Friday, 10 July 2020

Review: Dangerous Tides At Brightwater Bay by Holly Hepburn

PART THREE in the brand new series from Holly Hepburn, if you haven't read parts 1 and 2, there may be spoilers ahead....

On paper, Merina Wilde has it all: a successful career writing the kind of romantic novels that make even the hardest hearts swoon, a perfect carousel of book launches and parties to keep her social life buzzing, and a childhood sweetheart who thinks she’s a goddess. But Merry has a secret: the magic has stopped flowing from her fingers. Try as she might, she can’t summon up the sparkle that makes her stories shine. And as her deadline whooshes by, her personal life falls apart too. Alex tells her he wants something other than the future she’d always imagined for them and Merry finds herself single for the first time since – well, ever.

Desperate to get her life back on track, Merry leaves London and escapes to the windswept Orkney Islands, locking herself away in a secluded clifftop cottage to try to heal her heart and rediscover her passion for writing. But can the beauty of the islands and the kindness of strangers help Merry to fool herself into believing in love again, if only long enough to finish her book? Or is it time for her to give up the career she’s always adored and find something new to set her soul alight?

Review: This third novella was everything that I needed and more. I have loved parts 1 and 2 but this part was truly the escape to Orkney that I was craving. I honestly think that because of this writer's description of Kirkwall, I could lead a guided tour around the area, I have loved visiting these remote islands so much!

I also loved getting to spend more time with Merry, she is a fab character and I love her ability to be alone with her thoughts as well as her ability to take it upon herself to return a naughty goat back to his owners. Because Gordon is probably one of my favourite side characters of all time, every time we have a serious moment in this series I am just waiting for Gordon to come along and break the tension somehow because he provides the comic relief we have all be looking for. 

I feel like the romance is really hyped up in this installment too. I love the slow burn of what is going to happen with this kind of love triangle. My friend is on one team and I am on the other so you know one of us is going to be disappointed come the release of part 4. We also have the friendship and the community love turned up a level in this part. I love love love that Merry has such a great friend in Jess even though they live quite far apart. Their friendship is like the one I have with my bestie who live 5000 miles away and so the fact that this is so real makes me really happy. 

I loved getting to explore more of the community. I love that Merry is not quite fit enough to run a half marathon but does so any way and I love the introduction of puffins into this series. A hit for me and if you haven't already done so get on and read parts 1 and 2 and then sink your teeth into this beauty!

To order part 1 click here.

To order part 2 click here.

To order part 3 click here

To pre-order part 4 click here

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Book Review: The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish | This Thriller Kept Me Up All Night?!


Blog Tour: Extract From The Danger Life by Ken Lussey @KenLussey @fledglingpress @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Danger Life  by Ken Lussey. I have an extract to share with you today and if you like the sound of that, you can click here to order your copy now. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content and reviews.

Here's what it's all about...

The Danger Life  by Ken Lussey
It is late 1942. Group Captain Robert Sutherland’s first week in charge of Military Intelligence 11’s operations in Scotland and northern England is not going smoothly. A murder at the Commando Basic Training Centre in the Highlands is being investigated by one of his teams, until events take an even darker turn that draws Bob in personally. He is also trying to discover who was behind an attempt to steal an advanced reconnaissance aircraft from a military airfield in Fife, an investigation made no easier by the perpetrator’s death.
The complication he could really live without comes via a telephone call from Monique Dubois in MI5. An operation she’s been running in Glasgow, without Bob or anyone else knowing, has gone badly wrong, and she wants him to intervene before it is entirely compromised.
The Danger of Life is a fast-paced thriller set in Scotland during the Second World War. It is Ken’s second novel to feature Bob Sutherland and Monique Dubois and picks up not long after the end of his first, Eyes Turned Skywards. The action moves back and forth across Scotland, with much of it set in Lochaber, where the present war intersects with another conflict that took place two centuries earlier: with deadly consequences.

Here's that extract for you...

