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Death in the Stars by Frances Brody – a review BLOG TOUR

As anyone who knows me knows, I’m not normally a fan of historical fiction. Despite a degree in history, on the whole I prefer my crime to be a more modern gruesome experience. However I do like my crime to have smart powerful women and a good mystery, and the Kate Shackleton series most definitely has those.
I was lucky enough to read a previous novel by Frances and despite my initial reservations I absolutely loved it. Therefore I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour for Frances’ latest novel Death in the Stars.

Death in the Stars is set in 1927 and starts during the total eclipse. The enigmatic Italian singer Selina wants to view the eclipse from the Giggleswick School. According to the Astronomy Society this is going to be the best vantage point. She asks Mrs Shackleton to accompany her and her friend Billy on their flight to the school. During this visit Billy is found dead, which increases Selina’s fears that people close to her are dying in suspicious circumstance. Kate Shackleton runs an investigation agency so is clearly intrigued and starts to look into what is happening.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. This is the 9th novel in the series. I haven’t yet read all of them although am looking forward to going back to the start. However, each of her novels work just as well as a standalone one. I really enjoy all the background in the stories. The descriptions of places ranging from windswept Yorkshire Dales, to inner city Leeds variety houses really bring the stories to life. I think the character of Kate Shackleton is intriguing; although some of her back story has been revealed in the books I’ve read so far it is her that makes me want to start the series from the beginning to find out more about her life. She comes across as a Miss Marple type with added glamour and confidence.

Death in the Stars is an absolutely charming book, and its setting in the 1920’s is the perfect backdrop to this cast of characters. I would recommend to anyone who likes a bit of glamour and gentleness with their murders. This series has definitely changed my mind about historical fiction.

Death in the Stars by Frances Brody was out on the 5th October.

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Broken Branches – Q and A with M Jonathan Lee BLOG TOUR

I was lucky enough to be contacted recently by Hideaway Fall, a new publisher based in Yorkshire. They  asked me to join the blog tour for an interesting novel, Broken Branches by M Jonathan Lee. Broken Branches is about Ian and his wife and son who move into the family home after the death of his brother. When things start to go wrong, Ian sets out to prove that the cottage is cursed. This is a story of grief and a families reaction to tragedy that I really enjoyed. It is an intriguing read and I’m delighted to be able to welcome the author M Jonathon Lee to my blog.

Thanks for joining me Jonathon. Firstly can I ask, what was the inspiration behind Broken Branches?

A very good question. My grandfather passed away the year before last at age ninety-seven. As a family we began looking through some old documents and I realised that in each generation a child had predeceased their parents. This got me thinking about a potential ‘curse’. Further to this we found an old photograph, about a hundred years old, which simply said “George, the Dog Hanger” on the back. This became part of Broken Branches. It’s funny where inspiration suddenly appears from.

Do you have a ‘day job’? Or do you write full time?

I write full, part, time! After my third novel (A Tiny Feeling of Fear) I gave up my well paid job in this city to focus on writing. I do still spend a day or two a week working on tax and accountancy, but have far more time to write nowadays.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

I tend to get up around 7 and begin writing as soon as I’m up. Definitely in my PJs. I tend to write until 11ish and then break for a couple of hours. Maybe read or watch a film, or catch up on emails and social media. I then begin again and maybe do another three hours in the afternoon. I’m unhappy if I don’t get to 3,000 words a day.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

I get a lot of pleasure from the simple things such as gardening or taking the dog out. I also really enjoy watching films. I’m fairly easily pleased to be honest. If I can have the perfect evening give me loud music at a gig any day

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

Yes. I tend to develop an obsession with a writer and then read everything I can get my hands on. I go through long phases of reading true crime or biography and then back to novels. Joseph Connolly never fails to excite me. I’ve just finished a marathon of everything Vincent Bugliosi ever wrote which included buying old out of print copies online.

Finally, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on next?

I’ve just about finished my fifth novel, How Was I Supposed to Know How It Would Be? This book focuses on a man who would do anything to swap his life for the relative peace and ease of his neighbour opposite. But, how much does he actually know about what happens across the road. And when he finds out does he really want to swap?

That sounds fascinating, no one really knows what happens behind closed doors!

Thanks very much for joining me Jonathon, and I would highly recommend reading Broken Branches.

