Adult Fiction, Fiction

Mr Doubler Begins Again by Seni Glaister

Potatoes, gin and friendship…

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Do you ever come across a book that you just know you’re going to love? Well last summer I was invited along to the HQ Stories Summer Showcase and I met some wonderful authors that night and discovered some fantastic new books. One of the things I remember most about the evening was how friendly everyone was; the authors, the members of the HQ team, and the other guests. The evening was a great success and each author and novel was beautifully presented. I was introduced to Mr Doubler for the first time and I knew, straight away, that he and I were going to get along.

So it was here on a beautiful summers evening that I had the pleasure of meeting Seni and discovering the rather wonderful Mr Doubler. I was delighted to bring home an early proof copy well ahead of it’s publication date in January. I am a keen gardener and I have even grown my own potatoes down on my allotment, so possibly that may have been what drew me to this particular table but I think it was also a combination of Seni’s warm smile and the beautiful display of proof copies bearing the quote ‘Not every journey takes you far from home…

So what’s the story about…

Synopsis

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Baked, mashed, boiled or fried, Mr Doubler knows his potatoes. But the same can’t be said for people. Since he lost his wife, he’s been on his own at Mirth Farm – and that suits Doubler just fine. Crowds are for other people; the only company he needs are his potato plants and his housekeeper, Mrs Millwood, who visits every day.

So when Mrs Millwood is taken ill, it ruins everything – and Mr Doubler begins to worry that he might have lost his way. But could the kindness of strangers be enough to bring him down from the hill?

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This is a wonderful novel and such a pleasure to read. Oh how I loved Mr Doubler and what a joy it would be to sit with him in his warm, inviting kitchen, enjoying one of his expertly produced G&T’s and a slice of homemade cake.

For quite some time Doubler has plodded along quietly on Mirth Farm, with only his potatoes and his housekeeper, Mrs Millwood, for company. He has been perfectly content with his well-ordered, predictable life. His only concern is his potatoes, his ‘secret’ project and the occasional visit from his ‘well-meaning’ children. Until that is, Mrs Millwood is taken ill and his life is turned upside down.

Although I had been looking forward to reading this novel for quite sometime I actually picked it up after suffering from a dose of flu. I’d felt so ill I couldn’t even read and then as I began to feel better Mr Doubler called to me. He was the perfect tonic and a brilliant escape for those moments when life is just feeling a little too gray and drizzly. He made me feel like spring was on the way.

Now novels about old men finding their way have been done and enjoyed before (A Man Called Ove and of course The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry are examples that come to mind and that I very much enjoyed) but Mr Doubler is very different, wonderful and completely memorable in his own right.

So what is it that I loved about this novel? Well the writing itself is beautifully done. It carries you along, sweeping you away with the story. Seni has the ability, somewhat Harry Potter like, to pull you into the book so you can almost smell the food on Doubler’s table and hear the sounds of the birds as he takes an early morning stroll around his land.

As he stood at these edge-lands, he allowed his brain to settle into nothingness. It was still dark. He stopped and listened. A bird sang from a hazel branch not far from him. The pure sound cut through the dark and distracted Doubler from his quandary.

‘Hello robin!’ Doubler said, under his breath for fear of disturbing the gutsy singer. ‘It’s a bit early for that racket, isn’t it?’

The lone, tentative voice was almost immediately joined by another flute-like refrain from just behind him. The birds sensed the dawn before any trace of the new day had become obvious to Doubler. These birds, the robin and perhaps a black-bird, were soon joined by several others and now, after just a few moments of listening, the chorus was beginning in earnest and it was impossible to separate one song from another. Together, this competing cacophony should have jarred, but instead it united to form a harmonious ensemble that appeared to be led by one unseen conductor.

