Blog Tour: Playdate by Alex Dahl #BookReview

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It was meant to be your daughter’s first sleepover.
Now it’s an abduction.

Lucia Blix went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie. Later that evening, her mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and shared a glass of wine with Josie’s mother. Then she kissed her little girl goodnight and drove home.

That was the last time she saw her daughter.

The next morning, when Lucia’s dad arrived to pick her up, the house was empty. No furniture, no family, no Lucia.

In Playdate, Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation.

Who has taken their daughter, and why?

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Playdate by Alex Dahl today. My thanks to Sophie Ransom of Midas PR for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher, Head of Zeus, for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book gave me nightmares. I don’t mean that figuratively, I mean that I had an actual nightmare about being in a similar situation with my own youngest daughter the first night I started reading this book. The story is so profoundly realistic that I was actually able to imagine myself in the situation of Elisa in the book and my sub-concious acted that out in my sleep, jerking me awake in the early hours, sweating and heart pounding in panic. If you like a good horror story, this is it.

We are plunged almost immediately into a hellish scenario in the novel, which any parent will easily be able to relate to with a shudder. Remember one of those times where you lost sight of your child for a moment or two and felt a sudden panic that they were lost? Now imagine that was real and that you KNEW they were gone but had no idea where and how to find them. That they weren’t just lost but taken by someone whose motives were unclear. It doesn’t take much of a leap of imagination for a parent to put themselves in that position, and that is what makes this book so chilling. The way it happens is so completely plausible that it will give you palpitations thinking of how this could easily happen to you. There is nothing more nightmarish than reality at times.

If I hadn’t started reading this book so close to bedtime, I would have devoured it in a single sitting. As it was, it took me less than 24 hours to read the book from start to finish, I simply could not put it down. The narrative is addictive, I just had to know what happened. The book is written from many different perspectives, so we get a fully rounded picture of events from every side – the grieving mother, the confused child, the abductor themselves, and other peripheral but pivotal figures in the drama. Each chapter starts by telling us who we are hearing from, so it is easy to follow, and it works perfectly to slowly peel back the facts of the matter and, more fascinatingly, the motives behind the behaviour of the individuals involved. Just when you think you have a handle on what is happening and why, we are thrown another snippet of information which changes the course of the narrative and leads us down another path. It is totally engrossing.

The chapters are short and punchy, with no words wasted, which leads to a pacy reading experience. There is action and information on every page, no slow spots, no needless descriptions or detours. The tension never lets up for a second and it will keep you on the edge of the seat all the way through. I know this book will be one that haunts me for a long while after I have finished it. It is all too plausible a set of facts for us to able to dismiss as far-fetched the way you can with some more extreme thrillers, and this makes it all the more unsettling (although I did wonder at the very beginning what the mother thought she was doing, giving in to something on the spur of the moment, but I guess it just shows we are all fallible and how easily we can make foolish, impulsive decisions that come back to haunt us.)

This book is an absolutely fabulous and riveting read for anyone who likes a fast-paced, enthralling thriller based on a credible premise that will terrify any parent who has ever watched the news. Close the curtains, lock the door, hug your child and be glad that, in your world, this is only a piece of fiction.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for more great reviews (Meggy from Choc’n’Waffles wrote a much more eloquent one than this yesterday, you can read it here): 

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About the Author

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Alex Dahl was born in Oslo and is the critically acclaimed author of The Boy at the Door.  She graduated with a B.A. in Russian and German linguistics with international studies and went on to complete an M.A. in creative writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an M.S. in business management at Bath University. Alex has published short stories in the U.K. and the U.S. and is a serious Francophile.

Connect with Alex:

Facebook: Alex Dahl Author

Twitter: @alexdahlauthor

Instagram: @authoralex

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Guest Post: Plague by Julie Anderson

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There are many ways to die. Plague is just one.

Work on a London tube line is halted by the discovery of an ancient plague pit and in it, a very recent corpse. A day later another body is found, also in a plague pit. This victim is linked to the Palace of Westminster, where rumours swirl around the Prime Minister and his rivals.

As the number of deaths climbs, the media stokes fear. Government assurances are disbelieved. Everyone feels threatened. This has to be resolved and fast.

A disgraced civil servant and a policeman must find the answer before Westminster closes for recess. Power, money and love curdle into a deadly brew that could bring down the Mother of Parliaments.

Time is running out. And it’s not clear what – or who – will survive. 

Plague by Julie Anderson is a new title out this week, and I am delighted to be sharing a guest post by Julie on the blog today in celebration of the book’s publication. Given what is currently going on in the world, Julie has written about how it feels when the dystopian fiction you have created collides with real world happenings.

When life and fiction collide… by Julie Anderson

Back in 2018 I began writing a novel, a Westminster murder mystery/thriller entitled ‘Plague‘. I was about to undergo surgery and knew that I’d have a long period of convalescence and recovery in which to plan out and begin writing my book. Without giving away too much of the plot (my publishers would shoot me if I did) the story is about a potential outbreak of a strain of plague in London in 2020. The atmosphere is tense and fearful and there is a general reluctance to accept what the authorities are saying, including medical experts and the police. People believe the real facts are being withheld. Entrenched and aggressive positions don’t help and a predilection for opinions, whatever their source, which reinforce existing prejudices, heightens anxiety. Sound familiar?

