Friday, 31 July 2015

Claire Sandy's A Very Big House in the Country - BLOG TOUR GUEST FEATURE

I am delighted to be today's stop on the BLOG TOUR for Claire Sandy's A Very Big House in the Country, which was published on 30th July 2015 by Pan Macmillan.

I would like to welcome Claire, who has some great advice on 'How to Survive Your Summer Holiday'. 

How to survive your summer holiday

It had to happen. I'd got away with it for far too long. I stammered out "Yes, that would be lovely" when really I wanted to brandish a crucifix and leap out of the nearest window.

We were going on holiday with the in-laws.

A villa was booked. It wasn't the villa I would have booked but then again every villa I've ever booked has been infested with ants and blessed with a smell somewhere between 'old onions' and 'hidden corpse'. It wasn't in the country I'd have chosen, and the decor - a folksy blend of cheap and cheerless - wasn't to my taste.

I don't think I'd have hired one big minibus - "So we can all be together!" - and I certainly wouldn't have packed  a suitcase full of teabags and Spam. But I had no choice. The only way to escape this fortnight in the sun was to build a time machine, travel back to the nineties and ignore my husband when he asked me out. (I say "asked me out"; I mean "lunged at me in a wine bar".)

Not that my in-laws are  bad people. On the contrary, they're good people. But I prefer them to be good in their own house, and not at the end of my bed telling me to get up and join them on a bike ride so I don't miss the best part of the day.

Like a double agent, I smiled and pedalled and ate Pop Tarts, all the while counting down the minutes to the moment we would clamber back into the hated minibus and drive to the airport (allowing the mandatory three extra hours for the journey "just in case".)

I didn't care, you see, because I had a book.

The book became my refuge, my saviour, the place I went when the anecdotes about my husband's childhood - normal, uninteresting, a lot like yours and mine - came out for the umpty-fifth time. The book was a lover I ran to when my own beloved fell asleep on a lilo. It was the friend I cosied up to when my child cruelly preferred my mother-in-law's lap to my own.

I thought I'd brought two books, but no, there was only one in my suitcase. I was reminded of the time I brought one shoe to Paris, only this was much worse. I had to read slowly, even though I was enjoying every word and I wanted to gulp them all down like Haribo, or sauvignon blanc. (They're very good together, by the way.)

The book began to show the strain. There were smears of sun lotion across the prologue and a corner was wrinkled where it had been splashed by show-off diving from the male contingent. There were wine stains on the cover, and a Pop Tart smudge on the acknowledgements.

And then it went missing. I froze, despite the sun. I stood in my ill-advised swimsuit (when will I learn about ruching?) and ordered myself to stay calm. After a search that left the villa looking burgled, I saw the book in my husband's hands. A brief scuffle followed but I won.

Because nobody - nobody - gets between me and my book on a family holiday.

A Very Big House in the Country
By Claire Sandy
Published by Pan Macmillan (30 July 2015)
ISBN: 978-1447276258

Publisher's description
For one long hot summer in Devon, three families are sharing one very big house in the country. The Herreras: made up of two tired parents, three grumbling children and one promiscuous dog; the Littles: he's loaded (despite two divorces and five kids), she's gorgeous, but maybe the equation for a truly happy marriage is a bit more complicated than that; and the Browns, who seem oddly jumpy around people, but especially each other. By the pool, new friendships blossom; at the Aga door, resentments begin to simmer. Secret crushes are formed and secret cigarettes cadged by the teens, as the adults loosen their inhibitions with litres of white wine and start to get perhaps a little too honest ... Mother hen to all, Evie Herreras has a life-changing announcement to make, one that could rock the foundations of her family. But will someone else beat her to it?

Click here to read my review.

Follow the blog tour

Thursday, 30 July 2015

A Very Big House in the Country by Claire Sandy - BLOG TOUR REVIEW

I am delighted to be today's stop on the BLOG TOUR for Claire Sandy's A Very Big House in the Country, which is published today (30th July 2015) by Pan Macmillan. Here is my review.

