April 2021 Wrap-Up

It’s hard to believe that a quarter of 2021 is now done and dusted. I’ve read some great books so far this year and I’ve found a few already which I’m sure will be in my top ten reads of 2021. I’ve made a lot of progress with the manuscript I’m working on at the moment and I’ve nearly finished the first draft. I’ve so far written 90,051 words. I think it may still need a lot of work but I’m really pleased with it so far and I’m really excited about it.

It’s also been so good to visit bookshops again this month. I can literally spend hours just browsing in them. And of course I had to make an obligatory book purchase while I was there. It’s also been so good to finally get out and start seeing people again this month.

I’ve now read 62 books towards my goal of 100 books in 2021. I took part in four blog tours this month and I’ve listed the links below in case you missed any.

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Look What You Made Me Do by Nikki Smith

Trust Me by T.M. Logan

The House of Hidden Secrets by C.E. Rose

This month I have six blog tours coming up, The Rapunzel Act by Abi Silver on the 4th May, All My Lies by Sophie Flynn on the 10th, The Assistant by Kjell ola Dahl on the 11th, Twisted Lies by Angela Marsons on the 14th, You Had It Coming by B.M. Carroll on the 21st and The Pact by Sharon Bolton on the 24th.

I received some exciting bookpost this month, The Prank by L.V. Matthews, Rachel’s Story by Leigh Russell, The Maidens by Alex Michaeledis, The Wild Girls by Phoebe Morgan and The Lies We Tell by Jane Corry.

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That’s all from me this month. What are currently reading at the moment? I’m currently reading The Assistant by Kjell ola Dahl and The Wild Girls by Phoebe Morgan. Let me know in the comments.

Sixteen Horses by Greg Buchanan #bookreview

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the stunning debut by Greg Buchanan, Sixteen Horses.

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Near the dying English seaside town of Ilmarsh, local police detective Alec Nichols discovers sixteen horses’ heads on a farm, each buried with a single eye facing the low winter sun. After forensic veterinarian Cooper Allen travels to the scene, the investigators soon uncover evidence of a chain of crimes in the community – disappearances, arson and mutilations – all culminating in the reveal of something deadly lurking in the ground itself.

In the dark days that follow, the town slips into panic and paranoia. Everything is not as it seems. Anyone could be a suspect. And as Cooper finds herself unable to leave town, Alec is stalked by an unseen threat. The two investigators race to uncover the truth behind these frightening and insidious mysteries – no matter the cost.

Sixteen Horses is the debut literary thriller from an extraordinary talent, Greg Buchanan. A story of enduring guilt, trauma and punishment, set in a small seaside community the rest of the world has left behind . . .

MY THOUGHTS

Sixteen Horses by Greg Buchanan is one of the most original crime novels I’ve read. If you’re a fan of literary crime fiction, then you need to read this book. Greg Buchanan is an exciting new voice.

Set in a dying seaside town, Illmarsh, the town and the police are shocked when the corpses of sixteen horses are found buried. Days after the police first come into contact with the horses, people who were there fall desperately ill. What is going on here? What do the murders of the horses mean? And what connection do they have to the dark events that have also taken place in the town?

Sixteen Horses is such a unique crime thriller. It is a stunning debut that will keep you gripped. The atmosphere is very dark and foreboding. It gave me a very uneasy feeling as I was reading it. It seems as though there is no light at all in the town where the events are taking place. The crime is such an unusual one, and it made the book feel very fresh. It’s what made me want to keep reading after I read the opening pages. If you think the opening pages are dark, be prepared, it is about to get a lot darker.

This is not a fast-paced, action-packed crime novel; it is a slow-burner and a more character-driven novel. I loved Greg Buchanan’s writing style, which pulled me into the story and the setting. The setting Illmarsh itself becomes a character. The opening chapters are so chilling, and I had to know what was going on in the town. Who was behind the crimes that were taking place? It puts all the locals on edge, and I could feel the tension as the novel progressed.

