Challenge Participant


Friday, 2 October 2015

Blog Tour - Murder on Sea - Julie Wassmer

Murder-On-Sea - Whitstable Pearl Mysteries 2 (Hardback)

It's not the season of good will to all men...The festive month is kicking off in style and Pearl is rushed off her feet with her restaurant, The Whitstable Pearl. She's also busy planning her own family Christmas and providing mulled wine for a charity church fundraiser when Christmas cards begin arriving all over town - filled with spiteful messages from an anonymous writer. Pearl's curiosity is piqued but having pledged not to take on a case at her detective agency before Christmas, she reluctantly agrees that Canterbury's DCI Mike McGuire should take over; poisoned pen cards are after all a matter for the police. And with only the church fundraiser now between Pearl and Christmas, she invites McGuire along as her guest. The event appears to be a great success; St Alfred's church hall is packed and Pearl happily finds herself standing close to McGuire beneath some mistletoe ...but then a guest suddenly collapses. Too much of Pearl's delicious mulled wine - or could it be something more sinister? The last thing Pearl expects for Christmas is murder but soon the bodies are piling up. Can Pearl possibly solve the mystery in time to make 25th December an unforgettable day - or will the murderer contrive to ensure her goose is well and truly cooked before then?
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 9781472119124

I am a big fan of Agatha Raisin and Rebecca Tope and the 'cosy crime' genre and so was excited when I was introduced to Julie Wassmer.

This is the second book in the new series featuring Pearl, a private investigator and after reading this book i will be finding the first book, The Whitstable Pearl Mystery, to be introduced properly to Pearl and her new business.

This is one of those books that the reader can curl up with on a lazy weekend and loose yourself in. It is well written and Wassmer drip feeds the reader with clues throughout the story before the concluding chapter revealing the completed crime. Quite often with this genre of books the author allows the reader to solve the crime before it is revealed, however this book kept me guessing until the last moment.

I really liked Pearl and there were a number of supporting characters who brought the story to life, including Pearl's mum adding humour and warmth to the story.

This was my first festive book of the year and it was a great one to start with, the setting and the descriptive writing has started my festive preparations perfectly.

I really enjoyed this book and will be looking forward to investigating another crime with Pearl soon.

Thank you to the publishers for the opportunity to take part in the tour and a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Don't Get Me Wrong by Marianne Kavanagh

Don't Get Me Wrong (Paperback)

For fans of Jojo Moyes, David Nicholls and Sophie Kinsella, here is a Pride and Prejudice for the modern era.

Londoners Kim and Harry can't see eye to eye…until the life of the person they both love most hangs in the balance. 
Kim has never grasped what her free-spirited big sister Eva sees in a stuck-up banker like Harry and has spent her childhood trying to keep him out, while Harry's favourite occupation is winding Kim up.

Both Harry and Kim are too trapped in their prejudices to care about what's really going on beneath the surface of each other's lives. They'll never understand each other—until the worst of all tragedy strikes.

Faced with the possibility of losing the person they both love most, long-buried secrets come to a head in ways that will change both Harry and Kim forever.

Marianne Kavanagh is a former deputy editor of Marie Claire and has contributed to a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including the Telegraph, Daily Mail, Guardian, My Daily, Easy Living and Red. Her debut novel, For Once in My Life, was published in 2014. She lives in London.

Praise for For Once in My Life
'Kavanagh’s novel is superior chick lit: beautifully written, enlivened by witty and wise observation.' Age/Sydney Morning Herald
'[A] witty, summer-fresh debut.' Independent
'This book is fantastic. It’s hilarious, poignant and profound by turns; most of all, it’s unpretentious. Unlike so many novels it just wants to tell you a lovely story. It’s not about how clever the author is nor is it all style over substance. But precisely because of that it’s both clever and stylish anyway... Adorable.' Daily Mail
'The charming and summery first novel from columnist Marianne Kavanagh. This human story of love’s near-misses centres around Tess and George, whose eventual (inevitable) meeting is cleverly delineated to call sentimental notions of soul mates into question.' Vogue
‘Kavanagh gives the reader plenty of humour…Her descriptive prose is wonderful.’ BookMooch

I found this book a slow starter. It  took me a number of chapters to 'get into' the book, however one I was a third into the book it suddenly captured my interest and I was hooked.