A Very Big House in the Country
By Claire Sandy
Published by Pan Macmillan (30 July 2015)
ISBN: 978-1447276258

Publisher's description
For one long hot summer in Devon, three families are sharing one very big house in the country. The Herreras: made up of two tired parents, three grumbling children and one promiscuous dog; the Littles: he's loaded (despite two divorces and five kids), she's gorgeous, but maybe the equation for a truly happy marriage is a bit more complicated than that; and the Browns, who seem oddly jumpy around people, but especially each other. By the pool, new friendships blossom; at the Aga door, resentments begin to simmer. Secret crushes are formed and secret cigarettes cadged by the teens, as the adults loosen their inhibitions with litres of white wine and start to get perhaps a little too honest ... Mother hen to all, Evie Herreras has a life-changing announcement to make, one that could rock the foundations of her family. But will someone else beat her to it?

My verdict
A Very Big House in the Country has some great 'laugh out loud' moments from the beginning, as Evie and Mike set off on their summer holiday with their family in tow.

Three seemingly mismatched families are taking a holiday together in a huge country house in Devon. You know from the outset that this holiday is likely to be a recipe for disaster. There's Evie and Mike with their three children, including moody teenager Scarlett. Clive with his trophy wife Shen and their young son Miles and baby Fang. Plus there's nanny Elizabetta and Clive's wayward teenage son Zane. And lastly there's the very jumpy Paula with her husband Jon and children Tilly (another moody teenager) and Amber. Oh, and don't forget the two dogs.

A Very Big House in the Country is a very easy holiday read. The book is filled with various madcap moments. There's also a clash of personalities, lifestyles and parenting skills, not to mention secrets revealed and a teenage romance. Some of the holidaymakers get closer than expected, while others learn a thing or two about themselves, as well as each other.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Follow the Blog Tour:

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

By Naomi Novik
Published by Pan Macmillan (May 2015)
ISBN: 978-1447294139

Publisher's description
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood's powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows - everyone knows - that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia - all the things Agnieszka isn't - and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.

My verdict
Uprooted is an amazing book with a gorgeous cover. This enchanting tale whirled me away from my family for a whole evening into a land of wizards and magic.

Agnieszka is unexpectedly taken away from her home by Dragon, a mysterious wizard, whose role is to keep her village safe from the dark powers of the Wood. Every ten years, he chooses a young woman from the village to become his new companion - and when the young woman finally leaves his tower, she always leaves the village for good too (yet no one knows why).

Up until now, Agnieszka (and her fellow villagers) had believed that it would be her best friend Kasia who would be taken away at the Wizard's next visit. When Agnieszka is chosen instead, she is exposed to a whole new world and way of life.

This fantasy novel kept me hooked all the way through, with its vivid descriptions and fairytale prose. It's beautifully written and such a comfortable yet compelling read that I couldn't put it down. I urge all fans of fantasy/fairytale novels to read it - it's completely bewitching and a great way to escape for a few hours.

I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

To read more of my reviews, check out my A-Z Index by clicking here

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

The Girl in the Red Coat
By Kate Hamer
Published by Faber & Faber (26 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-0571313242

Publisher's description
Carmel Wakeford becomes separated from her mother at a local children's festival, and is found by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. He tells her that her mother has had an accident and that she is to live with him for now. As days become weeks with her new family, 8-year-old Carmel realises that this man believes she has a special gift...

While her mother desperately tries to find her, Carmel embarks on an extraordinary journey, one that will make her question who she is - and who she might become.

My verdict
The Girl in the Red Coat starts off in a whirlwind. Beth has always been worried about losing her daughter Carmel, whose head is always in the clouds. And when eight-year-old Carmel goes missing from a festival, her mother's nightmare begins.

Unlike other 'child missing' books, The Girl in the Red Coat doesn't focus on the police investigation. Instead, it concentrates on the tragedy of separation, told from the points of view of both Beth and Carmel. Beth clings to the hope that Carmel will be found and finds it difficult to imagine a future without her daughter. Yet her life has to move on (one way or another). Meanwhile Carmel doesn't realise she is missing, having innocently believed the pack of lies told by her abductor. But in the back of her mind, she knows that she mustn't forget her past and who she really is.

The Girl in the Red Coat is beautifully written with a magical poetic quality. Although this imaginative page-turner has a chilling undercurrent, it isn't a depressing read. It does, however, pull your emotions in all directions. I spent the last 10% of the book with tears flowing, yet still didn't want the story to end.

If you're looking for a psychological thriller with a difference, I urge you to read this book.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


I am delighted that GRAHAM SMITH is joining me on my blog today. Graham's latest book - Snatched From Home - was published by Caffeine Nights Publishing on 19 March 2015. 

