Category Archives: Blog Tour

Blog Tour: Hydra by Matt Wesolowski

HYDRA BF AW.indd

I absolutely loved Six Stories, and I was thrilled to be invited to take part in the blog tour for Wesolowski’s follow up, Hydra.

Welcome to Six Stories. I’m Scott King.

In the next six weeks, we will be looking back at what happened to the Macleod family in 2014 – the incident more commonly known as ‘the Macleod massacre’. We’ll be looking back from six perspectives, seeing the events that unfolded through six pairs of eyes.

One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the northwest of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.

King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five key witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was as diminished as her legal team made out.

As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess…

As with Six Stories, Hydra is told through a series of podcasts which are released on a weekly basis, featuring a different interviewee in each episode.  I love this format, and I think it works brilliantly as a way of looking at a crime, exploring it from a different angle each week.  In this case, King is considering a relatively recent incident in which Arla Macleod murdered her parents and younger sister.  Whilst Arla was found guilty (albeit under grounds of diminished responsibility) a motive was never really sought, and so while King states he isn’t seeking to solve any of the crimes he looks into, I think that there is a question here as to why she murdered her family, particularly in such a brutal fashion.

King’s investigation into the “Macleod massacre” is riveting, and he quickly begins to uncover a few elements that may explain why Arla committed the crime, as there seems to be little evidence to suggest that she is not guilty, and this becomes a compelling and complex story of a troubled young woman.  I think that the method of telling this from one interviewee’s perspective at a time is excellent – it allows the reader to build up an idea of what happened, which might then be contradicted in the following week’s episode.  I also like that King is on hand to remind the reader of the key details, and the way in which he chips in when something that has been presented as fact is corroborated or contradicted, always reminding the reader (or listener) of the key details.  And whilst King states that his aim isn’t to solve the crime that he’s looking at, Hydra is brought to an extremely satisfying conclusion.

Whilst Six Stories did have a supernatural element, this was much more apparent in Hydra, and I really liked this aspect of the novel.  The inclusion of the black-eyed children – an urban legend (for want of a better term) – adds a very creepy factor to the novel, and I found that this is a book to read after you’ve made sure that the doors are locked and the curtains closed.

Hydra and Six Stories are loosely linked, but can easily be read as standalone novels, and I highly recommend them both.  These are both compelling novels, told in an innovative format, and despite the similarities, I never felt that this was repeating what had gone before.

Hydra is published today in paperback by Orenda Books, and is also available as an eBook.  Many thanks to the publisher and to Anne Cater for the review copy, and for the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


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

Hydra blog poster 2018 FINAL

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Blog Tour: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

little fires everywhere

When I saw the blurb for Little Fires Everywhere, I was instantly intrigued, and jumped at the opportunity to join the blog tour.

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

In Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng has created some stellar characters, and even with those I didn’t like as much (Elena and Lexie, I’m looking at you here) there were moments when I still admired them, or empathised with their situations, as all of the characters had their good and bad points making them extremely realistic.  I absolutely adored Mia and her daughter Pearl, and I found Mia’s story – which the reader finds out more about as Elena goes digging for some dirt on her tenant – to be absolutely heart-breaking.

Elena, on the other hand, comes across as being elitist, looking down on those whom she considers to have made poorer life choices than she did, often without understanding their circumstances.  She finds Mia to be disconcerting, largely because she doesn’t desire the life that Elena has made for herself and her family, and she finds this attitude incomprehensible.  Whilst Mia is happy to take life as it comes, Elena firmly believes in the ethos of Shaker Heights:

the underlying philosophy being that everything could – and should – be planned out, and that by doing so you could avoid the unseemly, the unpleasant, and the disastrous.

The plot line regarding the adoption of a Chinese-American baby doesn’t come into the story straightaway, but acts as something of a catalyst as Mia and Elena are on opposing sides in the court of public opinion, and this acts as a trigger for Elena to do a little investigative work, uncovering the past that Mia has tried to put behind her.  I found this element of the story to be absolutely fascinating, and whilst I had an opinion as to what the outcome should be, I could see both sides of the argument.

I don’t believe that this was the intention, but I thought that Shaker Heights came across as being vaguely dystopian, maybe even a little “Stepford”, in its apparent perfection and almost regimental adherence to order:

Order – and regulation, the father of order – had been the Shakers’ key to harmony.