None of this was particularly new or controversial when I began writing it.

Populist politicians choosing to deny facts are now commonplace. The current President of the United States springs to mind, but there are European heads of state who do the same, including our own. This is amplified in the echo chamber of social media.  In medicine, Anti-Vaxxer groups illustrate how people make potentially life-changing decisions based on belief rather than on scientific evidence. My villain in the novel chooses to exploit circumstances to increase his own fortune and power, despite knowing the views he encourages are false. He uses social media to help do this. This too has happened in real life, when an individual exploited people’s genuine concerns for their own benefit. Former doctor Andrew Wakefield, now barred from practising in the UK and described as fraudulent, made the spurious link between the MMR vaccine and child autism. This resulted in a reduction in vaccination rates and subsequent suffering and death.

I wanted my book to highlight, in so far as I could within the confines of a commercial thriller, how dangerous disregarding fact and science is and how easily it can be exploited by people for their own ends. And it is, of course, a Westminster based thriller, so politics and democracy are involved. As are the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor, who regularly give press conferences, just as they did during the first months of the COVID-19 lockdown.

It’s genuinely unsettling to find events, so similar to those in my tale, unfolding in real life and seeing the reactions of media, institutions and individuals to the COVID-19 virus.  Some is horribly familiar – and irresponsible. Celebrities or TV ‘personalities’ asked for views on something they are not qualified to comment upon and the media rabble-rousing and setting people against each other.  In the novel the media is used to manipulate opinion to better serve the interests of wealthy owners and investors. As a character in my novel says, ‘It’s dishonest and dangerous!’ something with which I agree.

There have been demonstrators outside Downing Street, to protest the ‘lack of action’ by government, something which occurs in ‘Plague’. My heroine is caught up in just such a demonstration in Chapter 42. Pharmacies have been hiring body guards because of attacks from members of the public attempting to access medicines or other items which were out of stock.  This happens on Page 106 of the novel! 

Now we have multiple real life procurement scandals, all those non-advertised ’emergency’ government contracts worth many millions being given to companies owned by donors or associates of the governing party, while companies which are experts in their field and offering their services are ignored.  At least one of these has already spawned a law suit. In my novel there are contracts worth billions which are given to associates of the villain without going through the correct, legal procedures. It’s part of the corruption of democracy which my villain seeks.  I have to tell you that there’s even a shadowy but powerful Russian character, an international ally of my villain, who encourages his crimes and makes financial investments!

The plague in my book isn’t COVID-19, it’s power and the desire for and love of it. My book isn’t even about a pandemic, but the ‘plague scare’ in it has mirrored real life to an eerie degree. That doesn’t stop the book being a really good read, about a series of macabre murders, with my heroes working against the clock to prevent more deaths and a love story and quite a lot of history thrown in.  Pre-publication reviews describe it as ‘gripping’, ‘page turning’ and ‘gorgeously written’ though another word which keeps cropping up is ‘prescient’.

The number of usually well informed folk who simply don’t believe current government plans are based on science and the over-riding priority to save lives alarms me. Are they right? Is the government putting money before human life? I don’t know.  It’s a new disease strain.  There is much we don’t know.  Like in the book, it’s frightening. I spent eighteen months writing a novel but in life I can’t write the ending. That’s what’s really scary.

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Thank you so much for sharing that with us, Julie, it must have been very odd to see so much of what you envisaged in your work of fiction manifesting in the real world! I look forward to reading the book soon.

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

About the Author

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Julie Anderson was a Senior Civil Servant in Westminster and Whitehall for many years, including at the Office for the Deputy Prime Minister, the Inland Revenue and Treasury Solicitors. Earlier publications include historical adventure novels and short stories. She is Chair of Trustees of Clapham Writers, organisers of the Clapham Book Festival, and curates events across London. 

Connect with Julie:

Website: https://julieandersonwriter.com/

Facebook: Julie Anderson Author

Twitter: @jjulieanderson

Instagram: @julieandersonwriter

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Blog Tour: The Dentist by Tim Sullivan #BookReview

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A homeless man. Violently strangled. No leads. Except his past.

An outsider himself, DS George Cross is drawn to this case. The discovery of the dead man’s connection to an old cold case then pulls Cross in further. Convinced this is where the answer to the murder lies, he sets about solving another that someone has spent the past fifteen years thinking they’ve got away with.

Cross’ relentless obsession with logic, detail and patterns is what makes him so irritatingly brilliant. It doesn’t exactly make him popular with colleagues or his superiors, though. He has numerous enemies in the force wanting to see him fail.

Red flags are soon raised as suspicious inconsistencies and errors in the original detective’s investigation come to light. Now retired, this ex-cop has powerful friends in the force and a long-standing dislike of Cross.

