Friday, 26 August 2016

Getting To Know...Tracey Sinclair

Today on Getting To Know... I am very lucky to have Tracey Sinclair, author of the Cassandra Bick Chronicles.

You're currently writing your Cassandra Bick Chronicles series and have most recently published the third instalment Angel Falls, will there be more books in the future?

Yes, definitely – I’m currently working on the next one.

The Cassandra Bick Chronicles are supernatural and contain vampires etc. Do you believe any such creatures exist or have existed in the past or do you believe they have developed from folklore and misunderstandings?

While part of me would like to believe in supernatural beings, I think it’s far more likely that they stem from folklore, superstition and a misunderstanding of certain phenomena that we’ve now explained through science – plus of course the fact that human beings have always loved fantastical stories.

If you could be a supernatural being, what would you choose to be?

I’d be a vampire as long as I didn’t have to kill anyone! I’m a vegetarian…!

You have previously written a collection of short stories, No Love Is This, as well as two collections of Dark Dates stories, do you have a preference over writing a novel or a short story? 

I think they both have their strengths and their difficulties, and I like both – not every idea can be, or should be, stretched into a novel, and some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read have been short stories. I also think they’re quite discrete skills – not all novelists can write good short stories, and vice versa. In the Dark Dates world, writing short stories gives me an opportunity to explore different viewpoints and characters outside the main narrative arc, which has turned out to be enormous fun.

If The Cassandra Bick Chronicles became a TV show, who would you like cast as Cassandra?

Ooh, people ask me that and I’m always stumped. I think Kat Dennings or Lizzie Kaplan would manage the snark, but I’m not sure they could do the British accent!

Do you have a favourite character that you have written so far?

I love all my Dark Dates crew, honestly. They are so much fun to write.

When you're writing, do you have a set routine that you follow or a certain place to sit and write?

In terms of routine, for the longer pieces I start by doing short sketches of scenes to get a sense of character, and play with ideas. Then I do a first draft – and sometimes a second – in longhand (I get through a lot of notebooks!) and usually do a third or even fourth draft before I send it out to my beta readers and then do another couple of polishes before it is done. I don’t have certain writing places – anywhere is good. I am weirdly fussy about notebooks and pens, though.

When you're not writing what would we find you doing?

Napping, mainly…

Have you always known that you wanted to be an author?

Yes. I’ve always written stories, and always loved it.

Do you have a favourite author?

In terms of authors I admire, it’s an enormous list, but in terms of authors I feel genuine affection for, no one can beat Terry Pratchett. I cried when he died!

Thank you so much to Tracey for taking the time to answer my questions!

To connect with Tracey Sinclair

The Dark Dates Website
Tracey's Twitter @thriftygal
The Dark Dates Facebook page

To pick up a copy of Angel Falls click here

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Beetlebrow - Ben Parker

I received a copy of Beetlebrow direct from the author Ben Parker in exchange for an honest review. 

Beetlebrow follows the story of two young girls, Beetlebrow and Pook, on a journey to deliver a message from one king to another to save their people. 

We start out with Beetlebrow and learning about her home life with her mum and two brothers which is terrible. It really sets the scene and you can feel the impoverishment of the town and of Beetlebrow's family. Her brothers are both just horrible human beings, but her mother does everything she can for the family. 

Without any spoilers, circumstances occur and Beetlebrow decides to leave and she goes to find Pook whom she had met in the market previously and had hit it off with and the story progresses from there. 

The book is well written, though there are a few minor things that have been missed in editing. I felt the world building was very strong and I could quite easily picture each town and place that is visited throughout the story. There is one part where they are crossing a desert and I really became immersed and I could feel the heat and dryness of it and just how awful it would have been.

Beetlebrow's character was also well developed and the decisions she made, made sense from what we knew about her life, especially as we also get to see more of her brothers personalities. Her relationship with her mother was really nice and I liked that we got to see more of it at points throughout the book. Pook however I felt that I never really got to know her as much and she seemed a bit one dimensional and she slept or was tired an awful lot throughout the story. I also felt that the description "her slim body" was overused for both her and Beetlebrow. 