Full to the brim with endearing (and a few rather unlikeable) characters, Mr Doubler Begins Again is a joy to read; a celebration of an ordinary man who has done the best he can through some rather difficult circumstances. Doubler shows us the importance of the ‘ordinary folk’, the impact they have, and that each and every one will leave an important legacy in the friends and memories they leave behind. At times I found it incredibly poignant and sad, but at others I was whooping in delight for Mr Doubler and the friends who came to his aid. I cheered him on right until the very last page, and I’m still cheering him on now. There is much more than potatoes beneath the surface of this quiet, old recluse who lives on the hill. I was saddened that those who should have known him the best, were the ones who seemed to not understand him at all. This kind, old soul. What an incredible friend he would be.

Yet even an old recluse like Doubler needs a little help from time to time and this small community found its way into my heart and I feel as though I have learnt so much from them. There are times when we feel like we know what is best for others but in reality only they can know what will bring them contentment and happiness. This novel has taught me that things are rarely black and white. There is always more to the situation than you can see. It taught me that the easy option is not always the best. That each of us, no matter how old we are, are valued and that there is no age limit on hopes and dreams.

One of the characteristics I loved most about Doubler was his absolute unwavering opinions and his lack of fear in expressing them. From his idea of a perfect lunch (potatoes), to the precise ingredients and method of making a gin and tonic. His appreciation of perfectly blended tea and the effort and time he gives to laying on tea and cake for his guests. As, with the assistance and encouragement of Mrs Millwood, he slowly returns to the community, he begins to understand how much he can actually contribute to the lives of those around him and just what that gives him in return. Doubler is a man with a big heart and oh, how I would love to try a sip of his gin.

Gin

The making of gin, as I have recently discovered, is quite an art and the mix of botanicals makes each recipe unique. It has of course recently had a resurgence of popularity. In my childhood I recall it as being the choice of drink by the evil Miss Hannigan (played by the rather wonderful Carol Burnett ) in the 1982 movie Annie, as she literally bathed in the stuff. The drink of drunks and down and outs. Then as an adult myself I enjoyed it cold, mixed with tonic and a slice of lemon. About six months ago I treated myself to a gin subscription (absolute decadence I know but I’m worth it) with The Craft Gin company.

My first delivery from Craft Gin included the most delicious Burleigh’s gin, mixers and oh so scrummy chocolate.
My second box had a rather festive ( but good enough to drink any time) bottle of Tarquin’s Cornish Christmas gin.
I love roses… especially in a glass of Naud’s gin!

Every two months I receive a unique craft gin, mixers and edible treats and also a magazine talking about… yes you guessed it, gin. So it was a total delight when I came to read Mr Doubler chatting about gin. It actual makes my mouth water just thinking about the scene in his kitchen when he first shares his homemade produce. It put me in mind of Joanne Harris’ Chocolat and the way she was able to bring the taste and smell of chocolate so expertly alive within the pages of her book. Seni does the very same here with Mr Doubler and gin.

‘I am, however, not going to overwhelm you. I expect you’re all familiar with the G and T, the ice and a slice. And that is what I shall prepare for you because I want you to notice the gin, not the accompaniments. Some gins lend themselves to this classic treatment. But it is very possible to tease out the flavour of a gin by the addition of other flavours. I am not a gin pedant – in fact, I would go as far as to consider myself more liberal than most.’

While Doubler spoke, he cut the lemon into thin slices, allowing the scent of citrus to fill the room.

‘All gin makers use a mix of botanicals to flavour their spirit. We all know and love juniper berries, and this is, of course, the flavour that we associate with the spirit. Indeed, it is essential to qualify as a London dry gin, as I’m sure you all know. But, depending on the distillery, you might find notes of any number of spices, herbs, plants or other flavourings – for example, coriander, angelica, orange peel, lemon peel, cardamom,orris,cinnamon, nutmeg, cassia bark, almond, liquorice or cubeb. When you’re mixing a drink yourself, it is advisable to accentuate the flavour of the botanicals that have been used to craft it, so a gin that has used rose and cucumber to enhance its flavour might well benefit from the addiction of a slice of cucumber or a couple of freshly picked rose petals. If there are no citrus notes at all, you should steer clear of lemon or lime.’