Illmarsh is a town that feels forgotten. It added to the atmosphere. I could picture the town on the coast very well, and Greg Buchanan evokes a real sense of place in his writing. Sixteen Horses is a very immersive book and it will definitely appeal to you if you’re a fan of Chris Whitaker.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what Greg Buchanan writes next. This is a stand-out crime thriller. I am sure that there will be many people talking about it in the months to come. Sixteen Horses is a superb debut which I won’t be forgetting about any time soon.

Publisher: Mantle

Publication date: 29th April 2021

Print length: 367 pages

Sixteen Horses is available to buy:

Amazon UK Waterstones

WWW Wednesday – 28/04/2021

Welcome to this week’s WWW Wednesday. WWW Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words.

Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

The three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What have you finished reading?
What will you read next?

What am I currently reading?

The Retreat by [Sherri Smith]

Katie Manning was a beloved child star until her mid-teens when her manager attacked and permanently scarred her face, effectively ending her career and sending her on a path of all-too-familiar post-Hollywood self-destruction.

Now twenty-seven, Katie wants a better answer to those clickbait “Where Are They Now?” articles that float around online. An answer she hopes to find when her brother’s too-good-to-be-true fiancée invites her to a wellness retreat upstate. Together with Katie’s two best friends—one struggling with crippling debt and family obligations, one running away from a failed job and relationship—Katie will try to find the inner peace promised at the tranquil retreat. But finding oneself just might drudge up more memories than Katie is prepared to deal with.

Each woman has come to the retreat for different reasons. Each has her secrets to hide. And at the end of this weekend, only one will be left standing.

A golden summer, and six talented friends are looking forward to the brightest of futures – until a daredevil game goes horribly wrong, and a woman and two children are killed.

18-year-old Megan takes the blame, leaving the others free to get on with their lives. In return, they each agree to a ‘favour’, payable on her release from prison.

Twenty years later Megan is free.
Let the games begin . . .

What have I finished reading?

Exit: ‘The best crime novel you’ll read this year’ Clare Mackintosh by [Belinda Bauer]

Meet Felix Pink. The most unlikely murderer you’ll ever have the good fortune to spend time with.

When Felix lets himself in to Number 3 Black Lane, he’s there to perform an act of charity: to keep a dying man company as he takes his final breath . . .

But just fifteen minutes later Felix is on the run from the police – after making the biggest mistake of his life.

Now his world is turned upside down as he must find out if he’s really to blame, or if something much more sinister is at play. All while staying one shaky step ahead of the law.

TWO BOYS LOVED HER.
BUT WHICH ONE KILLED HER?

On a dark night two years ago, teenagers Rob and Paige broke into a house. They beat and traumatised the occupants, then left, taking only a bracelet. No one knows why, not even Luke, Rob’s younger brother and Paige’s confidant. Paige disappeared after that night. And having spent her life in children’s homes and the foster system, no one cared enough to look for her.

Now Rob is out of prison, and probation officer Wren Reynolds has been tasked with his rehabilitation. But Wren has her own reasons for taking on Rob as a client. Convinced that Rob knows what happened to Paige, and hiding a lifetime of secrets from her heavily pregnant wife, Wren’s obsession with finding a missing girl may tear her family apart…

What will I read next?

In a luxury lodge on Botswana’s sun-soaked plains, four friends reunite for a birthday celebration…

THE BIRTHDAY GIRL
Has it all, but chose love over her friends…

THE TEACHER
Feels the walls of her flat and classroom closing in…

THE MOTHER
Loves her baby, but desperately needs a break…

THE INTROVERT
Yearns for adventure after suffering for too long…

Arriving at the safari lodge, a feeling of unease settles over them. There’s no sign of the party that was promised. There’s no phone signal. They’re alone, in the wild.

THE HUNT IS ON.

Oslo, 1938. War is in the air and Europe is in turmoil. Hitler’s Germany has occupied Austria and is threatening Czechoslovakia; there’s a civil war in Spain and Mussolini reigns in Italy.

When a woman turns up at the office of police-turned-private investigator Ludvig Paaske, he and his assistant – his one-time nemesis and former drug-smuggler Jack Rivers – begin a seemingly straightforward investigation into marital infidelity.

But all is not what it seems, and when Jack is accused of murder, the trail leads back to the 1920s, to prohibition-era Norway, to the smugglers, sex workers and hoodlums of his criminal past … and an extraordinary secret.

