The Liars by Naomi Joy #BookReview #BlogTour (@naomijoyauthor) @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #NetGalley #TheLiars

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Two women. One deadly secret. A rivalry that could destroy them.

Ava Wells is perfect. She has the boyfriend, the career, the looks. One night changes everything and her life isn’t so seamless anymore.

Jade Fernleigh is ambitious. She’s worked hard to get where she is. And she’s not about to let Ava take the job she rightly deserves.

Both women share a secret that could destroy them, but who will crumble first?

I am delighted today to be taking part in the blog tour for The Liars by Naomi Joy. My thanks to Victoria Joss at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part and for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Firstly, I owe an apology to Naomi and to Victoria as I have just realised that this review should have been posted yesterday. Sorry, I am on holiday with the family this week and have completely lost track of the day and the date, I have no other excuse.

On the plus side, if you are looking for a gripping book to accompany you on your own holiday this Easter, or to get you through the long holiday weekend, this might just be the book for you. It kept me glued to the pages at the beginning of the week, as far as the kids’ demands for trips to the beach and for ice cream would allow, desperate as I was to know how it would all pan out.

This is a book that reminds you not to fall into the trap of taking people at face value. Things are not always what they seem and appearances can be deceptive. There was one character in this book to whom I took an instant dislike, as no doubt the author intended, but by the end everything I believed about all the characters had been turned on its head and I was truly astounded by the conclusion, although it did require quite a suspension of disbelief to buy in to it. Not necessarily a negative in a book of this sort where you don’t expect absolute realism in the plot. In fact, I’d hate to meet some of these characters in real life!

Despite the fact that many of the characters in this book were not particularly likeable and some of them were downright despicable, the author did a good job of making them believable and giving them realistic motives for their actions. She managed to take me with them and make me invested in their stories, despite the fact they were largely unpleasant, which is quite a skill and the writing was very clever in this regard.

There were quite a few twists in the plot that I didn’t see coming and they were slotted in cleverly at intervals that took the story off in a different direction than the way I had thought it was going and kept me turning the pages. Despite the fact that the confines of the story are quite narrow and ordinary, the author managed to imbue it with a real sense of intrigue and tension and maintained the momentum to the end. I think this is an accomplished bit of writing for a debut and it has made me interested to see what she will do with her next book.

This book did have its faults, mainly that I felt events escalated rather quickly at the end to the point where I really did have to stretch my credulity to its limits to believe it but, I was willing to do this because I had enjoyed the story to this point. Beyond that, this was an engaging, twisty thriller with some interesting ideas and if you are looking for an undemanding but gripping read, pick this up.

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

To follow the rest of the tour for this book, please check out the blogs detailed on the posters below:

About the Author

Naomi Joy

Naomi Joy is a pen name of a young PR professional who was formerly an account director at prestigious Storm Communications. Writing from experience, she draws the reader in the darker side of the uptown and glamorous, presenting realism that is life or death, unreliable and thrilling to page-turn.

Connect with Naomi:

Twitter: @naomijoyauthor

Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech #BookReview #BlogTour (@LouiseWriter) @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #CallMeStarGirl

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Stirring up secrets can be deadly … especially if they’re yours…

Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.

Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.

Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …

What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.

Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…

With echoes of the Play Misty for Me, Call Me Star Girl is a taut, emotive and all-consuming psychological thriller that plays on our deepest fears, providing a stark reminder that stirring up dark secrets from the past can be deadly…

I am so thrilled to be taking my turn today on the blog tour for Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I am struggling to gather adequate words to express my thoughts about this book, mainly because it has raised such a tumult of thoughts and emotions in me that it is almost impossible to sort them into a coherent thread. I haven’t read anything quite like it.

This has been billed as Louise Beech’s first psychological thriller, and it is, but that description doesn’t really do justice to the complexity of ideas and themes running through the novel. The psychological thriller genre has become saturated over the past few years and some of us have become a little jaded with it, given the uneven quality of writing that has appeared. However, this is a book that rises to the top of the heap, as the cream always does, going beyond the mere shock twist trope that has become the almost tired signature of the genre, to offer such a labyrinth of concepts and issues that I am still mentally mining them for my ultimate conclusions, which may take a while. I think it may even need a second, third or fourth reading to fully wring the nuances from it. However, the review is due today, so I’ll do the best I can with my initial thoughts!

