Categories
Blog Tours Extract

Silence in the Shadows (Black Winter 4) by Darcy Coates

Published: November 1st, 2020
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Apocalyptic Fiction, Dystiopian Fiction

I’m delighted to be sharing an extract for the latest book in the Black Winter Series today, which is out next month. Thank you to Amber at Midas PR for the invitation to take in the tour and for the extract.

Extract

Chapter One

“CLARE? IF YOU’RE THERE, please answer. It’s me. Beth.”
Clare stood at Winterbourne Hall’s kitchen sink as she stared, shocked, at the crackling radio. Gusts of freezing wind howled through gaps in the old mansion’s stone walls. Even wrapped in the cotton dress she’d inherited from one of the manor’s former maids and a fur jacket borrowed from Dorran, the kitchen would have been too cold for her without the fire. The blaze both warmed and illuminated the room, bathing Clare and Dorran in its orange glow.
Dorran stood close enough to touch. He still wore bruises and scratches from the monsters that inhabited Winterbourne, but his dark eyes shone in the candlelight as he looked toward the radio.
“Beth…” Clare’s heart missed a beat, then returned with a vengeance, thumping furiously until her pulse was all she could hear. The last time she’d spoken to Beth, she’d been driving to her sister’s house in an attempt to escape the spreading stillness. That had only been seventeen days before. It felt like half a lifetime. She had kept the radio running constantly since she’d retrieved it from her car, but her hope of hearing from Beth had been whittled down to almost nothing.
Dorran moved first. He strode around the wide wooden table filling the kitchen’s center and snatched the two- way radio off the shelf, then returned and placed it on the table in front of Clare. He didn’t try to speak but bent forward to listen, watching expectantly.
The radio crackled. Clare struggled to breathe. In a flurry of urgent panic, she dropped the dish towel and darted forward, then pressed the button to transmit her voice.
“Beth? Beth, I’m here. It’s me. I’m here.”
She released the button and bent close to the speakers. Her hands were shaking. Her throat was tight, and every nerve in her body felt on fire with a desperate need to hear her sister’s voice again.
Beth, who was the closest thing Clare had to a mother. Beth, who at the vulnerable age of twenty had taken Clare to dental checkups, to netball practice, to school recitals. Beth, who had never stopped worrying about her when she’d moved into her own home.
The transmission was faint and distorted by a weak signal, but the voice was unmistakable. Beth took a gasping, hiccupping breath. “Clare? Is that you? Is it really you?”
She’s still alive. She’s okay. “Yes! I’m here!”
Beth was crying, and Clare couldn’t stop herself from following. She wiped her sleeves over her face as tears ran. At the same time, a grin stretched her cheeks until they ached.
Dorran moved silently. He nudged a chair in behind Clare so she could sit, then a moment later placed a glass of water and a clean cloth beside her. She gratefully used the cloth to wipe some of the wetness off her face. Dorran took a seat on the opposite side of the table. He was tall, towering over Clare, but he moved smoothly and carefully, even his breathing nearly silent. He folded his arms on the table, his dark eyes attentive, his black hair falling around his strong jaw, as he listened to the conversation.
“Sweetheart, are you okay? Are you hurt?”
Beth never called her sweetheart unless she was frightened. Clare guessed, after more than two weeks of no contact, Beth was about as frightened as she’d ever been. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
That was a half- truth at best. She still had red lines running across her arm and abdomen from where the hollow ones had attacked her. She grew tired too quickly. Her muscles ached. A bite on her wrist and thigh still needed dressing every day.
But she was alive. And, if the hollows were as prevalent as they seemed, that was better than what could be said for a lot of the world.
“What about you?” She pulled the radio closer, struggling to make out Beth’s voice under the distortion. “Are you in your bunker? Are you okay?”
“Yes, don’t worry about me. I’m in my bunker and getting thoroughly sick of staring at these four walls.” Beth laughed. “I paid for every add-on I could for this place…air filtration, water filtration, generator, aquaponics system. The only professional I didn’t think to hire was an interior decorator.”
Hearing Beth’s laughter made Clare feel lighter. She couldn’t stop her own grin. “I guess people don’t really think about throw rugs and wall hangings when they imagine the end of the world, do they?”
Beth chuckled, but the noise didn’t sound quite natural. Clare’s own smile faded. For a moment, the only noise in the kitchen was the soft static and a distant drip.
“It’s all gone to hell, sweetheart.” Beth’s voice had lost its color. “Everything. It’s all gone.”
“Yeah.” Clare swallowed. “But you’re okay. And that’s what matters.”
“Are you at Marnie’s? Is she there? Can I talk to her?”
The questions were like being dunked in a freezing bath. Clare closed her eyes. She took a slow breath and tried to keep her voice steady. “I never reached Marnie.” “Oh.”