Both a fascinating portrait of Oslo’s interwar years, with Nazis operating secretly on Norwegian soil and militant socialists readying workers for war, The Assistant is also a stunningly sophisticated, tension-packed thriller – the darkest of hard-boiled Nordic Noir – from one of Norway’s most acclaimed crime writers.

A Ruined Girl by Kate Simants #bookreview

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the new thriller by Kate Simants, A Ruined Girl which was the winner of the 2019 Bath Novel Award.

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TWO BOYS LOVED HER.
BUT WHICH ONE KILLED HER?

On a dark night two years ago, teenagers Rob and Paige broke into a house. They beat and traumatised the occupants, then left, taking only a bracelet. No one knows why, not even Luke, Rob’s younger brother and Paige’s confidant. Paige disappeared after that night. And having spent her life in children’s homes and the foster system, no one cared enough to look for her.

Now Rob is out of prison, and probation officer Wren Reynolds has been tasked with his rehabilitation. But Wren has her own reasons for taking on Rob as a client. Convinced that Rob knows what happened to Paige, and hiding a lifetime of secrets from her heavily pregnant wife, Wren’s obsession with finding a missing girl may tear her family apart…

MY THOUGHTS

A Ruined Girl is a dark and gripping thriller by Kate Simants. Two years ago, a young woman, Paige, disappeared after she broke into the home of her school counsellor with her friend, Rob. But what happened to Paige after that incident? She went missing and has never been seen since. Rob was arrested for the crime and sent to prison. Now, he is out; he is about to start his rehabilitation process. Wren Reynolds is his probation officer. But it soon becomes clear that Wren has her own reasons for taking Rob on. The question that continues to haunt many people is this, what happened to Paige?

Kate Simants latest book is beautifully written. I loved her sense of place and her description in the opening paragraph, which drew me into the story. It was so chilling. I wanted to know what was going on and who the people in the scene were. It really does set the tone for the rest of the book.

Robert Ashworth is a complex character. I liked how Kate Simants delved into his psyche. As part of his rehabilitation programme, he has to meet the people affected by his crime. I can imagine this must be a very difficult thing for people to have to go through; to meet and talk to the person who inflicted this pain on them. I don’t think I would be very comfortable with doing this if I was in their position.

As we get to know Robert and Wren, it becomes clear that Wren has her own motive here for getting to know Robert. I wanted to find out more about this, and I wanted to know more about her character. She is also going through a lot in her personal life at the moment, which also makes her very interesting as well.

What I thought was fascinating and heartbreaking about this book as well is that Kate Simants looks at the dark reality of what it is like for some children growing up in the care system. She paints a vivid portrayal of what it is like for these young people who have no relatives who care and love them and how this impacts them as they grow up.

This is a very dark novel that examines how far we are prepared to go for our close friends and family. It is also very thought-provoking, and I thought that Kate Simants delivered a very satisfactory and shocking ending which I did not see coming. I love Kate Simants writing, and I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Publisher: Viper

Publication date: 27th August 2020

Print length: 384 pages

A Ruined Girl is available to buy:

Amazon UK Kobo Waterstones

Our Dark Secret by Jenny Quintana #bookreview

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on Our Dark Secret by Jenny Quintana.

Our Dark Secret by [Jenny Quintana]

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As a teenager in the late 1970s, Elizabeth was clever, overweight and something of a loner. When Rachel and her family moved to town, though, Elizabeth was drawn to the bright and beautiful Rachel like a moth to a flame. She would do anything for Rachel. Anything.

Then the first body was discovered.

Twenty years on, Elizabeth wants nothing more than to keep the secrets of her teenage years where they belong: in the past. But another body has been found, and she can’t keep running from what happened . . .
Can she?

MY THOUGHTS

Having recently enjoyed Jenny Quintana’s most recent book, The Hiding Place, I knew I had to catch up on her previous books. Our Dark Secret has a really intriguing premise. Twenty years ago, Elizabeth did something terrible. She is determined to make sure that secret stays buried. She’s moved on with her life, and Elizabeth doesn’t want anything to upset that. But with the discovery of a body in her hometown, where she grew up, she knows she will have to face the uncomfortable truth. But what really happened twenty years ago?