I found the characters believable and I was able to empathize with Kim from the start. Although the story-line was predictable, there were twists and turns littered throughout the book which kept me guessing to the end and made the story more enjoyable. 

I like Kavanagh's writing style - the prose is littered with humorous moments which are often used to describe scenes within the story. They fit in well within the story and add dimension to the scenes.

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a good, easy going read with great characters and a believable story-line.

Thank you to the publishers, Text Publishing and their marketing team for sending me the book to review.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Blog Tour - Sarah Hilary No Other Darkness

Today I am pleased  to welcome Sarah Hilary to my blog following the publiation of her second novel featuring DI Marnie Rome, her female lead detective character, No Other Darkness.

Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut novel, SOMEONE ELSE'S SKIN, won the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015. It was the Observer's Book of the Month ("superbly disturbing”), a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller and has been published worldwide. NO OTHER DARKNESS, the second in the series is out now. The Marnie Rome series is being developed for television. 

 I recently met Sarah Hilary at my local literary festival, Worcestershire LitFest and Fringe, where she took part in the Illustrious Crime Panel with fellow crime writers: Clare Mackintosh, Alex Marwood and Chair of the Panel, local girl, Cally Taylor, read my review here. While taking part in the panel, Sarah Hilary mentioned that has always found it difficult to write strong female characters but after the discovery of flash fiction she hit the mark with DI Marnie Rose, and so I asked Sarah how she created the men within Marnie's world.....

Writing the Men in Marnie Romes life
by Sarah Hilary

Patricia Highsmith was a great advocate for writing from the subconscious or unconscious mind. She took it to the extreme of being blind drunk or half-asleep before she sat down to write. Dreams, weirdness, monsters, fearsall the best stuff, Highsmith insisted, is lurking in our unconscious minds. This, I think is part of the reason why she wrote such convincing men. Because she was mainlining her id, keeping her ego in its place (and taking every chance she got to thumb her nose at the superego).

So it is with me when Im writing Noah or Stephen or Welland. These characters so removed from me and my reality trip from my fingertips. Marnie comes more reluctantly, always guarding her secrets. But writing a nightclub scene with Noah and his boyfriend, Dan? Easiest thing in the world. Even nineteen-year-old Stephen Keele, his mouth lush with silence, comes more easily than Marnie.

So which of the men in Marnies life is the best fun to write? Heres my top five.

Ed Belloc

Every story needs a resting place. Eds my version of the underground bunker with the tinned peaches from Cormac McCarthys The Roadbut for that breathing space it would be impossible to continue. (Although readers of No Other Darkness will want to point out what I did with an underground bunker and peaches.)

Noah Jake

Noah is a joy to write. Hes smart and sensitive and no matter what I chuck at him, he comes back for more, usually after some well-earned downtime with Dan.

Tim Welland

Welland is Marnies boss, and father figure. Gruff as an old bear, I love the way he watches out for Marnie, knows her weak spots, keeps her on track.

Adam Fletcher

Adam makes his debut in No Other Darkness, but hes been in Marnies life since she was sixteen. Hes a snarky son of a bitch. Im not sure Ed would approve of the unholy kick I get out of writing Adam.

Stephen Keele

If Ed is the steady place in Marnies turning world then Stephen is the opposite. He became her bogeyman when he was fourteen, and shows every sign of becoming more frightening as the series progresses. In No Other Darkness he hands Marnie a reason for what he did that messes with her head, hugely.

Whether or not its my unconscious that serves up the men in my books, I do love writing them. I hope readers love (or love to hate) them too.

