Erin Kelly talks about The Ties That Bind – Happy Publication Day!

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Never was I happier than when a lovely advanced copy of “The Ties that Bind” popped through my letter box – cue a mad two days of frantic reading. It was a superb novel and today you can all get your hands on a copy – Erin kindly answered a few questions for me about the book and here is what she had to tell me.


Tell us a little bit about where the story came from.


Like all my novels, it began with a scene rather than a grand plan. There’s an episode early on in the book where Jem gets Luke’s name tattooed on his side after they’ve spent just one night together. Most people would react in one of two ways to a grand gesture like that: they’d either find it incredibly romantic and sexy or they’d run screaming for the hills. I knew that Luke would stay – and the interesting thing was finding out why. For all that he’s read up on organised crime and violence, he hasn’t got much of a nose for danger when he’s close to it himself.

Is the Brighton setting one you know well?


Yes. I lived in Hove for a while; I spent the summer of 1998 working in a call centre by day and clubbing at the weekends. A few years later, it was where I fell in love with my husband. I still have good friends in the area and I go back a lot but not as often as I would like. Perhaps there was an element of wish fulfilment in setting my book there. In my acknowledgments I call it my second city and, after London – where my friends, family, work and support network is – it’s the place I would most like to call home.

That said, I didn’t know it as well as I thought I did. It’s a paradox of writing books that the better you think you know a place, the less likely you are to double-check your research and there were a couple of geographical bloopers in the proof copy that would’ve had people writing scathing reviews with Amazon open in one window and Google maps in the other. I’m extremely grateful to fellow novelist and Brighton resident Julia Crouch for pointing out my errors literally five hours before we went to print on the hardback.

Do you enjoy reading True Crime stories yourself?


Until I started writing this book, I’d read a handful of books that could be classified as true crime/literary crossover: the two stick in the memory (as I’m sure they do for anyone who has read them) are In Cold Blood by Truman Capote and People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry. But a whole new world of pulp memoir and biography was opened up to me during the research of this book. I stuck to what Luke would call the ‘classics’ – men who were operating in the middle of the last century. Contemporary crime has changed beyond recognition, and although the books that detail it are often brilliant, I wanted to keep my focus tight, as Luke would have.

You’ve got to be careful, though, as everyone else writing around the same subject has naturally read the same books, and writers’ minds often work in the same ways. I can think of at least three brilliant novels set in the shadow of the Krays’ empire that paraphrase, if I’m being generous, from The Profession of Violence by John Pearson, which is probably the benchmark for the kind of true crime writing Luke is most interested in. It’s hard not to cannibalise, even unconsciously.


Are the characters of Luke and Joss based on anyone from real life?


Let the record show that none of my characters are ever entirely lifted from real life. Glad we’ve cleared that up for the lawyers.

I don’t come across that many former gangsters. Joss Grand is pure invention, although his speech patterns are loosely based on this grizzled old man who used to sit at the end of the bar and whinge into his pint of light and bitter when I was a barmaid at a pub in Romford Market.

Luke is more of a composite. I once met an incredibly meek, geeky boy who was weirdly obsessed with the Krays. Friends who are brilliant journalists increasingly struggling to write the stories they want to as the market for print journalism is in freefall, and there’s a lot of soul-searching going on – Is this really what I want? Was all my training a waste of time? What else can I do? This very real insecurity informs much of Luke’s behaviour throughout the book. And there’s actually quite a bit of me in his background: I come from Irish Catholic stock and years after the end of my convent education, it still informs everything I do.

Best book you have read lately.

I’ve been re-reading a lot lately because I’m teaching a creative writing course and I’m using some of my favourite texts as teaching aids. I picked up Perfume by Patrick Suskind as a good example of what omniscient narration can do in expert hands. I started on page one and four hours later I was still in the same position, transfixed all over again. There’s a reason so many people love it.

The best contemporary book I’ve read in the last few months is Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary. It’s a grisly story, beautifully told, and hard to believe it’s a debut.

If you could live anywhere in the world…


This is the most boring answer ever, but I’d quite like to stay where I am in North London, just in a bigger house.

Favourite and least favourite thing about being a writer.


My favourite thing is the work – being paid to do what I love best in the world, and, I suspect, the only thing I’m any good at. My least favourite thing is being confined to a chair all day with all the aches, fidgets and fatness of arse that entails.


Thank you so much for taking the time!



Could a soul, once sold, truly be redeemed?

Luke is a true crime writer in search of a story. When he flees to Brighton after an explosive break-up, the perfect subject lands in his lap: reformed gangster Joss Grand. Now in his eighties, Grand once ruled the Brighton underworld with his sadistic sidekick Jacky Nye – until Jacky washed up by the West Pier in 1968, strangled and thrown into the sea. Though Grand’s alibi seems cast-iron, Luke is sure there’s more to the story than meets the eye, and he convinces the criminal-turned-philanthropist to be interviewed for a book about his life.

