Being Simon Haines: Blog tour

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Meet Simon Haines.

For a decade he’s been chasing his dream: partnership at the legendary, family-run law firm of Fiennes & Plunkett. The gruelling hours and manic intensity of his job have come close to breaking him, but he has made it through the years and is now within a whisker of his millions: in less than two weeks, he will know the outcome of the partnership vote. He decides to spend the wait in Cuba in an attempt to rediscover his youthful enthusiasm and curiosity, and to clear his mind before the arrival of the news that might change his life forever. But alone in Havana, he becomes lost in nostalgia and begins to relive his past…

Set against the backdrop of an uncertain world, and charged with emotion, Being Simon Haines is a searching story about contemporary London and aspiration, values and love. Painting a picture of a generation of young professionals, it asks the most universal of questions: are we strong enough to know who we are?

Simon Haines is a driven man. He’s so driven in fact, that he’s lost all sense of who he really is and what he really wants out of life.  As soon as this gorgeous book arrived with its strokable minimalist jacket I wanted to open it up and find out who Simon Haines was and why he’d lost all sense of himself along the way as he climbed the corporate ladder.  I loved this relatable premise and I found this book totally engrossing once I’d started: I really wanted to get to the heart of the ‘real’ Simon and discover what had brought him to this point.

I also enjoyed the way that McAulay’s novel flips back and forward in time – from Simon’s journey of self-discovery in Cuba back to his formative years where we begin to see that Simon hasn’t always been a slave to the rat-race of competitive partnership battles; he was once a pretty normal guy with time for relationships, friends and dare I say it – fun?

The flashbacks into his past where we explore his relationships with girlfriend Sophie and best mate Dan from University begin to flesh Simon out for us as a character – transforming him into a much more nuanced and human character than the grey ‘suit’ that we meet at the beginning. We see that he once had time for people, hobbies and a zest for life that he’s lost touch with in his determination to make it in the legal world.

The fact that writer MacAuley is a solicitor himself means that the work stresses that Simon is feeling have an incredibly realistic feel and the way they build up and threaten to overwhelm Simon Haines mean that you really develop your sense of compassion for him as the novel progresses. I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of his ‘escape’ to Cuba as well and felt that the balance between the present time and Simon’s past at the University of Nottingham was just right –  allowing the reader to keep being pulled forward to the next development in Simon’s character until we begin – as he does –  to get a truer sense of who he really is.

 

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Simon’s law firm of Fiennes & Plunkett is incredibly well drawn with realistic characters and lots of legal jargon thrown in so that we really appreciate how immersive and overwhelming it can be for a young man who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of professional success. I loved Giles and his catastrophic disregard for protocol and felt he was a great foil for the serious moments of self-reflection and navel gazing that Simon developed in his ‘escape from it all’ in gorgeous Cuba.

Being Simon Haines is a refreshing read as it dares to be more than just another thriller and takes a genuine look at what we sometimes sacrifice in the pursuit of happiness in a way that never feels ‘worthy’ or sermonising. It allows us a glance into a dog-eat-dog world where success is deemed much more valuable than personal fulfilment and dares us to ask ourselves what we might have jettisoned along the way in our own lives.

I always enjoy a book much more if I’m not hyping myself up before I read it and Simon Haines was exactly that. It was definitely a grower and I found myself thinking about Simon’s life choices and their repercussions whilst driving to work and marking my essays at school. I will definitely seek out more books by Tom Vaughan McAulay and am curious about which direction he’ll go in his next novel. At times I really forgot that this was fiction – in the best possible way – and it’s a real testament to McAulay’s writing that we really believe in Simon’s plight and can empathise with his feelings of having lost himself somewhere along the way in his relentless pursuit of success before self.

 

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I’d like to thank the lovely Anna @RedDoorBooks for sending me a copy of Being Simon Haines and allowing me to step outside my book comfort zone and enjoy a fascinating exploration of modern manhood and think deep about what drives us and makes us happy in the modern world.