‘Just as courage is the danger of life, so is fear its safeguard.’
Leonardo da Vinci

Stan had expected it to be easy. There had been no problems during practice on the ground in Norway. First, you pulled the lever to open the hatch, then you dropped headfirst into the blackness below while facing towards the rear of the Junkers Ju 88 bomber. That way you avoided being hit in the face by the blast of the slipstream. Then it was simply a nice tranquil ride beneath your parachute down to an arrival in Scotland.

Stan had spent the flight from Norway lying on his stomach with the weight of his parachute, his radio and his other supplies pressing down on his back. The aircraft’s gunner was positioned just above him, while equipment and aircraft systems hemmed him in on both sides. This was no place for anyone suffering from claustrophobia. Stan was thankful that was not something that caused him a problem. Especially not right now, when there were more important things to worry about.

The main concern was the news over the radio that the diversionary air raid on Aberdeen, just to the south of them, had failed to find its target in the heavy cloud that had materialised in place of the forecast clear skies. The aircraft assigned to the raid were still looking for the city but were unlikely to continue doing so for much longer. If they turned back it would leave a single bomber flying steadily south west at 3,000m and looking very obvious to the British radar operators. The thought made Stan feel extremely vulnerable.

It was no real surprise when the intercom suddenly came alive with shouted warnings of a night fighter. A member of the crew had reported he’d seen a silhouette of an aircraft hunting them through a hole in the cloud. The pilot took violent evasive action and Stan found it was all he could do to avoid vomiting up the brandy he’d consumed before takeoff.

A little later they emerged from cloud for long enough to catch a glimpse of the coast, which confirmed they were over Scotland. But it was obvious to Stan that no-one on board the aircraft was certain which bit of coast they had crossed, or where they were in relation to his intended landing point. It was equally obvious that the crew was much more interested in evading the real or imaginary night fighter than they were in precision navigation. Stan had some sympathy for them.

‘Time for me to go, I think, oberleutenant,’ said Stan over the intercom to the pilot.
The gunner tapped him hard on the shoulder and gesticulated frantically. ‘No, wait, we need to connect the static line first!’

Stan realised that he’d been on the point of dropping through the hatch without the line that automatically opened his parachute being attached. As the instructor had said, gleefully, on the parachute course, ‘It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop at the bottom.’
Once the static line had been properly attached, Stan took a deep breath, and before he had time for second thoughts he operated the hatch release lever, as he’d been shown in Norway. A bad night suddenly got much worse. Somehow, he tumbled rather than dropped, and found himself wedged in the hatch in the floor of the aircraft, upside down.

Then Stan felt a Luftwaffe flying boot pressing down very firmly on his rear end, and suddenly he was falling free. The parachute opened while he was in cloud. Once clear of the cloud, he could still see nothing in the darkness below him. He was beginning to consider the frightening possibility that they had been wrong about the coast and he had been dropped over the North Sea by mistake when he caught a glimpse of what might have been a tree off to his right. He had barely braced when he landed heavily in a field, winding himself in the process.

So far, so good, he thought, after recovering his breath and gathering his parachute. Now he just needed to find a telephone, and a strong drink, though not necessarily in that order.

About The Author

Ken Lussey spent his first 17 years following his family - his father was a Royal Air Force navigator - around the world, a process that involved seven schools and a dozen different postal addresses. He went to Hull University in 1975, spending his time there meeting his wife Maureen, hitch-hiking around Great Britain, and doing just enough actual work to gain a reasonable degree in that most useful of subjects, philosophy. The next step seemed obvious. He researched and wrote A Hitch-Hiker's Guide to Great Britain, which was published by Penguin Books in 1983. An inexplicable regression into conformity saw him become a civil servant for the next couple of decades, during which time he fulfilled the long-held ambition of moving to Scotland. In more recent times he has helped Maureen establish the website Undiscovered Scotland as the ultimate online guide to Scotland. Eyes Turned Skywards is his first novel.

