Blog Tour: Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry #Extract

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I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off the Don’t Turn Around blog road trip for Jessica Barry’s new book, which will be published on 15 April. Over the next ten days, bloggers will be hosting extracts from the book, as well as other author features, leading up to publication of the book. I am delighted to be able to share Chapter 1 of the book with you today. Thanks to Graeme Williams for inviting me to be part of the tour and to the publisher for allowing me to share the extract with you today.

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Two strangers, Cait and Rebecca, are driving across America.

Cait’s job is to transport women to safety. Out of respect, she never asks any questions. Like most of the women, Rebecca is trying to escape something.

But what if Rebecca’s secrets put them both in danger? There’s a reason Cait chooses to keep on the road, helping strangers. She has a past of her own, and knows what it’s like to be followed.

And there is someone right behind them, watching their every move…

*********************

Now for the extract from Chapter 1 of Don’t Turn Around:

 

PROLOGUE

The smell hits her first: burnt rubber and gasoline. Then the pain

comes. The roar of blood in her ears, the gurgled strangle of her breath.

She squints out of the splintered windshield. For a split second, she

can’t remember where she is. When she does, fear rushes over her, a

black, suffocating wave.

And then she hears it: a long, shivering scrape of metal against

metal.

She sees a face at the window.

It’s him.

He’s outside, and he’s trying to get in.

 

LUBBOCK, TEXAS—

322 MILES TO ALBUQUERQUE

Cait kept the engine running.

She’d had the Jeep since college, bought it used the summer before her freshman year with the proceeds of hundreds of hours working retail at Richland Mall, and sometimes it acted up. Normally, she didn’t mind. She relished popping the hood and peering underneath, knowing more times than not that she would be able to fix the problem. Her father had her out in the garage from the time she was six. But at this particular moment, there was no way in hell she would risk the engine stalling.

Outside, there was a glitter of frost on the lawn. The house wasn’t what she was used to, though by now she knew that she should expect anything. Usually, the places were cramped and run- down, cinder block apartment buildings or chipped- stucco bungalows, in neighborhoods where she wouldn’t want to linger after dark.

There was one place about a month ago, on the outskirts of Abilene, that was tucked behind the railroad tracks on Route 20. She drove straight past it the first time, despite the number 22 painted clearly on the side of the mailbox. No way someone lived there, she figured— it wasn’t much more than a shack, and it looked abandoned, the windows boarded up, a rusted- out pickup truck squatting outside, tires long gone. She followed the road another quarter mile, watching for the house, but there was nothing but empty farmland. She double- checked the address: it was right, though she’d known that already. They didn’t make mistakes

about things like that back at the office. So she turned around and parked outside the shack, and sure enough, a girl who didn’t look a day over eighteen ran out from behind the house and climbed silently into the Jeep. Cait could still picture the girl’s nervous smile, the long shining braid that fell down her back, the halfmoons of dirt nestled beneath her fingernails.

But this place was different: a McMansion in a modern development, complete with a two- car garage and a light- up reindeer on the lawn. One of the tasteful ones made of wire and tiny white lights, not the inflatable kind her parents used to stick on top of their house back in Waco, two sagging reindeer pulling a bloated Santa across the roof. The house itself was built of red brick and topped with a series of peaked roofs, and there was a small paved path curving up to the imposing front door. Property was cheaper here than in Austin— most places were cheap compared to Austin— but this was definitely the house of someone who wasn’t shy with a few bucks.

It threw her off a little, this house.

Cait scanned the street for any sign of movement. The windows on the houses were squeezed shut, and the only light came from the pretty streetlamps that lined the sidewalk. A child’s red tricycle lay in a driveway, forgotten until tomorrow. She pictured a plump- cheeked toddler riding up and down the sidewalk, legs pumping, little fingers clutching the handlebars, wind rushing past as she sped up, shrieking with joy or terror, or maybe both.

The road had emptied out pretty quickly once she was out of Austin’s sprawl, and soon it was just her and a few fellow travellers driving along the long, flat, endless road. The view didn’t change much, just empty plains stretching out as far as she could see, briefly interrupted by the green of watered lawns and neatly plotted houses that signaled a town.

Eight hours later, and here she was, waiting. She shifted in her seat, scratched an itch, stifled a yawn. She’d need to get coffee once they were on the road. She didn’t want to stop until they were clear of the city.

She checked the clock on the dashboard: 12:10. Pickup had been at midnight, but she’d gotten there a few minutes early, just in case. She’d been waiting for a while now. It happened sometimes. People got nervous, had second thoughts. If they changed their minds, they were meant to give her a signal: flick the lights three times quick, and she’d know they weren’t coming. Two flicks meant there was trouble and she should call the police.

So far that night, there’d been nothing.

She wasn’t worried, at least not yet. She scanned the road again. All quiet in Pleasantville. Every car tucked up in its garage, every person tucked up in bed.

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught something. One hand gripped the wheel, the other the gearshift. This could be it. Her heart pounded in her chest.

She watched a possum slinking under a thick hedge and shuddered. She’d grown up with possums, but that didn’t mean she didn’t hate them. They were cute enough as babies, but when they were full- grown, they were mean little suckers. Still, a possum wasn’t going to give her any trouble.

Eyes back on the house. Still dark, still nothing. The clock read 12:15. She’d give it another five. They weren’t meant to linger. Lingering attracted attention. If one of the neighbors happened to get up to use the bathroom and see a beat- up old Jeep parked out front, they’d call the cops quicker than a lightning bug in July. And nobody wanted the cops involved in something like this. You never knew which way they’d swing.

One of the curtains in the house twitched, and a moment later, a light came on downstairs. This was it: now or never. She straightened up in her seat and wiped the mascara smudges from under her eyes.

Get ready. As soon as she gets in the car, you’ve got to go.

A few seconds later, a blond woman wearing a pressed white shirt and khakis emerged. She had a bag slung over her shoulder that looked expensive. Actually, her whole person looked expensive— slick and golden and whistle- clean. Cait watched the woman lock the door behind her, hesitate, check again that it was locked.

Sweat pricked at the small of Cait’s back. Comeoncomeoncomeon.

The woman stole glances at the neighboring houses and hurried down the path.

Cait reached over and swung the passenger door open from the inside. The woman’s face appeared.