Set in picturesque Bristol in the Southwest of England, it’s not long before the city reveals its dark underbelly, in a case of intriguing twists and turns whose result astonishes even those involved.

Difficult and awkward, maybe. But Cross has the best conviction rate in Avon & Somerset Police. By far. Will this case put an end to that?

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Dentist by Tim Sullivan, the first book in the DI Cross series. My thanks to Emma Welton at damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part, and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The title of the book doesn’t give much away, does it? Nor the blurb. I think I was imagining some gruesome murders involving horrible things being done to people’s teeth and jaws. Thankfully, the book wasn’t as traumatic as I was expecting, suitable even for the squeamish, but none the less engrossing for that.

This is the first in a projected series featuring DS George Cross, and I have to say that he is an absolutely brilliant creation and one who puts a really novel and fascinating spin on the detective character. He is a neurodivergent individual, with traits and behaviours that give him a different way of looking at a case which can give him an edge over his colleagues in his clearance rates, but his atypical behaviour can also make him difficult to work with. The exploration of how his character makes him a great detective, but also awkward in his social interactions, makes for a really riveting plot line, but is dealt with very thoughtfully. The author also gives him some other great characters to interact with – his partner who is learning to work with his processes, his father who truly understands him, his boss who has to manage him, and the new recruit who has to get to know his foibles. The latter, in particular, has great scope for development in future books I think.

The case itself was gripping, with enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged and reading on. There were a few red herrings in the plot line, although I did feel one in particular was allowed to peter out rather than being pursued to its conclusion, but this was a minor complaint. This is an author who is an experienced screenwriter, feeling his feet in the world of novel writing. He does a good job but I am very confident that he will get better as he progresses and I look forward to seeing what he can do in the future if this is his debut effort.

I thoroughly enjoyed this new voice in crime fiction. The book was an easy but engaging read, with original and interesting characters and a lively and twisting plot with a satisfying conclusion. I would definitely pick up the next book by this author and look forward to getting to know DS Cross a lot better.

The Dentist is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do make sure to visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews and other content:

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About the Author

Tim Sullivan

Tim Sullivan made his first short film before graduating from Cambridge University. His ambition to become a screenwriter was formed not so much by this experience but as an attempt to foil his father’s determination to turn him into a lawyer.

Within weeks of leaving university armed with a law degree he had met the film maker Derek Jarman and persuaded him to commission an original screenplay from him entitled BOB UPADOWN and so a career was born.

A few months later he joined Granada Television as a researcher. Here he was commissioned to write the first of many television scripts for the company. Two sitcoms entitled THE TRAIN NOW LEAVING and THE GREASY SPOON followed by the crime dramas MYSTERIOUS WAYS and MAIGRET.

While at Granada he was selected for the prestigious Directors’ Training scheme when only 26. Previous encumbents had included Mike Newell, Roland Joffe, and Michael Apted, more recently Julian Farino. Among other credits he directed CORONATION STREET, MADE IN HEAVEN, THATCHER THE FINAL DAYS and THE CASEBOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES with Jeremy Brett.

During this time he also co wrote the screenplays for the movies A HANDFUL OF DUST starring Kristen Scott Thomas, Judi Dench and Alec Guinness and WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD starring Helen Mirren and Helena Bonham Carter, both with producer the legendary TV producer Derek Granger (BRIDESHEAD REVISITED).

Upon leaving the bosom of Granada and venturing into the wild wide world of the freelance film maker he wrote and directed the movie JACK AND SARAH starring Richard E Grant, Samantha Mathis, Ian Mckellen, Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins. This led to a commission from New Line Pictures to write the screenplay WALKING PAPERS based on the Jay Cronley novel of the same name.

This screenplay came to the attention of execs at Universal and Imagine who then asked Tim to do a page one rewrite of a western for Ron Howard entitled THE PRETENDERS. Tim enjoyed working with Ron for over a year on this.

He then wrote an original screenplay, PERSONAL SHOPPING, which was promptly snapped up by Paramount for producer Scott Rudin.

He spent four months working for and with Jeffrey Katzenberg at Dreamworks animation as a production writer on the movie FLUSHED AWAY. Impressed by his work Katzenberg commissioned him to write a script for SHREK 4 which wasn’t used as a different storyline was decided upon as a director came on board.

During this time he was actively involved in British television directing the last ever ninety minute episode of the BAFTA award winning series COLD FEET. As well as a TV movie for ITV called CATWALK DOGS written by Simon Nye.

He was commissioned by the BBC to write a pilot for a TV series he invented called BACKSTORY as well as another pilot for the ITV network entitled OFFSPRING.

He also wrote HIS MASTER’S VOICE for the BBC as a radio play starring Rob Brydon which was broadcast in 2015.

He recently wrote the screenplay for LETTERS TO JULIET starring Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave.

Oscar winning producers of The King’s Speech, Iain Canning and Emile Sherman then commissioned an original screenplay from him entitled THE WEDDING DRESS.

