Blog Tour: The Winter Girls by Roger Stelljes #BookReview

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“Gazing out the cabin window at the raging blizzard, fear suddenly floods through her as she feels a stranger’s hand clamp across her mouth. No one can hear her stifled screams as she is dragged from the couch by the fire out into the snow.”

When seventeen-year-old Savannah Devenish vanishes from her family’s remote vacation cabin in Minnesota, FBI Agent Tori Hunter races along treacherous icy roads to be first on the scene. Savannah’s parents are frantic with worry for their beautiful, carefree girl. Haunted by memories of her own missing sister, Tori vows to do whatever it takes to reunite this family.

When the police uncover that Savannah’s father Jacob was having an affair, they suspect his involvement, but Tori is convinced his despair is genuine. Her close relationship with the chief detective means the team won’t listen, so Tori strikes off alone, persuading Savannah’s distraught best friends to share their secrets. It seems this ‘good girl’ was sneaking out to parties to meet up with a mysterious man…

Then another teenager is snatched from the street, snowy footprints and a discarded hot chocolate cup the last trace of her. The girls are the same age, strikingly pale and blonde. Is a twisted collector stealing them away? And what chance is there that they are being kept alive?

With a deadly snowstorm closing in, Tori battles the elements—and her own team—as she follows the trail to an abandoned cabin by a frozen lake. In the basement are bedrooms filled with clothes for teenage girls. Tori was too late to save her own missing sister twenty years ago, but can she find these girls before they disappear forever?

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Winter Girls by Roger Stelljes, the second book in the Tori Hunter series. My thanks to Noelle Holten at Bookouture for inviting me to take part in the tour and for providing me with a digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is a new series to me and I have to say I have become addicted almost immediately to these characters and to Roger’s writing and I can’t wait to go back and read the first book. I was gripped by this book from start to finish, the tension just ramped up and up throughout the novel, it gives you everything you could possibly want from this type of crime thriller.

The book begins with a shocking opening as a young woman is snatched from her family’s weekend home under brutal circumstances.The investigation initially leads the detectives in one direction, but it is soon clear that certain facts have been hidden by the victim’s father, which leads to alternative threads of enquiry being opened up. The premise behind the plot is fresh and unique and not something I have seen explored in this type of book before, so my interest was piqued very early on and held me throughout the book and, as the tension grew, I became more and more desperate to find out what was going to happen, until the ending blew me away, The book is extremely well-plotted in this regard.

The story is told through a variety of voices which all bring a different perspective to the story. We have the victim, the perpetrators and Tori on the investigative team. The fact that we know early on who committed the crime could be fatal to the tension, but it isn’t here because it is the WHY less than the WHO that is driving the narrative, which again makes the book a little different and more interesting to anyone who reads this type of book regularly. The author does a great job of separating the voices of the different characters into distinct personalities.

This book also has a real sense of place, as we explore the frigid, snowbound landscape of northern Minnesota, its remote lakes and isolated places in the hunt for the missing girl. I could sense the vastness and loneliness of the place and the helplessness of anyone held far from civilisation against their will, what and impossible task the investigators have in trying to track people down in this huge expanse of nothingness in harsh weather conditions. It is a great skill to draw a place so vividly, and the author has it. The cover of the book portrays it brilliantly, I just love it, it was what initially drew me to the book.

The relationship between Tori and Braddock is one of the highlights of the book, and it is fascinating to see it develop. Tori’s ongoing issues, and the new life she is trying to build in northern Minnesota, recovering from the events of the first book. The whole situation feels very authentic, and illustrates the humanity of the people behind the investigation and the personal passions that drive them to do what they do. I think this is one of the main things that makes the book so compelling and makes me want to read more about these characters that I have grown so fond of via Roger’s writing.

If I had one small niggle, it would be that the first chapter of the book which recapped the back story of Tori and Braddock and how she ended up where she did felt a little disjointed and didn’t flow well. If I had been a different type of reader, more impatient, it might have put me off reading any further because it felt so clunky. However, it is well worth persevering past this small portion of the book, because it gets very good very quickly and settles down into a good and smooth flow that carries you through the narrative. If you encounter this same issue, please don’t let it stop you reading on through the book, it is well worth it.

A great crime thriller with interesting characters that I hope will be the start of a series that I can immerse myself in at regular intervals. Highly recommended.

The Winter Girls is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the tour and take a look at the other blogs taking part for alternative reviews and content:

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About the Author

Roger Stelljes

Roger Stelljes is the acclaimed New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of pulse-pounding murder mystery and suspense novels, including the Tori Hunter and McRyan Mystery Series. Roger’s crime thrillers are noted for their fast-paced, yet intricate plots filled with layered and complex characters.

Roger started his first novel in July 2002 while on vacation in Minnesota’s Brainerd Lakes area and has been writing ever since. His debut book, The St. Paul Conspiracy, was nominated in genre fiction for the Minnesota Book Awards along with finalists Brian Freeman and William Kent Krueger. With his follow-up, Deadly Stillwater, where Vince Flynn hailed Roger as a “powerful new thriller voice”, he won the Midwest Independent Book Publishers award for commercial fiction.

