Dead of Night by Michael Stanley #BlogTour #BookReview (@detectivekubu) @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #DeadOfNight #RandomThingsTours

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“When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she’ll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, but within a week she’s been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that she doesn’t want, but can’t get rid of…

Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she’s exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it’s too late, both for the rhinos and for her. She has a powerful story to tell, if she survives long enough to tell it…

Fast-paced, relevant and chilling, Dead of Night is a stunning new thriller from Michael Stanley, author of the award-winning Detective Kubu series, introducing an intriguing new protagonist, while exposing one of the most vicious conflicts on the African continent…”

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Dead of Night by Michael Stanley. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me on to the tour and to the publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I’ve not read any of the previous books by Michael Stanley so I came in to this cold as to what to expect from plot and writing style. To say I was not disappointed is an understatement, I was completely swept off my feet by the plot, the pacing and the characterisation.

The book’s setting is divided between four locations, Minnesota (briefly), South Africa, Switzerland and Vietnam with the main bulk of the action taking place in South Africa, which made it an easy sell for me from the beginning because it is a country that fascinates me and I am desperate to visit. I really loved that the viewpoint was Crys, an American journalist of Vietnamese descent, who is also on her first trip to South Africa, so we were getting her first impressions of this amazing country.

However, Crys’ first impressions are different to most visitors as she is not a tourist but has travelled to South Africa to investigate the smuggling of rhino horn, ostensibly for an article she is writing for National Geographic magazine, but also so she can investigate the disappearance of a fellow journalist and friend who has gone missing chasing the same story. As a result, she is immediately drawn into a dark and dangerous world where people are prepared to kill chasing the huge amounts of money at stake and she has no idea who to trust.

The authors (they are a collaborative duo) do a great job of establishing Crystal as an interesting and tenacious character from the beginning as she competes in a gruelling biathlon in the opening pages. This carries her character believably through all the challenges she faces chasing down her story, and they are multitude! This book hurls the reader in to the heart of action the minute Crystal touches down in South Africa and does not let up for a minute until the conclusion some 300 pages later by which point we are left breathless and with adrenaline pumping. I tore through this in an afternoon whilst on holiday, refusing to put it down until forced to go out for dinner, at which point I was complaining that I only had 30 pages left to read and had to get back to see how it ended. Anything that can keep me hooked in preference for food and cocktails has to be good!

The settings in the book are portrayed very vividly, it is easy to picture them, and I was drawn completely into the story, feeling all the doubts, anger, fear, mistrust and other emotions that Crys was going through as she doggedly pushes ahead with her investigation in the face of a great deal of hardship and discouragement. I especially enjoyed the parts set out in the African bush, despite the fact she is not quite having the normal safari experience!

The smuggling aspect is fascinating and terrifying at the same time. It is a really important issue to address and bring to attention. I am not sure how much of what is portrayed is realistic but it has definitely made me want to investigate the facts surrounding the poaching of rhinos for their horn more and see how much of this is based on fact as the trade described in the book is truly horrifying and there does not seem to be an easy solution. It is rare and laudable for a thriller to raise these kind of questions in the plot and focus on them as important to the world, rather than just as a story device, and I think it is extremely well done. The message manages to come across loud and clear without detracting from the plot at all.

I had no idea who was involved in the smuggling and who was not, right up until the very end which is always very satisfying in a thriller and I don’t think I caught my breath properly the whole time I was reading it. It is the best thriller that I have read in a long while and I was sorry when it was finished. I have discovered an exciting, new (to me at least) thriller writer and I can’t wait to read more.

Dead of Night is out now and you can buy a copy here.

This book is taking a huge tour throughout July and August so there are plenty of reviews by fabulous bloggers to choose from. Check out the rest of the dates below:

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About the Author

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Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award. Dead of Night is their first stand-alone thriller.

Connect with Michael Stanley:

Website: http://www.detectivekubu.com

Facebook: Michael Stanley Books

Twitter: @detectivekubu

Goodreads: Michael Stanley

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#BlogTour Just by Jenny Morton Potts #BookReview (@jmortonpotts) @RaRaResources #Giveaway #BookBlog #BookBloggers

Just

I’m delighted to be on the opening day of the blog tour for Just by Jenny Morton Potts today and I want to say a big thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part. Make sure you scroll down to the end of the review to enter a giveaway for one of five copies of the book.

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How far would you go to save a life?

