Thursday, 17 January 2019

Staying On by C M Taylor

Staying OnStaying On by C.M. Taylor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - in and out over 2 days

Pages - 304

Publisher - Duckworth Overlook

Source - Review copy

Blurb from Goodreads

Staying On is a geriatric coming-of-age story and a comedy-drama about an expat family played out between a working patriarch and his charming, self-possessed daughter-in-law. Tony Metcalfe, a seventy-year-old Yorkshireman and his wife Laney run Viva Espagne, a bar in a small village in the mountains beyond the Costa Blanca. Set amongst the bawdy working class expats of Spain - the por favors as the Spanish call them - the monoglot, post-war babies who retired early on good pensions, flocking to the dream of wine and rest and sun around the pool. But now their retirement paradise is shadowed by Brexit: the pound has fallen, pensions are frozen and the property crash happened long ago. Tony dreams of moving back to enjoy the remainder of his life in his childhood home, but Laney wants to stay in the happy valley and forget about England and the dark, unresolved feelings it provokes in their marriage. Tony loves his wife and keeps his dreams to himself along with the fact that Viva is losing money. He couldn't go home even if he tried - nobody would buy an ailing bar in a recession. Tony's only chance of getting home lies in puncturing the silence and blame in his marriage, and turning his bar to profit to sell. This looks impossible for passive, amiable Tony until his only son Nick arrives for an unexpectedly long stay, bringing his young wife Jo and son Fred in tow. Their arrival signals a new chapter in Tony's life, but will it be one in which his dreams are finally realised?

My Review

Meet Tony and Laney Metcalfe, they moved to Spain after retiring and got themselves a wee bar, sun, friends, company - a good life. When Brexit affects the financials Tony sees many of his expat pals moving home, as a Yorkshire man in his seventies he wants to join them. Laney will never agree to it, Tony wants her happy and is keeping their financial woes hidden from her. When his son finally comes to visit with his wife and grandson he may finally have the help needed to save the bar. However Nick never visits, his wife is the driving force with an agenda and soon the Metcalfe will have to face reality, their past and deal with the fallout.

This book has been on my review list for a wee while and I wish I had picked it up sooner. Different from the genres I have been reading the past wee while. I thought this book was going to be deep on politics (Brexit) and I think that is why I put it off a bit longer but actually the Brexit thing comes up very little. The heart of the story is relationships, family, things we avoid or hide from within our family and the impact and consequences it has. From early on there is something that has affected the family, we know this but not exactly what. Laney and Tony's relationship is like many I am sure we can all recognise, he just wants her to be happy and as a consequence often at the expense of his own wants.

I enjoyed the glimpse into life as a retiree abroad, how many folk thing uck just head over, get a bar, drink what I want and mingle with the locals, many am sure. Taylor allows us this but also the flip side of showing just how hard it can actually be and the lengths one may go to to hide that to protect his family. We see love, sacrifice, family secrets, cause and effect, marital difficulties and how important it is to deal with loss/love. There is also banter in the book, I chuckled a few times at some parts. The characters are very true to life, flawed, selfish, loving, sweet, troubled, lazy, hard working, a good mixed bunch and I think that always goes down well as readers like to be able to identify with situations or character traits. The book is a wee bit emotive but filled with so much more, characters annoy you, make you smile, laugh, shake your head and I love when a book does that to you, especially when you aren't expecting it. This was my first dance with this author, I would absolutely read him again, 3.5/5 for me this time.

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The Taking of Annie Thorne by C J Tudor

The Taking of Annie ThorneThe Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - in and out over two days

Pages - 432

Publisher - Michael Joseph

Source - Netgalley

Blurb from Goodreads

The thrilling second novel from the author of The Chalk Man, about a teacher with a hidden agenda who returns to settle scores at a school he once attended, only to uncover a darker secret than he could have imagined.

Joe never wanted to come back to Arnhill. After the way things ended with his old gang--the betrayal, the suicide, the murder--and after what happened when his sister went missing, the last thing he wanted to do was return to his hometown. But Joe doesn't have a choice. Because judging by what was done to that poor Morton kid, what happened all those years ago to Joe's sister is happening again. And only Joe knows who is really at fault.