Clare’s aunt, Marnie, was the third piece of their tiny family. She lived on a farm two hours’ drive from Clare’s own home. On that last morning, Clare had been trying to pick Marnie up on her way to Beth’s. She’d never made it out of Banksy Forest.
“Well.” Beth sounded like she was choking. “At least you’re okay. At least…at least…”
“I’m so sorry.” Clare stared down at the chipped wooden counter and shivered. The kitchen no longer felt as warm as it had a moment before.
There had been very little chance to think about the world outside the forest during the previous few days. But whenever she had, her mind had turned to her family and what might have happened to them. She’d felt sick every time she imagined it.
She felt sick again, knowing that Marnie must have been waiting for her. Beth would have called her to say Clare was on the way. She’d probably been standing by her front door, a suitcase on one side and a cat carrier on the other. Clare could picture her easily. Brown hair that had started to develop streaks of gray. A body that had been made strong by a lifetime of working in the garden but was always a little on the plump side. She would have been wearing floral clothes and a knit cardigan, like she always did. She was a short woman but had a huge smile and an even bigger heart.
Did the hollow ones get her? Was it fast, or painful and slow?
A warm hand moved over hers. She met Dorran’s dark eyes as he squeezed her fingers.
“But you’re okay.” Beth’s voice crackled through the radio again. She seemed to have rallied. “After your phone went out, I tried reaching you through the radio almost constantly. For days. You didn’t answer, and I thought…I thought…”
“I’m so sorry. I left the radio in the car. It took me a while to get it back.”
“That’s fine. You’re alive. I can forgive everything else as long as you just stay alive. Where are you? If you didn’t get to Marnie’s, does that mean you’re in your cottage? It’s not going to be safe— ”
“No, no, I found a new house. It’s in Banksy Forest.”
She could hear the frown in Beth’s voice. “There aren’t any houses inside the forest.”
“That’s what I thought too. But it was well hidden. The owner,
Dorran, is letting me stay with him.”
Again, Beth hesitated. “Is he a good sort of person?”
“Yes, don’t worry. He’s nice. And we have plenty of food— and a garden. Winterbourne was designed to be self- sufficient and it’s hard to break into. I was lucky. Really lucky.”
“Be careful, Clare. Don’t trust him just because he’s friendly.”
Clare looked down at her hand, which was still enveloped in Dorran’s. She followed it along his arm, covered by the green knit sweater, and up to his face. Thick black hair, grown a little too long, framed a strong, reserved face. His dark eyes, shadowed under a heavy brow, smiled at her. She thought there was no one she trusted more.
“He’s good, I promise. You don’t need to worry about me. How are you doing there?”
“Holding up at least.” There was a speck of hesitation in Beth’s voice.
Clare frowned. “Are you sure? Do you have enough food and water?”
“Yes, that’s all fine. But the generator’s out. I’ve been trying to fix it, but it’s been a challenge without the lights.”
A chill ran through Clare. She pictured Beth, sitting in a dark box, having to feel her way through the space every time she needed food or the bathroom or water. There would be nothing to see. Nothing to do. Just her, alone, listening to the seconds tick by.
“I’m doing fine, sweetheart.” Her voice took on the familiar hint of warning she used whenever Clare was doing something she didn’t approve of. “I have a flashlight. I’m using it judiciously— apparently an excess of batteries still isn’t enough— but I’m hardly suffering down here.”
Clare wasn’t sure if she could believe that. But she tried to keep her voice bright for Beth’s sake. “We can talk on the radio as much as you want. I can carry you around with me and keep you company.”
Beth laughed. “Oh, that would be fun. But I think it’s better if we keep our chats short.”
That was unexpected. “Why?”
“Ah…”
“Tell me, Beth.”
“Too much noise attracts them.”
Dorran’s fingers laced through Clare’s, trying to reassure her. She barely felt it. Her hands were turning numb. “The hollow?”
“Yeah.” Beth’s voice cracked. “I was the only person on my street who had a bunker.”
Clare understood. Without shelter, all of Beth’s neighbors would have been affected by the stillness.
Under the static’s crackles and her own too- fast breathing,
Clare thought she heard another sound. The noise had dogged her for weeks, following her even into her sleep, and every fiber of her being revolted against it. Fingernails, digging. Clawing.
Scratching. They were at Beth’s bunker door.
They’d heard them. They were hungry.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Darcy is the USA Today Bestselling author of Hunted, The Haunting of Ashburn House, Craven Manor, and more than a dozen horror and suspense titles.She lives on the Central Coast of Australia with her family, cats, and a garden full of herbs and vegetables. Darcy loves forests, especially old-growth forests where the trees dwarf anyone who steps between them. Wherever she lives, she tries to have a mountain range close by.