“Hi, Rebecca?” Cait made sure to smile when she said the woman’s name. It was important to put them at ease as quickly as possible. The woman nodded and climbed in. Her smell filled the Jeep, cotton and vanilla and sandalwood. “I’m Caitlyn,” she said, though the woman would have known that already. “But you can call me Cait.” The woman nodded again and pulled her bag tight to her lap. “The seat belt comes from the back,” Cait said, and the woman frowned before reaching behind and snapping the belt into the clasp. She stared straight ahead, through the windshield, at the deserted suburban street.

Cait shifted into drive and pulled away from the curb. “Do you have a phone?”

The woman blinked.

“A cell phone,” Cait prompted. Sometimes they got nervous and froze. She had learned to coax them. “If you do, you need to turn it off.”

The woman’s eyes widened. “Why?”

“GPS.”

The woman’s frown deepened. “Is that really— ”

“Yeah, it is. Sorry, I know it seems a little extreme, but— ” She left the rest of the sentence hanging in the air. Both of them knew that these were extreme circumstances.

The woman fumbled around in her bag and pulled out her phone. Cait kept one eye on the road and watched until she’d switched it off.

“How long will the drive take?”

“About six hours. Maybe a little less. There’s bottled water in the back if you want it. Help yourself.”

Rebecca hugged her bag tighter to her chest. “I’m fine, thank you.”

In the rearview mirror, Cait saw a light snap on in a neighboring house and a face appear at the window.

Take it easy. Just drive normally; don’t read anything into it.

“Are you close with your neighbors?” She kept her voice casual.

Rebecca looked at her, surprised. “Not really.”

Cait’s eyes were locked on the rearview. The curtain fell back across the window, the light flicked off. She let out a sigh. “It looks like the kind of place where you’d all be friendly. Block parties, that kind of thing. Is there a neighborhood watch?”

Rebecca shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

“Good.” She’d run into trouble with neighborhood watches in the past. Give a guy a fake badge and a pinch of authority and things could go sideways fast. The rest of the houses stayed dark. No cars on the road, either. They were almost out of the development. It would be easier once they got on the major roads. “Do you mind if I put the radio on? It helps keep me awake.”

The woman shook her head. Cait reached over and clicked on the dial. The drone of a talk radio host filled the Jeep— the great scourge of Texas. She flicked through the stations until she landed on the local Magic station. The crooning voice of Billy Joel came through the speakers, singing about drinking alone. She left it on. She figured she couldn’t go wrong with Billy Joel.

The house was on the southeast side of Lubbock, so they had to pass straight through downtown to get to Highway 60. She turned onto Broadway and drove past a banner hanging in the window of a local law firm: WELCOME TO BEAUTIFUL DOWNTOWN! NO WIN, NO FEE! There were stoplights every other block, and all of them seemed to turn red as soon as they got close, plotting together to keep them within the city limits.

“C’mon, c’mon,” Cait muttered, hand tapping the wheel. She didn’t like how quiet it was. That was the hardest part about these night drives: the quiet. It was easier to blend in if there were other signs of life.

A man dressed in a Santa hat walked past holding a filthy cloth in one hand and a sign in the other: HUNGRY, PLEASE HELP. He knocked on the window as they waited for the light to change. Cait tried to wave him away, but he mimed the action of cleaning and started wiping the cloth across the windshield, leaving streaks of grease on the glass. She glanced over at Rebecca, who was cowering in the passenger seat, knuckles white on the straps of her bag.

Cait rolled down the window and shoved a couple of dollar bills at him. “Thanks for the sterling work.” He took them with a tip of an imaginary hat and shuffled off just as the light switched to green. “You okay?” she asked Rebecca.

Rebecca nodded, but her jaw was set tight and she was staring straight ahead, her eyes glassy and unseeing. She hadn’t so much as blinked since leaving the house. “Almost out of Lubbock now,” Cait said.

The wide double lanes were lined with the cash- and- carries and the megachurches and the little Mexican restaurants advertising Taco Tuesday, just like every other town in Texas. Occasionally, a neon- lit billboard would flood a sickly light down on them, conjuring up strange, flickering shadows. The Christmas lights were out— multicolored stars and pale blue snowflakes, an angel strung high above the avenue, her wings sparkling gold— and the signs in the shopwindows advertised half- price champagne and cheap diamond bracelets.

Cait hated Christmas. It was amateur hour for drinking, full of awkward office parties and old guys looking to cop a feel after one too many whiskeys. Her old manager had insisted on hanging a sprig of mistletoe at the edge of the bar, and every time she’d go to open the champagne fridge, there’d be some guy lurking, hoping to try his luck. There was a new manager now, a woman, so maybe it would be different, though given that the staff uniform involved mandatory crop tops and Stetsons, she wasn’t holding her breath. At least the tips would be decent.

She stretched, winced. Her back was killing her already. She’d been driving for hours, pushing through rush hour traffic out of Austin and on to 183. She’d lived in the city for eight years and every year it seemed to get worse, the roads thick with pickup trucks and beaters and shiny new sports cars, clogging up the city’s arteries, strangling its heart.

Friends talked about leaving the city. They said they couldn’t take the traffic anymore, or the ever rising rents for ever shittier apartments, or the Tesla charging stations that had sprung up like dandelions and were perpetually full. It was all talk, though. No one ever left. Where would they go? Someplace like this?

They passed Church’s Chicken and the Eleganté Hotel. The city was starting to lose its grip a little, pockets of land stretching wider between buildings and the buildings themselves growing longer and wider. Cait saw Rebecca’s shoulders inch away from her ears and the grip on her handbag start to loosen.

Finally, they saw the sign for the Lubbock city limit. “We’re out,” Cait said. “The hardest part is over now.” Rebecca cracked a smile.

They drove through Littlefield, past a John Deere dealership and a sign advertising vacancy at the Plains Motel. She’d done this stretch a couple times before— once with a sweet- faced college kid who spent the whole time cramming for her biology exam, and another with a woman from Odessa who wept for most of the journey.

That had been a tough one. But there had been worse.

Some of her clients— those who had jobs flexible enough to allow them a few days off, or partners who weren’t breathing down their necks— stayed within state lines, and she ferried them to Austin or Dallas or Fort Worth. Most went to New Mexico, where the rules weren’t so strict. It was a longer drive but quicker in the long run. Lubbock was in a dead zone: a five- hour drive no matter what direction she drove. It was the client’s choice. Tonight she was heading west.