Thank you to Sarah for visiting my blog today. I am currently reading No Other Darkness, and loving it and my review will follow soon. I am enjoying it so much and didn't want to miss anything by rushing to the end to publish my review with this blog post.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Worcestershire Literary Festival – Covert Operations with Cameron Addicott

My second visit to St Johns Library in this festival was for a very different event to my first, the illustrious crime panel, this time I was looking forward to being given an insight into the criminal underground where drugs are the main currency and people take unbelievable risks to traffic them into the country. The programme promised discussion to include criminal motivation, methods of intelligence gathering, cocaine production and smuggling and money laundering.

Cameron Addicott was an undercover officer in H.M Customs and the Serious Organised Crime Agency for nearly twenty years . He was a Criminal Investigator, Covert Surveillance Operative and Commander,  an Informant Handler and an Undercover Officer. Since leaving this work he is now a director of a Security Services company and is writing another book.

I really enjoyed listening to Cameron talk, as did my husband. He told a number of stories about his working life and reminisced about life undercover before turning the conversation to the dramatisation of his first book ‘The Interceptor’ which is currently being shown on BBC1. It has been a fantastic series and I hope that it is optioned for a second series.

Thank you to the festival organisers for supplying me with two tickets in return for a review.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Blog Tour - The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

The Quality of Silence (Hardback)

On 24th November Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrive in Alaska. Within hours they are driving alone across a frozen wilderness Where nothing grows Where no one lives Where tears freeze And night will last for another fifty-four days. They are looking for Ruby's father. Travelling deeper into a silent land. They still cannot find him. And someone is watching them in the dark.

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group

ISBN: 9780349408125

Rosamund Lupton has written some fantastic books: Sister and Afterwards, both of which have been international bestsellers and this, her third book, I believe is heading the same way.

Telling the story of Yasmin and Ruby, who is deaf, mother and daughter travel to Alaska in search of Ruby's father. They are starting on a long journey which leads them deeper into the Alaskan landscape, where they never feel they are alone. This landscape is a fantastic backdrop to the story, which keeps the reader on their toes throughout the book. 

Lupton's fantastic writing style continues as a brilliant storyteller. The storytelling is haunting but beautiful, often at a break neck speed as the hunt for Ruby's father continues to gather pace, leaving them both in peril. It is one of those books which are hard to put down, always wanting to know what will happen next. However, although this book is a thriller, there are also moments of humour, in Ruby's narrative, and also an insight into living with deafness where the environment is seen in a different way, with other senses heightened as one is lost. 

I would recommend this book to existing fans of Lupton, however it is also a fantastic introduction into Lupton's books which never fail to impress. 

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Worcestershire Literary Festival - Our Illustrious Crime Panel

The scene was set in St John’s Library, Worcester, for an enjoyable evening spent in the company of four, fairly new, crime authors for Worcester Literary Festival’s Illustrious Crime Panel. Chaired by local girl Cally Taylor (C L Taylor), author of The Accident and The Lie, Sarah Hilary, author of Someone Else’s Skin, for which she has been nominated for Crime Novel of the Year at Harrogate and No Other Darkness, Clare Mackintosh, who’s debut novel I Let You Go, is a Times Best Seller and is one of the current Richard and Judy Book Club Reads, and Alex Marwood, author of The Wicked Girls, who has been awarded an Edgar award and has Steven King’s endorsement on the front cover. 

The authors were ready, the pick and mix was being politely passed around the room, under the eagle eyes of the authors, who wanted it returned before they started the event, and the audience primed, ready to hear about the world of psychological thrillers, before asking their own questions of the visiting authors. The event started with the obligatory selfie.

The author’s all introduced themselves, with Clare Mackintosh talking about her life as a police officer, and her time spent as a Riot Commander, before leaving the force to look after her young children and write a book; Alex Marwood was a journalist, working on The Independent, Cally Taylor wrote two chick lit books first and then wrote her first psychological thriller  while taking part in a mad 100,000 words in a 100 days challenge and then The Lie was written while on maternity leave, plotting in her head throughout all those night feeds and Sarah Hilary who writes her crime thrillers without the aid of a police consultant advisor (much to the horror of Claire Mackintosh)!

