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Book reviews ... Author interviews ... and anything else I think might be of interest to writers and readers.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

The Witchfinder’s Sister

I was very intrigued to receive a review copy of this book, especially as the PR people had included a couple of little extras in the package – a chilling letter and a nosegay of dried flowers to help ward off evil. Happily, I was equally intrigued when I began to read it.

The Witchfinder’s Sister is based on the true story of Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, and told from the point of view of his half sister Alice. Alice travels back to her brother’s house in Manningtree following the death of her husband Joseph. But what she doesn’t know is that while she’s been away Matthew has been concerning himself with the tracking down and bringing to justice of supposed witches.

Having studied the witch trials as part of my degree many years ago, I found Beth Underdown’s telling of the story very authentic. Without letting the research hang heavily on the story, she has captured really vividly the way that witch crazes worked: the suspicion; the settling of old scores; the accusing of others to save yourself. This all rang very true.

The fictional Alice was an inspired choice as narrator of the story. Against her will she gets sucked in to Matthew’s activities and it is painful to read as she grapples with her conscience and innate desire to be good, whilst having no choice but to obey the brother whose protection she sought after becoming a widow.

Because the story is based on fact, some of the outcomes are already known, but the story is structured in such a way that it keeps the reader guessing. There are twists and turns in the journey towards Alice and Matthew’s final fates, and an unveiling of back story, that both keep the reader in suspense. There’s also a real heart stopper of a surprise moment at the end.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the time, and in the unfolding of the witch hunts. It also has a lot of insights that apply to modern times. The notions of othering and blame, and picking on the vulnerable, are still present today and reading this book provides a chilling insight into where that can lead. Beyond all that, it’s also a cracking story.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.

And you can find more stops on the blog tour here.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Guest Post From Mandy Brittany

 The Cold and Phototime by Mandy Brittany

Today, I have a very special guest on my blog. Mandy Brittany is here to tell us about how she is very generously blogging two novels in order to raise money for charity. Read on to find out how you can help ...

My novels, The Cold and Phototime are up and ready to read on my blogs, with the hope of raising money for Cancer Research.

The reason behind my madness, brainwave, loss of plot, brilliant idea...call it what you will...is my sister has been battling terminal cancer for three years, and I often feel at a loss. So I thought I would try to do something to raise funds for her and everyone else who has suffered or is suffering at the hands of the rotten disease that touches so many. 

You can read both novels for free, of course, but if you read and enjoy and would like to donate a small amount of £2 to my Just Giving page, that would be fantastic. Thank you. I’ve already raised £277, which is amazing.

The Cold is a twisty suspense novel:

Isla Johnson survived an attack by serial killer Carl Jeffery six years ago, which left her psychologically damaged at the time.

Now, after being happy with Jack for three years, things have taken a turn.  An odd university reunion arranged by her first boyfriend; sightings of someone dressed like Carl Jeffery; and who is the mysterious Andy?   Is Isla in danger, or is she losing her mind?

Phototime is a magical, comical journey into manhood:

At the age of 23, Isaac’s dad has died, his mum has disappeared in Australia and he's fallen in love.

He meets Cillian, a man in his fifties, who is on a quest of his own to find his long lost brother.

Cillian teaches Isaac about Phototime – a way of visiting the five minutes after a photograph was taken – and the unlikely pair set out on a comical, magical adventure that takes Isaac on a journey into manhood.


You can read The Cold here.

You can read Phototime here.

And you can donate to Mandy's Just Giving page here.

Please support Mandy and this great cause if you can. 

Friday, 3 February 2017

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

The Fifth Letter

Four friends. Five Letters. One Secret.
A scandalous breakthrough novel from Nicola Moriarty that will leave you asking, how well do I really know my friends?

I requested a review copy of this book because I thought the premise sounded so interesting.

Joni, Trina, Deb and Eden have been friends since school, where Joni had decided they should all be friends because they shared surnames beginning with the same letter. Now they are adults and they all have very different lives, but Joni is desperate for them to stay friends so she organizes a holiday for them to reconnect.

Things start to get out of control when they all decide to write a letter in which they will reveal a secret. The letters will be anonymous so that no one will know who has written each one. But one of the friends writes a second letter – a letter revealing something even darker than the other four. The writer tries to destroy it, but Joni finds it and is left wondering which of her friends could be harbouring such a disturbing secret.

There is plenty of intrigue as the reader tries to guess who wrote each letter, and then who could possibly have written the fifth letter. I also liked that it showed the positive sides of female friendship but didn’t shy away from the negatives – the jealousy, the competitiveness, the resentment when it appears that life has treated some more kindly than others.

This is a well paced novel and although it skips about a bit, taking in different time periods and points of view it doesn’t leave the reader feeling confused or lost.

A recommended story of friendship, secrets and what can happen when relationships go really, really wrong.

I received a review copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley.

You can find out more here.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Scared To Death by Rachel Amphlett

Scared To Death

The murderer in this story isn’t content with just killing their victims, they want to actually scare them to death. And, what’s more, they want to watch.

This is the twisted and horrifying situation that Detective Kay Hunter is faced with at the beginning of Scared To Death and it makes her absolutely determined to find the perpetrator, despite some deliberate attempts to mislead her along the way.

The plot sucks you in right from the very first pages as a couple desperately search for their kidnapped daughter, the beginning of a series of events that will end in tragedy.

This story is packed with plenty of action, tension and surprises. We also get to know a lot about Kay, from her private emotional scars to a recent bruising of her professional reputation. This makes her an appealing and well-rounded character, strong enough to carry the series following on from this first book well. During the course of this book we got to know her well enough to empathise with her, but with some questions left unanswered that will make readers want to go ahead and read further books.

The characters are all well drawn, even the minor ones, and this makes for a realistic read and a satisfying conclusion. There is also a well realised sense of place in the book and the settings play a big part in the way the story unfolds.

Overall I found this a great page turning read, intellectually satisfying and intriguing. The clues and the way the team work together on the investigation are brought to life in a very believable way and the plot was well structured and fast moving.

I look forward to reading further books in the series.

Thanks very much to the author for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.

You can find other stops on the blog tour here. And follow the #scaredtodeath hashtag on Twitter.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood

My Sister’s Bones

When Kate Rafter returns from reporting in a war zone to her old family home in the UK, she starts to experience a series of disturbing and bewildering events. We learn that she has a troubled family background and is estranged from her sister, Sally, and as the book progresses the past is unravelled to show us why.

But meanwhile she is challenged by events and images she thinks she has seen and heard, but can’t be sure about. Most pressingly, what is going on in the garden of the house next door to her mother’s house and can she help before it’s too late?

I found this novel a very gripping and emotional read. The author has family links to the world of war reporting and her sensitive handling of this aspect of the story really reflects this. Some parts of the story are heartbreaking.

The phrase ‘jaw-dropping twist that you won’t see coming’ is somewhat overused with reference to psychological thrillers these days, but in the case of this book it is actually true. And there isn’t just one twist, there are several. You’ll hardly have recovered from one before being hit with the next.

All in all, a very accomplished novel and a great, if sometimes disturbingly dark, read.

Thanks very much to the publishers for a review copy of this book.

You can find out more here.