Blog Tour: The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas #BookReview

The Room in the Attic

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas today. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part, and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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A child who does not know her name…

In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.

Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…

All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.

Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…

Goodness, what did I just read? From the very opening chapters of this new book by Louise Douglas, my heart was pounding, I was holding my breath, the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end, and I was absolutely glued to the page.

I started reading this book very late one night just after I had gone to bed, which was a mistake because the book creeped me out right from the off. As soon as you crawl between the pages, you know you are reading something that is going to keep you on the edge of your nerves, so it may not be recommended for readers of a very nervous disposition. Set in an old asylum which then became a strict boarding school in the midst of the brooding expanse of Dartmoor, there could not be a creepier setting for a story. When I was young, I was addicted to the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. The thirteenth (coincidence?) of these, Five Go To Mystery Moor, involved spooky goings on on a deserted moor and it scared the bejesus out of my as a kid, so any ghost story set on a moor is guaranteed to give me the wiggins. The author does an absolutely amazing job of bringing the very disturbing setting to vivid life, both in its incarnation as an asylum and a boarding school, a little too vividly for those with active imaginations perhaps!

The story line is divided between three timelines – modern day, 1993 when All Hallows was a boarding school, and the turn of the twentieth century when it was an asylum for those people deemed insane. The narrator in the first two timelines is Lewis Tyler, as a grown man and when he was a pupil at the school. Back in time, we are following the story of Emma Everdeen, a nurse at the asylum. The book switched between the stories with ease, never breaking the tension, and deftly entwining them to great effect. Each of the characters hooked me in, and I was truly feeling genuine fear for all of them by the end. The storytelling is so skilful that it is impossible not to become fully invested in the outcome for all involved.

The story is a clever and intriguing mix of thriller, mystery, ghost story, family drama and exploration of social issues affecting women in the early 1900s. There is something here to appeal to every type of reader, and I can’t imagine there are many people who would not enjoy it (other than those who really don’t enjoy being kept on the edge of their nerves throughout a book.) You can tell that the author did a lot of research into the historical aspects of the book, it is beautifully rich in detail, but this is only used to enhance and not detract from the story. I am honestly so impressed with the authors skill in balancing all the different aspects of this novel to deliver an engrossing, affecting and thrilling story. I think my heart has only just slowed back to its normal speed after finishing it.

I absolutely loved this book, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Perfect October reading, buy it immediately.

The Room in the Attic is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Award-winning author Louise Douglas was a recent guest on the blog, and you can read my fascinating interview with her here.

Make sure you check out some of the other reviews posted by the other marvellous bloggers taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

Louise

Louise Douglas is the bestselling and brilliantly reviewed author of 6 novels including The Love of my Life and Missing You – a RNA award winner. The Secrets Between Us was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. She lives in the West Country. Louise’s first book for Boldwood, The House by the Sea was published in March 2020.

Connect with Louise:

Facebook: Louise Douglas Author

Twitter: @LouiseDouglas3

Instagram: @louisedouglas3

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Friday Night Drinks with… S. M. Pope

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Tonight I am having Friday Night Drinks with the author of a book that I will be reviewing on the blog in a few weeks’ time and I am very much looking forward to getting to know her a little better. My guest tonight is author… S. M. Pope.

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

A nice, strong gin and tonic. Or a glass of champagne. Or both.

A woman after my own heart! 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?

Probably a cemetery, if you’re up for that.

That is a new one on Friday Night Drinks!. Could it be in New Orleans? They have some amazing cemeteries. 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?

Mary Shelley – she was so amazing. She spent her youth hanging around graveyards, rather like me, and learned to read at her mother’s grave. And then she wrote one of the best horror books of all time when she was only 18. 

Viggo Mortensen – he writes, he acts, he paints, he speaks multiple languages (including Spanish, which I speak). I’ve been to a couple of events of his and he’s fascinating to listen to and rather swoon-worthy!