Broken Branches by M Jonathan Lee is out now (£8.99, Hideaway Fall)

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Marked for life – Q and A with Emelie Schepp BLOG TOUR

Today I’m delighted to welcome Emelie Schepp to acrimereadersblog. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Emelie’s great new novel Marked for Life. This is the first in a trilogy set in Sweden featuring public prosecuter Jana Berzelius.

Thanks for joining me Emelie, I thought Marked for life was a great novel dealing with some very harrowing events. What was the inspiration behind Marked for Life?

Thinking of a good story it is not always about how a victim was murdered, it is the characters and the interaction between characters that readers remember. And in my debut novel MARKED FOR LIFE I wanted to write about a woman that was odd. But I did not know how odd she was about to be until I read an article about child soldiers. In 2012 there was a huge debate about child soldiers after the viral movie “Kony 2012”.  The movie was about Joseph R. Kony who is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) a guerilla group that formerly operated in Uganda. He has been accused by government entities of ordering the abduction of children to become child soldiers. Over 66 000 children became soldiers. As I read the article I remember starting to question myself: “What happens when a child is forced to be a solider? And what if that solider wants to be a child again? Is it even possible?” I also started to think about what would happen if there were child soldiers in Sweden. If I wanted to use the child soldiers in my novel, where in Sweden would I find these children? I know it sounds very strange, but I had to find children that no one would miss, nor search for. Abducting a child in a playground leads to a media storm and I  did not needed the abduction to take place in secret, without anyone knowing.  

One evening as I watched the news I saw a truck with a container that had overturned on a highway. And when the police arrived at the scene they found several refugees in the container. They had not been registered at the border. They were illegal. No one knew they were in Sweden. So, I went down to the port of Norrköping and looked around. When I saw all the thousand containers I realized that anything could be hiding in them, including children, that’s how I come up with the story about Jana Berzelius. 

Do you have a ‘day job’? Or do you write full time?

I have now sold almost one million copies of my books in 29 countries around the world, so I am lucky to be a writer full time today!
Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you? 

I usually get up at 06.15, making coffee before waking up my kids and getting them to school. Then I sit down in front of my computer and write. The time between 8 am and 12 am is my writing time. I usually never answer my phone or any e-mail, I just write. At 12 I have lunch with my husband and he usually walks me through my author schedule – travels, signing-tours, book-fairs, and such. I am very blessed to have my husband working full time with me. We are partners in crime, business, and love. 

After lunch, I read the text through, and do some editing. Around 3 pm, me and my husband go for a walk or run, discussing the plot, a character, or a scene. 

At 4 pm, our kids come home from school and then we help them with homework or drive them to their soccer, or tennis practice. 

After dinner, or when our kids have fallen asleep, me and my husband work for a couple more hours. Then we always end the day watching a tv-series or a movie. 

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

For me, the idea of an “extra” day is simply too good to let pass by. I have tried so many times but I am really bad at doing nothing. If it was a sunny, warm afternoon, I would definitely spend the afternoon with my husband and kids, preferably we would have a picnic on the beach. 

A picnic on the beach sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon to me! Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

Yes, I am an avid reader. My favourite authors and recommended reads are Jo Nesbø’s Phantom, Lars Kepler´s The Sandman and Roger Hobbs’ Ghostman. 

I’m a big fan of Jo Nesbo too, I haven’t read any Roger Hobbs though so will look out for him. Finally, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on next?

Right now, I am reading, editing and polishing the fourth book in the series about Jana Berzelius and it is called Daddy’s Boy. The book will be available in Sweden August 21, 2017. Hopefully it will be available in UK in a couple of years. I am really looking forward to having Marked for Revenge and Slowly We Die available in UK and I do hope that readers will enjoy the first in the series: MARKED FOR LIFE.

Thanks very much for joining me Emelie, I’m very much looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Emelie Schepp’s Marked for Life is out 6th July (HQ, £7.99)

Find out more at her website http://www.emelieschepp.com

Instagram @emelieschepp

Twitter @emelieschepp

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The Silence – Q and A with Katharine Johnson BLOG TOUR

Today I am delighted to welcome Katharine Johnson to acrimereadersblog. Katharine is the author of The Silence, a great novel about secrets and lies.

Thanks for joining me Katharine. I thoroughly enjoyed The Silence and thought it was a great story. Did your writing skills come natural or did you have to attend courses to help you develop that creative side?