The relationship between Beetlebrow and Pook isn't just a friendship, they become partners too as their love for each other becomes stronger. One of my favourite scenes in the book is when Beetlebrow is trying to tell Pook how she feels about her and she's explaining that when she saw girls talking to their friends she'd want to talk to her friends like that if she had any, but with Pook she feels that these things just aren't enough and she wants to say so much more. This to me is one of the best descriptions of how you feel when you love someone, everything just is so much more special with that person than with everyone else. 

I would definitely have preferred this book to be longer so that the journey felt a lot more epic. I feel a lot of scenes could have done with more time focusing on them so you got a real feel of the danger etc of what was happening at the time. But the story definitely does not feel rushed, this would just be my preference. Also I am hoping that there is a book following Beetlebrow as I would like to find out what happened following the decisions made at the end of the story. 

Overall though a really great book and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I am definitely hoping for a second book so I can continue following Beetlebrow's adventures. 

I started this book on the 12th of August 2016 and I finished it on the 20th of August 2016
I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Getting To Know...Noelle Holten

Today on Getting To Know... I bring you Noelle Holten, creator of and book reviewer on the blog, Crime Book Junkie.

You created the fabulous blog, Crime Book Junkie, what inspired you to start it? 

Wow!  Thanks for the compliment! I was guest reviewer for the awesome Katherine Everett (Best Crime Books and More) after coming across her blog via the equally awesome Victoria Wilkinson of I Love Reading. After a few months, Kat suggested I go solo and with a lot of awesome support and encouragement....I did! I love crime fiction, #AllThingsCrime and so wanted my blog to focus on this specifically. I cannot believe how wonderful this last 12 months has been! 

Have you always loved crime fiction or is it something you've discovered along your reading journey?

I have also had an interest in crime/mysteries and suspense from a very young age. I loved Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys and was always into solving crimes in television programmes. I started reading horror books (which I still love) and True Crime (another one I still love) at the age of 12 or so (secretly or my parents would have killed me). From that, I moved on to crime fiction and have never looked back. I do read other genres (occasionally) but these are few and far between. 

Do you have a favourite author? 

I have SEVERAL favourite authors (and will probably miss some out by accident) but totally adore: Graham Smith, Mike Craven, Col Bury, Stephen King, Mel Sherratt, Mel Comley, Martina Cole, Caroline Mitchell, Paul Grzegorzek, Stephen Edger, Howard Linskey, Mark Billigham, Angie Marsons, AJ Waines, Michael J Malone, Douglas Skelton, Emma L Clapperton, Alan Jones....the list is endless. There are so many amazing crime authors out there and I adore their books for a variety of different reasons. 

Do you have a special spot where you love to curl up and read? 

I love reading outside in the sunshine, but over here in the UK -- well that is not always possible. I don't have a favourite spot- other than curled up on the couch with my big, chocolate labrador- Buster. I will read anywhere and everywhere!

How do you organise your bookshelves? 

At the moment, my bookshelves are in complete chaos and I have books everywhere! But I have one book shelp for text books relating to criminal justice; I have one that is dedicated to my TBR pile (pretty full which is why they have over-flowed on to my dining room table) and I have two others which are full of books I have loved/read or which I have picked up out of interest but may not be crime-related. I really need to sort them all out! 

A really difficult question - e-books, paperbacks or hardbacks?

Not hard at all-- if it is a book --no matter what format -- I will love it! I read all three! My kindle is great for holidays or commutes but nothing beats a real book. Paperbacks are lighter, so if I had to carry one around, that would be a preference. But hardbacks are great for reading in bed!

During the day you are a Senior Probation Officer, can you tell us anything about the kind of thing you do? 