Yes I know its early to start talking about this one but when it dropped through my letterbox what did you expect exactly? That I would wait until nearer publication day? Pfft. You don’t know me very well…I mean for a start its Erin Kelly, add to that its me and my chronic impatience. So just to start this review (babble?) off lets take a “previously on” type look at things.

My favourite book of its year was “The Poison Tree” a book that haunted my soul long after reading, had one of my (still) most loved characters, Bohemian free spirit Biba and is also in my top 5 “Most Satisfying Endings Ever” list. Most. Satisfying. Ending.Ever. Then she followed that up with “The Sick Rose” (Also known as The Dark Rose) this time making me loathe some characters so deeply that I wanted to spit at them – in a good way of course, I was compelled to read the entire thing, and whilst it is not my favourite of hers it got me on the same emotional level. Then came “The Burning Air” which I have spoken about frequently, is in my hall of fame, and gave me that jaw dropping, throw the book on the floor, immediately re-read several chapters moment that doesnt happen to me often.

Each one has a high standard of writing, brilliant psychological insight,  all giving an addictive reading experience but something a little different each time. This author doesnt stagnate having found a formula that works, she pushes the boundaries and tries out new things, whilst still, well, having found a formula that works!

So we come to “The Ties That Bind” . Here we meet True Crime Writer Luke who has found himself entangled in an obsessive controlling relationship – to escape from those bonds he flees to Brighton and stumbles upon a crime story that could make his career. But at what cost?

Its interesting really when I try and analyse the reading experience – it is again a different kind of read in a lot of ways from each of the others, compelling as ever, magical storytelling with a fascinating ebb and flow of twists and turns – but the ambience of it, as always, lies just below the surface. You just sense there is danger coming from somewhere for Luke but you are not sure where.

Its because the characterisation is top notch. Absolutely.  Joss Grand, a character I fell madly in love with, is intelligent and scary,with an extremely intriguing edge to his personality. Luke himself is driven yet naive in a lot of ways. Ex Boyfriend Jem is stunningly well drawn – compulsive yet strangely sympathetic. Those three on their own could hold an entire novel but it doesnt stop there. As Luke tracks down witnesses, gets help from unexpected quarters, follows the trail towards the guilt or innocence of Joss Grand in the murder of his friend, you will barely be able to look away. This one is not about the result…its about the journey. And what an amazing journey it was.

The sense of an era is captured here beautifully, alongside an updated and colourful look at Brighton in the present day, I’d live there in an instant – add to that a resourceful, imaginative and creative story with some truly truly fascinating characters and this one comes HIGHLY recommended from me.

The whole thing had me turning pages late into the night, I turned away from it for a while yesterday, I did NOT want to finish it, at the same time, I needed to KNOW…so this morning in a glorious hour of locking the world out I sadly came to the end…and now the long wait begins again for another offering from an author who is right up there solidly now in my top ten of must read novelists.

Read it. Live it. Love it.

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Amanda Jennings talks about The Judas Scar…

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I was recently lucky enough to read “The Judas Scar” from Amanda Jennings and it was an amazing read so I asked her  a bit about it all and here is what she had to tell me.

Tell us a little bit about how the story started forming for you ?


My husband got phone call from a police officer who was investigating allegations of abuse thirty years previously at his school. Though he wasn’t a victim himself, I was struck by the weight of buried emotion the call unleashed. He became a little obsessed with finding out what had happened to those boys he was pretty sure had been affected. As it turns out the majority who were affected had coped very badly going into adulthood and it was this idea that started eddying around in my head, of how the effects of a damaged childhood can have far-reaching impact not just on the person but also on those around them.

Do you have experience or know of someone who has experienced bullying?


I wasn’t bullied myself, but I remember vividly the first time I saw someone, a girl in my year at school, bullied. I came from a pretty sheltered environment, was close to my parents and sister, didn’t really know such a thing as bullying even existed really, and to see people be cruel to another was shocking. I felt impotent, too, I knew I wanted to step in but as a child you have this little voice of self-preservation that screams at you to keep away and not involved yourself. When I was older, from about 14 onwards, I would step in without any thought at all if I felt someone needed help. Finding the strength to do the right thing and stand up for those who need support and help is important. In the book I focus a lot on the reasons why some people might be less equipped to deal with bullies, why they might feel vulnerable, but I also touch on the abhorrent notion that not all adults have children’s best interests at heart and that occasionally you will come across an adult who abuses his position of trust with the children he or she is supposed to be responsible for.

Do you have a favourite character from the novel?


I am very fond of Frank, the man who helps out in Will’s wine shop. I’d like to be his friend. We’d have a lot of fun discussing books and films and animals over a good glass of wine. My favourite character to write, however, was Alistair Farrow. I loved having a character I could make as odious as I wanted. He was great fun to draw.

Without giving anything away, do you think that any of the characters were justified in their actions?