She glanced in the rearview. There was a tractor trailer behind them. She stepped on the gas, and its headlights receded. No tail that she could detect. She allowed herself to relax a little. It was always most dangerous nearest the home. The more miles they had under their belts, the safer they would be. Until they got to where they were going, of course, but that was a headache she wouldn’t worry about until morning.

Cait had left in a hurry— late, as always— and hadn’t managed to get dinner. Hunger was mixed in with exhaustion, gritting her eyes and making her bones heavy. A cup of coffee and maybe a slice of pie would be enough to keep her going. “Do you mind if we stop once we’re over the border?”

Rebecca’s head snapped toward her. “Why?”

“I need a cup of coffee. I’ve been on the road since six o’clock.”

The corners of her pretty mouth turned down. “I guess. If you need to.”

“Thanks. It’ll be quick, I promise. I know you’re nervous, but we’re out of the danger zone now.”

“How do you know?”

“Ninety percent of all incidents occur within the first ten minutes of the journey. Most of the trouble I’ve seen has happened right outside the front door. Now that we’re out of Lubbock, it should be smooth sailing.”

Rebecca nodded but didn’t look convinced. She had the kind of profile that belonged on a Roman coin, all straight nose and firm jaw. Patrician. Cait smiled at her own description: it was good, she should write it down. Maybe she could use it.

In the meantime, she needed to work out that piece she’d been writing about labor conditions at the organic farm outside of Austin. The editor had been requesting the copy for weeks, but she hadn’t been able to land it. Not that he had much of a right to complain considering how much he was paying her, which was nothing. Still, she couldn’t risk pissing him off. It was rare that someone gave her a chance, especially these days.

A sign announced that they were leaving Littlefield. They were edging toward the desert now. Pretty soon there’d be nothing but scrub and sky. Her stomach rumbled. She couldn’t get to Clovis fast enough. It would be her last chance to get a decent cup of coffee that night.

She glanced over at the woman sitting next to her. “You comfortable? You want me to put the heat on or anything?”

Rebecca shook her head. “I’m fine, thanks.”

“Just let me know. It’s supposed to get down to the twenties tonight. They’re saying it might even snow.” She reached out and patted the dashboard. “Don’t worry, she’s good in the snow.”

Rebecca gave her a weak smile. “That’s good to know,” she said, before turning her face back toward the window.

So she wasn’t a talker. That was fine. There was plenty of time for that.

*******************

If this has whetted your appetite for the book, you can pre-order a copy here. 

Make sure you now head over to Susan Hampson’s blog, Books From Dusk Till Dawn for Chapter 2! The rest of the chapters and other content will be shared over the course of the week as detailed on the tour poster at the top of the post.

About the Author

Jessica Barry is a pseudonym for an American author who grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and was raised on a steady diet of library books and PBS.

She attended Boston University, where she majored in English and Art History, before moving to London in 2004 to pursue an MA from University College London.

She lives with her husband, Simon, and their two cats, Roger Livesey and BoJack Horseman.

Connect with Jessica:

Facebook: Jessica Barry

Twitter: @jessbarryauthor

Instagram: @jessicabarry9

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Blog Tour: A Beautiful Breed of Evil by Andy Maslen #BookReview

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I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for A Beautiful Breed of Evil by Andy Maslen. my thanks to Emma Welton of 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.

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He’ll never speak of the evil they did…

A former Swedish ambassador lies dead in his swanky Mayfair flat. With his tongue torn out and placed on a Bible. Competing theories swirl. A religious maniac? A psychopath? The truth is far darker than either. DCI Stella Cole’s search for the killer takes her to Sweden. There, she discovers a horrific chapter in the country’s history that throws the case into turmoil. And then more people start dying.


Teaming up with Swedish cops Oskar Norgrim and Johanna Carlsson, Stella pieces together Ambassador Brömly’s shocking past. And discovers the killer’s motive.

Meanwhile, Stella’s personal life is about to take a significant turn as her boyfriend, Jamie, suggests a change in their relationship. But as Stella tries to process what it means, she makes a fateful decision.

Why won’t the dead stay buried?

On the other side of the Atlantic, a kid practising BMX stunts over water finds a skeleton on a lake bed. When the victim is revealed to be a British cop, the FBI ask for assistance. Stella’s arch-enemy from her own department gets the case. She flies to Chicago and soon discovers the murderer’s identity.

The scene is set for a showdown in Sweden as DI Roisin Griffin pursues her vendetta against Stella all the way to the north of Sweden during the annual festival of Midsommar.

Although this is the fifth book in the series by Andy Maslen featuring DCI Stella Cole, it is the first one that I have read and it is obvious from reading this book that Stella has had quite an eventful career already and there have been some explosive goings on in her past that I really need to go back and read about. However, the fact that I haven’t read the previous books did not detract from my enjoyment of this book at all, it just made me want to go back and catch up! The author fills you in on everything you need to know to keep up with the plot here but, events from previous books feed quite heavily into parts of the story here so, if you are going to dive into the series, it would probably make sense to start from the beginning with Hit and Runwhich I have just downloaded to my Kindle.

The book opens with a very dramatic murder scene, so you know from the beginning that this is not a series for the shy and retiring. A Swedish ex-diplomat has been murdered in a very brutal way, and it is clear from the beginning that this is a complicated case which involves investigation across international borders. I loved this aspect of the case, as we follow Stella on her trip to Sweden to track down the killer in the victim’s homeland. It leant a different slant to the standard crime novel to see how international police forces work together across borders to solve a case, and to see how policing differs across countries.

The motives behind the case gradually become clear and are very shocking, and they touch on a topic which is very relevant to modern discourse in some circles but horrifying to most of us. The case is based on real events that happened in Sweden, but which I had no idea about until I did some investigation after reading this book. I absolutely love it when books teach me something I didn’t know before, just in the course of reading a piece of fiction, and the author gets this story across extremely effectively in this novel, really making you think about the issue and how it is relevant today. Reading around the subject taught me lots of things about a practice I had no idea was so terrifyingly widespread and ideas that we need to make very sure never gain traction again.