What I like about Jenny’s writing is that she pulls you in from the very first page. Before I knew it, I’d finished the entire book. This isn’t a fast-paced thriller, and I would describe her books as slow-burners, but they are utterly absorbing. I wanted to find out more about the characters and the secret that bound them together.

We meet Rachel, who is a bit of a loner and a target for school bullies. Then she meets Elizabeth a girl, who she thought at first, she would never be friends with. I was really intrigued by Rachel and Elizabeth’s friendship. If you saw the two girls in the street, you would never think that they would be friends. It’s hard to talk about how they end up getting to know each other without giving the plot away.

Jenny Quintana creates a foreboding atmosphere as we go back in time, and we get to see events in the past unfold. I felt I connected with Elizabeth, and I felt sorry for her. I felt glad for her when Rachel came into her life as it made me think that now she had someone she could talk to. As Rachel and Elizabeth get to know each other more, they make a horrifying discovery when they find the body of a woman. But what connection does this body have to the body which is found twenty years later? A body which Rachel and Elizabeth hoped would never be found.

There are some heartbreaking revelations as Jenny Quintana gradually begins to reveal what happened in the past. I couldn’t believe what I was reading as what happened in those years was explained. It’s what makes this book such a heartbreaking read as well.

Jenny Quintana’s writing is so absorbing, and her books are beautifully written. If you haven’t yet discovered her work, then you need to add her books to your TBR pile. Now, I need to catch up on reading her first novel.

Publisher: Mantle

Publication date: 6th February 2020 (kindle) 20th August 2020 (paperback)

Print length: 320 pages

Our Dark Secret is available to buy:

Amazon UK Kobo Waterstones

The House of Hidden Secrets by C E Rose #bookreview #blogtour @CazEngland @HeraBooks @rararesources

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The House of Hidden Secrets by C E Rose on my blog today. With thanks to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

The House of Hidden Secrets: A twisty psychological thriller that will have you gripped by [CE Rose]

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The imposing gates of Ramsay Hall yawned open. As Serena and 4-year-old Lana walked up the long driveway, little did they know the dark secrets that lay within.

When Serena Green accepted the role of housekeeper for wealthy widower Hayden Ramsay, she never imagined her new home would be Ramsay Hall, an ancient, sprawling mansion in Northern England.

Serena quickly becomes an integral part of the household, making friends with Hayden’s younger son Hugh, despite Jack, his older brother’s, coldness towards her and Lana.

But the hall’s beautiful exterior hides many ugly secrets. Though Serena and Jack begin to grow closer, she’s
confused by his behaviour around Lana. What is he guilty of? And is there more to their mother’s death than the Ramsay men will admit, even to themselves?

As the harrowing past of Ramsay Hall unravels, Serena fresh start becomes a fresh horror. She fears for her and Lana’s safety, but what are the bleak secrets in Serena’s own past?

This house is built on a lifetime of
lies… and the truth might just bring the walls crashing down.

MY THOUGHTS

The House of Hidden Secrets is a dark, compelling read by C E Rose. It is a slow-burner, but I was really intrigued by the characters, and there are some shocking reveals as the plot unfolds. Part romance and part psychological thriller; this is an engrossing read that kept me captivated from start to finish.

We meet Serena and her daughter Lana; Serena has just applied for a position at a manor house in the country. She is offered the job by Hayden, the owner, on the spot. But as Serena and her daughter Lana settle into their new home, she discovers that things are not quite as they seem. The owner’s son is hostile towards her, and he can’t believe that his father employed her. But why is he so worried about her employment, and what secrets is he desperate to make sure Serena doesn’t uncover?

I thought C E Rose developed Serena’s character really well. There is an air of mystery about her as she arrives at the property. It is as if she has arrived like a bolt out of the blue. I wondered if there was more to her than what first meets the eye. The owner of the house, Hayden, intrigued me as well. From the beginning, he appeared to be very trustworthy of Serena, even though he has no evidence that she is. The only person in the household who is worried about her presence there is his son, Jack. He doesn’t exactly give her a warm welcome when he first meets her.