On golden Mediterranean sands, maverick doctor Scott Langbrook falls recklessly in love with his team leader, Fiyori Maziq. If only that was the extent of his falling, but Scott descends into the hellish clutches of someone much more sinister.

‘Just’ is a story of love and loss, of terror and triumph. Set in idyllic Cambridge and on the shores of the Med and Cornwall, our characters fight for their very lives on land and at sea. 

An unforgettable novel which goes to the heart of our catastrophic times, and seeks salvation.”

This is a difficult novel to categorise. It is described as a heart stopping thriller and at its basic core, that is what it is, but I felt it went beyond that. To me it seemed to be written very tongue in cheek which lifted it out of the general thriller genre and into something unique of of its own. Suffice it to say, this is very different to anything else I have read, to the point I can’t actually think of anything to liken it to, which is refreshing.

This is a book that takes a little while to warm up and draw you in and I think that is partly because it jumps around very quickly from location to location and character to character, so it takes a while for the reader to make a connection to the individuals in the story. The timeline is also jerky and disjointed, hopping from date to date in uneven leaps. The plot twists and turns and ends up in unexpected places and you need to do some work on occasion to work out how it got there. It is a book you really need to concentrate on to keep up with what is happening to each character at any given moment. It is not a particularly restful book, not for a lazy brain or a period of desired idleness of thought; it requires an investment of thought, a stretching of the cerebral matter but I think this is warranted and to be encouraged, given the subject matter and it is worth the investment of effort.

The characters are complex and, save for Scott, not necessarily particularly likeable but this does not prevent us being drawn into their stories, because they are realistically flawed and intriguing. I was left at the end still with some ambiguous feelings for a couple of them, but this just fitted in with the whole tone of the book. Nothing about fits into a neat and easy box that you can just close the lid on once you are done. It leaves you with as many questions as it answers and I was thinking about it long after I finished the final page.

The subject matter of the book is topical and very relevant, but does not make for easy reading and the author does not shy away from giving us the full visceral experience of the scenes she is describing. Some of the language is blunt and earthy and readers should prepare themselves for that but it is totally justified, not gratuitous and the author really brings the scenes to life, scenes which we may as people in our comfy, safe havens be aware of but shy away from imagining too vividly. The author isn’t allowing us to do that, she is slapping us in the face with some harsh and unpleasant realities that make for uncomfortable but possibly necessary reading in the current environment.

The main thing I loved about this book was her use of language. The author has a way of describing everyday sights in a succinct but novel way that you may not have thought of before but completely encapsulated what she was trying to say and I could immediately and very clearly picture what she was describing. I went through highlighting some of my favourite phrases: “the panic of real life locked back in their cars at the NCP”, “something of a busty Uriah Heep”, “The kind of person who would take the low offer on The Chase” (don’t you immediately despise that person?), “the frill of the sea”, “the contents scampering up the sides of the glass as his hand shook’, ‘gentle slopes of spices’, I could go on and on. The author is obviously having great fun with language and description and I delighted in her delight of it. My very favourite part involved an inexperienced person handling a baby, it made me laugh out loud with glee at how brilliantly she brought the experience to life.

This book is different, challenging, rewarding and will linger in my mind for a good while. I would recommend it as a very meaningful read.

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

To enter the draw to win one of five copies of this book, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c6949489/?

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

I think this is a book that will illicit very different responses in each reader so if you would like to see what my fellow bloggers made of it, please follow the tour:

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About the Author

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Jenny is a novelist, screenplay writer, and playwright. After a series of ‘proper jobs’, she realized she was living someone else’s life and escaped to Gascony to make gîtes. Knee deep in cement and pregnant, Jenny was happy. Then autism and a distracted spine surgeon wiped out the order. Returned to wonderful England, to write her socks off.

Jenny would like to see the Northern Lights but worries that’s the best bit and should be saved till last. Very happily, and gratefully, settled with the family. She tries not to take herself too seriously.

Connect with Jenny:

Website: http://www.jennymortonpotts.com/

Facebook: Jenny Morton Potts

Twitter: @jmortonpotts

Goodreads: Jenny Morton Potts

 

#BlogTour All The Little Children by Jo Furniss #bookreview (@Jo_Furniss) @AmazonPub @annecater #RandomThingsTours #LakeUnionAuthors #AllTheLittleChildren

Today I am rounding off the blog tour for All The Little Children by Jo Furniss. Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this tour.