I’ve always liked writing and I’ve been a non-fiction writer for years but when I decided to look more seriously into writing fiction a few years ago I did a writing course with the Writers Bureau. I also read lots of advice pieces about creative writing because the rules change all the time. Things that were acceptable or even encouraged a few years ago are frowned on today,  like using exclamation marks and adverbs.

What books/authors inspired your writing journey?

So many! Whenever I read a good book it makes me want to write one.

I know that feeling! How does it feel to know that your books inspire others? Whether readers with a response to the content or other aspiring authors?

I’m not sure that’s happened yet but being able to connect with people in this way is a lovely thought.

Do you have any writing rituals? What are they?

Not really – I just write when the I get the chance.

If you could have written any literary character, who would it be and why?

Great question! I suppose Rebecca – such a vivid character and we never even see her.

Great answer! Thanks very much for joining me today Katharine. If you want to find our more about Katharine’s novel the Silence make sure you look out for other posts on this tour. Tomorrow visit:

https://keeperofpages.wordpress.com/

https://cluesandreviews.wordpress.com/

http://www.mistimoobookreview.co.uk/

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Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson – a review BLOG TOUR

I was delighted to be asked to be part of the blog tour for Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson.

BLOCK 46 COVER AW.inddBlock 46 is a novel that travels not only between cities but also time. In modern day London we meet true crime writer Alexis Castells. When her friend jewelry designer Linnea doesn’t show up for the launch of her new collection, at first it is thought she has just missed her flight back. However is not long before her body is discovered mutilated in Sweden, and links are soon made with a similar murder of a young boy in London. Alexis teams up with profiler Emily Roy to try and catch the perpetrator. Alongside this we are introduced to Erich Ebner in 1944. He has been transported to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and is trying to survive the horrors of the Holocaust as best he can.

I thought this was an incredible debut novel that was absolutely gripping yet disturbing at the same time. Block 46 has been translated from French and is written with very short chapters. This is a style I personally like, and it suited the story.. Some of the scenes within the Camp were so disturbing that actually longer chapters would have been hard to deal with. Initially I did find that the story seemed a bit slow, although I suspect this was due to the chapters set in Buchenwald being so completely intense that they made the modern tale a little flat. This didn’t stay the case for long though and once I got into it the story was utterly compelling.

The characters were interesting, and I very much liked the rather standoffish and rude but brilliant Emily Roy. Alexis I found a bit more annoying, but still very readable and I felt the pair together made a good duo. This is a book full of twists that kept me reading, although I have to say that I did guess one person would be involved right from the start. However this is no way ruined the book, as how they were involved was a complete shock.

Block 46 did take me longer to read than is normal for me, yet I think this was because actually unusually for a speed reader like me, I was compelled to read every word. It is a very dark and disturbing book, so not for the fainthearted. Yet the story has a certain flare about it that makes you think, rather than just recoil. I would highly recommend this novel and think it is definitely one of the best I’ve read so far this year.

Thank you to the publishers Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my copy of the book.

 

 

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Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan – a review BLOG TOUR

watchI was lucky enough to be invited to join the blog tour for one of my favourite authors, Eva Dolan. Her latest novel is called Watch Her Disappear. When I read the first of Dolan’s series I was drawn to it because of the setting around the area where I grew up but that soon became a secondary motive for my interest. The series is superb and her latest novel is no exception.

Watch Her Disappear begins with the murder of Corrinne who was attacked whilst out jogging.  When DI Zigic and his colleague DS Ferreira from the Peterborough Hate Crimes division are called out they are unsure why. There have been a series of rapes in the area and they assume this is the latest one.  It soon becomes clear why they are involved.  Corrinne is transitioning from Colin and the murder could be linked to other attacks that have been taking place against the transgender community.

Watch Her Disappear is a fascinating novel, dealing as Dolan’s stories do with social issues, prejudice and hatred. The quality of writing is, as always, excellent and deals well with sensitive issues such as transphobia. Eva manages to write about it perceptively without sensationalising the issues, despite focusing as it does on murder.

The characters are well rounded, and just like in real life there are sides to all of them, some good and some bad. Personally I think that one of the things that makes these novels stand out are the two main characters. Zigic is the sensible family man who in Watch her Disappear is leading the team through an investigation whilst struggling with the demands of a new baby. Whereas Ferreira is the wild one sleeping with a senior officer and running off with her own line of investigation. They make a great team despite their differences and both draw on each other to move the investigation forward.

