Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime

Welcome to the Heady Heights by David F.Ross

So today is publication day for Welcome to the Heady Heights which makes me even happier to be hosting the blog tour on today of all days. 🙂

One of the things I love about independent publishers such as Orenda Books, is the sheer variety of titles they publish and, because they are small and generally filled with the most passionate of book lovers, you know that they are all about quality.  Welcome to the Heady Heights is a great example of this.  This novel is an impressively written, gritty, 70’s infused dark comedy and I loved it.

Archie Blunt is a man with big ideas. He just needs a break for them to be realised. In a bizarre brush with the light-entertainment business, Archie unwittingly saves the life of the UK’s top showbiz star, Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks, and immediately seizes the opportunity to aim for the big time. With dreams of becoming a musical impresario, he creates a new singing group called The High Five with five unruly working-class kids from Glasgow’s East End. The plan? Make it to the final of Heady’s Saturday night talent show, where fame and fortune awaits… But there’s a complication. Archie’s made a fairly major misstep in his pursuit of fame and fortune, and now a trail of irate Glaswegian bookies, corrupt politicians and a determined Scottish WPC are all on his tail…

A hilarious, poignant nod to the elusiveness of stardom, in an age when ‘making it’ was ‘having it all’, Welcome to the Heady Heights is also a dark, laugh-out-loud comedy, a poignant tribute to a bygone age and a delicious drama about desperate men, connected by secrets and lies, by accidents of time and, most of all, the city they live in.

Now I know the we shouldn’t really talk about gender but I do feel the edgy, tough 70’s story line will definitely appeal to a male readership.  Of course women will love it too.   I especially loved it’s references to 1970’s Glasgow. The music and TV playlist that David scattered  throughout certainly added to the mix brilliantly.  I can still hear the theme tune to the Sweeney playing in the back of my mind.

Now the dialect took me a moment or two to adjust (I am very much a delicately spoken south east girl) but it wasn’t long before I was in the full swing of it.  Welcome to the Heady Heights has a dark but hugely entertaining humour which I thoroughly enjoyed.  This novel would be perfect for adapting for the TV.  Amongst the humour there is a darker side to this story and a part of me hopes that a sequel is in the pipeline.  I’d like to know more about what happens next for some of these characters and there were one of two that I certainly would like to see…. Well, I don’t want to spoil it for you.  Go read it, it’s fab.  Enjoy the grit, the rudeness and the fabulous seventies setting.

About the author

David_F_Ross_001v.jpgDavid F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over thirty years. He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media commentator, author and enabler by night. His most prized possession is a signed Joe Strummer LP. Since the publication of his debut novel The Last Days of Disco, he’s become something of a media celebrity in Scotland, with a signed copy of his book going for £500 at auction, and the German edition has not left the bestseller list since it was published.

 

heady heights blog poster 2019

 

 

 

Advertisements
Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Debut, Historical Fiction

The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby

Birmingham, 1885.

Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.

Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the home of scientist Thomas Jerwood.  Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment.  But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?

With the  power  and intrigue  of Laura Purcell’s ‘See What I Have Done’, Carolyn Kirby’s stunning  debut takes  the reader  on a heart-breaking  journey through Victorian Birmingham and questions where we first learn violence: from our scars or from our hearts.

1-9

Is a person born bad?  Does evil course through the veins like blood or is it something that arises out of circumstance?  Nature or nurture?  This is a question that filled me throughout this bewitching tale.

Right from the very first page we are plunged head first into the dark, murky depths of a brutal Victorian Britain.  Cora is born in a gaol and we follow her journey at two intervals of her life.  We know she is protecting a dark secret and yet we can’t be sure what her crime is…not at first.  Cora is an intriguing character and although her difficult start in life can warrant some allowances for her tough attitude there are moments when I did wonder what kind of monster she really was.  Yet there is also an underlying question mark that hovers over her throughout the story that makes you want to understand where her actions are coming from.  Carolyn makes full use of the Victorian attitudes to science and mental health and the story is layered with sinister goings on, creating a misty moodiness that brilliantly evokes the atmosphere of the timeframe of the story.  I do love a good Victorian gothic and there is a darkness to this tale that drew me in and I could not stop reading, no matter what horror lay before me.  This is strong debut from Carolyn and I’m excited to see what comes next.

The Conviction of Cora Burns is published on March 21st 2019.  The cover alone is absolutely stunning.

Many thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. It’s such a thrill to discover a new author.

About the author

Carolyn Kirby Author Pic

Originally from Sunderland, Carolyn Kirby studied history at St Hilda’a College, Oxford before working in social housing and then as a teacher of English as a foreign language.

