Her Perfect Life Sam Hepburn – Blog Tour Review

Publication Date: Available Now from Harper Collins

Source: Netgalley

How far would you go to create the perfect life?

Gracie Dwyer has it all: the handsome husband, the adorable child, the beautiful home and the glittering career. The perfect life.

Her new friend Juliet doesn’t exactly fit in. She’s a down-on-her-luck single parent with no money and not much hope.

So just what is it that draws Gracie and Juliet together? And when the cracks start to appear in Gracie’s perfect life, can both of them survive?

Her Perfect Life was an intriguing read, following the “friendship” of two very different women, one who seemingly has everything, one who seemingly has nothing. As such it was a clever, involving character drama with a psychological thriller twist as motivations and truths start to emerge.

To be honest it was the friendship angle that interested me most – as a reader of many psychological thrillers there are not many surprises – but Sam Hepburn has written a multi-layered and compelling portrait of two different women who come together, a toxic manipulative friendship develops, seeing it as we do from both points of view makes it endlessly fascinating.

Well written, you get sucked into the tale very easily, Sam Hepburn throws plenty of intrigue and twists into the tale, as it unfolds it gets ever more addictive – towards the end of the book I could barely put it down even though it was a  slow burner it was highly involving.

Overall a really good addition to this popular genre and one that as a reader you can take many different things from and a well constructed plot that manages not to be utterly obvious – as such I would definitely recommend it.

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Desperation Road – Michael Farris Smith – Blog Tour Guest Post.

Today I am very pleased to welcome author Michael Farris Smith, talking about writers who inspired him.

Guest Post – Michael Farris Smith.

Sometimes I wonder if I should feel guilt over being so hard on my characters, but then I’m reminded of the writers who have inspired me, and the courage and strength I always find in their stories because they situate their characters firmly between a rock and a hard place. And dare them to find a way out.

The most striking influence of this for me came from the late Larry Brown. As a beginning writer, and fellow Mississippian, I was inspired by Brown’s stories of down-and-out men and women in down-and-out towns, but I was just as influenced about what Brown had to say about writing fiction. His interviews were always full of thoughts about the guts and courage it took to sit down and write, the guts and courage it took to face rejection after rejection and keep trucking. And I learned from this. I learned perseverance and work ethic. And then I began to notice another word he seemingly used over and over when describing the grittiness of his stories. Sandbagging. This is the word he referred to when asked why his characters had to deal with so much. He said he liked to sandbag them, to pile on to see just how much they could take and how they would react. That made sense to me immediately, and still does.

Because in life, you don’t really find out about people until things go bad. It’s not a challenge to be a good person on the days when the sun is shining, and you get off work early, and you find twenty dollars in your pocket, and your favorite person has said something nice to you, and the bills have been paid with more than a little left over. But let the rain wash out the picnic, or let the boss make you put in a few extra hours on a Friday evening and you have to cancel a date with a pretty girl, or let the one nail in the middle of the road find the tire on your car, and that’s when the truth comes out. The real self revealed. And that’s what I want to find out about my characters. When it’s tough, when there is only a faint speck of light at the end of the tunnel, what will they do? How will they get out of it? Will they give up or keep fighting? Can they climb over the pile of sandbags?

I bet they will try.

About the Book.

 

Published by No Exit Press.

For eleven years the clock has been ticking for Russell Gaines as he sits in Parchman penitentiary. His sentence now up, Russell believes his debt has been paid. But when he returns home, he discovers that revenge lives and breathes all around him.

Meanwhile, a woman named Maben and her young daughter trudge along the side of the interstate. Desperate and exhausted, the pair spend their last dollar on a room for the night, a night that ends with Maben holding a pistol and a dead deputy sprawled in the middle of the road.

With the dawn, destinies collide, and Russell is forced to decide whose life he will save—his own or those of the woman and child.

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Lie With Me – Sabine Durrant. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Mulholland

Source: Review Copy

Paul Morris is running out of money, friends and second chances. His new relationship might be his last hope of success.
Alice is not like any of the women he’s pursued in the past: wealthy, lonely, driven. When she invites Paul to her holiday home in Greece, he decides to do whatever it takes to make the romance stick.
But the summer is not the idyll he had planned. 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.
For Paul is not be the only person with a plan… and his dreams of a life worth living may yet turn into a nightmare he cannot escape.

Lie With Me is a real page turner of a psychological thriller, certainly for me the best one from Sabine Durrant I have read with its cool (or hot if you like) setting and taut, clever prose that just drags you right into the story and holds you there.

