Severed Blog Tour

 

During a communion service at a village church, the teenage son of a vicar brutally attacks his father with an axe. The horrified congregation watch the son esape and during a frantic police search rumours arise that the boy was involved in devil worship. Professor Matt Hunter, an atheist ex-minister and expert on religion, is brought in to advise, yet he quickly suspects the church attack may have a far more complex cause.

Meanwhile, a ten-year-old boy called Ever grows up in a small Christian cult. The group believe they are the only true humans left and that the world is filled with demons called Hollows, but they’re working on a bizarre ritual that will bring peace and paradise to the world. Soon, the worlds of Matt and Ever will collide in one awful, terrifying night where Matt is thrown into the frightening and murderous world of religious mania.

As soon as I discovered that the detective in this novel was called Jill – I was sold  I was delighted to be invited on the blog tour for this book by Anne Cater as I’m always happy to trust her judgement about my next read. It sounded really intriguing and after finishing it the first thing I did was go in search of everything else Peter Laws has written. It really was that good! Be warned though, if you like darkness, the macabre and an unsettling read then you’ve come to the right place…

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I love Matt Hunter’s character: his family life and relationships are incredibly well drawn and really make you feel like you are being allowed into his world. His relationship with DS Jill Bowland is also very well done and their team dynamic is described in such a way as to make the story feel truly ‘real’ and make us root for them as they navigate some pretty macabre goings-on.  I love that this book defies being pigeonholed into merely one genre – it manages to be a book that people who don’t love ‘straight’ crime novels would also love at the same time. This is largely down to Peter Laws’ skill in characterisation and ability to really keep you on the edge of your seat as things get dark and mysterious very quickly.

This is definitely a mystery to get your teeth into. The religious element brought something very unique to this mystery and the fact that religion is very much Peter Laws’ background gave this a really authentic and credible air. The taut and narrow timeline certainly adds to the tension as Matt and Jill battle to get to the bottom of these terrifying and disturbing events that unfold around them.  Matt’s religious background gives him a unique insight into the world that Ever has grown up in and the very real dangers that he is exposed to. The darkness rising is nicely balanced with domestic detail and some genuinely – albeit darkly funny – scenes and the variety of light and shade was something else about the novel that really worked for me.

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This book drew me in and kept me there. It was a satisfying blend of horror, crime and mystery with a really original voice that I really fell for.  It was definitely one of those books that you pick up and then lift your eyes from to find out that three hours have passed and you’re still reading. That was what made me want to get his other two books as quickly as I can – and they are going to be a reward for when I finally finish my exam marking. Peter Laws’ skilful plate spinning means that Severed holds your attention in a vice-like grip and you will definitely not be able to put it down until you find out the truth behind what both Micah and Ever have been drawn into and what dark forces may be responsible. If you are squeamish or easily disturbed then this might not be the book for you – it certainly does not shy away from the macabre and you might need to sleep with the light on if you are up too late finishing it!

If you haven’t read any of Peter Laws’ books yet, you should begin straight away with this amazing trilogy and I guarantee that you’ll be drawn in as fast as I was and race through them. Browse all three of them here – and treat yourself to all three to get through the dark winter nights. Only thing is, you might need a stiff whisky to accompany you!

Writer On The Shelf

Peter Laws is an ordained Baptist minister with a taste for the macabre. He regularly speaks and preaches at churches and events. He lives with his family
in Bedfordshire.

Links https://www.peterlaws.co.uk/

Twitter @revpeterlaws

 

 

 

 

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17 Degrees Magazine – Jill’s Winter Reads

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It’s January and I hope that your 2019 has got off to a great beginning. It’s been so exciting to see my latest 17 Degrees column in print and share my reviews of these great books.  January and February are full of fabulous new books too and it’s definitely going to be so hard to keep my 2019 TBR under control and whittle down my next set of books for my Spring Column in March

 

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Brutally Honest – Melanie Brown (Quadrille £13.99)

 