Tim is writing and co-producing and co-writing an animated feature screenplay for Hasbro and Paramount which is in production and scheduled for release in 2021.

He has now embarked on a series of crime novels featuring the eccentric and socially-awkward, but brilliantly persistent DS George Cross. Set in Bristol in the south west of England, Cross’ methods often infuriate his colleagues and superiors “not so much a thorn in my side as a pain in my arse,” according to his boss DCI Carson. But his conviction rate, thanks to his dogged persistence and attention to detail, is the best in the force. The DENTIST is in the first of a series.

Tim lives in North London with his wife Rachel, the Emmy award-winning producer of THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA and PIONEER WOMAN.

He is currently the UK chair of the Writers’ Guild of America (West).

Connect with Tim:

Website: https://timsullivan.uk

Facebook: Tim Sullivan

Twitter: @TimJRSullivan

Instagram: @timsullivannovelist

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Blog Tour: The Memories We Bury by H. A. Leuschel #BookReview

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An emotionally charged and captivating novel about the complexities of female friendship and motherhood

Lizzie Thomson has landed her first job as a music teacher, and after a whirlwind romance with Markus, the newlywed couple move into a beautiful new home in the outskirts of Edinburgh. Lizzie quickly befriends their neighbour Morag, an elderly, resourceful yet lonely widow, whose own children rarely visit her. Everything seems perfect in Lizzie’s life until she finds out she is pregnant and her relationship with both Morag and Markus change beyond her control.

Can Lizzie really trust Morag and why is Markus keeping secrets from her?

In The Memories We Bury the author explores the dangerous bonds we can create with strangers and how past memories can cast long shadows over the present.

Today is my turn on the blog tour for The Memories We Bury by H. A. Leuschel. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part in the tour, and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book from reading the blurb and, throughout the book it became obvious that it was something a little different. Part psychological thriller, part study of human nature and how we are formed and influenced from childhood, it was an usual and fascinating reading experiences which I found interesting, with a couple of caveats.

There are two main protagonists in the book, and we hear the story through their alternating voices. Lizzie, a young mother who has been influenced by a mother who she was never able to please, and this seems to have influenced her choices throughout her life, particularly her husband; and Morag, her older neighbour who is looking for a surrogate family to love. Initially, these women seem to be just what the other needs, but when is life ever that simple? It becomes obvious that there are sinister undercurrents at play and things may not end well.

It is hard to tell throughout who is genuine and who is hiding something beneath their cultivated facade, and my opinions on this changed from chapter to chapter. I found the ending quite shocking, and the whole book is disquieting, digging deeper into ideas about our memories and the influences childhood memories have throughout our lives.

I had difficulty getting into this book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it does jump around between voices and timelines somewhat, and I found it quite hard to keep track of where we were at with each character in the plot to begin with, possibly not helped by the fact that I started reading it quite late one night when I wasn’t at my freshest. Also, some of the sentence construction  and phrasing is a little unusual, I suspect because English is not the first language for this author, and that somewhat upset the rhythm of the reading for me until I got used to it. These are minor niggles, easily overcome and possibly may bother other readers less. The main issue I had, I’m afraid, was my lack of connection to any of the characters in the early stages of the book. Two of them I didn’t like at all and, the one I think I was supposed to feel most sympathy for was a bit wet for my tastes. Other readers may have a different reaction. I did read this book immediately following a reread of one of my all-time favourite novels which has, as its protagonist, one of the strongest and most inspiring female leads in literature, so the contrast perhaps worked against this novel and maybe at a different time under different circumstances, I would have felt differently. In fact, if I hadn’t been reading it to a deadline, it may well have been one of those books that you set aside because you aren’t in the mood, then return to and enjoy more at a later date and in a different mindset.

This novel has a lot going for it. It is s detailed dissection of human nature with an interesting premise and some skilfully drawn characters. There are enough twists and turns and red herrings to keep the reader interested, and the end is definitely memorable. I think this is a book that people need to read and judge for themselves, especially if you enjoy psychological fiction and are looking for something unique and outside of the curve. The minor issues I had with it are very likely to prove personal to me and should not in any way discourage potential readers if they like the sound of the blurb. They distracted very little from the worthiness and value of the book.

The Memories We Bury is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Do make sure you follow the rest of the tour for different perspectives on the book.

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About the Author

HA Leuschel

Helene Andrea Leuschel gained a Master in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She later acquired a Master in Philosophy, specializing in the study of the mind. Helene has a particular interest in emotional, psychological and social well-being and this led her to write her first novel, Manipulated Lives, a fictional collection of five novellas, each highlighting the dangers of interacting with narcissists. She lives with her husband and two children in Portugal.

Connect with Helene:

Website: https://www.heleneleuschel.com

Facebook: H A Leuschel

Twitter: @HALeuschel

Instagram: @haleuschel

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Tempted by…. Shalini’s Books and Reviews: Lake Child by Isabel Ashdown

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You trust your family. They love you. Don’t they?

When 17-year-old Eva Olsen awakes after a horrific accident that has left her bedbound, her parents are right by her side. Devoted, they watch over her night and day in the attic room of their family home in the forests of Norway.

