Blog Tour: Bluebird, Bluebird *Giveaway*

October 3, 2017 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Crime, Current Giveaways

Welcome to today’s stop on the Bluebird, Bluebird blog tour!

BB blog tour image

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour: Bluebird, Bluebird *Giveaway*Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
Series: Highway 59 #1
Published by Serpent's Tail on 28th September 2017
Genres: Crime
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Southern fables usually go the other way around. A white woman is killed or harmed in some way, real or imagined, and then, like the moon follows the sun, a black man ends up dead.

But when it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules - a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.

So when allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he is drawn to a case in the small town of Lark, where two dead bodies washed up in the bayou. First a black lawyer from Chicago and then, three days later, a local white woman, and it's stirred up a hornet's nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes - and save himself in the process - before Lark's long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

There are times when you read a novel and know it will stay with you for a long time; such was the case for me with Bluebird, Bluebird. Far more than a crime novel, this well-written, immersive book shines a spotlight upon racial tensions in East Texas.

Through Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger whose family hail from the state, we are given a glimpse into a world where a white woman’s death is investigated, but the suspicious death of a black man is left unexplored.  Darren gives us an insight into the life of a black law enforcer in an area where such a man is a rarity, an area which houses the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. Through his investigations, we are drawn into the racial politics and educated on what life is like (badge or no) when you are unwelcome in your own homeland.

I was thoroughly absorbed by this story. Having never read any of Locke’s work before, I was extremely taken with her storytelling and prose. The mystery aspect of the story is fascinating, however, it’s the look through the microscope at small-town East Texas life and the dynamics surrounding it that I found really made this novel. It’s a thought-provoking book and Locke raises many very pertinent issues. At times I was incredulous (and perhaps very naive) to find that this type of racism still occurs so freely in the world.  It’s a very timely novel that will no doubt impact the reader and leave a lasting impression.

**GIVEAWAY**

I’m delighted to say that I have a copy of this impressive and thought-provoking novel to give away to one reader in the UK. To be in with a chance of winning simply use the rafflecopter entry form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

four-half-stars

Blog Tour: If We Were Villains

June 15, 2017 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Thriller

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour: If We Were VillainsIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
Published by Titan on 13th June 2017
Genres: thriller, Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he's released, he's greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago.

As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off – villain, hero, tyrant, temptress – though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary character in someone else's story. But when the teachers change up the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into life.

When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.

I’m delighted to be today’s stop on the If We Were Villains blog tour. If you’ve missed the other stops on the tour so far you can find them all at the bottom of this post.

Dellecher Classical Conservatory is an elite art school that is home to Oliver and his six friends; all of whom are in their fourth and final year as theatre students and scholars of Shakespeare. They live, study, act and socialise with one another – their own Shakespeare-loving family.

When we meet Oliver it’s ten years later and he’s just getting out of prison where he has served time for the murder of one of these close friends. He has finally agreed to tell the lead detective the whole, true story.

The novel is structured through Acts and Scenes which tell the story of life at the school, with Preludes that focus on the now and Oliver’s release from prison. I loved this structure, in a book filled with drama, theatrics and plays it fits the theme perfectly.

Now, I studied Shakespeare in school but that was quite some time ago – and even then I’m familiar with only a few of his plays. I was slightly concerned that my ignorance might mean that I wouldn’t enjoy this novel; however I actually enjoyed it very much. I would say though that those more acquainted with Shakespeare or even with theatre as a whole would no doubt enjoy it more.

Our seven characters (I was rather confused at first with all of the names, but I soon caught on) are actors; throughout the year they adopt Shakespearean roles for a variety of plays. Indeed they even converse among one another in quotes at times. However, as the school year progresses it seems that many of the seven are struggling to leave their Shakespearean roles behind, and the line between fiction and reality becomes increasingly blurred.