Website|Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon |Hive

Categories
Blog Tours Extract

Whispers in the Mist (Black Winter 3) by Darcy Coates

Published: August 1st, 2020
Publisher: Poison Pen Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Apocalyptic Fiction, Dystiopian Fiction

Extract

Chapter 2

Beth wrapped one arm around Clare’s shoulder as they moved back towards the minibus. Clare frowned, trying to understand what her sister had said. “The hollows?”
“Yeah. I parked here because it’s the closest haven to the city. The light keeps the hollow ones at bay. But they’ll only stay on the outskirts for so long before the hunger gets the best of them.”
Clare squinted at their surroundings and took them in properly for the first time. The parking lot stretched around them in all directions, empty except for a handful of overturned shopping trolleys. The lights above them flooded the area for a hundred feet in each direction. But, if she stared at the shadows on the edges of the asphalt, where the light was thinner, she thought she saw bulb-like eyes glowing in the bushes.
The shopping centre stood not far behind them. Single-story, designed in a long boomerang shape, she guessed it would house at least eighty stores. She’d thought the windows and doors were dark, but as she looked again, she realised they’d been boarded up. Through the planks and sheet metal, she thought she saw spots of light. “Beth… are there people in there?”
“Yeah.”
“Should we—”
“No.” They were at the bus’s door, and Beth pushed the handle to open it. With the windows covered, barely any light reached inside the vehicle, and Clare had to blink as her eyes adjusted.
The minibus had probably been used for tours at one point. Six rows of seats, made of mottled blue and grey fabric, ran either side of the aisle. Metal baskets suspended above them were full of luggage. It wasn’t exactly luxurious, but it was modern and clean.
Dorran still stood in the aisle, one hand braced on a chair for support, shivering as his clothes dripped onto the floor. His expression was unreadable, which Clare had learned was a defence mechanism when he felt uneasy.
“Hey,” she called, injecting some brightness into her voice. “We’re all good. Beth, do you have towels by any chance?”
“In the basket to your right.” Beth dropped into the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition. Lights flickered to life above them and the door slid closed, muffling the rain.
Clare found a black plastic bag full of towels in the storage compartment Beth had indicated to. She pulled two out, checking they were clean, and passed one to Dorran. She couldn’t stop herself from glancing back at the door as she squeezed water out of her hair. “Uh, Beth was just saying that there’s someone in the shopping mall back there. And I’m really hoping she’ll tell me more about that.”
Beth sat crossways in her seat, one arm leaned on the dash, facing Clare as she peeled off her gloves. More fresh, barely-sealed cuts marred her hands. “I stopped here before travelling into the city. They call it a safe haven. There are a few dozen havens just like it dotted around the country. Survivors who have found a place to hole up, somewhere with resources and adequate protection. Shopping malls are popular. Especially the more modern ones that have implemented anti-terrorist precautions. There are larger safe havens in the country. Some that boast actual democracies, though I’ll believe it when I see it.”
“They live here?” Clare wiped water out of her eyes. “How many?”
“About twenty in that centre. They advertise their presence; I heard about them from a traveller on the road. It’s the closest shelter you can get to the city centre. They run the lights constantly to keep hollows away and welcome travellers… as long as you have something to trade.”
“What do they trade for?”
“Things they have a finite supply of. Food, water, fuel. In return, they’ll let you spend the night there and you can take any non-necessities from the other stores. I traded four litres of fuel for as many clothes as I could carry.” She pulled a face. “Starting to regret it, to be honest. Fuel will be in short supply in the coming months.”
Clare leaned close to the door, trying to glimpse the centre through the rain. She caught sight of movement near one of the loading docks. It was impossible to tell whether it was human or hollow. “And you don’t want to stay there again tonight?”
“No. They’re a bit too zealous for my tastes. A lot of surviving bands are. They set up their own rules, their own hierarchy, their own little kingdoms. I know the cliché is survival in numbers, but in this kind of environment, I think we’ll be safer off just the two of us.”
“Three of us,” Clare said. “Don’t forget Dorran.”
“Hm.” Beth’s eyes narrowed as she glanced at their silent companion. He ran the towel through his hair, tousling it, but kept his eyes on the floor.
She’s just wary because he’s a stranger. She was always over-protective like that. She needs some time to get used to him.
But the cautious part of her mind warned that this new Beth was different. The days of fretting over curious boys was over. This Beth was focussed on survival.
“What have you been doing since we last spoke?” she asked Beth. “I want to know everything. How did you get out of the bunker? Where have you been? And your scars—”
“Later, maybe.” Beth rubbed her neck, shaking droplets of water off her chin, as she levelled a cold gaze at Dorran. “So, you’ve been keeping my sister company these last few weeks, huh?”
He blinked, but didn’t meet her eyes. “Ah—yes.”
“Well, I guess I owe you some thanks for that.”
Good. Good. Clare glanced between then, hopeful.
“And I want to give you something to show my gratitude,” Beth continued. “You’re probably ready to get some agency back, right? Name a location. I’ll drop you off there and set you up with good supplies.”
“Hey,” Clare snapped. “We agreed he was staying.”
“We agreed he could leave if he chose to.” Beth didn’t take her eyes off Dorran. “Look, you’ve travelled a long way, and you’re obviously tired. Clare and I might be on the road for a while before we settle down. Pick somewhere to stay and I’ll give you supplies to last. What do you say?”
“Beth—”
“Let him answer.”
Dorran allowed the towel to fall around his shoulders. His dark, deep-set eyes barely flickered, and Clare wondered if Beth could pick up on the quiet panic that was setting into him. His voice remained steady, though, even as he struggled to phrase himself diplomatically. “That is a kind offer. But I would be grateful for the opportunity to accompany you further. I hope I can continue to assist yourself and Clare.”
Beth’s lips twitched down. “I’ll let you take some of our fuel. It’s worth more than gold these days.”
“Stop it.” Clare stepped forward, planting herself between Dorran and Beth. “He’s not going anywhere. We’re a team.”
Beth huffed. She didn’t look happy, but she rolled her shoulders in something like a reluctant shrug. “All right. Fine. You said he’s tired, right? He can sleep in the back of the bus. There’s a bed set up there. But get some dry clothes on first. They’re stored in the racks above your heads.” Beth swivelled to face the dash and put the bus into gear. The engine rumbled as she eased them back towards the street. “We’re far enough from the city that we don’t have to rush, but we can’t afford to sit here all day, either. The hollows get antsy around nightfall and I want to be in the country by then. So you better figure out how to sleep while I drive.” “That’s fine,” Dorran said.
“Clare, get changed, then sit up front with me. I’ll need you for navigation.”
“Okay.” Clare, relieved that Beth had let the argument drop, turned towards the racks and began looking through them. They held not just clothes, but cartons of fuel, water, and cardboard boxes full of long-life food, as well as a rack of weapons suspended near the bus’s rear. She pulled stacks of clothes down as she found them. Most of the outfits were small sizes that would fit the sisters. She had to dig to find clothes large enough for Dorran.
Beth had been sensible about the outfits she’d brought, though; there were extra-thick, insulated shirts and jackets, along with rain-proof overcoats and sturdy leather footwear. Most still had their pricetags attached, which identified them as coming from a high-end hiking store.
“Try these,” Clare murmured, passing shirts and pants to Dorran. She snapped the tags off clothes for herself and sat in one of the seats to change. Her hair was still damp but there wasn’t much she could do for it, so she tied it into a messy bun as she approached Beth at the bus’s front.
“You’re looking better.” Beth remained facing the road, but her eyes flicked up to the rear-view mirror to watch her two companions. “We can’t afford to waste fuel to heat the bus, but there are blankets in the basket under your seat.”
Clare pulled the fleece bundle out, then settled into the chair beside the driver’s console. It had been set back a little to make room for the door, but kept her close to Beth and allowed an unobstructed view of the twisting road ahead. She glanced behind. The row of seats at the back had been converted to a bed, stacked high with pillows and blankets. Dorran sat on its edge, and gave her a small smile. He looked better wearing proper thermal clothes and with his hair brushed back, but the greyness hadn’t left his face. Clare motioned for him to relax. He settled back in his seat, legs crossed ahead of himself, but didn’t seem ready to sleep.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Darcy is the USA Today Bestselling author of Hunted, The Haunting of Ashburn House, Craven Manor, and more than a dozen horror and suspense titles.She lives on the Central Coast of Australia with her family, cats, and a garden full of herbs and vegetables. Darcy loves forests, especially old-growth forests where the trees dwarf anyone who steps between them. Wherever she lives, she tries to have a mountain range close by.