At the same time as she is in Sweden investigating the murder, Stella’s colourful past threatens to catch up with her as an arch rival doggedly pursues a line of enquiry which she hopes will bring Stella down. This also involves travelling to another jurisdiction and co-operating with a police force in another country, so the book is filled with action and interest. There was a huge amount of tension and urgency and threat in this book which made it one of those novels that is absolutely impossible to put down. There is no real let up in the impetus, so the reader is compelled to keep turning the pages from beginning to end, until you are at the final page before you know it. The sign of a really great, gripping thriller.

Stella Cole is not your ordinary DCI in the Met police. She is, to paraphrase Liam Neeson, in possession of certain skills that make her a formidable opponent. She has a healthy regard for the law, but also for stretching it to its limits when called for, in the mould of all great maverick cops in literary history, and a joyous disregard for her own safety that means the reader never quite knows what she is going to do next. It keeps her superiors, her adversaries and the reader on their toes throughout, and makes her a delight as a protagonist. I definitely want to read more about her and what drives her, and am very glad that I have four previous novels in the series to go back and enjoy.

For me, this series is a great discovery and I am grateful that blogging has allowed me to come across this author and this series. I would highly recommend this book to lovers of detective thrillers who like a feisty protagonist and an author who isn’t afraid to push the envelope and deal with some hard issues. But I’d say start at the beginning, which is where I am will be going back to as soon as I can.

A Beautiful Breed of Evil is out now as an ebook and in paperback and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you visit some of the other marvellous blogs taking part in the tour for this book:

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About the Author

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Andy Maslen was born in Nottingham, in the UK, home of legendary bowman Robin Hood. Andy once won a medal for archery, although he has never been locked up by the sheriff.

He has worked in a record shop, as a barman, as a door-to-door DIY products salesman and a cook in an Italian restaurant.

He lives in Wiltshire with his wife, two sons and a whippet named Merlin.

Connect with Andy:

Website: www.andymaslen.com

Facebook: Andy Maslen

Twitter: @Andy_Maslen

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Book Review: Under The Bridge: Book 1 -Liverpool Mystery Series by Jack Byrne #BookReview

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2004

The discovery of a body in the Liverpool docklands unearths long forgotten secrets. Reporter Anne McCarthy is keen to prove herself and dives into the case with abandon. There she finds Michael, an old Irish caretaker who knows far more than he’s letting on and may have
a connection to the body.

Vinny Connolly is starting a postgrad degree, researching Liverpool’s migrant history and a burgeoning Scouse identity. But Vinny has been neglecting his own family history and stranger Michael might know about
his father’s disappearance in the 70s.

1955

Escaping poverty in Ireland and fresh off the boat, Michael falls in with Wicklow boys Jack Power and Paddy Connolly, who smuggle contraband through the docks, putting them at odds with the unions. While organisers rally the dockworkers against the strikebreakers and rackets. A story of corruption, secret police, and sectarianism slowly unravels.
But will the truth out?

As the conflict heightens, Michael questions the life sprawling out ahead of him, while in the present, Anne races to solve the mystery, but is she prepared for what she’ll find?

I was asked if I would review this book by the publisher and was provided with a digital copy of the book for this purpose. My thanks to the publisher, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

This book is a interesting mix of social history and murder mystery that provided a fascinating insight into cultural and social tensions in the Garston and Speke areas of Liverpool in the 1970s. It is really obvious from the writing that the author is passionate about presenting an authentic portrayal of the period and the area, and has done a lot of research into the time period; this shines through in the writing.

The book is a dual timeline story. The first timeline involves reporter, Anne, who is chasing down a story on the identity of a skeleton uncovered on a building site in the docks area of Liverpool in 2004. Her investigation takes her into the world of union activity around the docklands in the 1970s and criminal gangs that were active at the time. Her ferreting around in this history leaves her up against some people who would rather the past stay buried. At the same time, her friend, Vinny, who is working on a social history of Irish immigration into Liverpool post-war, fears the skeleton may uncover secrets that are too close to his own family history.

The second timeline takes us back to the 1970s and the life of Michael, an Irish immigrant who is drawn into the criminal world when he first arrives in Liverpool, until a dramatic event at the time leads him to reconsider the path he is on. When Anne meets Michael in the present, he becomes the key to unlocking the skeleton’s identity.

The dual timeline works really well, and I found the accurately researched and portrayed history of this time and this area of Liverpool really interesting. For anyone interested in social history, and who enjoys books with real historical fact woven into a fictional narrative, this book will be really appealing. It made me go off and do some further reading about one particular event that is referred to in the book, which is always a sure sign that a book has grabbed my attention. The mystery aspect of the book is also really well done and kept me turning the pages from beginning to end.

The one thing that let this book down a little was the characterisation, particularly of Anne and Vinny in the modern day. They just didn’t feel completely developed, to the point that I didn’t really become invested in what was happening to them or in their relationship. This was not true of the characters back in the 1970s, they were much more alive and vibrant on the page, and may these sections of the book more appealing. It really felt like the author was much more enthralled by the historical aspects of the story than the modern day, which gave the book a little bit of an uneven feel. Richer, more honest development of the younger characters was needed for this book to be a standout.

Overall, this was a really engaging mystery novel, with a strong sense of time and place that would make an excellent read for anyone who is interested in social history and likes this kind of fact-based fictional telling of it.

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

About the Author

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Jack was born and raised in Speke Liverpool, (Paul McCartney lived in the street behind him for a while) although his parents first lived ‘Under The Bridge’ in Garston, and all his family goes back to Wicklow in Ireland.

The Liverpool Mystery Series will be four novels. Under The Bridge is the first. He is writing Fire Next Time now, and The Wicklow Boys will follow next year. You can find The One Road prequel a collection of short stories on Amazon.

Connect with Jack:

Website: https://jackbyrne.home.blog/

Facebook: Jack Byrne

Twitter: @Jackbyrnewriter

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Book Review: Almost Damned by Christopher Leibig #BookReview

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Defense attorney Samson Young has an uncanny ability to get even the so-called worst clients off the hook, as he ably demonstrated in Almost Mortal. In Almost Damned, little does Sam know that his most challenging cases are all leading up to one monumental trial, in which he will lay before the Court the visceral complexities of good vs. evil.

As Sam navigates his cases in Bennet County, it becomes increasingly apparent that his clients-old and new-are surprisingly interconnected, especially when old clients rise from the dead. Literally. He and his office are besieged by death threats and mysterious invitations, each one a clue that compels him to dig deeper into his own past. With each new discovery, Sam leads himself and his team deeper into a nether world in an attempt to bring redemption to his toughest clients of all-the descendants of the biblical Fallen Angels who have been walking the earth as humans for centuries, unable to find peace.