Now Doubler has certainly given me food for thought when it comes to mixing a gin based beverage and I very much look forward to a little experimentation (with a little bit of help fromThe Craft Gin Club.) Now it’s not everyday you come across a recipe for a cocktail within a novel but there is actually a ‘Mirth Farm’ recipe created by The Mixology Group and I’m delighted to be able to share it with you here. It sounds like the perfect summer cocktail to me.

Mirth Farm Garden Cocktail

SERVES 1

INGREDIENTS

50ml good quality gin

5cm piece of cucumber

20ml lemon juice

20ml cucumber syrup

8-10 mint leaves

Soda

Garnish with large mint sprig

and borage flowers

METHOD

Add all but soda to a tall glass

and lightly muddle.

Fill glass with crushed ice and

the add a dash of soda.

There are plenty of recipes for cucumber syrup on the internet so why not make a small batch and give it a try. It sounds perfectly refreshing.

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Whatever your tipple be it gin, wine or a nice cup of tea, I definitely recommend reading this rather wonderful novel and welcoming Mr Doubler into your life…it will be all the better for it.

Mr Doubler Begins Again was published in January 2019 by HQStories.

You can follow Seni on Twitter: @SeniGlaister

You can follow HQStories on Twitter: @HQstories

The Craft Gin club have exclusive offers for new members so do check out there website here.

Thanks again to HQStories for inviting me to the showcase last summer and to Seni for my copy of Mr Doubler (and for signing it too).

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Books that adults should read, Children's Fiction, Christmas 2018, Historical Fiction

Secrets of a Sun King by Emma Carroll

Emma is one of the best authors in historical fiction for children. Her first novel, Frost Hollow Hall, was published in 2013 and she has been inspiring children (and adults) to read ever since. I absolutely adore her books and it makes me incredibly happy that she is such a prolific writer as I am never particularly patient when waiting for the next. Her most recent novel, Secrets of a Sun King, is detailed below but do check out her backlist as they are ALL marvellous.

London, 1922. 

A discovery from ancient Egypt . . .
A cursed package . . .
The untold story of a young pharaoh . . .

When Lilian Kaye finds a parcel on her grandad’s doorstep, she is shocked to see who sent it: a famous Egyptologist, found dead that very morning, according to every newspaper in England!

The mysterious package holds the key to a story . . . about a king whose tomb archaeologists are desperately hunting for.

Lil and her friends must embark on an incredible journey – to return the package to its resting place, to protect those they love, and to break the deadly pharaoh’s curse . . .

Blog Tour, Fiction, Folk Tales, Ghost Stories, Review, Short Stories

Help the Witch by Tom Cox

There is a line where mist becomes fog and during the early days of December it is crossed.  But it’s not during fog that what has been growing in the river breaks the surface and takes a look around.  It’s on a clear night after a frosty day where sheer cold has made resilient leaves surrender and quiver to the ground.

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the first fictional offering from writer, Tom Cox.  I’ve been a follower of Tom on social media on both Facebook and Twitter for some time now and have very much enjoyed his cat related musings and following his highs and lows over the years. I am very much a cat (and general animal) lover and so have been drawn to the sensitivity and connection that he quite clearly has towards them.  He is a person who appears to feel things deeply; sensitive, enquiring and  what I would call an ‘old soul’.  Therefore I was incredibly excited to hear about his latest project of a selection of short stories.  Ghost stories.  So I am delighted to have been invited to take part in this blog tour celebrating this fantastic book and also to be able to put some questions to the author.

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1-1Help the Witch is a beautifully presented selection of short stories with a ghostly, other worldly theme.  Storytelling has been prevalent since before man could read and write.  Tales told orally would be passed down from generation to generation as a means to educate, inspire and entertain.  Of course now there are many means of telling a story.  Tom has delighted us for years with his writing through a variety of mediums including books, journalism and his website ,where he states ‘since 2015 I’ve written many many thousands of words about about nature, folklore, music, books, landscape, family, social history, films and more’.  I love reading his work and he has a wonderful gift of putting words together to create something rather magical.  Help the Witch is his first book of fictional stories and I asked him what inspired him to write this particular selection of short stories.