This is not your typical thriller. Yes, it’s thrilling and gripping but it’s far more than that. Rio weaves her story in conjunction with Shakespearean verse. Indeed she often echoes her characters’ mindsets and actions though their study of The Bard. At first, I’ll admit I struggled a little with this style, but it’s executed so well that I soon became accustomed to the interspersions of verse.

Rio not only expertly combines Shakespeare into her narrative, but also displays her own beautiful writing.

This is quite a rollercoaster read – love, betrayal, envy, passion, friendships, this book has it all – just like the Shakespearean works it echoes.

If We Were Villains Blog Tour

three-half-stars

Blog Tour: The Cutaway

April 1, 2017 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Thriller

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour: The CutawayThe Cutaway by Christina Kovac
Published by Serpent's Tail on 6th April 2017
Genres: Mystery, thriller
Format: Hardback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

It begins with someone else's story. The story of a woman who leaves a busy restaurant and disappears completely into the chilly spring night. Evelyn Carney is missing - but where did she go? Who was she meeting? And why did she take a weapon with her when she went? When brilliant TV producer Virginia Knightley finds Evelyn's missing person report on her desk, she becomes obsessed with finding out what happened that night. But her pursuit of the truth draws her deep into the power struggles and lies of Washington DC's elite - to face old demons and new enemies.

I’m delighted today to be the first stop on The Cutaway Blog Tour. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on the novel, but be sure to check out these other blogs over the next 12 days for different articles and features.

blogtour_dates (1)

Recently, I’ve become pretty interested in how the media uncover stories, how they break news and how they contribute towards the solving of crimes. I suspect that it’s my true crime podcast obsession that’s piqued this interest. So when I was asked if I’d like to review The Cutaway, the debut novel by Christina Kovac who has seventeen years of experience working in the media producing crime and political stories, well obviously I couldn’t resist.

The Cutaway follows the story of TV news producer Virginia Knightly. Virginia becomes interested in the disappearance of a young lawyer, Evelyn Carney, who vanishes one night after leaving a restaurant in Georgetown, Washington DC. Knightly is determined to uncover what happened to Evelyn and as she works on the story it becomes apparent that there are powerful people involved, people who want to keep this story out of the spotlight.

I really enjoyed this thriller. For me, it was a change from the police-centred detective tales I’ve read and enjoyed recently. I found the insight into a newsroom fascinating – the contrast between teamwork and self-preservation, the protection of sources, fact-checking, politics, beating rival channels to a story and the practicalities of a building a story ready for air.

Furthermore, I found the setting of Washington DC, the politics, the powerful personalities, as well as the media interaction really interesting.

As for the disappearance of Evelyn, I had various theories along the way – none of which were accurate!

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and find myself hoping that we might be treated to more Virginia Knightly stories in the future.

four-stars

Review: Ragdoll

February 22, 2017 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Crime

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: RagdollRagdoll by Daniel Cole
Published by Trapeze on 23rd February 2017
Genres: Crime
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the 'ragdoll'.

Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William 'Wolf' Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.

The 'Ragdoll Killer' taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

I’m so pleased to be one of the stops on the Ragdoll blog tour today! Make sure you check out all of the other victims too!

Ragdoll blog tour

If you frequent Twitter, you are probably aware of the hype surrounding this book. For this reason, I couldn’t wait to read it but, as ever, was worried it might not live up to the hype. I’m so glad to say that it absolutely did – I really enjoyed this debut novel. I couldn’t put it down!

DS William Fawkes, known as Wolf, is an interesting character with a somewhat chequered past. When a corpse is found that is actually body parts from six corpses sewn together, Ragdoll, Fawkes and his colleagues undertake the murder investigations. However, the killer has released a list of his next victims along with the dates he intends to murder them. Wolf’s name is on that list. As the team try to uncover the identities of “Ragdoll”, prevent the deaths of the listed and trace the killer, they face a battle against the media who ensure that the world is watching.

