Guest Blog – Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett

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Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett

Today I am delighted to welcome to my blog Rachel Amphlett the bestselling author of the Dan Taylor espionage novels. Rachel has written a Guest Blog to talk about her new novel which is part of a new series involving Detective Kay Hunter. Here Rachel talks about the origins of a series and how the new series came about. 

The origins of a series

After writing two novels in the Dan Taylor espionage series in quick succession, I wanted the opportunity to explore a new character that had been going around in my head for a while.

Several months ago, an idea popped into my head that comprised an entire scene.  An accident had occurred, and a police detective had pulled over to the side of the road to see if the attending emergency services required assistance.

That one idea morphed into several pages of a new notebook. However, the more I wrote and the more I fleshed out the character, new ideas cropped up and it soon became apparent that I had a new series on my hands. Moreover, what I thought was going to be the first book in the series will likely be the third or fourth. And, unlike my espionage thrillers, this series centred around a female police detective in the UK.

Meet Kay Hunter.

As I fleshed out the ideas, one story in particular stood out for me as a way to kick off what I plan to be a new series. I began jotting down the various scenes that were going around my head, and then plotted the story out so that I had some sort of coherent plan to work on. I spent two weeks plotting about half of the story, and then began to write. Scared to Death came together really quickly. Once the story took hold and the characters started to stamp their authority on it, it became a very easy process.  I think because time is of the essence for the investigating team, this sense of urgency translated to the actual writing and, I hope, to a fast paced read.

The one word I would use to describe Kay is “resilient”. She’s been through a hell of a lot in both her professional and her personal life, but I think this makes her more human and definitely someone to whom readers can relate.

She isn’t a quitter, but neither is she invincible. She realises that she can’t do everything on her own and compared to some fictional detectives, she is a team player – most of the time.  When writing Scared to Death, I tried very hard to avoid any cliches that might normally be associated with a crime thriller. I didn’t want Kay to be a lone wolf, striking out on her own to solve the case with no help. There’s just no way that would be believable.

I also wanted to give the team around her a chance to shine, so Kay isn’t always the one that makes the breakthrough in an investigation.

 I hope readers enjoy Scared to Death, and I’m really looking forward to sharing Kay Hunter’s next investigation in the not too distant future.

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The Review:

This is a new series by Rachel Amphlett in Scared to Death we meet Detective Kay Hunter. The book really starts fast and quick. A young girl has been taken and her panic stricken parents are doing everything they can to find her it is a desperate situation as they fear the worst for their daughter and when things turn out in the worst possible way, I could the pain and anguish and the sheer helplessness as well as the obvious grief pouring out of the pages.

Detective Kay Hunter is smart and a tough character and misses no stone that needs to be turned over. Though she may have a few secrets lurking in the shadows she and her team need to act quickly to stop the killer in his tracks before he strikes again. Time and speed are of the essence here. This is a superb crime novel that hits the ground running from page one and keeps the reader really on their toes. Rachel Amphlett’s writing is something to discover she knows how to write a crime novel and add some twists to keep everyone guessing. Thoroughly gripping read and if crime fiction is your favourite. This then is a must read.

Thank you to Rachel Amphlett for the guest blog and advanced review copy of Scared to Death.

The Scared to Death Official Blog Tour Continues

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The Mine by Antti Tuomainen


The Mine by Antti Tuomainen

A new name for me in Scandinavian crime noir in Antii Tuomainen and in The Mine we have a what is a real corruption plot and a story that just quietly creeps up on you and with characters that you just know you are going to be gripped by. The story is so well crafted and with the excellent translation by David Hackson a story that looks at environmental issues and then corruption that cries out to be uncovered. But is there anyone ready to take up the challenge?


Janne Vuori is a journalist for a small newspaper in Helsinki and out of the blue receives a tip off but this tip-off is anonymous and is this is in connection to some illegal mining in Northern Finland. As Janne has a keen interest in environmental issues he cannot ignore this tip off.  But there is more at stake here that Janne realises. Investigating this story will put himself and people around in real danger.

Janne is totally dedicated to his craft as a journalist but he is also proud of his family but from what I read in The Mine Janne seems to out his work ahead of his family, but what is the story being played out with his father. There are some secrets here but what. The key part of the story is the mine itself and the truth that is literally being buried deep and there is an environmental story that will impacts and then there is the corruption that runs through key characters.