The story is told by Paul, a really divisive fellow, you sure are not meant to like him and I did not, who leeches off the people around him based on one successful novel years earlier. His latest provider is Alice, a widow, who when they start a relationship invites him on holiday to Greece with the family. Never one to turn down a freebie, off he goes. But maybe this time he is not the one with the nefarious motivations…

It really is quite clever this novel because to be honest nobody in it is particularly lovely. The plot bubbles with untold secrets, every conversation, every action is layered with insinuation, as the story unfolds it is totally gripping and best of all you really are not sure where it is going. Rather than a Game of Thrones “Everybody Dies” vibe instead you have “Everybody Lies” – true in real life as in this book, but Sabine Durrant plays with that so beautifully, leaving the reader with an off kilter, slightly disturbed feeling throughout.

Lie with Me is a slow slow burn of a tale, the character interactions are loaded with the promise of future revelations, which when they arrive illicit a truly emotional response – despite really hating Paul at times I did feel vaguely sorry for him. The group dynamic once they all reach Greece is intelligently woven into the wider plot involving a missing girl and a long ago crime, the mystery elements are perfectly in harmony with the intense character studies. The end, when it comes, is brilliantly placed and hugely satisfying – basically this book simmers, comes to the boil, then goes BOOM.

I really loved this one. It was clever, immersive and totally unsettling. Beautifully done.

Highly Recommended.

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The Elisenda Domenech Investigations: City of Drowned Souls. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Canelo

Source: Review Copy

When a child disappears, the clock starts ticking.
Detective Elisenda Domènech has had a tough few years. The loss of her daughter and a team member; the constant battles against colleagues and judges; the harrowing murder investigations… But it’s about to get much worse.

When the son of a controversial local politician goes missing at election time, Elisenda is put on the case. They simply must solve it. Only the team also have to deal with a spate of horrifically violent break-ins. People are being brutalised in their own homes and the public demands answers.

Could there be a connection? Why is nobody giving a straight answer? And where is Elisenda’s key informant, apparently vanished off the face of the earth? With the body count threatening to increase and her place in the force on the line, the waters are rising…

Be careful not to drown.

I love the way Chris Lloyd  writes because he does that slow burn to the finish thing that involves many moving parts, all cleverly layered and all coming together but without necessarily tying it all up in a beautiful bow.

Such is the case with City of Drowned Souls, a beautifully engaging crime novel within the Elisenda Domenech investigations series. Elisenda herself continues to have multiple intriguing layers that just feeds into the wider plot and makes for an anchor to the rest. The descriptive prose is vivid and immersive, the political threads are fascinating and in all that you have a great mystery too. An emotive one in this case and throughout the read I was not sure where things might end up. You just travel along with it, caught up in the moment.

You can read this one on its own too, this is my second that I’ve read and just confirmed for me that I want to read the rest. The scene setting is particularly good both in relation to the places and to the social attitudes, a great depth to things and that is what I personally look for in my crime drama.

Overall an excellent read. Bring on the next one I say. You really can’t ever have too many great books to look forward to. Chris Lloyd gives good book.

Recommended.

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One Little Mistake Emma Curtis. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: 23rd Feb 2017 from Transworld

Source: Review Copy

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

When she risks everything she holds dear on a whim, there’s only person she trusts enough to turn to.

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

Really enjoyed One Little Mistake and it is an extremely thought provoking page turner.

Strangely, considering it IS a psychological thriller that does have that popular and gorgeous twisty goodness in it, that was not the part that gripped me. When you read a lot of psychological thrillers, as I do, surprises in actual plot twists are rare but One Little Mistake didn’t need that anyway because you had Vicki and you had Amber.

There is a lot of insightful reality in One Little Mistake. Vicki outwardly has the perfect life, the perfect family but if you dig a little deeper you soon see the real life stresses and strains, the old adage about not judging until you’ve walked a mile in someone’s shoes comes into sharp focus here. Never the less her life is pretty good – until she makes one little mistake. It is unthinking and one of those throw away moments that we all may come to, even if not in the same way, at some point in our lives. That spur of the moment act during which things go terribly wrong.

Then we have Amber. Seemingly a great friend to Vicki, her most trusted confidant, of course that is who Vicki looks to in her time of need. But Amber is not as steady as would first appear, scratch her surface and you’ll find something very different. The relationship and then the relationship breakdown of these two is where this story comes into its own. Gripping, cleverly written to really show all the layers of each of the women, drip feeding personality page by page until you get to the core of them both, it is utterly riveting. Utterly.

There are plenty of twists and turns along the way, the truth of what lies behind Amber’s personality and actions, yes the mystery element is great and fans of the twist will enjoy it muchly as did I. But what Emma Curtis does here so brilliantly is the nuances of human nature, the truth that whatever we show on the outside can never truly reflect what we are on the inside. It is that element of One Little Mistake that held me in its thrall.

I have no problem whatsoever recommending this on several levels.

Excellent stuff.

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Death Games Chris Simms (Late!) Blog Tour Review. Giveaway.