Website |Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon |Hive

Categories
Blog Tours

Extract – A Death in Mayfair by Mark Ellis

2020-05-11-13-08-00

Published: November 21st, 2019
Publisher: Accent Press Ltd
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Crime Fiction

Today I’m sharing an extract from the latest installment in the acclaimed DCI Frank Merlin series. Thank you to Amber at Midas PR for the invitation and extract.

 

1
CHAPTER 1
Friday December 5th 1941

London
It was an hour before dawn when the officers gathered at the street corner. Their target was ten doors down the terrace. Clouds of frozen breath trailed off into the darkness above them. Across the way a parked cart stank of the horse manure stored under its tarpaulin covers. A cat wailed in the distance.
They were seven. Merlin and his men, Johnson and Cole, and four uniformed constables from the local East End station. Merlin examined faces with his torch. Everyone was tensed for action. He raised his right hand. They all knew the drill and moved silently down the road towards the house.
The two stockiest constables carried a compact battering ram, a heavy iron tube with a large rounded end. They waited for a whispered ‘Yes’ from Merlin before smashing it into the front door. After four blows the policemen were able to clamber into the unlit hallway. There they were met by panicked screams, shouts, and the sound of frantic footsteps. In the midst of this came the unmistakeable noise of gunfire. One of the constables fell to the ground, and the other policemen took cover. More shots lit up the air but none hit home. When the firing stopped, Merlin’s torch picked out several shadowy figures racing up the stairs.
“Inspector Johnson, take Cole and one of the constables and follow. You two others search the ground floor. For Christ’s sake be careful. I’ll check on the lad here.” Merlin knelt down to the stricken constable who was conscious but clearly in pain.
“It’s my arm, sir.”
Merlin found the wound a couple of inches above the elbow. “It looks like it’s just a flesh wound, lad. I’ll tie something around it. We’ll call the medics as soon as we can.”
Merlin made a makeshift tourniquet with his handkerchief, squeezed the man’s hand then headed up the stairs. The first and second floors were clear. On the third and final floor the stairs opened onto a large space, unfurnished save for a heavy metal bedframe in the middle of the room. Two unhappy-looking men were standing handcuffed to the bed under the gaze of a constable.
“That was quick work, officer.”
“They tripped over each other, sir, and fell flat on their faces. We were right on them so it was easy, really. Two others got out onto the roof, though.” There was a noise from behind and Merlin turned to see Cole climbing out of a window with Johnson about to do the same.
Merlin followed his men out onto the roof and found them with his torch scrambling along the gables to his right. The street terrace was a long one with interconnected roofs. They were not steeply cambered but the surface was icy and treacherous. Gunshots suddenly rang out from somewhere and Merlin ducked and braced himself against the wall beneath the window. A bullet whizzed past his ear and thudded into the window
casement. He waited a moment then edged carefully along the brickwork. The moon came out from behind some clouds and he saw his men lying flat twenty yards ahead. There was another shot and, to his surprise, he saw one of his men rise and return fire. Someone screamed and a heavy clattering sound followed. Merlin’s heart was pounding as he skidded from his cover to a chimney pot ten yards further along. He shone his torch again and saw a man racing away in the distance with his officers in pursuit. A loud animal cry from below made Merlin jump; he went to the roof edge and pointed his torch down. A motionless body was spreadeagled in an alleyway and something was crawling over it. He had little religious belief these days but by reflex he made a sign of the cross. Then Johnson was shouting for him, and he turned and hurried on.
His men were on the roof of the furthest house, looking down. “It’s no good, sir” said Johnson. “He’s hopped it down the drainpipe. Cole here wanted to follow him down but I said it was too dangerous.”
“I’m sure I can manage it, sir. He looked like he was limping before he went down. If I go now, he won’t have got far.”
Merlin edged forward and saw the drainpipe. “Sorry, Constable. The Inspector is right. It’s not a risk worth taking. We’ve bagged two of them, at least. The other fellow you were chasing has had it. From your bullet or the fall I’m not sure. Where did you get the gun?”
“One of those two inside was carrying and I pocketed it” answered Johnson.
“Good thing you did, or one or both of you might have copped it. There’ll be some tedious questions to answer but you were clearly within your rights to fire.”