This book kept me glued from the outset. The case, the twists and turns all had me craving more information.

Despite his flaws, I really liked Wolf. I also really enjoyed the interaction between him and his colleagues. I find that I often struggle to connect with the ‘colleagues’ in this type of novel, however that absolutely wasn’t the case. I felt we got to know Baxter, Edmunds and Finlay, and appreciate their characters too.

Despite the nature of this book, I found myself chuckling at times. There’s some great banter and one-liners that help to distract from the darkness of the story.

It’s always a good sign when you reach the final chapter of a book and realise that you aren’t quite ready to leave its characters behind. This is undoubtedly the case with Ragdoll and so I’m delighted to see that it’s the first book in a series.

This book is thrilling, fast-paced (to the point I had to go back and reread some pages to make sure I had absorbed all of the information) and most definitely memorable. I can’t wait to read Coles’ next instalment!

four-half-stars

Blog Tour: Wintersong with Author S. Jae-Jones

February 10, 2017 in Blog Tours, Bookish Posts

Earlier this week I shared with you some of my thoughts on Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones. If you missed it, you can find it here.

Wintersong cover

Today, I’m delighted to welcome the author herself to the blog today to share with you some tips on writing your first novel.

top 10 tips

Writing a novel is a daunting task. I’m not going to pretend it’s easy; there’s no “trick” that will suddenly flip a switch and make writing simple and easy. Writing is a craft, and as such, it requires craftsmanship—1 part talent, 1 part hard work, and 2 parts grinding through the boring bits. So here are the things I keep in mind while writing:

  1. Finish what you started.

I can’t underestimate the importance of finishing. You can be the most prolific writer in the world in terms of word count, but if those words don’t come together in an entire novel with a beginning, a middle, and an end, then no matter how many words you write per day, you won’t have a book in your hands.

  1. Develop a writing habit.

Like going to the gym, consistency builds progress. I’m not one of those people who says you should write every day, but never underestimate the power of routine. Writing gets easier the more you do it. Set aside some time—three times a week, perhaps—where you sit and work on your book. Even if you only write 300 words per session, that’s still 900 more words at the end of the week than what you had to start.

  1. Take care of yourself.

I joke that every single book I’ve written has been fueled by iced coffee and Twizzlers. That’s not strictly true, but what is true is that health and hygiene fall by the wayside when I’m on deadline. Remembering to eat, to sleep, to exercise, or even shower does wonders for your state of mind.

  1. Read. And read. And then read some more.

Art is not created in a vacuum. Get inspired by others. Learn.

  1. Refill the creative well.

I think for a lot of writers, it’s hard to take a break. But if you’ve found yourself burned out, if it’s harder wringing words from your brain than water from a stone, then step away. Do something you enjoy. Knit. Take a walk. Watch mindless television.

  1. Perfection is overrated.

My first 5 pieces of advice were for the act of writing, but when it comes to writing itself, advice varies wildly from person to person. However, the thing I have to remind myself is that a first draft is a first draft. Perfection hinders. Get your story on paper first; words can always be fixed.

  1. Story > prose.

Related to the previous tip, but all the beautiful writing in the world can’t save a dull book. Again, get your story down first. Words can always, always be fixed.

  1. Know the point of your book.

I’m not someone who outlines (I am, in writer parlance, a “pantser”), but I always know the why of what I’m writing. Why I’m writing. What I want to take away from the work. It helps keep me going.

  1. Read your work aloud.

It’s amazing how ridiculous that beautiful sentence you just wrote sounds when you hear it spoken.

  1. Be proud of yourself.

A lot of people say they will write a book some day, but not everyone will. The fact that you’re writing at all speaks volumes. Take pride in your work!

Thank you so much, JJ for joining us on the blog today and for sharing your top tips with us!

Don’t miss the rest of JJ’s Wintersong Blog Tour, you can find all of the stops below!

WINTERSONG blog tour