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Tom Vaughan MacAulay was born in Chester in 1980. Tom is a solicitor and has worked both in London and Milan during his career. He currently lives in North London and is in the process of completing his second novel.

Follow him on Twitter here

See if you fancy any of the other new releases at Red Door Publishing: or follow them on Twitter to keep up to date with their fantastic releases this Summer

Red Door Books

 

 

Exquisite Blogtour: Dark & Divine

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Exquisite – Sarah Stovell. Blog Tour Review.

Bo Luxton has it all—a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of best-selling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops. Or does it?

When Anne Cater messaged me to ask me about the Exquisite Blog Tour, I was literally up early every morning waiting for the postman until it arrived. Having seen the cover reveal during the winter and taken part in a Twitter moment where we were guessing the genre and plotline from the cover itself, my anticipation had really reached fever pitch.

Let me tell you that Exquisite did not disappoint.

The cover reveal hinted at a dark and mysterious tale where everything is not quite as it seems and I’d have to say that #TeamOrenda have done it again in choosing Sarah Stovell as one of their 2017 debut writers. Karen, you really have the magic touch!

The thriller’s enduring popularity at the moment during the ‘Grip Lit’ wave really means that writers have to think outside the box if they want their readers to be genuinely shocked at the end of their read and I am happy to report that Sarah Stovell manages this with skill and originality. I am also determined to ensure that there are no spoilers as this ending really is worth the wait.

I absolutely love an unreliable narrator and in Exquisite, you’re not just getting one voice that hints at there being more to their unfolding narrative than meets the eye, but two wonderfully contrasting voices that play with your mind and weave in and out of your sense of direction until you really are left wondering who on earth to trust.

Bo is mired in domestic drudgery and willing to be distracted by a younger rawer talent whose voice captivates her.

Alice’s single-minded determination to ‘set the darkness echoing’ by writing it out of herself is unleashed with unstoppable force after colliding with Bo’s world at a writing retreat where something hard to extinguish is kindled…

I loved the contrasting voices of Bo and Alice at the beginning of the novel and appreciated the skill with which Sarah Stovell manages to create both credible dialogue and lyrical descriptions of the natural environment in a finely tuned balance that really made her prose sing. Added to this, her slow-burning sense of rising sexual tension really made this a page turner as you race to see if your ‘narrative compass’ is as reliable as you thought it was.

I read this in a single day, being utterly loath to drag myself away from the claustrophobic and intriguing world that Sarah draws you into. I love books that are even better than the one you’ve been anticipating and I have to say that this novel was ‘Exquisite-ly‘ so. This book is the narrative equivalent of a ‘Magic Eye’ painting – you know that there’s more going on below the surface and try as you might to decipher exactly why it is, things keep shifting before your very eyes and the final picture eludes you right to the very end. And perhaps even afterwards…

Anyone who has ever been separated either by time or circumstances from the object of their affections will find much to relate to in the epistolary exchanges between Bo and Alice and I was very impressed by how credible their evolving friendship altered before our very eyes into something altogether more compulsive and glitteringly dangerous. Bo’s maturity, fame and experience seem to give her the upper hand in the relationship at the beginning of Exquisite and the way that this situation unravels is another exquisite aspect of Stovell’s writing.

I think it’s difficult to make a thriller genuinely sexy without seeming to try too hard or feel contrived – but Exquisite manages the perfect balance of a perfectly created fictional world and a realistic portrayal of an unsettling relationship.

 

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I loved this novel and I’ll be recommending it to everyone who likes their novels unpredictable, sexy and with a hidden sting in the tail. Sarah Stovell is definitely a talent to watch and yet more confirmation that Karen Sullivan’s eye for a fabulous read is firing on all cylinders. I look forward to Stovell’s next novel with just as much excitement as I awaited the postman arriving with Exquisite.

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart.

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She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. 

Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

Follow Sarah on Twitter here: @Sarahlovescrime

Treat yourself to a copy and find out how fabulous it is for yourself:

Treat yourself to Exquisite

It was an absolute honour to take part in the Blogtour and hopefully create a huge bizz around this fantastic read with all my amazing fellow bloggers. Liz and Anne’s blogs from yesterday really got me in the mood and are definitely worth a read

Anne Cater: Exquisite Blogtour

Liz Loves Books Exquisite blogtour

I am delighted to be sharing today’s spot with the lovely @frizbot and here’s a link to her review too to whet your appetite still further

Writes of Woman on ‘Exquisite’

 

Thanks again to #TeamOrenda for letting me take part and looking forward to seeing more fab books from Karen’s magical bookshelf in the very near future.

Exquisite looks fab in my #OnTheShelfie alongside my other Orenda title this month, the excellent #Block46 which, if you haven’t already read, I also heartily recommend.

Have a great weekend & happy reading everyone

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Block 46 Blogtour #FrenchNoir

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Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina. Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light. Plumbing the darkness and the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, Block 46 is a multi-layered, sweeping and evocative thriller that heralds a stunning new voice in French Noir.

Karen, you’ve done it again!

Just when I think that the last Orenda book I read was the best one yet, she finds another book that blows me away! When I received Block 46 through the post, I couldn’t keep my hands off it – even though my TBR pile was even higher than usual.

Lots of reviewers have commented on the way that Block 46 defies categorisation and that is exactly right. It’s got touches of so many of my favourite genres: it’s set in Sweden so it’s got many Nordic elements, Johana Gustawsson is French so it’s got plenty of elements of #FrenchNoir too and it’s got profilers and a serial killer too. Add all of that together and add in the fact that it’s got a historical backstory and you’ve got one of my top reads of 2017.

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The combination of Emily Roy and Alexis Castells was a winning combination for me. Emily had the single-minded straight talking qualities of an expert profiler which combined perfectly with Alexis’ more serene and empathic nature. I loved the way that they complemented each other as they worked to uncover the truth behind this fascinating story. Emily’s background of the Canadian mounted police and Alexis’ True Crime expertise made this an unusual and very satisfying twist on the serial killer genre that I just could not put down.

I love novels that alternate in time and place and was gripped by the contrast between the murdered boys on Hampstead Heath and the disappearance of Linnea Blix in Sweden. The insight into the present-day investigation was hugely enjoyable and the sudden flashes of the killer’s thoughts added a disturbing, dark and addictive element to this novel that was satisfyingly chilling and definitely not for the faint-hearted. If you find yourself getting upset at reading about children suffering and the atrocities perpetrated ny the Nazis during WWII then you might find this a traumatic read – but I genuinely feel that Johana’s writing is so good that the violence is never gratuitous or distasteful.

Many novels in this genre are all plot and display a real disregard for the writing itself. Not so Gustawsson, her writing is precise and elegant showing a real talent for spinning beauty out of bleakness and even depravity. The section of the novel which takes us back to Buchenwald concentration camp stood out for me as some of the most chillingly beautiful that I’ve encountered in this genre and made me turn the pages long into the night to find the thread linking these events to the modern day murders.

The gallic touch that Gustawsson adds to the Nordic crime genre makes for a satisfying, gripping and harrowing read that drew me in completely. I can’t wait for Mr OnTheShelf to finish reading it so we can go over elements of it together as I found its historical elements so fascinating. The fact that he’s also engrossed speaks volumes as he’s not generally a fiction reader and Block 46 had him as gripped as I was.

I have absolutely no doubt that in #RoyAndCastells I’ve found a new detective pairing that I’ll be telling absolutely everyone about and I’ll definitely be looking out for the sequel. Block 46 looks at evil in a unique and memorable way and the quality of writing makes it hard to believe that this is Johana Gustawsson’s debut novel.

#TeamOrenda have produced a series of amazing blog posts about this novel and if you haven’t read them already then you’re in for a treat. Check out the #BlogTour poster to see who else is creating the #FrenchNoir buzz around Block 46

My partner on the #BlogTour today is the lovely @damppebbles and here is the link to her fantastic review that she also published today

Damppebbles’ Review of Block 46

How cute does it look alongside the fascinating #Exquisite in my latest #OnTheShelfie?

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Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.