But the accident has left Eva without her most recent memories, and not everything is as it seems. As secrets from the night of the accident begin to surface, Eva realises – she has to escape her parents’ house and discover the truth. But what if someone doesn’t want her to find it?

My Tempted By…. is late this week, for a tedious reason I won’t bore you with, but better that than never!

Today the book that has found its way on to my TBR as a result of the seductive words of a fellow book blogger is Lake Child by Isabel Ashdown and the blogger in question is Shalini on her blog, Shalini’s Books and Reviews and here is her review of the book.

Firstly, I probably would have bought this book just based on the cover. I absolutely LOVE it. Everything about it – the imagery, the colours – I just want to jump into it and, thanks to the wonder of literature, I can! That’s the marvel of books, isn’t it, they are transportive.

Anyway, moving past the cover, the blurb makes the book sound enticing, doesn’t it? Secrets and lies and bed-bound teenagers in remote Norwegian homes on a lake? This is definitely a book I would pick up in a bookshop with that combination of cover and blurb.

However, it was not via a bookshop that I found this book, it was via Shalini’s review and her descriptions of the story are every bit as enticing as the outer package of the book. ‘Atmosphere of swirling darkness,’ ‘approaching storm,’ I love the weather imagery she uses in her review, and her excitement and enthusiasm about the book just leap off the page and grab you by the lapels. Having read this, this was a book I just had to have.

All of Shalini’s reviews beat with the same passion and enthusiasm, and this is why her blog is one of the ones I have been following the longest, and why I love it so much. She is also fabulously supportive and friendly and an all-round marvellous person to know. If you haven’t visited her blog before, what are you waiting for? Get over to Shalini’s Books & Reviews now.

And if you’ve now been equally tempted to get hold of a copy of Lake Child by Isabel Ashdown, you can buy it here.

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Book Review: Wall Of Silence by Tracy Buchanan; Narrated by Moira Quirk #AudiobookReview

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Her children have a deadly secret. Can she uncover it before the police do?

Melissa Byatt’s life in Forest Grove seems as perfect as can be: a doting husband, three loving children and a beautiful house in a close-knit community. But appearances can be deceiving.

One evening, Melissa arrives home to the unimaginable: her husband lies stabbed on the kitchen floor, their children standing calmly around him…. With horror, she realises that one of them is to blame. But which one? And why would they attack their own father?

Her loyalties torn, in a split second she decides to protect her children at all costs – even if that means lying to the police. But when someone in the neighbourhood claims to know more than they should, Melissa discovers that some secrets are beyond her control….

Can she find out the truth of what happened before the rumours spread? And can the family unite to escape the spotlight of scandal – or are none of them as innocent as Melissa insists?

There was something about this book that I absolutely loved, above and beyond what I normally feel about this kind of psychological thriller. The bad news for you and this review is that I am still trying to work out exactly what it is that made it stand out for me so much!

I think a big part of it was the setting. I really loved the idea of an idyllic community set up in the heart of the forest, where everything is supposed to be perfect, but actually is beset with exactly the same problems as everywhere else because, as we know, people are people, wherever they choose to settle themselves and, wherever people live together, tensions are bound to arise.

Actually, the author has drawn a brilliant premise here because the citizens of this community, or many of them at least, believe they are a cut above everyone who lives outside their haven, and this makes them a self-satisfied and judgemental bunch who are quick to criticise and ostracise anyone who doesn’t toe the community line. Tracy evidences this really cleverly with use of the community Facebook group to display people’s inner characters and feelings. After all, people are far less guarded online than they are face to face. It gives a really good sense of the different factions within the community and how the battle lines are drawn as the town works through the shocking events surrounding the Byatt family at the heart of this story.

The author has drawn some brilliant characters in this book, focusing on Melissa Byatt as the main protagonist, and she is a thoroughly sympathetic character. I could easily put myself in her shoes as a mother and try and imagine what I would do in her position. I am not entirely sure I would make the same decisions she did, but I could understand why she did what she did, and feel for her as events played out. This story has tons of drama and plenty of shocks and surprises to keep the story moving along engagingly and I was completely engrossed in the story. I listened to it as an audiobook and it was another one that I found myself wanting to listen to so badly that I was seeking out tasks that allowed me to indulge myself.

This is an engrossing and shocking family-based thriller with an original and shocking premise, a marvellous sense of place and a searing examination of inter-personal relationships in a fairly closed community. I enjoyed it very much and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys this type of book.

Wall Of Silence is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Tracy lives in Buckinghamshire, UK with her husband, little girl and (very naughty) dog, Bronte.

She travelled extensively while working as a travel magazine editor, and has always been drawn to the sea after spending her childhood holidays on the south coast visiting family – a fascination that inspires her writing.

She now dedicates her time to writing and procrastinating on Facebook.

Connect with Tracy:

Website: https://www.tracy-buchanan.com

Facebook: Tracy Buchanan Author

Twitter: @TracyBuchanan

Instagram: @tracybuchananauthor

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Blog Tour: Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald #BookReview

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Fran hates her hometown, and she thought she’d escaped. But her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway.