I manage two teams of Probation Officers/Probation Service Officers across two police stations.  I am part of the Integrated Offender Management team. We manage the most chaotic and prolific offenders in the community. We also manage individuals who have substance misuse issues (drugs or alcohol) within our Substance Misuse team. I work jointly with the Police and Treatment to ensure public protection and reducing re-offending is monitored and actioned. We write reports for courts, manage individuals both in the community and custody and look at strategies on how to ensure the public is protected when risk escalates. That is it, in a nutshell!

Have you been lucky enough to meet any authors?

EEEEEEEEK!! I sure have. I have just returned from Harrogate and met so many of my author idols. I have also been fortunate enough to attend book signings, launches and events where I have met some amazing authors. They have been so incredibly lovely and supportive of bloggers -- it has been amazing! 

Will we ever see a crime novel that's been written by you? 

You just might...... 

If you were a fictional character and suffered a crime, which fictional detective would you want on the case? 

I would totally want DI Harry Evans on the case. He is one of Graham Smith's characters and a copper you just hate to love. He is old school in a modern world and does whatever it takes to get the case solved. I have no doubt he would make sure that whoever killed me (as he works the murder team, so any other crime may not fall to his team) would be brought to justice....whatever means necessary! 

To check out Noelle's blog Crime Book Junkie click here

Friday, 19 August 2016

Getting To Know...Jo Hollywood

Today I am excited to bring my Getting To Know... with Jo Hollywood, author of An Unextraordinary Life a paranormal romance.

You've recently released your first novel, An Unextraordinary Life, what was the inspiration behind the story?

That's a difficult question to answer as I feel that many books, movies and life experiences have all inspired me in some way. It has been a story that has been bubbling away for many years, and one that I just had to write.

An Unextraordinary Life is a paranormal romance story, have you ever had your own paranormal experience?

Great question! My maternal grandfather died when I was a little girl. Several weeks after his death, I was in the house where he had lived, and where my grandmother still lived. I walked into the the kitchen and I could smell fresh tobacco smoke, he used to smoke roll ups. It was as if he was in the room. Later on that night, when I was in bed. I saw him sat at the end of my bed. He didn't say anything, but just seeing him gave me great comfort.

Have you always known that you wanted to be an author?

Not really, I love writing and have always scribbled stories. I studied English Literature at University, and was offered an M.A. In Creative Writing but I turned it down as I needed to do something completely different. I ended up training as a nurse.

Do you have a favourite place to sit and write or a certain routine that you follow?

I literally sit and write anywhere, but usually my laptop sits on the dining room table surrounded by Lego and Minecraft figures. I sometimes write in the local coffee shops in town. As for routine, I usually write once the children are in bed.

When you're not writing, what would we find you doing?

I spend my days working from home as a freelance copywriter. It fits in with looking after my two boys. My youngest son is autistic, so I need to be at home. So when I am not writing I am usually cleaning the house or shopping. Or drinking coffee and reading books.

As a writer of romance, what would be your ideal romantic date?

My ideal romantic date? That would have to be a dinner date with my husband, anywhere outside of the house. We very rarely escape together.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written so far?

I love Jack, the ghost who is in An Unextraordinary Life, he is very special to me.

Do you have a favourite author?

Oh I have so many, but if I had to narrow it down, it would have to be Audrey Niffenegger, Dani Atkins, Amanda Prowse and Jo Nesbo. New authors I have recently found include S E Lynes and Carys Bray. Little Women also holds a special place in my heart. I always wanted to be Jo.

What is your favourite thing about being an author?

Putting pen to paper, that release of ideas and the satisfaction that you have managed to tell a story. I love that the characters magically come to life; that I breathe life into then. That's what is really exciting. I also love the fact that writing for me is very cathartic.

I know you're currently writing your second novel, can you tell us anything about it?

I am currently writing a contemporary romance novel that revolves around a young mum of a child with autism. The story shares how she finds love again, but ultimately how she learns to trust again after a troubled past.