I really enjoyed this Q and A on her website so I’m sharing the link below for you

Johana Blog Q and A

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Author LinksWebsite  Twitter

I chose to read and review the ARC of Block 46 that I was sent by the lovely Anne Cater. The above review is, as always,  my own unbiased opinion. I bloody loved it.

Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th May 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio.

The Stars Are Fire – Anita Shreve

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Good morning on this sunny bank holiday weekend! I’m delighted to be participating in this blog tour, for  Anita Shreve’s The Stars Are Fire. The first one of Anita’s novels I read was in Canada in 2002 and All He Ever Wanted is still a great read – if you haven’t read it,  I strongly suggest you look it up.  If you haven’t read anything by Anita Shreve yet, I think you’ll love #StarsAreFire and I’d like to thank Amelia from Little Brown for allowing me to take part in this blog tour and putting up with me sending her pics from sunny Crete when she was stuck in the office 🙂

Hot breath on Grace’s face. Claire is screaming, and Grace is on her feet. As she lifts her daughter, a wall of fire fills the window. Perhaps a quarter of a mile back, if even that. Where’s Gene? Didn’t he come home?

1947. Fires are racing along the coast of Maine after a summer-long drought, ravaging thousands of acres, causing unprecedented confusion and fear.

Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her difficult and unpredictable husband Gene joins the volunteers fighting to bring the fire under control. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, the women watch in horror as their houses go up in flames, then walk into the ocean as a last resort. They spend the night frantically trying to save their children. When dawn comes, they have miraculously survived, but their lives are forever changed: homeless, penniless, and left to face an uncertain future.

As Grace awaits news of her husband’s fate, she is thrust into a new world in which she must make a life on her own, beginning with absolutely nothing; she must find work, a home, a way to provide for her children. In the midst of devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms – joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain – and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens, and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.

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If you haven’t read any of Anita Shreve’s page turning novels yet, this is a fantastic place to start. The fact that this novel was based on a true story was another factor which really drew me in as I love investigating around the books I’m reading. The long, hot summer of 1947 in Maine was a fascinating period that I knew nothing about prior to reading #StarsAreFire and Anita Shreve does an amazing job of transporting you back in time and reliving this traumatic event with Grace and her friend Rosie as they draw on every ounce of internal strength they have to rebuild their lives after the fires destroy everything they own,

The pairing of these two characters was very clever as we keep comparing them long before it occurs to Grace herself to draw comparisons about the state of her marriage with the much more passionate and fulfilled marriage that Rosie enjoys. Grace has been married to Gene from a very young age and his belittling of her and his cold, secretive and brusque nature is what she has come to accept as normal. One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel is the way we see Grace developing and flourishing despite the difficulties she has to endure.

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The metaphor of her rising, quite literally, from the ashes of her former life is a powerful one and this is a moving and engrossing read. Shreve keeps Grace faithfully within her 1940s context, providing much food for thought about marriage, independence and friendship for a 21st century readership.

I’m not generally a romance reader and I think that Anita Shreve is a writer who contains romance within her novels rather than make Grace’s whole journey about love, marriage and romance. The dramatic description of the fire and its immediate aftermath are the most striking part of this novel at first, but what remains after reading this novel is the grit and courage shown by Grace which enables her to make difficult decisions in her family’s best interests by the end of the novel.

I think that Shreve is just as skilful in writing about female relationships as she is about love and I thought Grace’s relationship with Rosie and her evolving relationship with Marjorie was another real strength of this novel. The journey for warring women to move towards accepting one another as human beings is a difficult one to paint without resorting to cliche and I feel that #StarsAreFire has managed it superbly. There’s no denying that Grace and Marjorie have a difficult relationship at the beginning of the novel, but the skilful and credible way that Shreve manages to describe their evolving appreciation of one another was another stand-out aspect of this novel for me.

Fans of Anita Shreve will love this and I hope that it also brings her new readers who love period fiction and strongly written female narratives. At the very end of her novel, Shreve suggests that we look up Wildfire Loose by Joyce Butler – which tells the true story of these fires – and this is the very next thing that I’m off to look up. Happy reading & enjoy the bank holiday!

