Tuesday, 17 January 2017

A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart - Blog Tour

I am delighted to be one of today's stops on the blog tour for A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart. A Boy Made of Blocks was published in paperback by Sphere on 29 December 2016. Here's my review...

A Boy Made of Blocks
By Keith Stuart 
Published by Sphere (29 December 2017)
ISBN: 978-0751563290



Publisher's description
A father who rediscovers love

Alex loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn't understand him. He needs a reason to grab his future with both hands.
A son who shows him how to live


Meet eight-year-old Sam: beautiful, surprising - and different. To him the world is a frightening mystery. But as his imagination comes to life, his family will be changed . . . for good.

My verdict
A Boy Made of Blocks is a book about communication and relationships - between husbands and wives, fathers and sons and family and friends. It's based on the author's experiences with his own autistic son, which makes the book so believable and realistic. It's a very honest account and, at times, it read like memoir rather than fiction.

Alex is struggling to cope with Sam's autism. He finds it difficult to understand how his son sees the world - and also how the world views his son. When Sam develops an interest in the online building game Minecraft, this opens up a whole new world for Alex and Sam - and provides a virtual place where they can learn to communicate and connect with one another.

A Boy Made of Blocks is heartwarming, emotional and entertaining - a story to make you laugh and cry. It's an easy read and well written, with a fast pace and great characterisation. I enjoyed seeing how the relationship between Alex and Sam strengthened throughout the book. You don't need to know anything about Minecraft to read this as the game itself is well described (although I have played it with my boys before so knew exactly what is involved).

I received an Advance Reader Copy.

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Friday, 13 January 2017

Rattle by Fiona Cummins

Rattle
By Fiona Cummins
Published by Macmillan (26 January 2017)
ISBN: 978-1509812264



Publisher's description
A psychopath more frightening than Hannibal Lecter.
He has planned well. He leads two lives. In one he's just like anyone else. But in the other he is the caretaker of his family's macabre museum.
Now the time has come to add to his collection. He is ready to feed his obsession, and he is on the hunt.
Jakey Frith and Clara Foyle have something in common. They have what he needs.

What begins is a terrifying cat-and-mouse game between the sinister collector, Jakey's father and Etta Fitzroy, a troubled detective investigating a spate of abductions.

My verdict
I loved Rattle and can't praise it highly enough - the writing is brilliant, the plot is brilliant... in fact, everything about it is brilliant. There aren't many serial killer books around at present, so it's certainly very different to other crime novels too.

The plot is chilling - children are going missing and it seems that there is a serial killer on the loose. He's evil, creepy and certainly someone to avoid - but that's not easy when you have something he wants and he'll do anything to get it.

Fiona Cummins writes atmospheric chilling prose - vivid descriptions of people and places that made my skin tingle - and has created a gripping plot filled with action, intrigue and believable characters. I held my breath for many of the final chapters. The book has clearly been well researched and I found the medical background fascinating (possibly because of my own interests in health and medicine). This is a crime thriller with unbelievable depth.

Rattle is stunning. I couldn't put it down - yet didn't want it to end. Just as well there's a sequel in the pipeline!

I received an Advance Reader Copy.




Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Sirens by Joseph Knox

Sirens
By Joseph Knox
Published by Doubleday (12 January 2017)
ISBN: 978-0857524331


Publisher's description
It starts with the girl. How it ends is up to DC Aidan Waits.

Isabelle Rossiter has run away again.

When Aidan Waits, a troubled junior detective, is summoned to her father’s penthouse home – he finds a manipulative man, with powerful friends.

But retracing Isabelle’s steps through a dark, nocturnal world, Waits finds something else. An intelligent seventeen-year-old girl who’s scared to death of something. As he investigates her story, and the unsolved disappearance of a young woman just like her, he realizes Isabelle was right to run away.

Soon Waits is cut loose by his superiors, stalked by an unseen killer and dangerously attracted to the wrong woman. He’s out of his depth and out of time.

How can he save the girl, when he can't even save himself?

My verdict
Sirens is a powerful crime novel filled with emotion and darkness.

Although set in Manchester, Sirens has a classic US feel to it (echoes of Raymond Chandler), with taut rhythmic narrative, powerful dialogue, realistic characters and a multi-layered plot. It's intense, violent, tragic and stunningly written, pulling the punches with every sentence and tricking the reader right until the shocking end.

Detective Aiden Waits is far more than your usual disgraced detective, haunted by his past and unsure of his future. While keeping an eye on an MP's wayward daughter, he gets caught up with Manchester's drug lords and ends up out of his depth as the body count rises. He's as damaged as you can get, addicted to drink and drugs while he works undercover. Yet he's still extremely likeable and I couldn't help but feel for him, willing for him to climb out of his pit of despair.

Joseph Knox has a distinctive voice, and Sirens certainly doesn't read like a debut. Like the Sirens of the Greek mythology, this book lured me in straight away and refused to let go long after I finished reading.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Bone Field by Simon Kernick - Blog Tour

I am delighted to be today's stop on the blog tour for The Bone Field by Simon Kernick. The Bone Field is being published by Century on 12 January 2017. Here's my review...

The Bone Field
By Simon Kernick
Published by Century (12 January 2017)
ISBN: 978-1780894539



Publisher's description
A missing girl
A ruthless crime gang
A man so evil he must be stopped at any cost

DI Ray Mason and PI Tina Boyd begin a desperate hunt for the truth that will take them into a dark and terrifying world of corruption and deadly secrets, where murder is commonplace, and nothing and nobody is safe ...

When the bones of a 21-year old woman who went missing without trace in Thailand in 1990, are discovered in the grounds of an old Catholic school in Buckinghamshire, an enduring mystery takes on a whole new twist. Her boyfriend at the time, and the man who reported her missing, Henry Forbes, now a middle-aged university lecturer, comes forward with his lawyer and tells DI Ray Mason of the Met’s Homicide Command that he knows what happened to Kitty, and who killed her.


