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Archive for the tag “psychological thriller”

Blog Tour – ‘No Longer Safe’ by AJ Waines

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‘No Longer Safe’ was published on the 4th February 2016.  Today it is my turn on this blog tour.  I have been given an extract but first here’s my review.

When Alice receives a totally unexpected invitation in the post from a friend who she hasn’t heard from in several years, she is keen to accept it.  Karen, who she was friendly with at University has invited her to come and stay with her in a remote cottage in Scotland.  Alice sees this as a chance to rekindle their lost friendship.  What she doesn’t expect though is two former students to also turn up, people she was never exactly friendly with.  This instantly changes everything.

As the snow keeps falling and the atmosphere in the cottage chills, Alice notices that Karen isn’t like how she used to be.  Then someone dies and she finds herself caught up in a tangled web with no way of escaping.  What happens next is for you to find out.

I really enjoyed reading ‘No Longer Safe’.  Well written, this was a very exciting story and one which was hard to put down especially later on.  I could feel the atmosphere and what it must have been like staying in the cottage with no way of getting away with all that snow.  I would have found it very claustrophobic I reckon.

To me it was obvious from the start that things weren’t what they seemed.  Things just didn’t add up.  Personally I think Alice jumped the gun a bit too quickly, but then I guess when you get an invitation out of the blue like that it is hard to resist.

I just knew there was something fishy about Karen and I didn’t trust her at all.  She wasn’t the nice person Alice thought she was.  I would never have guessed in a million years what she was planning though.  I wasn’t particularly keen on the other two people staying in the cottage.  I especially didn’t like Mark.

‘No Longer Safe’ will take you on a rollercoaster of a ride with a very unexpected and shocking end.  This is an ideal book for fans of psychological thrillers.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

~~~~~

It’s time now for an extract from the book.

 

No Longer Safe by AJ Waines
Chapter 1 (part only)

15 November
You were the last person I expected to hear from. After all this time. After all the cards and letters that had come back marked ‘return to sender’.

I drifted from the hall into the sitting room, carrying the envelope on both outstretched palms, like a piece of newly discovered treasure. One slice from Dad’s paper knife and it was open. At first I thought it was an invitation to a wedding, but there was no card; instead it was a letter wrapped around a glossy brochure of a castle nestling amongst snow-capped mountains.

It was your handwriting for certain. I looked straight down to the bottom of the second sheet to confirm it. Karen Morley. That’s when I had to sit down. My head was suddenly too big for my body and I couldn’t trust myself to read without feeling giddy. Was it really you? I checked the address – Brixton – in London-terms that meant you were practically on my doorstep. No distance at all.

I made my brain slow down so I could trail my eyes across the curves of your fountain pen. That was a novelty in itself – the personal touch – when nearly everything that landed on our doormat these days was typed. But that was very much your way of doing things, Karen – making people feel special, making that extra effort to show you cared. Would be wonderful to see you again…remembered your birthday…love to invite you…important time for me…

I read the first part again. It was an invitation, but not to a wedding. You were inviting me to a cottage in the Highlands – on holiday.

I slid from the arm of the sofa into the seat. Nearly six years without a word and now this. I tried to reach you after we finished Uni, of course I did. You were the one who stood out, the friend I thought I’d found for life. Once Uni was over, other associations tailed off and calls were replaced with Facebook updates with the odd round-robin email. But ours was different.

To be honest, I hadn’t expected you to fall away like you did, Karen. We’d established a real bond – or so I thought. Afterwards, you moved to Bristol while I moved back to London, but I was certain we’d visit each other; I’d travel one weekend, you’d travel the next. I had my heart set not only on keeping in touch, but staying best friends.

I did go to stay with you at the start – just once, remember? You replied to my emails for a while, sent a cheery card that first Christmas, but then, like the rest, you drifted away from me and I never heard from you again. Until now.

I held the letter under my nose, stupid I know, just to see if there was a trace of you left on the paper. Then I held it to my chest and allowed your presence to sink into me again. You were my inspiration, the person I wanted to be. I’d never felt that kind of admiration about anyone before. You brought everything alive and coaxed me out of my shell.

With no siblings and a small disjointed family, my only proper relationships were with my parents and I’d always found them impossible to talk to. It had never occurred to me to bare my deepest feelings to them. You were different. I knew straight away the first time I spoke to you. All my doubts and failings came tumbling out, because you made me feel so safe, without any sting of judgement. No one had ever offered that to me before. No one else ever seemed to notice when something was wrong. I’d spent most of my life going it alone, because I was awkward and shy and people didn’t know what to do with me.

I brought my hand to my mouth. It must be a mistake. You must have mixed me up with someone else and posted the invitation to the wrong person. That would explain it. This was too much to expect after almost six years of silence; it was too big a deal. An invitation to spend fourteen days together out of the blue, without any preamble? But then that was you, Karen – always surprising people, keeping us all on our toes.

 

About AJ Waines

Author Picture

AJ Waines has sold over 100,000 books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts in 2015 with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, she is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany (Penguin Random House) and USA (audiobooks).

In 2015, she was featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and was ranked in the Top 20 UK authors on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). She lives in Southampton, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

‘No Longer Safe’ is available to buy on Amazon – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ebooks-No-Longer-Safe-J-Waines-ebook/dp/B018UAAAW4

 

Cover Reveal – ‘No Longer Safe’ by A.J. Waines

Book Cover

I am absolutely delighted to be taking part in this cover reveal and what a gorgeous one it is.  ‘No Longer Safe’ is out on the 4th February 2016.  I for one can’t wait to read it.

 

Book Blurb

She was your best friend. Now she’s your deadliest enemy – and there’s nowhere to run…

When Alice receives an invitation from Karen, her charismatic University friend, to stay in a remote cottage in Scotland, she can’t wait to rekindle their lost friendship. But two more former students arrive – never friends of Alice’s – and as the atmosphere chills, Karen isn’t the warm-hearted soulmate Alice remembers. Barely is the reunion underway before someone is dead and the fragile gathering is pushed to breaking point.

As the snow cuts them off from civilisation and accusations fly, Alice finds herself a pawn, sinking deeper into a deadly game she can’t escape.

NO LONGER SAFE is a chilling Psychological Thriller that delivers a delicious sting in the tail.

 

‘No Longer Safe’ can be pre-ordered now from:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ebooks-No-Longer-Safe-J-Waines-ebook/dp/B018UAAAW4

 

Blog Tour – ‘Little Girl Gone’ by Alexandra Burt

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‘Little Girl Gone’ is Alexandra Burt’s debut novel, published in both eBook and paperback by Avon on the 24th September 2015. To celebrate its release a number of book bloggers are taking part in a blog tour for which LightBrigade PR did some amazing publicity. Today it is my turn and as well as reviewing this book I also have an extract for you to hopefully whet your appetites.

When a baby goes missing things don’t look too good for the mother. Estelle Paradise wakes up one morning and discovers that her baby daughter has been taken from her crib. She searches the apartment but there is no sign of her anywhere and all her stuff has been taken.  Estelle doesn’t report the incident to the police though.

A few days later Estelle is discovered in a wrecked car miles from home, with a gunshot wound to her head and no memory of what happened. The only thing she can remember is blood, and lots of it. Will Estelle be able to recall what happened and did she have anything to do with her baby’s disappearance?

There has been a lot of hype about this book so I was looking forward to reading it.  I enjoyed this book and liked the author’s writing style. ‘Little Girl Gone’ is divided into four parts. For me the third part was when things really started to hot up and this was when I found the book the hardest to put down.

Estelle had a hard time of things and was judged rather unfairly I thought, just because she had trouble stopping her baby from crying. It was obvious that she needed to get some help and to make matters worse her husband didn’t really want to know. He thought she could snap out of it just like that. So when Mia went missing it was very easy to point the finger at Estelle.

‘Little Girl Gone’ is a psychological thriller which will really get you thinking. Although it was obvious to me who might be responsible for the kidnapping there was still a lot more to the story. I am looking forward to seeing what Alexandra Burt comes up with next.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