She returns home to nurse her dying father, her distant teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable heat of an Australian summer.

As past friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants…

I am happy to be taking my part in the blog tour today to mark the paperback publication of Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald. Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part, and to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books for my digital copy, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is quite a difficult review to write, because I want to give a true reflection of how I felt about the book, whilst balancing that with external factors that I believe affected my reading of it. I have really struggled this last week emotionally for a variety of reasons and, unfortunately, I think this bled through to my reactions to this book. In fact, if I hadn’t been reading it for a blog tour, I probably would have set it to one side to come back to at another time, when I was in a different frame of mind. As it was, I ploughed on, but probably had a different feeling about the book than I would have if I’d come to it in a more upbeat frame of mind.

I’ve had a difficult week, and I think I really needed some escapist fiction, and this isn’t it. This is a dark, noir exploration of the dark undercurrents running through a small town, which are brought in to sharp focus when Fran returns to the place she hates to nurse her seriously ill father, just at a time where the town is threatened by a deadly bush fire. A lot of the topics explored in this book are extremely harrowing, and the author addresses them head on, without flinching and with huge emotional impact. This is something I normally love in a book, and I know it will be what draws a lot of readers to the novel. Rightly so, the novel deserves a wide readership because the writing is stunning, unfortunately I was emotionally unequipped to deal with it this week and it felt extremely bleak to me.

There is no doubt that the character development in this book is expertly done and works perfectly to draw the reader in and make the reader love or hate them. Again, this was part of the problem. I was TOO emotionally invested in the characters to deal with their struggles at the moment, and could feel their pain and distress. The book is a real rollercoaster of a ride emotionally, and the reader needs to be prepared for it. It packs a powerful emotional punch that I am sure would leave me fairly breathless at any time but completely floored me on this occasion.

The timeline jumps about between the day of the fire, the ten days or so leading up to it, and events that happened thirty years before when the main protagonist, Fran, was a teenager. At times I did find it a little hard to follow the timelines, because they were so disjointed, but this I know is deliberate and was done to add to the feeling of tension and anxiety which permeated the book. It just needs a level of concentration that was just a little of a strain for me at the moment, but I know I would take in my stride and truly appreciate for what it adds to the story at any other time.

This is a book that is powerful, emotional, challenging and full of tension from first page to last. The author is skilled at manipulating all of these elements and this is clear throughout. Unfortunately for me, she does this a little too well and I was just mentally in the wrong place for this book when I read it. I could see glimpses of the humour that I have seen other bloggers refer to within it, but just couldn’t appreciate it fully. Fabulous book, wrong time for me. I know it is one I will put aside and reread when I am in the right mindset for it. I would not want anyone else to be put off reading it though, because this is a wonderful book, and I know the issue was me and my emotional state at time of reading. More emotionally robust readers will love it, I have no doubt.

Ash Mountain is out as an ebook and audiobook, and will be published in paperback on 20 August and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama for BBC1. Her 2019 dark comedy thriller Worst Case Scenario was a Book of the Year in both The Guardian and Daily Telegraph. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia, and now lives in Glasgow with her husband.

Connect with Helen:
Twitter: @FitxHelen
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Blog Tour: The Night Lawyer by Alex Churchill #BookReview

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Sophie Angel is the night lawyer. Once a week, she’s the one who decides what the papers can and can’t say.

During the day, she’s a barrister. She struggles for justice in a system that’s close to collapse, where she confronts the most dangerous aspects of humanity. 

Her life changes when a wealthy Russian offers her the biggest case of her career, a rape trial with a seemingly innocent client.

But is someone manipulating Sophie from the shadows? With her marriage under strain and haunted by nightmares from the past, Sophie must find the answer to these questions before it’s too late.

This is a story about betrayal, trust, guilt and innocence, played out from the courtrooms of London to the darkest corners of Soviet era Moscow.

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Night Lawyer by Alex Churchill today. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my paperback copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I absolutely love books set in a legal setting, largely for reasons of nostalgia, and this was one of the better examples of the genre that I have read recently. I am hoping this is the first book in an exciting new series, because Sophie Angel is a character I could really become invested in.

There is so much to love about this book. First and foremost, it gives a very fascinating and truthful look into the workings of the English legal system and the trials and tribulations that it is currently facing, and for me this is the most interesting part of the book. The criminal justice system is woefully under-funded, but this seems to be something that very few people care about, until they become embroiled in it themselves. You often see articles in the press lamenting ‘fat cat lawyers’ and criminals ‘abusing the legal aid system,’ but this is so far from the truth and it is something we should all be very worried about. One of the cornerstones of a liberal and truly free society is an impartial and accessible justice system that provides fair trial for everyone, regardless of your financial means. If people cannot access good legal representation, then they cannot navigate the system with equality to people of means, and this is grossly unfair and dangerous. There are so many things that are currently being suggested as changes to the legal system, that threaten its impartiality, that it makes me very frightened, and you all should be too. This book goes some way to demonstrating some of the challenges faced, particularly by the Criminal Bar, and is a fascinating read that anyone interested in this subject matter will enjoy.