Lying his way into a teaching job at his former high school is the easy part. Facing off with former friends who are none too happy to have him back in town--while avoiding the enemies he's made in the years since--is tougher. But the hardest part of all will be returning to that abandoned mine where it all went wrong and his life changed forever, and finally confronting the shocking, horrifying truth about Arnhill, his sister, and himself. Because for Joe, the worst moment of his life wasn't the day his sister went missing. It was the day she came back.

My Review

Meet Joe Thorne, our main character, heading back to the town he grew up in after lying in order to get a job. Lying about a job is the very least of Joe's problems, both what he is running from and what he is running to! Joe has issues from his past and present, both he must face and both are pretty horrific.

This is a thriller meets horror/supernatural to be honest and you can tell the author is a fan of master King, I hear echos of him in both this book and her last. The book splits really into two, what happened in his past and the now, why the town folk aren't happy to see him, what he is running from and the strange eerie happenings in his house.

Joe isn't a particularly likeable guy in my opinion, as a kid he wanted to be liked so bad he did some questionable things, with repercussions, that impacts his choices and decisions as an adult. The small town have a horrible attitude to outsiders yet Joe really isn't he is a returner. There is a horrific murder/suicide at the start of the book in the house Joe comes to live in on his return. As the book progresses we get a more in depth look at the house happenings, deaths and what bearing if any it has on Joe's past and present.

The throwback to when he was a child and some of the scenes in the house will have the hair on the back of your neck standing. Tudor has the knack of pulling in creepy alongside a seemingly normal tale and creeping you out whilst drawing you in. I enjoyed her last book and I liked this one too, I think Tudor is one for watching and look forward for her next offering which I hope she is penning now, 4/5 for me this time.

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Wednesday, 16 January 2019

10-33 Assist PC by Desmond P Ryan Blog Tour

Today is my stop and closing the tour for Bakers Blog Tours and Promotions, I have a Q&A with author Desmond P Ryan of book 10-33 Assist PC. Please check out the other stops on the blog tour!

What sparked the idea for the book?

10-33 Assist PC was originally written as a prequel to Death Before Coffee (which is now the second novel in the series, available on February 8). When my wife was reading and editing Death Before Coffee, she suggested that there was a huge backstory that had to be told. She thought a short novella would suffice, but, once I got started, the characters just kind of ran off on me.

Do the characters come from real life people or completely made up?

All of the characters in 10-33 Assist PC are composites of the women and men that I have come across over my twenty-eight years in policing. One of the great things about writing from experience is that there are no shortages of characters to draw from!

The seed eating partner, the shells getting everywhere, was this drawn from personal experience as it rang very true?

THAT is absolutely and one hundred percent true! Back in the day, everyone, it seemed, chewed those damned sunflower seeds. And spit them EVERYWHERE! I’ve had readers tell me about guys they play hockey with now who spit the seeds all over the changerooms, so it’s not just a cop thing. And it still happens, apparently.
Scout car floormats covered with sunflower seed shells and old hubcaps used as ashtrays in the Criminal Investigation Bureau offices overflowing with cigarette butts are visions that are burned in my brain.

There is A LOT of swearing in the book, particularly from one character, do you think it would have worked with less. What makes that character more sweary than the others?

The swearing. Yes. I know. My mother commented about that, too. But there was a reason for it. Swearing is the language of the streets and anyone working on the streets picks it up pretty quickly. As a result, it is very much, in my experience, part of the police culture. I think to have censored the language would have taken away from the authenticity of the dialogue (sorry, Mom).

With regards to that one particular character—he’s pretty immature and struggles to express himself and/or assert his masculinity. As a result, he falls back on foul language to try to prove himself. The other characters express themselves (and their struggles) differently. Julia Vendramini, for example, is known for not swearing (although I suspect she drops a few loaded phrases under her breath in Italian).

There is a part of the book that is very brutal and graphic, without spoilers, if able, what made you decide to put such a scene in the book?

That scene was very difficult to write, both in terms of describing what was happening, and delivering the emotional impact it had on the characters. I found it very emotionally challenging to write because of my own experiences. Having so said, I felt it was important to include the scene and write it as such to give the reader as realistic an experience as possible. I don’t think it was gratuitous in terms of the graphic nature of it. I wanted the reader to experience what actually happens in those situations. I think we are so desensitized to violence in general because it has been glossed over and/or glorified and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted the reader to feel, smell, taste what violence is by writing it the way it actually looks and feels. Many readers responded strongly to that scene and, as a result, I ended up writing a novella, The Funeral, that was very difficult to write, but has been exceptionally well-received.