This is probably a reflection of my reading habits more than it is of the novel, but I was instantly intrigued by the idea of a community which controls everything from the colour of the houses, the curvature of the roads, and even the time window in which trick or treating is permitted.  I should point out that this isn’t a dystopian novel, but the town did have that kind of vibe, which I absolutely loved.

I thought that Little Fires Everywhere was absolutely brilliant.  It’s a thought-provoking novel that covers so much more than the blurb would have you believe, covering mother-daughter relationships, family history and secrets, privilege and the expectations that come with that to name but a few.  To top it all, it’s brilliantly written, and Little Fires Everywhere is likely to feature in my favourite novels of the 2017.

Little Fires Everywhere was published in hardback by Little, Brown on 9 November.  Many thanks to Grace Vincent for providing a copy for review, and for inviting me to join the blog tour.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

Make sure you check out the other bloggers who are on the tour today:

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Book Blast: Pleasing Mr. Pepys by Deborah Swift

Pleasing Mr. Pepys
by Deborah Swift

Publication Date: September 28, 2017
Accent Press
eBook & Paperback; 407 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

 

London 1667.

Set in a London rising from the ruins of the Great Fire, Pleasing Mr Pepys is a vivid re-imagining of the events in Samuel Pepys’s Diary.

Desperate to escape her domineering aunt, Deb Willet thinks the post of companion to well-respected Elisabeth Pepys is the answer to her prayers. But Samuel Pepys’s house is not as safe as it seems. An intelligent girl in Deb’s position has access to his government papers, and soon she becomes a target of flamboyant actress Abigail Williams, a spy for England’s enemies, the Dutch.

Abigail is getting old and needs a younger accomplice. She blackmails Deb into stealing Pepys’s documents. Soon, the respectable life Deb longs for slides out of her grasp. Mr Pepys’s obsessive lust for his new maid increases precisely as Abigail and her sinister Dutch spymaster become more demanding. When Deb falls for handsome Jem Wells, a curate-in-training, she thinks things cannot possibly get worse.

Until – not content with a few stolen papers – the Dutch want Mr Pepys’s Diary.

Swift brought Deborah Willet, the Pepyses, and the London of the 1660s to life in an exciting and sometimes touching way…I didn’t want to put it down, and found myself thinking about the story when I went about my day.” – Andrea Zuvich, Author of His Last Mistress

Deb Willet, Elizabeth Pepys’s maid and the object of Samuel Pepys’s attentions, is finally given centre-stage after 350 years, and her tale was worth waiting for. This is exceptional story-telling.” – L. C. Tyler

Laced with emotional intensity and drama, Pleasing Mr Pepys… (has) an intricate plot that features red herrings, unexpected twists, and surprises that will take readers on a very delightful ride.” – Arya Fomonyuy, Readers’ Favorite

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Chapters

About the Author

Deborah Swift is the author of three previous historical novels for adults, The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance, all published by Macmillan/St Martin’s Press, as well as the Highway Trilogy for teens (and anyone young at heart!). Her first novel was shortlisted for the Impress prize for new novelists.

She lives on the edge of the beautiful and literary English Lake District – a place made famous by the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.

For more information, please visit Deborah Swift’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Thursday, September 28
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Guest Post at Books of All Kinds

Friday, September 29
Guest Post at Let Them Read Books
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Monday, October 2
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Tuesday, October 3
Review at The Lit Bitch
Feature at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Wednesday, October 4
Feature at A Holland Reads

Thursday, October 5
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, October 6
Feature at Passages to the Past

Monday, October 9
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, October 10
Review at Locks, Hooks and Books

Wednesday, October 11
Review at Book Nerd

Friday, October 13
Review at Poppy Coburn

Monday, October 16
Review at Just One More Chapter
Review at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen

Tuesday, October 17
Review at Laura’s Interests
Interview at Suzy Approved Books

Wednesday, October 18
Book Blast at Jo’s Book Blog

Thursday, October 19
Feature at T’s Stuff

Friday, October 20
Review at A Literary Vacation
Guest Post at The Writing Desk

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a signed copy of Pleasing Mr. Pepys to one lucky winner! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on October 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Pleasing Mr. Pepys

Blog Tour: Death in the Stars by Frances Brody

Death in the Stars - Cover

Today I’m delighted to share with you my review of Death in the Stars, the ninth outing for private investigator Kate Shackleton.