The book follows Stella, a woman working as a presenter on a late night radio show, who has become consumed by the mystery of the recent murder of a local woman not far from where she works. Stella carries her own set of hang ups, resulting from her abandonment by her mother years before, a mother who has recently returned and stirred up a hornet’s nest of emotions that need to be addressed. In addition, she has an intense relationship to contend with, and a mystery caller who is suggesting he knows the killer – but why is he calling Stella?

The book is written from dual viewpoints, those of Stella and her mother, Elizabeth, and it jumps through different timelines, present and in to the past when Elizabeth left Stella as a child. This works really well, as the past gradually informs the present, and we are shown the motives of both parties in their current and former behaviour, all of which begins slowly to shed light on the current mystery.

The book is intricately plotted and had me making wild guesses as to who was responsible for what, which changed rapidly from chapter to chapter as more information was revealed, the layers of action and motive gradually peeling back like the slowly opening petals of a rose, to reveal the perfectly formed pistil at the centre which holds the essence of the flower. By the end, I had tied myself in knots trying to guess what was at the heart of the story, but I hadn’t got close to the truth of it, when it was finally revealed.

The basic mystery of the plot is not the essence of the story, though, it is simply the skeleton on which Louise hangs the complicated musculature of the book, which is the relationship between Stella, her mother, her anonymous father and her partner, Tom. The dynamics of these relationships, and how the actions of one impact the feelings and behaviour of the others, is the meat of the book, and it is a rich and fascinating topic that Louise exploits fully to make the reader think. There are so many questions raised – nature versus nurture; the nature of the parent/child bond; at what point does an obsessive love become unhealthy; does there come point at which the actions of a person you love become unforgivable, and so many more. I am sure, if I go back to the book again, I will find more and more questions to ponder. This is not a book to be read once and discarded as having given all it can, this is a book that demands thought and attention and detailed consideration of its issues. It is a book that may well leave you with more questions than answers.

Louise’s writing is tight and emotive. The world she creates in this book is the dark, lonely hour of the night when people are pondering the murkiest parts of their souls and coming to unhappy conclusions. The deserted radio station in the quiet hours is intensely claustrophobic, and provides the perfect backdrop for the bleak questions raised by the plot. I found the book deeply unsettling and strained, nerves jangling in anticipation of the alarming facts of the murder about to be revealed. I found it almost impossible to drag myself away from the page and break the tension. The book sucked me into its vortex and held me in a pincer grip, desperate to get to the truth. Not a word is wasted, the twanging tension almost unbearable in its relentlessness as Louise pulls the reader through the story without a moment’s respite. It is a startling accomplishment and left me breathless and disorientated at the end.

This book is something quite special, an achievement that would, in a live arena, be worthy of a standing ovation. My most rewarding read of the year so far.

Call Me Star Girl is out now in ebook and will be published in paperback on 18 April and you can get a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour for the book, make sure you check out the blogs listed below:

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About the Author

Louise Beech Author Photo

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

Connect with Louise:

Website: https://louisebeech.co.uk

Facebook: Louise Beech

Twitter: @LouiseWriter

Instagram: @louisebeech13

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Island in the Sun by Janice Horton #BookReview #BlogTour (@JaniceHorton) @RaRaResources #RachelsRandomResources #IslandInTheSun

Island In The Sun

Delighted to be on the blog tour today for Island in the Sun by Janice Horton, which is a gorgeous, summery-looking book. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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When successful jewellery designer Isla Ashton unexpectedly inherits her eccentric Aunt Kate’s Caribbean island, she is obligated to return to the place she associates with heartache and regret. To where she grew up and fell in love with her childhood friend, Leo Fernandez. Fully intent on selling the island and finally putting the past behind her, Isla is soon compelled to put together the pieces of what really happened on a fateful night ten-years before. She begins to believe that in going to prison, Leo hadn’t only been shielding her from the same fate. She also starts to suspect that her late Aunt hadn’t been entirely honest in sending her away under the guise of recriminations. Who had they both been protecting and why?

