All The Hidden Truths by Claire Askew #BookReview (@OneNightStanzas) @HodderBooks @NetGalley #AllTheHiddenTruths #NetGalley

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“This is a fact: Ryan Summers walked into Three Rivers College and killed thirteen women, then himself.

But no one can say why.

The question is one that cries out to be answered – by Ryan’s mother, Moira; by Ishbel, the mother of Abigail, the first victim; and by DI Helen Birch, put in charge of the case on her first day at her new job. But as the tabloids and the media swarm, as the families’ secrets come out, as the world searches for someone to blame… the truth seems to vanish.”

I’m stunned that this is a debut. I’m not at all surprised that it has been nominated for, and won, prizes. I loved everything about this book, the writing, the characters – it is so accomplished that the author has shot straight on to my list of writers that I will be eagerly awaiting more from.

The subject matter of this book is topical but not easy to tackle and the author was very brave to do it, especially as a debut, but she does it with such compassion and consideration and with such a careful balance that she has pulled it off perfectly. The main reason why it works is that it is told from the perspective of three people on every side of the tragedy – the mother of the shooter, the mother of the first victim and the police officer in charge of the case. These different perspectives make us sit and think about the tragedy from every angle and in ways we perhaps don’t think about these tragedies. It is very easy, following these shootings, to consider and empathise with the victims and they families, but the ramifications are much wider and the victims go beyond the families of the murdered children; this book reminds us of that.

The characters in this book are as complex as the issues they are struggling with. The author carefully balances things so that everything is not clearly black and white. The victims are not painted as angels and the shooter not as pure evil because we all know that life is much more complicated and nuanced than that. This is what makes the book so compelling. We all want things to be clear cut, but they aren’t and what makes these shootings so terrifying is that they are often carried out by seemingly ordinary people who displayed no outward violent tendencies beforehand and there is no obvious motives. And to their families who loved them it is especially difficult to accept that their children were capable of doing what they did. These are complicated issue that are hard and unpleasant to face but facing them is necessary to tackle the problem.

The setting of the book is Edinburgh, which I think makes it more immediately relevant for those of us the the UK who sees these things happening at arms’ length in the US where we have no direct connection. It has been a long time since we had a mass shooting in a school in this country thankfully so we may feel that we are immune from the constant fear and horror that regularly hits communities in the States. However, with a spate of gun violence in London over the past few months, this issue is one that is becoming more and more relevant here and we should not be complacent about it. The Edinburgh of the book is not the side the tourists see, but is the every day side with ordinary people going about their ordinary lives, which makes the extraordinary events even more shocking.

This is a book that will make you think. About what motivates someone to commit this type of atrocity and can we ever really know. Is there a way to spot and stop these people before they do what they do, and if not, how far can blame extend beyond the actual perpetrator. About the effects this has on the victims’ families, the wider community, the police and how these people react and can be helped afterwards. And about how we, as onlookers, get our news and how the press report these things. One of the reporters in this book is the most loathsome character I have read in a long time, partly because his actions are believable and, if the portrayal is in any way accurate, we have some very hard questions to ask ourselves about what kind of people we have become if we are willing to tolerate this behaviour.

This is a must-read book, which raises a lot of difficult questions to which there are no simple answers but they are questions that we need to ask ourselves. I know I will return to this book again, and recommend it to my friends as a worthwhile read. I can’t give it a better endorsement than to say that, after reading the ARC, I have gone out and bought it in hardback to add to my shelf.

All The Hidden Truths is out today and you can buy a copy here.

My thanks to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

Claire Askew is a poet, novelist and the current Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh. Her debut novel in progress was the winner of the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and longlisted for the 2014 Peggy Chapman-Andrews (Bridport) Novel Award. Claire holds a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh and has won a variety of accolades for her work, including the Jessie Kesson Fellowship and a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award.