~~~~~

Extract from ‘Little Girl Gone’

‘Mrs Paradise?’ A voice sounds out of nowhere. My thoughts are sluggish, as if I’m running under water. I try and try but I’m not getting anywhere.

‘Not stable. Eighty over sixty. And falling.’

Oh God, I’m still alive.

I move my legs, they respond, barely, but they respond.

Light prowls its way into my eyes. I hear dogs barking, high pitched. They pant, their tags clatter.

‘You’ve been in a car accident.’

My face is numb, my thoughts vague, like dusty boxes in obscure and dark attic spaces. I know immediately something is amiss.

‘Oh my God, look at her head.’ A siren sounds, it stutters for a second, then turns into a steady torment.

 

I want to tell them . . . I open my mouth, my lips begin to form the words, but the burning sensation in my head becomes unbearable. My chest is on fire, and ringing in my left ear numbs the entire side of my face.

Let me die, I want to tell them. But the only sound I hear is of crude hands tearing fragile fabric.

‘Step back. Clear.’

My body explodes, jerks upward.

This isn’t part of the plan.

 

When I come to, my vision is blurred and hazy. I make out a woman in baby-blue scrubs, a nurse, slipping a plastic tube over my head and immediately two prongs hiss cold air into my nostrils.

She pumps a lever and the bed yanks upward, then another lever triggers a motor raising the headboard until my upper body is resting almost vertically.

My world becomes clearer. The nurse’s hair is in a ponytail and the pockets of her cardigan sag. I watch her dispose of tubing and wrappers and the closing of the trashcan’s metal lid sounds final, evoking a feeling I can’t quite place, a vague sense of loss, like a pickpocket making off with my loose change, disappearing into the crowd that is my strange memory.

A male voice sounds out of nowhere.

‘I need to place a central line.’

The overly gentle voice belongs to a man in a white coat. He talks to me as if I’m a child in need of comfort.

‘Just relax, you won’t feel a thing.’

 

Relax and I won’t feel a thing? Easy for him to say. I feel lost somehow, as if I’m in the middle of a blizzard, unable to decide which direction to turn. I lift my arms and pain shoots from my shoulder into my neck. I tell myself not to do that again anytime soon.

The white coat wipes the back of my hand with an alcohol wipe. It leaves an icy trail and pulls me further from my lulled state. I watch the doctor insert a long needle into my vein. A forgotten cotton wipe rests in the folds of the cotton waffle weave blanket, in its center a bright red bloody mark, like a scarlet letter.

There’s a spark of memory, it ignites but then fizzles, like a wet match. I refuse to be pulled away, I follow the crimson, attach myself to the memory that started out like a creak on the stairs, but then the monsters appear.

First I remember the darkness.

Then I remember the blood.

Blog Tour – ‘Dark Place to Hide’ by AJ Waines

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AJ Waines contacted me recently with regards to taking part in a blog tour for her new novel, ‘Dark Place to Hide’, which was published on the 30th July 2015. Having earlier this year posted an extract from her previous book on my blog and liking the sound of her novels I was more than eager to take part. I was kindly sent a copy of ‘Dark Place to Hide’.  Read on for my review and look out for a competition at the end of this post.