The book has a few layers to it, between the cops relationships, working aspect, criminals, PTSD – was this your aim from the start or did some of it surprise you?

One of the great things about crime fiction is that it provides an easy platform to discuss social issues. When I began 10-33 Assist PC, I had a fairly clear idea of the topics I wanted to tackle and how those would have to be layered. For example, I wanted to discuss the challenges women in policing have, which is why I specifically wrote D/C Amanda Black the way I did (NOT-SO-SPOILER ALERT: Amanda Black becomes a very significant character as the series continues). PTSD is another big issue that I had to discuss. It is pretty much a side-note in 10-33 Assist PC but, just as in real life, gets bigger as the characters progress through their careers. I also wanted to give the characters depth. They are (not really) more than just words on a page. They are multi-dimensional, and, like us, have a lot to them. And, as you’ve suggested, some of the layers did kind of surprise me as the characters began developing on their own. Mary-Margaret O’Shea, Mike’s mother, for example, became much more than I had intended. In fact, in The Funeral, she begins to steal some thunder. In Death Before Coffee, she steals quite a bit of thunder and, by the time we see her again in Man At The Door (available October 2019), she is practically running away with the novel. As a result, I’ve had to give her her own cozy series that will be available in 2020 just to keep on track with the Mike O’Shea series. THAT was a surprise!

This is a good foundation book, do you envision this as a long series?

Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed 10-33 Assist PC. And yes, this is the foundation for the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction series. I am anticipating it to be a six-book series, although I’ve mucked that up already by writing The Funeral (although I’m cutting myself some slack on that one by saying it’s just a novella!).
I’ve got the next two books set to go, with the fourth in draft and the fifth and sixth in a stack of cue-cards in my drawer. I don’t know that I‘d want to stretch the series out beyond that. I think readers might get bored with it. Or I might. And that’s not a good way to end anything.
Instead, I’ve got two spin-offs with a possible third series in the works.

What are you currently working on?

Right now, I’m madly doing final edits for Death Before Coffee (which will be available in a couple of weeks) and Man At The Door (available in October). From there, I’m going to jump right into the fourth book (title pending) and get the first two Mary Margaret Cozy Series books off to my editor.

If 10-33 was made into a movie, who would you see playing the main characters?

You know, I find that question so difficult because I don’t want to take away from the reader experience of how they see the characters by giving my vision of what those characters may look like. Actually, if you don’t mind, I’m going to pass on answering this one.

What is next for Desmond?

Well, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve got a few more books in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction series in the works, as well as the Mary-Margaret Cozy Series, the latter of which I’m quite looking forward to watching develop.
I’m also interested in turning the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction series into audiobooks. I don’t know about you, but I love audiobooks. Commuting takes up so much time here in Toronto that the only way to make it doable (in my opinion) is by listening to a book while you sit in traffic. I’m very curious to see how to make that happen in the next few months for 10-33 Assist PC.
I’ve also got an idea for a noir series based on Detective Sergeant Robby Williams. In Death Before Coffee, the next book in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction series, we see Robby again. Given that Death Before Coffee takes place more than a decade after 10-33 Assist PC, Robby has had a lot of time to unravel, and a very dark series devoted to that experience might be kind of fun. I’ve got the first draft of the first book done for it, so it’s just a matter of going from there.
My editor also suggested that I might like to do a series based on Amanda Black, but we shall see. In the meantime, I’ve got a dozen or so appearances on author panels and at crime conferences scheduled for the first half of 2019 and am really looking forward to seeing what other opportunities present themselves as the year unfolds.

The book is out to buy just now, ebook and treebook format, CLICK HERE to go to Amazon.

Fatal by Jacqui Rose Blog Tour

Today is my turn on the blog tour for Fatal by Jacqui Rose, please check out the other stops as we all offer different content and if you haven't checked out this author and enjoy crime, get clicking.

Fatal: Be gripped in the new year by the latest crime thriller from the best selling authorFatal: Be gripped in the new year by the latest crime thriller from the best selling author by Jacqui Rose
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - in and out over 2 days

Pages - 384

Publisher - Avon

Source - ARC

Blurb from Goodreads

An eye for an eye.
Cabhan Morton wants to leave the Russo crime family for good and live in peace with his daughter, Alice Rose. But the Russos won’t let him walk away without a fight.