So Graham, what inspired you to write books in the first place?
Having been an avid reader since the age of eight and a reviewer for for the last six years, I guess it was inevitable I would at some point try my hand at writing.  Once I started writing, I found the whole crime fiction community to be very helpful and supportive. The more I wrote, the more I enjoyed it. My dream is to become a full-time writer so I can spend more time listening to the voices in my head.

Where do your ideas come from?
I take inspirations from everywhere and nowhere in particular. The basic idea for Snatched from Home came from me wondering 'what if someone was kidnapped and their family couldn’t afford the ransom?' whereas I got the plot for the sequel - I Know Your Secret – from a three-second clip of a TV show I was watching. It was enough to me think 'what if the wrong person learned your secrets?' Once I have an idea, I mentally poke and prod at it until I’m satisfied it has the legs to carry a full novel and the necessary sub-plots, themes and other elements that make a great novel. The idea also has to be strong enough to hold my interest for the year it takes me to write and edit a novel.

Have your personal experiences influenced your writing? And if so, how? 
I don’t use personal experiences as an influence. I tend to use them as a basis for creating characters' traits and values. In Snatched from Home, I created a situation where a man let down his family in the worst way possible. When I was writing his wife’s reaction to his failings, I imagined what my own wife’s reaction would be in similar circumstances.

Describe your writing style in 10 words or less?
Fast-paced, edgy, gripping police thrillers
Do you have any strange writing habits?
That’s a tough one to answer as what's normal for me may be strange to others. The majority of my writing is done with me sitting on the couch with the laptop on … well, the top of my lap. I have the TV on in the background and I just write. I try to get something writing-related done every night after my son goes to bed.

Do you plot out the whole book before you start or just start writing and see where it leads you?
Once I have the central idea as mentioned earlier, the setting and the characters, I just start writing and work towards what I know the resolution should be. How I’ll get to the resolution is a mystery to me and that’s the way I like it.

What do you consider to be the hardest part of your writing?
I always find the editing to be the hardest part. When I’m editing, I work ridiculous hours so I can get it done in the shortest time possible. It’s my way of maintaining my author voice.

Has your life changed since becoming a published author? If so, how?
Nothing has really changed for me other than the recognition I get from reviews. I attended a birthday party recently and before I had been there five minutes a lovely lady came across the room and told me how much she’d enjoyed Snatched from Home.

Do you read? If so, who are your favourite authors?
I enjoy books by so many authors, I couldn’t possibly pick favourites. However, books by Matt Hilton, Michael Malone, Eva Dolan and Stuart MacBride are always put at the summit of Mount To-Be-Read if that helps.

If you were writing a book about your life, what would be the title?
It would have to be titled after a cream I invented to cure the ache of fox fur. Therefore it would be called 'Fur Fox Ache'.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I would always recommend that aspiring writers read five books in the chosen genre. After finishing each book they should write a review. The review should be at least 250 words long and feature comments on pace, prose, plotting, characters and the emotions the book garnered from the reader.

And lastly, why should people read your latest book?
People should read Snatched from Home because it’s a fast-paced thriller packed with believable characters and tense situations.

About Graham Smith
Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time-served joiner, he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. For the last 14 years, he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.
An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website for over six years.

Find Graham Smith on his official Facebook page and his website and follow Graham on Twitter - GrahamSmith1972

The Major Crimes Team Vol 1: Lines of Enquiry

The Cumbria Major Crimes team is under immense pressure to get results. DCI Harry Evans and his subordinates, DS Neil Chisholm, DC Lauren Phillips and DC Amir Bhaki must juggle cases while tragedy stalks them. Up in Glasgow, DI John Campbell is preparing to replace Evans, whose renegade ways have brought enforced retirement.
Together they must investigate a man killed in his own home, a vigilante group chasing a suspected paedophile, a river dammed for no obvious reason and a woman whose cries of ‘wolf’ turn to ‘rape’. Meanwhile DC Phillips goes undercover off the books.