‘Walking and what I find while I do it has always been a big inspiration for me – particularly during my latest non-fiction book, 21st Century Yokel, and – in a more wintry, haunting sense – ‘Help The Witch’. Derelict buildings. Old clothes left on fence posts, creating an inadvertent figure who, upon being approached from the other side might potentially have a gnashing nightmare face. Copses and spinneys that retain and trap events from the distant past. What you have in ‘Help The Witch’ are some remnant echoes of the folk horror novels I tried and failed to write in my late 20s and early 30s – hopefully in more coherent, less overreaching form. It’s all really the result of a burning ambition to write spooky stories that I’ve had since I was seven years old, but tempered with scepticism, questions, a reverence for nature as the true magic and religion, and executed in a manner more minimalist than it might once have been, allowing some spaces for the reader to choose their own adventure.’

So now I ask you reader, do you believe in ghosts?  Some people are sceptical, after all  we now live in a world where our thirst for knowledge can’t be quenched.  In the past 100 years science has moved on in an alarming rate and yet there are still so many questions that remain unanswered.  To some, if we can’t explain it then it simply can’t be real.  Yet constantly we seem drawn to tales that go straight to the heart of these unanswerable questions, perhaps because they spark curiosity and fear.  It is natural to fear the unexplained.  Tom has a wise voice,  an old soul, who, although a self-confessed ‘near sceptic’, questions the world around him and looks beneath the layers of what surrounds us.  I asked him what it is that fascinates him about ghost stories.

‘Apart from the basic thing that makes so many people fascinated by ghosts – a slightly inward looking question about what we are and where all our energy goes when we’re no longer alive – I’m interested in the idea of buildings, and other spaces, that absorb events and seem to hold them. I am interested in the intangible magic that age gradually begins to add to some objects. What is also interesting when you’re writing ghost stories and tell people that is that nearly everyone has a story to share from their life, even if they are a total sceptic: an incident, often nocturnal, with no rational scientific explanation. I’m not a total sceptic, and I’ve got a few of these incidents too, although I don’t think I can honestly state that I have seen a ghost in any traditionally recognised sense. Most of all, I think, as I get older, I am more and more fascinated – happy to get totally lost in – history, and I think if you’re fascinated by that, it’s hard not to be fascinated by ghosts in some form.’

Personally I do believe in ghosts.  I believe that we each carry an energy and that events and situations leave an imprint on the places we have been.  I too have never knowingly seen a ghost but I often sense something that has been left behind.  This is one of the things I found interesting about the stories in Help the Witch, they aren’t simply your traditional creaking doorways and things seen out of the corner of your eye.  The stories are almost subtle, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions.

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…also visually stunning, the illustrations sit perfectly alongside the stories.  Even those have left a ghostly shadow on the opposite page, something that only adds to the overall ethereal feeling that accompanies the book.

I enjoyed the sheer variety of stories that fill the book.  No two where the same and I found each and every one enticing. It feels like a collection of tales developed over time, handed down through generations.  I can imagine them being read aloud around a camp fire as the sounds of nature surround you, along with the deep, silent dark.

My favourite story is from where the title of the collection is taken, ‘Help the Witch‘. It was to my mind the spookiest, or perhaps just a little more obviously spooky than the others.  It’s tone and style of narration put me in mind of Emily Bronte as I read.  Tom creates atmosphere and a sense of place wonderfully.  He entwines history through the tale, gradually bringing the ghosts alive.  I have recently read an article by Tom called ‘the ghosts of the mountain house’ which talks about his (rather brave) plan of method-writing when working on the book, ‘to retreat to a spooky place to put it together.’  I must say it certainly worked, and reading about his stay at a desolate farmhouse in the Peak District makes the story even more spine-tingling.

Each writer is as unique as their stories and I always find the writing process fascinating.  I asked Tom to tell me a little of his methods such as if he keeps a writer’s notebook or journal.