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If you love a memoir, then this ‘Scary’ new release could be perfect for you. Mel B is certainly not known for keeping things to herself and in her autobiography, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in her dramatic life – and get to the truth behind the headlines. Mel B has spent her entire career flying high, whether being part of the world’s biggest girl band, acting as a judge on X Factor or telling it like it is on America’s Got Talent.  Brutally Honest is her no-holds-barred account of the struggles that went on behind the scenes and the tears that lay behind the surface glitter. With rare candour and a slice of her infamous northern humour, the book allows us a real insight into life as a Spice Girl, as well as the trauma and struggle to extricate herself from her most recent marriage and her desire to carve a new future for herself and her family. Mel has a charm all of her own and I know many people will be pleasantly surprised by her honesty, bravery and insight. A really great read with a warm heart and positive message too.Image result for winter garland

Poverty Safari – Darren McGarvey (Pan Macmillan £6.99)

 

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Whatever your political opinions, Darren McGarvey aka Scottish rapper and social commentator, Loki is determined to make you sit up and take notice with his unflinching look at the people whose lives have fallen through the cracks in our modern social landscape.  He really wants to make people think harder about their assumptions about people living alongside us whose lives are so different to ours that they couldn’t even be imagined. Winner of this year’s Orwell Prize for non-fiction, this is part memoir, part social history and will shock even the most streetwise reader by its determination to tell the truth about poverty and hardship in the communities that we live in. The hidden poor are all around us and Loki feels that we don’t see them precisely because so many of us are determined not to. McGarvey wants us to think about the systems which have caused and maintain these inequalities in our society and consider whether we have done enough to ensure that this changes in the future. This is a non preachy, shocking and important read that everyone is talking about.  You should definitely join in the conversation this winter!
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Becoming – Michelle Obama (Penguin £16.99)

 

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It’s great to start the year with a really inspiring read, and they don’t come much more inspiring than this one.  As the first African-American in her role as FLOTUS she and her husband redefined what it meant to serve in the White House. A strong and inspiring advocate for women’s education and opportunities, Michelle made thousands of people believe that they too could achieve their ambitions and the fact that she did it all with such grace, charm and humour meant that she wo n’t fail to win you over in this compelling read. Michelle talks candidly about her upbringing, her struggles and her personal successes as well as her insights into the juggling required to bring up your family as normally as you possibly can with the world watching your every move. Whether busting moves on primetime TV, wowing us with her skills at Carpool Karaoke or touching people with her natural compassion and dignity, Michelle’s book tells us her own story, in her own words and really makes you feel like you’ve met her in person. This is a warm, compelling and inspirational read that I can’t recommend highly enough.

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The Choice – Edith Eger (Ebury Publishing £6.99)

 

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Being sent to Auschwitz at only 16 years old was a harrowing and unimaginable experience for 16-year-old Edith Enger. The things that she endured there are brought vividly to life for us in this memoir as we see them through her eyes – including being forced to perform at Auschwitz for the infamous ‘butcher’ Joseph Mengele himself. Edith’s determination to survive, in spite of everything she went through even led to her surviving a brutal death march. When the camp was liberated at last, Edith had to be pulled from a pile of bodies, barely alive after everything that she’d endured. In The Choice, Dr Edith Eger shares her experience of the suffering she endured at Auschwitz with us, as well as telling us all about the people she has worked with and helped since. Today, she uses her skills to support survivors of abuse and soldiers suffering from PTSD, turning the worst of human experiences into something both positive and life-affirming. The Choice is an absolute must-read. It is both a lesson in humanity and a heart-warming insight into the way that the most wonderful things can grow out of adversity and suffering. Read it for a moving and inspiring start to 2019.
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The Hunting Party  – Lucy Foley( Harper Collins £12.99)

 