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

I’m currently researching my latest novel, which is set – at least in part – in the Arctic. I’m fascinated by polar expeditions of the Victorian era and in particular by the lives of those who were lost in the fatal Franklin expedition of 1845 to discover the Northwest Passage. No one knows truly what happened to them – why they died, why it went so terribly wrong. I first heard about the expedition several years back, when the Canadian government, helped by the Inuit, discovered the wrecks of Terror and Erebus. At the time, I jotted down an idea of a ghost story set on a shipwreck … and then forgot about it until I watched ‘The Terror’ on BBC2 earlier this year, which is based on that ill-fated expedition.

In my story, I’d like to look at the women behind the scenes, such as Jane Franklin – who I’d also rather like to take out with us for drinks. She was cool – an explorer herself, and an independent woman who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

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

My proudest moment was last week when I received author copies of my book The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth. I’ve always wanted to be a published novelist and have spent many years writing – with some success with my short stories. I wrote my novel originally as a novella for my MA in Children’s Literature six years ago and to see it being published this year feels unreal. My biggest challenge has been believing in myself. I am not very good at that. I still can’t quite believe I am going to be a published author.

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!

I think the biggest thing for me is for people to enjoy my books. I write because I love telling stories and if I can entertain other people that’s huge for me.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Having not done much or been many places because of Covid, anything and anywhere beyond my normal sphere of existing seems exciting! I am planning to visit the Caird Library at the Maritime Museum in London soon to look at some of their documents pertaining to the lost Franklin Expedition and to see the ‘Hairy Book’ (a book recounting a rescue mission’s experiences in the Arctic – the hair is apparently from seal fur). Hair seems to keep cropping up in my stories…

Hair, interesting! 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?

Oh, that’s hard! I’ve been to a lot of lovely places so picking one is terribly difficult. I think I am at my happiest walking by the sea, no matter what the weather, so I would say Saunton Sands, in North Devon, is my favourite place. I could walk all day there, and then return to the gorgeous Saunton Sands Hotel for a long soak in the tub. 

As for my bucket list, I want to go to the Arctic. I am happy to try anywhere there – but have a particular interest in the Canadian Arctic and the Svalbard archipelago. I used to only go to warm places on holiday (living in the UK means I crave the sun when I get my week off each year) but I’ve become enchanted with the Arctic because of my research.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I played bass guitar in a rock group called ‘Men Should Wear Mascara’.

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’?

Ouch, another tricky question! I think I will pick one I read recently, which had a lasting impression on me. It’s called A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter and it’s a woman’s account of spending a year in Spitsbergen with her husband, who was a researcher and trapper. When she first arrives, she is horrified by how basic everything is and the remote location. The book follows her thoughts – her struggles, her fears, and then her acceptance of and love for this land. Her writing is astoundingly beautiful – very poetic. I recommend this to everyone not only as a book that’s fascinating but a work of art in itself.

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In 1934, the Austrian painter Christiane Ritter travels to the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen to spend a year with her husband, an explorer and researcher. They are to live in a tiny ramshackle hut on the shores of a lonely fjord, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement.

At first, Christiane is horrified by the freezing cold, the bleak landscape the lack of equipment and supplies… But as time passes, after encounters with bears and seals, long treks over the ice and months on end of perpetual night, she finds herself falling in love with the Arctic’s harsh, otherworldly beauty, gaining a great sense of inner peace and a new appreciation for the sanctity of life.

This rediscovered classic memoir tells the incredible tale of a woman defying society’s expectations to find freedom and peace in the adventure of a lifetime.

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?

Eat something stodgy and fatty to soak up the alcohol – both as a hangover preventative and a cure. Plus lots of Coca-Cola original, not the nasty sugar-free stuff. I’ve rarely had a hangover though as I am such a lightweight that I fall asleep before I drink too much. I’ve also been known to get hyper on Coca-Cola, rather embarrassingly.

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

A nice walk by the sea (of course), and perhaps some painting. Over Lockdown I started online art lessons and have become fond of watercolours. I can lose myself for hours trying to paint and I find it very relaxing and therapeutic.

Or a massage – I love a good massage!

Thank you so much for your company, it has been a fun and very enlightening evening. I wish you all the best with your debut and look forward to reviewing it soon.

S. M. Pope’s debut novel, The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth, is out now and you can buy a copy here. Watch out for my review of the book coming around Halloween!

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A psychological horror that will grip you from the first page, and haunt you long after you’ve finished the last.