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“When a family camping trip takes a dark turn, how far will one mother go to keep her family safe?

Struggling with working-mother guilt, Marlene Greene hopes a camping trip in the forest will provide quality time with her three young children—until they see fires in the distance, columns of smoke distorting the sweeping view. Overnight, all communication with the outside world is lost.

Knowing something terrible has happened, Marlene suspects that the isolation of the remote campsite is all that’s protecting her family. But the arrival of a lost boy reveals they are not alone in the woods, and as the unfolding disaster ravages the land, more youngsters seek refuge under her wing. The lives of her own children aren’t the only ones at stake.

When their sanctuary is threatened, Marlene faces the mother of all dilemmas: Should she save her own kids or try to save them all?”

When I was a teenager, the absolutely brilliant librarian at my secondary school fuelled my insatiable thirst for books by recommending authors I had never considered reading. This wonderful lady introduced me to the works of Stella Gibbons (Cold Comfort Farm is still the title I will cite when asked for my favourite book), Dorothy L Sayers (Gaudy Night is a masterpiece and a book I return to time and again) and John Wyndham.

John Wyndham is the master of the dystopian novel and I have adored his work ever since I first read one of his books. I started with Chocky but The Chrysalids is my favourite. However, he is known to most people by way of his most famous two novels, The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids..

The reason for my seemingly irrelevant ramblings about my youthful reading habits and my abiding love of a long-dead science fiction writer in this blog post is that from early on this book reminded me of The Day of the Triffids and I can’t think of higher praise than a book garnering a favourable comparison to one of my most beloved authors.

The opening scene of the novel sees the protagonist, Marlene, hiding from her children in the branches of a tree, trying to make a phone call in peace and this pretty much tells you all you need to know about Marlene and her mothering techniques. Many of us will recognise this woman, if not in ourselves, then in people we know. She is a modern woman, trying to juggle a demanding job, young and exuberant children and a failing relationship, and feeling like she isn’t doing any of it particularly well. Even on a weekend away in a remote, rural location, she can’t switch off and is frustrated by lack of connection to the outside world and being unable to escape for five minutes from her needy offspring, . Marlene is not an obviously likeable central character. She is brusque and short-tempered with her children and her sister-in-law, who has joined her on the trip. She is bitter and resentful and impatient and self-centred and some readers may find it difficult to bond with her. However, Marlene’s personality and attitude are important tenets in the story arc, both from the perspective of how she deals with the predicament she finds herself in throughout the novel and the journey she goes on in her personal relationships.

We are thrust into the action instantly when it becomes obvious very quickly that something is terribly wrong in the outside world and the small group have only escaped harm because of their isolation. This isolation never feels idyllic from the start because of Marlene’s attitude towards being stranded in a remote place trying to entertain her children but it soon becomes suffocating, as the party gradually realise that this is their only refuge, despite it’s lack of facilities – it becomes a prison without walls or bars. As we find ourselves in the heads of the characters, only knowing the very little they know and gripped by the fear they are feeling, the whole book is imbued with menace and an underlying current of suppressed panic that propels us from page to page in a desperate effort to find out what is happening and how the characters can make themselves safe. Marlene doesn’t know where to turn or who she can trust in a world turned on its head and so we in turn are suspicious and wary of every new character. It is uncomfortably compelling reading and I was hooked from the beginning, almost desperate for the intolerable ride to be over so I could relax.

The central theme of this book for me is Marlene’s development as a mother and in her relationship with her children. She is a fairly hard and strict woman with very little patience to begin with. However, over the course of the novel, as her family are threatened and she realises that she can depend on no one for help but must rely on her own resources and work with her children to save them, she learns things about herself and her children which change them all. All the best novels involve a journey that is both emotional as well as physical and this book does not in any way disappoint in this regard. Marlene may not be the most sympathetic character I have ever met but she was real and interesting and complicated and I found myself with a lot of questions as to whether things would have turned out differently if Marlene had been a different type of person and how I myself would react and fare if I were placed in the same situation.

If you have read any of the reviews of this book on Goodreads, you may have seen some readers complaining about the ending of this book, and it is certainly unconventional and unexpected. Why some people see this as a negative I am unsure, as anything that surprises, that makes you question why the author chose this conclusion, wonder what happens next, can only be a good thing. For me, I love a book that makes me FEEL something, that leaves me questioning, pondering the issues, wanting others to read the book so I can see what they think is nothing but a positive and this book did all that.