To connect with Jo Hollywood

Jo's Website 

To buy a copy of An Unextraordinary Life click here

An Unextraordinary Life synopsis

When Tess unexpectedly bumps into Jack one cold day in March, her world is quite literally turned upside down. Can she make a new life for herself with Jack, based on how happy they were in the past? Or does she need to make a new start and find love in the arms of her new work colleague, Rob? The path of true love never does run smoothly. 

Meet Tess, a woman who is still in love with her husband, who died five years ago. 

Meet Jack, the ghost, who wants to make Tess happy again. 

Finally there's Rob who wants to win Tess's heart. 

Who will she choose?

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Getting To Know...Tara Lyons

Today I am really happy to bring you Tara Lyons on Getting To Know... author of In The Shadows and co-author of The Caller.

Your solo debut novel, In The Shadows, is a crime novel; have you always wanted to write crime fiction?What draws you to it?

I've always wanted to write, that's for sure, but I didn't know it was going to be crime fiction. The story of In The Shadows was brewing in my mind for some time and it just developed that way. Although it's not that surprising really because I love to read crime/thriller fiction and watch a multitude of crime TV programmes. 

Is there a lot of research that goes into the police procedure side of your writing? If there is, do you enjoy it?

Not so much for In The Shadows because it's more of a crime/thriller novel than police procedural, but yes I did have to research things and check some facts. The Caller is very police procedural and needed quite a bit of research - but I love that side of things. I've always had a passion for learning, understanding new things and talking to experts in their fields. I find it fascinating. 

You've just co-authored The Caller with M.A. Comley, which is the first in a new crime series. What is it like working with another author? How do you make your writing styles and ideas fit together?

I've loved working with Mel (M.A. Comley) because she is such an inspirational indie author. While our ideas and tastes are similar, we did find some differences in our styles. Communication is the key, and that worked well for Mel and I - we were honest and constructive while working on The Caller. We also devoted a lot of time to editing the book so it felt like a seamless read. 

Both In The Shadows and your new crime series have strong detective characters. Do you have a favourite detective from film/tv/books or history?

I'm a huge fan of DI Jack Frost (A Touch of Frost) and Jessica Fletcher (Murder She Wrote) - I think I have my Grandad to thank for that as we used to watch them religiously when I was younger - but they've always stuck in my head as brilliant characters. If I come across a re-run on TV now I have to watch them. In terms of books - I'm a huge fan of DI Lorne Simpkins in M.A. Comley's Justice series, DI Kim Stone by Angela Marsons and DI Damen Brook by Steven Dunne. 

If The Organised Crime Team Series became a TV show, who would you like to see playing DI Angie North?

Ooh, good question... I love people to make their own mind up about how they visualise a character... but, since watching Line of Duty, I think I would love to see Angie played by someone like Vicky McClure, feisty but fair - we'd just have to dye her hair!

When you're writing do you have a favourite place to sit or a certain routine that you follow?

I only have one option really, and that's the little office I've made myself in my bedroom. As much as I'd love to, I'm not someone who can pitch up in a coffee shop and type away thousands of words. I'd get distracted people watching and drinking tea. So, I need a quiet area (as quiet as possible with a toddler in the house) at my desk and away I go...

What is your favourite part of being an author?

When a reader gets in touch with me to say they enjoyed my book... it really doesn't get better than that. I completely understand you can't please everyone and that you are going to have people read your book and not connect with it - or sadly, completely hate it. But to then read a review or have an email/tweet/Facebook message from someone to say they really understood the character or loved where the story took them... well, that's what makes me want to sit at my computer for hours at a time. 

When you're not writing, what would we find you doing?

Looking after my three year-old son - so probably in the park, the local swimming pool or cinema or even stuck in the ball pit at a wacky warehouse. I'm in awe of the amount of energy he has and wish I could keep up!

Do you have a favourite author?

In the short, no. I read so many different genres and in the past year alone had read so many new authors, I couldn't possibly choose... 😊

What can we look forward to from you next?

