Category Archives: Fiction

Help the Witch by Tom Cox

Help The Witch Cover

Help the Witch by Tom Cox

To me autumn means many things days get shorter, the colour of the trees looking for natures rich harvest cosy days and evenings curled up with a book of short stories and if that book is one of old folk tales and creepy stories that just make the hair on the back of your neck stand up all the better. Well if this has got your attention then you are going to love Help the Witch (unbound) by Tom Cox.

 

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Tom’s previous book 21st-Century Yokel was longlisted for the 2018 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize. Help the Witch is a book I just loved. This is just the perfect autumn book to curl up with. There are ten stories some of which I went back to read twice. I always feel a book of short stories should start with a story to grab the reader and in this case the opening story just nailed it. It is the story of the title of the book. Help the Witch. I just loved the setting and of isolation. A journey and in the snow and the snow gets heavier as you travel and then you arrive. I have always found travelling country lanes in the dark really creepy did I really see something or was that just a shape of a tree, a shadow. You have the feeling something is watching you. You get the drift.

Then there are a further nine stories to read. I was just totally immersed in each story.  These are stories that that could have been written many years ago but Tom Cox gathered his inspiration from E.F. Benson and M.R. James. Some tell of natural landscapes and old broken sheds and rusty barbed wire with shred of old wool still clinging on despite best efforts of winter winds. Each story is unique but just perfect for this time of year. You know you are being taken on a journey but you are not sure how or where. Then there is the last story. I will just leave this hanging there.

I have come to really enjoy reading books by Tom Cox because you know you are reading a book by a very talented writer. Tom has covered many genres but this is his first foray into short stories and I am hoping there are more to come. Readers will flock to this attracted by the incredible cover designed by Joe McLaren and there are illustrations in the book by the authors mum. How wonderful is that.

Help the Witch is just superb and another by the superb publisher Unbound and I am delighted to Highly Recommend.

208 Pages.

Thank you to Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy Help the Witch by Tom Cox

Help the Witch by Tom Cox is published by Unbound and is released on 18th October 2018 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

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Palm Beach Finland – Antti Tuomainen

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Palm Beach Finland – Antti Tuomainen

No secret here, I really enjoy Nordic Crime Noir and also Antti Tuomainen’s books so I was delighted when his latest landed on my doormat a while back. Palm Beach Finland (Orenda Books) Still contains the added humour that makes Tuomainen’s thrillers so good.

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Our intrepid detective Jan Nyman of the Covert Operations Unit of the National Central Police is now investigating the somewhat strange death of a man in a quiet and unassuming seaside town. But there is a holiday village here that has quite a boast. The ‘hottest beach in Finland’. Complete with a shocking plastic Flamingo. (That would put me off visiting) But the money is rolling in and the characters are arriving in their droves to holiday here. Now all the Jan has to do is solve the mystery death.

Straight off Jan has one prime suspect and that is the owner of the house were the man died and that is Olivia Koski. But Koski has a strong alibi and that she was not there at the time. There is the usual mix of characters who all have their own stories to tell yet this is what makes Toumainen’s books so good and so brilliantly readable. One of THE great characters of this book is the owner of the holiday village Jorma Leivo. He is one character to keep an eye on.

Sometimes when you have a host of characters in a book it can be easy to lose track of who is who and doing what. But this is why I really enjoy reading Antti Toumainen. He makes his books so readable and this is a book were time will pass you by very quickly. If you like your crime novels with added wit and humour, then Palm Beach Finland is one book you will love. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

304 Pages.

Thank you to for the review copy of Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen

Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen is published by Orenda Books and is published on 18th October 2018 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

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The All Night Bookshop by David Belbin

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The All Night Bookshop by David Belbin

I have been very fortunate to have been able to review a number of titles by Candlestick Press and I am delighted to share my review of their latest release that came out just in time for Bookshop Day 2018. The All Night Bookshop by David Belbin is a short but beautifully written story for anyone who like me loves books and bookshops.

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A shop like many others in the area that has seen better days. This shop is though unlike any of the others, it is a bookshop though you may not know it as it only opens during the night for those who work unsociable hours or just cannot sleep. It does not sell bestsellers as those are sold by supermarkets in the area and of course whisper it quietly Amazon. The shop is dusty and on many floors. Old books, magazines and periodicals.

The short story is told by a young man who was hired by Zelda the young manager who is blind in one eye who like her assistant rarely sleeps. This young man holds an unspoken love for Zelda as they quietly run the All Night Bookshop. The mystery here though is the owner of the bookshop, he/she has never been seen and there are many stories of the reclusive owner who lives in the flat above the shop.

The shop rarely makes enough money to survive but survive it does for those who cannot sleep and arrive in dressing gowns and slippers. The narrator clearly loves Zelda but also wants to find out about the mystery owner of the dusty old bookshop.