Nobody believes Lindy when she says she doesn’t pull her hair out on purpose. Nobody believes Lindy when she says she hears voices in the night. Nobody believes Lindy when she says her dead ancestors are haunting her dreams. Nobody believes Lindy …”

S. M. Pope is a writer, editor, teacher and librarian based in Oxford, though she’s also lived in Canada (where she was born) and Spain. The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth is her debut novel but she has had supernatural / horror short stories published before with Otranto House (Tales of the Supernatural), and one story, ‘La Tricoteuse’, won best ‘tale’ as part of a touring theatre production of A Tale of Two Cities. A more normal (ie not scary) story of hers was shortlisted by Trapeze Books and the single-parent-charity Gingerbread as part of their campaign to find a writer and story to represent single families. She enjoys spending time with her family, singing to her cats (should I admit that?), and laughing.

You can connect further with Sam via her Twitter and Instagram accounts.

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Blog Tour: Deity by Matt Wesolowski #BookReview

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When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.

Online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rakes over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge. Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Why was he never officially charged? Are reports of a haunting really true?

Dark, chillingly topical and deeply thought-provoking, Deity is both an explosive, spine-chilling thriller and a startling look at how heroes can fall from grace and why we are willing to turn a blind eye to even the most heinous of crimes…

I’ve been waiting impatiently for my turn on the blog tour for Deity by Matt Wesolowski, the fifth book in his fantastic Six Stories series. Huge thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher, Orenda Books, for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

If you are a follower of the blog, you will be aware what a fan I am of Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series. His last book, Beast, was one of my Top Twelve Books of 2020, so I was really looking forward to reading this. The original format of these novels, a six episode podcast delving into a cold criminal case from half a dozen diverse perspectives, gleaned from people involved in the mystery, is fresh and exciting and makes for a very unique reading experience. In this book as well we are treated to snippets from the final interview with enigmatic pop god, Zach Crystal, before his mysterious death.

Pop God. I picked those words carefully because this is the main theme running through the book and the reason for the title. Our obsession with celebrity and the elevating of those with talent to a position where they become untouchable, so they are able to hide their true selves from the world. The way some people become so revered that no one is allowed to say a word against them and their fans will defend them to the last, whatever is revealed about their true nature. I’m sure we can all think of people this has applied to in recent times and how hard it has been to bring certain people to justice for crimes because of their huge power and influence. This has been a hot topic in recent years, and Matt mines it for effect very successfully here, weaving a disturbing and thought-provoking tale.

You can draw your own conclusions on what real-life happenings Matt has drawn from to write this book but there is one obvious parallel to me, and this book managed to raise and explore a lot of the questions I have asked myself in the past when these issues have been raised. Is it possible to separate a person’s art from their actions? How, as a society, are we complicit in deifying these people to such an extent that they can do no wrong? How do we allow money and power to shield people in a way that the man in the street is not shielded from scrutiny and question? How do people allow themselves to be so seduced by money and glamour that they will put their loved ones in a situation that they never would otherwise? As in his other books, Matt is exploring the ways in which our society is broken and corrupt and clearly pointing us at some unpalatable truths.

The book is addictive holding you in thrall from start to finish. Each new interviewee peels back another side to the case so you build the picture slowly, only to have it unpicked and rearranged in the next chapter. You can’t know the truth until the last pages, and even then you will find yourself left with questions and conundrums to mull over long after you close the back cover. The book isn’t a comfortable read, that solves a mystery with a neat little bow. It is dark and ragged and fragmented and sinister. It is probing and questioning and revealing and deeply uncomfortable. Matt’s writing explores the dark side of life, bringing the most terrifying childhood stories into stark and too-real adult life. Pick up this book and prepare to be disturbed and challenged and left unsettled. This is no fairytale.

This series just keeps getting better and better, the writer striding into each new episode with increased confidence and bravado. At least that is how it comes across, and the release of a Six Stories book has become one of the highlights of my reading year. If you haven’t discovered these books yet, now is a great time to start.

(Huge apologies to Matt, Karen and Anne for not getting this posted yesterday as promised.)

Deity is out now in ebook format and will be published in paperback on 18 February, and you can buy a copy here.