Almost Damned is the second book by Christopher Leibig featuring defense attorney Samson Young, following on from Almost Mortal. I am grateful to publicist Sabrina Dax for inviting me to review the book and to the author and publisher for providing me with copies of both books for this purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

Regular readers of the blog will know that legal thrillers are one of my favourite genres and I consider myself to be a bit of a connoisseur, having read pretty much every author of note over the years. However, I have never read one like this before. Christopher Leibig has combined the legal thriller genre with a paranormal twist to come up with something quite unique and intriguing.

Although Almost Damned can be read as a standalone, I would recommend reading Almost Mortal first, as it sets up events for the second book and will give you a great understanding of Samson and his past and why he finds himself in the position as lawyer for the Fallen Angels. It will also ease you in to Christopher’s style of writing, which is elaborate, complex and detailed and requires a certain level of concentration.

When you pick up the books, they seem quite thin, but they pack a huge punch. The world the author has built is rich and elaborate, mixing historical flashbacks and esoteric ideas with the very modern and immediate world of law. It is a juxtaposition that could be an uncomfortable jumble, but the author sorts through it with confidence and panache. However, it does require attention from the reader to keep up, this is not a quick easy read.

I thought the author’s portrayal of the legal world was very accurate, showing the hurly burly and every day jumble that legal defence practice is. Some books have lawyers focusing on one case at a time, with leisure to pursue every lead to their hearts content. This isn’t the reality. In reality, lawyers juggle dozens of cases all at once, jumping from one to the next in the blink of an eye and having to have recall of all the facts at their fingertips. This really comes across in the writing here, and I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the book.

When it comes to the other aspect of the novel, the trial of the Fallen Angels in front of a jury of Archangels, here we are reaching the heights of philosophy and religious dogma, and it isn’t going to be for everyone. Some of the ideas explored here are an intellectual reach, and had me pondering what he was saying for a long while after I had finished the book. It is a bold and brave idea to explore, and he carries it off very well, but I did wonder how he came up with it. It would not be a genre blend I would ever have contemplated attempting but it does make for a very fascinating and individual read.

I don’t think these books will be for everyone, they are a densely-packed mix of ambitious and elaborate ideas with frenetic activity, lavish language and numerous characters, all with more than one name. They require attention while reading, not an idle way to pass a lazy afternoon, but reward the reader with a new and beguiling world to explore. I would recommend them to someone who is always on the hunt for that outlier novel that pushes the boundaries of what has been done before.

Almost Damned will be released in ebook and paperback formats on 1 April and you can pre-order it here. The first book in the series, Almost Mortal, is out now and you can get it here.

About the Author

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Christopher Leibig is a novelist and criminal defense lawyer who lives and works in Alexandria, Virginia. His first two published books, Saving Saddam(a 2008 novel about the trial of Saddam Hussein) and Montanamo (a 2010 novel about Guantanamo Bay detainees being housed in a small Montana town’s prison) were published by Artnik Books in London. Saving Saddam was re-released in 2014 under its original American title, The Black RabbitChris also has several published short stories – Secret Admirer (The Cynic on-line magazine 2004) Coldcocked (Skyline magazine 2004), Fly (The Cynic on-line magazine 2009), Intervention (Traveller’s Playground Press 2014), and Paradise City (Traveller’s Playground Press 2014). The Black Rabbit, MontanamoIntervention, and Paradise City are also available on audiobook by Audible.

Chris’s law firm, the Law Office of Christopher Leibig, represents individuals charged with or being investigated for serious criminal offenses throughout Virginia and in Washington. DC. His firm has received numerous awards and recognitions, including inclusion in Washingtonian Magazine’s Top Lawyers in Criminal Defense every year since 2011. Chris has also published numerous articles on criminal defense and related politics – including in the Huffington Post and The Examiner – and appeared as a legal expert regularly since 2009 in print and television media – including Fox News, CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Sports Illustrated. In recent years Chris has regularly handled high profile criminal cases in the DC area and travelled abroad to speak to law schools. Since 2012, Chris and his colleagues have lectured on criminal defense throughout Virginia, and in Scotland, Ireland, Trinidad, The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Denmark.

Connect with Christopher:

Website: https://chrisleibig.com/

Facebook: Chris Leibig

Twitter: @chrisleibig

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Friday Night Drinks with… Jo Jakeman

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Time for another tipple with a guest from the publishing world and tonight I am sharing Friday Night Drinks with author… Jo Jakeman.

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Welcome to the blog, Jo, thank you for taking the time to chat to me. First things first, what are you drinking?

A large glass of red wine. 19 Crimes of course because, you know, crime writer!

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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?

There’s a bar I’m quite fond of frequenting on a Friday evening that’s just on the sea front and within staggering distance. They do the most amazing sea food which I like to wash down with a Dark and Stormy cocktail. Bring a coat though, it can get a bit chilly when the sun sets.

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That looks absolutely delicious, you’ve made me hungry! 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?

Claudia Winkleman, Ryan Reynolds. They both seem incredibly funny and down to earth.

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?

Just finishing up the line edits for Who Killed Oscar Lomas? which is the book that will be coming out in January 2022. It’s about a woman, called Beth, who refuses to believe that her husband died by suicide, despite all evidence. I’m often moved by that strength families have – that insistence that they know better than the police in the face of all the evidence because they know their loved one wouldn’t have died by suicide, or know that their daughter wouldn’t have run away. Is it faith? Stubbornness? Or is there some sort of bond that we can’t explain?

Really interesting ideas to explore. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I’m proud of so much (not in a braggy way!) but getting a book deal was amazing. Selling in America, Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Poland, Greece… Every time I see my book in a shop it gives me a thrill. But I think the thing that makes me the proudest and makes all the knockbacks worthwhile, is when I hear from a reader that my book meant something to them, that it helped in some little way.

The biggest challenge has been dealing with the self-doubt. When the book doesn’t storm the charts or you see an amazon review saying that they didn’t like the book, you doubt yourself. And when I’m full of self-doubt I find it hard to be creative. Book 2, Safe House, was a slog because I was second guessing myself all the time.

