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 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.

Spotify Playlist

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.