The Book of Bera by Suzie Wilde


Born and raised in a stark, coastal village, Bera is the daughter of a Valla, the Vikings’ most powerful seers.  But her mother died when she was young, leaving Bera alone with her gift, unable to control her feckless twin-spirit or understand her visions of the future.

Beset by starvation, sickness and the walking dead, the brave and defiant Bera leads her village in a perilous hunt for the Narwhal; a magical beast whose tusk is said to cure illness.  But disaster strikes and her childhood friend Bjorn is slaughtered in cold blood by a rival clan.  Returning with his body and no magic tusk, Bera finds she has been sold in marriage to the chieftain of the murderous clan by her disgusted father.

Shipped off to a strange new world of health and prosperity, Bera nurses her wounds and vows revenge.  But there are more pressing matters at hand – not only must she learn to be a good wife, she must also gain the trust of her hostile young stepson and her new clan.  And as her powers grow stronger, her visions of looming disaster become more and more ominous until she has to make the ultimate choice: Will she choose revenge? Or can she lead her people to safety before it’s too late?

The setting of The Book of Bera is beautifully evoked.  I thought that Wilde successfully brought to life the settlement of Seabost that Bera is sent to, as well as the surrounding wilderness.  Similarly, the harsh lifestyle that these people endure was easy to picture, and I enjoyed discovering about their way of life which is heavily influenced by Viking culture and beliefs.  It’s a brutal setting – raids from rival clans are commonplace, and there is little mercy for anyone.  As a result, warriors are admired above all others, and it takes a strong individual to lead the people.  Even Thorvald, the most trusted advisor of Bera’s husband, who is responsible for the murder of her childhood friend.

Part of the focus of the novel surrounds what happens to the dead if they are not given proper rites, which at it’s most simplistic level involved burning the body.  Those who aren’t burnt may come back as undead “Drorghers” to haunt the living (presumably this is an alternative spelling or name for Draugrs – a term which I’m more familiar with, and which seems to mean the same thing, as far as I can tell).  As a Valla, it’s Bera’s role to deal with these creatures and to ensure that no harm comes to the settlement and those living there.  I found that this, amongst other things, added some wonderfully dark moments to the novel, and I really enjoyed these sections which I found to be creepy and tense.

Whilst I liked the setting and the evocation of the culture, I did struggle a little with the characters, and Bera in particular.  I wanted to sympathise with her situation – she lost her mother when she was young, and was left with a gift (occasionally a curse in her mind) that she can’t control or use to full effect, she loses her closest friend, and is then given away like chattel to the leader of the clan that is responsible.  I found her to be rather infuriating, however – she wants to be trusted and respected, yet does nothing to earn either, and what I think was meant to come across as spirit sometimes came across to me as childish petulance.  There is development and growth by the end of the novel, but the change came a little too late for me to actually want to get behind her unfortunately.

Part fantasy, part coming of age story, The Book of Bera is an inventive take on Viking culture and mythology.  It will be published by Unbound on 23 March.  Many thanks to Joelle Owusu at Unbound for the review copy.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Blog Tour: One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis

Today I’m absolutely delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis which will be published as an eBook on 23 February, and in paperback on 29 June by Black Swan.


You trusted your best friend… you shouldn’t have.

Vicky Seagrave is blessed: three beautiful children, a successful, doting husband, great friends and a job she loves.  She should be perfectly happy.

But what she is about to learn is that one mistake is all it takes; that if you’re careless with those you love, you don’t deserve to keep them.

When Vicky risks everything she holds dear on a whim, there’s only one person she trusts enough to turn to, her best friend Amber.

One little lie.  One little secret.  One little mistake could destroy her world.

One Little Mistake is one of those novels that it’s difficult to talk about without giving too much away, so I won’t focus on the plot too much in my review.

It focuses on Vicky who makes a spur of the moment decision.  Nine times out of ten, such a decision would probably have no significant impact and you’d think little more of it.  Unfortunately for Vicky, her decision proves to have disastrous consequences in this instance, and she turns to her best friend, Amber, for advice.  What follows shows how Vicky deals with the aftermath of this mistake, which proves to be much further reaching than she could ever have guessed.