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

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About the Author

MattWesolowski

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- and 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 the 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. Changeling, the third book in the series, was published in 2019 and was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. His fourth book, Beast, won the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Independent Voice Book of the Year award in 2020.

Connect with Matt:

Website: Beyond The North Waves

Facebook: Matt Wesolowski

Twitter: @ConcreteKraken

Instagram: @mattjwesolowski

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The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2021: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager; Narrated by Cady McClain & Jon Lindstrom #BookReview

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What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into a rambling Victorian estate called Baneberry Hall. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a memoir called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon.

Now, Maggie has inherited Baneberry Hall after her father’s death. She was too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist.

But when she returns to Baneberry Hall to prepare it for sale, her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the pages of her father’s book lurk in the shadows, and locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself – a place that hints of dark deeds and unexplained happenings. 

As the days pass, Maggie begins to believe that what her father wrote was more fact than fiction. That either way, someone – or something – doesn’t want her here. And that she might be in danger all over again….

This is the first book I have chosen this year as part of the 2021 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. (If you love books, you must check it out, it is the friendliest part of the internet for bibliophiles). The challenge is to read a new book every fortnight that fits the prescribed category for that two-week period.

The first category is ‘A book that was a Goodreads top read of 2020.’ I have again vowed to try and pick unread books from my TBR to fit the challenge categories, rather than buy new ones. So I chose this book, as I had it already as an audiobook.

I love to listen to Riley Sager novels as audiobooks. There is always so much action and tension in his books that they keep the narration rolling along, despite the fact that the narrators always read a lot slower than I could read them myself if I sat down with the paperback. This one was no exception, and it made me eager to get on with my chores so that I could listen to the next segment. The only drawback was that I could not use this audiobook to send me off to sleep at night as I sometimes do, it was too scary! I was afraid I would have nightmares, or frighten myself to death if I woke up in the night and caught sight of my reflection in the bedroom mirror.

The book is told in the voices of two narrators. The first is Maggie who, in the present day, returns to the ‘haunted house’ that her family fled from when she was five years old. Her family grew rich on the back of a book detailing their experiences in the ‘House of Horrors,’ but the experience has marred Maggie’s life since and, on the death of her father, Maggie returns to the house to find out what really happened back then. The second narrator is the voice of Maggie’s father, Ewan, telling the story of their time in the house as detailed in the book. But it is fact or fiction? Honestly, the reader/listener can’t really know until right at the end of the book, both stories (the one in the book, and the book itself) are very convincing. The audiobook is voiced by two different narrators for Maggie and Ewan who are both excellent and it works really, really well as a listen.

There are lots of twists and turns in the book that keep the reader gripped and guessing, right to the end. Parts of it a really unsettling, I quite often felt the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end and, as I said, I was afraid to listen to it just before sleep. All great signs of this type of ghost story/thriller and things I have come to expect from a Riley Sager novel. If you have enjoyed his books before, you will like this one.

Yes, it’s preposterous. Yes, the ending is absolutely ludicrous. Yes, you have to suspend your disbelief so far that it will feel like it is hovering over the Grand Canyon. But these are the things that make this kind of book so much fun and why this book was so popular that it ended up in the Goodreads Top Reads of 2020. It gave me everything I expected in spades and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Can’t wait for his next book.

Home Before Dark is out now as an ebook and audiobook, and will be published in paperback in July, and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer. Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, became a national and international bestseller that’s been translated into more than 25 languages. His subsequent novels, THE LAST TIME I LIED, LOCK EVERY DOOR and HOME BEFORE DARK, were instant New York Times bestsellers. His newest thriller, SURVIVE THE NIGHT, will be released in June.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not working on his next novel, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”

Connect with Riley:

Website: https://www.rileysagerbooks.com/

Facebook: Riley Sager Books

Twitter: @riley_sager

Instagram: @riley.sager

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Blog Tour: Carrion by Graeme Cumming #BookReview

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CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY. WORDS HAVE POWER.