Born and raised in Minnesota, Roger still lives there with his family. In addition to his work as an author, Roger is a partner in his law firm. Roger is an avid sports enthusiast and enjoys spending time outdoors boating, attending hockey games, and honing his golf game.

Connect with Roger:

Website: https://www.rogerstelljes.com/

Facebook: Roger Stelljes

Twitter: @RogerStelljes

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Book Review: The Man in Black – Peter Moore: Wales’ Worst Serial Killer by Dylan Rhys Jones #BookReview

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The true story of former criminal defence lawyer Dylan Rhys Jones’ experience of defending Rhyl serial killer Peter Moore, found guilty in 1996 of murdering four men and seriously assaulting many more, and referred to by the judge when sentencing as as dangerous a man as it is possible to find.

I am happy to be posting my review today of The Man in Black by Dylan Rhys Jones. My thanks to the author for inviting me to review his book and providing me with a digital copy for that purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I don’t read true crime books. It’s not something that interests me, reading about the depravity that some human beings are capable of and I’m not in the habit of celebrating or glamourising these criminals until they become some kind of twisted celebrity. However, when I was approached by Dylan to review his book, I agreed because this is a different type of true crime novel. It focuses on the experience of a solicitor who is called upon to represent a serial killer in his legal case. As a non-practising solicitor myself, I was really fascinated to read about this experience first hand in a non-fictional book. It is something that every law student imagines when they are studying criminal law at university, but very, very few ever experience.

I first decided I wanted to be a lawyer aged 13, because of the TV show, Crown Court. I don’t know how many of you will remember this programme (if you’ve never seen it, Google it), but I was obsessed with it. At the time, I was convinced it was real, I didn’t realise it was fictional, and I was determined I was going to become a criminal barrister. At university, I found the criminal law module of my degree fascinating but, as I studied and then began my training contract in a firm, it became clear that I was no advocate and that my talents lay in the non-contentious area of corporate law and mergers and acquisitions. The practice of criminal law is not much like the portrayals you see on TV. It is much darker, dirtier and depressing than you see, but so, so necessary for the justice system to operate fairly and I have nothing but admiration for the people who make this their vocation – because this is what it is. They are not in it for the fame or fortune, but because they are called to help people.

All of this becomes very clear when you read this book by Dylan Rhys Jones, as he describes to you his experience of being the solicitor charged with acting on behalf of serial killer, Peter Moore in the mid-1990s. The book focuses on his emotional reaction to dealing with this depraved man, the long term effects it had on him personally and his impressions of Peter Moore as an individual. It is absolutely riveting. Very, very few of us will ever have such close, personal contact with someone accused of such evil acts, and to read about how Dylan interacted with this man, accused of some totally heinous acts, what effect having to become so intimately acquainted with the horrendous crimes he committed, the long-lasting psychological effects it had on him – well, it will open the eyes of anyone who has ever wondered how criminal lawyers can represent such criminals and how it feels to be ‘taking their side.’

Despite the fact this is focused mostly on the legal side of the case and the solicitor, and does not portray things from the killer’s side or try to get in to his mind, there are still some graphic descriptions of the crimes and parts of it are deeply disturbing. For me, the toll that representing someone like Peter Moore takes on his legal team is possibly the most disturbing part and just confirmed to me what heroes these people are. Criminals need robust legal representation, regardless of what they are accused of, for our adversarial legal system to operate fairly, but criminal defence lawyers are regularly scorned and maligned. Anyone reading this book should come away with a much clearer and fairer understanding of why their job is vital and what they sacrifice in order to do it. If you don’t come away with massive sympathy for the author at the end of this book, I would be amazed.

This book is really honest, well-written and compelling. I was gripped from beginning to end by Dylan’s vivid descriptions of what he went through in representing this man, and I came away with so much admiration for him. I have never been more sure that I made the right decision not to become a criminal law solicitor, I would never have been robust enough to survive it, and also reminded me why I don’t read true crime books. This is a must read for anyone who wants to see the story of a serial killer from a unique and completely different angle.

The Man in Black is out now in paperback and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Former criminal defence lawyer Dylan Rhys Jones has also lectured on Ethics and the Law at medical conferences, and is a regular lecturer on Law and Criminology. He is not only a marker and moderator for the WJEC Criminology examination, but was also co-writer of the examination as well as contributing to the inception, writing and thereafter presenting of the Criminal Justice and Offender Management foundation degree course at Coleg Cambria and Chester University.

He is a regular contributor on radio news programmes and programmes about politics and the law and has also worked on numerous TV programmes. He is currently working on a TV documentary about the Peter Moore case.

Connect with Dylan:

Twitter: @drjdylan

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Blog Tour: Bound by Vanda Symon #BookReview

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The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.

The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation. And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect.

I have become a huge fan of Vanda Symon’s books over the past three years, so I am delighted to be one of the blogs launching the tour today for the latest book in the Sam Shephard series, Bound. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for giving me a place on the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

After following Sam through the preceding three books in the series and watching her as she has grown and matured in her life, both in and out of the police force, she has become a bit of a friend now and I am always keen to catch up with and see what she is up to. Well, in this latest instalment, things are kicking off on every front for her.