As I was reading, I wanted to find out what secrets the residents of the house were hiding. It was clear that something had happened in their past and that Jack doesn’t want Lana poking around. But Lana begins to grow close to Jack’s brother, Hayden, and as Hayden begins to gradually reveal more about the family’s secrets to Lana, she is shocked by what she learns.

What I really liked about this book was how C E Rose developed Serena and Hayden’s relationship. You can see there is a spark between them from the beginning, but C E Rose paints Hayden as a troubled and vulnerable character. I wanted their relationship to develop further, and I could see that Hayden wanted to be with Serena.

The writing is very engaging, and I did not want to put this book down as I was reading. There are some very intense scenes as C E Rose wraps her story up, and the ending was very chilling. The House of Hidden Secrets is a dark, utterly absorbing read. I really enjoyed it.

Publisher: Hera

Publication date: 14th April 2021

Print length: 288 pages

The House of Hidden Secrets is available to buy:

Amazon UK

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR

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WWW Wednesday – 21/04/2021

Welcome to this week’s WWW Wednesday. WWW Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words.

Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

The three Ws are:
What are you currently reading?
What have you finished reading?
What will you read next?

What am I currently reading?

Our Dark Secret by [Jenny Quintana]

As a teenager in the late 1970s, Elizabeth was clever, overweight and something of a loner. When Rachel and her family moved to town, though, Elizabeth was drawn to the bright and beautiful Rachel like a moth to a flame. She would do anything for Rachel. Anything.

Then the first body was discovered.

Twenty years on, Elizabeth wants nothing more than to keep the secrets of her teenage years where they belong: in the past. But another body has been found, and she can’t keep running from what happened . . .
Can she?

A Ruined Girl: Winner of the Bath Novel Award by [Kate Simants]

TWO BOYS LOVED HER.
BUT WHICH ONE KILLED HER?

On a dark night two years ago, teenagers Rob and Paige broke into a house. They beat and traumatised the occupants, then left, taking only a bracelet. No one knows why, not even Luke, Rob’s younger brother and Paige’s confidant. Paige disappeared after that night. And having spent her life in children’s homes and the foster system, no one cared enough to look for her.

Now Rob is out of prison, and probation officer Wren Reynolds has been tasked with his rehabilitation. But Wren has her own reasons for taking on Rob as a client. Convinced that Rob knows what happened to Paige, and hiding a lifetime of secrets from her heavily pregnant wife, Wren’s obsession with finding a missing girl may tear her family apart…

What have I finished reading?

The Rapunzel Act: A Burton & Lamb Case (Burton and Lamb Thrillers Book 4) by [Abi Silver]

CAN YOU FIND JUSTICE… WHEN THE WORLD IS WATCHING?

When breakfast TV host and nation’s darling, Rosie Harper, is found brutally murdered at home, suspicion falls on her spouse, formerly international football star, Danny ‘walks on water’ Mallard, now living out of the public eye as trans woman, Debbie.

Not only must Debbie challenge the hard evidence against her, including her blood-drenched glove at the scene of the crime, she must also contend with the nation’s prejudices, as the trial is broadcast live, turning it into a public spectacle. For someone trying to live their life without judgment, it might just be too much to bear.

Legal duo Judith Burton and Constance Lamb are subjected to unyielding scrutiny as they strive to defend their most famous client yet.

Another thought-provoking courtroom drama from the acclaimed author of the Burton & Lamb series.

Twisted Lies: An absolutely gripping mystery and suspense thriller (Detective Kim Stone Crime Thriller Book 14) by [Angela Marsons]

Her stomach lurches as she sits in the windowless room. He throws her phone to the ground, grinds it against the floor with the heel of his shoe and brings his face closer to hers. There was no turning back now, her life as she knew it was gone.

When the lifeless body of a man is found on an industrial estate, Detective Kim Stone arrives on the scene and discovers he’s been tortured in the worst way imaginable.

But as she breaks the devastating news to the victim’s wife, Diane Phipps, Kim can’t help feeling that something isn’t quite right about the woman’s reaction.

Twenty-four hours later, the victim’s family disappears into thin air.