The thing is – and I believe this in life – is that I feel it’s not straightforward to classify an act as ‘wrong’ or ‘right’. The world is only made up of shades of grey. Do I think those things the characters do are ‘right’? No. Do I understand why they acted in that way and how they felt they had no choice? Yes, absolutely. It’s this very reason I love writing the type of books I write – internal conflict fascinates me.

Ebook or physical book?


Physical. I tried to love ebooks but I just can’t enjoy them as much. I love the smell and feel of paper books. Also, as I read, I do a lot of flipping back to reread bits if I need to clarify something, and I can visually remember roughly where something is in a paper book. The percentage thing floors me!

Tipple of choice

I love a cocktail or three when I go out. Anything sweet and with rum or vodka. And I do like a nice glass of very cold Rose when the sun is out and the BBQ is fired up.

Any writing habits


Yes, I buy a new notebook for when I start any new book project. Even those books that don’t make it past the jotting down ideas stage. If it’s a new idea, it needs a new notebook. It’s almost becoming a superstition now!

Something you wish you were good at but are not


Giving up sugar. I have a terribly sweet tooth and yet when I’ve experimented and cut sugar out of my diet for a few days I feel amazing, energised, less bloated, with my appetite under control, and less grouchy. You’d think given I know this I’d be able to turn my back on the sweet stuff with no problem. Nope. Can’t do it. It’s an addiction I wish I could kick.


Thank you so much!



Scars. We all carry them. Some are mere scratches. Others run deeper.
At a school rife with bullying, Will and his best friend Luke are involved in a horrific incident that results in Luke leaving.
Twenty-five years later their paths cross again and memories of Will’s painful childhood come flooding back to haunt him. His wife, Harmony, who is struggling after a miscarriage that has hit her hard, wishes Will would open up about his experiences. But while Will withdraws further, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic stranger from her husbands past, and soon all three are caught in a tangled web of guilt, desire, betrayal.

Oh what a tangled web we weave…and this was a beautifully evocative character driven tale of those things which haunt us and shape who we are. With some intensely drawn and authentic characters to lead the way this was dark, addictive reading of the best kind.

This is one of those stories where you get SO involved in the lives of the people within its pages that they become very real to you. You want to comfort them, shout at them, turn them back from the brink…and you live through every single moment with them. I loved Harmony, loyal yet torn between want, need and love. I felt deeply for Luke and was endlessly annoyed at Will..the next reader will see it all differently no doubt and therein lies the beauty of the writing.

The story ebbs and flows in a compelling way – as a look at the psychological effects of bullying it is realistic and emotional. The things that happen to us in childhood resonate on and when that experience is as harsh and often violent as bullying can be there can be long term damage that isnt always easy to see. This comes across extremely well here – again because of the characters who truly tell the tale.

Dark themes here, handled with intelligence and compassion, I thought this was terrific. Highly Recommended.

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Mel currently Loves… Suburb by Steven Kedie. Review/Author Interview.


Today’s Blog from Melissa.

When Steven Kedie first sent me a copy of ‘Suburb’ and requested that I review it for lizlovesbooks, I didn’t know what to expect. I sent him a fairly standard reply, stating that I would take a look and let him know, but that I was fairly busy with work. 24 hours later I found myself emailing him again, this time to tell him that I’d finished the book already because I had NOT been able to put it down!

Following those emails he was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about ‘Suburb’, and here is what he had to say…


What inspired you to start writing Suburb?

The opening line in the book is: I returned home from three years at university to find my parents exactly where I had left them. I guess the answer to your question is in that line. I wanted to write about somebody returning home after being away for a long period for the first time and not identifying with home in the same way as before they left. I wanted to explore how they deal with feeling like their friends, their family and, in Tom’s case, his ex-girlfriend, haven’t moved on. I wanted to look at how difficult it is to feel different when no one else does. It’s a strange time; you’re not an adult yet, but you’re not a kid anymore either. The world feels like it’s in front of you but you can’t touch it.


How much of Tom’s character, and his experiences of being stuck at home after University, are based on your own life?


There are pieces of Tom’s life that are based on mine:  the suburban upbringings, parents who work hard to give their children opportunities they didn’t have, a desire to travel and see more of the world than the streets around where we grew up.  I felt like Tom feels at 21 years old. I was unsure of my place in the world and what I wanted to achieve from my life.

One of the major differences between us (apart from the fact Tom has an affair with a married woman) is I didn’t go to university.  Friends did, but I started work at 18, moved into another job at 20 and quit when I was 22 to go backpacking around Europe with my now wife. I experienced the feelings of returning home from a long period away when I flew home from that trip. In Suburb Tom feels removed from his surroundings and from many of his friends. That’s how I felt following my trip. The difference between my situation and Tom’s is Tom is preparing for his adventure, I had returned from mine.



Which part of the writing process did you find most difficult?