There is another story that worms its way into the reader and that is the hitman. What is his role in the drama being played out? Key members of the board have been murdered. Why? Both men could well come face to face and the killer seems to have an array of targets and is good with a gun. The story though not fast paced is chilling as it is gripping. The storyline is so well thought out and the writing is hypnotic as is the locations with the bone chilling cold that seems to come through the pages thanks to the outstanding prose of Tuomainen.

There is so much to praise in The Mine a complex crime thriller that delivers on all fronts and if you enjoy the chilling atmospheric of the landscape that goes with the plot then look no further than Antti Tuomainen’s The Mine. I have a feeling we will be hearing much more of Tuomainen in the years to come.

Thank you to Karen at Orenda Books for the advanced review copy.

The Mine by Antti TuoMainen is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

The Finnish Invasion Blog Tour Continues


The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse

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The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse

Before I give my thoughts on Amanda Prowse’s latest release, I have to admit to having a family member who went through a serious eating disorder and how this affected the entire family. This was always going to be a difficult read for me as it brought it all back. The Food of Love is so well researched and beautifully written. Amanda Prowse has never been afraid of writing about issues that affect many of us. I have a real soft spot for Amanda’s writing and she is back to her very best with her latest offering.


Meet the Braithwaite family, a family just like any other. Freya who is a happy loving wife and mother. Lockie the father that just wants to support and make his family happy Freya and Lockie have been married now for 19 years and two beautiful teenage girls in Charlotte and Lexi. Just a normal family full of normal every day cares and worries of school and work. There is so much love between Lockie and Freya that it radiates throughout the book and from every page which feeds through the family unit.

One of the great skills that Amanda Prowse has as a writer is she creates characters that we can all identify with in our own everyday lives she is one of the best storytellers and the stories themselves are so very real. For Freya’s youngest daughter Lexi life is becoming difficult and when she starts to lose weight it becomes apparent that something is very wrong. Lexi has now been diagnosed with Anorexia. This is devastating news for the family and we watch as Lexi’s condition deteriorates and becomes very serious. Anorexia at its worst can be fatal. I speak from personal experience as to what this can do to family and loved ones. You feel totally helpless and daily life outside of the family just passes you by.

For the Braithwaite family this is exactly what happens at first denial and this does happen in cases like this and when you have given your all to your family it hits you like a brick in your face. Why our family? What have we done wrong? There are no simple answers to any of the questions a family full of love ask of themselves. A family full of love will always stand together and they surround Lexi with love. I must warn the reader there will be tears at times through The Food of Love. It is heart-breaking and poignant. A book that when you start to read you will not want to stop.

It is hard for me after so many years to read this incredible book as it brought back memories and I have tried to banish to the recesses of my mind. But the more we talk about the issues such as Anorexia the more understanding we will all become. Even today it pains me to say this it is still a taboo subject and clearly this should not be this way at all.

Yet again I congratulate Amanda Prowse on such a well thought out and researched novel that is packed full of love and tenderness. The Food of Love is such an important book for anyone who wants to know what life is really like beyond the front door of a home with a family member suffering with dreadful illness.

I know I will not be leaving this book as the story will now linger with me as for me it is real and raw. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Thank you to both Amanda and Simeon for the advanced review copy.

The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse is published by Lake Union Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

The Food of Love Official Blog Tour Continues

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The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto


The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto

This is the first crime novel from Kati Hiekkapelto I have read, but The Exiled is the third in the series featuring Anna Fekete and I have become an instant fan of Kati’s writing. Normally the stories are set in Finland but with The Exiled is set in the Balkans.


Anna Fekete is visiting her mother in Serbia to the village of Anna’s birth, she is on holiday, but something happens to Anna that will change her holiday plans. Anna has her handbag stolen but the culprit who stole her handbag is found dead at the scene. It becomes clear that certain items have been taken from the handbag. Now the tense gripping drama starts to unfold. Who is the dead thief and just who is behind the robbery?

The Exiled is a deeply complex and twisting crime drama played out at a slower pace than I had expected but that is not a criticism for me this helped with the drama that was being played out. Most crime dramas are played out at a faster pace and sometimes there is a struggle to keep up but this slower paced novel really worked for me it helped me get to know the key characters and also the locations. With the refugee crisis that has engulfed central Europe over recent years this also plays a key role in the story as the wave of refugees crosses Europe and gives insight as to what they face as well as the countries and society in general this is key to part of the plot and this I found incredibly insightful. At times it can be difficult reading but this is the real world that we are living at present and cannot be ignored.