A book with a hidden story behind it, a mystery, a love story. And just who lives in the flat above The All Night Bookshop. This may be only 16 pages but I just loved the idea with poems by Jim Burns and Jackie Kay. If you love books and bookshops especially those old dusty bookshops that I seem to find myself in this is for you and this is for bookshops everywhere.

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Candlestick Press are a small independent publisher based in Nottingham and were founded in 2008. The team consists of four dedicated people in Di Slaney (Publisher), Kathy Towers (Assistant Editor) and two admin assistants. Their aim is simple to spread the joy of poetry to adults and children alike who love poetry and or may be just beginning their journey in to enjoying poetry. These small pamphlets are just ideal for bedtime reading or like I have been doing and that is enjoying them on journeys.

They have published so many of these beautiful pamphlets on a wide range of topics from Christmas to Cricket, from Dogs to Sheep and even Clouds. With Christmas not too far away this is an ideal time to think of sending cards to loved ones and friends. The pamphlets of stories and poetry make the ideal gift to send. For more information, please visit the Candlestick Press website: Here

 16 Pages.

Thank you to for the review copy of The All Night Bookshop by Jim Belbin

The All Night Bookshop by Jim Belbin was published by Candlestick Press and was published on 1st October 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

 

The Syndicate – Guy Bolton

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The Syndicate – Guy Bolton

I have to admit I have not read The Pictures but everything I hear about this novel was that it was superb. Guy Bolton now returns with the sequel The Syndicate. (Point Blank) The year is 1947 and Ex police detective Jonathan Caine now out of retirement following the murder of the infamous mobster Benny ‘Bugsy’ Siegel.

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Now Caine’s son’s life is in danger and now he must return to Hollywood and find the killer. The pressure on Caine is massive as mob boss Mayer Lansky has given him just five days to find the killer of Benny Siegel or he and his son will die.

Caine now must use all his experience and knowledge of his past experience and track down the killer before the trail goes cold. Going to the police is clearly out of the question so he must use other methods in tracking down the killer. Plus, he is not alone. For the mob have added ‘Abe’ Levine to accompany Caine at all times. Keeping a close eye on proceedings.

The clock is ticking and every hour that goes by and the thought of his son being killed at the hands of the mob keeps Caine focussed at all times. The scene is brilliantly depicted at all times and the violence of the day you cannot hide from. The movie business rules throughout here and with the links that Caine had from his past all come through in this brilliantly portrayed crime novel. You don’t mess with the mob when the stakes are high and Caine knows what will happen if he fails in his task. It is all to play for. Added into the mix are some major actors of the day with Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland, and Cary Grant all have walk on parts in this exhilarating sequel. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

 400 Pages.

Thank you to Margot Weale at Point Blank (Oneworld) for the review copy of The Syndicate by Guy Bolton

The Syndicate was published by Point Blank and was published on 4th October 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

 

Francis Plug: Writer in Residence by Paul Ewen

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Francis Plug: Writer in Residence by Paul Ewen

I recently read Francis Plug: How To Be A Public Author and I have to say I loved everything about this book. It is a work of a genius. So incredibly funny. Well he is back. Francis Plug: Writer In Residence by Paul Ewen (Galley Beggar Press) is released on 4th October and I can promise you, if you loved the first instalment you are going to really enjoy this.

 

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Well he has only gone and done it! Francis Plug is now an author, he has unleashed his book out into the world, but is the world ready for the now published author.

As you may recall if you have read the first book, our lovable character is pretty much penniless and lives in a garage which is no more than a box. So now Francis Plug has his book out there he needs to earn some money, so incredible he is offered the role of ‘Writer-in-Residence’ at Greenwich University. Now prepare for a barrel of laughs. Francis now realises that there are so many empty offices within the University and decides that one of them will fit the job as his home. There are one or two drawbacks, there is no bathroom for one and then what if someone discovers he has literally moved in?

Thanks to his boss in the Creative Writing Department is Dr Alex Pheby and he is arranging The Greenwich Book Festival and of course Francis jumps at the chance of helping, by trying to persuade his fellow famous writers to appear at the festival. Francis loves to attend author events, or is it just because there is free booze on offer. He tries his very best at every author event even at his own book signings were he seems to consume most if not all the alcohol on offer. Question is, do any of his famous author connection actually take up his offer.

As part of Writer-in-Residence at Greenwich University, Francis Plug is expected to write a novel, and talk to students at the Creative Writing Department. This means interacting with people, something that Francis dislikes especially students and he does his best to avoid any places where there are students and this includes a lot of the pubs in the area. Drink and Francis go hand in hand, yet he is finding he is being barred from a lot of the pubs he is using for his Campus novel.