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In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year. The beautiful one. The golden couple. The volatile one. The new parents. The quiet one. The city boy. The Outsider. The victim.  And then it begins… This was such a fantastic read, I can’t stop talking about it! I love a book with that ‘locked in’ feeling where you are constantly kept guessing as to who might be guilty- as everyone has a motive and nobody can be trusted. It had me hooked from the get-go and it’s a perfect winter read for a chilly afternoon by the fire as you’ll definitely get lost in its pages.. Anyone who has ever had to endure a dreadful reunion with people from their past will find much to relate to here as the remote location adds to the tension and unease of these characters. Their idyllic hideaway is rapidly torn apart by tensions, conflict and division and you’ll be left guessing as everyone’s motives are called into question in such a deft way that it would put Agatha Christie herself to shame.  Lucy Foley has crafted an immersive and claustrophobic novel that will have you holding your breath as you race towards the final page. This is definitely one of my reads of the year. Pick yourself up a copy as soon as you can!Image result for winter garland

Roar – Cecilia Aherne (Harper Collins £10.99)

 

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Have you ever imagined a different life? Have you ever been paralysed by indecision? Have you ever had a moment when you needed to find your voice?

Then I might have found the perfect book for you. Cecilia Ahern is one of those writers. The ones we all turn to when we want a story that will make us laugh, make us cry and make us think about our lives in a different way. My mum is a huge fan of her novels and so I was delighted to be able to review something a little different from her this winter: This is a selection of short stories about women who all discover the inner strength to stand up for something that matters passionately to them. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, you’ll discover thirty touching, hilarious stories and meet thirty totally different women. Each one finds a moment that defines them as they realise that they themselves hold the power to make a change. This book is a wonderful and inspiring antidote to the January Blues – treat yourself.

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One Day in December – Josie Silver (Penguin £5.99)

 

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I love getting recommendations from other people for the column, and this book came from my very best book-twin in the world – my sister Cara. Like me, Cara loves a read that you can really lose yourself in and we both absolutely loved ‘One Day’ so I was delighted when she told me that she’d found a book that reminded her of it. I’m choosing this as a winter read for all you romantics out there – you’re going to absolutely love it. Laurie is pretty sure love, at first sight, doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it? But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away. Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. Until her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus. Laurie’s a good friend so she’s determined to let him go and get on with her life. But what if destiny has other plans? I hope you like this fabulous winter love story as much as we did.

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A Keeper – Graham Norton ( Hodder & Stoughton  £7.99)

 

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Yes, it absolutely is that Graham Norton – and if you haven’t been introduced to Graham Norton the novelist, then you’re in for a treat. This wonderful Irish novel tells the story of Elizabeth Keane, who has returned to Ireland after her mother’s death, desperate to be done with that miserable episode of her life. There is nothing for her in Ireland now and she wonders if there ever was. The house of her childhood is not filled with happy memories and she’d happily have left it without a backwards glance, if she hadn’t found a stack of old letters.40 years earlier, a lonely young woman rushes through the darkness by the cliffs and the sea. She has idea where she might be headed, only that she has to keep going, and not look backwards. To where and for what reason will be revealed as the novel unfolds.  Both of these stories combine to draw you in and find out what will be the fate of both women and how their lives collide in the most unexpected way. If you where a Maeve Binchy fan, you’ll be won over by Graham Norton’s writing style and his evocative picture of both rural Ireland and human nature.

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A House of Ghosts W.C. Ryan (Zaffre £9.99)

 

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If you love a gothic read on wintery afternoons, then you’ll be as enchanted as I was by this original, dark and gripping story. It’s Winter 1917. The First World War is entering its most brutal phase and all around the nation, people are trying to find answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives. At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to try and make a connection with his two sons who have been killed in action. The intriguing aspect of this novel is that we gradually realise, as the guests start to arrive, that they are all hiding something important that lurks beneath the surface. The tension increases when a storm descends on the island and the guests find themselves trapped in the Abbey as the darkness becomes even more menacing.The question is, will there be the same number of guests ready to leave at the end of this gathering or will the promise of violence which has mounted throughout the storm lead to one of their unfortunate demise? You will love this unusual and gripping mystery if you like a tale of the unexpected. Curl up with A House of Ghosts for the perfect mystery to absorb you this winter.
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Snap – Belinda Bauer (Transworld £6. 99)

 