Getting the time to write the first draft. Finishing the first draft, typing that last sentence, it’s a feeling like no other. When you hit the last full stop and you know that the story is finished, it gives you such a rush of excitement. And that excitement and energy drives you on for the following drafts. But first drafts take me such a long time that trying to find solid blocks of time to work on it is the most difficult thing for me.


How long did it take you to write the novel? 


Two and a half years from first line to published. I would say 18 months of that was the first draft.


What advice would you give now to graduates who feel stuck in a rut? 


This is a difficult question for me to answer as I was never a graduate.   I can only talk about my own experience.   Travelling gave me a confidence in myself I hadn’t experienced before and allowed me to see that I could survive outside my comfort zone. That has helped me in later life. My parents didn’t want me to quit a steady job to go on a long holiday. But I knew it was right for me. I knew I’d regret not going.   So if I have to give advice: You’re only young and free of responsibility once. Try and enjoy that time. See some of the world. The experience you gain might change your circumstances in a way you hadn’t anticipated. If not, it’ll at least be fun.


What’s next for you (and Tom!) – can we expect to see a sequel, or perhaps something completely different in the pipeline? 


I’m currently working on the first draft of my new novel, which is very different to Suburb.   It’s a first person account of an Olympian’s life over the course of 3 Olympics (2008-2016). There is a lot more research involved in this story, which means the whole process in slower than Suburb.   The themes that stand out so far are rivalry, and how the dedication and sacrifice of the athlete has an impact on his relationships.

As for Tom; his story is complete. He was a character that enabled me to write about a very specific time in a person’s life. I don’t want to mess with that or write the Tom Fray Life Story series. The things he experienced in Suburb, all the drama, the feelings, and the eventual outcome, have set him on a journey that the reader can imagine for themselves. I’m happy for them to do that.



Tom Fray leaves university with a simple plan; get a job, save some money and go travelling. 
 To put his plan into action he moves home to the suburbs of Manchester where he finds the people he left behind all stuck in the same routines as when he went away.
 Feeling trapped between his old and new lives, Tom is desperate to escape. Then he meets Kate, a married neighbour, and his simple plan becomes a lot more complicated.

Whether you’ve been to university or not, you will relate to this novel. All of the characters are truly recognisable; you will feel like you personally know each and every one, and remember the relationships you had with your own real life versions. The setting is reminiscent of everyone’s hometown, and despite the fact I’ve never visited Manchester I could picture each and every scene in my head. The dynamic between Tom and his friends, parents, sibling and one woman who turns into something a little bit more, plus the problems and emotional turmoil that they go through, manages to be riveting yet oddly comforting at the same time. 

 This isn’t an exciting book. Tom’s story is not going to blow your mind, and there are no big surprises or amazing adventures, but what it does have is LIFE. It’s a coming of age book, for those in their twenties who haven’t quite made it to adulthood. Halfway through reading this book I logged in to my Internet banking and transferred £200 over to pay off some of my student overdraft, because it really made me think about MY life and where I want to be right now. Give it a go – you never know what impact it might have on you! 

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Liz Currently Loves…Biblical by Christopher Galt.


Publication Date: May 1st from Quercus.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the copy via a Goodreads Giveaway.

An apocalyptic thriller on an epic scale that will make you question your own reality.
All around the world, people start to see things that aren’t there, that cannot be. Visions, ghosts, events from the past playing out in the present.

This was brilliant. And extraordinarily unnerving. I’m still in it now 24 hours later thats how good it is.

When people all over the world start experiencing weird sensations of deja vu, followed by hallucinations, Dr John Macbeth gets drawn into a mystery – what he discovers may change humanity forever.

One of the taglines on this is “it will make you question your own reality” – well yes. It absolutely did. Intelligent and extremely addictive reading, not a chapter passed me by without some level of contemplation before diving into the next – this is so well constructed, with so many twists and turns and genuinely mind blowing moments that you will barely be able to catch your breath. With elements of both science and faith, shrewdly playing on that feeling of disconnection we all get at times, you will find yourself thinking about it in those odd quiet moments of life and wondering…

Terrific characters, some peripheral, some magically involving, along with some absolutely stunning scene setting, especially with reference to the hallucinations, I would find it hard to think of an apocalyptic thriller that is better than this one for pure reading adrenalin. It will suck you in, mess with your head, then spit you out the other side feeling like you’ve run a marathon. Maybe. But have you really?

Some fascinating and gripping idea’s here, a thought provoking, stunning read and one I have no hesitation in recommending to anyone who can appreciate a damn good story that not only entertains but also makes you look at the world around you in a whole new way…

Read it. Live it. Love it.

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Liz Currently Loves…Can Anybody Help Me? By Sinead Crowley.


Publication Date: 1st May 2014 from Quercus.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy.

Struggling with a new baby, Yvonne turns to netmammy, an online forum for mothers, for support. Drawn into a world of new friends, she spends increasing amounts of time online and volunteers more and more information about herself.
When one of her new friends goes offline, Yvonne thinks something is wrong, but dismisses her fears. After all, does she really know this woman?