Mark Ellis - author photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Ellis is a thriller writer from Swansea and a former barrister and entrepreneur.

He is the creator of DCI Frank Merlin, an Anglo-Spanish police detective operating in World War 2 London. His books treat the reader to a vivid portrait of London during the war skilfully blended with gripping plots, political intrigue and a charismatic protagonist.

Mark grew up under the shadow of his parents’ experience of the Second World War. His father served in the wartime navy and died a young man. His mother told him stories of watching the heavy bombardment of Swansea from the safe vantage point of a hill in Llanelli, and of attending tea dances in wartime London under the bombs and doodlebugs.

In consequence Mark has always been fascinated by WW2 and in particular the Home Front and the fact that while the nation was engaged in a heroic endeavour, crime flourished. Murder, robbery, theft and rape were rife and the Blitz provided scope for widespread looting.

This was an intriguing, harsh and cruel world. This is the world of DCI Frank Merlin.

Mark Ellis’ books regularly appear in the Kindle bestseller charts.

He is published by Headline Accent, an imprint of Headline.

He is a member of Crime Cymru, the Welsh crime writing collective, and of the Crime Writers Association (CWA).

His third book, Merlin at War, was on the CWA Historical Dagger Longlist in 2018.

The new Frank Merlin book, A Death In Mayfair, came out in November 2019.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

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Twitter
Facebook

BUY THE BOOK:

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Apple Books
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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up – April 2020

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I can’t believe we’re a third of the way through the year already. April has been a strange month for the world with us being in lockdown. For me, that’s meant mostly getting used to not having a quiet house during the day Monday to Friday, which is when I do a lot of my reading and blogging. I’ve also had to hand over my laptop to our eldest as his is broken so I’m restricted in my times I can write.

In terms of reading, April has been another strong month for me. I’ve read thirteen books, taken part in fifteen blog tours, two cover reveals, one readalong and one buddy read. So here is what I’ve read this month:

  1. Mine by Clare Empson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  2. Strangers by C.L. Taylor ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  3. The Philosopher’s Daughters by Alison Booth ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  4. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  5. All In Her Head by Nikki Smith ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton ⭐⭐⭐.5
  7. The Switch by Beth O’Leary ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. I Am Dust by Louise Beech ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. What’s Left of Me Is Yours by Stephanie Scott ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
  11. The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  12. The House Guest by Mark Edwards ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  13. We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  14. So Many Lies by Paul J. Teague ⭐⭐⭐⭐

You can read the synopsis and reviews for what I’ve read this month by clicking on the links above except for The House Guest, which will be reviewed next month.

So many great books means it’s hard to choose a favourite. And this month it was almost impossible. I loved Hamnet and was sure nothing would top that; until I read the breathtaking debut novel, What’s Left Of Me Is Yours. I still think about that book many times each day and am constantly recommending everyone read it. So if you haven’t yet bought a copy you can use the links in my review to do it now! Other books I feel deserve a shout out are the fantastic thrillers Strangers and All In Her Head, the heartwarming and uplifting The Switch, and the brilliantly sinister I Am Dust. Each of these were also contenders for my book of the month.

Thank you to the publishers for my gifted copies of the books and the blog tour organisers for all their hard work.

What have you read this month and what was your favourite? Comment below.

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: July 11th, 2019
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Format: Special Edition eBook, Paperback
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Contemporary Romance

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Melanie Blake’s bestselling novel The Thunder Girls. Selected as one of Kindle’s eBooks of the month for April 2020, you can buy it at the discounted price of 99p until the end of the month.