There was a short discussion on the topic of women writers, typically expected to write chick lit book, however many more women are now exploring the darker side of psychological thrillers, making the literary move from chick lit to what is being lovingly entitled ‘domestic noir’. The authors did suggest that the chick lit genre explored fears but left the reader with their happy ever after, whereas this new genre gives the reader more satisfaction with a meatier story and an ending which keeps the reader gripped right to the end.

Clare Mackintosh has always enjoyed writing and in her time as a serving policewoman, enjoyed writing witness statements and reports, ensuring that the victims got to tell their story in court. She has a wealth of experience which she brings to her writing, having been in contact with many walks of life from the homeless through to royalty, couple this with the paranoia linked to motherhood and she has a great base from which to write.  She has said that she felt, until she read Sarah Hilary’s first novel, that there were not many police characters who felt authentic and that DI Marnie Rome was one of the best fictional detectives around.

Sarah Hilary has always found it difficult to write strong female characters but after the discovery of flash fiction she hit the mark with DI Marni Rose. She has found a love of writing closed environments  with one book being set in a  women refuge and tackles hard hitting topics including domestic violence.  She also has a love for television dramas including the popular Broadchurch.

Alex Marwood loves to explore how people can live after doing something bad – she was a journalist during the Jamie Bulger incident, which gave an insight into the public’s perception of crimes against children and the press’ response and was also fascinated by the Christopher Jefferies fiasco, where the police and  public’s perception of a person led to an incorrect arrest.  Alex Marwood has found it difficult to shrug off her journalistic background, after which she decided on the pen name Alex Marwood. I was surprised to find that she often asks advice off her pal, in her words ‘author of filthy bonkbusters’ Rebecca Chance! She also said that the American audience take her much more seriously and comparing the two audiences, American’s don’t like any swearing whereas the UK audience were in uproar when she killed a dog in the book, which was done discreetly and not part of the main story.

Cally Taylor’s thrillers are partly autobiographical, with her love of breaking bad and the sopranos providing many other possible story ideas. but she surprised the other authors with her meticulous planning process. She has, in the past, plotted the whole emotional arc which will structure her book. This is completely different to both Marwood and Mackintosh who don’t give their publishers a detailed synopsis until they have written about two thirds of the book and Sarah Hilary compares her planning process looks like a science project with post it notes everywhere.

Clare Mackintosh and Sarah Hilary have both been chosen as Richard and Judy Book Club reads, which they acknowledged was a great achievement. Mackinstosh found out in the middle of Marks and Spencers she had been chosen for this Summer’s list, while out shopping with her children, and her publisher told her to go and buy some lucky knickers!! The power of Richard and Judy’s bookclub is evident. Richard and Judy were on BBC1’s One Show talking about this year’s chosen titles and mentioned three of the titles, including Macintosh’s ‘I Let You Go’ and the following day she was delighted to find that she reached number one on Amazon, with the other titles also shooting up the charts.  Mackintosh also told the audience about her interesting way of writing scenes, for which she thanks her mother, who ensured she leant how to touch type, enabling her to close her eyes while writing her novels, and watch the story play out in front of her eyes.  Mackintosh also told how she wrote her first novel, submitted it to her publisher, who made an offer, which she then, on the advice of her agent, turned down and started again on what was to become a Times Bestseller I Let You Go. This seems to be a pattern for Mackintosh as she recently finished the first draft of her second book, which she gave to her agent, who read it and wasn’t sure, neither was Clare and they decided to scrap it and now Mackintosh has started again with a completely different idea – it all sounds very exciting, set on the London Underground

Cally Taylor is a local girl, with some of her family still living around Worcester, although she has relocated to Bristol. Her mother was in the audience and was able to ask a question which she admitted she had never thought to ask her daughter..  Cally also talked about one of the highlights of her career was when Home for Christmas, an early book by Taylor, being made into a film by an independent movie producer, and it was set in the actual cinema that Taylor had set the book in.  Although it was wasn’t a blockbuster, she loved seeing it on the big screen and both she and her family had a walk on, extras part in the movie. Cally also divulged that she completely changed the killer in one book after she had finished writing the first draft but likes to give the readers lots of red herrings and rounded characters.