Her debut novel The Conviction of Cora Burns (Previously titled Half of You) was begun in 2013 on a writing course at Faber academy in London.  The unpublished novel achieved success in several competitions including as finalist in the Mslexia Novel Competition and as winner of the inaugural Bluepencilagency Award.

Carolyn has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in rural Oxfordshire.

 

1-8

 

Blog Tour, Memoir

21st-Century Yokel by Tom Cox

’21st-Century Yokel is not quite nature writing, not quite a family memoir, not quite a book about walking, not quite a collection of humorous essays, but a bit of all five.
Thick with owls and badgers, oak trees and wood piles, scarecrows and ghosts, and Tom Cox’s loud and excitable dad, this book is full of the folklore of several counties – the ancient kind and the everyday variety – as well as wild places, mystical spots and curious objects. Emerging from this focus on the detail are themes that are broader and bigger and more important than ever. Tom’s writing treads a new path, one that has a lot in common with a rambling country walk; it’s bewitched by fresh air and big skies, intrepid in minor ways, haunted by weather and old stories and the spooky edges of the outdoors, restless and prone to a few detours, but it always reaches its destination in the end.’1-7

I absolutely jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour for 21st Century Yokel, I’ve heard many wonderful things about it and I thoroughly enjoyed Tom’s short story collection Help the Witch  which I reviewed towards the end of last year.  So as I’ve been wanting to read it for such a long time, this seemed an opportunity too good to miss.  I absolutely adore the way Tom writes.  I follow him on Twitter, Instagram and via his website.  He comes across as funny and sensitive but with such a wise old head on his shoulders that I’m sure he is actually a very old soul.  His connection with nature is absolutely entrancing and whilst reading it almost feels as though I am wondering along beside him as he discovers the countryside that surrounds him.  He certainly doesn’t see  through rose-tinted glasses but he notices things that, in this day and age, we are more often than not too darn busy to stop and appreciate.  21st Century Yokel is such an interesting book.  It’s one that I want to linger over, take my time and enjoy each and every tale.  The images he invokes are incredibly powerful and I can almost see the witches’ knickers blowing in the breeze or his dad lying in a starfish position talking VERY LOUDLY.  It is such an intimate book in some ways but it also looks at much bigger issues going on in the world.  His highly readable and beautiful prose brings together the historical detail, folklore and the challenges faced today with wit, and panache.  He reminds us that we are simply passing through in this world of ours.  It has been here much longer than we have and there are many tales to be told and retold.  If only the trees could talk! Tom, however, is possibly the next best thing.

‘If you spend enough time out walking and witnessing this stuff you realise that there was always a predestiny to the ghosts and monsters that have, for centuries, spilled from the imagination of rurally situated British writers: if the people who invented them hadn’t made them up, someone else would have, or at least ones not unlike them. The countryside – particularly the gnarly, craggy, knobbly countryside of the Deep South West – and the creaking, weather-blasted architecture of that countryside, especially when stripped back by seasonal change, is too rich with spooky imagery for it never to have happened. I am hugely inspired by this on my walks, to the point that it can send me into a minor state of witchy rapture, and I welcome the onset, but, even so, winter is not my season. It claws at me with its mucky nails and strips me back until I’m in the proper fallow state to best receive and fully appreciate my true season, which is spring.’

I envy the source of inspiration for his writing. I too have a love of nature and find being outside incredibly healing, a great antidote to the madness that often surrounds us in day to day life.  For me the sound of birdsong in the morning is incredibly special and never fails to fill me with cheer and wonder.  The rare occasion when I hear an owl hoot is one to treasure.  Unfortunately for many of us the reality is that we don’t spend as much time as we would like outside, so for me, reading Tom’s writing is the perfect way to bring a little more of the natural wonder of our world, along with the magic and mystery into my life every day.  It also brings me new ways to look at my surroundings on the occasions when I am out and about.  And more than anything it makes me want to get out and explore, explore , explore my surroundings; to see the beauty in whatever part of the world we live in.  This would also be a wonderful book for any reader who, for whatever reason, are unable to get out walking.  Tom’s writing will most certainly take you there.

Although I usually prefer to finish a book before I post my review, I just couldn’t bring myself to rush through it in time for my post today.  So I haven’t quite finished it but I have read enough to know that it is a real treasure of a book and one that I will return to many times.  I urge you to read this and let yourself be swept away in the wonder and magic of the world we live in and the stories that Tom has to tell.

Tom is currently publishing his books with Unbound, a publisher where the books are crowdfunded and supported by book lovers.  At present he is writing his next book Ring The Hill – do check out the website for more information and see how you to can support fantastic authors such as Tom.