Harper and Diane Penn live in Nettledon, Hampshire. Harper is an expert in criminology and is very good at solving puzzles. So when his wife who has recently had a miscarriage goes missing, he instinctively knows there is more to her disappearance than meets the eye. Harper having recently found out that he is infertile feels that he cannot possibly have made her pregnant. He contacts the police and tells them what has happened, but they treat her disappearance as a low priority case thinking it likely that she has gone away to be on her own and get over things or has run off with a secret lover.

Marion and her seven-year-old daughter also live in the same village. Clara reads a lot and likes her own company, often retreating into a fantasy world. An accident causes her to sink deeper into her own world and when she starts quoting sentences from fairy tales there is a lot of concern. One day Harper sees Marion and Clara in the village. Marion isn’t very well so he takes them back to their cottage. Soon after Clara goes missing too. Could there be a connection between both disappearances and is there more to what Clara has been saying than meets the eye?

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Dark Place to Hide’, although I have to say it did take me a bit of time to get into the story. Once I got to the chapter where Diane went missing I was intrigued and couldn’t wait to find out what had happened to her. I couldn’t believe for one minute that she had left Harper. I really felt for Marion when Clara also disappeared and I could imagine what was going through her head.

I very much liked the layout of the book with the story being narrated by the characters. Most chapters were clearly marked with the date that events were taking place. I loved the suspense and mystery throughout this story and the fact that it was believable.

‘Dark Place to Hide’ is a psychological thriller that will get you thinking and wanting more. I now plan to read AJ Waines previous novels at some stage.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

 

About the author

Author Picture

AJ Waines was a Psychotherapist for fifteen years, during which time she worked with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, giving her a rare insight into abnormal psychology. She is now a full-time novelist with an Agent and has publishing deals in France and Germany (Random House). Both her debut novels, The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train have been Number One in ‘Murder’ and ‘Psychological Thrillers’ in the UK Kindle Charts. Girl on a Train has also been a Number One Bestseller in the entire Kindle Chart in Australia. In 2015, she was ranked in the Top 100 UK authors on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

Her new psychological thriller, Dark Place to Hide, was released July 30th 2015, and is available HERE.

Alison lives in Southampton, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

‘Dark Place to Hide’ is available to buy on Amazon UK:-

 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Place-Hide-J-Waines-ebook/dp/B010TRR1LO 

 

Competition

Like the sound of ‘Dark Place to Hide’ and really want to read it?  Well, one very lucky person has the chance to win a signed paperback copy of this book and to enter all you have to do to is leave a comment telling me why you want to read it.

 

Terms and Conditions 

This competition is open to UK residents only.

The closing date is 11:59  p.m. on the 17th August 2015.

The winner will be notified of their win within 7 days of the closing date and their details passed on to AJ Waines who will send out the prize.

 

 

Good luck! 🙂

Blog Tour – ‘The Hiding Place’ by John Burley

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I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off this blog tour. ‘The Hiding Place’, published by Avon, is out today in eBook and on the 27th August will be released in paperback. I was kindly sent a proof copy of this book. Read on for my review.

Dr Lise Shields works for Menaker State Hospital, an institution which houses some of the most dangerous criminals in America. These patients have all been found guilty and there is little chance of any of them ever leaving.

Jason Edwards is admitted to the hospital without any paperwork, not even a transfer order. When Lise questions this she is immediately fobbed off, which makes her all the more suspicious. Is Jason really guilty of the crime he has supposedly been sentenced for or has he been set up? Lise is determined to find out the truth but soon finds herself caught up in something very sinister indeed.

I love a good psychological thriller so couldn’t wait to start reading this book. Hooked from the start, I was intrigued by Jason Edwards and wanted to know more about him and why there was so much secrecy. ‘The Hiding Place’ was really hard to put down. It was fast paced, exciting and just so addictive. I also really liked John Burley’s writing style. Split into five parts with the majority of chapters being fairly short it really was a case of just one more chapter. You are also given a good insight into both Lise’s and Jason’s past which helped to solve the mystery a bit. I could not wait to get back to the book.

I did find myself questioning a couple of things throughout the story but I was still totally unprepared for the ending. I have to admit that after the journey I was taken on I was a little bit disappointed. It was like coming back down to earth with a bump. This story was well thought out and very cleverly written and it is one that will say for me for a while.