‘I wish I’d kept journals when I was younger. I try not to have regrets in life, but that might be one. I started keeping them in earnest about a decade ago, when I was already 32. It would be interesting, just for my own entertainment, to look back on an earlier period in my life in print. Far more interesting than reading record reviews I wrote for newspapers in my early 20s, I’m sure. I had my bag stolen in August, containing a year’s worth of thoughts towards future books. It still hurts, although I don’t think it was my best or fullest journal. I write down weird things that have happened to me or people I’ve met: sometimes incredibly mundane, but weird. Sometimes the very act of writing them helps you remember them and you don’t even need to refer back to them.’

So what happens when the time comes to sit down and write?  How does your first draft come? Handwritten or typed?

Typed. I’ve becoming better at pushing through and writing a load of text in longhand but ultimately I’m part of the first generation of people whose customary way to write is using a computer: I’m accustomed to the luxury it gives you of fiddling with text as you go along.’

Do you have a writing routine or do you just write as and when?

‘My ideal routine is to start between six and seven am, and write all the way through
to late lunchtime. Then maybe go for a walk in the afternoon, or do some editing or
admin. These best laid plans happen too seldom though, and in reality my schedule
is far more chaotic. One thing that stays a stone fact is that I never write anything
very great between 1pm and 4pm. If someone tells you they wrote something great
between 1pm and 4pm, they’re lying.’

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One of the things that initially drew me to Tom was his love for cats and his ability to look at the world through their eyes with humour, love and compassion.  My own cat, Mr Perry, features heavily on my personal instagram account and I am always fascinated how these creatures who share our lives become such an important part of them.  There is a feline presence in the title story ‘Help The Witch’ and so I was curious how much of an influence Tom’s cats had on his fictional stories too.

‘I was writing non-fiction and journalism for years without cats being a known theme of my writing life, but they bullied their way into my writing quite often. So I relented and
gave them the floor for four books, while also using that as a way to write about lots
of other themes. They were like Trojan cats. People saw them on book covers, and
didn’t realise they were a way to smuggle in stories about family, the countryside,
landscape, other animals, plus a bit of light DIY philosophy. I think they’ll always be
popping in, whatever I write, although they’re probably not as dominant as people
who haven’t read my books often assume. I’m a creatively stubborn person, but
hopefully not needlessly stubborn, and this book has a strong witchy undercurrent.
Not letting a few cats have cameo roles to add to that undercurrent would have been
needlessly stubborn.’

Help the Witch is a great collection of stories and one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading and writing about. It’s also visually stunning and the illustrations sit perfectly alongside the stories.  Even those have left a ghostly shadow on the opposite page, something that only adds to the overall ethereal feeling that accompanies the book. It is only right that I hand the last few words of this piece over to Tom to answer the question, will you be writing more fictional tales?

‘Absolutely. That has always been part of the plan. I’d always assumed that when I finally published some fiction I’d do nothing but that forever. But I don’t quite feel like that now. I get a lot of pleasure out of fiction and non-fiction. I hope to write much more of both. That said, since finishing Help The Witch, so many more eerie stories have been knocking on the door – often in the early hours – and I can only oblige and let them in.’

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Help the Witch is published on the 18th of October 2018 by Unbound and is available to order from all good bookshops (find your local independent here),  Amazon ,Watersones to name but a few,

Tom has a completely fabulous and fascinating website so do pop along for a look here.

Thank you to Anne Carter of Random Things Tours and Tom for sending me this wonderful book.

 

Adult Fiction, Love, Science Fiction

The Light Between Us by Katie Khan

A classic unrequited love story…with a twist.

The brilliant new novel from the author of Hold Back The Stars

Thea and Isaac were close, but they’ve grown apart.

Thea world tirelessly, convinced that she can prove everyone around her wrong – convinced she can prove that time travel is possible. But when her latest attempts goes awry, she finds herself picking up the phone and calling her old friend.

Issac is in New York – it’s the middle of the night, but when he sees who’s calling him, he cannot ignore his phone. At Thea’s request, he travels home, determined to help her in her hour of need.

