Shelter by Sarah Franklin – Review.

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About the Book

Led here by necessity, she knows she cannot stay. Brought against his will, he never wants to leave.

Early spring 1944.

Connie Granger has escaped her bombed-out city home, finding refuge in the Women’s Timber Corps. For her, this remote community must now serve a secret purpose.

Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war, is haunted by his memories. In the forest camp, he finds a strange kind of freedom.

Their meeting signals new beginnings. But as they are drawn together, the world outside their forest haven is being torn apart. Old certainties are crumbling, and both must now make a life-defining choice.

What price will they pay for freedom? What will they fight to protect?

My Review

When I first saw the publicity for Shelter on social media I was instantly drawn to it. Not only because of its synopsis but also for more personal reasons which I will talk about at the end of the review.
The novel concerns a handful of people and their connection to each other because of the war and the forest. The main character is Connie. Grieving and suffering the consequences of an ill-fated night out in her home town of Coventry she accepts a position with the timber corps in Gloucestershire. There she meets Seppe, Amos, Joyce and Frank and starts to rebuild her life.
Shelter is an incredible book to read. I’m ashamed that I know nothing about Italy’s war but the author has peaked my interest and I am determined to find out more. I loved Seppe’s character alongside that of the three locals. Amos, the stubborn widower who misses his son fighting in the war, Joyce and Frank the childless couple who had so much love to give. And then there was Connie, who some could dislike. She could be selfish and appear unloving but I thought a lot of the way she behaved was due to guilt. I cringed at times with the way she treated Seppe. Even though he felt he was a coward, the way he was with her and Fredo, the camp bully was heroic.
I don’t want to say much about the storyline but the author does an incredible job of showing the way WW2 was fought in a different way. Yes, cities and soldiers do feature but only briefly. This is all about the foresters and how important and unnoticed their role was.
And now the personal reasons. My maternal Grandmother was a Lumber Jill. I struggle to put the image of the tiny, stubborn elderly lady doing a job like the one that Connie did. A reminder that she would have once been a young incredibly resilient woman and I will never forget how proud she was to receive her belated medal.

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Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear.

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About the Book

WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW

In 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared and Dad knew something about it?
Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.

WHAT I ACTUALLY KNOW

In 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle.
Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad’s pub.
Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle’s disappearance and Alice Lapaine’s murder – FACT
Connection?

Trust cuts both ways . . . what do you do when it’s gone?

My Review

I found Sweet Little Lies to be a great story. Cat is a police officer who uses her Mother’s maiden name. If she used her actual surname her secret would have been revealed and she wouldn’t have had the involvement with the case that she did. I loved her character and the volatile relationship that she had with her family. Her closest relation was her older sister but that relationship was at times difficult. When the body of Alice Lapaine is found near to her father’s pub I could barely wait to see how she would handle the situation and if she would reveal secrets from her childhood.
I liked the flashbacks to the family holiday in Ireland. The way she was teased over her fascination over pop groups at the time, her desire to be noticed by the older girls in the village, the locals and the way local places were described. The ‘pot-holey’ road being one of them. And then when it became more sinister when a local teenager disappears.
The investigation was a convincing one, showing a realistic pace. Murder isn’t always quick to solve and the team had days with no information coming in. The team was also convincing, all the officers were different with their strengths and weaknesses but Cat was willing to learn from each of them even if they weren’t people she liked.
I didn’t work this mystery out, the murderer and the reasons why the murder happened were cleverly hidden. I did find the ending a little abrupt but it didn’t stop me enjoying the book.
I would love this to become a series. I thought all the characters were strong enough to appear in further books and I would love to see what Cat does next.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.
The book can be purchased at Amazon or Waterstones

Sweet Little Lies – Guest Post featuring Caz Frear.

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Today, it is my pleasure to welcome Caz Frear to my blog to talk about secrets. I loved her book which will be reviewed on my blog on publication day – 29th June.

KEEPING SECRETS ON THE JOB – IS YOUR DETECTIVE TRULY ‘ROGUE’ OR JUST ‘CONFLICTED.’

When new commissioner, Sir Robert Mark, arrived at Scotland Yard in 1972, he proudly announced that it was his intention to “arrest more criminals than he employed.”

Ahem….