If you want to read a book that keeps you up late, takes you on a rollercoaster of a ride and messes with your head then ‘The Hiding Place’ could well be what you are looking for. I will definitely be reading more of John Burley’s novels.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

 ~~~~~

 

Now for an extract from ‘The Hiding Place’…..

Menaker State Hospital is a curse, a refuge, a place of imprisonment, a necessity, a nightmare, a salvation. Originally funded by a philanthropic endowment, the regional psychiatric facility’s sprawling, oak- studded campus sits atop a bluff on the eastern bank of the Severn River. From the steps of the hospital’s main administration building, the outline of the U.S. Naval Academy can be seen where the river enters the Chesapeake Bay some two and a half miles to the south. There is but one entrance to the facility, and the campus perimeter is demarcated by a wrought- iron fence whose ten- foot spear pickets curve inward at the top. The hospital is not a large central structure as one might imagine, but rather an assortment of redbrick buildings erected at the end of the nineteenth century and disseminated in small clusters across the quiet grounds, as if reflecting the scattered, huddled psyches of the patients themselves. There is a mild senseof neglect to the property. The wooden door frames sag like the spine of an old mare that has been expected to carry too much weight for far too many years. The diligent work of the groundskeeper is no match for the irrepressible thistles that erupt from the earth during the warmer months and lay their barbed tendrils against the base of the edifices, attempting to claim them as their own. The metal railings along the outdoor walkways harbour minute, jagged irregularities on their surfaces that will cut you if you run your fingers along them too quickly.

Twenty- two miles to the north lies the city of Baltimore, its beautiful inner harbor and surrounding crime- ridden streets standing in stark contrast to each other— the ravages of poverty, violence, and drug addiction flowing like a river of human despair into some of the finest medical institutions in the world. Among them is The Johns Hopkins Hospital where I received my medical training. Ironic how, after all these years, the course of my career would take me here, so close to my starting point— as if the distance between those two places was all that was left to show for the totality of so much time, effort, and sacrifice. And why not? At the beginning of our lives the world stretches out before us with infinite possibility— and yet, what is it about the force of nature, or the proclivities within ourselves, that tend to anchor us so steadfastly to our origins? One can travel to the Far East, study particle physics, get married, raise a child, and still . . . in all that time we’re never too far from where we first started. We belong to our past, each of us serving it in our own way, and to break the tether between that time and the present is to risk shattering ourselves in the process.

Herein lies the crux of my profession as a psychiatrist. Life takes its toll on the mind as well as the body, and just as the body will react and sometimes succumb to forces acting upon it, so too will the mind. There are countless ways in which it can happen: from chemical imbalances to childhood trauma, from genetic predispositions to the ravages of guilt regarding actions past, from fractures of identity to a general dissociation from the outside world.

 

About the author

John Burley attended medical school in Chicago and completed his residency in emergency medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Centre’s Shock Trauma Centre in Baltimore. He currently serves as an emergency medicine physician in Northern California, where he lives with his wife and daughter, and their Great Dane and English bulldog.

 

 

‘The Hiding Place’ is available to buy on Amazon UK:-

http://amzn.to/1eC5VGr

Blog Tour – ‘Lullaby Girl’ by Aly Sidgwick

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‘Lullaby Girl’ is Aly Sidgwick’s debut novel.  It is being published by Black & White Publishing in paperback this Thursday 4th June 2015 and is already out as an eBook.  I am so very excited to be part of this blog tour which I am kicking off.

 

Synopsis

Who is the Lullaby Girl?

Found washed up on the banks of a remote loch, a mysterious girl is taken into the care of a psychiatric home in the highlands of Scotland, Mute and covered in bruises, she has no memory of who she is or how she got there. The only clue to her identity is the Danish lullaby she sings…

Inside the care home, she should be safe. But, harassed by the media and treated as a nuisance by under-pressure staff, she finds the home is far from a haven. And as her memories slowly surface, the Lullaby Girl does her best to submerge them again. Some things are too terrible to remember… but unless she confronts her fear, how can she find out who she really is?

Taut, tense and mesmerising, Lullaby Girl is a shining debut from an exciting and very talented new author.

 ~~~~~~~

Like the sound of ‘Lullaby Girl’?  Read on for an interesting guest post from Aly Sidgwick.

