Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Random Things Tours - The Silence

TITLE: The Silenve
AUTHOR: Susan Allott
PUBLISHER: The Borough Press
PUBLISHING DATE: August 6, 2020


Combining the emotional power and dual narrative style of 'Before We Were Yours' with the nuanced, layered, and atmospheric mystery of 'The Dry', a powerful debut novel revolving around a shocking disappearance, two neighbor families, and shameful secrets from the past that refuse to stay buried. 

It is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney, Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night: her father phoning from Sydney. Thirty years ago, in the suffocating heat of summer 1967, the Green's next-door neighbor Mandy disappeared. At the time, it was thought she fled a broken marriage and gone to start a new life; but now Mandy's family is trying to reconnect, and there is no trace of her. Isla's father Joe was allegedly the last person to see her alive, and now he's under suspicion of murder. 

Isla unwillingly plans to go back to Australia for the first time in a decade to support her father. The return to Sydney will plunge Isla deep into the past, to a quiet street by the sea where two couples live side by side. Isla's parents, Louisa and Joe, have recently emigrated from England - a move that has left Louisa miserably homesick while Joe embraces his new life. Next door, Steve and Mandy are equally troubled. Mandy doesn't want a baby, even though Steve - a cop trying to hold it together under the pressures of the job - is desperate to become a father. 

The more Isla asks about the past, the more she learns: about both young couples and the secrets each marriage bore. Could her father be capable of doing something terrible? How much does her mother know? What will happen to their family if Isla's worst fears are realized? And is there another secret in this community, one which goes deeper into Australia's colonial past, which has held them in a conspiracy of silence? 

Deftly exploring the deterioration of relationships and the devastating truths we keep from those we love, 'THE SILENCE' is a stunning debut from a promising literary star.  

Have I told you how much I love dual timelines in novels?  Sure I have.  And this is another great example of how well that format works for me.  This book is definitely one to look at if you are looking for some diverse reads as it is set in Australia and even addresses some nefarious dealings with Aborigine babies.

Allott manages to take the facade of a beautiful neighborhood where anyone would be proud to raise a family and then deconstructs it piece by piece to showcase that looks are only surface deep.  On top of that, she has appropriately titled her book The Silence as it delves into the damage that secrets and keeping quiet can do to families and neighbors. I don't want to share too much as I think the synopsis above tells you just enough, and maybe even a tad too much.  This is a book I loved going into blindly.

I love how the author is not afraid to delve into Australian history known as "Stolen Generations" and it was both a history lesson and an eye opener for me.  I think it is an apt time in history to showcase books like this and I'm glad I read it and can share it with you.  The Silence is Allott's debut novel and I can't wait to see what she shares with us next!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Allott is from the UK but spent part of her twenties in Australia, desperately homesick but trying to make Sydney her home. In 2016 she completed the Faber Academy course, during which she started writing this novel. She now lives in south London with her two children and her very Australian husband.

Orenda Blog Tour - Ash Mountain Paperback Release

TITLE: Ash Mountain
AUTHOR: Helen Fitzgerald
PUBLISHER: Orenda Books


Fran hates Ash Mountain, and she thought she’d escaped. But her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway. 

She returns to her hometown to nurse her dying father, her distant teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable heat of an Australian summer. 

As old friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants… 

Simultaneously a warm, darkly funny portrait of small-town life – and a woman and a land in crisis – and a shocking and truly distressing account of a catastrophic event that changes things forever, Ash Mountain is a heart-breaking slice of domestic noir, and a disturbing disaster thriller that you will never forget…  

MY THOUGHTS: I have to be honest and admit that it took me awhile to get into Ash Mountain.  And overall, it was a rather short book coming in at slightly over 200 pages.  But in the long run, the novel turned out to be a solid read and I felt as if I broadened my horizons some by reading a book that dealt with an Australian bushfire, a natural disaster I've not encountered before in my vast reading.

Fran has returned to her small hometown to take care of her father, despite not liking the area very much.  Her daughter is there on weekends and being in town has brought up some childhoods memories which help showcase the dysfunctional family.  Drama ensues during a devastating bushfire and soon the story becomes one of survival. 

