The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti – Blog Tour Review.

 

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About the Book

In a quiet town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a school playing field. As journalists flock to the scene, one of them catches a teacher, Nate Winters, embracing a female student. The student claims that she and Nate are having an affair, sending shock waves through the close-knit community. Then the student disappears, and the police have only one suspect: Nate.
Nate’s wife, Alecia, is left wondering if she ever really knew her seemingly loving husband. Nate’s co-worker, Bridget, is determined to prove his innocence and find the missing student. But both women will have to ask themselves do they really know what Nate is capable of?

My Review

The last time I received a book by Kate Moretti ( The Vanishing Year) it came with a lily in a gift box. The Blackbird Season arrived with a handful of black feathers.
I love watching birds and I can’t even begin to imagine a scene where 1000 birds are dead on a school playing field. When the press descend on the area they witness something that manages to take their focus away from what they were meant to be investigating. A teacher and student embracing. When the student then disappears Nate is in danger of losing his family, career and his good name.
When I first started to read the novel I disliked one of the characters, Alecia, immediately. She was Nate’s wife and I should have had sympathy for her but I found her cold and unapproachable. By the time I had finished it, the only character I liked was Bridget. She was the only one who showed any compassion to the student Lucia. It takes place in a town that has nothing left to offer. The mill, which was the main employer had closed and it was no longer a close-knit community. All of the students who were in Lucia’s group were desperate to escape and live their life elsewhere.
I couldn’t work Nate out, was he an innocent Mr Nice Guy who the students could turn to for support or was he somebody who had an unhealthy obsession with his students. My inclination was to go with the latter, if only because of his social media habits.
Bridget, however, grieving the loss of her husband wants to know the truth but knows she needs to maintain her integrity by keeping some distance. She understood a teenage mind a lot better than Nate did.
All of the teenagers were believable. They made me think of a pack of animals circling their prey, looking for a way to cause humiliation or harm. Even though Lucia didn’t make life easy for herself I did feel sorry for her. She did have an intimidating personality though.
I enjoyed reading the previous book The Vanishing Year and even though this book is different I think I prefered it. The author is skilled at creating characters that are difficult to like and in keeping her reader gripped. There were a few times that I thought  knew what happened and then something else would be revealed. Just a little at a time, to keep the reader guessing.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.

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City of Saviours by Rachel Howzell Hall – Guest Post and Review.

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On my blog today, I have a guest post from author Rachel Howzell Hall and a review of her new book City of Saviours.

Character as a Cure by Rachel Howzell Hall

I read a lot.
As a kid, no one knew how I looked because a book always covered my face. From Jackie Collins to Stephen King, from D.H. Lawrence to Alice Walker, I read everything.
Problem was I identified with every character except for characters that represented me, my part of Los Angeles, my experience as an African-American woman.
Sure, Michael Connelly and Walter Mosley, Raymond Chandler and Daschell Hammett put Los Angeles mystery on the map. But in them, I did not see me. And I wondered, what would it look like to have a native Angeleno, a black Angeleno, who grew up working class but went to college and came back home to solve mysteries… What would that look like and who’s gonna write that?
Paula L. Wood wrote that story first in her Charlotte Justice series. These post-Los Angeles riot stories helped meet my need. But I needed more. I deserved more. Hell, I’d purchased my share, and yours, and yours over there of books. Why wouldn’t someone write about my friends, me, my Los Angeles?
In 2002, I’d already published my first novel A Quiet Storm. It’s an L.A. story, with mystery elements but it wasn’t a procedural. I wanted to write that mystery but I was scared—fear of failing, fear of not knowing enough. But then, in 2003, while pregnant with my daughter, I was diagnosed with cancer. That’s when I met true fear.
After successful surgeries and a healthy baby girl, I had another cancer scare. Life had never been a smooth journey for me, but now? So, I asked myself: What do I want to do before I’m taken from this place?
Buy a Benz. Write a crime novel.
Getting the car was easy – my credit was spotless.
Writing that novel, though? I wasn’t a cop. I didn’t know cops. But I knew Los Angeles. And I knew that mystery writers threw some of the best writing conventions ever. And what’s the worst that could happen? I’d beat cancer—nothing could scare me more than that.
Elouise Norton, LAPD Homicide Detective, came out of my frustration as a reader, came out of a desire to see my experience on a page, came out of my embrace of life. She has been my therapy—being a survivor still means living with that threat each day—and she has been my ambassador—I’ve met incredible readers and writers and traveled to so many places because of her.
Lou has changed over the course of four books and in this last, I had to break her. A woman can only be so strong for so long and I wanted to reflect that in her. In City of Saviors, all the stress of the prior three books culminates in this story. She’s weaker, she’s stronger—but she holds fast to hope. Just as I do. She ugly-cries, she laughs, she’s pissed off, she eats bags of Doritos and sometimes, refuses to acknowledge how much she hurts—just like you, just like me.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Lou Norton came out of a selfish need of mine but I’m incredibly proud to share her with you now. Hope she helps—she has certainly helped me.