The book opens with a particularly brutal crime which seems to be firmly tied to some unsavoury underworld bigwigs. However, it all seems to have come together a bit too conveniently for Sam’s liking, and she has her doubts about the way the investigation is going. Knowing Sam as we do by now, she never opts for the easy route and can’t keep her doubts to herself, which sets her on a collision course with most of her colleagues, particularly her boss, DI Johns, with whom her relationship just gets worse and worse. The scenes between feisty, take-no-crap Sam and the cantankerous boss are some of my favourites in the book.

At least Paul always has her back, and their relationship seems to be going from strength to strength. I have to admit, through the author’s descriptions, I have slightly got the hots for Paul myself but things are getting more complicated for Sam in that area of her life too. Then, throw in her father’s illness, her fraught relationship with her mother, the decline in her old partner Smithy … poor Sam has anything but a quiet life in any quarter at the moment. Thank heavens for Maggie!

I thought this book was fabulously plotted from start to finish. The crime was brutal and baffling, and it was a joy to watch things unfold to reveal all, which did not end as I thought it might. Vanda’s writing is smarty and snappy, with short chapters that keep you reading and reading at pace, with no time to even take a breath, it is fairly relentless which keeps it exciting. The clues are there to the solution if you pay attention, but it is fiendish enough to keep you guessing, and there are plenty of surprises at the conclusion to reward the effort of reading to the end (which is no effort at all, to be fair) and leave you panting for the next book to see how certain aspects pan out.

Vanda is a really clever writer. Her plots are ingenious and gripping, her characters living and breathing and she creates a real sense of place, which will make you dying to hop a plane to New Zealand as soon as possible. Sam is a proper, imperfect, relatable, warm and admirable person to carry the story, you really care about what happens because of her. I only have one complaint. I now have to wait a whole year for another Sam Shephard book, which is tortuous. Write faster, Vanda, please. Faster, faster!

Bound is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 4 March, and you can buy a copy here.

The book is taking a month-long blog tour, so do make sure to follow along:

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About the Author

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Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and has also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

Connect with Vanda:

Website: http://vandasymon.com/index.php

Facebook: Vanda Simon

Twitter: @vandasymon

Instagram: @vandasymon

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Blog Tour: Smoke Screen by Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst; Translated by Megan Turney #BookReview

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Oslo, New Year’s Eve. The annual firework celebration is rocked by an explosion and the city is put on terrorist alert.

Police officer Alexander Blix and blogger Emma Ramm are on the scene, and when a severely injured survivor is pulled from the icy harbour, she is identified as the mother of two-year-old Patricia Semplass, who was kidnapped on her way home from kindergarten ten years earlier … and never found.

Blix and Ramm join forces to investigate the unsolved case, as public interest heightens, the terror threat is raised, and it becomes clear that Patricia’s disappearance is not all that it seems…

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Smoke Screen by Thomas Enger and Jorn Lier Horst, the second book in the Blix & Ramm series. Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for asking me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I haven’t read the first book in the Blix & Ramm series (an oversight I intend to remedy soon, I have now downloaded it to my kindle for 99p!) but it did not impact my enjoyment of this book one bit. It was very easy to take stock of the relationship between the policeman and the journalist, and it was a fascinating and very effective dynamic in carrying the plot of the book.

It would be hard to think of a more dramatic opening to a novel that a bomb exploding in a crowded area just as people have gathered to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks, and we are immediately set on the road of following a terrorism investigation. However, when one of the survivors is identified as the mother of a missing child, a spur of the investigation leads to the opening of a cold case from Blix’s past, and we are taken on a wild and unexpected ride.

I am always fascinated by how two authors with their own individual voices and ideas manage to knit a book together without the join showing, and this is a particularly fine example. The writing flows perfectly, aided no doubt by the excellent translation by Megan Turney, and is surprisingly light and easy to read for a Nordic Noir novel. However, I don’t want to imply that this detracts from the tension in the plot, it doesn’t one bit, just that the book is an absolute pleasure to read and easily accessible to all, despite being translated fiction. I inhaled this in one single sitting and was very sad when it was done, hence the immediate purchasing of the preceding book.

The alternating between the points of view of Blix and Ramm worked really well to unveil different aspects of the case. Both individuals are invested in its solution for different, personal reasons, and I loved getting to know them both through their thoughts and actions. The relationship between the two of them is complicated as well, both personally and professionally, and the exploration of this adds another dimension to the story. Despite being easy to read, the book is complex and multi-layered, no mean feat to achieve for one author, never mind two working together. Or maybe two minds added an extra dimension – an interesting thought to ponder!

The plot of the novel was satisfyingly convoluted, I had no idea how it was going to pan out until near the end, so it gave my grey matter the workout I am always looking for in a good crime novel. I also really enjoyed the glimpses into life in Oslo; Scandinavia is an area of Europe I have never visited but which inches ever higher on my list of must-gos when the current pandemic is over. The book gave me everything I could want in a great read for an idle weekend – scintillating characters, a fiendish plot, tension and excitement both practical and emotional, and a visit to unknown shores. Ticked all my boxes, great stuff.