If that sounds a little dry, I apologise, because that is far from the case. All of this is wrapped up in a really exciting thriller. There are several plot lines to follow in the book that all add to the tension – Sophie’s family and past in Russia which is shrouded in mystery, Sophie’s relationship with her husband, another powerful barrister, her work on the newspaper at The Night Lawyer, the major trial she is defending, and the terrifying behaviour of a previous client. All of these things keep the plot moving along at a terrific lick, and provide plenty of moments of tension and high drama to keep the reader engrossed throughout.

Sophie is a really appealing and attractive character who carries the book beautifully. I totally believed in her and her behaviour throughout. Her reactions seemed entirely authentic and, as a reader, I was sympathetic to her in each of the situations in which she finds herself. I feel like there is much more to discover about her, her dual English and Russian heritage provides tantalising scenarios to be explored going forward. I really enjoyed the portion of this book exploring her Russian background and look forward to more of this. Her work of a barrister provides endless fodder for drama, and her work on the newspaper is a unique and interesting angle. I have high hopes of the next instalment from Sophie Angel.

If you are interested in the seemingly archaic and unusual world of the English legal system, and the Bar in particular will really enjoy this author’s writing. She explores it very well, without making the material seem dry and boring, and I thought the book was marvellous. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a legal thriller.

The Night Lawyer is out now in paperback and digital formats, and you can buy a copy here.

Please do be sure to follow the rest of the tour for alternative reviews and other content:

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About the Author

Alex Churchill was a barrister, specialising in serious crime for over three decades, and a writer. 

Connect with Alex:

Twitter: @_AlexChurchill

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Blog Tour: The Pupil by Ros Carne #BookReview

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She wants to learn everything – about you.

Mel has practised law for twenty years. She is well-regarded by her peers. Her clients are happy. But behind the scenes her life is disordered. Her son grows increasingly distant from her. The married man she is sleeping with fails to give her what she needs.

When a trainee lawyer is allocated to Mel it is poor timing. The last thing she wants is a pupil watching her every move. And Natasha does watch. She sees each detail – and every mistake. Mel cannot shake the feeling that Natasha isn’t just learning the job. She is learning Mel.

Natasha is good at getting what she wants, and now Mel has the power to give her all she desires. But when Mel chooses not to, Natasha knows just what Mel’s vulnerabilities are – and how to turn them against her. Mel’s secrets could ruin her. But who will be believed?

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Pupil by Ros Carne. My thanks to Emma Welton at damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I love any book set in the legal world, so I was really looking forward to this and it did not disappoint. There was a great mix of detail about legal matters, and the personal stories of the two protagonists, Mel and Natasha, to give me everything I was looking for.

The story is told in the alternating voices of the two women, although slightly more weight is given to Mel’s voice, and it seems like we are supposed to sympathise more with her predicament than Natasha’s, but not everything is that straight forward, which makes for a gripping story. Although Natasha seems to be manipulative and a schemer, Mel is not a saint herself, as we soon find out.

Mel has a messy life, which I am sure many of us can relate to, trying to juggle a demanding job with relationships and motherhood, especially of a son in those difficult, mid-teen years where they are the cusp of adulthood but not quite there yet. On top of this, she is given charge of a pupil to teach, an added strain she doesn’t want or need, particularly when there is a personality clash.

I could feel the strain taking its toll on Mel throughout the book, and the author also develops Natasha as a menacing and noxious presence in Mel’s life. At the same time, Natasha has her own history and problems that have shaped her behaviour so, despite everything, I did manage to retain a small shred of sympathy for her. This clever balancing of light and shade in each character means that the readers feelings swing from side to side along with the plot and, like a jury, the verdict is out until the end of the book.

I enjoyed the final ‘showdown’ very much and, for me, the ending worked really well, although I think there may be some who would wish that it had ended differently and more dramatically. However, this seemed to be a more honest and likely ending than one that was engineered just for effect. All in all, I was very satisfied with this read and the way it all came out. Interesting premise and characters and enough tension and exciting events to keep the reader interested throughout. Highly recommended.

The Pupil is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 13 August, and you can get your copy here.

Make sure to check out the rest of the fantastic blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Ros Carne was born in London, and following university she worked in magazine and newspaper journalism including as a theatre critic on the Guardian. She later retrained as a barrister, practising for 13 years before moving to a university teaching job. She has two adult sons and enjoys playing the violin. Ros now lives in Somerset where she writes full time.

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Guest Post: 10:59 by N.R. Baker

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A deadly virus. An over-populated world. An impossible decision.

If you held the lives of those around you in your hands, who would you save? And could you live, knowing you had sentenced others to certain death?

Louis Crawford is a boy with a unique ability: to see through the noise to the problems and solutions that others are blind to. When asked to come up with an idea that will change the world, his answer is both shocking and simple. And it is a solution that will change everything, forever.