My first book by the backpacking housewife, Janice Horton, but I will definitely be tracking down more of her writing, as this book was right up my street for a fantastic escapist read. Exotic locales, mystery, scandal, a whiff of piracy and romance – what more could one ask from one little book?

This book follows Isla back to the idyllic island paradise where she was brought up by her stern aunt Kate after Kate’s death, determined to get the job of settling her aunt’s estate done as quickly as possible so she can leave the place that brings back bad memories and, most of all avoid a meeting with the man who lied to her and broke her heart years before. Of course, nothing is ever that straight forward and Isla is drawn back into the past and finds out all may not have been as she assumed.

I thought this book had a great balance of intrigue and romance. I was very drawn in to the story of Isla and her troubled history and I loved finding out more about the history of Kate and why she had ended up on Pearl Island and why she behaved the way she did towards Isla and Leo. I thought the plot was constructed really well and the devices used to reveal the past were really well done. The plot flowed quite easily for me and I was eager to follow it through to the end.

The characters were well drawn and compelling and I was fully invested in their story arcs. I liked hearing the different voices telling their stories, which allowed us to get to know the different characters and see things from their perspective. The stories are far-fetched, but that doesn’t detract from the fun if you suspend your disbelief .

A great, glamorous setting for an exciting tale full of romance and drama. If you are looking for a light book to take you to far flung shores and life you can only imagine, this is the book for you.

Island in the Sun is out now and you can buy a copy here.

To find out what my fellow bloggers on the tour thought of the book, make sure you visit their blogs as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Janice Horton, also affectionately known as the backpacking housewife, writes contemporary romantic fiction with a dash of humour and a sense of adventure. Once her three children had grown up, Janice and her backpacking husband sold their empty nest in Scotland UK along with almost everything they owned and set off to travel the world. Since then they have been traveling full-time and have explored over 50 countries, living out of an apartment, a hut, or wherever they happen to find themselves.

Janice works as a writer wherever she is in the world. When not writing bestselling romantic adventure novels, she writes lifestyle and travel features for her website and her work has featured in national and international magazines like ‘Prima’ in the UK and ‘Friday’ in Dubai. She has also been involved in BBC Scotland’s Write Here Write Now project and has been interviewed on many podcasts and radio shows including Loose Women’s Kaye Adams’ prime time BBC Radio Scotland Show.

Connect with Janice:

Website: https://thebackpackinghousewife.com

Facebook: Jance Horton Author

Twitter: @JaniceHorton

Instagram: @janicehortonwriter

The Haunting of Alice May by Tony Lee Moral #CoverReveal #PromoPost #PublicationDay (@TonyLeeMoral) #alfredhitchcock

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Alice May Parker moves with her family to the sleepy town of Pacific Grove after her Mom dies, but little does she know the strange and terrifying events to come.

When she falls into the bay during a kayaking trip, she is rescued from drowning by the mysterious Henry Raphael. Handsome, old fashioned and cordial, he is unlike any other boy she has known before. Intelligent and romantic, he sees straight into her soul.

Soon Alice and Henry are swept up in a passionate and decidedly unorthodox romance until she finds out that Henry is not all what he seems. . .

I don’t very often do cover reveals for books but I wanted to share this one with you as I am very excited about reading it but, I’m going to have to wait a while due to pressures of other reading commitments. Boo! Doesn’t the cover do a brilliant job of drawing you in and making you want to find out what is going on on that sinister-looking island?

If, unlike me, you have some spare time on your hands and want to read this book before I can get to it, it is available in paperback and out for Kindle today. You can get both formats here.

Watch out for my review of the book coming in the next few weeks. If you manage to read it in the interim, don’t spoil it for me!

About the Author

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Tony Lee Moral is an author specialising in mystery and suspense. He has written three books on the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock: Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass (2013) published by MWP books; The Making of Hitchcock’s The Birds (2013) published by Kamera Books and Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie (2005) published by Scarecrow Press. Tony was born in Hastings, England in 1971, before moving to California. He lived in Monterey and Big Sur for two years which forms the inspiration for his latest thriller The Haunting of Alice May, which is published in March 2019 in Paperback and Kindle.