Curtis successfully weaves together two narratives throughout One Little Mistake – the first following Vicky’s plight in the present day, and the second set 18 years earlier.  Whilst the flashback scenes are few and far between, I really enjoyed these little snippets and this second story very quickly built up in tension.  I don’t want to say too much about it, but I really enjoyed the second story and the way that the two narratives eventually converged.

I thought that Curtis handled the relationship between Vicky and Amber really well, and the gradual deterioration of this relationship as Amber begins to show her true colours made this an absolutely fascinating read.  Vicky is pitched as one of those people for whom good things just happen.  What is very apparent to the reader is that Vicky has worked hard to get where she is, and I think that it’s very easy to forget the elbow grease that people have often put in to get where they are.  Amber, on the other hand, hasn’t had quite the same level of success that Vicky has experienced, and whilst they are friends, it’s clear from the outset that she is envious of many aspects of Vicky’s life and it doesn’t take much for the reader to see another side to Amber, a side that Vicky isn’t aware of.

Curtis has done a brilliant job of making Vicky easy to sympathise with.  She has made mistakes, but she’s hardly alone in this, and it feels as though the punishment far outweighs the crime.  I did perhaps find her to be too forgiving and perhaps a little gullible, although in this instance it made her endearing rather than frustratingly naive, as can sometimes be the case in a novel such as this.

One Little Mistake is a gripping read and builds up to a tense conclusion which, whilst not entirely unexpected in some respects, was nevertheless a dramatic, if slightly rushed, finale.

Many thanks to Rosie Margesson for providing a copy for review.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour:


The Bishop’s Girl by Rebecca Burns


Jess works as a researcher at the Shacklock Library in Jedthorpe, Yorkshire.  The library is named after a prominent bishop from the area – Anthony Shacklock – who died in 1917 in France whilst assisting at a hospital looking after injured soldiers.

For the past six years, Jess has supported Professor Waller, who has dedicated much of his career to identifying a young woman, estimated to be around 17 years of age at the time of her death, who was found in Shacklock’s grave when his remains were removed from France to Jedthorpe.  She has no name, although DNA testing indicates a familial relationship to the bishop.

Jess is forced to balance her demanding job with an even more demanding home life, looking after her two children and worrying over the ever-increasing distance between her and her husband, Alec.

When a new snippet of information comes to light, it sends Jess on a journey that will have much more of an impact on her life than she ever expected.

I really liked Jess, and felt a great deal of sympathy for her.  At work, Waller takes advantage of her, often asking her to make the long journey to London to look in various archives at short notice and with no consideration of the impact on Jess and her family.  She gets no thanks for the work she undertakes and Waller takes all the credit, having done none of the leg work himself.  It’s infuriating, and I really enjoyed Jess’s gradual progression from resigned acceptance to open rebellion as she becomes utterly fed up with the situation.

Having accepted the situation for the last 6 years, the reader might wonder what has prompted the sudden change in character.  Jess’s home life is little better than her work life – she and her husband have been drifting apart, and are no longer able to talk to each other without arguing.  He resents any time she is away from home – especially the late evenings and weekends, at least partly because it means he has to look after the children.  But Jess finds a new lease of life when her best friend, Marie, suggests that she meets up with her grown up son, Hayden, who at 28 is 13 years younger than Jess, on one of her visits to London, never expecting that the two would end up in bed following a few drinks!  Jess goes through various feelings of guilt and excitement at her actions, but it does give her some spark as she becomes increasingly drawn to Hayden.  It’s as though she’s woken from a long sleep, and I loved the new spirit this gave her.

Whilst being something of a love story, there is also an historical element as the reader follows Jess’s investigations into the identity of the unknown girl buried with Shacklock.  This was my favourite part of the novel – the slow gathering of clues, the peaks and troughs as new lines of enquiry lead to something or nothing, and I thought that this was particularly well done.  Initially told from the perspective of Jess, part two of the novel moves back in time, and the reader sees what happened (which I won’t share!) as it happened.  I really liked this change in perspectives, and I thought it worked really well in the novel.