Blog Tour: Interview With Fire on the Island Author Timothy Jay Smith @TimothyJaySmith @lovebooksgroup

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Fire on the Island by Timothy Jay Smith. I have an interview with the author today and if you like the sound of that, you can click here to order your copy now. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content and reviews.

Here's what it's all about...

FIRE ON THE ISLAND is a playful, romantic thriller set in contemporary Greece, with a gay Greek-American FBI agent, who is undercover on the island to investigate a series of mysterious fires. Set against the very real refugee crisis on the beautiful, sun-drenched Greek islands, this novel paints a loving portrait of a community in crisis. As the island residents grapple with declining tourism, poverty, refugees, family feuds, and a perilously damaged church, an arsonist invades their midst.

Nick Damigos, the FBI agent, arrives on the island just in time to witness the latest fire and save a beloved truffle-sniffing dog. Hailed as a hero and embraced by the community, Nick finds himself drawn to Takis, a young bartender who becomes his primary suspect, which is a problem because they’re having an affair. Theirs is not the only complicated romance in the community and Takis isn’t the only suspicious character on the island. The priest is an art forger, a young Albanian waiter harbors a secret, the captain of the coast guard station seems to have his own agenda, and the village itself hides a violent history. Nick has to unravel the truth in time to prevent catastrophe, as he comes to terms with his own past trauma. In saving the village, he will go a long way toward saving himself.

A long time devotee of the Greek islands, Smith paints the setting with gorgeous color and empathy, ushering in a new romantic thriller with the charm of  Zorba the Greek while shedding bright light on the very real challenges of life in contemporary Greece.

Here's that interview for you...

First question-bit of a cliche-how did you get into writing?

It’s not a cliché at all. I think every writer arrives at the craft following a different path.

I’ve always enjoyed the writing aspect of any job or task I had to do. I selected college courses that would require a paper at the end, not an exam. My love of writing probably grew from my love of reading. As a child, I was an avid reader, so it’s not so surprising that I wrote my first play when I was about ten years old, and started a novel when I was twelve.

As I got older, of course I had to think about what I was going to do in terms of a real job. From an early age, I developed a strong sense of social and economic justice, including organizing civil rights events in high school, and eventually devoted myself to a career working on economic development projects to help lower income people, first in the US and then internationally.

I’ve always been goal-oriented, and in that career, ultimately my goal evolved into designing and managing an overseas project that had some real significance. That happened. I directed the U.S. Government’s first significant project to assist Palestinians after the start of the peace process. When that project ended, I was 46 years old and had accomplished what I had set out to achieve in that career. Anything else felt like it would be redundant.

I also had a story to tell. I had grown up a Zionist (though I’m not Jewish) and ended my career helping Palestinians. I knew, understood, and appreciated the many dimensions of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and felt compelled to write about it. That became my first novel, A Vision of Angels. It’s a story about reconciliation which this excerpt (a story told at seder dinner) makes abundantly clear:

Do you write full time & if so, have you always done this?

Yes, I do write full-time, if you include all the tasks that go into writing: research, editing, publicity and marketing. It’s more than a full-time job. But as I mentioned earlier, I worked as an advisor/ project designer/finance analyst on projects benefitting low income people all over the US and in thirty-three countries! (I’ve actually been to 112 countries, many of them several times.) I rely on these experiences to find the stories and characters I want to write about. My more or less official bio describes it this way:

“Raised crisscrossing America pulling a small green trailer behind the family car, Timothy Jay Smith developed a ceaseless wanderlust that has taken him around the world many times. En route, he’s found the characters that people his work. Polish cops and Greek fishermen, mercenaries and arms dealers, child prostitutes and wannabe terrorists, Indian Chiefs and Indian tailors: he’s hung with them all in an unparalleled international career that saw him smuggle banned plays from behind the Iron Curtain, maneuver through Occupied Territories, represent the U.S. at the highest levels of foreign governments, and stowaway aboard a ‘devil’s barge’ for a three-day crossing from Cape Verde that landed him in an African jail.”