A cleverly plotted, realistically frightening yet addictive story this one, with some intriguing and darkly fascinating twists and turns that kept me reading into the early hours of the morning. At the end of it I was left seriously considering the terrifying amounts of personal information there is out there on the internet about me and mine, and indeed about you and yours…

Yvonne is struggling with new parenthood and finds comfort in the online parenting forum NetMammy, where other Mums like herself discuss the daily grind of life with young children. The beauty and shrewdness of this story comes in the simple things – when asking for advice, you can inadvertantly tell an anonymous voice on the web a great deal about yourself. When someone she has been “close” to online seemingly vanishes, and she reads in the paper about a body being found, her mind connects the two. Dismissing it as unlikely, Yvonne moves on and further into danger.

Some great characters here – not least Sergeant Claire Boyle, pregnant herself, practical, resourceful and completely comitted to her job sometimes to the detriment of her own health – I hope she appears again, so involved did I get in her life. Yvonne and the other “NetMammy” parents are all brilliantly authentic and easy to connect with, they are as real to me as anyone and even now I’m sure I shall wonder what they are doing..

A very relevant and enthralling mystery story, a terrific and compelling look at life lived through social media and all in all an outstanding and gripping tale that will truly spook you. There is not a single thing in here that could not easily happen in reality – and that, as always, is far more unsettling than any horror story.

Fantastic. Highly Recommended. I will resist the urge to delete my entire online profile..

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Liz Currently Loves….The Unquiet House by Alison Littlewood.


Available Now from Jo Fletcher Books.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy.

Mire House is dreary, dark, cold and infested with midges. But when Emma Dean inherits it from a distant relation, she immediately feels a sense of belonging.
It isn’t long before Charlie Mitchell, grandson of the original owner, appears claiming that he wants to seek out his family. But Emma suspects he’s more interested in the house than his long-lost relations.
And when she starts seeing ghostly figures, Emma begins to wonder: is Charlie trying to scare her away, or are there darker secrets lurking in the corners of Mire House?

This was a wonderfully creepy, atmospheric story, one that had me glancing at all the dark corners in my own house and wondering what might lurk there…

Emma is surprised to inherit the property, especially as there are other relatives much closer who should have been obvious choices. Intending to sell, she goes to visit Mire House and is immediately captivated by it. Upon moving in she meets Charlie and after some strange occurrences Emma realises there is something hidden beneath the tranquil surface.

An extremely cleverly constructed novel, as we move back in time to learn the secrets of Mire House, each separate part is a story in and of itself, all adding up to a complete and compelling tale. Emma is an extraordinarily perfect character to follow along with – solitary and emotional, her thoughts and feelings make up a large part of the slow building sense of menace, and give us a true insight into the ambience of the surroundings. As far as psychological horror goes this is spot on for creating a sense of space and time and putting the reader bang into the moment…and unnerving them utterly. The timeslips are perfect, telling us as they do about previous experiences within the house and giving the whole story a real resonance.

I don’t want to give too much away – safe to say that this one is best read with the lights firmly on or outside in the glorious sunshine (should we ever get such a thing in the UK!) because if there are shadows around you as you read, those shadows will certainly menace you. Some beautiful prose to be had here and a fair few moments of magic…within the quiet..or the Unquiet House.

We all go silent in the end…

Terrific. Highly recommended.

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Liz Currently Loves…The Son in Law by Charity Norman.


For three years Joseph Scott has been haunted by one moment-the moment that changed his life forever. Now he is starting over, and he wants his family back more than anything.
This is the story of Joseph and his wife, Zoe; of their children, Scarlet, Theo and Ben, for whom nothing will be the same; and of Zoe’s parents, who can’t forgive or understand.

Family Drama. Not my go to type of book when it comes to my choices but I do love a good one. For me there are not many authors out there who can pull off the realism of family life and make it interesting – even in the most extreme of circumstances that can happen to any of us. So last year a very good friend of mine handed me “After the Fall” from Charity Norman and basically said, hey, here you go. HERE is one. And she was right. It was absolutely compelling and yet very real.

So it is true I was looking forward to “The Son In Law” and to finding out if it would have the same resonance for me and it absolutely did. If anything I loved this one even more, probably because it had some extreme emotional truth at its heart and a question I would find hard to answer…how do you forgive the unforgiveable?

Here we meet Joseph, recently released from Prison, wanting to reconnect with his family, but that will not be easy considering the circumstances of his incarceration. As we hear from him, and at various points his Mother in Law Hannah, and Daughter Scarlett, a picture begins to emerge of a tragedy that has torn a family apart. As Joseph tries to put the pieces back together, this is a somewhat dark but also beautiful story, with some truly remarkable characters at the heart of it.