Then a second body is found staked to the ground in a local nature reserve.

Desperate to crack the case open quickly, Kim and her team unravel a vital clue – a fiercely guarded secret that links both victims and could cost even more lives.

A secret that some police officers are also protecting.

Faced with deceit from those she should be able to trust, family members who won’t talk, and local reporter, Tracy Frost, opening a can of worms on the case of a woman murdered by her husband a year ago – Kim is in deep water like never before.

Kim must find the motive if she is to find the killer who is systematically targeting and torturing his victims. But can she unlock the shocking truth and stop him before he strikes again?

What will I read next?

Exit: ‘The best crime novel you’ll read this year’ Clare Mackintosh by [Belinda Bauer]

Meet Felix Pink. The most unlikely murderer you’ll ever have the good fortune to spend time with.

When Felix lets himself in to Number 3 Black Lane, he’s there to perform an act of charity: to keep a dying man company as he takes his final breath . . .

But just fifteen minutes later Felix is on the run from the police – after making the biggest mistake of his life.

Now his world is turned upside down as he must find out if he’s really to blame, or if something much more sinister is at play. All while staying one shaky step ahead of the law.

The Retreat by [Sherri Smith]

Katie Manning was a beloved child star until her mid-teens when her manager attacked and permanently scarred her face, effectively ending her career and sending her on a path of all-too-familiar post-Hollywood self-destruction.

Now twenty-seven, Katie wants a better answer to those clickbait “Where Are They Now?” articles that float around online. An answer she hopes to find when her brother’s too-good-to-be-true fiancée invites her to a wellness retreat upstate. Together with Katie’s two best friends—one struggling with crippling debt and family obligations, one running away from a failed job and relationship—Katie will try to find the inner peace promised at the tranquil retreat. But finding oneself just might drudge up more memories than Katie is prepared to deal with.

Each woman has come to the retreat for different reasons. Each has her secrets to hide. And at the end of this weekend, only one will be left standing.

This Nowhere Place by Natasha Bell #bookreview

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the new novel by Natasha Bell, This Nowhere Place.

This Nowhere Place by [Natasha Bell]

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Nothing ever happened here . . . Until the first girl died.
______

Ten years ago, Mo arrived at the white cliffs, befriended by teenagers Cali and Jude.

They thought they’d save each other.

Within months, two of them end up dead, the third scarred for life.

Now, documentary maker Tarek is asking difficult questions about what happened that summer.

But the truth is something that must be unburied carefully . . .

Or it might just it bury you.

MY THOUGHTS

This Nowhere Place is a haunting and a very powerful read by Natasha Bell. I think I was expecting a slightly more different read when I first picked it up, but as the storyline unfolded, I found it all the more immersive.

Natasha Bell tackles some tough themes in her novel, including racism and suicide. She paints a very vivid picture of the town of Dover and the tensions which are running high. The book is set in 2016, the year of the Brexit referendum and 2026, ten years on. A decade on from the events in 2016, a young man, Tarek, a refugee, is making a documentary. He wants to find out what happened a decade earlier in the summer when two girls died.

It is in 2016 when best friends Cali and Jude meet Mo, a young girl who has recently come to Britain from Syria. She is on her own and living in an abandoned lookout post from World War Two. Mo is desperate to reach her family in Manchester, but she has no means of contacting them. Cali and Jude feel compelled to help her.

Mo was a character I really felt for in this book, and Natasha Bell captured the horror of her situation really well. I can only imagine what people in Mo’s position must go through in their attempt to flee countries that have been torn apart by war. I wasn’t sure if I could quite trust Cali and Jude when they first meet Mo. Although they appear to want to help her, I couldn’t help but think that there was something else going on here between them. Soon two of the girls will end up dead.

What I did like about this book was that Natasha Bell told part of it in the form of a television documentary. I really liked this perspective, and the short snippets from the documentary which Natasha shares with us made me even more eager to find out what happened in 2016. I wanted Tarek to find out what had happened in 2016, and I was rooting for him all the way.

This is a really well written, thought-provoking book. This Nowhere Place is an utterly compelling read. I really enjoyed it.