There are a couple of little twists here, although I did guess them before the end of the novel.  That said, I think that this is a novel where the journey is more important than the destination, and so this didn’t reduce my enjoyment at all.  If anything, I quite liked getting to the end and being able to say “Yes!  I knew it!”.  I did have a few outstanding questions at the end of the novel, although these were along the lines of “but I want to know what happens next” rather than relating to elements within the story that didn’t make sense or that I felt needed additional clarification.

The Bishop’s Girl is a highly enjoyable read, and one that I would recommend to those looking for something a little different, combining as it does the historical and the romance elements.

The Bishop’s Girl is available as an eBook and in paperback.  Many thanks to Rebecca Burns for providing a copy for review.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Blog Tour: Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant which has just been chosen for the Richard and Judy Book Club.



Paul Morris is running out of money, friends and second chances. His literary success of his early 20s is now a distant memory and his new relationship might be his last hope of happiness.

Alice is not like any of the women he’s pursued in the past: wealthy, lonely, driven and with links to the heady days of his youth. When Alice invites Paul to her holiday home in Greece with friends and family, he decides to do whatever it takes to make the romance stick.

But the summer is not the idyll he had planned: members of the party seem far from happy about Paul’s presence and soon the pool becomes a tableau of tension and unspoken grudges.

To further aggravate the situation, ten years ago, a thirteen-year-old girl went missing on the island, and now a fresh sighting and another attack unsettle the long hot days. It soon becomes apparent that Paul is not the only person with an agenda… and his dreams of a life worth living may yet turn into a nightmare he cannot escape.

You can see my review of Lie With Me here, and today I’m delighted to be able to share an extract of the novel with you, taken from the prologue and the first chapter of the novel.

August 2015

It struck me in the night that it might have started earlier. I sat up in horror and, in the darkness, used my fingernail to scratch the word ‘BOOKSHOP’ on the inside of my forearm. It has gone now: the skin is inflamed due to an infected insect bite, which I must have further scratched at in my sleep. Still, the act of writing did the trick, as it tends to. This morning I can remember well enough.

Hudson & Co: the secondhand bookshop in Charing Cross Road. I have been assuming it began there – that none of it would have happened if my eye hadn’t been caught by that silly little shop assistant’s red hair. But am I wrong? Were the forces already in motion, in the weeks and months before that? Does the trail of poison lead back, long before the bloody girl’s disappearance, to university? Or before then, even – to school, to childhood, to that moment in 1973 when I struggled, puce-faced, into this unforgiving world?

I suppose what I am saying is, how much do we collude in our own destruction? How much of this nightmare is on me? You can hate and rail. You can kick out in protest. You can do foolish and desperate things but maybe sometimes you just have to hold up a hand and take the blame.


Chapter One

It was a wet day, one of those grey, drizzly London afternoons when the sky and the pavement and the rain-streaked buildings converge. It’s a long time since I’ve seen weather like that. I’d just had lunch with my oldest friend Michael Steele at Porter’s in the Charing Cross underpass, a wine bar we had frequented since, at the age of sixteen, we had first discovered the discretion of both its location and its landlord. These days, of course, we would both have much rather met somewhere less dank and dark (that chic little bistro on St Martin’s Lane specialising in wines from the Loire, par example), but nostalgia can be a tyranny. Neither of us would have dreamt of suggesting it.

Usually, on parting from Michael, I would strut off with a sense of groin-thrusting superiority. His own life restricted by the demands of a wife, twin boys and a solicitor’s practice in Bromley, he listened to my tales of misadventure – the drunken nights in Soho, the young girlfriends – with envy in his eyes. ‘How old’s this one?’ he’d say, cutting into a Scotch egg. ‘Twenty-four? Saints alive.’ He was not a reader and a combination of loyalty and ignorance meant he also still thought of me as The Great Literary Success. It wouldn’t have occurred to him that a minor bestseller written twenty years ago might not be sufficient to maintain a reputation indefinitely. To him I was the star of ‘Literary London’ (his phrase) and when he picked up the bill, which he could be depended upon to do, there was a sense less of charity than of him paying court. If an element of mutual bluff was required to sustain the status quo, it was a small price to pay. Plenty of friendships, I am sure, are based on lies.