For Anna now mixed up in a robbery and also a murder she is faced with some incredibly difficult situations that will involve corruption and questions about the past. The Exiled is a terrific read and left me wanting to read Kati Hiekkapelto previous two novels in the series The Hummingbird and The Defenceless both superb tense crime thrillers from one of Finland’s most celebrated crime writers.

If you enjoy a crime drama with mystery that is both captivating and tense, then I recommend you discover Kati Hiekkapelto’s The Exiled.

Thank you to Karen at Orenda Books for the advanced review copy.

The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto is published by Orenda Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.




Guest Post: Vikki Patis – Weltanschauung


Guest Post: Vikki Patis – Weltanschauung

Vikki Patis: Writing As Therapy

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Vikki Patis is a writer and blogger at The Bandwagon, where she reviews books, interviews authors, and gives her opinions on a wide variety of topics, from feminism to fibromyalgia. She’s recently published a collection of short stories, Weltanschauung, and is here today to talk about using writing as a form of therapy.

On The Bandwagon, we don’t shy away from writing about difficult things. I regularly use my blog to get something off my chest, to write about something that happened to me. I’ve made The Bandwagon a space for people to open up and share their stories, and in turn I’ve received countless emails and messages about how reading such articles has helped others to deal with their own trauma, and to continue on their journey of healing. Which is what it’s all about really, isn’t it.

I also use fiction as a similar release. I’ve hidden inside books since before I can remember, using it to escape reality. And now I use my own writing to do the same thing. Weltanschauung, my recently-published collection of short stories, is full of pieces of me. Harbinger tells the story of Zoe, and her ability to see death. As she grows up, she learns that others can see it too – they’re called the Harbingers, and they’re feared by society, to the point of violence. Harbinger describes what it’s like to be different, to sit on the outskirts of society, but to continue doing what you’re doing because you know it’s right.

Being an outspoken woman on the internet can come with a whole heap of problems. People want to shut you up, tell you that you’re wrong. But writing is my only form of therapy. Talking about things like sexual assault and everyday sexism helps us to deal with it, to heal. They tell you to write what you know. Although the stories in Weltanschauung may seem like fiction, every single one contains a piece of reality, a piece that I’ve taken out of myself and put into my story, to get it out of me, and out into the world.

Weltanschauung is available on Kindle and in paperback now. From 16th – 18th December 2016, Weltanschauung will be available for only 99p! For more information, join the Facebook event here. Follow Vikki on Twitter: @VikkiPatis


Men Like Air – Tom Connolly


Men Like Air – Tom Connolly

New York, the big apple, the city that never sleeps. It is a city that so many words have been written about even sung about. Now a novel that captures the very heart of New York City. Men Like Air by Tom Connolly really is an epic love letter to that very city.


It is Springtime in New York and destiny is about to come calling for a group of men, they don’t actually know this yet but it is coming. Finn is 19 years-old and has just arrived in the city with Dilly his girlfriend who is something of a character both leaving behind a previous life, running away perhaps. Just they are not quite sure where they are about to stay. Men Like Air could well be the ultimate love story but things don’t always go to plan as in life. Dilly is one key character in this young couple and she is full of passion at the very start of this novel, but soon the story has a twist in store for the reader. The main element of Connolly’s incredible writing is how he manages to make this story into something beautiful and unforgettable. Just watch how the story becomes about four men, four lost men. For Jack the reason he is here is because he has to seek out Jack his brother following the death of their parents Jack abandoned Finn soon after. This is more or less about men’s relationships with each other.

Along the way we meet other men such as Leo who runs a gallery and suffers great loneliness and seems to be in the shadow of his brother-in-law William who is everything that Leo isn’t. The connection between these two men really is all about how men handle relationships with each other. Something happens out of the ordinary that will shape and change the lives of the men involved.

This is everything you want in a pure novel sense, at times full of emotion and tender as well as being funny. The real beauty of Men Like Air is that it is human in all its facets. Sheer bloody brilliant and for me it captivated me unlike any other book this year but in a unique way. Connolly’s writing is rich in the way he writes in the characters and just how he has managed to play with the emotions of the reader laughing one moment and almost in crying the next. The ultimate love letter to New York.  Men Like Air is one of my books of 2016 and should not be missed.