Smoke Screen is out now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here. The first book in the series, Death Deservedis currently 99p on Kindle.

Please make sure you check out some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book:

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About the Authors

Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger are the internationally bestselling Norwegian authors of the William Wisting and Henning Juul series respectively. Jørn Lier Horst first rose to literary fame with his No. 1 internationally bestselling William Wisting series. A former investigator in the Norwegian police, Horst imbues all his works with an unparalleled realism and suspense. Thomas Enger is the journalist-turned-author behind the internationally acclaimed and bestselling Henning Juul series. Enger’s trademark has become a darkly gritty voice paired with key social messages and tight plotting. Besides writing fiction for both adults and young adults, Enger also works as a music composer. Death Deserved was Jørn Lier Horst & Thomas Enger’s first co-written thriller. They are currently working on the third book in the Blix & Ramm series.

Connect with the authors:

Facebook: Jorn Lier Horst / Thomas Enger

Twitter: @LierHorst / @EngerThomas

Instagram: @lierhorst / @thomas_enger_books

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Desert Island Children’s Books: What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge

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It’s time for my second pick of books I loved as a child and would want to take with me to a desert island for repeated readings. This month my chosen book is What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge.

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Katy has grand plans to be beautiful, graceful and ladylike … one day! But for now she has hair that is always tangled, bootlaces undone, a torn dress and she doesn’t care about being ‘good’.

With a wild imagination and high spirits, she is always up to mischief, but there never has been a heroine as lovable as Katy. Then a terrible accident happens and it takes all her courage – and hard-learned patience – to keep her dreams alive.

Next to Jo March from Little Women, Katy Carr was my favourite heroine growing up. A messy tomboy, she had a vivid imagination which she used to create stories and games for her gaggle of younger siblings, who all run riot over the Carr home and garden, much to the exasperation of prim Aunt Izzie.

I absolutely loved Katy and the Carr children, and was fascinated by their life and games. I wished we had a spiked pole to climb to a hidden den in the loft (although I didn’t think their special drink of ‘weak vinegar and water’ sounded like much of a treat!), and amazing swing that soared to the rafters of the woodshed, and a beautiful, woodland ‘Paradise’ to explore. It all sounded so idyllic.

Of course, Katy then has a terrible accident and is confined to bed which, for an active teenager, is torture and she has to learn hard lessons of patience and forbearance. But, with the guidance of saintly Cousin Helen, she soon becomes good and wise and a confidante and role model for all her siblings. This is the part of the book where it gets a bit preachy, in the same way that Little Women does, with lots of morals about being good and allowing God to guide you and virtue will be rewarded. This is no surprise, as Susan Coolidge wrote What Katy Did only a few years after the success of Little Women and at the request of her publisher, who was hoping to emulate that success. These were themes that were popular in Victorian children’s literature, which would grate with youngsters today, but did not remotely put me off as a child.

Going back to read this now, I can still see why I loved it so much when I was younger. I still enjoyed all the parts that were my favourites as a young girl – the picnics, the games, the Christmas presents (I still covet Elsie’s writing desk), the Valentines cards, the food and drink. All of these things would delight any child. My Macmillan Collector’s Library edition contains an introduction by Jacqueline Wilson, who was also a fan of the book and has written a modern retelling of the story called simply, KatyI agree with most of what she says about What Katy Did in her opening chapter, except that she lost interest in Katy when she started to grow up. I didn’t. I loved the sequels, What Katy Did At School and What Katy Did Next just as much as the first book.

I haven’t managed to persuade either of my daughters to embrace Katy as I did, even in the modern retelling by Jacqueline Wilson, and even though my eldest daughter is name Katie, a moniker I have loved since first reading these books. I think I can understand why, the world has moved on too far since then, but I love her still and plan on reading the sequels as well some time this year.

You can buy a copy of What Katy Did here.

About the Author

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Sarah Chauncey Woolsey (January 29, 1835 – April 9, 1905) was an American children’s author who wrote under the pen name Susan Coolidge.

Woolsey was born on January 29, 1835 into the wealthy, influential New England Dwight family, in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father was John Mumford Woolsey (1796–1870) and her mother Jane Andrews, and author and poet Gamel Woolsey was her niece. She spent much of her childhood in New Haven Connecticut after her family moved there in 1852.[1]

Woolsey worked as a nurse during the American Civil War (1861–1865), after which she started to write. She never married, and resided at her family home in Newport, Rhode Island, until her death. She edited The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mrs. Delaney (1879) and The Diary and Letters of Frances Burney (1880).

She is best known for her classic children’s novel What Katy Did (1872). The fictional Carr family was modelled after her own, with Katy Carr inspired by Woolsey herself. The brothers and sisters were modelled on her four younger siblings

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Blog Tour: Seven Days by Michelle Kidd #BookReview

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One killer. One city. One week.