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 want to be a Sunday Times best seller. Maybe it shouldn’t matter, but it does. It is validation, it’s all that hard work paying off. And it means I might be able to afford a holiday next year.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

This is between us, yeah? I’m a little bit ahead of schedule now seeing as so much has been delayed because of COVID. So, I’m doing a bit of research for a novel set in the 1950s. I was left a few boxes of letters and diaries of a family friend called Moyra, and I’m writing a story based on them. It’s a lot harder than writing my modern day thrillers as there are actual facts and dates to contend with but I am loving it. I feel so lucky to have access to these resources.

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?

Right now, I’d settle for anywhere warm. I was born in Cyprus and I have a soft spot for a Greek island, so I’d love to do some island-hopping and cross some others off my list. Kefalonia and Ithaka have been my favourites so far.

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That look beautiful, Kefalonia is definitely high on my bucket list. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I’m addicted to cold water swimming. I was in the sea on Christmas day wearing an elf hat!!

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Brrr! 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’?

Daisy Jones and the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid.

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Everybody knows Daisy Jones and the Six.

From the moment Daisy walked barefoot on to the stage at the Whisky, she and the band were a sensation. Their sound defined an era. Their albums were on every turntable. They sold out arenas from coast to coast.

This is the story of their incredible rise: the desire, the rivalry – and the music.

Then, on 12 July 1979, Daisy Jones and the Six split up.

Nobody knew why. Until now…

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

Drink a pint of water before bed, and makes sure there’s bacon in the house for tomorrow morning’s bacon-buttie.

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

I wake up to a gorgeous sunny day, so I walk the coastal path with my husband and kids round to a secluded cove where I have a quick dip in the sea then back home for a barbecue and a couple of beers.

Jo, thank you so much for joining me this evening, it has been a real pleasure.

Jo’s latest book, Safe House came out in paperback in January, and you can buy a copy here. It is only 99p on Kindle until the end of the month. Charlie has been recently released from prison after providing a false alibi for the man she loved. Now living in a remote Cornish village, with a new identity, she wants to put the past behind her but someone knows who she is. And they don’t believe in second chances.

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SHE LIED TO PROTECT A KILLER. NOW THERE’S NOWHERE LEFT TO HIDE. . .

The morning after a great storm, a woman arrives in a remote Cornish village.

But Charlie, as she now calls herself, steers clear of the locals and keeps a low profile – because she has a terrible secret.

Recently released from prison after providing a false alibi for the man she loved, Charlie wants to move on and start afresh. But someone, somewhere, is watching her, determined that she will never get that second chance.

Jo Jakeman was the winner of the prestigious Friday Night Live Award at York Festival of Writing where she was also shortlisted for Best Opening Chapter for the novel that would become her debut. This book was shortlisted for Best Revenge Novel at the Dead Good Reader Awards.

Born in Cyprus, Jo worked for many years in the City of London before moving to Derbyshire and changing careers.

Following completion of a Creative Writing course with Curtis Brown Creative, Jo has used her experience of family and work life to write stories which challenge readers to think past the respectability of domestic facades.

Her novels are published by Harvill Secker in the UK, Berkley in the US and Random House Canada.

Find out more about Jo and her books on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Blog Tour: Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz; Translated by Rachel Ward #BookReview

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Twenty floors above the shimmering lights of the Hamburg docks, Public Prosecutor Chastity Riley is celebrating a birthday with friends in a hotel bar when twelve heavily armed men pull out guns, and take everyone hostage. Among the hostages is Konrad Hoogsmart, the hotel owner, who is being targeted by a young man whose life – and family – have been destroyed by Hoogsmart’s actions.

With the police looking on from outside – their colleagues’ lives at stake – and Chastity on the inside, increasingly ill from an unexpected case of sepsis, the stage is set for a dramatic confrontation … and a devastating outcome for the team … all live streamed in a terrifying bid for revenge.

I’ve been waiting impatiently for my turn on the blog tour for Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz, the fourth book featuring Chastity Riley, and the day is finally here, hurrah! I ADORE this series and I am so grateful to Anne Cater for giving me one of the coveted places on the tour to talk about how much I love it, and to Karen at Orenda Books for providing me with an advance digital copy for the purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially as always.

Nobody writes like Simone Buchholz. I don’t think there are many people who would dare. Every one of her books is different, every one feels like a slap to the face dealt to rouse you from your reading complacency and tell you to pay attention, every one is as fresh and unapologetically brazen – just like the character of Chastity Riley herself. Hotel Cartagena is no different, equally unmistakably Buchholz and unlike any of the previous books in the series.

We start immediately in the action, as Chastity finds herself at the centre of a hostage situation whilst celebrating Faller’s 65th birthday in a bar on the eighteenth floor of a harbourside hotel. The hostage takers are well-organised and determined, there is no easy way out, but it is hard for a bunch of law enforcement professionals to sit around and watch a crime being played out. I was immediately on the edge of my seat, wondering what they would do and fearful for them all, a situation mirrored by Chastity herself. The tensions between her colleagues that have been building over the previous books, largely due to Chastity’s complicated relationships with each of them, transfer themselves to their current situation, and we can see how these relationships are thrown into sharp relief by the stressful, knife-edge situation in which they find themselves.

One person missing from the room is Stepanovic, late to the party due  to a reluctance to put himself in a position of having to see Chastity in a social setting with two of her ex (or not so ex) lovers. The woman drives him crazy, he is trying to convince himself to forget her. However, as we see Stepanovic’s increasingly desperate concern for Riley manifesting in insubordination, aggression and crazy rescue plans, we can glean directly from his first person reaction to her plight his realisation just what she means to him, exactly as he reaches those conclusions himself.

Layered in amongst the present  unfolding of the hostage situation through Chastity’s eyes, we are also given information on the hostage takers and how this whole mess came about through a series of historical flashbacks. Far from taking away from the tension, understanding why what is happening is happening adds to the angst, because it becomes less and less clear who are the good and bad guys in this scenario. Throwing these shades of grey into the equation, exploring the nature of choice and necessity in the descent into a criminal life, and the motivations behind revenge and retribution stir the pot so that, when the inevitable reckoning comes in the now, the line between who to blame and who to pity becomes blurred.