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I am a real admirer of an original take on a genre – and if you haven’t read Belinda Bauer’s smart and psychological thriller yet, then you don’t just have to take my word for it – this book comes with the stamp of approval from none other than Queen of Crime, Val McDermid!  Snap tells the tale of eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters who are stuck in their broken-down car on a roasting hot summer’s day. waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she told them – I won’t be long. Fatal last words indeed – for she doesn’t come back. Ever. And life as the children know it is has totally been turned on its head in the most traumatic way imaginable. Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, working hard to look after them all whilst making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house. Coping well, until the truth about what happened to his mother emerges in a way that nobody could have anticipated.  Jack is a great character and you’ll be drawn in tighter and tighter to this twisty tale as more begins to emerge about their past than you might have anticipated. If you like a book that throws you right into the heart of a story and makes sure that you never quite entirely know where you are then this is the book for you. Watch out for its incredible twists and turns!
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The Innocent Wife  – Amy LLoyd (Cornerstone £7.99)

 

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If you are a fan of Making a Murderer or Manhunter on Netflix then this twisted and clever thriller might be right up your street. I got this book fjust before going on holiday and I read it from cover to cover in two days! Just imagine the situation –  you’re in love with a man on Death Row in Florida, convicted of a brutal murder twenty years ago. You’re convinced he didn’t do it, and you’re determined to prove that he didn’t. You spearhead a vast online army of people also determined to prove his innocence and manage to uncover evidence of police incompetence whilst successfully lobbying for this awful miscarriage of justice to be overturned. Now you’re married to him, and he’s a free man, his conviction thrown out. You are free to spend the rest of your lives together in wedded bliss After all, he’s innocent. Or is it as simple as that…I don’t want to give any spoilers so all I’m going to say is that you should definitely read it for yourself. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about not being able to get to sleep until you’ve finished this rollercoaster of a book!

 

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Changeling – Matt Wesolowski (Orenda £8.99)

 

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Orenda Books are one of my absolute favourites, and I can safely say that Matt Wesolowski’s ‘Six Stories’ series are definitely some of the most original and enjoyable books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing.  This series is cleverly based on a podcast and takes on a new ‘case’ for each book. Changeling begins on Christmas Eve 1988, when seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the Wentshire Forest Pass. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995. Famously reclusive Scott King, whose `Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates Alfie’s disappearance, interviewing six witnesses – hence the ‘six stories’ –  to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. He takes the readers deep into the mysterious Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of the shadowy figures who dwell there including a psychic who claims to know where Alfie is…This is such a wintery read – it’s dark, chilling and extremely atmospheric – you’ll be checking what’s behind the couch after you’ve finished reading it. Changeling is an unforgettable read that I cannot recommend highly enough.
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I absolutely loved the job of choosing these 12 books and hope that you enjoy reading the ones that appeal to you over these first few months of the year  I always try to choose books that will appeal to a wide range of readers – whether you like a true story, an inspiring autobiography, a romantic read or something a bit more spinetingling to get you through these dreich winter months.

Happy New Reading Year to you all and I hope you have a wonderful 2019 in books 
Jill

 

 

 

 

Billy Binns Blog Tour

 

 

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THE SIX LOVES OF BILLY BINNS is a deeply moving and honest debut set in London against the backdrop of the changing 20th century.

It is reading group fiction perfect for those who loved the quirky pathos of Gail Honeyman’s ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE and the humour of Rachel Joyce’s THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY

I remember my dreams but not where they start.
Further back, I recall some of yesterday and the day before that. Then everything goes into a haze.
Fragments of memories come looming back like red London buses in a pea-souper.
Time plays funny tricks these days.
I wait for the next memory. I wait and I wait.

At 117 years old, Billy Binns is the oldest man in Europe and he knows his time is almost up. But Billy has a final wish: he wants to remember what love feels like one last time. Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and I’m delighted to rave about another fantastic book so early in the year!

As he looks back at the relationships that have shaped his flawed life – and the events that shaped the century – he recalls a life full of hope, mistakes, heartbreak and, above all, love.