My verdict
The Bone Field is the first in a new series from Simon Kernick. I hadn't read one of his books for a while, so jumped at the chance to read this. It didn't take long for me to realise what I've been missing.

The Bone Field crosses genres - it's a combination of police procedural and action thriller. It delivers great writing, believable characters and an intriguing plot covering some dark themes. There was barely a moment to breathe, with several twists, turns and red herrings trying to lead me astray while I attempted to unravel the mystery of what happened to Kitty.

As with all new series, The Bone Field is also about getting to know new characters. I love the pairing of DI Ray Mason and PI Tina Boyd (from some previous books) - what a great combination of personalities and backgrounds!

The ending is left slightly hanging, ready for a sequel, with various questions remaining unanswered. The only thing that bothers me about that is the long wait until the next book in The Bone Field series! I'll certainly be waiting to grab it when it's published...

I received an Advanced Reader Copy.

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Thursday, 5 January 2017

Deep Down Dead vs The Writing Group by Steph Broadribb - BLOG TOUR

I am delighted to welcome Steph Broadribb to my blog today talking about writing groups, as part of her blog tour. Steph's debut novel Deep Down Dead was published by Orenda Books in paperback today - 5th January 2017





Deep Down Dead vs The Writing Group
(or how being part of a writing group
helped me write Deep Down Dead)

By Steph Broadribb

So what about writing groups, are they a good idea?

Yes or No?

Help or hindrance?

Well, for me, being part of a writing group is a definite yes, yes, yes, and here’s five reasons why:

#1 - You Get Too Close
After a while I find it hard to be objective about my own writing. I need someone else’s opinion, and it needs to be someone I trust to be constructive but also pull no punches about what needs to be better. I need them to sock in to me straight. Because I want to get the story, and the characters, and the setting as good as I can before I give it to my editor. The fabulous folks in my writing group do that. They’re objective, they tell me their view and I listen. And then I go back to my laptop and I edit.

#2 - You Have To Toughen Up
DEEP DOWN DEAD has been workshopped through the group, both on the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Novels) at City University London where we all met, and then later during the editing process for Orenda Books. Their feedback has helped me shape and refine the story and the characters. And that’s a big part of it, you have to be open to hearing the feedback and thinking about changing things – a writing group isn’t about hearing how good things are, it’s about looking for the stuff that’s not working and finding a way to make it better. It can make you relook at how you’re doing a scene and have a total rethink. I love that about it.

Sometimes they make the perfect suggestion for an extra scene or edge to a character. Rod Reynolds actually wrote one of my favourite lines in Deep Down Dead – maybe if you can guess which one I’ll give you a prize! I’m now writing the second book in the Lori Anderson series – DEEP BLUE TROUBLE – and yes, you’ve guessed it, the writing group have already read a big chunk of it.

#3 - Moral support
Sometimes things don’t go well. The characters aren’t working, the plot has more holes than a pair of laddered fishnets, and you’ve just no idea how you’re going to resolve all the storylines you’re set running. This is when writing groups really come into their own, because the people in the group are writers as well. They understand. They know all about the things you’re experiencing because they’ve experienced them too. It’s normal. But that doesn’t mean that when you’re up against it on a deadline and the words aren’t flowing you’re going to be at all rational about it.

This is the moment when your writing group will give you advice, they’ll tell you that it’ll get better, they’ll talk you through the plot and suggest ways to fill the holes. You’ll trust them, believe them, and start to feel better. And they’ll pour you wine. A lot of wine (I’m looking at you Laura Shephard-Robinson!).

#4 - You Get Out More
My writing group meets roughly once a month. That means I have to get out of my PJs (oh the glamour of being a writer!), wash my hair, put on some make-up and venture into London. Basically, my writing group forces me to leave the house and stops me becoming a total hermit locked in my own fantasy world. I think that’s a good thing. I can get rather tunnel visioned otherwise!

#5 - You’re In It Together
In the group I’m a member of we all write crime thrillers but our sub-genres are slightly different. It means I get to read the drafts of super talented folks early (and marvel at their awesomeness) – I get to read historical, noir, action thriller, spy thrillers, gangland crime and detective fiction plus crime with a supernatural twist – and I love the variety.

We’ve been on the journey together. We got to know each other when we were doing the MA Creative Fiction (Crime Novels) at City University London and established a weekly practice of workshopping our writing and have carried on meeting regularly ever since. It means you can share the highs and the lows. Swop advice – a shout out to the wonderful Rod Reynolds [The Dark Inside, Black Night Falling] and David Young [Stasi Child, Stasi Wolf] here who as the first published members of the group have been so generous in their advice on what to expect after you sign the publishing contract.

The journey to publication has been all the more fun for having shared it with them.


About Steph Broadribb
Steph Broadribb is an alumni of the MA Creative Writing at City University London and trained as a bounty hunter in California. Her debut novel DEEP DOWN DEAD is out now – here’s the blurb: Lori Anderson is as tough as they come keeping her career as a Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills rack up, she has no choice but to take a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things go wrong. The fugitive she’s chasing is JT, Lori former mentor – the man who taught her all she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past.


Find out more about Steph at www.crimethrillergirl.com and also on Twitter - @crimethrillgirl


About Deep Down Dea

Deep Down Dead
By Steph Broadribb
Published by Orenda Books (Kindle - 15 October 2016; Paperback - 5 January 2017)
ISBN: 978-1910633557



Publisher's description
Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong. The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past.

Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida’s biggest theme parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where ‘bad things never happen’, but he’s also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has her work cut out for her. When they’re ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric, and things become personal.

Read my review here.

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