About the book

Seventy-three-year-old Eugene Washington appears to have died in an unremarkable way, but LAPD homicide detective Elouise “”Lou”” Norton is positive that something isn’t right. Especially when she learns that the only family Washington had was his fellow church-goers. Could the murderer be sitting in one of those red velvet pews? And is someone protecting the wolf in the flock? Lou must force the truth into the light before it’s too late

My Review

City of Saviours is the fourth book in the series to feature Lou Norton but the first that I have read. Obviously, there is a lot of back story but it didn’t stop me enjoying the book and it was easy to read as a standalone. If anything, the back story has made me intrigued about what I have missed.
Lou is my new favourite heroine. A female, black police officer, she has to prove herself more than necessary that she can do her job. She does get respect from her immediate team, although she isn’t entirely trusting of them. There are a few in the force who would be happy to see her fail.
The murder is a strange one. Lou insists that it isn’t natural causes immediately and demands that the property and Eugene’s life is thoroughly investigated. It is when I read books like this that I am reminded that I would be useless working in forensics. With the vivid description of what they had to work through in the property, I could practically see, smell and taste everything. My skin was crawling at times even though living in the North West of England the weather was slightly different to a Los Angeles heatwave.
It wasn’t all about the crime, there was also focus on her private life, the relationship with her ex-husband, best friends and a tentative relationship with Sam. It was this part of the novel where I noticed the back story more.
It is a brilliant introduction to an established series that I plan on catching up with.
With thanks to the author for the fantastic guest post and the publisher for the copy received.

If We Were Villains – M. L Rio Guest Post.

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Today, it is my pleasure to welcome M. L Rio to my blog to talk about who she would like to play some of her characters if her novel was to be dramatised or made into a stage production. I think Mark Rylance is a wonderful actor and would make a great Frederick. I found it interesting to read and compare with my own choices.

If the book was to be dramatised for television which actors would you like to play your characters?

This is a really difficult question. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m probably overthinking it, but that’s because I’ve worked in theatre and film for years and I know just how convoluted casting decisions can get. Even dream-casting is difficult, though, for two reasons. Firstly, these characters are quite young and I really hate that Hollywood convention where characters are played by actors who are ten years too old for the parts. So as much as I’d love to say “Find me a 21-year-old Léa Seydoux to play Wren,” that’s a bit far-fetched. (What I really need is a 20-something Paul Gross to play Oliver. If you haven’t seen Slings & Arrows, you should make that a priority. I had such a strong strange crush on Geoff Tennant. Still do, to be honest.) And there’s an added challenge here, which is that not all actors are great Shakespeare actors, and that’s a really essential part of the story. So that narrows the pool. Douglas Booth could do James. I didn’t love the 2013 Romeo and Juliet but his casting, I think, was spot on. He’s a marvelous Romeo. But maybe the best thing to do would be to look in the theatres–see who’s onstage at the Folger and the Globe and see if they might be interested in film. At the very least you’d find a hundred good options for Frederick, all the Old Guard of Shakespeare on stage–Ian McKellen or Mark Rylance or someone who’s really done their time in the Wooden O. In my fantasy-world Helena Bonham Carter plays Gwendolyn. I don’t even really know why, I just think she treads that line between eccentric and insane in a marvelous way. But it’s a hard question! Ask me again in a month and you’d probably get a totally different answer.