Writer On the Shelf:

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Anita Shreve grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts (just outside Boston), the eldest of three daughters. Early literary influences include having read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton when she was a junior in high school (a short novel she still claims as one of her favourites) and everything Eugene O’Neill ever wrote while she was a senior (to which she attributes a somewhat dark streak in her own work). After graduating from Tufts University, she taught high school for a number of years in and around Boston. In the middle of her last year, she quit (something that, as a parent, she finds appalling now) to start writing. “I had this panicky sensation that it was now or never.”
Returning to the United States, Shreve was a writer and editor for a number of magazines in New York. Later, when she began her family, she turned to freelancing, publishing in the New York Times Magazine, New York magazine and dozens of others. In 1989, she published her first novel, Eden Close. Since then she has written 17 other novels, among them The Weight of Water, The Pilot’s Wife, The Last Time They Met, A Wedding in December, and Body Surfing.
Shreve is married to a man she met when she was 13. She has two children and three stepchildren, and in the last eight years has made tuition payments to seven colleges and universities.

Buy The Stars Are Fire online

Anita Shreve on Twitter

 

Thank you so much to Amelia at Little Brown Books for inviting me onto the Blogtour and sending me this gorgeous book. I’ll definitely be recommending it as a fantastic summer read that a lot of people should pack for their holidays this year.

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The Man Who Loved Islands #Blogtour

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In the early 80s, Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller were inseparable; childhood friends and fledgling business associates. Now, both are depressed and lonely, and they haven’t spoken to each other in more than 10 years. A bizarre opportunity to honour the memory of someone close to both of them presents itself – if only they can forgive and forget. With the help of the deluded Max Mojo and the faithful Hamish May, can they pull off the impossible, and reunite the legendary Ayrshire band, The Miraculous Vespas, for a one-off Music Festival—The Big Bang—on a remote, uninhabited Scottish island? Absurdly funny, deeply moving and utterly human, this is an unforgettable finale to the Disco Days trilogy—a modern classic pumped full of music and middle-aged madness, written from the heart and pen of one of Scotland’s finest new voices.

Even if I hadn’t read the first two books in the #DiscoDays trilogy, I would have loved the reading given by  David Ross last week at his Glasgow book launch and would have ended up desperate to get home and read the first two books as soon as I could.

Attending the book event was a ‘must’ for me as it was a really unique event combining music, gin and books – which if they aren’t my top three things in the world, must come pretty close…

It was also a chance to actually get to meet the lovely Karen from Orenda Books and hear a set by the best fictitious band in the world: ‘The Miraculous Vespas’ led by the inimitable Bobby Bluebell in the Admiral Bar.

Alistair Braidwood aka ScotsWhayHae! ably led an eclectic conversation with David where we gained insights into such diverse issues as changing priorities as you get older, stealing cows in Ayrshire, the Germans’ penchant for Scottish profanity and real life events sneaking into his fiction.

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It is always a pleasure to hear writers read from their own works and even though David made it clear this was not a favourite part of a book launch for him, it was fantastic to hear a rendition of the seance in his own voice and the crowd’s response on the night made it clear that they loved it too – including all the swearing!

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The dark humour in these books paints a truthful and perceptive portrait of Scottish men of a certain age and the blend of humour and poignancy hits just the right balance in this final book of the trilogy. Although I’m not sure we can really call it a trilogy as I’m sure we’ve not heard the last of these chancers as they’re surely way too good to put out to grass yet.

Mr OnTheShelf is an Ayrshireman and I took him along on the night to get a slice of nostalgia. He came away desperate to read the books for himself and was really enthusiastic about the memories it triggered. As a fan of  ‘Cath’ by The Bluebells, he loved this intimate gig with The Miraculous Vespas which took him right back to 1984 and his heyday.  The fact that he enjoyed the night so much also showed that even though this is a trilogy, you don’t need to have read the first two books to be swept up in Bobby and Joey’s tale of life, love and Blood Oranges.