Yorkshire, 1927. Eclipse fever grips the nation, and when beloved theatre star Selina Fellini approaches trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton to accompany her to a viewing party at Giggleswick School Chapel, Kate suspects an ulterior motive.

During the eclipse, Selina’s friend and co-star Billy Moffatt disappears and is later found dead in the chapel grounds. Kate can’t help but dig deeper and soon learns that two other members of the theatre troupe died in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past year. With the help of Jim Sykes and Mrs Sugden, Kate sets about investigating the deaths – and whether there is a murderer in the company.

When Selina’s elusive husband Jarrod, injured in the war and subject to violent mood swings, comes back on the scene, Kate begins to imagine something far deadlier at play, and wonders just who will be next to pay the ultimate price for fame…

As I’ve mentioned, Death in the Stars is the ninth book in the Kate Shackleton Mysteries, featuring the wonderful Kate and her small team comprised of Mrs Sugden and former police officer Jim Sykes, but you don’t need to have read the whole series to appreciate this one.  I’ve only read the previous novel, Death at the Seaside, and I don’t feel that this puts the reader at a disadvantage at all.

I have to admit that I did prefer this novel to the previous one.  In Death at the Seaside, I felt that Kate, who was on holiday at the time, wasn’t fully invested in the case, which she (almost literally) stumbled across.  Here, Kate and her team are involved from the beginning, and I felt that this novel had more investigative work involved in order to solve the mystery which made it a more interesting tale.

I really like Kate as a character, and I’m sure that her chosen profession would have been somewhat frowned upon in the 1920s.  Interestingly, Brody chooses not to explore this element in the novel (it may be covered in earlier novels in the series), which was something I was quite grateful for.  Whilst this might have given the novel a more real setting, not everything has to comment upon the social standards of the time, and this allows the reader to focus on the crime and spotting the clues before the big reveal at the end.

Death in the Stars depicts a fascinating mystery with multiple clues, suspects and red herrings thrown in along the way.  I did work out the “whodunnit”, but I of course kept reading to make sure that I was correct!  A wonderful “cosy crime” novel with an excellent main character.

Death in the Stars is published today by Piatkus – many thanks to Clara Diaz at Little, Brown Book Group for providing a copy for review, and for inviting me to join the blog tour.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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

Blog Tour Poster

About the Author:Frances Brody Oct17

Frances Brody is the author of the Kate Shackleton mysteries, as well as many stories and plays for BBC Radio, scripts for television and four sagas, one of which won the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin Award. Her stage plays have been toured by several theatre companies and produced at Manchester Library Theatre, the Gate and Nottingham Playhouse, and Jehad was nominated for a Time Out Award.

The Fourteenth Letter by Claire Evans

the fourteenth letter

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Fourteenth Letter today.  The Fourteenth Letter was published in hardback and digital formats in April, and will be published in paperback on 21 September.

A mysterious keepsake, a murdered bride, a legacy of secrets…

One balmy June evening in 1881, Phoebe Stanbury stands before the guests at her engagement party: this is her moment, when she will join the renowned Raycraft family and ascend to polite society.

As she takes her fiancé’s hand, a stranger holding a knife steps forward and ends the poor girl’s life. Amid the chaos, he turns to her aristocratic groom and mouths: ‘I promised I would save you.’

The following morning, just a few miles away, timid young legal clerk William Lamb meets a reclusive client. He finds the old man terrified and in desperate need of aid: William must keep safe a small casket of yellowing papers, and deliver an enigmatic message: The Finder knows.

I was immediately taken with the premise of The Fourteenth Letter, and jumped at the chance to read and review this title on my blog.  Straddling both the historical fiction and police procedural genres, perhaps with the smallest hint of science fiction thrown in, this is a novel that defies easy categorisation, but if it sounds like an odd mix, don’t let that put you off, because this is an interesting mystery, and if I guessed a few of the plot twists (of which there were many), there were others that took me by surprise.

I’m not going to go into the plot in any detail, as this is a novel that moves along at a fast pace – there’s always something happening, and I think that this novel’s secrets are best discovered as you’re reading it.  Needless to say, a young woman murdered at her engagement party, cryptic messages – it’s all very intriguing, and delivers upon its promise of strange and secretive goings-on, and if there were a couple of aspects that didn’t appeal to me personally, it was still a great deal of fun to read.