Publication Date: Available Now from Richmond

Source: Review Copy

Manchester: an injured survivor from a motorway pile-up flees the scene, leaving behind evidence that a terror attack is being planned…

Jon Spicer, newly trained as a Specialist Firearms Officer, has joined Manchester police’s Counter Terrorism Unit. Thrown out of his previous department and demoted to Detective Constable, he is being kept in the force only because he’ll take on the most dangerous of jobs.

Iona Khan is struggling to find respect and recognition in the male-dominated Counter Terrorism Unit. Her mind might be sharp, but many of her colleagues value physical strength above anything else.

As the investigation quickly snowballs, Spicer and Khan are thrown together. The two officers must learn to trust each other – and fast. Because in this chase, any wrong move could be your last.

Death Games opens with a bang and basically bangs on from there – fast paced and really rather gripping, involving a possible terrorist attack in Manchester this is one of those books you read fast and get immersed into almost immediately.

I liked Spicer as a character – this is book 8 of a series that I have not read before, but there was enough detail in there to give me a general idea of where he has been – well drawn and I found his interactions with Iona to be one of the strengths of the book, thrown  together in difficult circumstances, with a lot at stake, it made me want to go back and read the previous novels.

The writing is great, engaging and often intense, descriptively speaking very cleverly putting the reader right on the spot, immersive well flowing prose that keeps you hooked. Great plotting to take you on a bit of a thrill ride to the finale, overall I really enjoyed this one and did it in pretty much one sitting.

Top notch crime thriller – I’d recommend giving these a go.

Fancy trying it? Email Chris comment@chrissimms.info with Death Games Proof in the subject for a chance to win a copy.

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The Road to Publication with Su Bristow. Sealskin Blog Tour.

Today I am delighted to welcome Su Bristow to the blog talking a little about getting to the point of publication of her beautiful novel Seal Skin. Part of the ongoing blog tour.

Publication Journey – Su Bristow.

‘How did you get to the point of publication?’ is a question that often comes up. For me, the real turning point was winning the Exeter Novel Prize in 2014. You have to submit a synopsis and the first 10,000 words, and I’d only got to 50,000 at that point, but my goodness, that put a rocket under me!

When I entered, I wasn’t thinking ‘What if I win?’ at all. In fact, the main reason for entering was that the three writers who set up the competition – Cathie Hartigan, Margaret James and Sophie Duffy – are good friends of mine, and I wanted to support their business, Creative Writing Matters. I should add here that they read all the entries without knowing who the authors are, and that the finalists are chosen by Broo Doherty on the merits of the writing alone.

I’d been working on Sealskin for five years or so at that point, as well as writing short stories, and I was feeling my way slowly and carefully through, not in any particular hurry. I had the general outline of the plot, of course, because it started from a traditional folk tale, but the finer details emerged from the development of the characters themselves, and it took time to get to know them, living with them and thinking about them pretty much every day.

The last 30,000 words took about three months to write, and then it was another few months before Broo Doherty came back to me with some editorial suggestions. I worked on those, and eventually, at the second Exeter Novel Prize awards a year later, she agreed to take me on.

Then came the rejection phase. When you send a manuscript to a publisher, the response time can vary enormously, from almost at once to many months, or maybe never. And I knew from the experience of other writers that it can be many years – if ever – before it gets accepted, so I simply tried to put it out of mind and get on with other things. But eventually – hallelujah! – it was accepted by Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books.

Karen had left Arcadia the year before, and was working hard to build her own list, so she really got behind Sealskin. There was more re-drafting to do, and more waiting until she had a time slot for publication, but at last – just before Christmas last year – the ebook came out. The paperback will be launched in March, and the audiobook follows shortly after that.

But you don’t just publish a book, of course. There’s the blogging and the reviews and the talks and the tweets, and all the other things that are essential to help it on its way. Karen is sending out review copies as I write, complete with lovely herbal tea (I’m a herbalist by profession, and one of the main characters in Sealskin is a healer) and tissues, because I seem to be rather good at making people cry!

About the Book:

Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous, and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives—not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence? Based on the legend of the selkies—seals who can transform into people—evokes the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set.

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The Damselfly SJ Holliday – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Black and White

Source: Review Copy

Katie Taylor is the perfect student. She’s bright and funny, she has a boyfriend who adores her and there are only a few months left of school before she can swap Banktoun for the bright lights of London. Life gets even better when she has an unexpected win on a scratch card. But then Katie’s luck runs out.

Her tragic death instead becomes the latest in a series of dark mysteries blighting the small town. The new school counsellor Polly McAllister, who has recently returned to Banktoun to make amends in her own personal life, is thrown in at the deep end as the pupils and staff come to terms with Katie’s death. And it’s not long before she uncovers a multitude of murky secrets. Did Katie have enemies? Is her boyfriend really so squeaky clean? And who is her brother’s mysterious friend?