Her debut poetry collection, This changes things, was published by Bloodaxe in 2016 and shortlisted for the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award and a Saltire First Book Award. In 2016 Claire was selected as a Scottish Book Trust Reading Champion, and she works as the Scotland tutor for women’s writing initiatives Write Like A Grrrl! and #GrrrlCon.

Connect with Claire:

Twitter: @OneNightStanzas

The Getaway Girls by Dee MacDonald #BlogTour #BlogBlitz #BookReview (@DMacDonaldAuth) @Bookouture #TheGetawayGirls #NetGalley

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“One morning, Connie McColl wakes up and decides to swap her ordinary life, for an extraordinary adventure…

Connie McColl is finally free to make her own decisions for the first time in decades. And when she meets glamorous Gill and downtrodden Maggie, at a rather dull flower arranging class, it seems that she’s not the only one dreaming of adventure. The three very different women all agree it’s about time they had a holiday to remember.

So they make a pact for this summer to be their best yet – and drive off into the sunset together…

As they meander their way along the beautiful beaches of France and onto the glorious delights of Italy in their luxury campervan, the new friends have plenty of fun and frolics in the sunshine. But the vacation isn’t quite what they expected…

Gill will do anything to have one last holiday romance, Connie has a surprise inheritance awaiting her in Italy, and Maggie has a secret that is going to catch up with them all… 

In the end, all three women discover that the journey they thought would be their last really is just the beginning…”

I reviewed Dee MacDonald’s first book The Runaway Wife earlier in the year and absolutely loved it (you can read my review of that book here) so I jumped at the chance to read the follow up and catch up with what the fabulous Connie McColl is doing now.

What she’s doing is taking a fabulous road trip in a motorhome called Bella with two equally eccentric septuagenarians down through France and in to Italy in search of Connie’s long-lost Italian family, and the trip is quite as marvellous and action-packed as the one she took in the first book.

This novel is joyous, as the first one was. The idea of three women who society may have written off as past it grasping life by the proverbial and setting off with no real plan on a mad road trip through Europe, is just wonderful and the whole book is fun, moving and totally life-affirming. I loved every second of it and came away with a happy, warm feeling of contentment – which is all I ever ask from a book of this kind.

I fell in love with Connie in The Runaway Wife and she is just as likeable in this book. Now separated from dull husband Roger, she has discovered she had an Italian grandmother and is determined to go to Italy and find her missing branch of the family. She manages to find herself travelling with two equally dissatisfied women of a similar age, the downtrodden Maggie, who it turns out is not as mousy as first appears and is hiding a HUGE secret, and brassy Gill, who is really as soft as butter and just wants to be loved. These characters are just wonderful; larger than life but totally likeable and believable too, you can’t help but want them all to get a happy ending.

I was totally captivated by the journey, which Dee really brings to life through her descriptions of the scenery, sights, sounds and smells of France and Italy as they travel through. Just like the first book, the ladies end up in plenty of outlandish situations and mad scrapes along the way, but it is all very light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek and a delight to read.

There isn’t much else I can say. This book is a delight from start to finish. Uplifting, fun, satisfying, with enough going on to keep you turning the pages from start to finish. the author’s writing flows beautifully and is easy to read. I just loved everything about it and I am praying this is not the last we see of Connie MacColl.

And I have just realised how much I overuse the word ‘just’ (I deleted four examples and there are still lots left!) so I’ll try and watch that in future!

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

To follow the rest of the tour, check out the poster below:

The Getaway Girls - Blog Tour

My thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially and to Kim Nash at Bookouture for my place on the tour.

About the Author

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The Runaway Wife was Dee’s first (published) novel but in fact she wrote her very first book – at around seven years of age! This was a love story which she duly illustrated before sewing all the pages together up one side. Writing was what she ‘was good at’ in school and she won several essay competitions, but then life got in the way and she didn’t pick up a pen again until after retirement.

Dee left Scotland and headed for London at the beginning of the swinging sixties. After typing her way round the West End she became an air stewardess on long haul routes with BA (then BOAC) for eight years. After that she did market research at Heathrow for both the government statistics and for BA, she became a sales rep., and was the receptionist at the Thames Television Studios in Teddington when they had the franchise.