21st Century Yokel is available in hardback and will be published in paperback on March 21st.  It’s available through all major book stores and of course through your local independents.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the author

1-6

Tom Cox lives in Devon. A one-time music journalist he is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling The Good, the Bad and the Furry and the William Hill Sports Book longlisted Bring Me The Head of Sergio Garcia. Help the Witch, a collection of folk ghost stories, was published in October 2018.

 

You can follow Tom on Twitter: @cox_tom

or on Instagram: 21stcenturyyokel

or by visiting his website here.

 

1-5

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Debut, Suspense, Thriller

The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North

Today I am thrilled to host the blog tour for The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North.  It’s a few days since I finished reading this and I’m still recovering.  Now that is a sign of a good read!

The Perfect Betrayal Cover

After the sudden death of her husband, Tess is drowning in grief. All she has left is her son, Jamie, and she’ll do anything to protect him – but she’s struggling to cope. When grief counsellor Shelley knocks on their door, everything changes. Shelley is beautiful, confident and takes control when Tess can’t bear to face the outside world. She is the perfect friend to Tess and Jamie, but when Jamie’s behaviour starts to change, and Tess starts to forget things, she begins to suspect that Shelley might not be the answer to their problems after all. When questions arise over her husband’s death and strange things start to happen, Tess begins to suspect that Shelley may have an ulterior motive. Tess knows she must do everything she can to keep Jamie safe – but who can she trust?

The Perfect Betrayal is a dark, emotionally engaging novel that asks:

Who can you trust in your darkest moment?

*

This novel was not an easy ride I can tell you that. Right from the very start it had me on tenterhooks, unsure as to where it was leading. As a mum it’s a terrifying.  It’s so easy to put yourself in Tess’ position and I keenly felt her despair after the death of her husband and the absolute obsession with keeping her son safe from harm, her last glimmer of hope in a world gone dark with grief.

At first the arrival of Shelley seems like a blessing, a ray of light to help her through the darker days, but soon strange things begin to happen and Tess begins to become suspicious. Before long she’s fighting a desperate battle to keep her son with her, and keep him safe as she starts to suspect all is not as it seems with Shelley.

This is an absolute roller coaster of a journey and I felt helpless as I was carried along, watching events happen before me. I read to the end with a sense of horror and total fear for what was unfolding before me.   The ending was particularly good and has left a lasting impression.  As a debut this is a very bright start for Lauren and an absolute shocker of a psychological thriller (in a good way).

Thanks to Anne Carter for inviting me to be part of this Random Things blog tour and for arranging my review copy.

About the author

Lauren North writes psychological suspense novels that delve into the darker side of relationships and families. She has a lifelong passion for writing, reading, and all things books. Lauren’s love of psychological suspense has grown since childhood and her dark imagination of always wondering what’s the worst thing that could happen in every situation.

Lauren studied psychology before moving to London where she lived and worked for many years. She now lives with her family in the Suffolk countryside.

Readers can follow Lauren on Twitter @Lauren_C _North and Facebook @LaurenNorthAuthor

unnamed

 

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Historical Fiction, Literary, Thriller

The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl

‘This is what dying is like, she thinks. You have gone and the world doesn’t care. You die and others eat pastries.’

In Oslo in 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In great haste, she escapes to Sweden whilst the rest of her family is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, Ester ’s childhood best friend. A relationship develops between them, but ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire. And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter Turid. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…

Written with Dahl’s trademark characterisation and clever plotting, The Courier sees one of Norway’s most critically acclaimed authors at his best, as he takes on one of the most horrifying periods of modern history. With its sophisticated storytelling and elegant prose, this stunning and compelling wartime thriller is reminiscent of the writing of John Le Carré and William Boyd.

0

Now I read a LOT of books and a lot of good ones at that. That’s not a boast, it’s simply a fact. I’m not entering in to a ‘I can read the most books (smug face) competition’, it’s just part of what I do. My love of reading led me to study literature at degree level and come away with a first class distinction. I also worked in the book recommendation industry for a good few years, with an extremely knowledgeable mentor who had worked in publishing for years and years.  So in a (slightly smug) way I do consider myself to have some expertise on the subject.  I tell you this, not to show off or flex my ‘experience’ muscles but just to highlight that when I say The Courier IS A FANTASTIC BOOK… that it really is FANTASTIC.

Of course Kjell Ola Dahl’s resume speaks for itself.  He is an award winning writer whose work has been published in no less then 14 countries.  This is the first of his books that I have read and I can honestly say that he is an incredibly skilled writer.  This is even more evident thanks to the superb work of the translator, Don Bartlett. I was absolutely blown away by The Courier.