During the course of events, Chastity is injured and becomes unwell and delirious, unsure what is real and what is illusionary, which adds a disjointed and disconnected quality to her observations of the scene. She finds herself in the unfamiliar position of bystander, weakened and helpless, able to do nothing but watch as her colleagues take drastic action. It shows us a different side to Chastity, and I was fully there, trapped in her body, horrified by what I was watching. This powerlessness added to my dismay and heartbreak at the outcome of the incident, a weight which is laying heavy on my chest even now as I write. To be able to write so affectingly, especially in the sharp, snappy, staccato way this author does, is some impressive skill.

This book won’t be like anything you have read before, even if you have read this author or this series. Her ability to continue to evolve, morph, surprise even her biggest fans is what keeps me coming back to her books with child-like excitement and enthusiasm each time. She is never boring, never repetitive, and very, very brave. Aided by a translator who understands her and is with her every step of the way and a publisher who is not afraid to take risks on the extraordinary, who knows where this author can go? Any reader who loves a dark, gritty, hard-boiled novel and prides themselves on stretching themselves in their reading should be taking this ride too.

Hotel Cartagena is out now in ebook and paperback, and on audiobook on 1 April and you can buy a copy here.

Please do check out some of the reviews by the other great bloggers taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award as well as runner-up in the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.

Connect with Simone:

Website: https://simonebuchholz.com

Twitter: @ohneKlippo

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Book Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward #BookReview

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This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies.

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it’s not what you think…

It is my great privilege to be reviewing an advance copy of this book provided to me for this purpose by Sahina Bibi at Viper Books. My thanks to Sahina for the opportunity, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I’ve been wrestling with writing this post for a few weeks now, because I knew this was going to be a very hard book to review for two reasons. Firstly, it is vital that the reader goes into this book completely in the dark as to plot to experience the full impact of the story, so I have to make sure the review doesn’t contain the slightest sniff of a spoiler, which is not an easy feat here. Secondly, the book is stunning in ways it is hard to convey with my inadequate words. However, a review has been promised so a review I shall deliver to the best of my abilities.

As you can gather from the blurb reproduced above, this is a thriller with a murder at its heart and involving a missing child. That’s about as much of the plot as I can tell you. The story is told through the voices of three narrators. Ted, an awkward, socially-inept man who lives alone on Needless Street. Dee, whose younger sister Lulu went missing years before, and for whom she has been searching ever since. And Ted’s cat, Olivia.

I know. A cat as a narrator. Any book using this device wouldn’t normally be my bag but, trust me, here it works. Truly. Do not let this put you off from picking up the book, it is vital to the plot and you will appreciate the genius of it once you have finished the book, I promise.

That’s it. That’s all I can tell you. You have to go into the book with no more knowledge than this. No more chat about characters, or how the plot is put together, or highs and lows or endings or anything. You need to find these things out for yourself by reading it, so that you can experience the mental impact of the book’s events as they unfold on the page, as the author intended. You need to not know to appreciate it. Instead, let’s talk about the writing.

This book is dark and twisted and disturbing and oppressive and upsetting, and so beautiful and poetic that it makes me want to weep with joy and envy. I was baffled and perplexed and confused and surprised and moved and thrown and distraught and horrified and sorry from one moment to the next. I had no idea what was coming, and could never have understood or appreciated it until right at the end, when I was blown away as everything suddenly fell into place. It was totally shocking and utterly, utterly wonderful. I immediately wanted to go back to the start and read it over again from the new perspective of someone who has finished it and sees it all. This is a book where you can NEVER have the same experience you had on your first reading ever again, so savour that first time. How the author has woven this book together, the depth of exploration of the subject matter, the empathy, the tenderness, the poetry of the writing, the gorgeous metaphors – it is nothing short of astonishing. I have never read anything like this book. I have never come away from a novel with the thoughts and feelings that this novel gave me. I was profoundly surprised by what it achieved and how it made me feel.

I know this review is a bit vague, I’d apologise but there is no other way to do it and leave the reading experience intact for you. Suffice it to say, you should read it. Did I love it? That’s not the right way to express how it made me feel and if you read it you’ll understand why I say this. You may think you know thrillers. You don’t. You may think you have seen it all so nothing can surprise you. You haven’t. This book is something else. Just read it and see, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Last House on Needless Street will be published on 18 March in hardback, audiobook and ebook formats and on 30 September in paperback, and you can pre-order the book here.

About the Author

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CATRIONA WARD was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia. Her next gothic thriller, The Last House on Needless Street, will be published March 2021 by Viper (Serpents Tail).

Ward’s second novel, Little Eve (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018) won the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award and the August Derleth Prize for Best Horror Novel at the 2019 British Fantasy Awards, making her the only woman to have won the prize twice, and was a Guardian best book of 2018. Her debut Rawblood (W&N, 2015) won Best Horror Novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, was shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award and a WHSmith Fresh Talent title. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. She lives in London and Devon.

Connect with Catriona:

Facebook: Catriona Ward

Twitter: @Catrionaward

Instagram: @catward66

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Desert Island Books with… Lynda Stacey

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Oh, it’s freezing and blowing a gale here today, I wish I could be whisked away to a warm, tropical island with nothing to do but read! However, it is not me but author, Lynda Stacey, who is taking a trip to my tropical hideaway today, with her five books and one luxury item for company. Let’s see what she is taking.

Hi Julie, thank you so much for inviting me to your lovely desert island.

Book One – The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor

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Ireland, 1912. Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the lucky few passengers in steerage who survives. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that terrible night ever again.

Chicago, 1982. Adrift after the death of her father, Grace Butler struggles to decide what comes next. When her Great Nana Maggie shares the painful secret she harbored for almost a lifetime about the Titanic, the revelation gives Grace new direction—and leads her and Maggie to unexpected reunions with those they thought lost long ago.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Titanic, about the glitz and glamour. But this book was a little different, it centered around the life of a young girl, one of 14 passengers all from a little village in Ireland. All were travelling in steerage. A journey very different to the passengers in first class.

Book Two – A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

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A world of witches, daemons and vampires.

A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future.

Diana and Matthew – the forbidden love at the heart of it.

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires.

Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist.

Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…

I’ve always loved a great vampire and witch story, who doesn’t. I found this one particularly well written and the love between the hero and heroine quite a battle of wills. Especially as in the beginning, Diana Bishop, the heroine doesn’t realise quite what powers she has.

Book Three – The Island By Victoria Hislop

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On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother’s past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decides to visit Crete, however, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more.

Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone’s throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga – Greece’s former leper colony. Then she finds Fotini, and at last hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion. She discovers how intimately she is connected with the island, and how secrecy holds them all in its powerful grip…

I loved everything about this book, the setting of Spinalonga, a former leper colony brought back so many memories as I’d visited it many years ago and while reading the book I could imagine how it must have been to be shipped over there, left there to ‘literally’ rot. I also love books that are based on truth.

Book Four – Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine

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A story spanning centuries. A long awaited revenge.

In London, journalist Jo Clifford plans to debunk the belief in past-lives in a hard-hitting magazine piece. But her scepticism is shaken when a hypnotist forces her to relive the experiences of Matilda, Lady of Hay, a noblewoman during the reign of King John.

She learns of Matilda’s unhappy marriage, her love for the handsome Richard de Clare, and the brutal death threats handed out by King John, before it becomes clear that Jo’s past and present are inevitably entwined. She realises that eight hundred years on, Matilda’s story of secret passion and unspeakable treachery is about to repeat itself…

This book was gripping. I loved that the author combined past and present day, the way it was seeped with history and the book seamlessly switches from Joanna Clifford to Matilda (who are essentially the same person).

Book Five – SUMO by Paul McGee

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Paul McGee’s international bestselling personal development heavyweight S.U.M.O. has helped hundreds of thousands of people around the world fulfil their potential, seize opportunities, succeed at work, and respond to adverse situations with a positive attitude. Weighing in with humour, insight, practical tips, and personal anecdotes, it’s a thought provoking—and possibly life-changing—read. Now newly updated to celebrate 10 years since its first publication and including up-to-date case studies and examples, as well brand new exercises to test yourself, S.U.M.O: 10th Anniversary Edition will help SUMO fans, as well as SUMO amateurs, get more out of this bestselling, self-help classic.

There are six S.U.M.O. principles that are designed to help you create and enjoy a brilliant life:

  • Change Your T-Shirt— take responsibility for your own life and don’t be a victim.
  • Develop Fruity Thinking— change your thinking and change your results.
  • Hippo Time is OK— understand how setbacks affect you and how to recover from them.
  • Remember the Beachball— increase your understanding and awareness of other people’s world.
  • Learn Latin— change comes through action not intention.
  • Overcome the tendency to put things off.
  • Ditch Doris Day— create your own future rather than leave it to chance. Forget the attitude ‘que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.’

This is a motivational book. SUMO stands for Shut Up, Move On. And has some really great ideas on self-motivation. For example, the author talks about ‘hippo time’ about how everyone is allow to wallow in the mud… but also about how it isn’t healthy or good to wallow there for too long.

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Oh gosh, I’d have to have a blanket. I’m always cold…

About the Author

Me x

Lynda grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, in South Yorkshire,

Her own chaotic life story, along with varied career choices helps Lynda to create stories of romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.

Lynda joined the Romantic Novelist Association in 2014 under the umbrella of the New Writers Scheme and in 2015, her debut novel House of Secrets won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition.

She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her husband, Haydn, whom she’s been happily married to for almost 30 years.

Lynda’s latest book, Keeper of Secrets came out in paperback recently and is currently available on Amazon for just £2! You can buy a copy here, and read my review of this excellent read here.

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For as long as Cassie Hunt can remember her Aunt Aggie has spoken about the forgotten world that exists just below her feet, the tunnels and catacombs of the Sand House.

When excavation work begins on the site, shocking secrets are uncovered and danger is never far away, both above and below the ground.

Connect with Lynda:

Website: http://www.lyndastacey.co.uk

Facebook: Lynda Stacey Author

Twitter: @LyndaStacey

Instagram: @lynda.stacey

 

Cover Reveal: All My Lies by Sophie Flynn

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It’s a red letter day today because I don’t normally take part in cover reveals. However, I am so excited about the upcoming publication of All My Lies, the debut novel by Sophie Flynn, that, when I was asked to take part in the cover reveal today, I could not possibly refuse!

All My Lies is Sophie’s debut novel and has been compared to books by Phoebe Morgan, Louise Jensen and K. L. Slater. Since these are some of my favourite authors, I am breathless with anticipation for this new addition to the genre. Let’s have a look at the blurb, shall we, before we see the cover?

Anna wants to escape.
She doesn’t know when her marriage to James began to feel like a trap or when he became so controlling. All she knows is that she needs to leave before it’s too late.

And she has a plan.
When Anna reconnects with her childhood sweetheart, Sam, she sees it as the answer to her problems. Finally, they’ll have a life together, like they’d always planned – the life she was meant to have.

But the lies are catching up with her . . .
On the morning of their escape, Sam goes missing. Anna knows he wouldn’t leave her, that something must have happened to him.
Her search for answers will force her to confront her past, something that she has been running from for a very long time . . .

See, sounds fabulous, doesn’t it? You’re excited too now, I can tell! So, to get you even more revved up, let’s finally see that cover.

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Ta dah!

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Perfect, isn’t it? I’m sure it will draw people in to picking the book up. If you’ve now been tempted by this book, it is out on 23 April and you can pre-order the book here.

You can read an interview with Sophie and find out more about the book over on The Glasshouse magazine website now. Follow the link from @glasshousegirls on Twitter.

About the Author

Sophie_Flynn_Author

Sophie is a Cotswolds based psychological thriller author with an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes. Her debut novel ALL MY LIES will be published by Simon & Schuster on April 23, 2021. 

Alongside writing, Sophie is the Head of Marketing at Jericho Writers. After being awarded a place at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School on the TopWrite scheme for young writers in 2017, Sophie began writing short fiction. She has since had many stories published and placed in competitions with organisations such as Writing Magazine and The Cheltenham Literature Festival.

When not writing, Sophie can be mostly found on muddy walks with her husband and rescue dog or disappearing to Cornwall whenever possible.

She is represented by Kate Nash of Kate Nash Literary Agency.

Connect with Sophie:

Website: https://sophieflynn.com/

Twitter: @sophielflynn

Instagram: @sophieflynnauthor

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Blog Tour: The Winter Girls by Roger Stelljes #BookReview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Winter Girls - Blog Tour

About the Author

Roger Stelljes

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

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

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

Connect with Roger:

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

Facebook: Roger Stelljes

Twitter: @RogerStelljes

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