Snatched from Home

Middle-class parents Victoria and Nicholas Foulkes are distraught when their children are kidnapped against Nicholas’ gambling debts. Penniless and desperate the couple turn to crime as a way to raise the ransom.
Hot on their heels is recently bereaved DI Harry Evans and his Major Crimes team. Evans is fighting against enforced retirement and his replacement – DI John Campbell – is foisted upon him along with other cases. If he must leave the police then he wants one last big case before he goes.
In a race against time Victoria and Nicholas must evade the police while continuing to add to the ransom fund. If they don’t pay up on time the kidnappers have threatened to amputate their children’s limbs with an oxy-acetylene torch.
Can they save their children before time runs out?


Sunday, 26 July 2015

A Daughter's Secret by Eleanor Moran

A Daughter's Secret
By Eleanor Moran
Published by Simon & Schuster (30 July 2015)
ISBN: 978-1471141690

Publisher's description
Mia is a high-flying child psychotherapist, hoping to be made partner in the thriving practice where she works. But then she takes on a case which will change her life for ever, and bring back the past she has done her best to bury.
Thirteen year old Gemma was the last person to see her father before he went on the run, fleeing from a major criminal trial. The police are desperate to track him down, pressuring Mia to tease the information out of his angry and reluctant daughter. But what does Gemma really know and how hard can Mia push without betraying her?
Both are hiding devastating secrets. Both need the other to survive. Will they learn to trust each other before it's too late?

My verdict
A Daughter's Secret is a book about complex father-daughter relationships.

Mia is a psychotherapist. She has been tasked with finding out the location of 13-year-old Gemma's father, who is on the run from a major criminal trial. Gemma was the last person to see her father and the police are convinced that she is still in contact with him. Meanwhile Mia is struggling with maintain a professional relationship with Gemma, seeing similarities between them as her memories of her own father bubble to the surface.

This is an enjoyable story and kept me intrigued until the end. I liked the author's style of writing and this was an easy read. From the blurb, I was expecting more of a psychological thriller, but there was little of the 'thriller' aspect. It was mainly an exploration of dominating fathers and whether it's possible to love your children 'too much'.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 24 July 2015

What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

What Milo Saw
By Virginia Macgregor
Published by Sphere (Hardback and Kindle edition - Out now; Paperback - 13 August 2015)
ISBN: 978-0751554274

Publisher's description
Nine-year-old Milo Moon has retinitis pigmentosa: his eyes are slowly failing and he will eventually go blind. But for now he sees the world through the pin hole and notices things other people don't. When Milo's beloved gran succumbs to dementia and moves into a nursing home, Milo soon realises there's something very wrong at the home. The grown-ups won't listen to him so with just Tripi, the nursing home's cook, and Hamlet, his pet pig, to help, Milo sets out on a mission to expose the nursing home and the sinister Nurse Thornhill.

My verdict
What Milo Saw is a sweet touching book with an emotional message. It's all about hope, sadness, forgiveness, letting go of the people you love and finding out where you belong.

I fell in love with nine-year-old Milo and his pet pig Hamlet from the outset. Milo suffers from a progressive eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which means that he currently sees the world through a 'pinhole'. But Milo doesn't let his disability interfere with his life - it just makes him see the world differently. In fact, he often sees what other people miss, probably because he has to concentrate more on the world around him.

Mum Sandy is struggling to cope with ageing great-grandma Lou, and decides that it's time for Lou to move into a care home. But Milo feels that something isn't right soon after Lou moves in. The care home residents aren't being looked after properly, so Milo comes up with a plan to get his gran back home as soon as possible.

The author has a lovely way of writing, with words that flow seamlessly off the page. Once I started reading, I couldn't put the book down. When I reached the final chapter, I didn't want to leave the characters behind, from capable Milo to sweet Lou and Sandy, who is struggling to pay the bills. The relationship between Milo and Lou (who hasn't spoken in years) is very moving, while Hamlet the pig brings some humour into the story.

What Milo Saw is gorgeous and heart-warming and I will be recommending this book to my friends and family.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Neil White… on being a writer - BLOG TOUR

On my blog today, Liz Barnsley (Liz Loves Books) grills NEIL WHITE about being a writer. Neil's latest book - The Domino Killer - is being published by Sphere on 30 July 2015. 