Do you have a particular writing style or genre that you prefer to write?

I write what I like to read: books that combine suspenseful plots with interesting characters. But before I get even that far, I always ask myself: what do I want to write about in terms of illuminating issues that concern me? So I take an issue and decide how to best dramatize it—because ultimately, my storiers are about how a suspenseful situation affects the people touched by it. My newest release, Fire on the Island, is both an hommage to Greece (where I have spent cumulatively some seven years), as well as a story of how one Greek village is coping with concurrent fiscal and refugee crises—when an arsonist suddenly drops into their midst.

My style tends to be fast-paced, bright with dialogue, and not overburdened with too much self-analysis. Of my four published novels, three have been written from the POV of multiple characters whom the story brings together in a tightening circle or plot. The fourth, Cooper’s Promise, is written entirely from one character’s perspective, and you, the reader, only knows as much as he knows. In the first approach (an ‘open mystery’), the reader might know that there’s a boogie man in the next room before a character goes into it, but in the second approach (a ‘closed mystery’), you discover the boogie man at the same time as the main character. Both have their challenges and benefits, which is why I go between the two apporaches.

How much of you is reflected in your writing?

A lot, certainly when it comes to my protagonists. I can’t imagine any writer not agreeing that we constantly plumb ourselves, not always consciously, for almost every story and character we create. When I think about what a character might fear, or how s/he might torture someone, or what s/he might find annoying, of course it has to be organic to how that character has already been portrayed, but I also ask myself: what would I do? Or fear the most?

Cooper’s Promise is a good example of that. Cooper, a deserter from the war in Iraq who’s adrift in Africa, would like to go home but can’t because he knows he’ll be thrown in jail—and he’s highly claustrophobic. So am I.

But it’s more complex than that. I will probably botch retelling this scene in Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf, but it’s how I have always remembered it. Hesse’s main character enters the magic theater, and at some moment, a mirror shatters, and in each shard his character sees a different part of himself. Sometimes when I’ve written something about a character, I realize: that’s a shard from me. It’s an “Aha!” moment of self-recognition.

How do you develop your characters as you write? Are any of them based on real people?

All the major characters are inspired by people I know, and sometimes the minor characters, too. By inspire, I mean by a character trait, perhaps an attitude, or sometimes a particular voice. I don’t take them in totality. I take pieces of them—shards, like I described earlier—that I nurture and add to, until I have a fully developed character. As my story develops, that also influences how my characters develop.

What was the inspiration behind your book?

My first job after college was in Greece working for a national sociology research institute. Over the intervening forty-some years, I have returned to Greece many times, which has added up to my spending some seven years of my life in the country. For the last fifteen years, I have gone at least once a year to the island of Lesvos, which is where Fire on the Island is set. (Because of the pandemic, this is the first year I will likely not go to Lesvos.)

Several things coincided that gave me the idea for Fire on the Island. Over a period of several months, a real arsonist had set small brush fires on the northern part of the island. About that time, the refugee crisis escalated. I personally became involved in helping, but the real heros were the Greeks who, still reeling from a national fiscal crisis, pitched in with everything they had to help the refegees landing daily by the hundreds—and then the thousands—on their rocky shores. Fire on the Island is not a refugee story per se, but a story of how a Greek village manages to survive one catastrophe after another.

Except for a short essay about life on Santorini in 1972 [], I’ve never writen about Greece. Fire on the Island is my homage to Greece and the Greek people who have contributed so much to my life.

What is your writing process-do you plan it out first? Write a bit at a time?

First I decide “why” I want to write a particular story. In my first novel, A Vision of Angels, it was to portray the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in a balanced way. The protagonist is a photojournalist who wants to put a human face on the intractable Middle East conflict. In Cooper’s Promise, at its heart is a story about human trafficking. A deserter from the war in Iraq vows to save a 14-year-old girl trafficked into prostitution to redeem himself for a promise he couldn’t keep to his sister earlier in his life. Once I know that much about a story, I can visualize opening and closing scenes, and I’m ready to start writing.