She then ran a small B&B for ten years in Cornwall, where she lives with her husband. Dee has one son and two grandsons who live locally.

Connect with Dee:

Facebook: Dee MacDonald

Twitter: @dmacdonaldauth

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena #BookReview (@sharilapena) @penguinrandom @TransworldBooks

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“We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.”

As soon as I plucked this book off the shelf in the supermarket and read the blurb, I knew I had to read it so I spirited it home and started it immediately. I read it in one sitting, as I simply could not put it down.

The ‘trapped in a remote house which you can’t leave with a killer on the loose’ is a favourite trope in suspense fiction but it’s popular for a reason, it is a really compelling premise. What would you do if you were stuck somewhere remote and could not escape from a rampaging killer? Until recently, I would have thought that it was all too convenient. Is there anywhere so remote that you can’t get a phone signal these days? However, having just spent a week on a writing retreat in a remote part of Shropshire where there was no phone signal, at the top of a hill that could easily be cut off in bad weather with 17 people I’d never met before, I can see this could actually happen. In fact, the first night we were all sat there in the lounge, introducing ourselves, it felt like it could be the start of an Agatha Christie novel. Later in the week as I was walking after dinner in the quiet woods around the house when there was rusting in the undergrowth. It turned out to be a fox but at the time I wondered, if someone jumped out of the bushes and strangled me, how long would it take the others to realise I was missing and what would they do? (The perennial ‘what if’ that is grist to the mill of the writer’s mind). This recent experience made the book all the more chilling.

The book is peopled with an interesting cast of characters. the first few chapters did feel a tiny bit contrived, as the author had to introduce all the people who were staying at the remote hotel before she could get to the meat of the story, but they were sufficiently interesting, and the set up was intriguing enough for me to not let this bother me too much and once this was past, I was totally engrossed. The pace then moves fast enough to keep you turning the pages to find out – what next, what next?

I thought she did a great job of switching the initially perfect-seeming setting of a charming and elegant old hotel high in the Catskills into something suddenly menacing and sinister (if you can get past the location of the Catskills which, for me, immediately conjures images of Kellermans and I suspect always will!). The abrupt switch of the cosy and welcoming to hostile and dangerous accentuates  the creepy horror of the story as the murders start to happen and I was on the edge of my seat for most of the book. The knowledge that one of these normal-seeming people is a killer is fascinating, and we start looking for clues as to who it could be in the individual personalities and behaviours.

Shari is very adept at slowly revealing aspects of the different personalities and drip feeding in tiny bits of information about them, small clues, gradually revealing the secrets they have all been keeping from each other in a way that is designed to keep you reading and it is completely effective. These people morph before our eyes from what they appeared to be at the start to what they truly are by the end of the book. As well as a great thriller, it is also a fascinating exploration of human nature and relationships, how we hide things about ourselves from even those closest to us. We are left with the question – can you ever really know another person?

The final reveal of the killer was a surprise and it felt a bit to me like the end of an episode of Midsomer Murders; the murderer is the person you least expect and the method and reasoning is so convoluted that you would never have guessed it in a million years and you wonder how you missed all the clues. Which is why I love Midsomer Murders so much. I need to read this book again, knowing whodunnit, to see if I can spot the clues the second time around. A re-read for me is the ultimate sign of a good book.

An Unwanted Guest is out now and you can buy a copy here.
About the Author

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Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller. Her second thriller, A Stranger in the House, has been a Sunday Times and New York Timesbestseller. Her third book, An Unwanted Guest, is out in 2018.

Connect with Shari:

Website: www.sharilapena.com

Facebook: Shari Lapena

Twitter: @sharilapena

Instagram: @sharilapena

Goodreads: Shari Lapena

 

The Daughter of River Valley by Victoria Cornwall #BlogTour #BookReview (@VickieCornwall) @ChocLituk @RaRaResources #TheDaughterOfRiverValley

The Daughter of River Valley

Today is my turn on the blog tour for The Daughter of River Valley by Victoria Cornwall. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for my spot on the tour and to the publishers for my copy of the book.