I have notes galore and so many projects I've started that all seem to the simmering and vying for my attention. Some reviews have suggested they'd like to see DI Denis Hamilton return so at the moment I think I want to continue down that route. However, as I just said I read a lot of genres, so understand that readers want different things from books at different stages in their lives... so there could be more from me in terms of that, watch this space.

Thank you so much to Tara for joining me and answering my questions! I'll certainly be looking forward to any new works in the future!

For places to find out more about Tara and her books you can check out

Tara's author Facebook Page
Tara's blog
Sign up to Tara's newsletter

To pick up a copy of In The Shadows click here
To pick up a copy of The Caller click here

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer

With all the excitement of my new feature, I just realised that I hadn't done a review post for mine and F's most recent buddy read which we finished at the end of July, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, We've moved onto our next read and we've gone back to the classics, choosing The Count Of Monte Cristo and I have to say since starting reading it, so many people have got in touch with me to say that it is their favourite book! 

Anyhoo onto the review:

Following on from reading Iced (see my review here) we weren't sure if reading another book aimed at younger people was a good idea, but we went ahead anyway. 

Artemis Fowl is I believe somewhere between middle grade (children's) and YA as a genre and I feel sadly that it's one I should have read when I was younger as it just didn't work for me and I love a lot of YA and middle grade books. I think my nearly eight year old will love it, so I will definitely pass it on to her when she's finished her current reads. 

Apart from Butler, I really didn't particularly like any of the characters. Artemis was ok, but he just didn't feel like a fully formed character yet to me. Me and F discussed the possibility in the next books that they age like in Harry Potter and so the characters may become more formed and the story as a whole may become more "grown up" as the series goes along - If this does happen please do let me know! 

The story itself is very well written and cleverly plotted, I just didn't engage as much as I would have liked. I am personally not a fan of fairies having technology as well as magic. To me it takes away some of the "magic" of it all. It was however very clever and I think I would have really enjoyed it when I was younger. 

Overall it was an ok book and I will probably pick up the next book in the future or read with my Nerdling just to see where the story goes from here. 

We started this book on the 18th of July 2016 and finished it on the 29th of July 2016.
I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads. 

Friday, 12 August 2016

The Things You Do For Love by Rachel Crowther - Blog Tour Guest Post

Today I am very excited to bring a guest post from Rachel Crowther, author of The Things You Do For Love as part of the blog tour. So without further ado I'll hand over to Rachel!

What Would I Tell My Daughter About Life And Motherhood?

I went back to work when my first daughter was 11 weeks old, as a junior paediatrician
working an 82-hour week. Overnight I was transported from the sleepy, milky world of new
motherhood to the glare and noise of the hospital, rushing to deliveries in the maternity
unit where I’d given birth less than three months before and trying to save the lives of other
women’s babies who’d been born ‘flat’ (deadpan medical slang for purple and floppy and
not breathing). I spent long days and nights trying to get drips into premature babies on
SCBU, dealing with five-year- olds with leukaemia and their traumatised families and
toddlers with severe asthma in A&E.

I felt horribly inadequate, both as a doctor without enough experience to manage the
medical challenges, and as a mother who felt acutely the suffering of every child and its
parents – AND, of course, as a mother whose own tiny baby was at home with a
childminder. The sick children I encountered at work, whose parents longed for them to be
well and out of hospital, made me feel that the ideal of the family safely and happily at
home was what mattered most in the world – and although I was helping to promote it for
other people, I was doing it at the expense of that experience for myself and my daughter.

After six months, I moved, with relief, into a part-time role in community paediatrics. But
when I found myself spending whole days at home alone with my nine-month- old daughter,
I was at sea all over again. I had no idea what you did all day with a baby, and the pleasures
I’d longed for during those tough months in the paediatric wards seemed like a myth. I felt
I’d failed as a doctor and a mother: I was disappointed in myself, and furious with the world
for tripping me up twice over.

