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

Blog Tour: G.X. Todd, Defender

January 18, 2017 in Blog Tours, Bookish Posts, Guest Posts

If you follow me on Twitter, it will come as no surprise to you to hear that I’m VERY EXCITED about today’s post! Back in November, I posted my thoughts on Defender by G.X. Todd and I am not exaggerating when I say that I am still thinking about this book! I can’t wait for the second book in the series.

Blog Tour Poster - D v2

So, I am hugely excited to welcome G.X. Todd to the blog today, on the final day of her Defender Blog Tour. Make sure to check out all of her other guest posts this week!

Over to Gemma! 😀

G X Todd Blog Tour

Ten books I read as a kid that turned me into a book devouring monster

I want to do something slightly different here and not just list a bunch of books. With that in mind, I’m going to hunt out some old copies I read as a kid and discuss why Young Me might have picked them. You’ll see I had quite a diverse taste in reading material for a 12-year-old girl…

 

The Hobbit

 

 

Look at the state of this! I’ve given it a right battering. I was very lucky in Junior school in that my English teacher at the time read The Hobbit to my class. We were all around eight or nine. I think being exposed to Tolkien’s imagination set me up for life (I primarily read Fantasy and Sci-fi for most of my teenage years). I really like Smaug on this cover, too. Look how majestic he is!

 

 

 

 

Space Trap

What a beaut Space Trap is. I had a massive author crush on Monica Hughes. I read everything the library had to offer but this is where it all started. Even the title is bold and exciting. And it looks like that robot is kidnapping those kids! Space shenanigans!

 

“There was blackness with no space and time, no breath and no heartbeat…her throat had shrunk into a hard knot the way it does during a nightmare.”

 

This woman knew how to write, and she certainly knew which artist to pick to do her cover art.

 

FutureTrack 5

 

 

Come on, that helmet is a blatant Storm Trooper rip-off. Young Me must have lapped it up. It has motorbikes, too. I bet I snatched it off the shelf and ran all the way home with it. Didn’t hear a peep out of me until tea-time.

It’s actually a fantastic book, one I’ve read a bunch of times. Westall’s Urn Burial is also ace. It has a space cat in it, and that’s all I’m saying.

 

 

Lotus Caves

 

“Beneath the arid crust of the moon there grew an alien being – one both beautiful and terrifying!” reads the back cover. And take note of that exclamation mark. They’re not messing around. Spaceman Benny looks happy with my choice, too. Probably because there’s a spaceship involved.

 

I remember this being much darker than I was expecting. I think it played on my mind for quite a while, but that’s good for a kid. It makes us realise not everything in this world is rosy.

 

 

Mountain Survival

 

 

Talking about children’s books that weren’t afraid to go to those dark places, do you remember these? I was given my first Choose Your Own Adventure at Asda in Wolverhampton. We must have bought something to make us qualify for a freebie, but I have no idea what. A grizzly bear alarm? Climbing apparatus? I mean, there’s a dead person on the front cover, for goodness sake. Still, I loved it. I read an awful lot of books that were derivatives of this, including Steve Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy series.

 

 

For an idea of just how harsh some of the endings you could choose in these stories, have a read of this:

Ending

 

George's MM

Matilda

 

A Roald Dahl double-whammy. These covers bring back so many fond memories, and the illustrations haven’t dated at all. Testament to the talent of Mr Blake. My copies aren’t too shabby, either. This must have been during my “can’t crack the spine” phase, which lasted about ten years. Pocket money was so precious that when I spent it on books, I wanted to keep my purchases immaculate.

 

 

 

 

face

 

 

Look at this craggy-faced geezer! Why did I pick this up? He’s old and has unfashionably long hair for a guy (even for back when I was thirteen). Do you have any idea who he is or what book he’s from? Nope?

 

Earthsea

 

 

I read the whole Earthsea Trilogy (including Tehanu) and remember being completely enthralled by Sparrowhawk’s adventures (if not by his long flowing locks). I’ve not re-read the stories since and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the fear of ruining my childhood memories of it, the same way I refuse to re-watch episodes of Marshall BraveStarr. This period really was a golden age of reading for me. I was transported to magical, faraway worlds every time I cracked open a book. And it only cost me 10p.

 

 

 

The last two books I’m sharing are purely because they have awesome covers (I found them on my bookshelves while searching for this blog post).

Exhiles

 

I loved all the Douglas Hill books I read (most especially The Huntsman and Warriors of the Wasteland, which reminds me now of a kid’s version of the Aiel desert people from the Wheel of Time series). And all Hill’s books had these full wrap-around artwork on them. They’re like classic B-movie films. Hammy but great.

 

 

Roadkill

 

Anthony Masters’ Roadkill books are like a glimpse into the future of 2017.

 

“Massively powerful multinationals pacify and control the pampered few with brain implants and touch-screen instant-gratification television. The rest – mutants, renegades and worse – prowl the sickly polluted streets.”

 

From the front cover, I like to think I was exhibiting an early love for films like The Terminator and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. They were so hardcore and anarchic. My parents were lucky I never asked to have my hair cut into a Mohawk.

 

Argh, thank you so much, Gemma, for this incredible blog post! I love the format you chose and yes, yes, I remember those Fighting Fantasy books. I have plans to raid the bookshelves at my parents’ house to find my old copies!

Defender, the debut novel by G.X. Todd is out now. You can actually still get your hands on a limited edition signed copy from Goldsboro Books (it’s a beauty). Also be sure to follow Gemma on Twitter (@GemTodd).

All photos in this post were taken by G.X. Todd who gave me permission to post them here.