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

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In the wake of the ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old vlogger, Elizabeth Barton, had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as ‘The Vampire Tower’, where she was later found frozen to death.

Three young men, part of an alleged cult, were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a ‘prank gone wrong’. However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible.

Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses – people who knew both the victim and the three killers – to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, and the tragic and chilling legend of the Ergarth Vampire…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

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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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The Devil’s Bride by Emma S. Jackson #BookReview #BlogTour (@ESJackson1) @darkstrokedark @crookedcatbooks @RNATweets #PNR #paranormalromance #romance #TheDevilsBride

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England, 1670

No one goes near Edburton Manor – not since the night in 1668, when demons rose from the ground to drag Lord Bookham’s new bride to a fiery death. Or so the locals say.

That’s what makes it the perfect hideout for the gang of highwaymen Jamie Lorde runs with.

Ghost stories have never frightened her. The living are a far more dangerous prospect, particularly to a woman in disguise as a man. A woman who can see spirits in a time when witches are hanged and who is working hard to gain the trust of the most ruthless, vicious man she has ever known because she intends to ruin and kill him.

But when the gang discovers Matthew, Lord Bookham’s illegitimate brother, who has been trapped by a curse at the Manor ever since the doomed wedding, all Jamie’s carefully laid plans are sent spiralling out of control.

I am over the moon today to be celebrating the publication of my fellow RNA New Writers’ Scheme member, Emma Jackson’s new paranormal romance, The Devil’s Bride. My thanks to Emma for inviting me to take part in the tour, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Look, I’m going to admit that this book is in a genre I wouldn’t normally read. I’m not someone you will find wandering the aisles of the paranormal romance section of my local bookstore, eagerly sniffing out my next read. But when someone you know writes a book and is kind enough to mention you in the acknowledgements (thank you, Emma, that was a lovely surprise!), the least you can do is check it out.

I made the mistake of starting this very late at night, straight after I had finished another book, and I was way too tired at that point to give the opening chapters the attention they deserved , so it took my a little while to get into the story. This is entirely down to the fact that this book steps outside my normal genre choices and is so rich in detail and atmosphere that it required some concentration from me to get into the groove of the writing style. This is absolutely no reflection on the author at all, because when I came back to it fresh the next morning and started again, I was absolutely hooked and devoured it in a single sitting. I was so completely absorbed in the book that my OH was complaining that I wasn’t listening to him while he was trying to talk to me (he was right, I wasn’t, the book was way more interesting!)

Despite the fact I am not a connoisseur of Gothic romance, I can appreciate good writing in any genre when I come across it, and this book is just fabulous. From the opening chapters, we are whisked to a sumptuously drawn, all-enveloping world which you can feel, hear, touch, taste and smell from the very first page. Honestly, I felt like I was putting on a period costume and wearing it for the duration of the book; it was so vivid, I was living it. Imagine  yourself in a dense, dark forest surrounding a crumbling and sinister house, haunted by heaven knows what or who. Imagine you are approaching this house in the company of some bloodthirsty and merciless highwaymen, and at the same time, you are pretending to be something you are not and are desperate not to be found out. Can you feel the suspense and the tension? Well, you don’t have to imagine it if you pick this book up because the author will take you right there and plonk you in the middle of the action, then keep you there, straining every nerve from first page to last.

I loved the premise of this book, and inhabited fully the character of Jamie throughout. I was with her through every tense moment, every risky decision, every moment of strain between her and the other characters. Jamie is a brilliant protagonist to carry this book, a strong, independent woman of the day, fighting against the circumstances she finds herself in and determined to carry through with her plans. She is headstrong and passionate and, to a degree, ruthless, but with a seam of compassion that allows her to be  likeable. In short, she is my kind of woman and I absolutely adored her.

Matthew was also a great character, and Fielding, and Emma has built a beautiful, detailed and complete world here. In fact, it gave me a whiff of one of my favourite books of all time, Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, with a strong woman falling in amongst rogues and having to hold her own, and I can’t really think of a better compliment to pay than that. We’ve got pistols and punches and curses and ghosts and romance and the supernatural, all described in exquisite detail. What could there possibly be not to love about this book?

I was left at the end exhilarated, breathless and totally shocked by the turn the plot had taken, and with a million questions that need answering. The author has very cleverly written a satisfying book on its own, but with the door left open for a sequel and a desperate compulsion in the reader to know WHAT COMES NEXT, which will mean the success of a sequel is already guaranteed. Where is the next book, I need it! I am in awe, Emma, truly, you have done the most magnificent job on this book, I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it.

The Devil’s Bride is out now in paperback and ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for more reviews:

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About the Author

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Emma Jackson is the best-selling author of A MISTLETOE MIRACLE, published by Orion Dash. A devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old, she joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association on their New Writers’ Scheme at the beginning of 2019, determined to focus on her writing. Her debut novel was published in November 2019.