Thank you to Martina at Midas PR for the invitation to take part.

SYNOPSIS:

THE

Chrissie, Roxanne, Carly and Anita, an eighties pop sensation outselling and out-classing their competition. Until it all comes to an abrupt end and three of their careers are over, and so is their friendship.

THUNDER

Thirty years later, their old record label wants the band back together for a huge money-making concert. But the wounds are deep and some need this gig more than others.

In those decades apart life was far from the dream they were living as members of The Thunder Girls. Breakdowns, bankruptcy, addiction and divorce have been a constant part of their lives. They’ve been to hell and back, and some are still there.

GIRLS

Can the past be laid to rest for a price, or is there more to this reunion than any of them could possibly know? Whilst they all hunger for a taste of success a second time around, someone is plotting their downfall in the deadliest way possible . . .

MY REVIEW:

A riveting page-turner that had me up until the early hours, this is the compelling story of The Thunder Girls, an all-girl band who rode high in the Eighties, amassing a string of number one singles in just two years. It all came to an abrupt end when they were disbanded by their record company in favour of launching one of their members, Chrissie, as a solo artist, leaving the remaining girls: Carly. Roxanne and Anita feeling betrayed. Thirty years later, the label wants them to reunite to perform at Rock Legends along with other Eighties artists. But can they put three decades of bitterness and resentment aside for a much-needed paycheck? And will they notice their enemy lurking in the shadows and plotting their downfall?

Entertaining, thrilling and absorbing, I devoured this novel in under a day. I was completely engrossed in the drama of the women’s lives and the various personal struggles they were facing. The characters are richly drawn. Chrissie is the stereotypical diva and while I would hate to be around her in real life, she was fun to read and lit up any scene she was in. The other women were more likeable and I felt a particular connection to Carly, probably because I have been in a similar relationship and was rooting for her liberation. I loved the group’s dynamic when they came back together. Carly, Roxanne and Anita are still reeling from Chrissie leaving them behind thirty years ago, which culminates in explosive cat-fights, bitching and histrionics that were entertaining to read and added tension as I couldn’t fathom how they’d ever manage to get along long enough to perform together.

This is Melanie Blake’s debut novel and has already been turned into a nationwide play with an all-star cast. It’s easy to see why. The Thunder Girls is the perfect book to binge read and get totally lost in this summer. And with the eBook just 99p in April it is the perfect time to grab yourself a copy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As one of the UK’s most successful female entrepreneurs, over the years Melanie has had two careers at the top tier of the entertainment industry. Her first 10 years were as a music manager with a roster of award-winning artists who sold over 100 million records and the second decade as one of the UK’s leading acting agents representing some of the most famous faces on British television. The Thunder Girls is inspired by her time in the music business and her second novel which is out in 2021 will be inspired by her years in the world of soap opera and drama. Her own management company, which has covered both genres, has turned over more than 30 million.

With no formal education herself, Melanie is a true champion for working class women who are so often overlooked in our society. The Thunder Girls is a celebration of women from diverse demographics and all the lead characters in the novel are over 40 and working class. As well as having written the book, Melanie has penned The Thunder Girls the play which embarks on a nationwide tour in 2021. Melanie Blake might just be the world’s biggest Jackie Collins fan. She first read Rock Star aged 9, after smuggling the copy out of the library by telling the librarian it was for her mum! Melanie was dazzled by Jackie Collin’s world where women clawed themselves from poverty into glamorous, moneyed lives. In Jackie Collins’ novels, women were bosses and winners who achieved everything they wanted and it was these novels that inspired Melanie to become her own boss and a lady entrepreneur. In 2017 Melanie’s connection with Jackie Collins came full circle, when after Jackie’s sad death she bought five pieces of Jackie’s jewellery at auction – two rings and three necklaces inlayed with morganite, citrines and diamonds – which she wears every day.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR: 

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Things We Say in the Dark by Kirsty Logan – The Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist Blog Tour

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Published: October 3rd, 2019
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Genre: Fairy tale, Ghost Story, Horror, Dystopian Fiction

I’m excited to share my review for the first of two books I’ll be reading as part of The Dylan Thomas Prize longlist blog tour. Thank you to Midas PR for the invitation to take part and Harvill Secker for the gifted copy of this book.

SYNOPSIS:

A shocking collection of dark stories, ranging from chilling contemporary fairytales to disturbing supernatural fiction, by a talented writer who has been compared to Angela Carter.

So here we go, into the dark.

Some things can’t be spoken about in the light of day. But we can visit our fears at night, in the dark. We can turn them over and weigh them in our hands and maybe that will protect us from them. But maybe not.

The characters in this collection find their aspirations for happy homes, happy families and happy memories dissected and imbued with shimmering menace. Alone in a remote house in Iceland a woman is unnerved by her isolation; another can only find respite from the clinging ghost that follows her by submerging herself in an overgrown pool. Couples wrestle with a lack of connection to their children; a schoolgirl becomes obsessed with the female anatomical models in a museum; and a cheery account of child’s day out is undercut by chilling footnotes.