That day, however, as I returned to street level, I felt deflated. Truth was, though I had kept it to myself, life had recently taken a downward swerve. My latest novel had just been rejected, and Polly, the twenty-four-year-old in question, had left me for some bum-fluffed political blogger or other. Worst of all, I had discovered, only that morning, that I was to be evicted from the rent-free flat in Bloomsbury I had, for the last six years, called home. In short, I was forty-two, broke and facing the indignity of having to move in with my mother in East Sheen.

As I have mentioned, it was also raining.

I trudged along William IV Street towards Trafalgar Square, dodging umbrellas. At the post office, a group of foreign students, wearing backpacks and neon trainers, blocked the pavement and I was pushed out into the gutter. One shoe sank into a puddle; a passing taxi soaked the leg of my corduroys. Swearing, I hopped across the road, wending my way between waiting cars, and turned up St Martin’s Lane, cut through Cecil Court, and into Charing Cross Road. The world juddered – traffic and building works and the clanging of scaffolding, the infernal disruption of Crossrail. Rain continued to slump from the sky but I had made it doggedly beyond the Tube station before an approaching line of tourists pulling luggage thrust me again out of my path and against a shop window.

I braced myself against the glass until they had trundled past, and then I lit a cigarette. I was outside Hudson & Co, a secondhand bookshop specialising in photography and film. There was a small fiction section in the back where, if I remembered rightly, I had once pilfered an early copy of Lucky Jim. (Not a first edition, but a 1961 orange Penguin with a Nicolas Bentley drawing on the cover: nice.)

I peered in. It was a dusty shop, with an air of having seen better days – most of the upper shelves were bleakly empty.

And then I saw the girl.

She was staring through the window, sucking a piece of long, red hair, her features weighted with a boredom so sensual I could feel it tingle along my fingertips.

I pinched the lit tip off my cigarette, put the remainder in my jacket pocket and pushed open the door.

I am not bad looking (better then, before everything happened), with the kind of face – crinkled blue eyes, strong cheekbones, full lips – I’ve been told women love. I took trouble over my appearance, though the desired result was to make it look as if I didn’t. Sometimes, when I shaved, I noticed the length of my fingers against the chiselled symmetry of my jaw, the regularity of the bristles, the slight hook in the patrician nose. An interest in the life of the mind, I believed, was no reason to ignore the body. My chest is broad; I fight hard even now to keep it firm – those exercises I picked up at Power Pulse, the Bloomsbury gym, over the course of the free ‘taster’ month continue to prove useful. I knew how to work my look, too: the sheepish, self-deprecating smile, the careful use of eye contact, the casual deep-in-thought mussing of my messy blond hair.

The girl barely looked up when I entered. She was wearing a long geometric top over leggings and chunky biker boots; three small studs in the inside cartilage of one ear, heavy make-up. A small bird-shaped tattoo on the side of her neck.

I dipped my head, giving my hair a quick shake. ‘Cor blimey,’ I said in mock-Cockney. ‘Rainin’ cats and dogs out there.’

She rocked gently backwards on the heels of her boots, resting her bottom on a metal stool, and cast a glance in my direction. She dropped the spindle of ruby hair she’d been chewing.

I said, more loudly: ‘Of course Ruskin said there was no such thing as bad weather. Only different kinds of good weather.’

The sulky mouth moved very slightly, as if vaguely in the direction of a smile.

I lifted the damp collar of my coat. ‘But tell that to my tailor!’

The smile faded, came to nothing. Tailor? How was she to know the coat, bought for a snip at Oxfam in Camden Town, was ironic?

I took a step closer. On the table in front of her sat a Starbucks cup, the name ‘Josie’ scrawled in black felt tip.