But neither of them are prepared for what they will discover when he gets there.

The Light Between Us is a story of second chances and time travel. It begs the dangerous question that we all ask ourselves – what could have been? “

Katie’s novels are completely unique. They are love stories that are complex with plots that are smart, thought-provoking and brave. She makes us question the reality that surrounds us and just how far love can take us.

The Light Between Us is a story about love, yes, but it is also about the choices and actions we take and the effect they have on the world around us. There is also a very powerful message about mis-understanding, lack of communication and jumping to conclusions.

I don’t want to go into too much detail about the story as I wouldn’t want to give anything away.  I thoroughly enjoyed discovering as I read and I urge you to do the same. This is science fiction slap bang in the here and now, totally relatable and current. The writing as always is brilliantly sharp.  Setting, character and place are brought to life wonderfully; there is also adventure, danger and of course a love story.

She feels the thrill of excitement – her skin tingles with the power of the laser, magnified by the glass house; the hairs on her arms stand up and she can’t help but smile.

Is it working? There’s the smell of electricity in the room, and a sound of crackling, underpinned by a thrumming hum. It must be working – she knew it would. She was right all along.

She hopes Rosy’s all right in the glass house, and that it’s not too warm. She should check on her.

Thea shields her eyes with her arm, peering towards the glass house where, inside, Rosy should be standing – is she there. It’s too bright to see. Thea moves gingerly towards the cubicle, protecting herself from the light, when –

‘Fuck!’

A blinding colourless brightness, then the power goes out with a womp as the lab falls into total darkness.

‘Oh, hell.’

They stand at the centre of it all, surrounded by the black.

‘I think we did something bad.’

The Light Between Us by Katie Khan

I love a novel that leaves my mind full of images at the end. This story has certainly stayed with me and the vividness, light and emotion along with it. Katie has the ability to capture the magic, wonder and fragility that encompasses love.  As always there is an element of heartbreak, light and darkness but I absolutely love the way Katie ends her novels. This one was particularly memorable and as with Hold Back The Stars, I can see The Light Between Us coming to film or tv.

Katie is an exciting, intelligent author and I have loved both of her novels so far. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Thank you so much to Hannah Bright for sending me a copy of The Light Between Us, it was an absolute joy to read.

Also by Katie Khan…

Hold Back The Stars

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Ninety minutes.

A few years from now, not too far in the future, two people meet.

It is a classic story of boy meets girl.

Except that it’s not.

When we find them, they have an hour and a half left. 

Unless they can save themselves, they won’t survive.

The clock is ticking.

Bittersweet and life-affirming, Hold Back the Stars is the love story of the year.

Beautifully written, this stunning, unusual debut weaves its way through an intense, all-encompassing first love.  A love forbidden by the times in which they live and yet one that they’ll risk everything not to lose.

Hold Back the Stars is set in a future where the world has been ravaged by war and a new society introduced. The earth is now peaceful but this comes at a price. There are rules and one of the rules is that you don’t fall in love until you reach the appropriate age.  Yet the heart rarely follows rules and when Carys and Max meet its ten years before either should be thinking of settling down.  They are young, rebellious and maybe the system no longer works for their generation.

Throughout the novel Carys and Max are desperately trying to find a way to survive after their ship is damaged and they are stranded in space and rapidly running out of both air and options.  I loved discovering their relationship as Khan dips in and out of their past moving us towards the moment that brought them to be being in space and the catastrophic situation they find themselves in.  It is intense and Khan conjures up the sheer vastness of space and their desperation as they watch the minute’s tick away taking them closer to death.  Yes this is a novel about survival but ultimately it is a unique love story about how true love can turn our world upside down and also, maybe it can be the very thing that saves us too.

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Katie Khan

I write books about light and space.”

To find out more about Katie you can visit her website here.

You can also follow Katie on Twitter: @Katie_khan

Adult Fiction, Crime, Thriller

Coldwater by Samuel Parker – sinister and dark, this is a thrilling read.