July 2012 and a serial killer is terrorising the streets of London. With the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games in just seven days time, Detective Inspector Jack MacIntosh and his team at the Metropolitan Police have one week to find him. With the killer’s motives unknown, and a mysterious clue being left at each scene, the case takes on a menacing and personal twist. Distracted by his own demons, will DI Jack MacIntosh solve the case before it is too late?

The clock is ticking.
Tick.
Tock.

It’s my turn on the blog tour today for Seven Days by Michelle Kidd and I want to thank Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part and the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

A brand new detective series to me, I have to say that DI Jack MacIntosh is a great addition to the crime canon. This book was a fabulous thriller, set against the backdrop of a tense and claustrophobic London, sweltering under searing heat and almost boiling over with tension as the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games approaches. Against this simmering pressure cooker, Jack and his team are up against the clock to track down a serial killer who seems to be picking off victims at random.

Jack MacIntosh is a very relatable protagonist to carry the book. He seems very down to earth and approachable to his team, allowing them all to contribute and have their own ideas, which he takes seriously. He is obviously well regarded by his superiors, and has a cool relationship with his brother and other people in his life. I felt very affectionate towards him by the end of the book and would like to find out where his story goes from here. The details in the book about his past made me want to go back and read the first book in the series. In fact, I wish I had read the first book before I read this, as there were a few aspects of the book which would have made more sense with some of the back story, I think. However, I did enjoy it very much as a standalone.

The crime itself was baffling and intriguing at the same time. There was no obvious rhyme or reason to the murders and I could appreciate exactly why the team got lured down the false trails that they did. I fell into the trap more than once of believing it was going in a different direction, so the plot held me enthralled until the end and I didn’t guess where it was going before it was revealed. If I had a gripe, I wish there had been more details revealed at the end about the motivations behind some aspects of the killer’s behaviour, but I guess the reader is meant to draw their own conclusions about what happened and why.

There thread of the book involving DS Carmichael was a bit confusing, I wasn’t quite sure why it needed to play out the way it did, or what was the significance of one scene involving his and Jack’s pasts. I guess that maybe the first book might reveal more and I look forward to going back and catching up with that one. I do think the books would work best if read in sequence.

I really enjoyed the author’s writing style, it is easy to read, captivating and flows easily. I liked her cheeky foreshadowing references to events that have happened since the book’s setting of 2012. I think she has a really great voice, and I will definitely read more of her writing, because there was nothing I didn’t enjoy about the book. I would just advise that you read the first Jack McIntosh book first. I’m off to download it to my Kindle right now.

Seven Days is out now in paperback and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please do check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Michelle Kidd is a self-published author known for the Detective Inspector Jack MacIntosh series of novels.

Michelle qualified as a lawyer in the early 1990s and spent the best part of ten years practising civil and criminal litigation.

But the dream to write books was never far from her mind and in 2008 she began writing the manuscript that would become the first DI Jack MacIntosh novel – The Phoenix Project. The book took eighteen months to write, but spent the next eight years gathering dust underneath the bed.

In 2018 Michelle self-published The Phoenix Project and had not looked back since. There are currently three DI Jack MacIntosh novels, with a fourth in progress.

Michelle works full time for the NHS and lives in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. She enjoys reading, wine and cats – not necessarily in that order.

Connect with Michelle:

Website: https://www.michellekiddauthor.com/

Facebook: Michelle Kidd

Twitter: @AuthorKidd

Instagram: @michellekiddauthor

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Blog tour: Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker #BookReview

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THIS MOTHER’S DAY YOU WILL CALL HER MUMMY

Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy’s attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…

CALL ME MUMMY. IT’LL BE BETTER IF YOU DO.

I’m delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Call Me Mummy by Tina Baker. My thanks to Sahina Bibi of Viper Books for inviting me to take part and for supplying me with a digital copy of the book for review purposes. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

It’s your worst nightmare as a parent, losing your child. Even them disappearing out of your sight for a second has your heart plummeting to your shoes and panic grabbing you by the throat. So imagine if they really were gone and you had no idea where or if you would ever see them again. This is the nightmare scenario explored in this book, and the author paints such a vivid picture that my heart was in my mouth from start to finish.

This story is told by three voices. Kim, the mother whose daughter is taken from under her nose whilst out shopping; Mummy, the woman who takes the child in desperation; and Tonya, the abducted girl. This is a very effective construction, as we get to see the story from all sides and it reveals a lot of intimate thoughts and consequences of the abduction that you might not have thought about. Because the reaction of neither woman in the aftermath of the kidnapping is exactly what you’d expect if you have ever given the matter any serious thought.

As well as exploring what motivates such actions by a woman, and what the parents of the missing child might be going through, the book explores the reactions of the world at large, and how we, as an amorphous group rather than individually, judge people on surface appearances without really knowing all the facts. Kim is the ‘wrong sort’ of mother, and she is judged harshly and cruelly as a result. She doesn’t play the sympathy game properly, and people troll and abuse her, despite the fact she is a victim. The pressure put on her family, how it affects her other children, her friendships and her relationships, is all explored with a keen eye and I’m not sure it’s Kim who comes off worst in my judgment by the end.