Not least Scarlett. The best part of this one for me was the way she approached things, lost her way occasionally, really wanted to do the right thing without knowing what the right thing is. All her emotions are there on the page and are stunningly real. There is a lot of that going on here, from all the characters. A most terrific reading experience.

Tackling some difficult subjects in a very real, compelling and addictive way this was outstanding. Charity Norman is the latest addition to my “must read” list.

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In the quiet of a New Zealand winter’s night, a rescue helicopter is sent to airlift a five-year-old boy with severe internal injuries. He’s fallen from the upstairs veranda of an isolated farmhouse, and his condition is critical. At first, Finn’s fall looks like a horrible accident; after all, he’s prone to sleepwalking. Only his frantic mother, Martha McNamara, knows how it happened. And she isn’t telling. Not yet. Maybe not ever.


Finn Fell. With these chilling words starts “After the Fall”, a novel about a family and their move to New Zealand. Through a series of flashbacks from Mum, we discover how they came to be in NZ, what has happened to them since they arrived and the true nature of the accident that has befallen Finn.Charity Norman has written a terrific novel about what really could be any family – yours, mine, your next door neighbours. They are normal, happy people, very well drawn and it is easy to move into their world. A pretty stunning comment on some of the social issues that can affect families in these times (I don’t want to say too much, as this would have to include spoilers) you are right there with Martha and Kit, as they begin life in a new country, with all the challenges that brings, and as the story unfolds you find yourself rapidly turning the pages to discover how they cope with some very hard issues and choices. It was a book that makes you think…what would YOU do if you found yourself in their situation. It stayed with me long after finishing the last page and I will certainly be reading more from this author. Very very good.

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The Dead Ground by Claire McGowan. Blog Tour.


Published by Headline: Available Now.

I was lucky enough to read an early copy of The Dead Ground and now I am very happy to take part in the BookBridgr Blog Tour as it gave me the opportunity to ask Claire a few questions and find out a little more about this series and the author behind it.

Here is what she had to tell me.


Tell us a little bit about how Paula as a character started to form for you.

I can’t explain this one too much – I was back in my home town, walking along the street, and started thinking about what it might be like to come back and work there permanently, especially if you’d had a reason to stay away for years. Paula is around the same age as me, which makes it easier to know what memories she would have of the past.

I love the fact that she is a forensic psychologist, giving a great twist to standard crime fiction – was there a lot of research involved to make it authentic?


I wanted her to have a job that wasn’t part of the police, so she’s always feeling a bit out on a limb, and also allows her to make connections in a different way. I read a lot of books about the profession, talked to people, and subscribed to their trade journal too.

How much did your own background influence the writing, especially with regards to the Irish connection?

Very much so – I’ve been trying to write about these issues of religion, family, and the past for a long time. Crime fiction gives me a good structure to do this, and hopefully lets me include an interesting story. Ireland is also a great place to write about because it’s modern but religion and the supernatural are still deeply rooted.


Can you tell us anything about what is next for Paula?
I’ve set her up with a complicated personal situation, which is going to continue to unfold for a few books yet. And she will find the answers to the big questions she has been puzzling over for several books – but not for a while!

Any writing influences?


I read a lot as a child – we lived in a very quiet part of Ireland – so I’m influenced by very pacey, plotty writers like Stephen King and Agatha Christie. I think reading so much of these, plus authors like Jilly Cooper, has driven me towards commercial fiction.


One book you recommend to everyone.

Recently, Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty. She took the crime genre and made it literary and totally compulsive.


Dream job if you were not a writer.


I have to say I would still be a writer. You don’t have to leave the house in the mornings and can work from bed, it’s pretty much perfect.


 Thank you so much Claire!


A stolen baby. A murdered woman. A decades-old atrocity. Something connects them all.
A month before Christmas, and Ballyterrin on the Irish border lies under a thick pall of snow. When a newborn baby goes missing from hospital, it’s all too close to home for forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, who’s wrestling with the hardest decision of her life.

Last year I read “The Lost” the first in the Paula Maguire series from Claire McGowan and I loved every minute of it. Another series added to my “must reads” I was exceptionally happy to receive an advanced reading copy for the next book, “The Dead Ground”.

After the shocking finale to the last story, Paula is struggling with a huge decision so now is really not the best time for her to be immersed in an emotional and heart wrenching case involving a missing baby. Especially when it becomes clear that one missing child is not going to be the end of it.  As the case becomes ever more complicated, Paula struggles to cope and yet somehow she must, in order to save lives.

I love these characters – Paula has such a depth to her and is one of the strongest female leads in a series to be found out there in the world of crime fiction currently. Still haunted by the loss of her mother at a young age and living in a world after “The Troubles” she is both one tough cookie and compellingly vulnerable all in one small package. She trips through life, often acting on impulse, yet highly intelligent and insightful. Surrounding her is an eclectic mix of supporting cast – her Father I am particularly fond of – and together they make for a heck of a team.

