House of Spines by Michael Malone – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

A terrifying psychological thriller cum Gothic mystery, as a young man with mental health issues inherits an isolate mansion, where all is not as it seems…
Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who it seems has been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, it seems Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror… the reflection of a woman… A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…

My Review

House of Spines is completely different to A Suitable Lie, the author’s previous novel and demonstrates that Michael Malone has more than one string to his bow. It is a dark thriller with a gothic slant that is at times creepy and  has an unreliable narrator. I like these types of novels a lot, and I imagine that they are difficult to write – this book does not disappoint.
Ran is very surprised when he discovers that he has inherited a mansion complete with huge library on the outskirts of Glasgow. He had never known any of his mother’s family, and never knew about their wealth. One of the few conditions he has to abide by is that the library stays intact. Initially he is overwhelmed and very happy but he soon starts to suffer. There is something unhealthy about the house, his mental state is under strain and it doesn’t take long for him to feel under pressure.
Firstly. I loved the title. The Spines are not human spines, they are the spines of the novels in the library. I could just picture the size of the library and how it must have looked. There couldn’t have been a more fitting title. With regards to the novel itself, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a more unreliable narrator than Ran. Knowing his past problems, the loss of his parents, the medication he stopped taking that controlled his bipolar condition made me question everything. I couldn’t work out which was reality and which was hallucinatory.
There are likeable and unlikeable characters, some of the more likeable characters do things that aren’t very nice, but you could see why they did them. There were a few moments where I had goosebumps. I would have liked more but I felt that the novel was more than just a gothic thriller, it was also a study of mental health and coercion. It had an unsettling ending that left me very uneasy. I sometimes wish the reader could know what happens after the last page has been turned. House of Spines is one of the better novels of this type that I have read this year.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received for review.

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Maria In The Moon by Louise Beech – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’ Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything. Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

My Review

Catherine, whose house was badly damaged in the Hull floods volunteers on a helpline for those who are in a similar situation. She finds that concentrating on being there for others helps her deal with her own life and she can relax knowing that she is helping somebody else. Not everybody who rings in has flood related issues but she listens to them regardless. Some of the phone calls are comical but most are serious and often upset her.
I thought Catherine was incredible. She was made homeless from the floods and sleeps on a friend’s sofa, she is determined, brutally honest and at times has a sharp tongue. Especially with her mother and spoilt, pampered step sister. She has a fractured relationship with her mother and takes pleasure in using bad language just to annoy her. There were many amusing moments where she was admonished. But she has no memory of being nine years old and its starting to trouble her more. As she struggles to cope with current events, she is also determined to remember what happened when she was nine.
There were a few times when I felt choked reading. It’s not a depressing book but it is very emotional and when I got towards the end I was in tears more than once. The descriptions of the flood damage could only come from somebody who went through it. When you see it on the news you don’t feel it, smell it and see the destruction that it leaves behind. And I could sense the frustration at being ignored by the Government and the media, but being humbled by the kindness of those nearby. When she remembers what happened when she was nine and how she dealt with it broke me. I can’t write about that part of the novel in my review without spoilers so you will have to read it to find out more.
Louise Beech is an incredible author who has touched my heart with each of her novels. I feel when reading her words that you can see her soul. Her words are powerful, emotional and there is a passion about things that are important to her and people who are close to her. She is an author who I will never tire of reading. Maria in The Moon is probably my favourite book so far.

To read about Louise’s publication day click here

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Dying To Live by Michael Stanley – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

When the body of a Bushman is discovered near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the death is written off as an accident. But all is not as it seems. An autopsy reveals that, although he’s clearly very old, his internal organs are puzzlingly young. What’s more, an old bullet is lodged in one of his muscles… but where is the entry wound? When the body is stolen from the morgue and a local witch doctor is reported missing, Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu gets involved. But did the witch doctor take the body to use as part of a ritual? Or was it the American anthropologist who’d befriended the old Bushman? As Kubu and his brilliant young colleague, Detective Samantha Khama, follow the twisting trail through a confusion of rhino-horn smugglers, foreign gangsters and drugs manufacturers, the wider and more dangerous the case seems to grow. A fresh, new slice of ‘Sunshine Noir’, Dying to Live is a classic tale of greed, corruption and ruthless thuggery, set in one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, and featuring one of crime fiction’s most endearing and humane heroes.