Things got better, of course. I made new friends; I enjoyed my new job; I fell in love with my
daughter again. She was the most amiable and easygoing of children, and on my bleaker
mornings I remembered to give thanks for the fact that neither of us was in hospital. But
even so, I couldn’t help feeling that my relationship with her had been tainted.

So when I got pregnant again, I hoped, guiltily, that I could get it right this time. And in some
ways things WERE easier, even though I vomited every single day of that pregnancy and
struggled to keep up my sessions at work. She was a delightful baby too, and life settled
down into a new, almost serene equilibrium after she was born.

But did the contrast between their early months make a jot of difference to my relationship
with either of my daughters in the long run? Of course it didn’t. Even my memories of them
as babies aren’t very different, and there are just as many photographs of each, just as
many details of their first smiles and words and steps in my diaries. After three more babies, the only insight I can offer is that children – especially babies – regard the circumstances of
their lives as normal, whatever they are.

But as my daughters have grown up, I have often wondered whether, or how, my
experience of life – especially of work and motherhood – might be helpful to them. They are
very different people to me, and they live in a different age. Given how fast the world
changes – socially, politically, financially, culturally – and how different the parameters of
our daughters’ lives are from ours, just how relevant is our experience to them? What can
any of us say to our daughters to help them negotiate the big wide world?

Well, mothers can certainly give their daughters something to judge themselves against,
identifying what they admire and aspire to, and what they would want to do differently.
Every mother’s life is, perhaps, the ‘beta model’ for her daughters: a rough draft they can
improve on.

And talking of rough drafts, stories are – as in so many areas of life – perhaps the best way
to inform and guide and illuminate. Every child loves stories about ‘before I was born’ or
‘when I was a baby’, and most families have a repertoire of good stories and bad stories,
cautionary tales and epic family sagas, ancestral myths that have lost sight of the strict truth
behind them. Narrating our lives is something we humans do naturally – and long before
books were invented, parents invented stories for their children, too. Stories that warned
about the dangers of their world, perhaps, or emphasised the moral values of their society.

Some families pass things on in written form – a family Bible, or a recipe book. Women are
often the keepers of these traditions, and there may be more to them than the words on
the page suggest. In her wonderful article ‘La soupe aux poireaux’, Marguerite Duras writes
about recipes for leek soup being handed down through generations of French women. At
first sight this might look like a way for mothers to pass on a particular way of doing things,
and to reinforce the place of women as domestic and subservient – as makers of soup. But,
Duras says, the secret message of this tradition is about the transformative power of the
female line. The collective history and knowledge shared by women in a family can provide
a space for reflection and re-evaluation: it can be a springboard to help us reclaim
womanhood and motherhood as powerful, creative, life-affirming forces.

So yes, we should share our experiences of life with our daughters. We should tell them the
stories of our failures and triumphs, let them into our secrets, and pass on our recipes for
gravy or chocolate cake or leek soup. We should tell them about their babyhood, too, give
them the start of their own story and encourage them to find their own way to live out the
rest of it, in the hope that they will transform not just their own lives, but ours too.

Photo credit to Roger Smeeton

About Rachel Crowther

Rachel Crowther is a doctor who worked for the NHS for 20 years and the mother of five children. She dabbled in creative writing between babies and medical exams, until an Arvon course prompted her to take it more seriously. She’s also a keen musician and cook. The Things You Do For Love is her second novel.

The Things You Do For Love synopsis

An elite surgeon with a brilliant but philandering husband, Flora Macintyre has always defined herself by her success in juggling her career and her marriage. Until, all at once, she finds herself with neither.

Retired and widowed in the space of a few months, Flora is left untethered. In a moment of madness, she realises there's nothing to stop her running away to France.

But back home her two daughters - the family she's always loved, but never had the time to nurture - are struggling. Lou is balancing pregnancy with a crumbling relationship, while her younger sister, Kitty, begins to realise she may have to choose between love and her growing passion for music.

And even as the family try to pull together, one dark secret could still tear them all apart...