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Billy Binns is my new favourite character. I was so gutted to miss the #NewVoices event in Edinburgh this week and miss out on meeting the lovely @headlinepg team too! It sounds like my blogging girls had a wonderful time and I really really hope that I get the opportunity to go next year. I’m so excited for more of my friends and fellow bloggers to move #BillyBinns up their #TBR list so that I can chat at length about this wonderful read and analyse how Billy’s entire long life is skilfully conjured through Richard Lumsden’s deft description and totally believable characters.

Billy’s long and wonderful life story is very vividly described and I was soon immersed in his dramatic past. It explored periods that I didn’t know as much about as well as episodes in history that I thought I knew well and I was soon wholly engrossed by Billy’s life story as we travelled back in time with him and discovered the true nature of his role in these historic events. I really enjoyed the way that Richard Lumsden wears his learning lightly and skilfully manages to teach you a lot about these varied eras through Billy and his eclectic adventures. I absolutely loved his wartime experiences and felt like they sprang off the page and really allowed us to witness this era right alongside Billy, which I absolutely loved.

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Billy Binns’ story explores the power of the past to affect our present and the past’s hold over us which Richard Lumsden conveys so skilfully in this wonderful novel. Even though  Billy’s life spans an entire century, my overwhelming feeling when I finished reading this thought-provoking read was that even though people nowadays lead lives very different to Billy and his friends, we are connected by far more than divides us.

The pain and suffering endured by the men of the Great War and the after effect of it on their lives was a wonderful ‘crucible’ to explore how the past haunts us and Richard Lumsden really makes us feel like we are there with them, experiencing the pain of the past and the pain that we’ve all struggled with on our journeys as human beings.

I absolutely recommend this read for people who really like to get their teeth into a story and those readers who enjoy a novel that is as far from formulaic and predictable as it is possible to be. In the present reading climate, many books can seem very same-y and this was a real palate cleanser for me. I loved the characterisation as much as I enjoyed the narrative style and I will definitely be recommending Billy Binns to friends of mine who enjoy a thought-provoking and engrossing read. Bravo, Richard Lumsden – it’s only January but #BillyBinns is really looking like a contender for my ‘Best of 2019’ list already and might even earn a place on my ‘Best of the Year’ #OnTheShelfie

Treat yourself to a copy here

 

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Writer On The Shelf

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Richard Lumsden has worked as an actor, writer and composer in television, film and theatre for 30 years. As an actor his films include DownhillSightseersSense and Sensibility and The Darkest Hour, as well as numerous television shows and theatre productions. The Six Loves of Billy Binns is his first novel.

You can follow Richard on Twitter @lumsdenrich and visit his website for more information.

 

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The Changeling by Matt Wesolowski

unnamed (2)On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the Wentshire Forest Pass, when a burst tyre forced his father, Sorrel, to stop the car. Leaving the car to summon the emergency services, Sorrel returned to find his son gone. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.

Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel, his son and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. He takes a journey through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there. He talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know where Alfie is…

Intensely dark, deeply chilling and searingly thought provoking, Changeling is an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller, taking you to places you will never, ever forget.

‘Bold, clever and genuinely chilling with a terrific twist that provides an explosive final punch’ Deidre O’Brien, Sunday Mirror

‘A genuine genre-bending debut’ Carla McKay, Daily Mail

‘Impeccably crafted and gripping from start to finish’ Doug Johnstone, The Big Issue

‘With a unique structure, an ingenious plot and so much suspense you can’t put it down, this is the very epitome of a must-read’ Heat

I loved Changeling so much that I featured it as one of my #WinterReads in 17 Degrees Magazine this month too!

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If I were to tell you that I was excited to receive Changeling, it’d seriously be one of the hugest understatements of my life. I absolutely loved Six Stories and Hydra and I could not wait to ‘tune in’ to the next episode of my favourite ‘True Crime Podcast‘ of a book. Matt Wesolowski has an amazing talent for grabbing you by the lapels and pulling you right into his story and I literally barely looked up until I’d turned the final page.