Louis finds himself thrust into the middle of an organisation that has the power to save the world. But are its motives pure? And can he live with the price that humanity must pay?

The clock is ticking to the end of the world; and we’re already at 10:59.

I am delighted to be featuring 10:59 by N.R. Baker on the blog today to celebrate its publication. Described as “the most important book you’ll read this year. An apocalyptic thriller with a difference, it will have you questioning everything – and everyone – you thought you knew,” it is a book I am really excited about reading. In the meantime, I have a fascinating Q&A that the author did for her publisher to share with you.

Q&A with Niki Baker for Burning Chair Publishing

Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you start writing and why?

I can’t remember starting to write. When my parents moved house and cleared their loft, they discovered some of my early works, written when I was five or six years old. The stories were brief and terrible, but they prove that I’ve always been fascinated with the art of using words to paint pictures.

With no spoilers, tell us a bit about 10:59 and what prompted you to write it.

10:59 is the story of Louis (‘with a wiss, not a wee’): a teenager who has a seemingly unique ability to see things that are invisible to others. When he’s asked to come up with an idea that will change the world, his answer is both shocking and simple. Louis finds himself thrust into the heart of an organisation that has the power to save a planet on the brink of destruction. With time running out, Louis must decide whether his employer’s motives are pure. And he will face an impossible dilemma about the devastating price that humanity must pay for its own salvation.

I was prompted to write 10:59 by what I see happening in the world. I wanted to explore a deliberately controversial scenario based on the facts of our increasingly dystopian existence. I’ve never seen myself as an eco-warrior, nor do I own a soapbox or have a habit of wearing socks with sandals, but I started with the conviction that Louis’s story needed to be told – and told in a way that would be entertaining and accessible for young adults as well as adult readers. In the course of all my research for the book, that conviction has turned into a passionate desire to get people thinking and talking about the greatest taboo of our time.

How did you come up with the inspiration for the story?

Readers will make assumptions about my inspiration for the novel because it features a deadly virus, when in fact I wrote the book two years before the coronavirus pandemic. I had no idea how topical and scary that aspect would turn out to be.

Is Louis-with-a-wiss – the main character in 10:59 – based on anyone you know?

Not directly. Louis wandered into my imagination and introduced himself, and then we got to know each other as I wrote the story. I recognise some of myself in him, and there were a number of scenes where I thought about how my son Connor would react in the same situation, which helped me make sure that Louis’s responses and actions felt real. I think Louis and Connor would get along with each other pretty well.

Tell us about your writing routine and where you tend to write.

What routine? I’m happy to say that my life is a little… unconventional. I’m lucky enough to be able to step outside what most people regard as normal routines, and that means I generally eat when I’m hungry, sleep when I’m tired, and write when I’m inspired. I write at my desk, which was situated in Oxfordshire while I wrote the first draft of 10:59. The desk and I have now relocated to France.

How did you find the editing and publication process? (Don’t worry about hurting our feelings – we’ve got thick skins…!)

Very slow, very challenging, and thoroughly rewarding. Writing a full-length novel in the first place is hard, but it’s just the start. Seeing a book all the way through to publication is definitely not for the faint-hearted or the impatient! But at this end of the process I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed it, and I’m proud to be a Burning Chair author. I’m confident that my book is the one I wanted to write and it’s ready to be unleashed on the world. Whether the world is ready for 10:59 remains to be seen, but the feedback from advance readers has been brilliant, so that’s incredibly exciting.

10:59 is a hard-hitting story which includes a number of characters who will stop at nothing to save a world on the brink of irreversible and cataclysmic change. And we’ll be honest it often hits painfully close to home! If you had a magic wand, what one action would you get everyone to take to save the world?

I can’t put it more eloquently than David Attenborough did when he said, “Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, it’s time we controlled the population to allow the survival of the environment.”

What’s next in the pipeline for you?

My pipeline is positively bulging with ideas and half-written stories, which may sound uncomfortable but of course it’s a great affliction for a writer to have. The story I’ve been developing recently starts with the main character falling through the floor of a cave and then… well, you’ll have to wait and see.

QUICK FIRE ROUND (One word answer):

Plotter or pantser?

Pantser.

Pen or keyboard?

Keyboard.

Character or plot?

Plot.

Early bird or night owl?

Owl.

Crossword or Sudoko?

Crossword.

Asking questions or answering questions?

Asking.

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Happy publication day, Niki, I look forward to reading the book for myself soon.

If you would like to get a copy of 10:59 for yourself, it is out today as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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N R Baker loves exploring the world and also the power of words. She spent much of her childhood up a tree in Somerset with her head in a book, either lost in the worlds created by authors like C.S. Lewis, or writing truly awful tales of her own. Since then she has earned recognition for her travel writing, poetry, lyrics, flash fiction and short stories. 10:59 is her first full-length novel. She lives in rural France.

Connect with Niki:

Website: http://nrbakerwriter.com

Facebook: N R Baker Writer

Twitter: @NRBakerWriter