Hitchcock was a master storyteller, using plot, character, location and props to tell engaging stories of mystery, suspense, crime and retribution. Tony uses these principles to write his novels, including The Haunting of Alice May which has just been released in paperback and Kindle. Three more novels are along the way

Connect with Tony:

Website: http://www.tonyleemoral.com

Facebook: Tony Lee Moral Fans

Twitter: @TonyLeeMoral

Instagram: @tonyleemoral

Desert Island Books: The Edge by Dick Francis @felix_francis #BookReview #racingcrime #thriller #crime #bookbloggers #bookblog #desertislandbooks #readinggoals

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Tor Kelsey, an undercover agent for the Jockey Club’s security service is involved in the attempt to rid racing of one of its most notorious villains, Julius Apollo Filmer. The court however, does not go along with their beliefs, but Tor knows that to let Julius even suspect the service are still on his tail would mean certain death for a number of witnesses.

Meanwhile, several racehorse owners have planned a luxurious train trip across Canada, with race meetings fixed for every major city. Julius Apollo Filmer and Tor are on the passenger list. The beautiful journey through the Rockies gets uglier by the minute and Tor finds himself pushed to dangerous limits to defeat Filmer’s wily scheming.

I can’t remember exactly when I read my very first Dick Francis novel, but I know it was some time early in my horse-mad, teenage years. I know that it was lent to me by my friend, Mary, and that the first one I read was one of his books featuring racing detective, Sid Halley. I also know I was hooked from that very first book and quickly raced through his back catalogue. I then waited eagerly each September for his latest book to come out and bought every new one in hardback. He wrote 44 thrillers before his death in 2010, the later ones with his son, Felix, as co-author. Since his death, Felix has continued to write racing thrillers under the Francis name, and I have continued to buy them.

I have huge nostalgic affection for these books, as Dick Francis was one of the first authors I discovered for myself, without the books being parentally approved, and he was an author that was just my own. No one else in my family was particularly a fan, I didn’t have to share the books with my sisters (who never took care of my books properly- remember the Freya North book you left in Australia, Catherine? Remember the book you dropped in the bath, Rebecca?), these were just mine.

Do you want to see my Dick Francis shelf? Of course you do, here it is:-

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Anyway, of all of these excellent books, The Edge is my standout favourite. I must have read it at least a dozen times over the years. In fact I could probably recite it off by heart by now, but I never get bored of it and it was a no brainer as one of my Desert Island Books.

The blurb of this book singularly fails to do the plot justice, so I will try and explain to you what exactly is so marvellous about it, even to people who are not remotely interested in horses or racing.

Although Dick Francis is dubbed the king of the racing thriller, his books are about so much more than horse racing. His plots have involved stories centring around reporters, photography, gold mines, movie-making, wine experts, air taxis, art fraud, diamond dealers, authors, medical experiments, hurricane-chasing and toy making, amongst many other subjects, all of them meticulously researched. To say that he writes racing thrillers does not do his imagination justice, and The Edge is one of the best examples of this diversity in his writing.

The book follows Jockey Club investigator, Tor Kelsey, a man who works undercover investigating racing crimes. When the Jockey Club believes the biggest villain in racing might be plotting a major sting, Tor is sent on the trip of a lifetime across Canada to try and discover and foil his plans.

So far, so ordinary. However, there are things about the book that make it a cut above the average thriller. Firstly, it has the topsy-turvy plot device of the reader knowing who the villain is from the off, but both the investigator, and the reader, not knowing what crime he is planning and having to find this out together. Secondly, the action is set mostly on a glamorous train travelling coast-to-coast across Canada with the elite of the racing world, plus their horses, aboard. There is also a murder mystery being acted out on board for the entertainment of the passengers, so there is fun in trying to work out which parts are the real mystery and which are part of the entertainment. There is also a love interest sub-plot for added spice. A huge cast of great characters, descriptions of a great train journey visiting some of the amazing sights of Canada, and a gripping mystery plot which delivers continual twists and turns and highs and lows – what’s not to love?