My Review

Dying to Live is the third book that I have read in the marvelous series that features Detective Kubu, Samantha and the rest of the team. Just like the previous novels the cases they have to solve are different to the ones that feature in a book that is set elsewhere.
One of the many reasons I enjoy this series so much is that all the characters are so laid back. Even though there are murders to solve, Kubu still has time to spend time with his family and enjoy his cookies. Samantha is a little different, she is a bit more impatient, more passionate and more eager to prove that she is an able detective.
Both cases are sinister, there is a missing witch doctor and whilst both Kubu and Samantha are critical of the old ways, the case still has to be solved. The other case concerns the body of an old man, who when the autopsy is done shows more questions than answers.
As well as trying to deal with both cases, lazy police officers and plenty of suspects Kubu also has to deal with the deteriorating health of his adopted daughter Nono who is HIV positive. The grief, frustration and guilt felt by Kubu and Joy was raw. I really felt for Kubu with the decisions he was forced to make for the sake of his marriage. I feel that one of the many strong points in this series is how well you get to know Kubu’s family. It is probably the only series that I have read where family features so prominently.
Whilst the storyline features murder, the reasons why it occurred are different and with the added superstition made a fascinating read. I did get a little confused at times, there are a lot of people but there was a reminder at the start of who everybody was along with a guide on pronunciation.
A welcome return to the land of ‘sunshine noir’. Kubu and Samantha are one of my favourite police teams.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

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The Other Twin by Lucy V Hay – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her? Taking the reader on a breathless ride through the winding lanes of Brighton, into its vibrant party scene and inside the homes of its well-heeled families, The Other Twin is startling and up-to-the-minute thriller about the social-media world, where resentments and accusations are played out online, where identities are made and remade, and where there is no such thing as truth…

My Review

Poppy makes a devastating return home to Brighton when her sister India is thought to have committed suicide. Unconvinced, and feeling guilty after not being able to make amends after a fallout she decides to try and understand the reasons why India might have taken her own life. Or whether somebody else was responsible.
She was determined to get answers from India’s friends but after leaving Brighton a few years earlier under a cloud it was always going to be a struggle. The reasons why she left were a little unexpected and it was understandable why a few people were unfriendly.
All the family were coping or otherwise in different ways. The way that Poppy’s mother fell apart was more convincing than some that I have read. How she coped before the funeral to not coping at all afterwards. Also, accurately portrayed was Poppy and her stepfather trying to help her and dealing with their own emotions.
The Other Twin was a book that took my breath away. Divided into three parts, the final part had me holding my breath and I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough. I lost count of the times I thought I knew what happened only to be proven wrong a few pages later.
A fascinating read.

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

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My Publication Day – Louise Beech.

Today, I  would like to welcome you to my blog to read a new feature. I plan on running a series featuring several different authors and how they feel on their publication day.  Today my guest is the lovely Louise Beech who has already had two books published with Orenda and her third Maria In the Moon will be published in September.

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How will you spend the day?

I spend the day often in disbelief. Excited disbelief! Like, wow, it’s here. My baby is really out there. People can actually read it. Often the day is weirdly normal other than that because the actual launches are on different days to when the book is released. So, it can be a quiet day, where I likely carry on writing whatever new thing I’m creating. But now and again I stop and think again, wow, it’s out!

Will you be following reviews from early readers or do prefer not to know? (Excluding blog tours.)

I like to know. But it’s terrifying. It really is, every time. You’ve spent so long writing and editing and reworking, and you really want your work to be enjoyed. So I do look at places like Amazon and Goodreads… nervously!

Is it emotional, getting the novel you have worked on for months into the public eye?

Very emotional. A lot of my novels come from personal experiences, so you can feel quite exposed. I have learned to remember that not everyone feels the same about something. You can never please everyone. So, write from the heart, from your own truth, and put everything you have into it, and then you know you did the best you could, no matter what.

If you have had books published before, does the feeling change?

I swear, I think I get MORE excited! For me, it hasn’t faded one bit. Perhaps if you ask me again in ten years, the answer might be different, but I hope not. And, to be honest, I think I’ll still be excited. I’m just that kind of girl. A clap my hands and jump about kind of girl!

I often wonder and imagine that when your novel is published and you have been working on at least one novel since, is the book that is published less important?

Not less important, but sometimes strange. As in, for example, right now I’ve just been editing book four (The Lion Tamer Who Lost, which will be out next year) and have started book five, while still promoting The Mountain in my Shoe, and now of course Maria in the Moon. So sometimes you forget which story you’re in, so to speak. Because, trust me, I’m deeply in them when I write/edit. I live them.

And is it a distraction, welcome or otherwise having to focus on what is for you old material?

Haha, I quite like it. Maria in the Moon was first written after the 2007 Hull Floods, so it really is ‘old’ material in many ways. It really was a revisit when I came to edit it. But it was like revisiting an old me. A younger me. A me going through a hard time. And it was wonderful to think how far I’ve come since.

Do blog tours make you more nervous or do you see them as beneficial?

I know they are beneficial, but of course you can be nervous. Luckily, it’s usually with bloggers/reviewers who like your work generally.

What is your publication day treat? Champagne, cream cake, 10km run?

A lovely bottle of Prosecco, chocolate, and a dance around the room!

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