This book is not a comfortable read but it is evocative and thought-provoking and tense. It will stay with you beyond the final page and I would highly recommend it. And read some John Wyndham while you’re at it, you won’t be sorry.

All The Little Children is out now and you can buy a copy here. Jo’s new novel, The Trailing Spouse will be published on 14 August and can be pre-ordered here.

If you would like to see what my fellow bloggers on the tour thought of the book, you can find details of the tour below.

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About the Author

Jo Furniss

After spending a decade as a broadcast journalist for the BBC, Jo Furniss gave up the glamour of night shifts to become a freelance writer and serial expatriate. Originally from the UK, she lived in Switzerland and Cameroon, and currently resides with her family in Singapore.

As a journalist, Jo has worked for numerous online outlets and magazines, including Monocle, The Economist, Business Traveller, Expat Living (Singapore) and Swiss News. Jo has also edited books for a Nobel Laureate and the Palace of the Sultan of Brunei. She has a Distinction in MA Professional Writing from Falmouth University. In 2015 she founded http://www.SWAGlit.com—an online literary magazine for writers in Singapore.

All the Little Children is Jo’s debut novel and she is working on a second domestic thriller to be released in 2018.

Connect with Jo:

Website: http://www.jofurniss.com

Facebook: Jo Furniss Author

Twitter: @Jo_Furniss

Instagram: @jofurnissauthor

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#BlogBlitz When The Waters Recede by Graham Smith #bookreview (@GrahamSmith1972) @caffeinenights @RaRaResources #giveaway

When The Waters Recede

I’m delighted to be taking part in this blog blitz for the launch of Graham Smith’s new novel When The Waters Recede. Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part. Make sure you scroll right down to the end of the review for details of how to enter a fantastic giveaway of all 6 books in the Harry Evans series.

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“When a car is pulled from raging floodwaters with a dead man in the front and the decapitated body of an evil woman in the boot, Cumbria’s Major Crimes Team are handed the investigation.

The woman is soon recognised, but the man cannot be identified and this leads the team and their former leader, Harry Evans, into areas none of them want to visit.

Before they know it, they’re dealing with protection scams and looking for answers to questions they didn’t know needed to be asked.”

Let’s just read the opening part of the blurb for this book again. “A car is pulled from raging floodwaters with a dead man in the front and the decapitated body of an evil woman in the boot.” This is the action on page one of Graham Smith’s new Harry Smith novel and the opening hits you like a punch to the face and sets up the pace of the action for the rest of the book.

Enter stage right, DC Lauren Phillips of Cumbria’s Major Crimes Team to take control of the investigation and we are then swiftly introduced to the rest of the squad, including recently retired ex-DI Harry Evans who is struggling with his recent departure from the force and the fact that he is only now acting as a consultant to the team he recently lead. I will admit to not having read any of Smith’s previous books so I am not familiar with the back story of these characters and the obviously intimate and complex relationships that they have developed. This did not impeded my ability to enjoy this book but I think the experience would have been enhanced if I had read them in order and understood more about certain issues, particularly why Evans had left the force. However, this book can be read perfectly well as a standalone.

It is refreshing to see a crime book set outside the normal confines of a big city but lose none of the darkness and grittiness that readers appreciate in a good crime novel. The underbelly of the picturesque setting of Cumbria is just as grubby as anywhere else and Smith does a great job of emphasising this, in a similar way to the way Stephen Booth does with the Peak District. I enjoyed the way he used the topical subject of extreme flooding as a plot device for the story, bringing current affairs into fiction.

The characters are interesting and sympathetic. The two main protagonists, Phillips and Evans, are both struggling with personal issues alongside the investigation which made them deeply human. Evans has recently lost his wife, a fact he is still coming to terms with at the same time as battling unwelcome issues with his frustrated libido and changing feelings for his former colleague. Phillips was the most fascinating character for me. She is portrayed as a strong, modern and attractive woman but she seems to be struggling with her identity and reputation, plus additional complications, that her perceived promiscuous behaviour has brought upon her. Again, this is a relevant and interesting issue to be examined in a novel given the current #MeToo climate and I applaud the author for addressing these topics.

The story weaves together strands of different investigations together very cleverly until they converge in an exciting denouement and I found myself turning the pages quickly and reading ‘just one more chapter’ late into the night, as you do with a great novel in this genre.