Thanks for the answers Mel. you can read my review of the book here  If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio – Review.

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If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio – Review.

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About the Book

Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago. As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off – villain, hero, tyrant, temptress – though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary character in someone else’s story. But when the teachers change up the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into life. When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.

My Review

If We Were Villains is a crime novel with a difference. I have never read a novel before where the characters from a playwright’s plays have such a significant role. That playwright is William Shakespeare.
Oliver is in his final year at the Dellecher Classical Conservatory alongside the six friends he has become very close to. All the seven have different personalities and all have different backgrounds. Most of them were privileged and spoilt but distant from their families. For the first three years they were at the college I got the impression that they were close but as they entered their final year rivalry and petty arguments have damaged the group dynamic and it isn’t long before there is a sinister and unsettling atmosphere that threatens everybody and everything. When one of the seven is found dead, the situation worsens.
Like many, I studied Shakespeare at school and I have seen a handful on the stage since. The play that most of this book concerns I did not know, even though I did know a few of the quotes. But not knowing the play didn’t stop my enjoying the book. I was mesmerised at how the play seemed to possess the young actors. I could see the power, greed and misery that Shakespeare’s characters experienced also affect the actors who played them.
One of the strongest characters in the book was also the most dislikeable. A bully who would hurt any who got in his way. There were others I wasn’t keen on for a variety of reasons. The character I liked most probably appeared less than any of the others.
I liked the book a lot but it is probably one that I would enjoy more on a second read. I would like to read it with the plays that are mentioned next to me so I can really get to know the roles that were being played by the group of friends whose lives all changed in that final year.

With thanks to Titan Books for the copy received.

You can purchase the book at Amazon or Waterstones

Cracked by Barbra Leslie.

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About the book

After her stormy marriage ends, Danny Cleary jumps down the rabbit hole into a world of crack cocaine delivered to her door by a polite but slightly deranged dealer. But when Danny’s twin sister Ginger is murdered, Danny and her rock musician brother fly to California to find their nephews and the people who killed their sister. Fighting her addiction, nosy cops and crazy drug dealers, she kicks ass and takes names, embracing her inner vigilante in a quest to avenge her sister and save her family. Cracked is a darkly comic roller-coaster ride to redemption as Danny struggles with bad guys and her own demons to find out who killed her twin.

My Review

Barbra Leslie is likened to Janet Evanovich, an author whose books I enjoy very much. Cracked is the first of a new series of books that feature an extremely flawed heroine, Danny. Danny had a fantastic life until her marriage fell apart and she went from being somebody who was a fitness fanatic to somebody who was addicted to crack. When she gets a telephone call that her twin sister is found dead in a seedy hotel she is desperate to find out why whilst maintaining her habit.
Danny is fully aware of all her flaws, doesn’t try to blame other people for them and struggles immensely with guilt when she finds out that the reason her sister died was that she was trying to understand why Danny had become an addict. Devoted to Ginger, her nephews and a younger brother she is hell bent on getting answers and revenge.
At times, it was totally unbelievable but it was also a lot of fun. The characters were likeable despite their flaws and showed that despite addiction they were also loyal. There were quite a few ‘baddies’, some of them unexpected.
My impression was that there would be a continuing storyline throughout the series. There was no cliffhanger ending but there were a few unanswered questions that I hope will be resolved in the second book Rehab Run. I have this book also and hope to read very soon.
With thanks to Titan Books for both books received.