Each chapter moves back and forth between different points in the timeline. From war time Norway and Sweden to 1960’s and 2015 Oslo.  Now this technique is often used, but in this case it was used quite brilliantly. Each period guiding you through the story, building the suspense and tension, and carrying you on, always wanting to read just one more chapter, and then another and another…

This novel shows us the lingering horrors of war and oppression but it also highlights the crimes that go on in times of conflict, crimes that are equally horrific and can be used and distorted for others means, the real cause overshadowed and (almost) forgotten.

For me, as an English woman who had grandparents who lived through the horror and hardships of WWII, I find it incredibly interesting to read the view point of others. We all know the horrific persecution that many millions endured but I think at times we can be a little unaware as to just how far this actually spread out of Germany and France. It never ceases to move and horrify me.  In my naivety I never considered the idea of Jews suffering in Norway, so this novel has again imparted more about this part of history (a subject that one of my fellow bloggers, Victoria Goldman,  was moved to investigating further after also reading The Courier.  You can read her fascinating findings here.)

I grew up with World War Two as part of my history but a history that I was still removed from and experienced by others.  My grandparents chose not to talk about it and I wonder what horrors they themselves witnessed.  What stories they could have told, especially my grandfather who spent a time in a concentration camp – something he never discussed with us.

But this isn’t a story about concentration camps or soldiers fighting on the front line.  Within this story the war itself is a backstory. This is about those living with the war and the repercussions they feel in a time when Europe was filled with conflict and hate. This is the story of those fighting in a very different way and trying to survive against a force that is so evil and only intent on destroying everything in its path.

There are complexities to the plot but it is expertly built so it felt an easy read. Beneath the spies, the resistance, the gestapo and the war, there is the story of the murder of a young mother.  The crime remains, almost forgotten through time, but the truth will be revealed and I have to say that I for one didn’t see it coming.  It is shocking, compelling – A very excellent novel that I thoroughly recommend, not only as a piece of historical fiction but also as a thriller that will hold you spellbound until the end.

About the author

0One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

 

Thank you to the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and to Orenda Books for my review copy.  It was absolutely stunning.

 

0.jpg

Adult Fiction, Crime, ReadAgatha2019, Thriller

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

I have been following the official Agatha Christie website on Instagram and Twitter and their #readchristie2019 challenge in which they suggest a different Christie novel to read each month. In January they kicked the challenge off with The ABC Murders and I as I had been lucky enough to receive this beautiful hardback edition for Christmas so I happily jumped on board. I am a big Christie fan, watching countless TV adaptations, but as a reader I have read shockingly few of her actual novels and short stories. Time to rectify that me thinks.

If you’d like to join in with Read Christie 2019 then why not visit their website here and sign up for the newsletter.

The February book is The Giant’s Bread which Agatha wrote under the pseudonym, Mary Westmacott. I’m currently listening to that on audio book (my first!).

The March title is The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, the 8th Miss Marple novel and one that I very much look forward to reading soon. I have read none of the Miss Marple stories as of yet.

There has been much discussion and awareness about The ABC Murders after the recent BBC adaptation was screened over Christmas. This adaptation was my first experience of the story.

But before we get into the TV adaptation let’s talk about the novel itself…

It is not often that I read the book after watching the film or TV adaptation but I did on this occasion. I enjoyed all three versions but I have to say that it was wonderful to return to the original story, exactly how Agatha Christie wanted to tell it. Her writing is superb and I can see why her stories continue to inspire and engage. If you’ve never read a Christie novel then I urge you to pick one up. They are such a delight and she has a rather brilliant way of bringing humour and a lightness of touch to even the darkest of subject matter. They are, after all, jolly good crime novels, written to reveal the dark side of human nature but first and foremost to entertain…and that they certainly do.

The edition that I received is a stunning hardback edition published by HarperCollins. It is beautiful and certainly adds to the joy whenever picked up. I am hoping they may reproduce the entire Poirot collection in this format. I want to read each and every one. What a wonderful addition to the bookshelves that would make!

Now on to TV…

Now, I came to the conclusion long ago that when watching a film or small screen adaptation of a book it is best to view it, where possible, as a completely separate entity. Very rarely can they be the same. It is after all not (usually) written, directed or produced by the author. It is therefore a collaboration of opinions pulled together from an original story. Not one person will read a story in exactly the same way and when it comes to reproducing they will, of course, want to add their own touch to it.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sarah Phelps’ interpretation on the BBC. It was dark, brooding and kept me thoroughly gripped over the three nights. It has moved towards the slightly more gruesome side that TV seems to need these days. I mean why just batter someone other the head when you can literally decapitate them with a spade or leave them in a vast pool of blood after slitting their throat?