Right from the off this book grabs you by the collar and hauls you along on a fast, intense, car-chase of a plot that doesn’t let up. It twists and turns and keeps you tight in its grip until the last page where it drops you panting at the conclusion and excited to embark on the next ride with this author. I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the series. Make sure you enter the giveaway below for your chance to win them too.

When The Waters Recede is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Giveaway

When Waters Recede - 6 Book Giveaway

To celebrate the release of When the Waters Recede, Graham Smith is offering one lucky reader the chance to win all six books in the Harry Evans series.

To enter, simply sign up for his newsletter via the link provided before the 5th of June 2018 and you’ll be entered into not just this competition, but all competitions that he runs. Entrants from the whole world are welcome. http://blogspot.us9.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=8bbfc9a3acb79a408253510a8&id=48d2dc65e5
Follow the blitz and find out what other bloggers think of the book:

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About the Author

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Graham Smith is a time served joiner who has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000, he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland. 

He is an internationally best-selling Kindle author and has four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team, and three novels, featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder. 

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009

Graham is the founder of Crime and Publishment, a weekend of crime-writing classes which includes the chance for attendees to pitch their novels to agents and publishers. Since the first weekend in 2013, eight attendees have gone on to sign publishing contracts.

Connect with Graham:

Website: https://grahamsmithauthor.com

Facebook: Graham Smith Author

Twitter: @GrahamSmith1972

What We Did by Christobel Kent #bookreview @littlebrown #WhatWeDid #NetGalley

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“He stole her childhood. She’ll take his future

What would you do if you accidentally encountered the man who once abused you?

And how would you get away with it?

Bridget’s life is small and safe: she loves her husband, her son and works hard to keep her own business afloat. Then one day her world is changed forever. The music teacher who abused her walks into a shop with the teenager he’s clearly grooming. Bridget is sent spiralling back into her past.

Anthony begins to stalk Bridget, trying to ensure her silence – until suddenly, she snaps.

And now Bridget must find away to deal with the aftermath of her actions…”

Today is publication day for Christobel Kent’s new novel What We Did so I have completed reading it at the perfect time to post my review. Although, this is going to be a tough book to review without giving away any spoilers so I may be briefer than normal. (Was that a small sigh of relief I just heard?)

Let’s just take a moment to admire the cover, which was one of the things that drew my eye to it on NetGalley. I love the grey with the bright spots of orange and green. Would look fabulous on any book shelf, great cover design.

This is a psychological thriller with a tricky subject matter at its heart. Bridget is a survivor of abuse she suffered as a teenager at the hands of her violin teacher. She has built a small, safe life for herself in a provincial university city with a quiet husband and a well-balanced teenage son, running her own clothing shop and working hard to keep her demons at bay. Her husband and her son know nothing about her past and that is the way she would like to keep it so when her abuser casually walks into her store one day in the company of his latest pupil, Bridget believes her whole way of life is at risk.

When I started this book, I had a slightly jaded feeling that I knew how the story would pan out. However, I was completely wrong. Things unfold in a very unexpected way and the story goes off then at a totally different tangent and really drags you with it.

The first quarter of the book was quite slow and I did start to worry that the whole story pacing was going to be too staid to carry me to the end – I have begun to expect more flourishes from a book in this genre – but once the first pivotal act occurs, things pick up and I was totally gripped from that moment on and I ended up staying up late to finish the book. Looking back at the book as a whole, the pacing was perfect for the storyline and the nature of the characters and it was actually a refreshing change from the constant bombardment of action and tension we sometimes get. The gentle start, followed by the sudden shocking change was the perfect reflection of how Bridget’s gentle life is so immediately disrupted when her abuser reappears on the scene.

The characters that need to be sympathetic are sympathetic, the criminal perpetrators are suitably loathsome. Bridget’s sister was my favourite character, and the most complex, I believe, and I also enjoyed the way her innocuous husband’s story arc developed. There was a side storyline involving her shop assistant that I think was meant to throw Bridget’s complicated feelings about her past into relief and give her some enlightenment, but it wasn’t really well-developed enough to end up as anything but a distraction which was a little disappointing.

The main storyline was psychologically twisty enough to keep me guessing about who was involved in what. I suspected people of things they hadn’t ended up doing and didn’t guess the ending so early in the novel that it was an anti-climax when it came. All in all, I enjoyed the book and it is well worth a read. However, it does not have the jaw-dropping twists that have become the norm, this is much more a character-based novel that isn’t relying on any schlock or shock for shock’s sake that some novels in this genre do. You will have to make your own decision about whether this is a positive or negative based on your own preferences for this type of novel.