This book has a special place in my heart. It has also inspired one of my top Bucket List destinations which I will be blogging about later in the week (picture below might give you a clue!). Having read it again, I am also struck by how well the book has stood the test of time, despite it being 30 years old and not featuring cell phones, the internet or other modern equipment. There are not many crime books that I can read over and over and still enjoy, despite knowing whodunnit, but all of Dick Francis’s books fall into this category and this is the best of the crop IMHO. Definitely a keeper.

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The Edge might be difficult to get your mitts on new now, but try your local library or you should be able to track down a copy in some format here. Sorry, there is no way I am lending out my copy, no matter how much you beg!

About the Author

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Richard Stanley Francis (31 October 1920 – 14 February 2010) was a British crime writer, and former steeplechase jockey, whose novels centre on horse racing.

After wartime service in the RAF, Francis became a full-time jump-jockey, winning over 350 races and becoming champion jockey of the British National Hunt. He came to further prominence in 1956 as jockey to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother riding her horse Devon Loch, which fell when close to winning the Grand National. Francis retired from the turf and became a journalist and novelist.

Dick Francis was widely acclaimed as one of the world’s finest thriller writers. His awards include the Crime Writers’ Association’s Cartier Diamond Dagger for his outstanding contribution to the crime genre, and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Tufts University of Boston. In 1996, Dick Francis was made a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master for a lifetime’s achievement and in 2000 he received a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Friday Night Drinks with….Graeme Cumming @GraemeCumming63 @MatadorBooks @Williams13Anne #FridayNightDrinks

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Tonight I am delighted to welcome to the blog for Friday Night Drinks, author and all-round lovely chap, Graeme Cumming. Something tells me this is going to be an interesting evening!

Graeme Cumming - Author

Good evening, Graeme, thanks for joining me for drinks this evening. So tell me, what are we drinking?

If you’re going to ask me difficult questions like that, I’ll need to keep a clear head, so I’m contemplating a sparkling water. As you’ll see, I like living life on the edge…

Seriously, for a quiet night with easy conversation, I’ll go for a Scotch – and don’t go putting anything in it!.   

I’m not quite sure what you are implying, but I can assure you my intentions, and the Scotch, are pure. 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?

I’m not much of a pub-goer unless it’s for a meal or to go and watch a live band. It’s tempting to suggest any pub with a band playing classic rock, but we wouldn’t get much chance for a chat. For that, although it may be a little out of our way, I’d suggest heading down to Waterstones in Piccadilly and stopping off at the 5th View Bar. A great, relaxing place to have a drink and unwind – as long as you can drag yourself past the books!

How did I not know this place existed, it sounds exactly like my kind of bar, although I’m not sure I could drag myself past the books, I have notoriously low will power in this area. 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?

I’m going to plump for Roger Moore. He’ll never be classed as a great actor, but I’ve yet to watch something he was in and not be entertained, and his heyday in TV and film does tend to coincide with my formative years. Plus, he’d have stories to tell, and I’d love to hear all that behind the scenes stuff. I never met him, but always got the impression he’d be good for a laugh and wouldn’t take things too seriously – and I’m sure he’d appreciate you using this picture of him above all others.

And, on the subject of not taking things too seriously, I reckon Dawn French would be great company. Again, I’m sure she’d have stories to tell, and she may have a serious side to her, but I suspect we’d have a good laugh. 

I love Dawn French so much. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

After a bit of a break from it, I’m currently working on (yet) another draft of a novel called Carrion. It’s one I originally started nearly fifteen years ago after writing nothing for several years. I started it because I realized it had been a long time since I’d last written anything, and I chose this particular story because I’d told a version of it to my kids at bedtimes. I say a version because it’s evolved into something you wouldn’t dare tell your children. The first draft took around six years to complete. Since then, I’ve rewritten it a few times, but never been quite happy with the result. The essential story hasn’t changed, but there are different ways to tell the same story. I think I may have cracked it this time, but I’ll let you know.If I have, it should be released by the end of the year.