By this time a lot of people connected to Greenwich University are just not sure about our boozy Francis Plug. There are many laugh out loud moments in this hilarious follow up novel. I attend lots of literary events every now and again you just get one and I have seen a few. I have to say Paul Ewen is fabulous writer and this is going to go down a storm. I loved Francis Plug: Writer In Residence. One I will happily raise a glass or three to. There is so much humour here, the humour just keeps on coming. What does become of Francis, and his home in the office at Greenwich University.

Next May when I am at the book festival at Greenwich University I will be wandering the corridors of this famous establishment just chuckling to myself. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

294 Pages.

Thank you to Galley Beggar Press for the review copy of Francis Plug: Writer In Residence by Paul Ewen.

Francis Plug: Writer In Residence by Paul Ewen will be published on 4th October 2018 by Galley Beggar Press and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton

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Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton

Many will know that I really enjoy debut authors and following their writing journey’s. I am so thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for the debut novel Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton and published by Unbound who are rapidly becoming a favourite publisher with the outstanding quality of the authors and writing.

This is a novel set over two periods in facts thousands of years apart. Dr Eloise Kluft is a geneticist working on her new project which are the remains of ‘Sarah’ who was alive 74,000 years before. Then we have ‘Sarah’ who with her new born baby they are alone in a landscape that is unknown but there is danger and it is not too far away.

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London is the base for Eloise as she starts to piece together the remains of ‘Sarah’ from the incredible archaeological find. The story of Bone Lines is a story of two very strong willed women separated by time but the story could well be the same. Both women alone. For Eloise she is reminded of her own emotions and her past. For ‘Sarah’ she is alone and facing the hazard of migration but why is ‘Sarah’ alone with her child and were are the others.

The story is so beautifully written and told as the reader alternated between modern day London and a time 74,000 years before. Eloise is extremely dedicated to her work so much so that her personal life just seems to have been put to one side as she dedicates her life to her profession. She is missing out and she knows it.

One aspect I did like was the letters she was writing to Charles Darwin this fascinated me as Eloise uses this aspect to come up with solutions and ideas. For someone like me who studied Darwin many years previous this was an eye opener. Clever to use this in a novel.

Two incredibly strong willed women who struggle with their own day to day life for different reason, whether to stay alive or to come to terms with the past as shape the future. A story that may take a little while to appreciate but when you do, it comes together brilliantly. The research by Stephanie for Bone Lines is outstanding and deserves credit. Highly Recommended.

 272 Pages.

Thank you to Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton

Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton was published by Unbound and was published on 6th September 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

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A Perfect Mother – Katri Skala

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A Perfect Mother – Katri Skala

I am delighted to be kicking off the Blog Tour for A Perfect Mother an impressive debut novel by Katri Skala (Hikari Press) that was released on 1st September.

The story follows Jacob Bedford who has arrived in Trieste in Northern Italy, Jacob who is a journalist is researching for a magazine article about the city. But there is more to Jacob’s visit to Trieste. While he is in the city, he is going to some personal research about his great-grandfather.

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Jacob’s Jewish great-grandfather went missing here in 1938. Many of his family were victims of the Nazis but there is nothing to say that his great-grandfather was also killed in the Holocaust many of the Jewish Population perished in Italy’s only death camp. It is highly likely than many of Jacob’s ancestors were murdered here.

It is here that Jacob meets Jane who is visiting the city as part of her book group and through Jane Jacob is introduced to Charlotte. Jacob who is facing a divorce is hoping the visit will also bring some romance to his life despite his past affairs.

What Jacob, Charlotte and Jane have to confront is there past and much deeper family histories that interconnect in their own lives. Charlotte is much scarred of an abusive childhood and then losing her own child.

When Jacob arrives home he decides to keep in touch with Charlotte and Jane, and this is where Charlotte now reveals more of her painful past. But Jacob is attracted to her and is seeking something more.

A Perfect Mother is a novel that delves into the past and how that can influence who we are. The past cannot be escaped it is there no matter how painful. A deeply complex novel of families and relationships past and present. Katri Skala is not afraid of bringing challenging subjects into what is at times a dark storyline. A Perfect Mother is superb first novel and one I highly recommend.

220 Pages.

Thank you to Ruth Killick for the review copy of A Perfect Mother by Katri Skala

A Perfect Mother by Katri Skala was published by and was published on 1st September 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

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The Story Keeper – Anna Mazzola

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The Story Keeper – Anna Mazzola

I was a massive fan of Anna Mazzola’s debut novel The Unseeing and now Anna returns with her second novel The Story Keeper (Tinder Press) Can it live up to her first novel? It my view it really does.

Set on The Isle of Sky in 1857 this is a story of missing girls and folklore. This is a time of huge change for the people of Sky at a time of poverty since the Highland Clearances and the locals are not keen on outsiders coming in and are viewed with suspicion.

