehend. Scott is keen to see if he can get to the bottom of a mystery that has evaded everyone else, why did Arla Macleod commit this crime?

Now I was used to the format, I got drawn in to the book much quicker than the first one and, partly for this reason, I enjoyed it even more. It is odd because there is no mystery as to who committed the crime as there would be in a normal thriller, there is no doubt Arla did it, but why? No one knows, we are desperate to find out. The method of slowly peeling back layers of the story as we move through the testimonies of six people connected to the case is genius. Add to this the fact that there are no witnesses to the crime save Arla herself, the ultimate unreliable witness locked in a mental institution, it is almost impossible to know what is the truth, who to believe and to get to the bottom of the story.

Parts of this book were completely terrifying, dealing as it does with risky online internet games that promise supernatural encounters and dangerous trials. There are also the constant references to BEKs (intrigued? You’ll have to read the book to find out what I am talking about!), I’ll admit I was completely wigged out and regretted reading parts of this book late at night. This book also had a jaw-dropping, did-not-see-that-coming moment and a fairly twisted ending, the whole thing was addictive from start to finish and I loved it even more than the first one. A book quite unlike anything you will have read before, an enticing mix of supernatural, horror, thriller and psychological  drama. So unique, could not wait to read on.

Hydra is out now and you can get a copy here.

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A missing child
A family in denial
Six witnesses
Six stories
Which one is true?

On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the dark Wentshire Forest Pass, when his father, Sorrel, stopped the car to investigate a mysterious knocking sound. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.

Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. Journeying through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there, he talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know what happened to the little boy…

You wonder how the author can make another book in the same format different to the first two when you get to book three, and having read the blurb, I did wonder if this was going to be similar to book one. It did have some similarities, as the setting of a menacing forest for the mystery has echoes of the first one, but the author has come on leaps and bounds since then and the tension and fear is ramped up to a whole new level here. Part of this is due to the victim in this story being a very small child, which will immediately strike terror in to the heart of any reader who is a parent. There again is the supernatural element, which strikes from the very early chapters of this book but, by now, the reader should have grasped the fact that there is always more to the story than first appears and we are lead down one track, only to have our ideas, our opinions, our whole understanding of the story turned a full 180 by the next narrator, and again, and again. You begin to feel as lost in the labyrinth of the truth as characters were lost in the vastness of Wentshire Forest.

Despite the fact that this is the third book in a series that follows the same basic format, it managed to surprise me in so many ways. The underlying themes of the book are very different to the first two, the intrigues and misdirection become more and more ingenious and complex, the book will leave you breathless and twanging with tension and you will marvel at the ingenuity of the author as he keeps you guessing to the final page. This is a book that shows an author who, far from running out of ideas, is just hitting his stride and obviously revelling in bringing something new and exciting to each instalment. I could tell from the writing that he is having tremendous amounts of fun with his work, but also that this book in particular deals with a topic that he has a personal interest in exposing and has been careful to portray accurately.

These books are something so different to anything else out there, are so exciting and detailed and just rewarding to read. I am totally hooked on the series and am delighted to be bringing you my review for the latest book tomorrow. Honestly, one of the best discoveries I have made since I started blogging and would encourage everyone to pick up these books to discover something really innovative.

Changeling is available for purchase here.

Make sure you come back to the blog tomorrow to read my review of Beast.

About the Author

Matt Author Pic

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.

Connect with Matt:

Website: Beyond The North Waves

Facebook: Matt Wesolowski

Twitter: @ConcreteKraken

Instagram: @mattjwesolowski

 

 

Friday Night Drinks with…. Katerina Diamond @TheVenomousPen @AvonBooksUK @RichardAyoade #FridayNightDrinks #WomanInTheWater

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Very pleased to welcome to the blog tonight for Friday Night Drinks, one of my favourite authors newly-discovered since I started book blogging….Katerina Diamond.

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Kat, thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

I’m not a big drinker to be honest but I’ll have the Pina Colada. 

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That’ll remind us of tropical shores on a chilly, winter evening.  If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Somewhere with a view I think. I love the sea so  maybe a beach front Tiki bar. 

Perfect for pina coladas, they always taste better if you drink them with your feet in the sand and accompanied by the sound of gentle waves lapping a beach. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

For the male I would invite Richard Ayoade, he seems like a total blast to hang out with, clever and funny and I love his dry sense of humour. For the female I would invite Agatha Christie, a natural born storyteller, I think she would be very interesting.

Great choices. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I am currently working on my second standalone novel which is the eighth novel I have written. The first six belonged in my Police procedural series. This one is a bit of a departure for me. I had the idea for this book about a year ago (at the cinema while watching Deadpool 2) I’m looking forward to seeing what peoples reaction to it is. 

Intriguing! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I think my proudest moment was probably getting a publishing deal at all. And everything that has happened since has been mostly amazing. My biggest challenge is always the blank page, starting a new project and thinking I have forgotten how to write a book. 

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

As we’re only talking – I’d say – a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio in it – not that I have written a role suitable for him yet but maybe I should. 

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There are worse places to get inspiration! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’m always more excited for the next project as opposed to the one I am working on! I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into my next standalone. 

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I think my favourite place ive ever been was a place called Keri Lighthouse on the island of Zakynthos – it was such a magical place.

I would really love to go to Hawaii but I absolutely hate flying so I don’t know if it will ever happen.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

This is really tricky. I am really crafty and I used to run a market stall full of things I had made like dolls and petticoats and cushions and jewelry. 

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn. It’s a few years old now but I absolutely love it. 

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In his palace at Inuyama, Lord Iida Sadamu, warlord of the Tohan clan, surveys his famous nightingale floor. Its surface sings at the tread of every human foot, and no assassin can cross it.

But sixteen-year-old Otori Takeo, his family murdered by Iida’s warriors, has the magical skills of the Tribe – preternatural hearing, invisibility, a second self – that enable him to enter the lair of the Tohan. He has love in his heart and death at his fingertips . . .

I’ve read that book, it is indeed wonderful and I second your recommendation. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Drink lots of water – it’s that simple. 

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Cuddled up on the sofa with my cats Max and Fez watching old Cagney and Lacey. 

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Kat, thank you so much for joining me, it has been lovely to get to know you better and I look forward to your next book.

Katerina’s current book, Woman in the Water is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here. If you would like to read my recent review of the book, you can find it by following this link.

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I’m alive. But I can’t be saved . . .

When a woman’s body is found submerged in icy water, police are shocked to find she is alive. But she won’t disclose her name, or what happened to her – even when a second body is discovered. And then she disappears from her hospital bed.

Detectives Adrian Miles and Imogen Grey follow their only lead to the home of the Corrigans, looking for answers. But the more they dig into the couple’s lives, the less they understand about them.

What’s their connection to the body in the river?

Why have other people they know been hurt, or vanished?

And can they discover the dark truth of their marriage before it’s too late?

Katerina Diamond is the author of the Sunday Times Best Selling Exeter-based crime thriller series – starting with ‘The Teacher’ and followed by The Secret, The Angel, The Promise and Truth or Die. Katerina is currently working on her seventh novel which is a standalone.

Katerina also runs the facebook book group CRIME SUSPECT with several other crime authors.

Katerina currently lives in East Kent. Katerina was born in Weston-super-Mare and has lived in various places since including Greece, Cyprus, Derby, East London and Exeter. Katerina watches way too much TV.

You can find out more about Katerina and her books via her website and by following her on Facebook,  Twitter and Instagram.

Next week, I will be joined on Friday Night Drinks by author, Sally Calder.