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The addition of the playlists by David F Ross was also a huge bonus for me and I recommend playing them on Spotify for yourself when you’re reading the books. There’s a real range of tunes from Durutti Column through Malcolm Middleton to De La Soul and this really made the book come to life for me, it was great having the music as a backdrop and feeling the energy of the characters evolve and alter as they grow old rather than grow up.

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He’s been compared endlessly with Irvine Welsh and John Niven and if you enjoy these writers then you will definitely enjoy the Disco days trilogy, but I think they contain something wholly their own that sets them apart from their contemporaries.

Ross is an architect and it is perhaps the overarching structure of these three novels that contributes most strongly to their impact. They do not follow sequentially on from one another exactly but instead, all three of them contribute to a unique narrative arc that gives us a much stronger insight into the way the different eras of their lives contrast and collide with one another.

I loved The Man Who Loved Islands and I think that attending the event last week brought it to life for me in a very different way. Karen Sullivan from Orenda has made a name for herself in being able to choose fresh new voices in fiction and the launch in Glasgow has proven that she’s also able to choose fresh new ways to promote her books too. It was also lovely to meet Mary @bethsy as I always love meeting other book bloggers and it was great to see her win the limited edition vinyl on the night too! Not jealous at all, Mary…

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I can’t wait to see where David F Ross goes next in his fiction writing – once you’ve read his profile, you’ll be amazed he finds the time. He is definitely a Scottish writer to watch and I look forward to more news after hearing the hints that we could be seeing the Heatwave boys and The Miraculous Vespas on stage and screen in the near future, which is sure to bring him the wider audience he deserves.

Thanks to Karen and Anne for getting me a copy to review – you can buy yourself your own copy here – it’s an absolute must-read.

BUY A COPY FROM HIVE

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Author On The Shelf

David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964, and he lived in various part of the city until the late ‘70s. He subsequently moved to Kilmarnock, where he has lived since. He was educated at James Hamilton Academy until being politely asked to leave.
 (Expulsion is such a harsh word, isn’t it?)
 Following a frankly ludicrous early foray into sporadic employment (Undertakers, Ice Cream Parlour, Tennis Groundsman, DJ … he’ll save these stories until he knows you better), David found himself at Glasgow School of Art, studying architecture.
In 1992, he graduated from the Mackintosh School of Architecture. He is now the Design Director of one of Scotland’s largest, oldest and most successful practices, Keppie Design. (Funny old world, eh?)

David has worked all over the world and he led his practice strategy for projects in countries as diverse as China, Egypt, Malaysia, India and Libya. He is a designated business leader for East Ayrshire Council, a Board Mentor for Entrepreneurial Spark and he was design advisor to Strathclyde Passenger Transport for their modernisation programme of the Glasgow Subway in advance of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
 
He is married to Elaine and has two children, Nathan and Nadia, who have both signed legally binding agreements to house him in the best Old Folks Home his money can buy. He is a Chelsea fan – from long before the cash-rich days – and occasionally writes stream-of-consciousness rubbish for @ByTheMinChelsea and other @ByTheMinSport feeds on Twitter.

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths #Blogtour

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WINNER OF THE 2016 CWA DAGGER IN THE LIBRARY.

Boiled human bones have been found in Norwich’s web of underground tunnels. When Dr Ruth Galloway discovers they were recently buried, DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands. The boiling might have been just a medieval curiosity – now it suggests a much more sinister purpose.

Meanwhile, DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper. The only trace of her is the rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’. This might be a figure of speech, but with the discovery of the bones and the rumours both Ruth and the police have heard that the network of old chalk-mining tunnels under Norwich is home to a vast community of rough sleepers, the clues point in only one direction. Local academic Martin Kellerman knows all about the tunnels and their history – but can his assertions of cannibalism and ritual killing possibly be true?

As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. A local woman goes missing and the police are under attack. Ruth and Nelson must unravel the dark secrets of The Underground and discover just what gruesome secrets lurk at its heart – before it claims another victim.