Given how creepy your last book was, I can imagine that it isn’t really going to be a children’s bedtime story but I will look forward to reading it. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

For a lot of writers, the proudest moment comes when they see their book in print. Funnily enough, it didn’t really excite me. The eBook had been out for a while, and the release of a paperback was just another part of the process. I’ve never been particularly attached to books as objects – or any other objects for that matter. Forgive me for thinking aloud on this, but it has helped to get the cogs turning. I think it was the point when I realised my market was bigger than I expected, and that came about when Anne Williams at Being Anne reviewed it.

My biggest challenge is a recurring one. Whenever I start a new story, I struggle to motivate myself, and I procrastinate and look for distractions – isn’t the Internet great for that? Once I’m up and running with it, though, I tend to feel less inclined to be distracted.

I am a terrible procrastinator when it comes to my writing. I’m actually doing it right now by typing up this blog post! 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.

Like a lot of people, I’d love books of mine to be turned into movies or TV series, though it says something about the state of literature that to be considered a success it needs converting to a different form. At a more down-to-earth level, I’ll be very happy if I can earn enough from my writing to live on – and I don’t need much.

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

Carrion. Even when I’ve got frustrated with it because I can’t find the right way to tell the story, I’ve always been convinced it’s a story that needs to be told. And I’m excited because I feel I’m on the right track with it now. 

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?

I used to have great ambitions to go to lots of places but, as I’m getting older, I find I’m not so bothered, even though I’ve not managed to get to lots of the places I should have done. I’m more interested in the things I can do when I get there, particularly if there’s an opportunity to sail. My preference is to sail dinghies, but my favourite holiday was taking a sailing course in the Canaries, where we lived on the boat for a week. 

The top of my bucket list would be to go sailing again, though there are a range of places I can go for that, and it all looks the same once you’ve slipped your moorings and headed out to sea. 

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Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I have two children. Apparently that came as a surprise to someone recently. Not sure what that says about me…

That might be the funniest answer to this question I’ve had so far and I’m now wondering what they know about you that we don’t! 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’?

Shibumi by Trevanian. I don’t tend to read books more than once, but there are a handful I go back to occasionally. This is one of them. It’s probably a bit dated now – it was written in the 1970s – but it’s brilliant in my view. It tells the story of an assassin – his life and a specific situation he finds himself in when he’s dragged out of retirement. Some aspects of it are tongue-in-cheek, but it still stands up as a terrific thriller. If you like the idea of kicking dints in Volvos, you’ll love it! 

Shibumi Book Cover

Half German, half Russian, Hel was raised by a Japanese general and survived Hiroshima to become a mystic, a master of the senses, and the most deadly assassin in the world.

Nicholai has left his past behind him to live a life of isolation in a remote mountain fortress, determined to attain a state of effortless perfection known as shibumi. Then Hannah Stern arrives at his door.

Hannah needs protection from a sinister organization known as the Mother Company. But, as Hel knows all too well, they are not easy to escape. And now they’re coming after him too. The battle lines are drawn: ruthless power and corruption on one side, and on the other…shibumi.

Since I drive a Volvo, I’d rather we didn’t encourage that type of behaviour but this sounds like a different book to my usual fare so I’ll add it to the pile. 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?

For me, the best way to avoid a hangover is to not drink all evening. But if I’m going to drink, I tend to pace it and have the occasional glass of water to break things up a bit.

And if I do get a hangover, there isn’t really a cure that works. I just spend all the next day moaning about how bad I feel.

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

Assuming I haven’t got a hangover, then my preference is for an active weekend. I often sail at weekends between March and October, and getting out on the water and feeling the wind is a great way to remind yourself you’re alive. If time permits, going for a good walk or bike ride helps to blow the cobwebs away, though I’m quite happy to have some quiet time reading, and maybe a catch a movie at the cinema. (Though I might be being a little ambitious trying to do all of those things!)

Busy weekend, I hope it stays dry! Graeme, this has been a blast, thank you so much for joining me and best of luck with the writing.

Graeme’s novel, Raven’s Gathering is out now and you can get a copy here. If you would like to read my review of this excellent book, you can find it here.