Thank you to Emma Dowson at Myriad Editions for the review copy.

Men Like Air by Tom Connolly is published by Myriad Editions and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

An Honest Deceit – Guy Mankowski


An Honest Deceit – Guy Mankowski

‘Mum where do fish go in the winter’ This is how An Honest Deceit by Guy Mankowski opens. Those words will linger with me for some time and when I walk by the river during this winter I will be thinking of these words again.

This book came as a real surprise as I was not quite sure what to expect. What I will say is that this novel is well thought out and brilliantly written. When a book opens with a quote like that you know something is coming but you are not quite sure what. This is a story of every parent’s nightmare. Now read on.

Ben and Juliette are just normal parents with the normal every day worries that every parent has. When you send your child to school you expect your child to be under the best possible care. Their daughter Marine is off on a school trip but there is an accident and Marine dies. This is the story as told by Ben and the search for the truth as to the death of their daughter while in the care of the school while out on a trip. The grief is that pours out of every page is real and the questions come thick and fast. Something is not right and now the grieving parents want answers and they will not rest until the truth is out. For Juliette she is frozen in shock as you can imagine and nothing can change that. This is threatening to tear the family apart. Ben has to step up and be the strong half of the couple and as well as trying to carry on working he will not give up the fight for the truth despite whatever some people think. What if he is wrong and it was just a desperate tragic accident. Ben refuses to think this way. What of Kraver the school headmaster, the reader will take an instant opinion to him as all he seems to care about is the school’s reputation and wants to deflect Ben from continuing the fight for the truth.

You will come to hope that Ben will succeed in finding out what really happened to his daughter on that fateful day and you urge him on with every turn of the page. Ok I will admit I wanted to thump Kraver if not knock him into the next century. Hidden in the story are corruption and lie after lie ad Ben has to dig deep and fight for an investigation to be launched but at times it seems he is fighting a losing battle but Ben will not give up the fight for Marine. There are times in the book that some readers will find difficult and uncomfortable. The emotions are raw and real.

This is not just good it is brilliant as the story starts to burn away at the reader, questions come thick and fast at times the complexity can get in the way but this just adds to the tension on every page. Guy Mankowski is a real talent for telling a story and keeping the reader guessing right to the very last moments.

I am highly recommending An Honest Deceit as one book that you must read before this year is out. It really is that good. ‘Mum where do fish go in the winter’ will be the words you will remember.

Thank you to Matthew at Urbane Publications for the advanced review copy.

An Honest Deceit by Guy Mankowski is published by Urbane Publications and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.


Under a Pole Star – Stef Penney


Under a Pole Star – Stef Penney

From the author of the Costa Book award winning The Tenderness of Wolves comes the third novel from Stef Penney and a story set over two time frames and a land of frozen landscapes in Under a Pole Star.


It is 1948 and a group of scientists are heading to the North Pole and among the group is Flora Mackie. Flora is 77-years-old and a renowned scientist and explorer in her younger days. But this is no scientific trip for Flora this is more of a trip down memory lane and a time to recall memories of previous arctic explorations. While talking with a member of the press ‘The Snow Queen’ starts to explore her own memories and of one trip in 1892 to Greenland and this was with her father who was a Whaling Captain as well as other explorations that followed.

Flora born in Dundee and brought up by her father when her mother died but as time passes Flora becomes her own person and independently minded and fascinated by the land of ice and snow and the people who inhabit the frozen lands. She first explored Arctic Circle at the age of 12 and even at this tender age she wanted to be taken seriously.

In 1892 she led an expedition to Greenland and at the same time Jakob de Beyn from America was among a rival expedition and this is being led by Lester Armitage and it is no surprise that both expeditions meet and for Flora and Jakob this is moment that will shape their lives. Flora, Jakob and Lester all share one common theme they love and passion for these cold forbidden lands of perpetual endless days and nights that seemingly never end. You just know that something is coming in this mammoth book of 600 pages and it comes in the form of a tragedy that will haunt many of them and these lands for the rest of their days.