I love the way that Matt’s books give us a diverse range of voices so that we build up a steady accumulation of detail, just like you would in real life. I’m a real true-crime junkie and this definitely filled the gap that Serial, S-Town and Making a Murderer have left in my life. Alfie’s disappearance is another  fantastic tale that you really feel comes alive as you uncover more and more details about this ‘podcast’ In the same way that I felt a strong connection with Adnan after reading Serial, I really felt like I’d come to know this family by the final page and although I’m firmly committed to my ‘No Spoilers’ rule, I can’t wait to have a good chat with someone else who’s read Changeling so that we can mull over it together and talk about what a fantastic creation it is.

It’s even the kind of book that is a physical pleasure to read – the gorgeous cover and the hypnotically beautiful design mean that Changeling appeals to all of your senses at once – it’s not just the story that made me love it so much but the book as an actual physical object. Just look how beautiful it is. That butterfly made out of leaf skeletons is just stunning!

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The fact that it was described as another ‘Episode’ of Six Stories also got me really excited as I thought about the fact that hopefully there are another three more where this came from to look forward to as I really can’t emphasise how much I loved this dark and delicious read.

Scott King is a fantastic character – even though on a conscious level I know that he is a device to keep the story going and to stitch all of the interviewees’ perspectives together I absolutely love the way that his questions coax the truth/s out of his interviewees. I am a huge fan of podcasts in general and particularly true crime and murder podcasts. Six Stories feels absolutely real in every way and I almost feel like I am ‘hearing’ the book that I’m reading like a podcast in the night – it really is so evocative and skillfully realised.

I also liked the way that like the very best True Crime podcasts – Wesolowski allows space for our own feelings and responses. The circumstances around Alfie’s disappearance are not tied up in a neat little package with the ‘why’ on top tied up with a pretty pink bow. There is enough room for us to ask ourselves questions about who we believe and why that makes Changeling such an involving and ultimately rewarding experience.  I found myself genuinely being convinced to see things from a constantly shifting perspective as the novel bore me towards the conclusion and this was a rollercoaster ride that I definitely didn’t want to get off…

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This book has a little bit of everything – mystery, a ‘true crime’ feel, a fresh and interesting narrative structure, credible characters and a real sense of chill and menace. As you can probably tell, I loved Changeling and felt like sleeping with the light on for about four days after reading it. It is a book that you’ll want to pass on to other people so that they’ll have had the same experience you did, reading it for the first time. Matt Wesolowski could be your favourite new writer. Buy a copy here so that you can find out how brilliant it is for yourself

I’d like to thank the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, it was such a privilege to spread the book love for a book that I loved reading so much. Karen from Orenda told me herself about hearing Matt’s pitch for the first time and yet again, her unerring feel for writing talent hits the bullseye. I bloody love this book and cannot recommend it enough. Get out there and experience it for yourself as soon as you can!

 

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Writer on the Shelf

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Matt Wesolowski is from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature Feature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015.

His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio.

You can follow Matt on Twitter here

Why don’t you check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the tour?

Tell Me A Secret – Jane Fallon Blog Tour

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Best friends Holly and Roz tell each other everything

Jane Fallon is back with a compulsively readable and utterly hilarious, feisty look at the complexities of female friendships.

Holly is feeling on top of the world – celebrating a new promotion and dying to pop the champagne with her best friend Roz. But is Holly just imagining things, or is Roz – who supported her every step of the way – not as happy for her as she should be?

Something about Roz’s behaviour doesn’t add up. And soon Holly has the sneaking suspicion that there’s a target on her back. Has someone been playing dirty in a war Holly didn’t know she was fighting? And is Roz more tangled up in this than she’ll admit?

Only one woman can be left standing – but will the best woman win?