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“Beth Jago appears to have the idyllic life, she has a trade to earn a living and a cottage of her own in Cornwall’s beautiful River Valley. Yet appearances can be deceptive …

Beth has a secret. Since inheriting her isolated cottage she has been receiving threats, so when she finds a man in her home she acts on her instincts. One frying pan to the head and she has robbed the handsome stranger of his memory and almost killed him.

Brought together by unknown circumstances, and fearful he may die, she reluctantly nurses the intruder back to health. Yet can she trust the man with no name who has entered her life, or is he as dangerous as his nightmares suggest? As they learn to trust one another, the outside threats worsen. Are they linked to the man with no past? Or is the real danger still outside waiting … and watching them both?”

I only jumped on this blog tour at the last minute when a space suddenly became free as this is not normally a genre that I read much. However, I’m really glad I did because I absolutely adored this book to a degree that really surprised me for something outside my normal genre comfort zone.

I was in love with the heroine, Beth, from the opening scene and if you read the book you’ll understand why. Anyone who is prepared to act that way when living alone in an isolated valley and faced with an unknown male intruder is a woman worthy of finding out more about, especially given the time she was living in when women were expected to be meek and subservient, In fact, one of my favourite things about the book was the strong line of historical accuracy running through the book, one of which is the role of women in society in the mid-1800s and what happens to women who refuse to fit into the role that the times and customs dictated at that time.

Joss was another character that was easy to warm to and the developing relationship between he and Beth was one that I was rooting for from early in the book. He will have fans of Poldark swooning with his swarthy good looks and gentlemanly nature, with just the right whiff of mystery and intrigue surrounding him by virtue of his amnesia and unknown identity.

The setting of the book is really well drawn and appealing; I could very clearly envisage the beautiful River Valley and its position on the wild Cornish coast and I understood why Beth did not want to leave it. There were also lots of well drawn and intriguing characters fleshing out the book and it felt like an authentic and well-rounded community that was portrayed.

Aside from the focus on the plight of unmarried young women in this period, there is also a thread of commentary on the divide between rich and poor at this time and also the ambitions of the middle classes who are looking to better themselves by education and endeavour rather than just money but also the impossibility of this path for people who could not afford to educate their children to improve their chances. The theme of social injustice was really interesting and elevates this book beyond just a historical romance.

This book was an enchanting mix of historical commentary, interesting characters, compelling mystery and a dash of romance that held me from first page to last and I enjoyed every minute of it. The author is a very accomplished writer and I intend to hunt out more of her work.

The Daughter of River Valley is out now and you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to follow the rest of the blog tour, the details are below:

The Daughter of River Valley Full Banner

About the Author

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Victoria Cornwall can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century and it is this background and heritage which is the inspiration for her Cornish based novels.

Victoria’s writing has been shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romantic Fiction and her debut novel reached the final for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award.

Victoria likes to read and write historical fiction with a strong background story, but at its heart is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Connect with Victoria:

Website: https://victoriacornwall.com

Facebook: Victoria Cornwall Author

Twitter: @VickieCornwall

Instagram: @victoria_cornwallx

Goodreads: Victoria Cornwall

Chasing Black Gold by Robert Stone #BookReview #BlogBlitz #Giveaway (@rstonecbg) @TheHistoryPress @RaRaResources #ChasingBlackGold

Chasing Black Gold

Excited to be taking part in today’s Blog Blitz for the non-fiction title, Chasing Black Gold by Robert Stone, the incredible true story of a fuel smuggler in Africa. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part. Make sure you scroll down and enter the giveaway to win one of ten signed copies of the book.