On the other hand, on the surface, Mummy is the complete opposite. She looks like the kind of woman you might place a child with if they needed a good home. But no one knows what goes on behind closed doors or in the mind of a person, and outward appearances can be deceptive. The book reminds us not to take things at face value and not to believe everything we see. Less than perfect people are capable of empathy, care and love, and the most respectable looking people can be battling with demons.

The book also explores the effect that childhood trauma can have on a psyche and the kind of people we turn into. Despite the fact of what Mummy did, the author tries to dredge up some sympathy for her when we hear about her past, although it is the thinnest of thin threads to hang on to. The author does manage to make clear the pain that not being able to have a child causes to a woman, and for that alone you have to feel for Mummy. But Kim’s pain is greater. Losing a child is like losing an essential part of yourself. But if you can understand the pain a woman feels when they lose a child, then you must also be able to feel the pain of a woman who can never have one to begin with, the two things are inseparable.

The author explores this issue with searing understanding and honesty, but not in the direction you might expect, and what she has produced as a result is a dark, twisted, terrifying but absorbing read that will keep you awake at night and leave you with thoughts and questions that might be painful to address. This is a confident and accomplished debut and is highly recommended for anyone who likes a thought-provoking, gripping but uncomfortable read.

Call Me Mummy will be released in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats on 25 February, and in paperback in September 2021 and you can buy a copy here.

Please do visit some of the other wonderful blogs involved in the tour as detailed below for alternative reviews of the book:

Call Me Mummy - Blog Tour Asset - Twitter Tour - Twitter

About the Author

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Tina Baker, the daughter of a window cleaner and fairground traveller, worked as a journalist and broadcaster for thirty years and is probably best known as a television critic for the BBC and GMTV. After so many hours watching soaps gave her a widescreen bum, she got off it and won Celebrity Fit Club. She now avoids writing-induced DVT by working as a Fitness Instructor.
Call Me Mummy is Tina’s first novel, inspired by her own unsuccessful attempts to become a mother. Despite the grief of that, she’s not stolen a child – so far. But she does rescue cats, whether they want to be rescued or not.

Connect with Tina:

Website: http://www.tinabaker.co.uk/books

Twitter: @TinaBakerBooks

Instagram: @tinabakerbooks

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The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2021: Tall Tales and Wee Stories by Billy Connolly #BookReview

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In December 2018, after fifty years of belly-laughs, energy and outrage, Billy Connolly announced his retirement from live stand-up comedy. It had been an extraordinary career.

When he first started out in the late sixties, Billy played the banjo in the folk clubs of Scotland. Between songs, he would improvise a bit, telling anecdotes from the Clyde shipyard where he’d worked. In the process, he made all kinds of discoveries about what audiences found funny, from his own brilliant mimes to the power of speaking irreverently about politics or explicitly about sex. He began to understand the craft of great storytelling. Soon the songs became shorter and the monologues longer, and Billy quickly became recognised as one of the most exciting comedians of his generation.

Billy’s routines always felt spontaneous. He never wrote scripts, always creating his comedy freshly on stage in the presence of a live audience. A brilliant comic story might be subsequently discarded, adapted or embellished. A quick observation or short anecdote one night, could become a twenty-minute segment by the next night of a tour.

Billy always brought a beautiful sense of the absurd to his shows as he riffed on his family, hecklers, swimming in the North Sea or naked bungee jumping. But his comedy can be laced with anger too. He hates pretentiousness and calls out hypocrisy wherever he sees it. His insights about the human condition have shocked many people, while his unique talent and startling appearance on stage gave him license to say anything he damn well pleased about sex, politics or religion.

Billy got away with it because he has always had the popular touch. His comedy spans generations and different social tribes in a way that few others have ever managed.

Tall Tales and Wee Stories brings together the very best of Billy’s storytelling for the first time and includes his most famous routines including, The Last Supper, Jojoba Shampoo, Incontinence Pants and Shouting at Wildebeest. With an introduction and original illustrations by Billy throughout

The fourth category in the Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2021 is ‘Read a book by an author you would like to meet.’ I could not choose between two authors for this challenge, so I decided to do one in paperback and one in audiobook format. The first book I have chosen is Tall Tales and Wee Stories by Billy Connolly. As an interesting aside, this was the last book I bought in an airport, on a trip to New York in February 2020. Remember the days of buying books in airports? I  wonder when they will come around again!

I’ve been a massive Billy Connolly fan for many years. I’ve got lots of DVDs featuring his standup and travelogues, and I was lucky enough to see him live twice. He never fails to make me laugh, even just on a chat show. So it was with great sadness I heard about his retirement, although entirely understandable in his circumstances.

I was looking forward to reading this book in which he has gathered many of his most famous stories for posterity. Billy never really told ‘jokes,’ they were always funny anecdotes and tales, often poking fun at himself or other absurdities he saw in every day life. He often talked about sex and bodily functions, and was very sweary and he makes no apology for that, so the book would not be for anyone who did not like this in his live shows because Billy is exactly the same in the book as when performing. If you did love his humour though, you will find many of your favourite stories within these pages.