How did it feel landing a publishing deal?
Strange. It was a mixture of relief, elation and disbelief.
I’d been writing for around twelve years, although perhaps only seriously for five or six years. It had always felt like the door was ajar, with things happening that gave me encouragement, like securing an agent, but it had got to the point where I thought it just wasn’t going to happen for me.
I’d made a decision to write three manuscripts, and if I didn’t succeed, I’d take the hint and get on with my life. I was a full-time criminal lawyer and had a young family, so I could only devote so much time to it. It was frustrating, because it felt like it always happened to someone else, but I knew the odds were against me.
As it turned out, I got lucky. I had an agent who never stopped trying, and when HarperCollins set up a new imprint, Avon, and they were looking for new British writers, she did her work. I set out with a three-book deal from at the same time as people like Claire Seeber and Lee Weeks, and since its launch in 2007 Avon has published people like Scott Mariani, Paul Finch and Luca Veste. It was great to be part of a new team like that, and I look back on those early years with immense fondness.
The news itself came to me when I was on holiday in Mallorca, and I spent most of that second week on the phone to my agent and trying to get hold of my new editor. It was a few weeks before we were eventually able to talk, and that was a long few weeks, wondering whether the offer was about to be snatched away. It wasn’t, and here I am, still here, years later, just having signed a deal for three more books, eventually taking my running total to twelve.

Has the excitement waned? How does the reality compare to the dream?
No, it hasn’t, is the truthful answer. I do still feel very privileged to do this for a living and I realise how lucky I am. If I ever get grumpy about things, I take myself back to the pre-publication years and tell myself off.
The reality is exactly how I thought it would be: it’s a thrill. What does happen though is that you move your own expectations, your own goals, but that is human nature. There does come a time when you’ve got to stop patting yourself on the back and get on with being a writer, which is where the reality takes over from the thrill. That’s probably the biggest risk for a new writer, that he or she spends the first year of their contract congratulating themselves and then not putting in the same amount of effort into their second book as they did in their first. I’m not a particularly confident writer, so my starting point is that what I will do won’t be very good, and put a lot of effort into it until I’m happy with it.

What do you like most about being a writer?
Seeing the books in a shop. No matter what happens, I can say that the book is mine, that I wrote it. When I first saw my book in a supermarket, I stood there and stared at it, like a parent staring through the glass at a row of incubators.
I should really say that the joy is breathing life into a story, creating something, but I find writing quite hard. I like the achievement of the finished story rather than the process itself.
It also involves lots of loafing around. I have a dayjob still, as a part-time criminal lawyer, and that is very busy. Writing is such a slower pace, where I can call lying around “plot-planning”.
The biggest thrill is hearing from people abroad. The thought that someone in some far-flung exotic place is reading something that I typed out in my little grey cul-de-sac is always rewarding.

What do you dislike most about being a writer?
The temptation to spend all my time loafing around. The shouting for attention too. I’m not a big fan of the publicity trail, the newspaper interviews, but it is all part of making people aware of the books.
How other people perceive me has changed too. For me, I’m the same person I always was, good and bad, I suppose. I live in the same house, have the same view, have the same friends and have the same interests. Now people talk to me sometimes as if I’m some hotshot author, when I’m just the same old Neil. A bit grumpy, too tall, too grey.
Also, the self-doubts, the worries...

Do you get nervous about people liking a new book?
I do. I hate it when people say to me, “I’m reading your book, I’ll let you know what I think”. In my head, I’m screaming, “don’t tell me, because I know you won’t like it”. What I really mean is, “fawning only, please.”
No one reads anything I’ve written until it’s finished and complete, and even then only my editor and agent, on the basis that they’re in the profession and used to seeing rough-cuts.

Should writers interact with their readers or stay reclusive?
That depends on the author. I’m always happy to interact with readers, although I don’t often reply to someone who is being offensive. Thankfully, I haven’t had many, but in these days of instant contact I’ve had a few emails that have just been blunt or rude. Fine, I get that they didn’t like the book, but just put it down and read something else. Don’t abuse me. I just delete those, assuming that what will annoy them more, not knowing whether their rant has been read.
I have considered whether to draft what sounds like a standard reply email for those, like an auto-response that reads, “Thank you for your kind email. I’m so pleased to hear that you enjoyed my latest book. My next book is due out on …”. I figured in the end that the angry internet user is not to be provoked.