When I was a wee girl, ‘Judy Johnstone’ was going to be my ‘nom-de-plume’ when I became a famous writer so I was delighted to read the latest instalment in the  adventures of my literary dopplelganger in The Chalk Pit, Elly Griffiths’ latest Ruth Galloway novel.

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Another thing that delighted me was reading on Twitter that if Elly Griffiths was casting Dr Ruth Galloway, that she’d love to have Ruth Jones – and that’s EXACTLY how I see Ruth so I was delighted. The release of the latest Galloway novel has been eagerly awaited by many of her fans and they will definitely not be disappointed by The Chalk Pit

I love Ruth’s character: her worries and issues are so well-drawn. The school-gate politics, her creepy boss Phil and her complicated relationship with Nelson are all lightly handled – but done in such a way as to make the story feel truly ‘real’ and make us feel for her as she navigates some of these choppy waters. I love that this book fits perfectly into the crime genre – but manages to be a book that people who don’t love crime novels would also love at the same time. This is largely down to Elly Griffith’s skill in characterisation; Ruth definitely is a character that you’ll be rooting for.

This is definitely a mystery to get your teeth into. Firstly, Barbara Murray’s friend – aka Aftershave Eddie –  reports her missing to Nelson after puzzling about her  mysterious disappearance.  Sam Foster-Jones a young mum of four also disappears into thin air and  Dave Clough’s partner, Cassandra Blackstock vanishes after a play  rehearsal. After this third woman disappears, the team begin to search for the connections to try and piece together the mystery.

A born-again Christian who runs a local mother’s group appears to have links with all the victims and this sets the team off on one investigation. Then when the story of the underground tunnels emerges it seems as if the past and the present are about to collide for DS Johnson and her team.

This book drew me in and kept me there. It was a satisfying blend of intriguing mystery and well developed characters that you actually care about and root for. Elly Griffiths skilful plate spinning means that it zips along at a great pace and its very difficult to put down. It’s safe to say that my marking took a hit last week as I raced to its exciting finish.

Some people label Elly Griffiths’ novels as as cosy crime, but I think that they’re the right mixture of familiarity and the unexpected. The Norfolk setting is fantastically realised and you get a real sense of where they’re from as you read these novels and drink in the atmosphere. Nine books in and I’m well and truly hooked. If you haven’t read them yet, you should begin straight away with the amazing  The Crossing Places and I guarantee that you’ll be drawn in to Ruth’s world and race through them.

It looks absolutely gorgeous in my #OnTheShelfie and I can’t wait for number 10

Thanks so much to the fab Olivia Mead from Quercus for inviting me to be part of the tour!

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Writer On The Shelf:

I’ll let Elly introduce herself in her own words. To find out more, head over to her gorgeous-looking website Elly Griffiths

My name’s Elly Griffiths, except it’s not really.
My real name is Domenica de Rosa and I’ve written four books under that name (see link above). I was born in London in 1963 and my family moved to Brighton when I was five. I loved Brighton and still do – the town, the surrounding countryside and, most of all, the sea. I went to local state schools and wrote my first book when I was a 11, a murder mystery set in Rottingdean, near the village where I still live. At secondary school I used to write episodes of Starsky and Hutch (early fan fiction) and very much enjoyed making my readers cry.

I did all the right things to become a writer: I read English at King’s College London and, after graduating, worked in a library, for a magazine and then as a publicity assistant at HarperCollins. I loved working in publishing and eventually became Editorial Director for children’s books at HarperCollins. All this completely put me off writing and it wasn’t until I was on maternity leave in 1998 that I wrote what would become my first published novel, The Italian Quarter.

Three other books followed, all about Italy, families and identity. By now we had two children and my husband Andy had just given up his city job to become an archaeologist. We were on holiday in Norfolk, walking across Titchwell Marsh, when Andy mentioned that prehistoric man had thought that marshland was sacred. Because it’s neither land nor sea, but something in-between, they saw it as a kind of bridge to the afterlife. Neither land nor sea, neither life nor death. As he said these words the entire plot of The Crossing Places appeared, full formed, in my head and, walking towards me out of the mist, I saw Dr Ruth Galloway. I didn’t think that this new book was significantly different from my ‘Italy’ books but, when she read it, my agent said, ‘This is crime. You need a crime name.’