Lots of the locations such as Ferry Meadows where the crimes take place are familiar as places I went to as a child, which does add another element to the story.  I was delighted to get the chance to ask Eva what makes the area stand out for her:

‘Back in 2012, when I started the first book in the series, Long Way Home, Peterborough felt like the natural choice. It’s a city with a history of 20th century immigration, with a large influx of workers coming from southern and eastern Europe after WW2, to take up jobs in food processing and at the local brickyards. Later they were joined by people from India and Pakistan. Then the 90s saw the arrival of many Portuguese and Polish migrant workers, drawn to the agricultural jobs available on the fenland surrounding Peterborough. It’s the perfect melting pot, small enough for each wave of immigration to feel distinct but large enough to contain all manner of criminality. Peterborough has also become something of a magnet for media coverage of issues of immigration, social cohesion, and the recent rise of ultra right political parties, a subject I explored in the second book, Tell No Tales, so even readers who haven’t been there will recognise it as a place where these issues are in play.’

I also wanted to find out where in Peterborough Eva goes when she is researching.

‘I try to keep it all about the work while I’m on a research trip but Peterborough has a really great shopping centre that I can’t resist and I was happy to stumble across Clarkes, an amazing restaurant on Cathedral Square; it has a lovely intimate atmosphere and a small but frequently changing menu focusing on local, seasonal produce. It’s the kind of place Zigic would probably book for Anna’s birthday. But I think Ferreira would take issue with their slim selection of rum.’

Watch Her Disappear is an excellent novel that I would definitely recommend. It works well as a standalone, and you won’t lose anything by not having read her others. However if you haven’t read the rest of the series I would highly suggest you do.

If you want to find out more about the Zigic and Ferreira series, and Eva’s thoughts on Peterborough and the fens, then pop over to Cleopatralovesbooks on the 1st April where I will be taking part in her  feature Put A Book On The Map and talking all things Peterborough.

In the meantime to find out more about Eva Dolan and her series head over to some other stops on the blog tour:

http://www.foyles.co.uk/Public/Biblio/Detail.aspx?blogId=1578

http://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/introducing-zigic-and-ferreira/

http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/ones-to-watch-in-2017-watch-her-disappear-eva-dolan/

https://forwinternights.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/watch-her-disappear-by-eva-dolan/

You can also find out what novels Eva herself is looking forward to in 2017 at her column

http://wwwshotsmagcouk.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/eva-dolan-on-her-most-highly.html

Thanks to Eva for her time and to netgalley for my copy of the novel.

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Soho Honey by A.W.Rock – a review BLOG TOUR

I was sent a copy of this by the publishers Clink Street in exchange for an honest review.

The premise of this novel sounded interesting, and not like my usual choices which can often be a good thing. As the title suggests Soho Honey is set in Soho, London. The main character Branen had to leave the UK six years earlier due to his criminal past. He returns when his daughter is brutally murdered and Branen is asked to return to hunt down her killer. However he soon realises that unless he wants to spend the rest of his life running he will have to face up to his past.

I must admit to being slightly overwhelmed by the start of this novel. The book begins with a long list of names of characters such as Snowman, and Whitey and abbreviations of the varying secret agencies that are involved in the story. It looked like an awfully long list, however I skipped over that and carried on.

This is a very gritty novel that covers pretty much all the darkest elements of society including drugs, gangsters, and prostitutes, even a bit of bee keeping. It was quite an evocative novel with descriptions vividly conjuring up the seedy side of Soho that you imagine would make a great film.

Soho Honey was quite a slow story to begin with. You know from the blurb on the back that Branan’s daughter is going to get killed, but it takes a good third of the book for things to start to happen. Despite the ending I suspect that this is the start of a series, and therefore this book was very much about setting the scene for later novels.  Once the story gets going however the pace picks up.

The writing was good and it seemed to flow well. The book is split into different parts with very short chapters which I liked. Once you understand whose viewpoint each part comes from then it was easy to follow. None of the characters, including Brenan, were I thought particularly likeable but that’s not always a bad thing especially in a book like this.

Overall despite the slow start this was a good novel. There were some elements such as the writing style I really enjoyed although I suspect it was not really my kind of thing. I would imagine that for fans of 007 this would be a real treat.

 

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