These dark tales explore women’s fears with electrifying honesty and invention and speak to one another about female bodies, domestic claustrophobia, desire and violence. From a talented writer who has been compared to Angela Carter, Things We Say in the Dark is a powerful contemporary collection of feminist stories, ranging from vicious fairy tales to disturbing horror and tender ghost stories.

KIRSTY LOGAN WAS SELECTED AS ONE OF BRITAIN’S TEN MOST OUTSTANDING LGBTQ WRITERS by Val McDermid for the International Literature Showcase in 2019

MY REVIEW:

“Some things can’t be spoken about in the light of day. But we can visit our fears at night, in the dark . We can turn them over and weigh them in our hands and maybe that will protect us from them. But maybe not.”

Things We Say in the Dark is a striking, dark, curious and unsettling collection of short stories that explore fear through a creative lens. Each story has a deeper meaning under its surface, the author addressing subjects such as love, loss, longing, relationships, parenthood, sexism, homophobia and abuse.

This was my first time reading anything by this author and I was immediately pulled in by the immersive writing and loved the elements of horror and dark comedy that was infused into the stories. I enjoyed this collection but there were one or two stories that were a little bizarre for my taste. The stories that stood out in my mind were Birds Fell From The Sky and Each One Spoke In Your Voice, My Body Cannot Forget Your Body, Good Good Good, Nice Nice Nice and The Only Thing I Can’t Tell You Is Why. I laughed, I grimaced, my heart was broken and I was full of rage as the author made me feel a variety of emotions over the course of this collection. 

Between each story there is commentary from the author where she talks about her life, her motivations for writing the book and her writing process. These sections seemed to tell another, more personal, story and I enjoyed the glimpse into the author’s mind and feeling like she was almost there with me as I read. 

So if you’re looking for something intelligent, thought-provoking and different, and don’t mind stories that are sinister and creepy, then I would recommend this fascinating collection. I flew through it quickly but it is also ideal for dipping in and out of when you only have a small time to read. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kirsty Logan is a Scottish novelist, poet, performer, literary editor, writing mentor, book reviewer and writer of short fiction. She lives in Glasgow. She wrote her undergraduate thesis on retold fairytales, and her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

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Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

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Waterstones
Book Depository
Google Books
Apple Books
Kobo

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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Today is my stop on the blog tour to celebrate the paperback release of this intoxicating thriller. Thank you to Amber at Midas PR for the invitation to take part and to Orion for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

I love him so totally, completely, sometimes it threatens to overwhelm me.

Sometimes I think –

No. I won’t write about that.

ALICIA

Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine.  She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening. Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

THEO

Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced that he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed.  Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

 

MY REVIEW:

On a scorching summer night, 33-year-old painter Alicia Beresford is discovered covered in blood, standing rigid and frozen in her living room, while the body of Gabriel, her husband of seven years, sits tied to a chair.  She had shot him five times in the head with his rifle and then slit her wrists to attempt suicide. She is taken to hospital but doesn’t make any statements of guilt or innocence, in fact Alicia doesn’t speak at all. Her only “statement” was a painting she did after she was under house arrest while awaiting trial. It is self portrait named Alcestis, after the greek heroine, and its meaning remains a mystery.  Six years later psychotherapist Theo Faber, who has been obsessed with the case since it occurred, applies for a job at the hospital she’s being treated. He is sure he can reach her, get her to speak again and discover the truth about what happened that night.

I was so excited to read this book. From the middle of 2018 there was a lot of buzz on Bookstagram and it immediately caught my eye. I was fully immersed in this book from the first page and flew through it, unable to put it down or stop thinking about it when I wasn’t reading. 

The story is told in the past tense by Alicia’s psychotherapist, Theo. It also contains extracts from the diary her husband Gabriel had encouraged her to write in the weeks leading up to his death. These pages give us an insight into who she is, or was, why she remains silent, and enables the reader to learn things such as lies being told by some of those closest to Alicia. But this book is as much a story about Theo as it is about Alicia and Gabriel. He feels an affinity with her that is his motivation and conviction that he alone can help her find her voice again. But he keeps breaking the rules and seems increasingly obsessed with his patient. Is he using the case as a distraction from the difficulties in his private life or is there more going on?

I loved how well-written and researched this novel was. I found the information about psychology and trauma both fascinating and informative and loved how the author could convey so much from the little things such as a description of Alicia’s facial expressions or her hands shaking. It is a book filled with flawed, twisted, damaged and broken the character, which are always great fun to read. Alicia was an alluring enigma who puzzled me; I could never quite work out if she was a malevolent calculating killer or a tragic victim of an as-yet-unknown horror. I liked Theo from the start and was rooting for him to be able to break Alicia’s silence and discover the truth of what happened. There were two characters I was suspicious about and that I thought might be involved in Gabriel’s death, perhaps even framing Alicia in some way. I was convinced I knew where the story was going and what would happen but I couldn’t have been more wrong….

The novel is ingeniously written as with one chapter, a paragraph and finally a short sentence, the writer mercilessly takes your breath away. He transforms this novel from a great book into a mind-blowing and sensational book with a twist you truly couldn’t have foreseen. THIS is the book I would call the crime debut of 2019.  What a magnificent and electrifying debut. Everyone will be talking about this book and that twist. Whatever genre you enjoy, you need to read this book. 