When she’s not running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. THE DEVIL’S BRIDE is her second novel, published by DarkStroke as Emma S Jackson. She hopes to continue working across sub-genres of romance, as she believes variety is the spice of life. 

Connect with Emma:

Website: https://esjackson.co.uk

Facebook: Emma Jackson Author

Twitter: @ESJackson1

Instagram: @emma_s_jackson

 

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

Oranges and Lemons by Paula F. Andrews #GuestPost (@PaulaAAuthor) @matadorbooks #OrangesAndLemons

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Gregarious teenager, Jessifer Jordan, has always been loyal and open, and her love of acting has made her an expert in pretence. So, when six-year old Victorian ghost, Adeline, appears in her life and Jess’s best friend won’t believe her, deceit becomes Jess’s natural ally. Previously fun-loving and sociable, she becomes serious and isolated in her quest to discover what Adeline really wants. Always curious, she finds herself whisked back in time to 1863 and into the clutches of a volatile doctor with an obsession for morphine.

As she journeys back and forth into the past, she realises that Adeline reminds her of her dead sister and her submerged grief resurfaces. Will her great aunt Ruby’s counsel help her? Can she outwit the deranged medic? And whose is that smoky cat which keeps turning up out of the blue?

I am delighted to be featuring Oranges and Lemons by Paula F. Andrews on the blog today with a fabulous guest post from the author. My thanks to Sophie Morgan at Troubador for inviting me to do the feature.

Author interview with Paula F. Andrews

What is your book about?

Oranges and Lemons is a light ghost story, set in York, and involving time-slip episodes between the modern day and 1863. The main character is a fourteen-year-old contemporary teenage girl called Jessifer. She answers the call of a six-year-old ghost called Adeline. Her quest leads to conflict with her best friends and wonderful, beloved Aunt Ruby but underlines her deep empathy, love and loyalty. 

When did you know you wanted to write a book, and why this one? What was your inspiration?

I had an idea for a children’s picture book about ten years ago which led me to begin a course in writing for children. I then created a teenage girl character and felt I could write a story that would bring her together with a little ghostly character from local legend. I’d been interested in the little ghost since my teenage years and felt her fun, vibrant personality would be perfect for a book for young teenagers. The picture book is still at the idea stage!

How did you research the story? What was the most fascinating thing you learned?

I spent a long time looking into the development of morphine analgesia and the development of the hypodermic syringe. I did most of my research online but I also spent time in the Library and Archives in York, examining texts about the city, its streets and buildings, disease and medical care in the 1860s. I discovered that The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley was published in the year my story is set and also that the American Civil War was happening at the same time as the little ghost’s father was doing his own research into using the hypodermic syringe.

How long do you write each day?

I try to spend part of each day writing, whether it’s a blog, letters, social media posts, novel, short story or poetry writing. Now that my book has been published and I am working on the marketing and sales side of things as well, I’ve set aside three days for mainly writing and editing with the remainder of the working week allocated to  planning and doing events, signings and launches. Inevitably, I spend part of my weekend doing admin and also some writing.

Where do you like to write?

Until recently, I wrote in my lounge, which meant tidying all my papers, storyboards, etc, away, at the end of the day. So, now, I have converted our spare room into a writing-cum-guest-cum-sitting room where I can have all my things spread out! (Until someone comes to stay!)

I also love to write in cafes! And people watch at the same time!

What was the most valuable piece of advice you’ve had about being a writer that you’d like to share with others?

To write every day, even if it’s only a short letter or a social media post. Using the ‘writing muscles’ is important for maintaining skill but to achieve real growth, daily writing is vital.

What was the hardest part of writing this book? What was the best? 

The hardest: agonising over cutting out characters and chunks I really liked.

The best: seeing each of my unique characters take shape and giving them different voices.

What has been your favourite part of the publishing process?

Getting the final cover design!

Do you have plans for another book?

I have a completed fantasy novel for middle grade readers which requires editing. I also have ideas about another story involving some of the characters from Oranges and Lemons but with a different setting. And I have begun planning a second novel for middle grade readers.

Paula, thank you for answering my questions, it has been fascinating to hear about your writing process.

Oranges and Lemons is out now and you can get a copy here.

About the Author

Paula Andrews Headshot

Paula F. Andrews has been a nurse, midwife and craftsperson. She grew up in North Yorkshire and now lives in Glasgow with her husband and grown-up children. Writing seriously since 2012, she has won numerous prizes including Strathkelvin Writers’ Group overall prize for 2019 and the Scottish Association of Writers prize for YA fiction in 2017. She has also been published in Aquila and Scottish Memories magazine.
Connect with Paula:

Website: http://paulaandrews.co.uk

Twitter: @PaulaAAuthor

Facebook: Paula Andrews

Instagram: @paulaandrewsauthor