A sheet of black filled his vision as hundreds of birds dived at the cottage, pointed beaks thrust forward. From this angle, he couldn’t see many of them striking it, but the few he did see held nothing back as they hammered into the shutter. The scale of the attack was beyond anything he’d seen or heard of. And bloodied casualties littered the ground: skulls shattered, wings broken, innards spilling from them. The fact that so many of them continued with the onslaught in spite of this filled him with even more dread.

Salin has always wanted an adventure and, when the opportunity presents itself, he grabs it with both hands, taking his friends along for the ride – whether they want to or not.

With strange lands come strange creatures that stand between them and their goal. And that goal is the same for someone else, a man who believes the prize is worth every sacrifice – especially when the sacrifices are made by others.

The future is about to change. But who for?

I am so delighted today to be taking part in the blog tour for Carrion by Graeme Cumming. My thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Tours for giving me a place on the tour, and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Let me tell you a little story. Two years ago, I agreed to take part in the blog tour for a book by an author I had never read before. I promptly failed to put the tour in my diary and blithely forgot all about it until the tour organiser emailed me the day after my post was due to ask me what had happened. This was the first time I had ever failed to post a review on time and I was absolutely mortified. I went and grovelled to the author, who was grace and charm personified, read and reviewed the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I made a new friend.

That book was Graeme’s last novel, Ravens Gathering (you can read my review here), and since then, I have had the pleasure of meeting Graeme in person. He comes across as the most mild, kind, unassuming person you could wish to meet. Which leads to the question, where the hell is the part of him that wrote this book hiding day to day?

This book is impossible to categorise. Is it horror? (Bits of it definitely are.) Is it fantasy? Is it a thriller? Is it some type of dystopian morality tale? Is it just all of these things mixed together? It is certainly unlike anything you will have read before. The closest I can get to describing it is Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones meets The Birds. It was completely outside my reading comfort zone, but I was thoroughly gripped from start to finish.

The book starts of very Hobbit-like with four people (?) setting off on some kind of quest. I wasn’t sure who they were to begin with, and for the first few chapters you have to concentrate quite hard to sort out who is who and what is going on, as the narrative jumps between quite a few different viewpoints, and there is no clear definition of who is doing what or why. Eventually, all is revealed, but you do need to stick with it to begin with until it shakes itself out. There is plenty of action to keep you occupied while the strands arrange themselves, and I found the book really gripping from the off, and it only got more and more so as it went along. By the end, the strain on my nerves was almost too much to bear, because I absolutely NEEDED things to work out a certain way, such was my absolute loathing for one of the characters, but I wasn’t sure it was going to end to my satisfaction.

The book is a visceral read. I know I referred to LOTR, but the violence level is definitely more George R. R. Martin than J. R. R. Tolkein. Graeme is not shy about bumping off what appear to be central characters, or people you have grown attached to, and he does it in some imaginatively gory ways. There is a strong element of horror in the book, particularly in the first half, and I felt this very strongly. It was oppressive and nerve-shredding, not a book for relaxing in the bath with for sure. If you want something to get the adrenaline pumping, this is it.

Graeme has done some fantastic world-building in this book, I could really picture the setting for the novel and completely bought into it. There are a lot of interesting ideas explored here, and some really well-constructed characters. He may have created the most hateful antagonist of any book I have come across in a long while, which has the effect of making the reader totally invested in the outcome of the quest. The whole thing came together very effectively, and I am really pleased for him, because I know this book has been a labour of love.

This book isn’t going to be for everyone, but it is very original, action-packed, immersive and evocative. I hope lots of people pick it up and experience it for themselves, because it is unlike anything else you will have read this year.

Carrion is out now and you can buy your copy here, if you dare!

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About the Author

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Graeme Cumming lives in Robin Hood country, and has spent most of his life immersed in fiction – books, TV, movies – turning to writing his own during his early teens.

With his interests in story-telling sparked by an excessive amount of time sitting in front of a black and white television, his tastes are varied.  Influences ranged from the Irwin Allen shows (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, etc.) to ITC series (The Saint, The Champions, Randall and Hopkirk (deceased) and so many more), so the common theme was action and adventure, but crossed into territories including horror, fantasy and science fiction as well as crime and espionage.

 This diverse interest in fiction continued with his reading and his discovery of the magical world of cinema.  As a result, his stories don’t always fall into a specific genre, but will always maintain the style of a thriller.