The final question was asked by fellow author Meg Sanders, who wanted to know, if the police were to take your laptop and search it, what is the weirdest thing they would find on it? The answers were weird and wonderful, and of course I can’t divulge their secrets – although Alex likes tartan kilts and Clare is fascinated by the Underground.


I have reviewed many of Meg Sander's books, which she has co-written under the psuedoymn Annie Sanders, on this blog and we have missed each other at the last two ChipLit Festivals, so it was lovely to finally meet her and here is the obligatory photograph.

The event was fantastically organised by Worcester Literary Festival team, the setting was perfect, small and intimate, but did not feel cramped or uncomfortable. There was lots of interaction between the authors and the audience and following last year’s Romance panel event (organised by Alison May) I look forward to seeing what is in store next year. I also loved the opportunity to meet up with author Meg Sanders, following two missed oppurtunities at Chipping Norton Literary Festival, who has written lots of great books as one half of the partnership Annie Sanders.

Thank you to Martin Driscoll, festival director, for offering both myself and my husband a complimentary ticket in return for an honest review.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show Offs by Sarah Forbes

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-Offs - Elspeth Hart 1 (Paperback)

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs is the first adventure featuring the fabulous Elspeth Hart, a modern heroine with doodles on her trainers and unstoppable determination. Can you imagine never being allowed to play outside, dear reader? How about sleeping in a wardrobe every night? That's what life is like for Elspeth Hart. Ever since her parents were tragically washed away in a flood, poor Elspeth has been forced to live with her disgusting aunt, Miss Crabb, in the attic of the Pandora Pants School for Show-offs. Elspeth spends her days sweeping up mouse droppings, washing filthy pots and dodging Tatiana Firensky, the most horrible show-off of all. But what Elspeth doesn't know is that things are about to change...A fast-paced and funny story from a fresh new voice in children's fiction, Elspeth Hart's quirky adventures will delight fans of David Walliams, Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl.

Publisher: Little Tiger Press Group
ISBN: 9781847155955

What happens if you take Hogwarts from Harry Potter, add in the cast from Holly and Kelly Willoughby's School for Stars and the mischief of Dirty Bertie and you are left with this book!! A modern day Malory Towers style boarding school where the pupils work hard, but they also play hard. There is an air of Roald Dahl's humour throughout the story which I am sure will make it very popular and appeal to both boys and girls.

I loved this book - as I have said already there is a fantastic setting of a boarding school full of wannabee stars of stage and screen who think they are above Elspeth Hart the niece of the school's cook, Miss Crab, who set Elspeth to work each day with the worst jobs possible. As with all schools there are troublemakers who make Elspeth's day even worse but she also has her firm friends who make life manageable.

The story has lots of funny bits which will have children laughing out loud and will keep their attention to the very last page - and wanting the next book in the series! 

I even love the cover of this book - it has cut out windows which, when the cover is opened, reveals another picture behind of the school girls 'posing' while Elspeth cleans. The fantastic illustrations continue throughout the book, and the illustrator, James Brown, has captured the aloofness of the school pupils and the performance art teachers in every pencil stroke.

I am really looking forward to the next installment of school life at Pandora Pants School for Show Offs (Yes that really is the name of the school) and can't wait to see what happens to Elspeth Hart, who I think life may be very different for, in the future.

Thank you to Stripes for sending me this book to review and to the author, Sarah Forbes, for joining me at my blog, for a stop on her blog tour.