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“ROBERT STONE was a serial entrepreneur – an enterprising individual, mostly on the wrong side of the law, who spent twenty-five years operating all over the world, before being arrested in Switzerland as a result of an international manhunt led by an Organised Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. Over the course of his career, Stone earned and lost several lifetimes’ worth of fortunes, went to prison on three continents, used dozens of aliases, saw men die, and masterminded one of the biggest marijuana smuggling operations in criminal history. Fuel smuggling in Africa, trading fuel with generals, rebels and businessman, was both his career high and, ultimately, what brought him down.”

If this book was fiction, you’d dismiss the plot as being entertaining but too far-fetched to be believable. This story is stuffed with exotic locations, memorable characters, outstanding twists and turns of fate and luck, good and bad, and, at the centre, a man who takes unbelievable risks in pursuit of money. And it’s all true.

Honestly, I was gripped from start to finish just because I could not believe that this is the way some people live. The book explores a world of criminals, smugglers, bandits, corrupt officials, dictators, con artists, double crossers and every other type of scoundrel you see in the movies but struggle to believe exist in real life, but the author spent his youth consorting, in fact leading, such people in the pursuit of the fortune and lifestyle he’d dreamed of having during his difficult and impoverished childhood in Canada and it is utterly compelling, It reveals in bald detail a world that is totally alien to most of us; a world filled with private jets, yachts, Swiss bank accounts and apartments in Rio on one hand, but also squalor, danger, bribery, corruption, being held  at gunpoint, repeated arrest, constant fear of death and finally a long period spent in prison and the US legal system. If you ever want a morality tale, this is it, and an entertaining one to boot.

The author, who writes in the first person and hence is the main character, is what my granny would have called ‘ a rascal’ who is out for a fast buck and even millions in the bank is not enough to make him stop his pursuit of more, even given the huge risks he is taking. In fact, I would say the adrenalin rush he gets from the danger, and the sense of satisfaction he has from spotting an opportunity and making the most of it is as important to him as the money. Any psychologist, amateur or otherwise will have a field day picking apart his motivations. He is also quite charming and as likeable as any confirmed rogue can be, given he is not quite as ruthless as some criminals you read about can be and does have a certain level of loyalty and morals to draw on, albeit of a different caste than those of us who are law-abiding citizens. Reading it can me an interesting moral dilemma since I found him quite likeable in parts.

The destinations covered – Brazil, West Africa, Europe, USA – are all well drawn and fascinating. In found the parts describing West Africa particularly riveting as it is not a part of the world you often read about and is one of the remaining truly undemocratic and lawless parts of the planet left. I have family who work in oil, on the legitimate side, so it was especially interesting to me to see the dark side of this industry.

The writing is fairly straight forward, written as if he is just telling the story, and without frills but I think that makes it all the more immediate and compelling. It jumps around from country to country and time to time so you have to pay attention to start with so as not to get lost and the pace is extremely fast, sometimes leaving you breathless. There were parts which were skimmed over and I didn’t quite get to grips with why certain things happened but overall it was well written and really gripping and fascinating.

I felt very sorry for his wife and wondered why she stuck it out so long, especially with the small children but we’d have to read the story from her perspective to understand that. I was glad it ended the way it did, but I was left with one question – Is the container still resting on the seabed in Alaska and does the book with its co-ordinates in still exist? Could he be tempted to go back and retrieve it? That’s another story.

It was very refreshing to read a non-fiction memoir for a change and as they go, this is a goodie. It would appeal to fans who enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street or Catch Me If You Can and I would highly recommend it for something a bit different.

Chasing Black Gold is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Giveaway

To enter the draw to win one of ten copies of Chasing Black Gold signed by the author, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494113/

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box 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.

About the Author

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Author Robert Stone first came to Aberdeen Scotland in 1973 as a pioneer saturation diver in the early dangerous days of the North Sea. Retiring from diving in the mid 80’s he became a serial entrepreneur –mostly on the wrong side of the law. He spent the next decade operating businesses all over the world from his Aberdeenshire home. 