What We Did is published today and you can purchase a copy here.

Thank you to NetGalley and Little Brown for the copy of this book which I have reviewed fairly and impartially.

About the Author

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Christobel Kent was born in London and educated at Cambridge. She has lived variously in Essex, London and Italy. Her childhood included several years spent on a Thames sailing barge in Maldon, Essex with her father, stepmother, three siblings and four step-siblings. She now lives in both Cambridge and Florence with her husband and five children.

The Music of the Deep by Elizabeth Hall #bookreview @AmazonPub #TheMusicOfTheDeep #NetGalley

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The Music of the Deep


“Fleeing an abusive marriage and tormented by her past, Alexandra Turner finds solace in a small coastal town on Puget Sound and a job with a local marine biologist studying orcas.

After befriending a group of locals, Alex learns that she has moved to a place that has a reputation of being the “most haunted town in Washington.” Such superstitions would be easy to dismiss…if Alex wasn’t already on edge.

Haunted by shreds of memories of her days with her husband, Alex can’t keep from looking over her shoulder. As unexplained sounds and scents accumulate and unnerving forces seem to take hold, Alex is beginning to believe that she’s not escaping her ghosts, after all. In fact, she might finally be inviting them in.”

Today is publication day for this book, so I am happy to be sharing my review of it with you all as it launches to the wider world, and it is definitely worth picking up. I’m not sure why this title caught my eye on NetGalley as it is not by an author I know – serendipity or more supernatural forces at work? Whatever it was, am I glad it did, as I raced through it in 24 hours and enjoyed every minute.

It is a very hard book to categorise – part ghost story, part nature tale, part women’s fiction – an unusual blend that had the potential to be a jarring mashup but the writer has woven the different elements together very skilfully to make a compelling narrative that had me gripped to the last page.

It follows the stories of three different women. We meet the central character, Alex, as she arrives in the tiny town of Copper Cove on a small island in the Puget Sound on a dark day in December. She is ostensibly there to assist a local woman, Maggie, catalogue the years of research she has done into the local population of orcas, but we soon find out that her story is more about what she is running from than where she is running to. To add to Alex’s tension, Maggie is hiding her own secrets, and her neighbour, Emmie Porter (rumoured to be the local witch due to her amazing powers with animals) is somehow involved. To further add to the tension, Alex is staying alone in a large old house on a hill on the outskirts of a town rumoured to be the most haunted town in Washington State…

The author sets up the story in its location very well. The tiny town, distant from land and civilisation, in the dark days of winter, is suitably claustrophobic and menacing enough to compound Alex’s already well-honed sense of dread and the secrets she gradually unveils grow increasingly creepy. During the last fifth of the book, I was sat up in bed, my heart thumping, ripping through the pages to find out what was going to happen – it really is a page turner.

The story gradually unveils the back story of the three women in a series of flashbacks which work very effectively, gradually pulling in to a point where they start to interweave and finally explode as one at the culmination of the book; it is very skilfully done and the characters are thoroughly drawn and believable, even as parts of the plot are asking you to suspend your disbelief beyond the every day.

One of the main reasons I picked up this book in the first place, and where it did not disappoint was to do with the setting. The Pacific Northwest is an area that holds a particular fascination for me and this book has only increased my longing to visit. The setting lends itself perfectly to the storyline, and the author does an amazing job of placing us firmly in the centre of the landscape. You don’t need to flex your imagination too hard to be able to picture the island, the town, the water and the natural phenomena she describes. I have a particular fondness for members of the oceanic dolphin family and this books blends a lot of interesting information about them into the plot seamlessly.

The book isn’t perfect. I would have liked a little more description about the town itself. To a degree the ending felt a little rushed and there was a flurry of ‘coincidences’ and happenings in the denouement which stretched credibility to the very furthest point of acceptability within the confines of what I believe the book was trying to be. However, all in all this was a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I would recommend it without reservation. I doubt anyone who picks it up will regret the time they invest in it.

The Music of the Deep is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for the copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

Born in San Jose, California, Elizabeth Hall has spent most of her life in the mountains of Colorado. She has worked as a teacher and communications consultant, including hosting, writing, and producing the radio show Heart of the West. She has two grown children. She is the bestselling author of Miramont’s Ghost and In the Blue Hour and now resides on an island in the Pacific Northwest, where she indulges in the fiber arts and keeps an eye out for whales.