Publisher: Penguin

Publication date: 18th March 2021

Print length: 367 pages

This Nowhere Place is available to buy:

Amazon UK Waterstones

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone #bookreview #blogtour @C_L_Johnstone @BoroughPress @RandomTTours

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the debut thriller by Carole Johnstone on my blog today, Mirrorland. With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

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No. 36 Westeryk Road: an imposing flat-stone house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A place of curving shadows and crumbling grandeur. But it’s what lies under the house that is extraordinary – Mirrorland. A vivid make-believe world that twin sisters Cat and El created as children. A place of escape, but from what?

Now in her thirties, Cat has turned her back on her past. But when she receives news that one sunny morning, El left harbour in her sailboat and never came back, she is forced to return to Westeryk Road; to re-enter a forgotten world of lies, betrayal and danger.
 
Because El had a plan. She’s left behind a treasure hunt that will unearth long-buried secrets. And to discover the truth, Cat must first confront the reality of her childhood – a childhood that wasn’t nearly as idyllic as she remembers…

MY THOUGHTS

When I read the blurb for Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone, I knew straight away that I had to read it. It sounded so intriguing and different from what I had read before in crime fiction. But I was slightly worried, would the book itself live up to the exciting premise? I needn’t have worried. Carole Johnstone has written a brilliant debut novel, and I really enjoyed reading it.

Cat hasn’t returned to her home in Edinburgh since she moved to America. The reason she has returned is because her twin sister, El, has disappeared. El’s husband is distraught and desperate for news, but Cat appears cold. She believes El is seeking attention and faking her disappearance. But things soon take a shocking turn for the worse. Is there a link between El’s disappearance and the game they used to play as children to help cover up a dark secret?

I was intrigued by the idea of Mirrorland,and I thought it was very creative. I wanted to learn more about the world El and Cat had created for themselves and what it really meant. What were they trying to cover up? When we are first introduced to Cat, I struggled to like her, initially. I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t taking her sister’s disappearance more seriously. It made me wonder what she knew about El that El’s husband and the police didn’t.

The mystery in this book becomes quite a complex one as Carole Johnstone unravels the secrets behind the game El and Cat used to play when they were children. There are some dark secrets which come to light as the novel reaches its climax. This is what makes this book such a sinister and twisted read. Carole also explores what families will do to protect one another and what they are willing to do to make sure their loved ones survive. It makes for some very intense reading as more more information about El and Cat is revealed.

Mirrorland is an intriguing, original thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. If you’re looking for something that is a bit different in the crime fiction genre, definitely give this book a go! 

Publisher: The Borough Press

Publication date: 15th April 2021

Print length: 416 pages

Mirrorland is available to buy:

Amazon UK Waterstones

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR

FINAL Mirrorland BT Poster

Author Interview with Leigh Russell @LeighRussell

On my blog today, I’m delighted to be sharing an interview about her writing and new novel with bestselling author Leigh Russell, author of the DI Geraldine series. She has just released her first dystopian fiction novel, Rachel’s Story. Let’s take a look at what the book is about.

Rachel's Story: a gripping dystopian saga about the choices we make by [Leigh Russell]

BLURB

In a world where food is scarce, the government rules and ordinary people only exist to serve, can there ever be happiness? 

As a child, living in a post-apocalyptic world, the only person Rachel can rely on is her mother. But when her mother is killed, Rachel is initiated into The Programme where selected young girls are medicated to make them fertile. 

Fearing for her future, Rachel escapes. But freedom comes at a price and Rachel must navigate through a terrifying landscape of persecution to survive.

What is on the other side of the city wall?

Will the repressive government hunt her down?

One thing is certain. Rachel’s world will never be the same again…

Q&A with Leigh Russell

Hi, Leigh, thank you for answering my questions. To start things off can you tell us a bit about what your new novel is about?

Rachel’s Story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where not only mankind but all life on earth has been threatened with extinction by a pandemic. In a world where food is scarce, the government rules and ordinary people only exist to serve, Rachel is initiated into The Programme where selected young girls are medicated to make them fertile. Fearing for her future, Rachel escapes. But freedom comes at a price, as she learns when she joins the outcasts struggling to survive beyond the city walls. And if you want to know more about Rachel, you’ll have to read the book! https://geni.us/RachelStory_BHB

You’ve previously written crime fiction and psychological thrillers, what was it that made you want to write dystopian fiction?