The Vigilantes behind him are nothing compared to the enemy within.

Having forfeited his youth to the state prison system, Michael moved back to the still vacant house of his parents in a town with one stoplight.  A town that hated him.  Had always hated him.  And was ready to pick up where the prison system had left off.

Now he’s on the run from men who’ve tried to kill him once; but Michael is more than an ex-con.  A powerful, sinister force skulks within him, threatening and destructive.  What – and who – it will destroy next is the only real question.

From the bold voice that brought readers down with ‘Purgatory Road’ comes a new pulse-pounding, spine-rattling tale of vengeance and justice.

There is something rather delicious about a good thriller.  The kind of thriller that sweeps you up in the story, pushing you on to the next chapter, making you turn page after thrilling page. With Coldwater  Samuel Parker has created such a story.  From the first page this was absolutely gripping.  I was completely enthralled.

THE DAY WAS BORN IN DARKNESS

Michael opened his eyes and saw nothing.

Blackness.

The motes in his eyes drifted across the void.

His mouth was sealed with what felt like tape.  Michael tried to lift himself and felt the hard knock of wood against his forehead.  A light sprinkle of sand fell on his face, but he was blind to its source, he could only feel it as it dusted his lashes, scratching at his pupils.  He raised his head slowly again until he felt the board press against his skin.  He lay back down.  His shoulders ached, his back.  He tried to move his hands up to his eyes to rub the grit out of them but found they were bound together.  He stated breathing faster, nostrils flaring in the dark.

He was as a newborn cast out into the vacuum of space.  He could feel his heart beat faster as his mind raced to keep up with this discovery of himself.  Michael could feel his nerves begin to fire in all his limbs as electric panic coursed through his body.  He lifted his head again and hit the boards, a few inches above him.

And so it begins…

There is a sinister force running throughout this novel and there were many times that I questioned who was actually the monster.  The level of hate towards Michael, a man who had served his time in prison,  a prison in which he had been sent to as child and emerged a man.  Yet we would be led to believe that he is evil, damaged and a danger to all those he comes in contact with.  Even Michael himself who longs only to be accepted, to be left alone,  knows that he will never be able to live a normal life.  And yet he wants to live.  He still has hope.  So he runs from his pursuers, the vigilantes who have taken it upon themselves to rid their small town of this man who they believe does not deserve a second chance. Yet their very actions bring them closer to becoming the monster they are trying to destroy.

Michael is an incredibly complex character.  He has so much going against him and although his crime was heinous, I did begin to feel a certain amount of empathy towards him.  This novel is a wonderful metaphor for the effects of crime on those who commit it, their victims and anyone who has to deal with the aftermath. Once Michael committed the fateful act, the evil awoke within him and infiltrated everyone and everything he came into contact with.

It gave me much to think about but in essence this is a wonderful novel that was thrilling to read.  I’m so delighted to have discovered Samuel Parker and I look forward to reading more from this exciting author.

Thank you so much to Rhoda Hardie for the review copy – you said I would love it and I absolutely did!

You can purchase a copy of Coldwater from Amazon. or any good bookshop.  The ISBN number for the paperback edition is: 978-0800727345 but it is also available in Hardback and on eBook.

Coldwater was published by Revell part of the Baker Publishing Group.

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If you’d like to read more about Samuel Parker then please do visit his website here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adult Fiction, Crime, Fiction, Guest Post, Liz Robinson Reviews, Series

Sarah Hilary – A Liz Robinson Author of the Month

Sarah Hilary is my author of the month, her DI Marnie Rome crime series from Headline Publishing is one of my favourites, and I get way too excited when I know the next book is due. Her series starts with Someone Else’s Skin, which simply blew me away. It won the Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year in 2015, and is followed by No Other Darkness, Tastes Like Fear, Quieter Than Killing, and her latest Come and Find Me which for me is quite possibly, her best yet.