Guest Post

Pianos and lullabies

I can’t do a blog tour without mentioning the piano man! So, here goes…

About ten years ago, like many others, I was swept up by the mystery of a young man who’d washed up on a Kent shore with no memory. That sort of thing happens all the time, I’m sure. People have breakdowns, and go missing, and run away from problems… But one detail set this case apart, and that was the man’s skill at playing piano. For some reason, that part sent the public crazy. People took delight in concocting theories. A huge effort was made to find out who the man was. But no-one seemed to recognise him, and no solid leads were found. All of this added to the mystery. People’s imaginations ran riot, mine included. For me, I think the really electric detail was his fragility. He was like a stunned bird, huddled in the midst of all this activity. There was a romance to his predicament. A sadness, and a sense of great waste. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of ’madness,’ or losing one’s sense of self, probably because I feared it would happen to me one day. When I wrote Lullaby Girl, I wanted to write from the perspective of someone who’d tipped over the edge in that way. To walk a person past breaking point into the no-man’s-land beyond, and find out what happened next. I find great beauty in that fragile state. It’s so human. So honest. And the scary thing is that we’re all capable of it. With a big enough push, everything you know and everything you are can fly out of your grasp. The Piano Man made it through with a shred of his old self intact- namely his musical skill. It was a link to a part of himself that was possibly gone forever, and there were so many possiblities in that one, strange clue. I let Katherine keep a shred of her past too, in the form of the lullaby. Like him she becomes branded by it. Even after her real name is known, the public insist on calling her ’Lullaby Girl.’ You could argue that that’s because people love labels. But I think it’s more than that. In my mind, it’s the glamour of ’madness’ that draws people. There’s something irrisistible in that fall from grace.

 ~~~~~~~

Now for an excerpt from ‘Lullaby Girl’ to give you a feel of the book.  It is taken from the first chapter.

Excerpt 

Rhona takes me outside. We walk round. She points her
finger. ‘That’s Loch Ghlas,’ she says, ‘and that’s the perimeter
fence.’

I look down the hill. The fence looks tiny. Wind blows on
my face. I close my eyes an’ breathe. Rhona keeps talkin’.

‘I suppose some folks might feel trapped by a fence. But
it’s actually a nice thing, because it means no bad people can
bother us. We’re safe and cosy in here, and you can walk
around the grounds without having to . . .’

Rhona’s coat swooshes. Quiet. She talks again. Slower.

‘You like it out here, don’t you? Well, we’ll be coming
out here a lot more. We can come out every day if you like.’

That smell . . . I know it. Where do I know it from?

I . . .

I open my eyes an’ see the sea. Far off. Grey. Iss further
than the perimeter fence. But somehow the sea is all I can
see. Suddenly I feel funny, like I can’t breathe. In my head, a
picture of waves. Cold. Heavy. A blackness under me, an’ no
place to put my feet. Iss the sea I smell. An’ . . . I’ve been
closer to it than this. Much closer. Not jus’ on the beach,
when the men came. I was in it . . . Far out . . . In the dark . . .

The funny feelin’ grows. I breathe out an’ can’t breathe
back in. My heart goin’ bump bump bump. Rhona’s mouth is
movin’. Can’t hear her now. I go backwards. I gasp. The sky
goes massive. All white, in my eyes. My ears are screamin’ an’
I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe . . . I . . .

Music plunging hard. I’m on the floor, pressed flat as possible.
Dust in my mouth, in the deepest darkest animal trap, and above
my head the screams keep coming. On and on and I can’t stand it
and Katty I can’t I can’t . . . Katty! His face bathed in red and the
words moving out of him . . . Slowww his hand comes up they will
get me and I know then I know I am done for . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . .

. .

About Aly Sidgwick

Aly Sidgwick

Aly Sidgwick spent many years in Oslo as a tattoo artist and comic strip artist before turning to writing. She became obsessed and didn’t tell anyone she was writing for six months. She has lived in North Yorkshire, Norway, Sweden and Edinburgh. Her spare time is devoted to reading, painting, travelling, and drinking lots of black coffee.

 

You can buy ‘Lullaby Girl’ from:-

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lullaby-Girl-Aly-Sidgwick/dp/184502950X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1433074751&sr=1-1

 

Blog Tour – ‘Black Wood’ by SJI Holliday

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‘Black Wood’ is SJI Holliday’s debut novel.  It was published by Black and White Publishing in paperback on the 19th March 2015.  I have been hearing a lot about this novel and was really looking forward to reading it.  As part of this blog tour I have written a review.

As young girls Claire and Jo had a very nasty experience which would change their lives for good.  It happened while they were in the woods resulting in Claire being paralysed for life and Jo being left with deep mental scars from which she had never totally recovered from.

Twenty-three years later and Jo gets a shock when a customer walks in to the bookshop where she is working.  There is something so very familiar about him and Jo is convinced that she has seen him before  Elsewhere, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating reports of a man wearing a balaclava who is apparently attacking young women on a disused railway.  This comes as a shock to the residents of Banktoun, a small and quiet town where crime very rarely occurs.  Is there a connection between the man from the past and the one going around scaring young women?

I found ‘Black Wood’ to be intriguing right from the start and couldn’t wait to read more.  It was thrilling and fast-paced.  I really like the way SJI Holliday writes.  The story goes back and forth from the past to the present which I thought worked well. The majority of the chapters are very short and have been written in such a way that you are left in suspense waiting to find out what happens next with a particular character.  It’s a bit like someone tantalising you with a bar of chocolate whilst opening it really slowly.

The author described the old cottage where Jo’s grandmother had lived so well that I could almost feel the chilling atmosphere.  Maybe some of what went on in there was in Jo’s mind with all the anguish she was going through, but I think there was definitely more to it.

‘Black Wood’ is a dark and disturbing story with a number of shocking revelations.  For fans of crime fiction this is a must read.

I am looking forward to seeing what SJI Holliday comes up with next.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SJI Holliday has kindly written a guest post for me.

 

When A Character Calls

When I first started plotting Black Wood, I had it planned in my head as a fairly straightforward, linear tale of obsession; written in first person, by the deeply flawed protagonist, Jo. It was a tale of revenge, and Jo was going to tell it all by herself.

Except it didn’t work out like that.

A few chapters in, and I was already starting to panic that Jo was too dark, too intense. There were plot points that had to happen to see the story through, and it soon became obvious that Jo couldn’t tell the story alone.