For your average Joe/Joanna, it’s fair to say that life is rarely black and white. Most of us live our messy lives floundering somewhere between what Dulux might call ‘soft grey’ and ‘pale charcoal’, and generally this means booing and hissing at the Bad Guys – those chumps who get off on doing bad things for bad reasons – yet feeling a stab of empathy for those who occasionally do bad things for good (or understandable) reasons. So essentially, to the majority of the population, the abiding message is this – if you’re somewhere on the off-white-dove-grey Dulux spectrum then you’re doing ok, mate. You’re one of the Good (ish) Guys. Chances are you’ve probably pushed the speed limit a couple of times, smoked a few funny fags. Maybe you’ve even thrown the odd punch in your time but it was almost certainly in defence (and the person probably deserved it) so no real harm done. Nothing to see here.

But not so if you’re a police officer. Not so if you have the power to raid someone’s house, take away their property, take away their liberty. Then it follows that you must be whiter than white. Ultra-white, to quote Dulux yet again.

And this all sounds perfectly reasonable, huh?

Of course it does.

Except that crime fiction has a whole history of police officers operating outside the law and boy, do we love them for it. From straight-laced Dick Tracy briefly succumbing to Breathless Mahoney, to Line of Duty’s DCI Roz Huntley killing a colleague and then framing her husband, we can’t seem to get enough of these conflicted detective. And I stress the word ‘conflicted’ over the usual term ‘rogue.’ Because ‘rogue’ implies a lack of of principle, usually a lack of remorse, and yet even devious DCI Huntley eventually coughed and repented, right? Even dastardly DI ‘Dot’ Cotton came good in the end with his dying declaration? AND he made a mean chilli…

So while we might be entertained by the true ‘rogue’ detective, we’re generally appalled by their actions. Rogue detectives strike at our deepest fears about law and order being usurped and the Bad Guys taking over. But a conflicted detective? One who keeps secrets, stretches boundaries, covers their arse – or even frames their husband – out of fear or love or loyalty, rather than pure greed or narcissism? Well, they’re a bit further down the wrong’un scale as far as most of us are concerned.

I mean, who’s perfect?

DC Cat Kinsella, in my mind, has always been a good egg at heart. Someone you want on your side. Definitely someone you want in the pub at the end of a hard day. And yet, by chapter 2 she’s already keeping secrets and making decidedly bad choices. By chapter 8, she’s in losing-her-job-and-possible-criminal-charges territory. Line of Duty’s AC12 would have wiped the floor with her!

So given that by the end of Sweet Little Lies, Cat has crossed a line, compromised her police oath, and told significant lies to just about everyone she claims to respect, does this make her a true wrong’un? And can you honestly say that you’d have acted differently? Would you have dropped your dad in the doo-doo, put your reputation through the shredder and given up the career that you absolutely whole-heartedly love if you could see another way out – not so much an ‘everyone wins’ scenario but at least an ‘everyone survives’ escape hatch?

In the words of a true wrong’un, I’m going to state, ‘No comment…..’

Hope To Die by David Jackson – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

On a bitterly cold winter’s night, Liverpool is left stunned by a brutal murder in the grounds of the city’s Anglican Cathedral. A killer is on the loose, driven by a chilling rage.

Put on the case, DS Nathan Cody is quickly stumped. Wherever he digs, the victim seems to be almost angelic – no-one has a bad word to say, let alone a motive for such a violent murder.

And Cody has other things on his mind too. The ghosts of his past are coming ever closer, and – still bearing the physical and mental scars – it’s all he can do to hold onto his sanity.

And then the killer strikes again . .

My Review

A follow up to A Tapping At My Door, Hope To Die could be read as a standalone novel but you would get more enjoyment from it if you know and understand why Nathan Cody is hurting emotionally and physically.
The novel starts with a murder in one of my favourite areas of Liverpool, the gardens surrounding the Anglican Cathedral. I’ve always enjoyed reading a novel where I know the area and the Cathedral and the Georgian Quarter of Liverpool is one I know quite well. The footpath where the murder takes place is one where I wouldn’t dream of going when its dark. There is a lot of history and a lot of graves!
All the team are there, my favourite character Blunt, Webley and Ferguson and of course Cody. Cody is still struggling with his demons and doesn’t know to handle Webley. Most of the time it ends up being the wrong way, which doesn’t go unnoticed by Blunt. There is also a new  member of the team. One who I really didn’t know whether I should like her or fear her. This was a person I found a little disturbing and I feel there is plenty to discover in further novels.
The murders take place quickly and there doesn’t appear to be a connection. There are also flashbacks from the person who could be the killer. There is no identification or any clue to when the events took place. They are, however, very convincing and quite upsetting because of how real they felt.
This is a study of different personalities and how the past can affect the present and the future. Both the killer and Cody have suffered but both cope or otherwise in different ways. Cody senses that the persecutors from the past are getting closer but he doesn’t know how to deal with it. The ending of the book showed that there is much more to come with this series.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

Lies – T.M Logan Guest Post

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Today, it is my pleasure to welcome to my blog T. M Logan giving his top five writing tips.His novel Lies was recently published by Bonnier Zaffre. You can read about the book at the end of the post.