As I make progress, and fill out my characters and story, I keep notes that become the basis of a very detailed outline. It helps me keep track of what I’ve written, where I’ll find crucial events in my story, and what I still need to write. It’s an outline that is constantly evolving.

What kind of research did you have to do before/during writing behind your book?

So far, all of my novels are in international settings that I know well. Not just visited but know well enough to authentically characterize it. Of course, there are always things that I still need to research: historical dates and events, meanings of characters’ names, and other simple things for which the internet is perfect.

There’s one story I especially like to tell. My last published novel, The Fourth Courier, which I drafted and set aside before 9/11, involves smuggling a portable atomic bomb out of the failed Soviet Union through Poland to an unknown destination. I decided I needed to know how to build an atomic bomb—weight, size, basic design, fuel—and the internet wasn’t robust enough yet to provide that information. So, I called the U.S. Department of Energy, explained my project, and some young scientist—eager to share his knowledge—agreed to meet with me on the weekend at a coffeeshop in Rockville, MD. Our conversation started in line waiting to place our orders, and continued at a table where he spread out sketches of different designs for an atomic device, told me how much enriched uranium would be required, described the requirements of a detonator, and so on. For the same novel, I also managed to organize a private tour of the FBI’s training site in Quantico, VA.

It’s really unfathomable that I was able to do that kind of research. I think it would be impossible in today’s security-conscious world.

How much attention do you pay to the reviews that you get?

I read them, but I don’t fret about them. Most have been good to great, and I share them. It’s nice when a reviewer comments on somewthing, and I can say, “S/he really got it!”

Are friends and family supportive of your writing?


How do you feel leading up to your publication day?

In three words: frazzled, overworked, and exhausted. Despite having an excellent publisher and publicist, there’s still so much work for an author to do before publication. The internet provides an endless source of promotional opportunities. I tend to interact with book bloggers, and most things gay since I’m more attuned to that world. I’m also asked to respond to pre-release interviews, write pithy essays, and participate in some gimmicky stuff which is fun but still takes time. I start all of that stuff five to six months prior to publication. My publicist does the heavy lifting with the important media about three months prior to publication, but her efforts also generate follow-up tasks for me. The hardest thing for me is to find time to pursue new writing.

Which other authors inspire you or are there any you particularly enjoy reading?

Something very surprising happened with The Fourth Courier, my novel published last year, which has a straight protagonist, but also a black gay CIA agent who becomes the real hero of the story. The gay community embraced it for having a gay action hero, not a gay stereotype. In fact, that novel is currently a finalist for Best Gay Mystery in the 2020 Lambda Literary Awards!

When my publisher asked for my help in identifying authors to write blurbs for the cover of Fire on the Island, in which the protagonist is gay, I checked out past finalists and winners of the Lammy Awards, and discovered a whole slew of really fine writers. I’ve not read them all (yet), but I am enormously impressed with Leading Men by Christopher Castellani, a fictionalized account of the longtime love affair between Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo.

I’ve always enjoyed the books of Graham Greene, John LeCarré and Ernest Hemingway. Since reviewers have compared me to all three, I think it’s fair to say they inspired me. I love anything by Nikos Kazantzakis (Zorba the Greek) and Robert Goolrick (A Reliable Wife), and anything non-science fiction by Doris Lessing. In the last few years, three books that completely knocked me off my feet were Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, The Illuminaries by Eleanor Catton, and Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

Finally...what are you working on right now?

I’m never at a loss for ideas for novels or essays. About 18 months ago, when I knew I was close to finishing Fire on the Island, I began to consider which book to write next. I’m 16th generation American, have always been proud of my heritage, have a great story in mind, but when I started to really think about it—to really sense it—I realized I am full of disappointment and anger about what has happened to my country. I didn’t want to be in that frame of mind for the next couple of years. So, I’ve shelved that book idea for the time being, as well as a dystopian novel set in Paris for the same reason: just too depressing. (Fire on the Island, by the way, is lighthearted enough to be the perfect balm for the difficult times we are living.)