‘Josie, is it?’ I said.

She said, flatly: ‘No. That was what I told the barista. I tell them a different name every time. Can I help you? Are you looking for anything in particular?’ She looked me up and down, taking in the absorbent tweed, the cords, the leaking brogues, the pathetic middle-aged man that wore them. A mobile phone on the counter trembled and, though she didn’t pick it up, she flicked her eyes towards it, nudging it with her spare hand to read the screen above the cup – a gesture of dismissal.

Stung, I slunk away, and headed to the back of the shop where I crouched, pretending to browse a low shelf (two for £5). Perhaps she was a little too fresh out of school, not quite my audience. Even so. How dare she? Fuck.

At this angle, I smelt damp paper and sweat; other people’s stains, other people’s fingers. A sharp coldness in here too. Scanning the line of yellowing paperbacks, phrases from my publisher’s last email insinuated themselves into my head: ‘Too experimental . . . Not in tune with the current market . . . How about writing a novel in which something actually happens?’ I stood. Bugger it. I’d leave with as much dignity as I could muster and head off to the London Library, or – quick look at my watch – the Groucho. It was almost 3 p.m. Someone might be there to stand me a drink.

I have tried hard to remember if the door jangled; whether it was the kind of door that did. The shop had seemed empty when I entered, but the layout allowed anyone to hide, or lurk – as indeed I was now. Was he already in the shop? Or not? Do I remember the scent of West Indian Limes? It seems important. But perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps it is just my mind trying to find an explanation for something that may, of course, have been random.

‘Paul! Paul Morris!’

He was standing on the other side of the bookcase, only his head visible. I took a brief physical inventory: close-set eyes, receding hairline that gave his face an incongruously twee heart shape, puny chin. It was the large gap between the two front teeth that sparked the memory. Anthony Hopkins, a contemporary from Cambridge – historian, if I remembered correctly. I’d bumped into him several years ago on holiday in Greece. I had a rather unpleasant feeling that I had not come out of the encounter well.

‘Anthony?’ I said. ‘Anthony Hopkins!’

Irritation crossed his brows. ‘Andrew.’

‘Andrew, of course. Andrew Hopkins. Sorry.’ I tapped my head. ‘How nice to see you.’ I was racking my memory for details. I’d been out on a trip round the island with Saffron, a party girl I’d been seeing, and a few of her friends. I’d lost them when we docked. Alcohol had been consumed. Had Andrew lent me money? He was now standing before me, in a pin-stripe suit, hand out. We shook. ‘It’s been a . . . while,’ I said.

He laughed. ‘Not since Pyros.’ A raincoat, pearled with drops, was slung over his arm. The shop assistant was looking over, listening to our conversation. ‘How are you? Still scribbling away? Seen your byline in the Evening Standard – book reviews, is it? We did love that novel you wrote – my sister was so excited when you sold it.’

‘Ah, thank you.’ I bowed. His sister – of course. I’d hung out with her a bit at Cambridge. ‘Annotations on a Life, you mean.’ I spoke as loudly as I could so the little scrubber would realise the opportunity she had passed up. ‘Yes, a lot of people were kind enough to say they liked it. It touched a nerve, I think. In fact, the review in the New York Times said—’

He interrupted me. ‘Any exciting follow up?’

The girl was switching on a blow-heater. As she bent forward, her silk top gaped. I stepped to one side to get a better view, caught the soft curve of her breasts, a pink bra.

‘This and that,’ I said. I wasn’t going to mention the damp squib of a sequel, the disappointing sales of the two books have had that followed.

‘Ah well, you creative types. Always up to something interesting. Not like us dull old dogs in the law.’