The thing about writing in first person is that you can follow the character on a journey, you can get right into their head – you might feel like they’re carrying you on their shoulders as they lead your through the story. But there are limitations. You can only see what they see, and you can only know what they know – unless you force things in – things that sometimes work, and sometimes don’t – such as the character being told things in dialogue by others, or the character finding a letter or a diary. There are many ways, but I was struggling to find the best way.

I realised I needed to lift the reader out of Jo’s head a bit – give them some respite from her unravelling thoughts.

So in walked Sergeant Davie Gray.

Well, he didn’t walk, actually. He was sitting in a police station, bored out of his tree, playing wastepaper basketball with his colleague. A phone call from their boss takes him away from his chair and out into Banktoun, a place where nothing ever happens… except when it does. He walks smack into Jo, and it soon becomes clear that the two of them have some history – but maybe not in the way you might think.

I never planned to have a police character. I never planned to have one that people would love and want to hear more about. I never planned to write a series… yet Davie is calling me. He has many more tales to tell.

I can hardly just ignore him now, can I?

‘The Venus Trap’ by Louise Voss

The Venus Trap

Today sees the publication of Louise Voss’s new book, ‘The Venus Trap’.  I was kindly sent a copy to read in return for an honest review.  I have in the past reviewed a couple of novels written by both Louise Voss and Mark Edwards and I loved both of them, so I was looking forward to seeing what this book would be like.

‘The Venus Trap’ is spread out over five days.  In the first chapter the reader is introduced to the main character, Jo.  Having recently gone through a divorce she has finally plucked up the courage to go out dating.  After a few not so good dates Jo sees a face from the past, one she can only vaguely remember from her youth.  Claudio it turns out has always been keen on her and they end up going out together a couple of times.

Jo’s ex-husband has taken their little girl on holiday leaving her with a few days in which to relax and do her own thing.  She goes on a third date with Claudio but decides that he is creepy and that she doesn’t fancy him.  However, it seems giving him the brushoff is a big mistake.  The next afternoon Jo wakes up feeling really ill and discovers that she has been handcuffed to her own bed.  She is a prisoner in her own bedroom with no way to escape.  Claudio, her captor, has no intention of letting Jo go and he gives her one week in which to declare her love for him.  Will Jo be able to do what Claudio wants?

I enjoyed ‘The Venus Trap’ and found it to be a pretty thrilling read.  I thought this story might get a bit dull with mostly just the two active characters in it, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It worked well I think with Jo being forced to go back into her past and what she went through as a teenager.  The poor thing thought she would never have to experience anything so bad again.  How wrong was she!

I couldn’t believe Claudio and the lengths he went to try to get Jo to fall in love with him.  Some of the things he did were just plain evil.  It does go to show though just how fragile the mind is and how certain events can set a person off.

‘The Venus Trap’ looks at the emotional impact divorce can have on you, the dangers of dating and being obsessed.  It is a warning to all about what can happen.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

‘The Liar’s Chair’ by Rebecca Whitney

The Liar's Chair

‘The Liar’s Chair’ is Rebecca Whitney’s debut novel.  It was published on the 15th January 2015 by Mantle.  I was kindly sent a proof copy to review.

This story is set in and around Brighton.  Rachel and David appear to have a good solid marriage.  They’ve got everything; a successful business, a big house, nice cars.  What more could they possibly want?  However, things are not as they seem.  David likes to be in control of everything including his wife.

Unknown to David, Rachel has been having a fling with someone else and drinking heavily.  One Saturday morning on the way home and still under the influence of alcohol, Rachel hits a man with her car causing instant death.  She doesn’t know what to do and is terrified so she confesses to David about what she has done.  David destroys all evidence of the accident and insists that they carry on as normal.  But Rachel finds it impossible to do that and can’t switch off at all leading to her behaviour becoming increasingly self-destructive, which doesn’t please David at all.  Will Rachel be able to sort herself out?  That’s for you to find out.

I was looking forward to reading ‘The Liar’s Chair’ as I like a good psychological thriller, especially one where the author has really got into her characters minds.  I thought Rebecca Whitney did an excellent job of this with Rachel.

I found that I couldn’t warm to any of the characters.  None of them were particularly likeable.  I did feel a little bit sorry for Rachel even though what she did was wrong.  David was a nasty character and the way he treated Rachel was appalling.

There are three parts to this book.  I like the way the chapters have been set out, giving you a good insight into Rachel’s past which explains a few things.

‘The Liar’s Chair’ is a sombre, shocking and bold story.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

Blog Tour – ‘Keep Your Friends Close’ by Paula Daly + Competition

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Last year I reviewed Paula Daly’s debut novel, ‘Just What Kind of Mother Are You?’  You can read what I thought about it here:-

https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/jwkomay/

Since then I have been waiting patiently for Paula’s next book to come out and was thrilled when I found out it was being released soon.  As part of this blog tour I was asked to review ‘Keep Your Friends Close’.

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‘Keep Your Friends Close’ was published by Bantam Press on the 13th March 2014.  I was sent an advance reading copy from Alison Barrow at Transworld Publishers.

Natty and Sean Wainwright have a good marriage, two lovely teenage daughters and a successful business running a hotel in Windermere.  Everyday life might be that little bit mundane at times but in general things are okay.

Felicity, the youngest of the two daughters has gone on a school trip to France.  Natty’s oldest friend, Eve who has been living in America for the past few years decides to come and visit.  Whilst they are sitting together catching up on things Natty receives a telephone call.  Felicity has been taken seriously ill and is in hospital.  Natty travels to France alone safe in the knowledge that Eve is there to help Sean out.

When Natty returns home with Felicity two weeks later she doesn’t expect the welcome back she receives.  Sean informs her that he has fallen in love with Eve and that their marriage is over.  Natty is naturally left feeling devastated and angry but she knows she has to put on a brave face for the children.

This novel asks a very important question: What would you do if your best friend stole your life?  I don’t think it’s one many of us would be able to answer somehow.  It’s just unthinkable!

From start to finish I found ‘Keep Your Friends Close’ very hard to put down.  It was just so gripping.  There were lots of twists and turns, plus some real shockers.  Paula Daly has proved once again that she can write a great psychological thriller.  She really does have a knack of getting right into her characters minds.

Beautifully written with lovely descriptions of the Lake District, for me ‘Keep Your Friends Close’ is another winner.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