Flora is a determined character in this story in an age dominated by male explorers it is hard not to admire her courage in the face of not only the freezing lands but also the men of this time. Here in this story is not on exploration but also of a love story against a backdrop of the golden age of exploration.

The incredible beauty of the Arctic Ocean the colours of the ice and snow and the endless night skies full of stars. This is breath-taking story and a mystery that still requires resolving and for Flora returning to the land of ice and snow in 1948 returns for the last time to solve the long-standing mystery and lay this to rest.

Under a Pole Star is dramatic story that is the perfect read for cold winters nights.

Thank you to Hannah Robinson at Quercus Books for the advanced review copy.

Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney is published by Quercus and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

Night School (Jack Reacher 21) – Lee Child


Night School (Jack Reacher 21) – Lee Child

Just released is the 21st book in the Jack Reacher series of thrillers by Lee Child. This time round Reacher finds himself being awarded a medal for his last assignment the ‘quiet’ ceremony was barely over when he was told of his next assignment. Jack Reacher was heading back to School.



Set in 1996 and back during his army days this school though is a bit of ‘cover’ as he is joined by two others to form a three-man secret ‘ops’ mission to seek and find an American traitor. As yet they are not sure of the traitor’s true identity. Add into the mix that there is an Islamic terrorist group in Germany and that they met with the unknown American but what is it that he has offered to the terrorists? The asking price is staggering at $100 million. This man must be found and found quickly before he compromises the United States.

The three-man team including Jack Reacher are specialists in their fields and each is investigating in their own way. For Reacher he heads off to Germany but not alone and with him is Frances Neagley together they must seek the answers that will lead them to the traitor before something catastrophic takes place. This is a full on thriller and you can hear the clock ticking away in the background as time starts to run down. Can Reacher save the day? There are some rather interesting moments in the book as Reacher baits some Germans as war losers and not afraid of showing some select individuals just what he is made of. Even in 1996 you do not pick a fight with Jack Reacher and expect to win.

The one thing you can expect from Jack Reacher in a tight spot is that he will come through. So even at this earliest point in his ‘career’ you can just see the makings of what was to come in the years ahead. A thumping good thriller is what Night School is and if you have read any of the previous Jack Reacher novels then you must not miss this look back to his early days.

Thank you to Patsy Irwin at Transworld Publishers for the advanced review copy.

Night School by Lee Child is published by Bantam Press and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.


How Much the Heart Can Hold – Seven Stories on Love


How Much the Heart Can Hold – Seven Stories on Love

Many will know of my passion for short stories so when How Much the Heart Can Hold arrived for review I was just as keen to get into this outstanding collection of stories on love. The real beauty of this book lies in each unique story and the list of writers who have made a contribution is like a who’s who in the literary world today.

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The idea of commissioning the stories from the publisher Sceptre was based around a short story competition (now closed). With the winning entry having their story included in the paperback version released in February 2017 as well as a cash prize. Now just how good is that?

Each of the stories takes on a personality of their own through each of the writers. Some of the stories we just totally incredible some I felt lacked depth but in a collection of short stories there will always be some that reach the highs and others that for reasons just do not reach the same level.

The one stand out story for me was by Carys Bray author of the wonderful A Song for Issy Bradley and Bray’s story is called A Series of Codas is a rare thing of beauty. Here we see Louise struggling as a single parent and now she has to deal with her father’s serious illness after a collapse during a football match. She now has to look after her son Max and now also her father as he recovers from surgery. This is truly beautiful story of how we deal with life and the challenges and changes that we face. When faced with the challenges that Louise faces the message here is to treasure every moment and hold our loved ones close to our heart and talking of hearts. Having been through heart related surgery on a number of times over recent years I was taken by Bray’s take on hearts. Talking about people still being just the very same people after heart surgery and after all it is all just plumbing. It is just how I described my surgery to my close ones to stop them worrying.

Hearts can cope with so much after all they are the strongest muscle in our bodies yet at the same time have to cope with so much pain and loss and also capable of so much love. Some of these stories may not be to everyone’s taste but give this a go if you are a lover of the short story and just How Much the Heart Can Hold.

Stories by:

Nikesh Shukla

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

D.W. Wilson

Donal Ryan

Carys Bray

Grace McCleen

Bernadine Evaristo

Thank you to Nikki Barrow for the advanced review copy.

How Much the Heart Can Hold is published by Sceptre and is now in hardback available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.


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