When not writing, Graeme is an enthusiastic sailor (and, by default, swimmer), and enjoys off-road cycling and walking.  He is currently Education Director at Sheffield Speakers Club.  Oh yes, and he reads (a lot) and loves the cinema.

Connect with Graeme:

Website: https://www.graemecumming.co.uk/

Facebook: Graeme Cumming

Twitter: @GraemeCumming63

Instagram: @graeme_cumming_author

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Book Review: Fiona’s Guardians by Dan Klefstad

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When a vampire seduces you, death is minutes away. When she hires you, you’ll soon wish you were dead.

It’s a truth known to every guardian who worked for Fiona, including Daniel. Aside from managing the day to day chores and keeping her protected, he manages an investment portfolio to buy stolen blood from hospital workers. The 250-year-old Fiona needs 10 pints of human blood every night. As a result of this, Daniel and Fiona are always on the lookout for police, but fail to notice their gradual encirclement by Mors Strigae, an ancient order of monks dedicated to the extermination of vampires. Gone for a century, the monks start a new war when they destroy Fiona’s sire. This time, her vampire family is pushed to the edge of extinction — and the humans who serve them are hunted and executed.

After 35 years, what keeps him loyal? And will he ever be allowed to leave?

It’s publication day for Fiona’s Guardians by Dan Klefstad and I am delighted to be reviewing the book in celebration. Happy publication day, Dan, and my thanks for the digital copy of your book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I am in no way a connoisseur of vampire novels by any stretch of the imagination. When I was searching my library for examples of the genre to use in my Instagram photo for this book, I had far fewer to choose from than say, legal thrillers or romance novels set in cafes. Therefore, I may not be the best judge of how great an example this is of the oeuvre. I am not a massive reader of horror. In fact, it specifically says in my review policy that I don’t review horror. How, then, did Dan persuade me to read his book? I’m not quite sure, he is obviously a silver-tongued charmer that has a way with words, and this book confirms this is true.

Lover of horror or not, expert on vampire novels or not, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Fiona’s Guardians. It is a fresh, modern take on the genre where Dan has brought vampires, their feeding techniques and the tools used by their adversaries to hunt them down are all very twenty-first century. The book is fun and smart and pacy and I fairly raced through it at double-quick speed.

The author has created some really interesting characters in this novel, from the vampires and their clan (I especially like the idea of feisty female vampires kicking ass and fighting the ancient vampirical patriarchy), their guardians (humans on the side of blood-sucking vampires, a fascinating dichotomy) and the zealous order of monks chasing them down. The interplay between the different groups makes for an action-packed narrative, provactively imbued with moral questions of who are really the evil characters in this book; it may not be who you think.

All in all, this book is endlessly entertaining, even for people who wouldn’t normally read horror novels of vampire stories. It is not overly-gory or scary, but witty and amusing and diverting. If you are looking for a Halloween read that won’t make you want to sleep with the lights on but will provide you with a few hours entertainment, this is the book for you.

Fiona’s Guardians is out today in paperback and ebook and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Tempted By…Traveling Sisters Book Reviews: Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith

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The small town of Red Bluff, Mississippi, has seen better days, but now seems stuck in a black-and-white photograph from days gone by. Unknowing, the town and its people are about to come alive again, awakening to nightmares, as ghostly whispers have begun to fill the night from the kudzu-covered valley that sits on the edge of town.

When a vagabond family appears on the outskirts, when twin boys and a woman go missing, disappearing beneath the vines, a man with his own twisted past struggles to untangle the secrets in the midst of the town trauma.

This is a landscape of fear and ghosts, of regret and violence. It is a landscape transformed by the kudzu vines that have enveloped the hills around it, swallowing homes, cars, rivers, and hiding terrible secrets deeper still. Blackwood is the evil in the woods, the wickedness that lurks in all of us.

Today’s Tempted By… is for a book that I bought following this review by Brenda of the Traveling Sisters Book Reviews blog, run by a trio of Canadian sisters. I often find that, being on a different continent, they review books that I might not come across on many UK book blogs, so their recommendations are a good way to inject some variety in to my reading. This book had already been raved about by the author, Sarah Knight, so once Brenda confirmed that she loved it too, I knew I simply had to get it. Plus, I just LOVE that cover.