The girl had returned to her stool. The current from the blow-heater was causing her silky top to wrinkle and ruche. He was still prattling away. He was at Linklaters, he said, in litigation, but had made partner. ‘Even longer hours. On call twenty-four seven.’ He made a flopping gesture with his shoulders – glee masquerading as resignation. But what can you do? Kids at private school, blah blah, two cars, a mortgage that was ‘killing’ him. A couple of times, I said, ‘Gosh, right, OK.’ He just kept on. He was showing me how successful he was, bragging about his wife, while pretending to do the opposite. Tina had left the City, ‘burnt out, poor girl’, and opened a little business in Dulwich Village. A specialist yarn shop of all things. Surprisingly successful. ‘Who knew there was so much money to be made in wool?’ He gave a selfconscious hiccupy laugh.

I felt bored, but also irritated. ‘Not me,’ I said gamely.

Absent-mindedly, he picked up a book from the shelf – Hitchcock by François Truffaut. ‘You married these days?’ he said, tapping it against his palm.

I shook my head. These days? His sister came into my mind again – a gap between her teeth, too. Short pixie hair, younger than him. I’d have asked after her if I’d remembered her name. Lottie, was it? Lettie? Clingy, definitely. Had we actually gone to bed?

I felt hot suddenly, and claustrophobic, filled with an intense desire to get out.

Hopkins said something I didn’t completely hear, though I caught the phrase ‘kitchen supper’. He slapped the Hitchcock playfully against my upper arm, as if something in the last twenty years, or perhaps only in the last two minutes, had earned him the right to this blokeish intimacy. He had taken his phone out. I realised, with a sinking horror, he was waiting for my number.

I looked to the door where the rain was still falling. The redhaired temptress was reading a book now. I twisted my head to read the author. Nabokov. Pretentious twaddle. I had a strong desire to pull it from her grasp, grab a handful of hair, press my thumb into the tattoo on her neck. Teach her a lesson.

Turning back to Hopkins, I smiled and gave him what he wanted. He assured me he would call and I made a mental note not to answer when he did.

About the author:

Sabine Durrant is the author of two psychological thrillers, Under Your Skin and Remember Me This Way. Her previous novels are Having It and Eating It and The Great Indoors, and two books for teenage girls, Cross Your Heart, Connie Pickles and Ooh La La! Connie Pickles. She is a former features editor of the Guardian and a former literary editor at the Sunday Times, and her writing has appeared in many national newspapers and magazines. She lives in south London with her partner and their three children.

Make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour:


Blood Moon by John David Bethel

My second post of Mystery and Thriller Week 2017 is a review of John David Bethel’s Blood Moon, which was published by Tell-Tale Publishing in 2016.


Blood Moon opens with the abduction of Recidio Suarez – a wealthy business man living in Miami.  Taken to a warehouse, he is beaten, tortured and starved whilst his captors make him sign over everything he owns – his money, his house, his business.  They intend to leave Suarez with nothing.  He has little choice but to cooperate with their demands, and the slightest hint – genuine or imagined – of rebellion earns him additional “attention”.

Eventually, Suarez is thrown off a bridge in an attempt to make his death look like a suicide, but, against all expectation, he survives.  The novel then deals with his search for justice, made all the more difficult by the authorities who don’t believe his tale.

Blood Moon is an unusual book to review, because it is based upon true events.  There is a prologue written by Marc Schiller who was subjected to treatment similar to that suffered by Suarez in Bethel’s novel.  I have to say that, had this simply been a work of fiction, I’m not sure I’d have found the story feasible – the way in which Suarez is treated doesn’t entirely make sense, and it’s the sort of thing that I would have found frustrating.  I’m all up for fiction, but I find that if I can’t “buy it” then I don’t always enjoy it.

Knowing that this is based upon real events, however, put an entirely different spin on things, and I sat morbidly fascinated and horrified at the treatment Suarez receives at the hands of the the psychopathic individuals holding him captive.  In the prologue, Schiller points out that:

Truth is often stranger than fiction.

and so it proves to be the case here.  Needless to say, Blood Moon isn’t a novel for the faint of heart – it is gruesome in places, and whilst I’m not particularly squeamish, I did feel a little uncomfortable at times whilst reading this.