I am giving away 2 copies of ‘Keep Your Friends Close’.  To enter leave a comment telling me why you want to win this book.

Terms and Conditions

This competition is open to UK residents only.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 6th April 2014.

Winners will be notified within 7 days and their details will be passed on to the publisher who will send out the prizes.

Good luck! 🙂

 

Visit www.claremackintosh.com tomorrow for the next part of this blog tour.

 

Luca Veste ‘Dead Gone’ Blog Tour

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I was invited to take part in this blog tour as part of a celebration of Luca Veste’s debut novel.  ‘Dead Gone’ is being published by Harper Collins’ Avon in eBook format tomorrow.  It will be out in paperback on the 16th January 2014.

Veste is set to get readers pulses and minds racing with this, his thrilling, intelligent and unpredictable psychological thriller which is set in the streets of his home city, Liverpool.

‘Dead Gone’ is a must read for fans of Stuart MacBride and Mark Billingham.

Below is an extract from this book for those of you just dying to get a taster of it:-

 

PART ONE

Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.

Isaac Asimov

We are taught from an early age to fear death, that unknowable force we are all moving towards, simply by existing. However, this aspect of human life is not one discussed easily amongst those in western society. Death is not an easy topic to discuss openly, without the fear of perhaps upsetting or insulting. This one aspect that binds us all together, touches us all, irrespective of race, gender, or orientation; the one thing we all have in common, yet so often it is considered a ‘dark’ subject. Talking about one’s own mortality is considered morbid and morose.

One truth remains however. We all die. Every single living organism experiences death. Indeed, according to Dr. Sigmund Freud, ‘It is the aim of all life.’ We live to die. Homo sapiens as a species have shown great technological advances over the past few centuries. Yet one thing we have not, and will arguably never achieve, is to create a way of dealing with death in a uniform manner as a population. We grieve differently, we die differently.

Death touches us all. Should we fear death, try to actively repel it, through attempts to prolong our lives? If technology moved to such a point that death could be avoided, endless life became a possibility, would we ever be able to really live?

Without being able to investigate death and the repercussions for the deceased, is it possible to study death in any meaningful way, without being able to experience it?

Taken from ‘Life, Death, and Grief’, published in Psychological Society Review, 2008, issue 72.

 

Experiment Two

She hadn’t been afraid of the dark.

Not before.

Not before it entered her life without her knowing, enveloping her like a second skin, becoming a part of her.

She hadn’t been claustrophobic, petrified the walls were closing in around her. Crushed to death without knowing they’d even moved. Not scared of things that crawled around her toes. Wasn’t afraid to sit alone in a darkened room and wonder if something was touching her face, or if it was just her imagination.

Nope. She wasn’t scared before.

She was now.

It took time to become afraid of those things, and time was all she had, stretching out in front of her without end.

She blamed herself. Blamed her friends. Blamed him. She shouldn’t be there, and someone was to blame for that.

Had to be.

She’d become a responsible adult. The right thing, supposedly. Gone were the days she’d spent going into town, two, sometimes three times a week. Karaoke on a Friday, pulling on a Saturday ‒ if there were any decent lads out ‒ quiet one on a Sunday. Now she was always the first one to leave, early on in the night, when everyone else was just getting started.

She didn’t like the feeling of being drunk. That loss of control, of sensibility. She’d been hungover so many times. She’d decided it wasn’t what responsible adults did. Her mum had drummed that into her one night, holding back her hair as two bottles of white wine and god knows how many vodka and lemonades decided they wanted out.

She’d rather be at home now, watching TV after a day’s work, especially if it meant he  was sitting close to her. She didn’t even mind that he always had the laptop on, playing that stupid football management game. Just being there with him was enough.

She still enjoyed a drink at the end of a work day, a glass of wine with a meal and the occasional full bottle at the weekend. But the binging had stopped. That was for certain.

When a Cheeky Vimto cocktail had been forced into her hand by one of the girls who told her she’d love it she didn’t say no.  Port and WKD. Who thought of these things? She didn’t care. It tasted bloody great.

One more led to four more, and before she knew it, she was in an eighties-themed nightclub, dancing her heart out to Chesney Hawkes. Two a.m. hit, and she was saying her goodbyes. She loved them all. Her girls. Always left wondering why they didn’t see her more often.

‘Don’t go yet, we’ll all share a taxi later. Club doesn’t shut for another hour.’

‘It’s alright, I’ll be fine. I’m knackered, want my bed. Need to get back … No, it’s okay I’ll walk up to the tunnel stretch by the museum if I can’t get one.’

Voice going hoarse from shouting over the music. Promises to do it all again soon. To give them a text when she’d arrived home.

Finally she was out of the club, the bouncer helping her down the final step. Fresh air hit her, along with the realisation she was as drunk as she’d been in a long time. She began searching through her handbag for her phone, eventually finding it in the same pocket it was always in, wanting to call a taxi to pick her up.

‘For fuck’s sake.’

Too loud. Not in the club any longer, but her voice hadn’t caught onto that fact yet. A couple stared as they passed by, as she continued her argument with the stupid battery-sucking smart phone. The decision to wear comfortable shoes becoming the best idea she’d ever had. She set off for the taxi ranks at the end of Matthew Street, hoping it wouldn’t be too long a wait. She walked past the old Cavern Club, the sound of some shitty band murdering old hits wafting out of the doors, as a few tourists spilled out onto the street.

She couldn’t find a taxi, queues of people down North John Street. She walked away from the lights of the clubs in the city centre, hoping to get one coming out of the tunnel. When she was younger it had been easier, as there was always enough of them to be safe getting the night bus home. Now she had money in her pocket she wouldn’t have to sit on a full bus, the stink of kebabs and vodka shots seeping into her clothes. The lads who were either squaring up to each other, or trying it on with any girl with a pulse. No thank you, she could pay the eight quid and get home without any of that.

She stood on the corner near the museum, waiting for a hackney with its light on to pass her. She wrapped her arms around herself, cold air beginning to bite as she stopped walking and leant against the St John’s Gardens wall, the museum over to her right. The entrance and exit to Birkenhead tunnel directly opposite her. Swaying to silent music.

She was cold, wishing she’d picked a warmer coat when she’d left the house earlier. She’d picked the right shoes, that was supposed to be enough. Ten minutes went by, then fifteen, before a hackney finally came towards her, slowing down before passing her.

‘Hey!’

It went up towards town, then did a U-turn and headed back her way, coming to a stop in front of her. She opened the door, barely registering the driver at all, just shouted her address at him, and settled back in the seat. She was glad to be in the warmth of the car.