 

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Arriving on the on Sky from London is the mysterious Audrey Hart who is collecting stories of the people of the community. It is not long before their suspicions of Audrey are heightened when she discovers the body of a girl on the beach. When more bodies are discovered the locals turn to long held myths to account for the girl’s deaths.

Audrey grew up with myths and old folklore stories of Scotland as this was where her mother came from, but her mother died in circumstances that were never fully explained and this is why Audrey now feels more at home on Sky than in the oppressive home of her father and step mother.

Now girls are disappearing and Audrey is certain that they are being abducted. Trying to separate fact from the old stories from the Crofters. They believe that the deaths can be explained as victims of the unforgiven dead. Audrey has other ideas. Could it be that the answer to Audrey’s own questions about her mother’s death be linked?

The Story Keeper is a great multi-layered gothic tale and the characters are superbly drawn with Audrey leading the way, though from a troubled young life she is determined to get more out of life than what her father wishes for her.

The story starts slowly and gathers momentum against the backdrop of the Isle of Sky which in its self plays an integral part of the storyline.

The story is chilling yet beautifully told. This actually is a perfect autumn read as the dark nights draw in. Pour yourself a large glass and settle down With The Story Keeper.

352 Pages.

Thank you to Jenni Leech (Headline) for the review copy of The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola.

The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola was published by Tinder Press and was published on 26th July 2018 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Bellevue Square – Michael Redhill

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Bellevue Square – Michael Redhill

This has to be one of the most hypnotic reads, haunting and at times I was not quite sure where I was with this from one page to another. Michael Redhill really set about writing one of the most compelling reads of the year in Bellevue Square. Just imagine for one minute you are minding your own business running your bookshop and in walks a customer you know is a regular and then he tells you something that will literally make your heart jump. Now prepare for one hell of a ride.

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This is a story about Jean, she loves running her bookshop in Toronto, Canada, it is her bookshop, then again is it? She has a regular customer who comes in and they play a game where she tries to guess his first name. So far she has failed to correctly guess his name. Then one-day same customer comes in and announces that Jean has a double, a life ‘doppelganger’ Jean thinks he is simply confused, but then he goes completely out of character. Scary stuff. Now the story really kicks off as Jean goes looking for her double. Who is she and does she really exist.

This is just the opening gambit of a story that is just compelling stuff, not a simple read is Bellevue Square, it will twist your mind and play with it. At one point I was going to throw the book across the room. I never ever think that. This is one rollercoaster of a ride, a book that just goes off in its own way. I am not sure how Michael Redhill came up with this novel but boy did it play with my own mind.

So what happens to Jean and her regular customer, no that would be too easy and I am not going to give this away. Just prepare for one hell of a ride that has just about everything. There are a who series of genres going on here. This was unsettling and bewildering yet this is how it is meant to be. By the time I had finished I was dizzy. But what a read. Once you are sucked in you won’t leave this one alone. Not easily forgotten. I want more.

288 Pages.

Thank you to Katherine Sutherland (No Exit Press) and Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) for the review copy of Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill.

Bellevue Square was published by and was published on 15th August 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap

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The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap

There was something about The Rules of Seeing the debut novel by Joe Heap that just attracted me even before a copy had arrived and I am so pleased a copy did arrive. One of the best debut novels I have read this year. Just sometimes a book will come along and give you a jolt and this is that book.

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They say never judge a book by its cover and this is one, I thought I was going to have a good idea of how this was going to play out. I was wrong. In the end I loved it more.

Nova is blind, in fact she has been blind since birth. But that has not stopped Nova from fulfilling her life. She accepted being blind and got on with life. Then there is Kate, but she is suffering in a very different way at the hands of her abusive husband Tony. One day both Nova and Kate unintentionally meet at the hospital. Nova has surgery that is giving her something that she thought she would never have. Sight. Kate is at the hospital but in complete denial. She is hurt but of course it was nothing to do with Tony.

Two people’s lives are now connected as Nova is an interpreter for the Police and of course she knows Kate’s husband. The first part of the book is told by both Nova and Kate as the story starts to build from halfway. This is an incredible story of two women whose lives have suffered in one way or another.

The Rules of Seeing is a story so full of emotion. The characters of Nova and Kate are strong and yet Tony who is the ultimate of two faced character representing the law and the thug at home. The horrific abuse Kate has to suffer is shocking.

I loved this book for many reasons it is thought provoking. I have not come across a story of one person who is blind and then able to see after pioneering surgery. It made me think. One woman blind from birth but another woman blind to the horrors she faced daily at home.

I remember that tingling feeling when I have read an extremely great debut novel. I had that very same tingling feeling after I finished reading The Rules of Seeing. Congratulations Joe Heap.

416 Pages.

Thank you to Felicity Denham at Harper Collins for the review copy of The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap.

The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap is published by Harper Collins and published today 9th August 2018 and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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