Out now.

Alex Michaelides (c) Andrew Hayes-Watkins

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alex Michaelides is an author and screenwriter born in Cyprus to a Greek-Cypriot father and English mother. After graduating from Cambridge with a degree in English, he received an MA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. He wrote the film The Devil You Know, starring Rosamund Pike, and co-wrote The Brits Are Coming, starring Uma Thurman and Tim Roth. The Silent Patient has sold in 44 territories so far – a record for a debut novel – the film rights for which were recently acquired by Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B.

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Blog Tour Review: ‘Here To Stay’ by Mark Edwards ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Today is my stop on the blog tour for the sensational new novel from Mark Edwards. Thank you to Amber at Midas PR for my invitation to take part and to Amazon Publishing, Thomas & Mercer and Mark Edwards for my copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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SYNOPSIS:

A beautiful home. A loving wife. And in-laws to die for.

Gemma Robinson comes into Elliot’s life like a whirlwind, and they marry and settle down into his home. When she asks him if her parents can come to stay for a couple of weeks, he is keen to oblige – he just doesn’t quite know what he’s signing up for. 

The Robinsons arrive with Gemma’s sister, Chloe, a mysterious young woman who refuses to speak or leave her room. Elliot starts to suspect that the Robinsons are hiding a dark secret. And then there are scars on his wife’s body she won’t talk about.

As Elliot’s in-laws become more comfortable in their new home, encroaching on all aspects of his life, it becomes clear they have no intention of moving out. To protect Gemma, and their marriage, Elliot delves into the Robinsons’ past. But is he prepared for the truth?

From the two million copy bestselling author comes a tale about the chilling consequences of  welcoming strangers into your home.

Here To Stay Book Jacket

MY REVIEW:

Another nail-biting, chilling tale of domestic noir from the man that Jennifer Hillier has rightly crowned “The King of domestic horror”. 

Elliot Foster and Gemma Robinson meet one summer afternoon. She saves his life after a near-fatal bee sting and they fall hard and fast, marrying just two months later in Vegas. Elliot couldn’t be happier. 

A few weeks after their wedding Gemma tells Elliot that her parents are moving back to the UK and asks if they can stay with them for a few weeks?  Wanting to make his new wife happy, and to meet his new in-laws, Elliot agrees. It will be the biggest mistake he ever makes.

This book is AMAZING! It started off slowly and while I was enjoying it, I didn’t foresee just how horrifying, mind-blowing and simply incredible it would become. Though, this being Mark Edwards I am also not surprised. Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of this author. Ever since I first read The Retreat last summer , which I loved the nod to in this novel, I haven’t been able to get enough of his books. The Magpies trilogy is considered his greatest work, and it’s antagonist, Lucy Newton, is one of the greatest villains I’ve read. But this story and it’s villains give them both a run for their money.  

Do you think you’ve got the in-laws from hell? Well Elliot’s are probably worse. I know I’d happily take my awful ex-mother-in-law over them any day! Jeff and Lizzy Robinson are two of the most despicable, repulsive, noxious, contemptible, foul and vile people I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading about. They turn Elliot’s world upside down and inside out. They seem determined to not only take his home but destroy his entire life. It got me so angry reading how they behaved. Do you remember how in Roald Dahl’s The Twits it says that if a person has ugly thoughts it begins to show on their face, and they become uglier and uglier until you can no longer stand to look at them? Well that quote sprang to mind while reading about this couple and I imagined them getting uglier as the book went on. They’re such terrible people it seems like it would have to leak out from the inside and show on their faces. 

Elliot is the all-round nice guy. He’s worked hard and made a good life for himself, runs a non-profit working with underprivileged kids, thinks of others, is kind-hearted, and has finally met the woman of his dreams. Then the Robinsons threaten to take it all away. He gives them the benefit of the doubt over again, tell himself his suspicions are crazy and finds rational explanations for things. And every time they do something even worse. I didn’t judge Elliot for some of his fantasies about what he’d like to do to them. I understood. How could you not loathe such toxic people.

The Robinson siblings are the mysterious characters, especially Chloe who is deathly ill and locks herself away when they first move in. They all seem frightened of their parents are secretive about their childhood and what exactly has happened to make them all so scared. Though Gemma and Elliot are married it was all so fast he barely knows her, or her past, and as the story unfolds he realises just how little he knew before making such a big commitment and inviting her family to stay with them.

I don’t want to give any details away as the shocks add to the escalating horror and brilliance of this book. I highly recommend this edge-of-your-seat thriller; just be warned that it’s a turbulent ride. And another thing…be careful who you invite to stay in your house. They just might never leave… 

Publication Date: September 1st. Available to buy from your favourite bookseller.

Mark Edwards

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people.

He has sold more than 2 million books and topped the UK bestseller list eight times.

His titles include The Magpies, Follow You Home and The Retreat. His next book, Here to Stay, will be published on 1 September 2019.

Website: https://www.markedwardsauthor.com/

Facebook: Mark Edwards Books, Instagram:@markedwardsauthor and Twitter: @mredwards