Stone earned and lost several fortunes, went to prison on three continents, used dozens of aliases, and masterminded one of the biggest marijuana smuggling operations in criminal history. Fuel smuggling in Africa, was only one of his many exploits. 

His Scottish wife and young children knew nothing of the dark side of his life until the day they were all arrested in Switzerland as a result of an international manhunt led by an Organised Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Connect with Robert:

Twitter: @rstonecbg

The Second Cup by Sarah Marie Graye #BlogTour #BlogBlitz #BookReview (@SarahMarieGraye) @RaRaResources #Giveaway #TheSecondCup #FictionCafeWriters #TheButterflyEffect

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Delighted to be reviewing The Second Cup by Sarah Marie Graye, my fellow Fiction Cafe Writer, on the blog today as part of it’s first anniversary blog blitz. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part. Please make sure you scroll down and enter the giveaway to win one of three copies of the book, signed by the author, below.

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“Would your life unravel if someone you knew committed suicide? Theirs did. 

Faye knows her heart still belongs to her first love, Jack. She also knows he might have moved on, but when she decides to track him down, nothing prepares her for the news that he’s taken his own life.

Faye is left wondering how to move forward – and whether or not Jack’s best friend Ethan will let her down again. And the news of Jack’s death ripples through the lives of her friends too. 

Abbie finds herself questioning her marriage, and wondering if she was right to leave her first love behind. Poor Olivia is juggling her job and her boyfriend and trying to deal with a death of her own. And Jack’s death has hit Beth the hardest, even though she never knew him. 

Is Beth about to take her own life too?”

Oh, this is such a difficult book to review because there were bits about it I loved and bits about it I didn’t like and I think it will appeal to some readers and not others so I think I’ll just tell you what I did and didn’t like and why and you can make up your own minds about whether or not this is for you.

This is the story of four friends, Faye, Beth, Abbie and Olivia who are all at complicated junctures in their lives with different problems and difficult decisions to make and they are all affected and incited differently by hearing about the suicide of Jack, Faye’s old boyfriend, even though some of them never even knew him, aside from through Faye talking about him.

I really loved the voices and characters of these four women, they were all very different and distinct and extremely well drawn and detailed. They are very complex women and I think the author has done an amazing job of creating these characters and getting authentically inside their heads in a way that makes us understand them.

That being said, the first stumbling blocks of this book and the most major one for me was the narrative construct of the book. It is told in alternating chapters between the four women which would have been fine, but then each different woman’s story was told in a mixture of third person and first person. I have never seen a book done this way before, although I read a lot, and I think there is good reason for this because I found it extremely confusing and very jarring to read. The constant hopping between characters and viewpoints took far too much concentration and broke up the flow of reading for me to the point that it almost killed the book for me, although I guess it may not be quite so much of a negative for other people. Maybe it is personal taste.

Just while we are on the negatives, there are large parts of this book where there is far too much exposition, with the characters explaining what they are doing, thinking and feeling rather than showing us and it can get a little tedious and make the book a bit draggy in places. This is something I think that is naturally improved on with time and work and experience.

These points aside, I actually loved the authors writing in all other ways. She has the most fabulous turn of phrase and included a lot of really beautiful imagery that had me highlighting phrases and paragraphs in my Kindle so that I could go back and enjoy them again later. I really think she has a lot of skill, and I am excited to see what she does next. You can tell this is a debut by a fairly young and inexperienced author with a lot of potential and there is much to be hopeful about for the next book.

The Second Cup is out now and available here.

Giveaway

To enter the competition to win one of three signed copies of The Second Cup, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494107/

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box 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.

You can find the details of the rest of the bloggers taking part in the blitz below:

The Second Cup Full Blog Blitz Banner

About the Author

The Second Cup SarahMarieGraye-Headshot

Sarah Marie Graye was born in Manchester in 1975, to English Catholic parents. To the outside world Sarah Marie’s childhood followed a relatively typical Manchester upbringing, until aged nine, when she was diagnosed with depression. 