At first Fran comes across a little harsh but after getting to "know" her, one can see her snarky and sarcastic personality shining through.  And those just happen to be characteristics I love.  The story was very engrossing and I could tell the author was writing about things she knows and has experienced in the past.  As the book progresses, it picks up pace and toward the end, I was both scared and optimistic about the conclusion.  If you are looking for a family centered thriller/suspense novel, look no further.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama for BBC1. Her 2019 dark comedy thriller Worst Case Scenario was a Book of the Year in both The Guardian and Daily Telegraph. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia, and now lives in Glasgow with her husband.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Random Things Tours - Mime by Chrissey Harrison

TITLE: Mime (Weird News #1)
AUTHOR: Chrissey Harrison
PUBLISHING DATE: July 10, 2020


There’s a supernatural killer on the loose... 

Elliot Cross didn’t believe in monsters. At least, not until his brother died at the hands of something unnatural. 

Four years later and a string of impossible deaths leave the police baffled. Consumed by a desire to shine a journalistic light on the supernatural world, Elliot sees a chance to make a difference. Enlisting the help of his (only) employee, Samantha, he quickly identifies the culprit – a demonic mime artist whose invisible creations are fatally real. 

Way out of his depth, Elliot’s only hope is renowned demon hunter Gabriel Cushing. But tracking down Gabriel is only the beginning… The search for a way to end the demon forever will take Elliot and Sam across the country, uncovering lost history, buried secrets, and a few new truths about themselves.  

MY THOUGHTS: I knew when I saw this cover that Mime was a book I had to read.  And this is a case where the cover and what lies between it are both great.  And it seems like it's the start of a new series so now I'll be looking forward to the next installment.

Elliot Cross and his employee Samantha publish a monthly paper called Weird News.  Because of things that have happened in their past, they have dedicated their lives to debunking or assisting with unnatural cases.  When the book opens, a string of deaths in Bristol have the police baffled and even though they appear to have no connection, Elliot and Sam soon discover otherwise.  Before they know it, not only are they trying to catch a demonic mime artist who uses quite unique ways to kill his prey, but they are also running for their lives.

This book has it all.  Action, excitement, demons, complex characters, and intriguing backstory and even a hint of romance.  I feel in love with the tale immediately and it didn't even seem like I was reading a book over 500 pages.  Harrison weaves in historical elements with a current time frame to keep the reader completely involved.  In addition, I have always found mimes a tad terrifying and this book definitely solidified that fear.  I can't wait to see what Harrison has in store for Weird News next!


Author of supernatural thrillers and other spec genre fiction.

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What can you expect from my books? Monsters, magic, action and adventure, and fragile human characters trying to muddle through as best they can. They make mistakes and bad choices sometimes, and they have to learn to recognise their own strengths and weaknesses and turn to their friends and loved ones for help and support.

My debut novel, "Mime", released June 2020. Working on this book has been an epic 10 year journey learning how to be a writer. Although Mime was my first project, it has routinely been on the back burner while I worked on other projects. You can discover the published ones in the books section of my website, and novelette "The Star Coin Prophecy" is available as a free download for subscribers.


I'm a science geek, gamer, fan of sci-fi and fantasy, and wearer of many hats. Metaphorical hats, that is, not so much real hats. At the moment I mostly wear my writer hat, my designer and my crafter hat. I also used to wear my film maker hat when producing movies with my amazing colleagues over at The Great Escape.

I live in Clevedon in a creaky old Victorian terrace with my partner and my 17 year-old goldfish Ambition. One day I will own a cat... one day.

Random Things Tour - The Night Lawyer

TITLE: The Night Lawyer
AUTHOR: Alex Churchill


Sophie Angel is the night lawyer. Once a week, she's the one who decides what the papers can and can't say.

During the day, she's a barrister. She struggles for justice in a system that's close to collapse, where she confronts the most dangerous aspects of humanity. Her life changes when a wealthy Russian offers her the biggest case of her career, a rape trial with a seemingly innocent client. But is someone manipulating Sophie from the shadows or is the danger much closer to home? 

With her marriage under strain and haunted by nightmares from the past, Sophie must find the answer to these questions before it's too late. This is a story about betrayal, trust, guilt and innocence, played out from the courtrooms of London to the darkest corners of Soviet era Moscow.  