The Irish setting is well developed – as someone who knows very little about the background to that time, I find it fascinating how Claire McGowan can give you an understanding by letting her characters talk – when past haunts present as it does in a very real way there, it is through the thoughts, feelings and experiences of the people in the pages that you come to learn and almost see it for yourself.

The mystery element of this particular story is clever and compelling – it twists and turns its way to yet another superb finale, leaving Paula with a few more things to face next time yet wrapping up the current case, perhaps surprisingly – who knows? Me I usually beat the author but this is a twisty tale, how will you get on I wonder?

The personal relationships ongoing in this series is also one of the things I love about it. Particularly well developed and intriguing is the relationship Paula has with her Dad, hence why he is one of my favourite characters here. Her romantic life is beautifully complicated and I will admit that a lot of my time reading this was spent yelling at her about what she should be doing. Pfft. Who listens to me? I’m always right you know.

Overall a terrific read. Fast paced when it needs to be, offering moments for reflection and giving a real insight into both the smaller and larger community psyche if you like, I would highly recommend these for crime fiction aficionado’s. There is a lot of it about – seems everyone wants to write a great crime novel – well Ms McGowan manages that just fine. And seemingly with ease.

Happy Reading Folks!

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Not everyone who’s missing is lost

When two teenage girls go missing along the Irish border, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire has to return to the hometown she left years before. Swirling with rumour and secrets, the town is gripped by fear of a serial killer. But the truth could be even darker.


Not everyone who’s lost wants to be found

Surrounded by people and places she tried to forget, Paula digs into the cases as the truth twists further away. What’s the link with two other disappearances from 1985? And why does everything lead back to the town’s dark past- including the reasons her own mother went missing years before?


Nothing is what it seems

As the shocking truth is revealed, Paula learns that sometimes, it’s better not to find what you’ve lost.


Happy Reading Folks!

Author Interview – Charlotte McConaghy. Fury.


I recently read “Fury” – Book One of The Cure from Charlotte McConaghy and I was totally addicted. You can read my review again in a while, but first I asked Charlotte some questions and here is what she had to tell me.

Tell us a little bit about where the story came from.

I had the character of Josi in my head long before I figured out the rest of the story. I knew I wanted to tell the tale of a woman who believed she was transforming under the moon, who was burdened by the fear of having committed atrocities, and I didn’t know initially if it was going to be a real transformation or a figment of having endured such a traumatic childhood. The world came when I realized that I wanted to counteract Josi’s fury, and what better way to do that than with a society that has lost the ability to empathize with anger? The world gradually took shape after that, as I realized I wanted to look at why we sometimes seem so frightened of extreme emotions, and like science-fiction should, it looks at what might happen if we continue to be frightened.

How much do you believe that emotions such as anger define us, do you think we could live without our darker sides?


I don’t think that any one emotion defines us—I think feelings are fluid, ever- changing and very difficult to define. The idea of dark sides is always one that has thrilled me, because I suppose the idea in itself conjures a sense that a dark side is a rebellious side, one that doesn’t conform, doesn’t fear, but instead lives in the thick of desire and indulgence. There are other dark sides, too, darker dark sides, made of anger and cruelty and fear. I’m not going to make a judgement on what people should feel or want or how they should behave, because I think the point of my novel Fury is about people’s right to be whatever they are.

One of my favourite lines from Brave New World by Aldous Huxley reads, “I’d rather be myself. Myself and nasty. Not somebody else, however jolly.”
Josephine is a highly intriguing character – did she change much over the course of the writing?



Very much so, actually. She was a whiney, complaining nag in the first, ancient draft. Haha. I wrote a very different, simplified version of the story years ago, and then dusted it off to take a read later, horrified by what I found. So I rewrote the whole thing, and though the major story beats remained the same, Josi’s character needed a huge overhaul. She was one-dimensional, she was miserable, and frankly she was just a pain to read. So I worked hard to give her depth and insight—I wanted her to have a great sense of humour, to be dry and sarcastic and clever. I wanted her to be able to laugh in the face of her horrible, tragic life, because that’s as natural as moaning about it is.


Can you tell us a little about whats next for Josephine and Luke?

Well I’m currently writing book two in the series, which is set, as the cliffhanger at the end of Fury suggests, in the west. I don’t want to give too much away, but the book has a host of new characters, deals with the idea of the cure for sadness, and is still told from the perspectives of Josi and Luke. It’s also very romantic.

Favourite book and/or author.

Laini Taylor is my favourite author at the moment, her novel ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ my favourite.
Favourite thing to do on a lazy Sunday.

Go to the cinema. Drink wine and eat cheese. Hang out with friends. Luxuriate in a Game of Thrones marathon.
3  people alive or dead you would love to go for a drink with.


King Arthur, Lady Guinevere and Sir Lancelot. Haha! And let’s pretend they’re real. Oh, man, that would be the best.

Thank you SO much Charlotte!