The book I am talking about is Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith.

It is very hard to tell from the review, and from reading the book’s blurb, what genre of book this is. Is it a horror story? Supernatural? Romance? Crime? Thriller? A combination of all of them? This uncertainty is one of the things that drew me in, I have to say. I love the idea of going in to a book without really knowing what I am going to get.  And that mixture of emotions that Brenda describes – “a quiet feeling of bleakness, darkness and hope” – I am intrigued to know how this combination manifests itself in the story. It is a great skill to write a review that is so tempting without giving anything at all away!

You may have visited the Traveling Sisters Book Reviews blog without realising it, when it was known as Two Sisters Lost in a Coulee. If not, and you do take a look, you will find a friendly blog with a great mix of reviews in lots of different genres, author interviews and Q&AS, and plenty of other bookish stuff designed to keep bibliophiles delighted. You can find the blog here.

And, if you find yourself intrigued by the book after reading Brenda’s mysterious but glowing review, you can buy Blackwood in all formats, here.

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

Beast Final jacket

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

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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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Tales of What The F*ck by D. A. Watson #BookReview #BlogTour (@davewatsonbooks) @WildWolfPublish @RaRaResources #RachelsRandomResources #TalesOfWhatTheF*ck

Tales of the What the Fck

I’m happy to be taking part in the blog tour today for Tales of What The F*ck by D. A. Watson. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for the blog tour invitation and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Billionaire terminal cancer patient John Longmire’s going to die today, and he’s going out in style in the classiest euthanasia clinic in the world. But the strange nurse with the clipboard and the look of a goddess is spoiling the mood, with all her irksome questions about how he’s lived his life.

Recent retiree Gerald loves his wife Barbara and he loves his garden, but Barbara hates the garden. Because the garden’s taking Gerald over, and Barbara says he has to stop before he has another ‘incident’.

Bullied, ridiculed and unloved, moustachioed schoolgirl “Hairy” Mhairi Barry has never had any friends but the ones she finds on the shelves of the library where she’s spent most of her lonely childhood. But tonight, she’s going to a party with all the cool kids, to show them what she’s learned in all those books.

A suspicious smelling smorgasbord of lovelorn psychopaths, vengeful mugging victims, pawn shop philosophers and rhyming Glaswegian alien abduction, Tales of the What the Fuck is a dark, touching, horrific and hilarious collection of short stories, flash fiction and epic poetry from People’s Book Prize nominated author D.A. Watson. Things are about to get weird.

Well, I stepped well outside my comfort zone with this book, but that is always one of the pleasures of book blogging, reading things you would not normally pick up. This is definitely a book that would not usually find its way in to my reading schedule, and I’m still not 100% sure what I just read, but it certainly shook me out of any reading complacency I may have found myself in!

This book is extremely hard to categorise, such a random mix of flash fiction, poetry and short stories across a very diverse bunch of genres, with not much to link them except the perverse mind that wrote them all. And I think that the mind which came up with all of these may be something we don’t want to dwell on too much, because a lot of the stories are very dark and twisted!

Any one of a squeamish disposition should steer well clear, along with anyone offended by swearing. However, readers of a more robust and curious nature may wish to dip a toe in and explore this unique compendium of dark tales. If you do, you will encounter the unexpected at every turn, come face to face with criminals, psychopaths, aliens and much, much more around every corner, and wonder how you ended up where you find yourself.

The big draw for this book is that parts of it are very funny, if your sense of humour takes a turn towards the black side, and there are a lot of wry observations on the vagaries of modern life and relationships. This book will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is certainly different, and the author is obviously talented, lending a hand to a lot of different styles. One for those times when you fancy stretching the boundaries of your experience and opening your mind a little.

Tales of What The F*ck is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for the reactions of other bloggers to this book.

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About the Author

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D.A. Watson was halfway through a music and media degree at the University of Glasgow and planning on being a teacher when he discovered he was actually a better writer than musician. He unleashed his debut novel In the Devil’s Name on an unsuspecting public in the summer of 2012, and plans of a stable career in education left firmly in the dust, later gained his masters in Creative Writing from the University of Stirling.