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As she let her gaze drift around her, she saw that there were more birds. Perhaps a dozen or so, perched among the trees that stood on the edge of the clearing. And yet more were arriving, swooping down through the gap overhead and landing on branches that overlooked them. The birds weren’t threatening, yet the sight of them all coming together in this dark and isolated spot was unnerving. Tanya reached a hand out towards Martin, and was relieved to feel him take it. She felt him move in behind her. After the uncertainty she’d experienced with him in a similar position only a few moments ago, she recognised the irony of her reaction. His closeness offered security.
“You know what they are, don’t you?”

A stranger’s arrival in a small village coincides with a tragic accident. For the Gates family, in particular, it’s more than a coincidence, but unease increases following a brutal attack. As tensions rise, a dark past returns to haunt them and others, while newcomers to the village are drawn into a mystery with terrifying consequences.

And only a select few know why the ravens are gathering.

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

He first realised he genuinely had some talent when he submitted a story to his English teacher, Christine Tubb, who raved about it.  The same story was published in the school magazine and spawned a series that was met with enthusiasm by readers.  Christine was subsequently overheard saying that if Graeme wasn’t a published author by the time he was 25, she’d eat her hat.  Sadly, she probably spent the next 25 years buying her groceries exclusively from milliners.  (Even more sadly, having left school with no clear direction in life, Graeme made no effort to keep in touch with any teachers, so has lost track of this source of great support and encouragement.)

Having allowed himself to be distracted (in no particular order) by girls, alcohol and rock concerts, Graeme spent little of his late teens and twenties writing.  A year-long burst of activity produced a first draft of a futuristic thriller, Beyond Salvage, which has since lain dormant, waiting for a significant edit.

With the onset of family life, opportunities to write became more limited (though it could be argued that he got his priorities wrong), until he reached his early forties, when he realised he hadn’t written anything for several years.  Deciding to become more focused, since then he has written regularly.

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

This diverse interest in fiction continued with reading books and his discovery of the magical world of cinema.  As a result, his stories don’t always fall into a specific genre, but are always written as thrillers.

Graeme’s first novel, Ravens Gathering, was published in 2012, and has been warmly received.

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

If you would like to find out more about Graeme and his books, connect with him on social media:

Facebook: Graeme Cumming
Next week, I will be joined for drinks by author Stephanie Bretherton so I hope you will pop back then.

Tempted by….Novel Deelights: The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware @noveldeelights @RuthWareWriter @HarvillSecker #TheDeathOfMrsWestaway #bookbloggers #amreading #readingrecommendations

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When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast.

There’s just one problem – Hal’s real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a stranger’s funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her.

Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. But once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life…

Another Monday means it is time for one of my favourite features on the blog, Tempted by…, where I get to celebrate great books and great book bloggers at the same time. Genius, n’est-ce pas?

Today I have a book that had a lot of positive attention at the time of publication, The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware and one of my favourite reviews was published on one of my favourite blogs, Novel Delights, which is run by the fabulous Eva. It was one of Eva’s #20BooksOfSummer in 2018, which might be reason enough to add it to my TBR as we tend to have very similar opinions on the books we have both read. However, if this wasn’t the case, reading the review would definitely have made me want to pick it up. Eva is very enthusiastic from the get go about this book, and then she goes on to describe what she loves about it, including the unreliable narrator, the slow-building tension, the gripping mystery and the gothic atmosphere. It enticed me enough to pick up this copy soon afterwards on holiday in Dublin, so Eva’s sales pitch must be persuasive as books in Ireland are expensive! On the plus side….I got it in trade paperback, yay!

I haven’t met Eva personally but I have a picture of her in my mind as friendly, sweet and pretty, because this is how her blog comes across. She is a huge supporter and cheerleader for other bloggers, honest, fair and descriptive in her reviews and has a lovely Bookstagram feed to boot. If it sounds like I have a bit of a blogger crush on her, that’s because I do! Pop over to her blog and see if you agree, I’m sure you will.

If you would like to get your own copy of this fabulous-sounding book, you can buy it here. Currently out in hardback and as an ebook and in paperback from 4 April.