The book is split in to chapters on different, loosely connected topics, but otherwise it is fairly randomly organised with just little anecdotes and longer ones interspersed with comments, thoughts and musings on his life and career. Some people won’t like it because it isn’t a particular linear format, but then Billy’s comedy was never like that. He would start on a topic and then wander off at a tangent when other things occurred to him before looping back round to the original story (or sometimes not!), so the book is a good reflection of his style and really brought him to life for me.

I could hear his voice telling these familiar, and some unfamiliar, stories very clearly. Parts of it made me laugh out loud and I had to keep stopping to read bits aloud to The Irishman who kept asking me what I was laughing at. It was a book that really cheered me up during this lockdown. However, it is not the same as watching Billy perform, and you realise how much his expressions and gestures and movements added to the comedy of his story-telling. The ‘Wildebeest’ example illustrates this best. It is many people’s favourite story of Billy’s, but it just isn’t as funny when you can’t see him doing the vacant expression of the wildebeest and the actions of the lions as they plan their attack.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this but it can’t replace Billy’s performances, and I for one will miss him terribly. I wish I could have met him in real life just once before Parkinson’s started to take effect. I’m sure it would have been great craic.

Tall Tales and Wee Stories is out now in all formats except audio and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Sir William Connolly, CBE is a much-loved Scottish comedian, musician, presenter and actor. He is the recipient of a BAFTA Lifetime Achievement Award and is regularly voted the nation’s favourite stand-up comedian. Billy was born and raised in Glasgow and now lives in America. He announced his retirement from live performance in December 2018.

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Book Review: Starstruck by Emma Bennet

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When newly divorced Kate finds school friend, now super famous rock star Joseph Wild, on her doorstep, her whole quiet, ordinary life is thrown into disarray.

Joseph has broken up with glamorous actress Genevieve Moore, and needs somewhere to retreat to until the paparazzi interest in his marriage calms down. Kate agrees to help him out and drawn to his simple, self-effacing charm, soon finds herself falling in love.

But can she cope with the problems a relationship with such a high profile celebrity brings? What happens when he jets back to his regular life of stardom in L.A.?

And how will Genevieve react when she finds out Joseph has moved on? She can’t possibly allow anything to sully her ever-so carefully crafted public image.

Falling in love with a rock star is tougher than you’d think…

My thanks to Emma Bennet for inviting me to review her novel Starstruck and providing me with a digital copy of the book for this purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I thoroughly enjoyed this gentle and charming romance by Emma Bennet. It took me by surprise, actually, because it was very different to what I was expecting having read the blurb. I thought it would be big, glitzy and full of drama, given the pop star angle (plus I was coming to it straight from Ruthless Women by Melanie Blake, so I was kind of in that zone), but it snuck up on me with it’s down-to-earth plot and subtle charms. It was actually just what I needed as a breath between a lot of very dark and dramatic storytelling and I was hooked from very early on. I fairly raced through it and, by the end, I was totally in love with all of the characters and ready for them to get a happy ending.

Our main protagonist is Kate, a newly-divorced, single parent who has settled into a happy routine with her son, managing her holiday properties and maintaining a good relationship with her ex-husband. When she reads about the marriage break up of her old school friend, Joseph Wild, who has become a famous pop star, something makes her reach out the hand of friendship to him. However, she is unprepared for the feelings he will arouse in her, or the disruption he will bring to her quiet life.

Kate is a sympathetic and believable character that I identified with from the start. As a single parent myself, who has juggled a personal life with bringing up young children and trying to protect them, she might be the closest character I have come across to what I went through in real life and I really felt that Emma has captured the tumult of emotions and worries you go through in that scenario. It has been a while since I so strongly related to a protagonist in a novel and I felt everything she was feeling. Her relationship with her son, her mother and her ex-husband all rang true to me.

Joseph is a great romantic foil for Kate although, not having met any world-famous pop stars myself, I can’t say how realistic he is as a character. I suspect few of them are as self-effacing as Joseph, but I loved him anyway and anyone more brash and arrogant would not have attracted the quiet and gentle Kate. The development of their relationship is fabulous to read. The tension and conflict in the book is very personal and low-key, not huge dramatics and fireworks and, for me, that made it all the more authentic. Despite the fact the book involves a pop star and actress, the book reminds us that, in the end, they are just people with a lot of the same feelings, problems and cares as the rest of us, especially when it comes to relationships and family matters.

This book unexpectedly wormed its way under my skin, gave me great pleasure while I was reading it and left me with a warm afterglow. A really rewarding read. Plus, cool cover!

Starstruck is out now in paperback and ebook formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Emma grew up and lived in London, before falling in love and moving to Wales to marry her own hero. Emma now lives with her husband, for children, and many animals a few miles outside of a small Welsh market town. She can often be found in rivers attempting to control two overexcited chocolate labradors.

Six charming romances are currently available from the Amazon bestselling authoress:

Number 1 Australian kindle bestseller, ‘His Secret Daughter’, is the heart-rending story of Iris, a woman falling in love with the father of her child. The only problem is she never told him they had a daughter.