The novel is told from multiple points of view. This helps to keep the pace high, as there is always something going on, some new clue being revealed, and the reader gets an insight into both sides of the story.  And there is a good side and a bad side in this novel, although they aren’t particularly clear cut, with a few characters on both sides muddying the waters between right and wrong.  Whilst the multiple perspectives did help to keep the pace up, it did also mean that I didn’t feel particularly attached to any of the characters.  This does sometimes happen when there are a large cast of characters, and whilst this isn’t always an issue, I think that I would have liked someone to root for here.

The characters are a bit of a strange bunch, and I have to admit that I didn’t like William – who is as close to a central character as we get – at all.  His character does (gradually) develop as the novel progresses, but he didn’t redeem himself enough for me to change my opinion of him.  My favourite characters were Harry, the detective investigating Phoebe’s murder, and Savannah, who becomes unwillingly caught up in William’s troubles.  Harry is perceived by his colleagues as being a little slow and easily distracted, and yet to me it seemed that he had extraordinary attention to detail, and what was considered inattention was rather him mulling over the facts and seeking out those missing details to solve the crime.  In contrast, Savannah is a gun-toting American on the run, and stands out like a sore thumb in late nineteenth century London.  She’s all feisty attitude, and she adds a lot of the excitement into the novel.  That said, I did feel that there were elements to Savannah’s past that were hinted at, but never fully revealed, which was a little frustrating.

My main issue with the novel was that some elements of the plot just didn’t work for me personally.  Whilst it moves quickly, there were a few things that happened that didn’t really make sense, and seemed all too convenient when I think that a more plausible option was available.  That’s just my personal opinion, however, and overall, this is still a fun read.

Many thanks to Ella Bowman for providing a copy for review, and for inviting me to join the blog tour.  The Fourteenth Letter will be published in paperback on 21 September by Sphere.

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

The Fourteenth Letter - Blog Tour

Blog Tour: Ask No Questions by Lisa Hartley

ask no questions

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Ask No Questions by Lisa Hartley.  Ask No Questions is the first novel in a new series featuring Detective Caelan Small.

Some secrets were meant to stay hidden… Trust no-one

After an operation goes badly wrong, undercover specialist Detective Caelan Small leaves the Metropolitan Police for good. Or so she thinks. Then the criminal responsible is seen back in the UK.

Soon Caelan is drawn back into a dangerous investigation. But when the main lead is suddenly murdered, all bets are off. Nothing is as it seems. Everyone is a suspect – even close colleagues.

Someone in the Met is involved and Caelan is being told to Ask No Questions.

This isn’t an option: Caelan needs answers… whatever the cost.

I thought that Ask No Questions was a very well-plotted story.  There are two interlinked cases, both of them targeting the same villain, Seb Lambourne.  The original case, that caused Caelan to retire, still poses multiple questions as no one is really sure how it could have gone so badly wrong.  In particular, some people are asking whether Caelan is capable and / or trustworthy, speculating that she may have been in cahoots with Lambourne all along.  This makes Caelan’s current case all the more difficult, as she has to deal with sceptical colleagues whilst still doing her job, which is no straightforward matter.  Whilst it sounds like a relatively straightforward plot, it very quickly becomes more complicated (although never to the point that the reader can’t follow it), and I enjoyed seeing it all unravel by the end.

In terms of the characters, I found Caelan to be a little difficult at first, although I did warm to her as I came to understand her more.  As someone who works undercover a lot of the time, she is used to keeping to herself, and I found the initial lack of detail a little frustrating at first.  I soon gained more insight into her character, however, and this did help to clarify her actions and motivations, and I was cheering for her by the end.  I thought that the secondary characters were lacking in detail, however – there was some background on Ewan, who becomes Caelan’s pseudo-partner, but I didn’t get much of a sense for what the other characters were really like.  The focus is Caelan, however, so I don’t consider this to be a significant issue, it’s more that I’d have liked some additional detail in order to understand those around her more.

There are a few twists in the novel, but I have to admit that I saw some of them coming.  There were a couple of surprises, but I had worked out a few elements ahead of the big reveal.  This is still an entertaining read however, and I think that it will be interesting to see where Hartley takes Caelan next.

