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.

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