Suarez’s treatment by the authorities also stays true to the real-life events upon which the tale is based, and this made the story all the more shocking for the way in which the case was handled.  Whilst I’m sure that this is extremely atypical of any law enforcement agency, it is disturbing to think that a case would sound so outlandish – and it does – that it might not even be investigated.  Even the barest scratching at the surface here would have revealed a few things that didn’t add up, and would have prompted further enquiries.

This is a somewhat different read for me, and not something I would normally have picked up.  I did enjoy it, however, despite some of the more unpleasant contents.  It’s difficult to know how much Bethel imagined versus what happened to Schiller, but the thought of anyone going through even a fraction of this is horrifying.

Many thanks to John David Bethel for providing a copy for review.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Blogger Recognition Award


I was absolutely thrilled when I was nominated for this award by both Natalie at The Owl on the Bookshelf and Susan at Books From Dusk Till Dawn.  I love both of these blogs, and I really appreciate the support they’ve shown to me, both generally and in nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award.

Here are the rules for this award:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  2. Write a post to show your award
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers
  5. Select other bloggers you want to give this award to
  6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide a link to the post you have created

I started my blog in May 2015 as a way of sharing my love of reading and all things book related with a wider audience.  It’s something I’d been thinking about doing for quite a while, although I’m not sure I’d ever have taken the final step of actually setting up a blog without the encouragement of my other half.

I’ll be honest, it was quite a daunting experience, particularly for the initial few posts, but I’ve found that I grown more confident with it over time.

My advice to new bloggers would be:

  • Do things your own way.  There are lots of bloggers out there, and we all do things differently – it would be really boring if we were all the same.  So, experiment, and find a style that works for you
  • Don’t put yourself under pressure – for most of us, this is a hobby, and it’s something we do whilst balancing our day jobs and general lifestyle.  It doesn’t matter if you can’t blog every day, or if you need to take a break.  Life can be stressful enough, so be kind to yourself, and treat blogging as a hobby and something to be enjoyed, rather than letting it become a chore

I’m nominating the following blogs for the award:

Cathy at Between The Lines

Cleo at Cleopatra Loves Books

Emma at Emma’s Bookish Corner

Dave at Espresso Coco

Renee at It’s Book Talk

Janel at Keeper of Pages

Wendy at Little Bookness Lane

Annie at The Misstery

Q&A Plus Giveaway with Barbara Venkataraman

As part of Mystery and Thriller Week 2017, I’m thrilled to welcome Barbara Venkataraman to my blog for a Q&A plus a giveaway.


Barbara is the author of both the Jamie Quinn Mystery Series & the Quirky Essays for Quirky People Series, and you can find out more about her over at her website:

Information about the Jamie Quinn Mystery Series can be found below, along with details of the giveaway, but I’ll start by handing you over to Barbara for the Q&A.

  1. Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure!  I’m a family law attorney and mediator, just like my protagonist, Jamie Quinn, but unlike Jamie, I never find myself in the middle of a murder investigation.  She leads a much more exciting life than I do!

  1. And a little bit about your novels?

My Jamie Quinn cozy mystery series is set in Hollywood, Florida and features reluctant family law attorney, Jamie Quinn, her BFF and fellow attorney, Grace Anderson, her tree-hugger boyfriend, Kip Simons, and her former client, Duke Broussard, a womanizing, hard-partying P.I.  The first book in the series, Death by Didgeridoo, was chosen as an Indie Book of the Day.  The fourth book, Engaged in Danger is currently a short-listed semi-finalist in the Chanticleer M & M Mystery Novel Writing Competition.

  1. Who do you think would enjoy the Jamie Quinn mysteries – who would you recommend them to?

Being cozy mysteries, my books have no sex or violence.  Well, there’s violence, but it’s off-screen, so I would say they are general audience.  Now, most of my readers are women, but that’s because women buy more books than men (it’s a fact!) and most fans of cozy mysteries are women.  To my surprise and delight, the men who have read my books seem to like them too!

  1. Are you working on anything new right now?

I’m glad you asked that! I am working on Book 5 of the Jamie Quinn Series, Jeopardy in July.  It is quite possible that I will finish it in the next month.  Fingers crossed!  Actually, I’d better uncross my fingers if I expect to get any typing done.  Lol!