Reviews. Read or not?
No. In the process of this blog tour, a lot of people have written reviews, and I’m so grateful to them for taking the time. I have deliberately avoided reading them, however, as I get so nervous about it. I have come to terms with the fact that negative comments (and I confess that “negative” in my world means anything that doesn’t gush with praise) make me feel ill, so I just don’t look. I avoid Amazon.
The reviews aren’t there to massage my ego but to inform other readers.
My Friday evenings are often spent watching rugby league on the television, and the family computer is in the same room. My wife was once surfing as I was trying to watch a game (I’ll save that argument for another day) and commented something along the lines of, “I don’t know why you get so uptight. Of these 62 reviews of Cold Kill, 56 are three stars and above”. In my head, I went, “six are two stars and below”. It ruined the second half of the game.

Do you have a favourite bad review?
Of the ones I’ve read, I did get a one star review for one of my books because the reader’s Kindle broke when reading it. Ones like that make me laugh.
A reader did send me a letter, excerpts of which are as follows:
“I was horrified by the book, to the extent that I can’t read anything else by you, and I can’t go to your public readings…. I even find myself frightened by the thought of bumping into you in the street or wherever.”
I quite liked that.

What questions do you get asked the most about being a writer?
The most common question is, “how much do you earn?” I worked with one person who I would see every month or so, and she would always ask me about the money. I can’t understand the curiosity and I never answer. If they press and press, I end up giving them an answer that is untrue but always bound to annoy them, like a vague hint as to an enormous amount without ever putting a number to it.

Have you ever thought about doing a Harper Lee and stopping?
No, not yet. There might come a time when I realise that the well is dry, or a publisher might even make the decision for me, but not yet. There might be a time when I’m only writing, rather than being a lawyer as well, but I don’t feel ready to give up on the law yet. It’s good to get out of the house sometimes.

About Neil White
Neil White grew up in Wakefield in West Yorkshire before moving to Bridlington, a fish and chips town on the Yorkshire coast. He drifted there into his mid-twenties before returning to education and eventually qualifying as a solicitor in 1995. He is a criminal lawyer by day and a writer by night. He is published by Sphere and his ninth book, The Domino Killer, is the final book in the Parker brothers trilogy, with the second in the trilogy, The Death Collector, released in paperback in July 2015. His books are translated into French, German, Russian and Polish.

Find Neil White on his official Facebook page and follow Neil on Twitter - @neilwhite1965

The Domino Killer
Published by Sphere (30 July 2015)

When a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park, Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers. Sam swiftly identifies the victim, but what at first looks like an open and shut case quickly starts to unravel when he realises that the victim's fingerprints were found on a knife at another crime scene, a month earlier.
Meanwhile, Sam's brother, Joe - a criminal defence lawyer in the city - comes face to face with a man whose very presence sends shockwaves through his life. Joe must confront the demons of his past as he struggles to come to terms with the darkness that this man represents.
Before long, Joe and Sam are in way over their heads, both sucked into a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to change their lives for ever...

Click here to find it on Amazon UK.

Click here to visit Liz Loves Books.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Followers by Rebecca Wait

The Followers
By Rebecca Wait
Published by Picador (21 May 2015)
ISBN: 978-1447224730

Publisher's description
Judith has been visiting her mother, Stephanie, in prison once a month for the last eight years. Nearly a hundred stilted half hours - hundreds of failed conversations, hundreds of topics avoided. Neither of them can bring themselves to talk about what brought them here - or about Nathaniel . . .

When Stephanie first meets him, she is a struggling single mother and Nathaniel is a charismatic outsider, unlike anyone she's ever known. In deciding to join the small religious cult he has founded high on the moors, Stephanie thinks she is doing the best for her daughter: a new home, a new life, a new purpose.

Judith has never trusted Nathaniel, but even she can't foresee the terrible things that lie ahead. From the moment they arrive, the delicate dynamic of Nathaniel's followers is disturbed. Judith's restlessness and questions unsettle the children who've never known life outside the cult - all except loyal Moses, who will do anything to be her friend. Meanwhile, as Stephanie slowly surrenders herself to Nathaniel's will, tensions deepen, faith and doubt collide, and a horrifying act of violence changes everything. In the shattering aftermath, no one seems safe, and for Judith and Moses the biggest leap of faith is still to come...

My verdict
As soon as I heard about The Followers, I was desperate to read it. Religious cults are a fascinating topic and I'm a big fan of the TV series The Following.