A tooth for a tooth.
Franny Doyle would do anything for Cabhan and Alice, but helping them escape the vindictive Russo brothers won’t be easy. The only place they’ll be safe is back in Essex with Alfie Jennings.

A daughter for a daughter…
Franny knows she won’t be welcomed by Alfie with open arms – but she doesn’t have a choice. The Russos are out for blood and they won’t stop until Alice is dead…

My Review

The Russo's are a bad lot and not people you want to cross, Cabhan Doyle was warned to stay but Cabhan went to work for them anyway. Now the warning has proven true and not only is Cabhan in trouble, his precious and innocent daughter Alice Rose is caught up in it all and the Russo's will stop at nothing and let no one get in the way of revenge!

I have read Rose before but this is the first time I have came across these characters, we open with a horrendous insight into the brutality of the Russo brothers, violence, rape, aggression. Now Cabhan finds himself on the wrong side of the brothers and their wrath is deadly. After a freak accident and a lose lose choice Cabhan needs to reach out to save not only himself but his daughter.

It is a fast paced book, we open with a brutal scene and it kicks off from there and keeps pace, you wonder why anyone would mix with these guys. Alice Rose is a sweet character and it is nice to have a bit of innocence in the mix of so much badness, violence and terror. I did find some of her choices very frustrating but also that of many of the characters, the old WHY?!?!?! and Nooooo don't do that oh for god-sake but even being frustrated at parts it pulls you right into the story and investing in where it is going next, what is going to happen. A lot of not very nice characters in this one and some you feel heart sorry for and rooting for them along the way. Not sure if this is going to have more coming but I would like to hear about more of these characters and see what is in store for them. I do enjoy this authors writing, think I have read two previous books and after reading this one I will be looking to see which I have missed from the back catalogue, 3.5/5 for me this time!

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Tuesday, 15 January 2019

And the Swans Began to Sing by Thora Karitas Arnadottir

Bookstagram tour alert

I have this on my Instagram for a #bookstagram blogtour but sharing on here also as not everyone does Insta.


The swans on the lake began to sing. It was singing so loud they were almost screaming as if they were encouraging me to release what I had been keeping inside for so long.

Gudbjorg Thorisdottir has been hiding from the ghost of an ugly secret for most of her life. When she finally faces the truth of what happened in her childhood, the ghost floats away. Painting an evocative picture of life in Iceland, this is the story of a little girl who didn’t know how unnatural it was to experience both heaven and hell in the same house.

Thora Karitas Arnadottir studied drama in the UK and has worked as an actress for most of her life, appearing on stage, in films and on television. And the Swans Began to Sing is the English translation of her creative nonfiction Mörk – saga mömmu, which was nominated for the Icelandic Woman´s Literary prize in 2016. Thora is currently working on her first novel, which will be released in Iceland in 2019

Buy the book HERE

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Sunday, 13 January 2019

My Name is Anna by Lizzy Barber Blog Tour

Today is my turn on the blog tour and closing it for My Name is Anna, debut novel by author Lizzy Barber, please check out the other stops if you haven't already.

You can find Lizzy on Twitter and her website

My Name is AnnaMy Name is Anna by Lizzy Barber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - < 1 day

Pages - 400

Publisher - Century

Source - ARC

Blurb from Goodreads

Two women – desperate to unlock the truth.
How far will they go to lay the past to rest?

ANNA has been taught that virtue is the path to God. But on her eighteenth birthday she defies her Mamma’s rules and visits Florida’s biggest theme park.
She has never been allowed to go – so why, when she arrives, does everything seem so familiar? And is there a connection to the mysterious letter she receives on the same day?
ROSIE has grown up in the shadow of the missing sister she barely remembers, her family fractured by years of searching without leads.Now, on the fifteenth anniversary of her sister’s disappearance, the media circus resumes in full flow, and Rosie vows to uncover the truth.
But will she find the answer before it tears her family apart?

My Review

Anna has just reached her eighteenth year, instead of celebrating like a normal eighteen year old she is inspecting her skin for dirt/dust. Anna's mother has taught her about God and they both know cleanliness is next to Godliness, birthday or not she mustn't forget what is important. But Anna is troubled, she is having recurrent dreams/memories/thoughts of another time, another person? But who or what and why is it becoming more and more insistent. When she disobeys her mother and goes off on a jaunt with her boyfriend Anna may get more answers than she could have bargained for. Meet Rosie, plagued by her sisters disappearance, constant whispers, media interest always the other sister, Rosie just wants normality. Now on the anniversary of her sisters disappearance this is the last push for someone to come forward and Rosie is more driven this year than ever to find out what happened.