I mentioned earlier that, for a couple of years, I was very active in helping refugees arriving in Greece, and I knew pretty much everything that happened to them from the minute they landed in their rafts until they reached their final destination somewhere in northern Europe. What I didn’t know was how they got to Istanbul and eventually onto a raft to make the crossing to Greece. I decided to find out, took two trips to Turkey, and am well into a novel about a young gay Syrian refugee struggling to survive in Istanbul. His main goal is to stay safe, but that becomes a challenge when, in the same 24 hours, he’s recruited by both the CIA and ISIS to be a spy.

Called The Syrian Pietà, it’s a very exciting piece of work on many levels. But that’s all I’m going to say about it.

About The Author

Tim has traveled the world collecting stories and characters for his novels and screenplays which have received high praise. Fire on the Island won the Gold Medal in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition for the Novel. He won the Paris Prize for Fiction for his first book, A Vision of Angels. Kirkus Reviews called Cooper's Promise "literary dynamite" and selected it as one of the Best Books of 2012. Tim was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize for his short fiction, "Stolen Memories." His recent novel, The Fourth Courier received tremendous reviews. His screenplays have won numerous international competitions. Tim is the founder of the Smith Prize for Political Theater. He lives in France.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Guest Review: Beating About the Bush by M. C. Beaton

She won’t let any moss grow under her feet…

When private detective Agatha Raisin comes across a severed leg in a roadside hedge, it looks like she is about to become involved in a particularly gruesome murder. Looks, however, can be deceiving, as Agatha discovers when she is employed to investigate a case of industrial espionage at a factory where nothing is quite what it seems.

The factory mystery soon turns to murder and a bad-tempered donkey turns Agatha into a national celebrity, before bringing her ridicule and shame. To add to her woes, Agatha finds herself grappling with growing feelings for her friend and occasional lover, Sir Charles Fraith. Then, as a possible solution to the factory murder unfolds, her own life is thrown into deadly peril. Will Agatha get her man at last? Or will the killer get her first?

Review: This is the 33rd, and latest, book in the Agatha Raisin series from M. C. Beaton. The series features the exploits of Agatha, a PR executive turned private detective, aided by her colleagues and acquaintances. Each book can be read without first reading any of the others. Most are set in the vicinity of Agatha’s home in a small Cotswolds village.

In this story, Agatha is hired to look into problems at a local factory producing batteries for electric cars. However, it soon becomes apparent that other shady dealings are going on at the factory when a member of staff is found dead under suspicious circumstances. Agatha’s investigations soon lead her into danger, with her salvation coming from a most unusual ally in the shape of a rather bad-tempered donkey. However, with a murderer still on the loose, is Agatha completely out of the woods?

I have read several books in this series, and, like those, have found this an entertaining and easy read. Agatha Raisin is an often amusing character, with an interesting circle of loyal friends who crop up once again in this book. This was an intriguing case; I had no idea where it was going to lead and it kept my interest to the end. I loved the introduction of the donkey who was so choosy with its affections. I can recommend this and other books in this series to readers who enjoy cosy crime. It is sad that the author died soon after this book was published; I shall miss her stories about Agatha and also the fictional Scottish police officer, Hamish Macbeth.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

June Reading Wrap Up: Super Critical Reviews of Books...Did I Actually LIKE Anything I Read?


Top Ten Books I've Read So far This Year

Ok so today is not an official Top Ten Tuesday BUT I wanted to bring you my list of the top 10 books I've read so far this year.

Of course I have cheated and added a couple of extra books but I've managed to create a couple of special categories for these so... Any books I have already posted a review for will have that linked and key and eye out for reviews of other books I haven't already posted about yet. 

(This one comes out on July 23rd so technically it is released in the second half of the year BUT I read it in the first half of the year...)

Favourite Book to Movie