The Boardwalk Trust by Avery Duff #bookreview (@AveryDuffAuthor) @AmazonPub #TheBoardWalkTrust #NetGalley

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“With the flawless sky above and the boardwalk below, Robert Worth has set up shop on Venice Beach with an eye on Delfina Famosa, his unexpected first client. A whip-smart homeless kid, Delfina reaches out to Robert to keep her father, Teo, out of trouble. The pair claim to be beneficiaries of the seven-figure Famosa trust, and Delfina wants him to have their backs in court. But in a city of illusions, nothing is what it first appears to be.

Robert should be taking his own advice—always keep his professional distance. Yet every sharp turn and revealed secret draws him closer to his clients. And the closer he gets, the greater the danger.

All he wants now is for everyone to get what they deserve. For some, he hopes it’s not too late. For others—they won’t even see him coming.”

This novel is the second in the author’s Beach Lawyer series. Regular readers of my blog will recall that I was quite critical of the first novel in the series, Beach Lawyer which was also the author’s debut. I am really pleased to say that I enjoyed this latest book much more. The majority of the issues I had with the first book do not recur in this one, and you can see how much the authors has developed in his writing.

The second novel still focuses on Robert Worth, who has left his slick law firm and set up practice on a table on the Venice Beach boardwalk, helping the needy of the neighbourhood. Not the most lucrative of business, but after his big success at the end of the previous novel, he is currently solvent and able to take on the seemingly simple case of a query into a family trust for a troubled dad and his daughter currently living in their van. Obviously, things turn out to be more complicated than they first seem, and this is the meat of the story.

There were a few things for me which made this a better story this time around. Firstly, there was none of the minutiae of legal practice discussed in this book, which dragged the first book to a crawl in the early chapters. Duff has managed to fold the legal explanation necessary for the plot much more smoothly and succinctly into the narrative this time around, so it doesn’t interrupt the momentum and flow of the story.

Secondly, the plot itself is a lot more straightforward, easier to follow and far less convoluted than the last time. I wasn’t lost in the twists of turns of who was who and was was what and having to go back and try and catch up on the constant switching as in the last book, which again broke up the momentum and stopped me getting engrossed in the last book.

The third, and most major improvement, was in the warmth of the characters in this book. Last time, none of the characters had my sympathy and I just really did not care what happened. This is a major failing in any novel. This time, both the main characters of Robert and Gina were much more likeable and just, human, in a way they weren’t before and I was far more invested in their success this time around. In addition, his new clients, Delfina and Teo Famaosa were appealing from the start and I was immediately rooting for them in a way that was impossible with the characters from the last instalment, who were mostly unpleasant. I really wanted things to turn out well for all the main players here, and their plight kept me turning the pages until the end.

There is plenty of action and devilment to liven up the plot throughout and keep you on the edge of your seat, much more so than in the first book where it was all shoe-horned in at the end, a vast improvement.

This novel still has its issues. The first chapter could have done with some serious editing. It contained too many cliches and practically the whole list of ‘Things You Should Never Do When Writing’. I feared that I was going to be disappointed again, but once I pushed on through the opening pages, it improved quickly and hugely, so this was obviously an anomaly. The other main problem comes at the end, where I fear the main plot twist comes too late, and then there is a mad rush to get everything explained before he runs out of chapters. It is a pacing problem that still needs looking at. However, these problems did not hugely detract from my enjoyment of the book and I would recommend it to friends who enjoy legal thrillers. Plus, I will definitely read the next in the series, and there cannot be a better endorsement than that.

The Boardwalk Trust is out on 17 April 2018 and you can pre-order a copy here.

Thank you to Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley for the copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

Avery Duff was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he attended Baylor School and graduated summa cum laude. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he earned a JD from Georgetown University Law Center and joined a prestigious Tennessee law firm, where he became a partner in five years. Duff’s screenwriting credits include the 2010 heist drama Takers, starring Matt Dillon, Idris Elba, Paul Walker, T.I., Jay Hernandez, Zoe Saldana, Michael Ealy, and Hayden Christensen. Avery Duff lives at the beach in Los Angeles and spends his time writing fiction. His first novel, Beach Lawyer, was an Amazon Charts Most Read and Most Sold book.