It’s a diagnosis that has stayed with Sarah Marie over three decades, and something she believes has coloured every life decision, including the one to write a novel. 

Sarah Marie wrote The Second Cup as part of an MA Creative Writing practice as research degree at London South Bank University – where she was the vice-chancellor’s scholarship holder. 

Sarah Marie was diagnosed with ADHD in November 2017 and published an extended edition of The Second Cup in February 2018 that included character interviews so she could diagnose one of her characters with the same condition.

Connect with Sarah:

Website: https://sarahmariegraye.com

Facebook: Sarah Marie Graye

Twitter: @SarahMarieGraye

Instagram: @sarahmariegraye

Goodreads: Sarah Marie Graye

The Backstreets of Purgatory by Helen Taylor #BlogTour #BookReview (@TaylorHelen_M) @unbounders @annecater #BackstreetsOfPurgatory #RandomThingsTours

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“Finn Garvie’s life is one spectacular mess. He spends most of his time fannying around a makeshift Glasgow studio, failing to paint his degree portfolio, while his girlfriend Lizzi treats him like one of her psychology patients, and his best friend Rob is convinced that the tattoos he designs are the height of artistic achievement.

To top it all, Finn is worried that some stinking bastard is hanging around, spying on him, laughing at his cock-ups and eating his leftover curry. Fortunately, he has plenty of techniques to distract him – tackling the church hall renovations with the help of his alcoholic neighbour; pining after Kassia, the splendidly stroppy au-pair; and re-reading that book on Caravaggio, his all-time hero.

Things take a turn for the strange when he finally encounters the person who’s been bugging him, and it seems to be none other than Caravaggio himself…”

Well, this is some book! An audacious plot involving Caravaggio stuck in Purgatory being forced to spend time with a deluded Glaswegian artist who has lost his muse – if you can get your head around that as a concept, you are going to love this book.

The main character of Finn is a complicated central character. Not always likeable, we meet him in the final year of his degree where he believes the only reason that he is failing is that his tutor does not understand him or his work (oh, to have such misplaced confidence in one’s genius!). He becomes obsessed with the artist Caravaggio, whom he believes was similarly misunderstood, and then Caravaggio himself turns up to help Finn out.

This book is a sublime mixture of humour and darkness, grittiness and beauty and is very richly layered and textured. It deals with some complicated issues of mental health, depression, thwarted ambition, complicated relationships and one’s sense of self in a sometimes cruel and uncaring world. Along with Caravaggio, Finn is surrounded by a panoply of characters who support, encourage, analyse and sometimes hinder his progress through the book, and they all have detailed and well-developed personalities and crises of their own which weave and inform the narrative throughout to make a delightful and deeply rewarding read.

The main thing I loved about this book was the language and description. The author grabbed me from page one with her cleverly-worded descriptions and fantastic use of language to describe both the the setting and the characters, internally and externally. The whole look and feel and heart of Glasgow just leapt of the page from the beginning to make a whole character in its own right and the author completely captures the spirit of the place and its people, it was a joy to read and revel in.

The book isn’t perfect. It was a little wordy in places which slowed the pace at times. It is not going to be for everyone, as it is not a light read and takes some focus to get the most out of it. If you are not fond of earthy language or the use of colloquialisms, it will not be your cup of tea and it does deal with some hard and personal problems and has an undercurrent of melancholy beneath the humour. I loved the varied moods of the book personally.

I think this book rewards the effort it takes to read it and the investment of time. I loved the author’s very distinctive voice and quirky mind and will definitely look out for the next thing from her. I really hope this book gets the audience it deserves.

The Backstreets of Purgatory is out now and you can purchase a copy here.

If you would like to see what my blogging colleagues made of the book, the details of the tour stops are below:

Backstreets of Purgatory Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

Helen Taylor

Helen Taylor is a writer living in France. The Backstreets of Purgatory is her first book.

Connect with Helen:

Website: https://helenmtaylor.com

Twitter: @TaylorHelen_M

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