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Thank you so much to Jenny Platt for inviting me on the Blog Tour. I loved this book and will be recommending it to lots of people in my book group as I know that they’ll love it too

Holly is the kind of character that really comes alive for you as you read. In her exciting job where her promotion makes her really feel like she’s made it in life, we get swept along with her enthusiasm and share her excitement about this new stage of her life.  We are keen as readers for BFF Roz to feel just as excited as we do – but not as surprised as we might be to realise at the same time as Holly does that sometimes friends’ successes are not quite as uncomplicated as we might like them to be…

The setting will be a familiar one to many readers and it is deftly set up –  allowing us to see exactly where the tensions in the fabric of this friendship are and how they might further rupture as the novel progresses. The earlier scenes allow us an insight into the friendship as it was and paves the way for us to see how these frenemies lives will unfold as the tensions increase

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After all of her efforts, it’s hard not to share Holly’s dismay that Roz isn’t quite on the same page – but there is much here to recognise – perhaps with a wry smile and a sinking heart as Jane Fallon is exactly ‘on the money’ as she writes about how tangled and complex many female friendships are and how tightly the webs are drawn that connect us together yet threaten to strangulate us at times too!

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Holly’s initial success and her ensuing promotion is just the start of their adventures and believe me, there’s never a dull moment in this book! Holly is a fantastic character, she’s got her own flaws, as we all do but she’s all the better a character for it!  The plot zips along at a cracking pace and the dark humour here makes you grimace at times as you remember some of the ‘friends’ that you’ve cheered on through gritted teeth or silently wished would emigrate to Australia if you hear one more word about their ‘fabulous’ life.

I’m a fan of a great read and I think that there are a lot of people who can be a bit ‘sniffy’ about chick lit or female fiction without ever really experiencing its joys for themselves – This book is not trying to be anything else, it’s perfectly happy being its own delicious self.  I’d actually love to see it on screen and would be dragging people along with me to see Holly v. Roz in the flesh! If you like your heroines to be just like the people you’ve known and loved- or loved to hate – in real life, then you’re going to LOVE this read. Their flawed and cracked friendship and how it unfolds will certainly keep you entertained as you make your way through this novel – all too quickly, I might add as I could have certainly wished for more chapters last weekend as I enjoyed it in the couch during a lazy Sunday afternoon reading marathon.

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Thanks so much to Jenny Platt from Penguin Random House for sending me this book to review for the blog tour – I absolutely love taking part in  Jenny’s tours and look forward to seeing what the other fab bloggers involved think of the book too.Image result for penguin random house

Treat yourself to a copy of this great slice of fiction here – it’s the perfect winter read for a chilly afternoon.

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Writer On The Shelf

Jane Fallon

Jane Fallon is the multi-award-winning television producer behind shows such as This Life, Teachers and 20 Things to Do Before You’re 30. Her books include Getting Rid of Matthew, Got You Back, Foursome, The Ugly Sister, Skeletons, Strictly Between Us and My Sweet Revenge.

You can find more information at www.janefallon.co.uk
or on Twitter: @JaneFallon

The Story Keeper – Blog Tour Anna Mazzola

 

From the author of THE UNSEEING comes a sizzling, period novel of folk tales, disappearances and injustice set on the Isle of Skye, sure to appeal to readers of Hannah Kent’s BURIAL RITES or Beth Underdown’s THE WITCH FINDER’S SISTER.

‘A wonderful combination of a thrilling mystery and a perfectly depicted period piece’ Sunday Mirror

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857 and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.

Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.

Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before.

I am a huge fan of Anna Mazzola’s The Unseeing and I was actually nervous to read The Story Keeper in case I didn’t love it as much. I’m happy to report that it’s equally atmospheric and maybe just has the edge for me, because of its Scottish setting and sustained sense of eeriness and dread. Thank you so much to Anne Cater who knew exactly how desperate I was to continue shouting about this fantastic book after featuring it in my Autumn Reads in 17 Degrees magazine. 

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 The Story Keeper tells the tale of Audrey Hart, who is on the Isle of Skye to collect folktales. The crofters are suspicious and hostile, both during her research and when Audrey accidentally discovers the body of a young girl. Initially Audrey believes that she might have been abducted, but eventually, secrets from her own past conspire to make her feel that there are darker forces afoot here – forces that cannot be easily explained away.