My top five writing tips for aspiring writers

When I was eight years old, my older brothers dug a hole at the end of our garden. It was about three feet deep and two feet wide, behind a hedge where our parents couldn’t see.
When they were finished digging, they told me to get in it.
Why? Because it was a condition of me joining their gang. The Secret Association Society (none of us realised at the time that the acronym was already taken) was all about traps, and poison-making, and setting stuff on fire, and trying to smoke rhododendron leaves. I wasn’t keen on getting in the hole. But I was desperate to be in their gang – so I climbed in, whereupon my brothers covered the hole up with a board and threw some dirt on top. I crouched there in the pitch darkness, gripping my knees, smelling the dark earth and feeling the trickle of soil down the back of my neck. Eventually, they let me out again and I was duly made a member of the SAS. Anyway, the point of the story is this:

1. At some point as a writer, you’re going to have to do things you don’t immediately want to do.

Agents, editors, publishers, copy editors, trusted friends – they may all suggest changes to your manuscript that you don’t necessarily want to make. Try your hardest to listen to them – most of the time they will be right (as I found with LIES). You may have already been through several drafts yourself, and feel you don’t want to make any more changes. You don’t want to get in the hole. But almost everyone’s work can be improved somehow, in some way, through constructive feedback. Which leads me neatly into:

2. Try to get feedback from people you trust.

Getting feedback is tough. Asking someone to critique your work is a bit like walking stark naked into a room full of strangers and asking them to give you marks out of ten. It’s difficult. I’d be the first to admit that I was not very good at it to start with (for a long time I didn’t even share my writing with my wife). The problem is, finding people who want the best for you but won’t just tell you what you want to hear. It’s a judgement call that you have to make. But it’s absolutely worth doing.

3. Write every day.

If you’re serious about writing, you should do it every day. Particularly if you’re trying to get the first draft of a story down. When I start a new story I get a diary, photocopy the ‘Year at a glance’ page at the back, and stick it on the wall next to my desk. Each day I make a note of my wordcount – the aim is 500 on a weekday, 1500 on a weekend day – but it’s less about the number and more about making links in the chain and keeping that promise to myself. If I’ve written for 30, or 50, or 100 days straight, am I going to take a day off and break the chain? Probably not.

4. Every character is the protagonist of his or her own story.

Imagine a clock with no numbers on it. Turn it in your hands. The time it gives will depend on the way you rotate it – one way up will show you 11.15, but flip it over and the time becomes 4.45. The point is: all of your characters should behave as if they are the protagonist. None of them should act as if they are just in a supporting role – they all have their own point of view and are all the central character in their own story. If you can do this effectively, it will help to bring all of your characters to life. Even those who only have a small part to play in your narrative.

5. Let yourself fall into the page.

I love social media. But if you want to be fully absorbed by what you’re doing, put your mobile in a different room. You can’t be listening to your characters, and seeing them in front of you, if you’re constantly being pulled back to reality by your phone pinging with notifications every five minutes. Stephen King calls the process of becoming absorbed in your fictional world ‘falling into the page’. He wrote a brilliant book called On Writing – read it if you can.
Good luck!
@TMLoganAuthor

About the Book

WHAT IF YOUR WHOLE LIFE WAS BASED ON LIES? A gripping new psychological thriller of secrets and revenge, perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and Tom Bale

When Joe Lynch stumbles across his wife driving into a hotel car park while she’s supposed to be at work, he’s intrigued enough to follow her in.

And when he witnesses her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he knows he ought to intervene.

But just as the confrontation between the two men turns violent, and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe’s young son has an asthma attack – and Joe must flee in order to help him.

When he returns, desperate to make sure Ben is OK, Joe is horrified to find that Ben has disappeared.

And that’s when Joe receives the first message