  1. How do you tend to write – with careful planning, or just seeing where the story goes?

Excellent question!  I always start with a title and a blurb of the story.  Then, I do research on whatever topics are relevant to that story line.  I always know how the book will start and how it will end.  The middle, however, is an organic process, that changes as it goes.  Sometimes, I only know what’s going to happen in the next chapter, but not the one after that.  Somehow, I always figure it out.  Whew!

  1. How long does it usually take you to write a novel?

They are all different.  Each book in the series has been longer than the one before it with more characters and twists, so each book takes longer than the one before.  Also, I’m still working as a lawyer, so I can’t devote all my time to writing, sigh!  The fourth book took me a year; this fifth one is a year and a half.

  1. What kind of research do you do for your novels, and do you do it all in advance?

I mostly do the research in advance, but sometimes I need to do more along the way.  For example, Peril in the Park is set in Broward County, Florida in a number of parks, so I had to research all of the parks and pick the ones that would fit best into the story.

  1. What sort of novels do you like to read, and who are your favourite authors?

I love books that have humor and heart.  I loved The Time Traveller’s Wife. I recently read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry–loved it!  I also loved The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

  1. Of your own novels, do you have a favourite? Or is that like asking someone to pick which of their children is their favourite?

Well, I love my first book Death by Didgeridoo because that’s where I met Jamie and found her voice.  I love the second book, The Case of the Killer Divorce because it let me meet Jamie’s boyfriend and her father.  I loved the third book Peril in the Park because there was more action going on and my first true villain!  I love the fourth book, Engaged in Danger because it was so darn hard to write, but I did it!  I currently hate my fifth book because it’s making my brain frazzle, but when it’s done, I will love it too!

  1. What are the three best pieces of advice that you’ve ever been given? (Not necessarily writing specific)

Don’t give up, just keep trying.  Willpower conquers all!

No often means “not right now”.  Timing is important.

Be nice!  It’s easy to judge people, but you never know what’s going on in their life.

Many thanks to Barbara for taking the time to answer my questions!  Here is a little more information about the Jamie Quinn Mystery Series:


Death by Didgeridoo (Jamie Quinn Mystery Series #1)

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder.  It’s up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it’s too late.  It doesn’t help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn’t commit.


bv-2-the-case-of-the-killer-divorceThe Case of the Killer Divorce (Jamie Quinn Mystery Series #2)

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, has returned to her family law practice after a hiatus due to the death of her mother.  It’s business as usual until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation, and Jamie’s client becomes the prime suspect.  When she can’t untangle truth from lies, Jamie enlists the help of Duke Broussard, her favorite private investigator, to try to clear her client’s name.  And she’s hoping that, in his spare time, he can help her find her long-lost father.


Peril in the Park (Jamie Quinn Mystery Series #3)

There’s big trouble in the park system.  Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn’s boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks.  Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion?  The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired?  Or someone with a bigger ax to grind?  If Jamie can’t figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing!  With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.


Engaged in Danger (Jamie Quinn Mystery Series #4)

Finally, life is good for reluctant family law attorney, Jamie Quinn–her father may get his visa soon, her boyfriend is the bomb, and her law practice is growing like crazy–but when she agrees to take on a high-profile divorce case, everything falls apart.  What looked like an opportunity to work with her friend Grace and make some serious bucks has turned into a deadly game, one that could destroy their friendship and tear their town apart.  Why couldn’t Jamie just leave well enough alone?

And now for the giveaway!  As part of Mystery and Thriller Week 2017, Barbara has very kindly offered to give away three digital copies of the Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection, which contains books 1, 2 and 3 of the series (Death by Didgeridoo, The Case of the Killer Divorce and Peril in the Park), as well as a preview of Engaged in Danger.


To enter, simply leave a comment on this post or retweet my pinned tweet (you can find me on Twitter @tiny_ickle_jo) by 16:00 GMT on 17 February.

Good luck!