The chapters alternate between the two girls, poor Anna, living with her mother has echos of Carrie (Stephen King). Religious, OCD, minimalism it is clear Anna's mother is a bit of a complex character and this has impacted on poor Anna. Rosie is equally complex, having lived in her missing sister's shadow, watched the strain on her parents her own mental health has suffered. Self harm in many ways Rosie has tried to power through every single day of life figuring out who she is, other than the other sister.

The book tackles a few issues, some of which I can't comment on without spoiling and I never do spoilers. Mental and emotional health, survival, adapting to stunted social growth, family, secrets, lies, abuse, death, betrayal are just some of the themes. The reader knows early on the jist of what has transpired and now, fifteen years on how everyone is getting on. Despite this the book has many surprised and when you think you know everything Barber throws another curve ball.

I think the real hold in this story is just how believable it all is, I am sure if you trawl the news you will find many cases like this. It is the impact each of these happenings have on the characters, the ripple effect how one event impacts on another and on and on. It took me a wee bit to get into the character jumping but once I did I didn't want to leave either as I so wanted to know what happened next. Hooks you from early on, turning page after page to find out what happens next! A strong debut that has this reader excited to see what she will bring to the table next, one to watch for for sure, 4/5 for me this time!

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Saturday, 12 January 2019

Lost Lives by Lisa Cutts Blog Tour

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Lost Lives by Lisa Cutts, please check out the other stops on the tour.

Lost Lives is out to buy now as a treebook or ebook, click HERE for the link to Amazon to get your own copy.

You can find the author on Twitter or Facebook.

Lost LivesLost Lives by Lisa Cutts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 1 day

Pages - 368

Publisher - Simon & Schuster UK

Source - Review copy

Blurb from Goodreads


When Anna arrives in the UK, she believes it’s the start of a better life for her and her daughter. But what awaits her is more shocking than anything she could have ever imagined . . .


DI Harry Powell is investigating a shooting, but the victim has been scared into silence. As Harry struggles to piece together what little information he has, he stumbles upon an operation that may put countless lives across the country at risk.


As Anna’s situation grows more dangerous by the day, Harry is forced to push his overstretched team to the limits to find answers. But for one of them, will it already be too late?

My Review

Anna is headed for a new life, one her family can be proud of her for, finally. Anna has been sold a lie, she will not be going to work in a hotel or anything like it, Anna's nightmare has just begun. A sordid tale of the worst sides of humanity, human trafficking, exploitation of the weak and innocent. For some, human life has no value except that which is can be sold for.

This is a really hard hitting book to be honest, you know the author has come from a background in policing and whilst this is fiction we know this is an ongoing issue today. Anna finds herself trapped, horrific conditions, abused, death always a breath away and always trying to keep herself safe for her family. Friendship and trust is not something that comes easy where she is but sometimes you need do what you can to stay alive. DI Harry Powell is the other part of the story, investigating a shooting at the complex on a police officer, a sex offender and someone who finds themselves caught up with the darker side of society. When the investigation gets going Powell and the team are caught up in a ring that may well put them all at risk.

Firstly let me say this is my first time reading this author, it won't be my last! The book comes in short chapters which I LOVE as you can dip in and out as life allows, I could have read this in one go instead of as and when across one day. It is a very dark tale involving abuse, human trafficking, sexual deviancy, violence and murder. The book doesn't give in depth focused scenes on the sexual depravity but there is enough for you to know exactly what has transpired. The conditions these poor souls find themselves in is enough to bring tears to a glass and and shocks to the core just how easily people find themselves in this living hell.

Dark, fast paced and not just focused on the trafficking side/victims we also get a good look into the team, who they are and what else is going on outwith the investigation. A busy wee book that you will still be thinking about long after you finish the last page. I intend on buying this authors back catalogue! I enjoyed (enjoyed seems the wrong word when dealing with such a subject) the writing, pace, story and characters, I hope they are revisited in stories to come as I would like to see what is next in store for them, 4.5/5 for me this time.

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