The beautiful landscape around her home gave Emma the inspiration for ‘The Green Hills of Home’, a tale of love and duty in which country girl Gwen struggles to save her family home and avoid her feelings for her handsome, suave new boss. Is he quite all he seems?

‘Snowed in for her Wedding Day’ is a novella picking up Gwen’s story as her wedding day approaches, but with terrible weather, and an absent groom, will she have the happy ending she so deserves?

‘Just Desserts’ is a novella about confused chef Leah, who’s falling for her handsome French co-worker Jean-Claude, but meant to be marrying to Dan in just a few weeks! Who will she choose?

‘Her Perfect Hero’ was released in July 2015 as ‘I Need a Hero’, it’s a lovely comic romantic read for anyone who’s ever searched for Mr Right (and failed to find him!). Despair of Bronte, a romance writer, incapable of spotting when the perfect man is right next door! Full of horses, country houses and dentists, just beware of the foul-tempered cat Mr Darcy!

New release, ‘Starstruck’, proves that falling in love with a rock star is harder than you’d think! When newly divorced Kate finds school friend, now super famous rock star Joseph Wild, on her doorstep, her whole quiet, ordinary life is thrown into disarray. Is the attraction between them enough to make up for all the hurdles they have to cross if they want to be together?

Emma likes (in no particular order): cake, books, Cary Grant films, prosecco, chocolate, guinea pigs, knitting, quilting and happily ever afters!

Connect with Emma:

Website: https://www.emma-bennet.co.uk/

Facebook: Emma Bennet

Twitter: @romanceemma

Instagram: @romanceemma

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The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2021: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman; Narrated by Lesley Manville #BookReview

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In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings.

But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ finds themselves in the middle of their first live case.

The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be pushing 80, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

It’s book three of the 2021 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. The challenge is to read a new book every fortnight that fits the prescribed category for that two-week period. The third category is ‘A book by someone who is famous for something else.’

I have chosen The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, who is obviously better known for being the co-host of Pointless as well as presenting other TV shows. This was one of the biggest books of 2020 and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it!

I am often a little wary of picking up a book that has had as much positive hype as this had, for fear of being disappointed, but I have to say that I was charmed and delighted by this book, which gave me everything I was expecting and so much more. It is a fun, cosy crime novel, as you would expect from the blurb, infused with the humour of four OAPs investigating a crime in their retirement village, but it is also an affectionate and authentic look at what it means to get older and the challenges and obstacles that brings.

Four friends in a retirement village set up an amateur sleuthing group to mull over cold cases, details of which have, rather naughtily, been squirrelled away by a retired female Detective Inspector, who is now in a coma after a stroke. The remaining members recruit a replacement, just in time to investigate a real crime that lands on their doorstep, when a local property developer turns up dead. They employ all kinds of tricks and wiles to infiltrate the official police investigation (highly improbably, but this isn’t meant to be realistic in this regard, it is all very tongue in cheek) and exhibit some real ingenuity in cracking the case. The joy and gusto with which they embrace the investigation are entertaining to read about. Richard has created four different, realistic and absolutely delightful characters to take us through the story. They are very unlikely friends, but gel brilliantly together and I adored each of them. Man-mad Joyce, fiery ‘Red Ron,’ the ex-Union agitator, cerebral and methodical Ibrahim and Elizabeth, queen bee with a mysterious past in … well, we never quite know what it is she did, but their are hints from which we can draw our own conclusions. Age has dulled none of their faculties and, add to this their age-earned no-longer-give-a-toss attitudes and they are a force that no one can withstand, certainly not the unfortunate police officers who are given their ‘help’ in the investigation.

However, aside from the fun and games of the investigation, the book gently explores what it means to get older and the challenges that brings. Loss of partners and friends, memory loss, neglect by children, the feeling of being a burden, loneliness, being misunderstood and treated like you have suddenly become ‘less’ than you were before, are all explored here with kindness and care. Richard does not belittle or mock his characters for their ageing bodies or minds, he acknowledges that, whatever age you are, we are all the same inside and deserve the same care and respect, and that these people still have a great deal to offer society and the people they come into contact with. He offers them dignity, agency and excitement and we enjoy going along with them for the ride. He has really captured their voices, and the things that they care about (an obsession with cake being one!) and I just really loved his portrayal of them all.

This book is warm, fun, humorous, kind, enchanting, intelligent and entertaining. It was exactly the tonic I needed at the time I read it (during the grim, cold, dark January lockdown days) and left me with a warm glow at the end. I cannot wait for the second book to come out this autumn. Lesley Manville is the perfect narrator for the audiobook, she really brought the characters to life, and the audio version also includes a 45-minute interview of Richard Osman by Marian Keyes at the end, which was a bonus delight. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a bit of a lift.

The Thursday Murder Club is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Richard Osman is a British television producer and presenter. The Thursday Murder Club is his first and, so far, best novel.

Connect with Richard:

Twitter: @richardosman

Instagram: misterosman

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