And that’s how I became Elly Griffiths.

You should also follow her on Twitter to hear all about her books and  hopefully get news of where she’s appearing in person

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Elly Griffiths Twitter

 

Ragdoll Blogtour 23/02/17

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the ‘Ragdoll’.

Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.

The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

 

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40 Bloggers. 3 Days & a massive social media presence from @BenWillisUK and the @TrapezeBooks team meant that if you’ve not heard of this book, where have you been?

Am happy to report that in this case, this hype was wholly deserved and I tore through this in record speed – and not just because I wanted to get the review in on time for  Ben’s deadline 🙂

One of the things I loved about this book is that just when you think you know exactly where you are, Daniel Cole turns things on their head and you’re left reeling in shock. He’s a deft plotter and as readers we are at his mercy throughout this gripping thriller. The prologue and its portrayal of a standard court scene prepares us for one story and then we’re presented with a totally different one. We know that the Cremation killer case is important but we are left wondering how these two plots intertwine and how they’ll lead us to the denouement…

It feels like a fantastic movie as it unfolds, so I wasn’t surprised to discover that it had started off as a screenplay and I was delighted to discover that the TV rights have been grabbed  and I already can’t wait to see how its casting and setting matches up with my own ‘casting’ in my mind’s eye.

The media get their own role in the book as we are presented with a ‘countdown clock’ to each fresh killing; it reminded me of the way that the press have come to present human tragedy as an opportunity to raise viewing figures and how low that they’ll sometimes stoop to boost them. The recent dramatisation of the Shannon Matthews case in ‘The Moorside’ showed this in a very striking way and #RagdollBook certainly matches this surreal story in lots of its fiendishly dark twists and turns. It’s been compared to the movie Se7en and I can see why…

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The @TrapezeBooks team getting their ‘Wolf’ on to celebrate Publication Day

I really fell for the isolated and mysterious detective William “Wolf” Fawkes and his dogged pursuit of the ‘Ragdoll Killer’ whose ‘signature’ is a patchwork corpse stitched together from the remains of his six victims. Fawkes is a haunted soul who intrigued me with his persistence and determination in the face of all the horror: his ex-wife is the journalist covering the case and because of this he is desperate to crack the case and fly in the face of all his doubters. Wolf is a perfect protagonist as he’s got just enough of the ‘unknowable’ about him to keep us intrigued– I was also a big fan of his faithful sidekick, Baxter and loved the way that their relationship was convincingly created – I can’t wait to see it on film.

Daniel Cole has created a fantastic, twisted, dark and addictive read. The time of day stays  at the top of each section of the book and creates a real forward momentum and the minutes flew by as I raced towards the end: I  really did stay up way too late last night to finish it.  I absolutely loved the ending because it was such a shocker. I have a ‘no spoiler’ policy so you’re just going to have to read #Ragdoll for yourself to find out the truth.

This debut novel comes unhesitatingly recommended by me. It’s a  pageturner in every sense of the word and it’s definitely one that I’m certain will be on lots of people’s ‘best of the year’ list at the end of 2017 – and it’s only February so that’ll tell you how much I was gripped by it…

#Ragdoll also looks absolutely gorgeous in my #OnTheShelfie

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Writer On The Shelf

At 33 years old, Daniel Cole has worked as a paramedic, an RSPCA officer and most recently for the RNLI, driven by an intrinsic need to save people or perhaps just a guilty conscience about the number of characters he kills off in his writing.

 

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He has received a three-book publishing and television deal for his debut crime series which publishers and producers describe as “pulse-racing” and “exceptional”.

Daniel currently lives in sunny Bournemouth and can usually be found down the beach when he ought to be writing book two in the Nathan Wolfe series instead.

Twitter:  @Daniel_P_Cole

If you’ve loved “Ragdoll” you can read all  the other bloggers’ reviews by following Ben Willis on Twitter :  @BenWillisUK