A little known tidbit of information about me is that I was accepted to law school and then at the last minute took a different path.  So you could say that from an early age, I've always been interested in legal-related books and shows.  That's probably one of the reason The Night Lawyer was such a hit for me.  Well, that along with some other things.

First of all Sophie Angel is a wonderful character.  She was born in Soviet Moscow and the author does a great job of weaving courtroom drama with pieces from Sophie's childhood which clue the reader in to some past secrets.  Also, although Sophie has the perfect marriage to anyone looking in from the outside.  That too is riddled is problems which keep developing further as the book proceeds. 

And secondly we have the legal case itself.  It centers around rape allegations and not only does the reader get a glimpse of the inside of British trial law, they also get a ringside seat to how the media can make almost any accused look like a victim and skew what the public really sees.

I've been seeing this book receive quite the buzz and I do believe it's well deserved.  If you love legal thrillers, a strong female protagonist and a intense plot, then you should definitely rush out and grab The Night Lawyer.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alex Churchill was a barrister, specialising in serious crime for over three decades, and a writer.

Orenda Blog Tour - The Big Chill

TITLE: The Big Chill
AUTHOR: Doug Johnstone
PUBLISHER: Orenda Books
PUBLISHING DATE: August 20, 2020


Running private investigator and funeral home businesses means trouble is never far away, and the Skelf women take on their most perplexing, chilling cases yet in book two of this darkly funny, devastatingly tense and addictive new series! 

Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral that matriarch Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver’s shadowy life. 

While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly. 

But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves sucked into an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves? 

Following three women as they deal with the dead, help the living and find out who they are in the process, The Big Chill follows A Dark Matter, book one in the Skelfs series, which reboots the classic PI novel while asking the big existential questions, all with a big dose of pitch-black humour.  

The Big Chill centers around three women of the Skelf family who not only run a funeral home but are also private investigators.  It does seem the two seem to go hand in hand more often than not and it seems these woman can never get a moment of real peace.  I love the family dymanics and the fact that the book shows us three generations of one family. 

I do wish I had read the first book in this series but Orenda is definitely increasing my TBR of back titles.  While this book is rather dark at times, there are also some times of humor and I feel the author did a spectacular job of weaving the two together.  The Big Chilll also showcases science and some thoughts on parallel universes which surprisingly, was explained well and didn't confuse me.

If you love character driven books the The Big Chill will not disappoint.  This book is screaming for a series people can fall in love with and binge watch time and time again.  I can't wait for the next installment and more urgently, I can't wait for my copy of A Dark Matter to arrive!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Doug Johnstone is the author of more ten novels, most recently Breakers (2019), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and A Dark Matter (2020), which launched the Skelfs series. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home, which he drew on to write A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

Friday, August 7, 2020

A Great Autumn Read Recommendation - The Malan Witch

TITLE: The Malan Witch
AUTHOR: Catherine Cavendish
PUBLISHER: Silver Shamrock Publishing
PUBLISHING DATE: August 18, 2020


"Naught remained of their bodies to be buried, for the crows took back what was theirs." 

An idyllic coastal cottage near a sleepy village. What could be more perfect? For Robyn Crowe, borrowing her sister’s recently renovated holiday home for the summer seems just what she needs to deal with the grief of losing her beloved husband.

But behind those pretty walls lie many secrets, and legends of a malevolent sisterhood—two witches burned for their evil centuries earlier. Once, both their vile spirits were trapped there. Now, one has been released. One who is determined to find her sister. Only Robyn stands in her way. 

And the crow has returned.  

MY THOUGHTS: Sometimes I feel when I read novella length books I am missing something.  I suppose it has something to do with character development and plot being shortcut in some manner.  But this is definitely not the case with The Malan Witch.  Despite its shorter length I found it to be a highly immersive and complete tale.

Robyn Crowe lost her husband six months ago and still in the depths of grief, she decides to go stay in her sister's vacation coastal cottage.  While the place has been recently renovated, it is also extremely old and Robyn soon starts to learn that many secrets are held within the walls of the place dubbed the Malan cottage.  Before Robyn knows it, she starts feeling and seeing things in the home and there is also a crow hovering around that refuses to leave.  After speaking with locals, she discovers that the home is on the property where two witches were once burned.  Could the incidents be related and if so, what could the spirits want from Robyn?