It might have been something to do with living in lockdown, which at times probably took us all to dark places, cut off from our families and friends. For many months there seemed to be no hope the situation would ever improve. I made a conscious decision not to mention lockdown in my crime series as, for me, fiction is an escape from reality and I wanted to ignore covid while writing. But our unconscious anxieties and preoccupations bleed our writing, whether we want them to or not. So Rachel arrived and led me into the dystopian world of her story.

Are there any other genres which you would like to try as well?

As a writer, I want to try everything! That said, I don’t see myself ever writing a light romance, although there are love stories embedded in many of my crime novels, and Rachel’s Story has an element of romance. I would really like to be able to write humorously, but my narrative voice is dark. Sadly I just don’t have the skill to write comedy.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? Do you plan everything out before you start writing or do you dive straight in?

It’s a combination of the two. To begin with I jump in and see where the characters lead me. I rarely know consciously exactly where the story is going until I’ve written it, and this journey into the unknown can be really exciting, and at times terrifying,  especially if I am writing to a deadline. My stories are mostly worked out on some subconscious level, and are drawn into my conscious mind through the process of writing. I often don’t know what I’m going to write until my fingers type the words. As a writer you have to trust yourself and follow your instincts. But there are also times when I think deliberately about what needs to happen for the story to work.

What books have you really enjoyed so far in 2021?

My reading is wide ranging. Books I have enjoyed this year include The Other Miss Bennett by Janice Hadlow, On the Beach by Nevil Shute, Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, The Monk by Mathew Gregory Lewis, Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake, Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake, The Hopkins Manuscript by R C. Sheriff , The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith and A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman.

Describe a typical day in your life as a writer?

There is no typical day. Unless there is a reason to be up earlier, I won’t wake up until around ten when my husband brings me tea in bed, my one real indulgence of the day! I spend the morning dealing with emails and social media and doing chores. At around 2pm I start my writing day which can continue, with many breaks, until 2am. If there are edits to work on, I will start work as soon as I wake up. Two days a week I see family, lockdown permitting, and the weeks fly by.

Do you celebrate when you finish a first draft and if so how?

The completion of a first draft always leaves me feeling slightly bereft, and nervous in case I haven’t done the story justice. I celebrated the publication of my first six or so books, and my publisher threw a huge party to celebrate the 10th title in my Geraldine Steel series. I expect we’ll party when the 20th title in the series is published, because that will probably be the final Geraldine Steel. I no longer celebrate the publication of each individual book, because I’m on number 24 and the novelty has slightly worn off. But I am very excited about Rachel’s Story, as this is my first dystopian novel and it feels like a debut all over again. In some ways, this is just my next book, but it’s also my very first in a different genre, and I’m secretly really proud of myself, and absolutely thrilled that initial reviews have been so positive.

How long does it take you to write a book?

That varies. My first historical novel, scheduled for publication at the end of this year, took me three years to research and write. My crime novels are written from multiple points of view, and there are forensics and police procedures to consider, which can be quite complicated, so these books take me at least six months to write. One of my psychological thrillers was completed in three weeks. That one is a straightforward first person narrative and so it was relatively quick to write. The first draft of Rachel’s Story was written in six weeks.

How long is it once you’ve finished writing a book before you start working on the next one?

I am usually on to the next one straight away.

And finally, is there anything that you can tell us about what you’re planning to publish next?

My next book is the 16th in the Geraldine Steel series, Deep Cover, available to preorder on amazon and out in July. Geraldine’s colleague, Ian Peterson, plays a key role in this book, which may please some of Geraldine and Ian’s fans. After that, my first historical novel is due out at the end of this year. I’m really hoping that Rachel’s Story will be followed by a second dystopian novel early next year, but that depends on my publisher – although I might just write one anyway… once I’ve finished writing the next Geraldine Steel.

Thank you to Leigh for taking the time to answer my questions. If you would like to purchase a copy of Rachel’s Story, it is available to buy now.