Ask No Questions was published on 10 July by Canelo.  Many thanks to Faye Rogers for inviting me to join the blog tour, and to Faye and Canelo for the advance proof.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

About the Author

Lisa Hartley

Lisa Hartley lives with her partner, son, two dogs and several cats. She graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Studies, then had a variety of jobs but kept writing in her spare time. In addition to this new series with Canelo she is also working on the next DS Catherine Bishop novel.

Website: http://www.lisahartley.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rainedonparade


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

Ask No Questions Blog Tour Graphic (6)

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Lighterman by Simon Michael

the lighterman

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first two novels in the Charles Holborne series, The Brief and An Honest Man, and I was delighted to be invited to join the blog tour for the release of the third instalment, The Lighterman.  I’m also offering one lucky reader to opportunity to win a paperback copy of The Lighterman – see the end of this post for details of how to enter.

Simon Michael’s follow up to the bestselling The Brief and An Honest Man, continues the adventures of criminal barrister Charles Holborne. The Lighterman provides more of Charles’s personal history, dating back to the war years when he worked on the River Thames with his cousin Izzy. Gangland leader Ronnie Kray is not a man to forgive or forget. Holborne has ‘taken liberties’ and revenge will follow. But how to get at a tough and resourceful Brief with his own history of criminality and a penchant for violence? The answer: find a man who can’t be hanged twice. Now Holborne must dig up the secrets of the past to save two lives… one of them his own. Simon Michael brings the past vividly back to life across a beautifully rendered 60s landscape, and delivers a gripping piece of thriller fiction that will excite any fan of the genre.

In the first two novels in the series, the reader is able to pick up little snippets about Holborne’s background, particularly his East End upbringing and the disagreements with his family when he anglicised his name thereby rejecting, in their eyes, his Jewish heritage.  One of the things I loved about The Lighterman was finding out more about his past, particularly his time in London during the Blitz when he worked on the river with his uncle and his cousin, Izzy.  I thought that this allowed the reader to get a more complete picture of Holborne as a character, and helps to show how he got to where he is today.

Both The Brief and An Honest Man have made reference to the infamous Kray twins, and Michael has been building up to clash between Holborne and the two brothers, whose paths he crossed in his last outing.  It was no surprise that they formed a much more significant part of this novel, as the Kray twins, and Ronnie in particular, seek to avenge themselves.   Thus, Holborne finds himself in a great deal of trouble, and I found this to be an incredibly exciting storyline as things come to a head.

I’ve always found Holborne to be something of a loveable rogue, and this book brings out more of this side of his character as he is forced into some misdemeanours of his own in order to save not just his cousin’s life, but his own as well.  It’s sometimes hard to know if a good man doing bad things is meant to garner sympathy from the reader – in Holborne’s case, his motivations are understandable, even if this doesn’t allow the reader to fully condone his actions.  I was completely on board with Holborne, however – it seems that almost everyone in the 1960s was corrupt in some way, and I think that you sometimes have to play the bad guys at their own game in order to resolve a situation.  As Green Day said “Nice guys finish last”.

I love a good courtroom scene, and Michael once again delivers a fantastically tense case against seemingly insurmountable odds.  I love those moments – the questioning of the witnesses, and trying to bring the jury round to a particular way of thinking.  Scenes like these, when done badly, can come across as dull and repetitive, but Michael has this down pat, which I’m sure stems at least partly from his own experiences in legal profession.

I think that The Lighterman is the best in the series yet, and I found it to be darker and grittier than the first two novels in the series, although still in keeping with the style and tone set in the preceding novels.  I do recommend reading the first two novels in the series before this one – there are references to the previous stories in The Lighterman, and I think it helps to understand what Holborne has been through in the last two novels in order to get the most out of this one.

The Lighterman was published on 8 June.  Many thanks to Matthew at Urbane Publications for the review copy, and to Michelle Ryles for inviting me to join the blog tour.

Rating: ★★★★★

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

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Giveaway

As part of the blog tour, Matthew at Urbane Publications is very kindly offering a paperback copy of The Lighterman to one lucky reader.  To be in with a chance of winning, either leave a comment on this blog post or retweet my pinned tweet by midnight on 14 June.  UK entrants only please!