As they drove through the city centre, she began to feel just a little uncomfortable, the driver looking straight ahead, barely acknowledging her presence. He’d not said a word since she’d entered. Must be one of the new foreign drivers that were coming over from Eastern Europe or wherever. Her mum would know. She should ring her mum tomorrow, she thought. She hadn’t been in touch much lately, and she wanted to catch up.

She yawned a few times in succession, the blurred buildings going past becoming hypnotic as the cab wound its way out of the city centre towards home. She battled her tiredness and lost, as her eyes closed and stayed that way.

That was her mistake.

She woke when the cab came to a stop and looked up to see the driver getting out of the cab. Through bleary eyes, confused by the sudden absence of movement, she sat fully upright.

‘I’m awake, it’s okay,’ she called out, but he was already walking around the cab, past her door and out of her sight.

Panic didn’t set in straight away. Confusion was first.

‘Where are we?’ The windows inside had misted over, and she swiped her hand over the pane. To one side she saw trees lining a gravel driveway. She tried opening the door, but the handle wouldn’t budge. She moved across the seat, and tried that door handle. Same result. She swiped her hand over the window again, seeing a house to the other side. A strange house. Not her house. Oh shit, not her house.

‘What’s going on?’ She could hear the man’s shoes crunching through the gravel behind the car and then her window darkened. She jumped in her seat. He was crouched level with the window, his face obscured by a black balaclava.

Panic started then.

His voice came through the window. Slow, precise.

‘We’re in the middle of nowhere. So if you scream, no one will hear you. More importantly, if you do scream, I’m going to break the fingers on your right hand. Scream again, and I’ll cut them off. You understand me?’ There was no trace of an accent, yet there was something odd about his voice.

She started to move across the back seat to the opposite door. Adrenaline kicked in. The need to get away, to get out of there, overtaking everything else.

He was quicker though. The door opened behind her and a hand grabbed her by the shoulder. He was strong.

Fight back, fight for her life, fight back.

Without screaming.

She used her fists against the opposite window, pulling on the door handle with all her weight, as the man attempted to drag her out.

He got a firm grip of her dress, and placed his arm around her neck, turning her around. She kicked out at him, but felt herself being lifted from the car. He dragged her all the way inside the house, his grip around her throat choking the air out of her lungs. Her eyes drifted downwards and then around. Stone steps with marble pillars to the sides marked the entrance, but she had no time to look at them as she was pulled along a darkened corridor. She needed to breathe properly. Watched as one of her comfortable shoes slipped off and became lost in the darkness. She kicked at the ground, scratched at his arm, used her fingers to try and prise her way out of his hands, but nothing worked. She was being dragged along on her heels.

He stopped, shifted his grip so she was now in a headlock. She could breathe a little. They went through an opening, before she bounced downwards. A staircase, she guessed. She couldn’t tell. It was too dark.

They came to a stop. He took his arm from around her head, and before she had a chance to move, he pushed her with two hands. She fell backwards, landing hard.

She heard, rather than saw a door close. She sprang up, the pain from the fall lost in the midst of heavy breathing and adrenaline.

‘Let me out of here you bastard! Open this door, open it now.’

She was in darkness and grasped at the door, trying to find a handle or anything that would open the door. She used her fists, banging on the door with all her strength. ‘Please, don’t leave me here.’

She continued to bang on the door until her hand started to ache.

She switched hands.

It came then. A voice through the walls, an audible static over it. She stopped, cocking her head to listen.

‘You will be fed. You will have water. There is a hatch opening on the door which can only be opened from the outside, through which this will be provided. On some days your food will have an extra ingredient, in order for me to clean up. You will not know when this is. If you’re good, I won’t have to kill you.’

The voice was silent then. She stood still, straining to hear any other noise, backing away from the door carefully. She put her hands out in front of her, her eyes trying to adjust.

There was no sound, other than her own breathing, panting in and out. She spread her arms around, jumping a little as her hand brushed against a flat surface.

She took a large breath in, struggling to keep the panic in. She couldn’t see the walls around her, yet she could already feel them. Closing in on her.

She was alone, in the darkness.

 

If reading this extract has left you hungry for more you can get yourself a copy on Amazon.  Click on the link below to be taken there:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/DEAD-GONE-Luca-Veste-ebook/dp/B00E31D9J6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1385553864&sr=1-1&keywords=dead+gone

 

Don’t forget to drop by the Fiction Fascination blog tomorrow for the next part of the tour.

http://fictionfascination.blogspot.co.uk

‘Just What Kind of Mother Are You?’ by Paula Daly

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I received a proof of ‘Just What Kind of Mother Are You?’ from Alison Barrow at Transworld Publishers.  This is Paula Daly’s debut novel and it is being published by Bantam Press on the 25th April 2013.

‘Just What Kind of Mother Are You?’ is set in the Lake District in Cumbria.  A psychological thriller, this story is every mother’s nightmare.

It’s a freezing cold Tuesday morning and Christmas is fast approaching.  Lisa Kallisto wakes up feeling even more tired than when she went to bed.  Her life is so busy what with having three children and three pet dogs, plus working in an animal rescue centre.  It’s a wonder that she can cope!  So when her best friend’s 13-year-old daughter, Lucinda, goes missing Lisa feels that it’s all her fault especially as she was meant to be staying over the previous night after school.

Lucinda is the second girl to have disappeared in the last fortnight.  The first one was found on a busy high street in a bad way after having been raped.  But will Lucinda be found?  Will she be let go?  Because if she isn’t, Lisa knows she will never be able to forgive herself.  As the search for Lucinda takes place Lisa is in for a big shock as she discovers that people are not always who they seem.  It’s a classic case of not knowing what goes on behind closed doors.

This novel was absolutely brilliant and I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a bestseller.  Gripping right from the start it just got better and better.  There were so many revelations and I really didn’t expect it to end the way it did.  The author has really got into her characters minds and explored the different emotions.  I also like the way the subject of unwanted or abandoned cats and dogs was included in the story especially as it’s something that sadly happens all the time.

Whilst reading this story I could picture it being made into a two-part thriller for TV.  I truly hope that one day this happens.

Paula Daly is the new voice in thriller writing.  ‘Just What Kind of Mother Are You?’ is one of my favourite books of the year so far.  I already can’t wait for the next one to come out.  Well done, Paula.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

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