When struggling single mum Stephanie meets Nathaniel, she is sucked deep into his world, along with her 12-year-old daughter Judith. Moving into his small village in the Yorkshire moorlands, little did any of them know that life will never be the same again.

The Followers grabbed my attention from the first page, as 22-year-old Judith visits her mother in prison, one of many similar visits over the years. As the story then flips back to the past (10 years ago), it slowly unravels the events leading up to the present day.

The Followers made me gasp, cry and hold my breath several times. I loved all of the characters, as they felt so authentic and passionate about what they believed in, with a vulnerability that made them all easy to control.  I couldn't help but feel great empathy for Judith, whose world was turned upside down by her mother's irresponsible and rash decision to move in with a man she hardly knew.

I read the book in two short sittings, ignoring the household and unable to stop reading until I reached the final page. It's a sad, creepy, and horrifying story, in a chilling atmospheric setting - so well plotted that it flows seamlessly from beginning to end. The narrative gave me little time to breathe, as I swiftly turned the pages to see what would happen next.

The Followers is a brilliant book and left me thinking about the story and characters for a long time afterwards.

I won a copy of the book in a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

The Hunt by Tim Lebbon

The Hunt
By Tim Lebbon
Published by Avon Books (18 June 2015)
ISBN: 978-0008122898

Publisher's description
Escape and they’ll kill your family...
The cruellest game. The highest stakes. Only she can bring his family back alive …

Rose is the one that got away. She was the prey in a human trophy hunt organised by an elite secret organisation for super-rich clients seeking a unique thrill. She paid a terrible price. Every moment since she has been planning her revenge … And now her day has come.

Chris returns from his morning run to find his wife and children missing and a stranger in his kitchen.

He’s told to run.

If he’s caught and killed, his family go free. If he escapes, they die.

Rose is the only one who can help him, but Rose only has her sights on one conclusion. For her, Chris is bait. But The Trail have not forgotten the woman who tried to outwit them.

The Trail want Rose. The hunters want Chris’s corpse. Rose wants revenge, and Chris just wants his family back.

The hunt is on …

My verdict
I loved The Hunt. It was such an easy yet nail-biting read and the plot flowed brilliantly from start to finish. You are literally thrown in at the deep end and there's no stopping for breath along the way.

Chris comes home from his daily run to discover that his wife and daughters have vanished - and there's a trail of blood in the bathroom. A stranger in his kitchen tells him to stay put and wait for further instructions. When Chris tries to call his friends and family for help, they cut him off. Then a second stranger (Rose) appears, telling him that she can save him, as long as he is prepared to keep running to stay alive.

Chris soon learns that the hunt is on and he is the prey… Clients of the shadowy organisation The Trail pay to hunt humans down like wild animals. If he stops running, the clients and members of The Trail will kill him. If he escapes, his family will die instead. So he has no choice but to run for his life - no mean feat when you are a middle-aged architect who has taken up distance running as a hobby.

The fast-paced action takes place among vivid descriptions of the Welsh mountains. It's clear that the author has a personal understanding of the physical and emotional impact of long-distance running, which adds to the authenticity of the plot.  This is about Chris' fight for survival - and the horrific actions of others with more money than humanity. You also learn more about Rose's past - she is the one who escaped rather than played the game - and why she is determined to stop The Trail for good.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Magical City (adult colouring book) by Lizzie Mary Cullen

The Magical City
Designed by Lizzie Mary Cullen
Published by Penguin Books (978-1405924092)
ISBN: 978-1405924092

My verdict
This is one of the most eye-catching adult colouring books I have seen. I love the swirling pen-and-ink drawings of familiar buildings and cities, such as the Eiffel Tower, Great Wall of China and sights of London (e.g. Big Ben, Baker Street and Camden).

I chose this picture of Hyde Park, London, to colour first:

I used Derwent Academy Colour Pencils, which worked beautifully. I loved blending them with a Derwent Blender pencil. I also added in some Derwent Academy Flip Metallic Pencils.

The book has fairly thick paper so I also tried some pens. I used Staedtler triplus colour pens and Crayola washable pens. You couldn't see the pens on the back of the paper on the other side.

Complete picture:

New work in progress:

This a gorgeous colouring book and I discovered that adult colouring books provide me with a great way to relax. And as with many adult colouring books, there are objects to search for (and the solutions at the back). The only downside is that I then get less reading time!

I will upload more pages onto this review as I finish them off.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.