With Banktoun’s insular community inflamed by gossip and a baying mob stirring itself into a frenzy on social media, DS Davie Gray and DC Louise Jennings must work out who really murdered Katie before someone takes matters into their own hands . .

So the third in the Banktoun trilogy then and the best yet. Absolutely. Black Wood and Willow Walk both extremely excellent but The Damselfly just takes things up several notches both in quality writing and atmospheric, compelling storytelling.

The small and complex community of Banktoun faces yet another tragedy when young Katie Taylor dies, our favourite Davie Gray investigates but feelings are running high and secrets lurk around every corner. The author brings a creepy sense of utter reality to the small town vibe, with a keen eye towards characterisation that just sucks you into the vortex of a place where everyone knows everyone else but nobody knows anyone at all. It is clever and cohesive plotting with an edge of ominous foreshadowing – as such it is completely gripping throughout.

The twisty road to the truth of what happened to Katie will keep you turning those pages well past the point of reason (books like this are why I keep matches close to prop my eyes open) and it is an emotive and irresistible read with an ending that will blow your mind – I won’t say what I said at the moment of putting this one down but it wasn’t that polite.

The Damselfly is intense, intelligent and powerful, a beautifully done tale of twisted genius with an authentic edge and an strong emotional core – without doubt it comes highly recommended from me.

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The Hit Nadia Dalbuono – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Scribe

Source: Review Copy

When the family of Micky Proietti, a top television executive, goes missing, Leone Scamarcio is called to investigate. Everyone, it seems — from Premier League footballers to jilted starlets and cabinet ministers — has an axe to grind with Proietti. What starts out as an investigation into his countless affairs soon becomes an inquiry into how Proietti does business and the people he has discarded along the way. Finally, Proietti’s finances attract Scamarcio’s attention, and he discovers that the drama commissioner has been granting favours to some very shadowy sponsors.

Like a swimmer trying to escape a riptide, Scamarcio comes to realise that this new inquiry threatens to bring him head to head with his father’s old lieutenant, Piero Piocosta. If he’s to survive in the police force, Scamarcio knows that he must find a way to get Piocosta off his back, once and for all. And find it quickly.

The Hit is an intriguing read – admittedly I have not read the previous books in this series so it is my first experience of the main character Leone Scamarcio, who I found to be a compelling protagonist – and the scene setting in The Hit is brilliant, a kind of road trip around Rome a place I’d love to visit.

I liked the multiple layers in this – family, a grim past, whilst I am not usually a fan of books involving the Mafia or organised crime so much I was enveloped into this one almost immediately. It was complex and gripping, with a good twisty narrative that kept you reading long after you mean to put it down, as a first foray into the writing of Nadia Dalbuono it worked for me really well.

The writing is fantastic, beautifully constructed, it is both character study and rollicking mystery with some thrills thrown in, but it is a considered and clever plot that opens things up for future novels in a way that makes you want more immediately. I’m looking forward to the time I can rejoin this cast in the city of Rome and see how things develop…

Recommended.

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Blackout – Marc Elsberg. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: 9th February (paperback) Available Now (Kindle) from Penguin (Black Swan)

Source: Review Copy

A cold night in Milan, Piero Manzano wants to get home.

Then the traffic lights fail. Manzano is thrown from his Alfa as cars pile up. And not just on this street – every light in the city is dead.

Across Europe, controllers watch in disbelief as electricity grids collapse.

Plunged into darkness, people are freezing. Food and water supplies dry up. The death toll soars.

Former hacker and activist Manzano becomes a prime suspect. But he is also the only man capable of finding the real attackers.

Can he bring down a major terrorist network before it’s too late.

Blackout is banging – a cool, surreal techno thriller that imagines societies reaction to a Europe wide blackout – and follows hacker Manzano (as well as other characters) as he races to find those responsible and restore order to the chaos.

It fairly rocks along – and really does keep you thinking – I love the scenario’s the author creates to show us just how reliant we all are on technology and Blackout manages to be both a thriller and a commentary on the vagaries of human nature, as such it is a really terrific immersive read.

You do have to suspend disbelief for parts of it, but you’ll get hooked into the event as it unfolds, from the first tentative “what the all heck is happening” moments right up until the final pages. Marc Elsberg writes with a kind of hypnotic style putting you right in the action and I ended up wanting to go out and stock up on tinned food and bottled water JUST IN CASE mind…

Marc Elsberg asks the question – how long before chaos would descend should we suddenly be thrown into a world we’ve never known – one where the light doesn’t just come on when you hit the switch – and the answer is FAST and he’s probably right.

Thought provoking and utterly riveting – Recommended for fans of socially current thrillers.

 

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