He has since published two more novels; The Wolves of Langabhat and Cuttin’ Heads, a collection of short fiction and poetry, Tales of the What the F*ck, and several acclaimed articles, poems and stories, including Durty Diana, which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in the US in 2016, and the Burns parody Tam O’ Shatner, prizewinner at the Falkirk Storytelling Festival and Dunedin Burns Poetry Competition, and nominated for the People’s Book Prize in 2018.

Watson’s writing has appeared in several anthologies and collections including 404 Ink, Dark Eclipse, Speculative Books, Haunted Voices and The Flexible Persona, and he is also a regular spoken word performer, with past gigs at Bloody Scotland, Tamfest, Sonnet Youth, Express Yourself, Clusterf*ck Circus, and the Burnsfest festival in 2018, where he appeared on the main stage as the warm up act for the one and only Chesney Hawkes, a personal milestone and career highlight.

His fourth novel Adonias Low will be released by Stirling Pubishing in 2021. He lives with his family in a witch infested village on the west coast of Scotland, and continues to write some seriously weird sh*t.

Connect with Dave:

Facebook: Dave Watson Books

Twitter: @davewatsonbooks

The Hive by Jane Holland #BookReview #BlogTour (@janeholland1) @RaRaResources #Giveaway #RachelsRandomResources #TheHive

The Hive

Delighted to be one of the blogs opening up the blog tour today for The Hive by Jane Holland. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. Make sure you check out the giveaway detailed below the review.

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Scarred by fire from infancy, with a persistent stammer, Charlotte has always been in the shadow of her glamorous theatrical parents. So it’s a shock when her mother commits suicide.

Left to care for her sick father in the dark maze of her childhood home, Charlotte begins to unravel. First, there’s the mysterious arrival of a box of dead bees. Then buzzing noises in the attic. People are watching her. Listening to her.

Everyone thinks she’s losing her mind. But an old photo suggests another, more sinister possibility …

This is the first thriller I have read by Jane Holland but it definitely won’t be the last because this one was a gripping, chilling menace of a book that I simply could not put down.

Right from the opening pages, this book has a dark, oppressive feel that creeps insidiously off the page to wind itself around the mind of the reader and pull them in to the dark world that Charlotte inhabits. She arrives home from a trip to Moscow to find a scene of devastation at the home she shares with her aloof mother and a father who is increasingly lost in a world of his own, unable to help her. Scarred by an accident when young, living in isolation with her parents in an old rambling house, taking walks in the fascinating but morbid confines of Highgate Cemetery, her only light and support comes from her Russian boyfriend, Alex. But Charlotte can’t quite bring herself to believe than even the handsome Alexei is truly there for her, as he seems to have a dark past of his own.

The author does a fantastic job of making Charlotte a sympathetic character to carry us through this story. I really felt her isolation and desperation throughout the book, her insecurity and self-doubt, and her growing fear as events throughout the story get more and more strange and terrifying. The plot is very devious and twisted and I felt myself with an unexpected sense of desperation to find out what was going and and how it was going to end. I read the book almost in one sitting and felt unfeasibly annoyed when I had to put it down to carry out the mundane but necessary tasks of the day.

This is a book which walks an interesting tightrope between thriller and horror, and not something I would particularly pick up myself as a normal read. However, I was totally gripped from beginning to end, and found this a very rewarding reading experience which I would be very happy to repeat in the near future.

The Hive is out now and you can get a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour, check out the stops as detailed on the poster below:

The Hive Full Tour Banner

Giveaway

To be in with a chance of winning a paperback copy of The Hive, click on the Rafflecopter link below (UK entries only):

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*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then 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.

About the Author

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Jane Holland is a Gregory Award-winning poet and novelist. Her thriller GIRL NUMBER ONE hit #1 in the UK Kindle store in 2015, and again in 2018, catapulting her into a life of crime. She’s published dozens of novels with major publishing houses under various pseudonyms, including: Beth Good, Victoria Lamb, Elizabeth Moss, Hannah Coates, and JJ Holland, and also self-publishes.

Connect with Jane:

Facebook: Jane Holland Author

Twitter: @janeholland1