I've read another book by Cavendish last year and really enjoyed it so when she reached out to me, I couldn't pass this one up.  Cavendish has a wonderful ability to create Gothic atmospheres and while reading this, I kept thinking it would be a perfect read for a crisp autumn night with the wind rustling outside and a candle flickering in the corner.  I was immediately attached to Robyn and felt both her grief and her fear.  I also really liked the side characters whom Robyn sought out for help.  And finally, there was even a twist or two thrown into the tale for good measure which made it only that much more enjoyable.  Do I feel the story could have been longer?  Well, as an avid reader, probably so.  But do I feel it needed to be?  Absolutely not.  And if you are looking for a fairly quick read full of suspense and atmosphere then look no further.  Cavendish is quickly becoming a go-to author when I'm in the mood for spooky, Gothic scares.


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Orenda Blog Tours - Hinton Hollow Death Trip

TITLE: Hinton Hollow Death Trip
AUTHOR: Will Carver
PUBLISHER: Orenda Books
PUBLISHING DATE: August 6, 2020


It’s a small story. A small town with small lives that you would never have heard about if none of this had happened.

Hinton Hollow. Population: 5,120. 

Little Henry Wallace was eight years old and one hundred miles from home before anyone talked to him. His mother placed him on a train with a label around his neck, asking for him to be kept safe for a week, kept away from Hinton Hollow. 

Because something was coming. Narrated by Evil itself, Hinton Hollow Death Trip recounts five days in the history of this small rural town, when darkness paid a visit and infected its residents. A visit that made them act in unnatural ways. Prodding at their insecurities. Nudging at their secrets and desires. Coaxing out the malevolence suppressed within them. Showing their true selves. 

Making them cheat.
Making them steal. 
Making them kill. 

Detective Sergeant Pace had returned to his childhood home. To escape the things he had done in the city. To go back to something simple. But he was not alone. Evil had a plan.  

So if you don't know how much I tend to love books by published by Orenda Books, then you apparently haven't read my reviews.  For the past year or so, some of my favorite and most memorable reads have come from Orenda.  Well, this book pretty much solidifies it and given the time and the opportunity, I'm pretty sure I'd read anything they toss my way.

Hinton Hollow Death Trip is the third book in the Sergeant Pace series.  Have I read the first two? No.  Did I feel I missed out on something? Not really but let me clarify.  I clearly don't think I would have enjoyed the book anymore than what I did, but I do think I would have known a tad bit more about Sergeant Pace which might have filled in some gaps.  And in a rarity, did I go and immediately order the first two books?  Yes, because I'm pretty sure Will Carver is on the way to be one of my favorite must-read authors.

When the book opens, we are introduced to a little boy who has been put on a train alone with a note around his neck.  He has been sent away by his mother and has been told to keep quiet about where he lives for seven days.  See, his mother knows something is on its way to Hinton Hollow and she wanted her son clear of the devastation. Evil has come to town.  And it systematically has a plan for destruction.  Slowly the reader is introduced to the townspeople.  Some are pure of heart. Some are good but Evil tells us good isn't good enough anymore.  And some are bordering on the brink of doing bad deeds and all they need is a little push in the right direction.  I held on to every word and every chapter not knowing where Carver was leading me or how it would end.  All I know is I loved some of these characters and some deserved their outcome.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't address the unique style of this book.  As mentioned, it is narrated by Evil.  And through the take, the reader gets a good hard look at humanity, ethical dilemmas, and individuals faced with choices.  Evil is such a unique character and dare I say isn't all bad.  And the atmosphere Carver creates along with an eeriness and feeling of dread is reminiscent of some of my favorite horror authors.  I could actually see this playing out as a movie the further I read.

So yep, Orenda Books does it again.  They've yet to fail me and this time they introduced me to an author and series I absolutely have to start from the beginning.  Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.  Oh and last but not least, don't let the pretty cover fool you.  There is very little pretty in this book and I for one loved it even more so because there wasn't!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.