I recently saw Sarah talking at ‘Cream of Crime’ held at the Steyning Festival, she chatted alongside Erin Kelly, Mark Billingham, and William Shaw. It was a fabulous evening and gave me a real insight into the way Sarah writes and thinks about her books. Sarah said that she particularly enjoys writing about the psychology of a crime, she really doesn’t want to write about good and bad, and questions who the monster really is. To write about darkness you also need light, and she doesn’t ever want to feel numb about what she is writing about.  Sarah doesn’t like to plan, she just jumps off and starts to write, letting the plot surprise her. She has a friend who keeps a spreadsheet detailing every character in her books so she doesn’t get lost, as her fear is writing herself into a corner.

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Sarah Hilary talking at Steyning Festival’s ‘Cream of Crime’.

Liz – What is your first book memory, is it a happy one, does it have any reflection on, or link to what you write today? What were your childhood must reads.

Sarah – My first is a very happy memory: my grandmother reading a book called ‘Helen’s Babies’ to me and my siblings as we rolled around with laughter. We were a great family for books. All my earliest reads were recommended by my mother who introduced me to Georgette Heyer, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Stewart. As a small child, I love the Faraway Tree and Malory Towers by Enid Blyton, but also the Greek myths and short stories by Eleanor Farjeon some of which have really disturbing themes. I loved being scared by stories, even then.

Liz – For how long were Marnie, Noah, and Stephen in your mind before they escaped onto the page? In which order did they appear and did they exist first or the story?

Sarah – Marnie had a walk-on part in an earlier story where I needed a detective. The first time she appeared she was undercover in biker boots and a punk wig, which I’ve always thought oddly appropriate. In fact, that might be why I gave her such a spiky vibe, and the backstory about her teenage years as a rebel. Noah came much later, and made a far calmer entrance. There’s a solidity and a happiness to Noah which readers love (and I love, too). Stephen was the last to appear. He likes to stay in the shadows, as you might expect for a double murderer who’s keeping terrible secrets.

Liz – I’m rather taken with Stephen as a character, what is it like to have Stephen prowling around in your mind, how often does he knock at the door of your consciousness and how does he speak to you?

Sarah – Stephen is one of my favourite characters to write, although it’s really all about the tension in the scenes between him and Marnie. Stephen doesn’t speak to me much, but he has a habit of standing at my shoulder as I write, or else watching me with his dark eyes from across the room. I find him quite frightening, but I do love writing (and reading) these very dark characters.

Liz – I love your integrity on social media, if something riles you, do you wait, strategise, or launch straight in?

Sarah – Oh blimey ..! Sometimes I don’t wait, although I always try to because it never helps to just add fuel to a fight. There’s an awful lot of bullying and bigotry online. I cannot bear bullies so I find it hard to ignore that sort of thing. It’s becoming harder and harder to be on social media, though. Trump and Brexit have both had the effect of giving nasty people a sense of validation – I’m constantly staggered by the malice and ignorance I see online.

Liz – Who would have the best social media presence and why… Marnie, Noah, or Stephen?

Sarah – Noah, for sure. He would post pics of him and Dan dancing, plus Jamaican recipes and sunny words of wisdom. I don’t think Marnie would go near social media. As for Stephen, can you imagine his Twitter account? “Mood: murderous”. Maybe an Instagram account with photoshopped pictures of him and Marnie as siblings …

Liz – Is there a question you’ve never been asked and wish you had?

Sarah – I love to be asked who I think the real monsters are in my books. Stephen is many things, but I don’t think of him as a monster. There’s a woman in ‘Someone Else’s Skin’ who works in a refuge. She’s one of the worst monsters I’ve ever written.

LizThank you Sarah, fabulous answers – and just to let you know, I now really want to see Stephen’s instagram account!

You can find Sarah at http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com

Sarah can be found on twitter as @sarah_hilary she has a strong social media presence, and is wonderfully approachable.

Come and Find Me was published in hardback and eBook on the 22nd of March and will be published in paperback on the 4th of October 2018.

Book six in the series, Never Be Broken, is due to be published in May 2019 and so now is the perfect time to discover this fantastic author if you haven’t done so already.