I also found the stereotypical chubby sister of the second murder victim, Betty Barnard, finding freedom from the shadows of her slim, beautiful sister a little unnecessary. The Megan Barnard of the novel was rather intelligent and interesting. We could delve deeper into why Sarah chose for the attractive, promiscuous sister to meet a gruesome end, and the sister who was presented on screen as over weight, drab and bitter, as the one who eventually finds freedom by escaping out the window (where on earth does she go!?) but that’s not for this blog to discuss today. Agatha has written many meek, forgotten women in her novels but they quite often tend to end up having strength simmering beneath the surface, as what is revealed is a strong, resilient (and at times calculating and murderous) woman. Perhaps this is how Sarah chose to portrayed this.

My only (slight) disappointments in this adaptation being the death of Detective Inspector Japp, the absence of Hastings, and the rather sad, lonely and humiliated Poirot that I couldn’t really see in the novels. Once I got over that though I became thoroughly engrossed. I did feel John Malkovich made an excellent Poirot and as the story progressed our beloved character did make a rather wonderful comeback. Saying that I do feel that losing the Belgium accent takes away part of the essence of the character (but I believe that was director, Alex Gabassi‘s call). You could say they have almost created a completely different Poirot.

The retelling as a whole did encourage me to look at Agatha’s books in a new light to see where Sarah’s inspiration came for the backstory and changes she chose to make. This is the wonderful thing about brokerage bringing these fresh adaptations to the screen. Not only do they bring a whole new audience to the stories but they make those of us familiar with the author and characters look at them with fresh eyes too. The acting and overall production was superb and I look forward to more from the BBC and Sarah in the future.

David Suchet – my Poirot

A few weeks after watching the BBC adaptation I settled down to watch the wonderful David Suchet take the lead in the investigation along with Hastings and, thankfully, a very fit and healthy Japp. I never tire of watching these versions and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have enjoyed each of the many different actors who have taken on the famous detective but Suchet is without doubt my favourite. He played the detective for 25 years and in an article in The Express is quoted as saying that whilst preparing for his role back in 1988…

I started to write my private list of Poirot’s habits and character. I called it my ‘dossier of characteristics’. It ended up five pages long and detailed 93 different aspects of life. I have the list to this day – in fact, I carried it around on the set with me throughout all my years as Poirot, just as I gave a copy to every director I worked with on a Poirot film.

I feel that he is possibly the truest Hercule to Agatha’s creation. He is a joy to watch and he is how I imagine Poirot to be when I read the books.

Are you taking part in Read Christie 2019? Which Christie novel would you most like to read this year? I’m hoping for Murder on the Orient Express. A story I know very well but still haven’t read.

Children's Fiction, Picture Books

Winnie and Wilbur: The Monster Mystery by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul

Oh, how I love Winnie and Wilbur. I discovered them when my son was small and now he’s much bigger I still love reading them (I think he has a sneaky peek too).

The partnership between Valerie’s words and Korky’s illustrations works incredibly well. Korky’s rather stunning art work brings her characters and words alive. His illustrations are filled with humour and there is so much to look at, discuss and chuckle over on each and every page.

Some years back now, I saw him at a literary festival. He held the children captive and had both them and the adults in fits of laughter as he chatted and drew Winnie and Wilbur before our very eyes. It was incredibly memorable. I love his attention to detail and it never fails to amaze me when I look through the books. Winnie always looks rather wonderful in a swimsuit to my mind and her party dress in Happy Birthday, Winnie, is particularly marvellous

There are lots of books to choose from if you are new to these curious, charming characters but the latest offerings are a great place to start. They are just wonderful and I heartedly recommend them.

Winnie and Wilbur: The Monster Mystery

Winnie and Wilbur decide to explore

the MYSTERIOUS forest that surrounds

their home. They want to discover just

who has been leaving the STRANGE

FOOTPRINTS on their lawn. Their foray into the

FOREST is just the start of a WILD and WOODED

drama but will they solve the MYSTERY?

IT’S A PUZZLING

WINNIE AND WILBUR

ADVENTURE!

Here are THREE SPELLBINDING

WINNIE AND WILBUR

BOOKS IN ONE!

Winnie and Wilbur make every day

SPECIAL! An outing to the museum

turns into a DINOSAUR discovery,

they use MAGIC to make a birthday

party EXTRAORDINARY, and when they

fly over a ruined CASTLE it’s the start

of a thrilling day of MEDIEVAL mayhem.

Both books were published by Oxford University Press in paperback on 7th March 2019.