The Story Keeper really challenges us to think about the difference between belief and truth. It uses folk tales to pose questions about the way we look at our own histories and I feel like this atmospheric and evocative read will really remain with you for a long time. If you’re looking for something to make you think twice about your own local legends, then this is definitely the read for you. I just can’t recommend it highly enough. 

The Story Keeper is the kind of novel that I absolutely love. I love historical tales where women connected across time with lives and experiences that you are equally drawn to and whose stories you can move between effortlessly. Anna Mazzola paints the island life that Audrey encounters so convincingly that you really feel that you’ve spent time in this closed-off and windswept world, making it very hard to pull yourself away. It’s a novel made for long winter afternoons and I got lost in its pages in my Winter break in gorgeous Perthshire this year.

Audrey is a woman with lots going on beneath the surface. Her life at first appears like a carefully-constructed hiding place for her to keep her secrets close and escape any unwanted attention that her outsider status may cause. She seems to hold herself at a distance from the islanders she encounters and her isolation both draws us into her world whilst holding us at arms’ length too, which Audrey seems to do to everyone.

The fact that she is an outsider – seeing the island through fresh eyes and questioning what she sees –  is such a fantastic technique to draw us closer to Audrey; I found myself watching her every movement to see if I could catch a glimpse of whatever she was hiding. Her aloofness hints at a complex past and Anna Mazzola skilfully leaves us to speculate about the roots of her emotional distance without alienating us from Audrey herself – a very clever method of keeping us connected to her.

The Story Keeper is inspired by the West Ham vanishings: the mysterious disappearance of a number of children and young adults from London’s East End in the 1880s and 1890s.

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This connection with a real-life mystery was extremely convincingly conveyed – without being over the top or stretching our belief in Audrey’s fictional story. was something that I wanted to read more about as soon as I’d finished reading  The Story Keeper Anna Mazzola manages, just as she did in The Unseeing, to make the setting as compelling and ‘present’ as her two main characters.

Even though I was reading it in Perthshire rather than on seaswept Skye, I felt Skye come to life as I walked in the footsteps of these characters and experienced their stories for myself. Audrey’s journey to unravel these secrets of the Sluagh, spirits of the restless dead is a fascinating and unputdownable one which really brings the setting to life and allowed me to lose myself in its mists and coastline whilst remaining wholly connected to Audrey and her mission to uncover these mysteries for herself

Anna Mazzola is such a talented voice. She draws the reader into her characters’ worlds and makes them live for us as we read. Audrey’s tales are all the more powerful due to their connections with real-life events. I was happily engrossed in my Fairy stories research – and looking through some Skye Air BandB rentals in a post-reading haze – for a whole afternoon after finishing this wholly engrossing read

This gorgeous book took pride of place in my very own ‘TBR Bookshelf’ and looked so tempting in my #TartanShelfie that I devoured it in a single day.

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Now I’m just waiting on her next one – I actually cannot wait…

Make sure that you go online immediately and order yourself a copy you definitely won’t regret it. And if you are not following Anna on Twitter – you are really missing out.

She is properly ‘on’ Twitter – rather than just there to promote her writing and I’ve been intrigued by many a weird and wonderful link that she’s commented on or posted about. If you are a fan of Victoriana, all things gothic, strange and mysterious events and random slices of real life with a wry smile – she’s definitely your woman.

Find her here @AnnaMazz and follow her as soon as you can

 

 

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Writer On The Shelf

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Anna is a writer who, due to some fault of her parents, is drawn to peculiar and dark historical subjects. Her novels have been described as literary crime fiction or historical crime. Anna’s influences include Sarah Waters, Daphne Du Maurier, Shirley Jackson and Margaret Atwood.

Her debut novel, The Unseeing, is based on the life of a real woman called Sarah Gale who was convicted of aiding a murder in London in 1837. Her second novel, The Story Keeper, follows a folklorist’s assistant as she searches out dark fairytales and stolen girls on the Isle of Skye in 1857.

She studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before becoming a human rights and criminal justice solicitor. She now tries to combine law with writing and child wrangling, to varying degrees of success.

Visit Annamazzola.com