About the Author:

Charlotte grew up with her nose in a book and her head in the clouds. At fourteen, her English teacher told her that the short story she’d submitted was wildly romantic, so she decided to write a novel. Thus began her foray into epic fantasy and dystopian sci-fi, with sweeping romances, heroic adventures, and as much juicy drama as she could possibly squeeze in.


Her first novel, Arrival, was published at age seventeen, and was followed by Descent, which launched The Strangers of Paragor series, an adventure fantasy for teenagers.


She then wrote her first adult fantasy novel, Avery, the prologue of which came to her in a very vivid dream. Her second adult novel, Fury, is the first in a romantic science-fiction series called The Cure, set in a dystopian future.


Charlotte currently lives in Sydney, having just finished a Masters in Screenwriting from the Australian Film, Television & Radio School. With her television pilot script, she won the Australian Writer’s Guild Award for Best Unproduced Screenplay of 2013. She will, however, always be a novelist at heart, still unable to get her nose out of the books.


Review: Fury.

When emotions are erased from the world, creating a civilization of mindless drones, only those with fury can survive.
On the same day each year Josephine Luquet wakes naked, shivering and covered in blood that is not her own. Under the cold gaze of the blood moon she is someone else entirely, but when dawn breaks her memories flee and she is left with only an icy horror, a burning fury. Amid a sea of drones, she alone hasn’t been cured.

The first thing that I have to say on this one is that it has been a while since a novel in this genre has captured my imagination so utterly and completely that I have literally gulped it down in huge magnificent chunks of reading joy – and come out the other side feeling utterly destroyed that now I have to hang on in there to find out more. I need more I tell you! Book Hangover alert!

So we meet Josephine – from the confines of a psychiatric hospital she tells her Doctor a strange and wonderful tale – and tries desperately to warn him of the danger that surrounds anyone who is close to her at one particular time of the year – a time that is fast approaching. As her tale unfolds, a picture emerges of a cold world – one where emotions are non existant and the ability to feel love, fear, anger, betrayal, almost anything that makes us Human have all but disappeared. Except for Josephine. Well, maybe…

This was a beautifully constructed story – with a highly imaginative and compelling premise – just what WOULD we be without our emotions? I really do not want to go too much into plot detail, the reasons, the truth that lies just beneath the surface, and what may or may not happen because of it – these are the things that make this book so fascinating, such a great read and a truly brilliant page turner that will often have you on the edge of your seat. Don’t make assumptions. I’m just saying…

Characterisation is of a very high standard, Josephine is damaged, uncertain, absolutely sure that she cannot be helped, she just wants to avoid hurting others. The people she meets along her journey are all enigmatic and there is a lot to be revealed – the author leads you slowly but surely through the minefield of a world gone mad..and puts you right at the centre of one girl’s struggle to understand it all.

I would place this book on the cusp of YA and Adult. It has a definite eye towards the YA audience but tackles some very adult themes and does involve occasional sex and violence – I don’t like to put books in boxes but I think that anyone aged around 15 and up will love this and find something to spark their imagination here…

Clever and captivating, at times enchanting and with an ending that will send you into a spiral of dismay at the thought of having to wait any time at all for the next instalment, I highly recommend this one.

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Happy Reading Folks!


Brahma Dreaming…A Beautiful book.



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Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.

Published by: JJ Books.

Brahma Dreaming” is master storyteller John Jackson s latest collaboration with the acclaimed artist, Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini.John s intriguing versions of the tales of the Hindus great gods are graced by Daniela s brilliantly reimagined illustrations of the deities, each a masterpiece of detail and drama.

First of all, this really is a beautiful looking and feeling book – aesthetically speaking it is a wonder and I am extremely happy to have it in my ever growing book collection – it is one I will return to a great deal I imagine to enjoy the wonderful illustrations and, indeed, some of the stories within it. Large hardback with a ribbon bookmarker, absolutely perfect.

I went into this with no expectations at all, I had no idea what to expect considering I had no prior knowledge beyond the extremely peripheral of Hindu Mythology. Not a book I would have immediately put on my reading list it has to be said, and that would have been a shame.

It was VERY easy to immerse myself in these tales and alongside the absolutely stunning illustrations (they stole the show if I’m honest) I found myself dipping in and out of this one alongside all my usual reads and considered it a treat each and every single time. The stories are broken down, after the three Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Each one a little gem and a fabulous way to get a feel for the culture and stunning mythology surrounding each one, yet told in the authors own way and with his own particular twist.

I’ll talk a little more about the illustrations for a moment – such creativity and so elaborate that you will find something new every time you go back – and a perfect accessory to the stories being told, bringing each and every one to life. Fantastic.

Overall I would say this would be a perfect present for someone interested in the subject matter OR someone who appreciates the fine art and absolute grace of an appealing and handsome looking book.

If you fancy this one, get the proper book. Not the Kindle version. That would be my advice for any avid reader or book collector.

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Happy Reading Folks!