Alaska, 1970: growing up here is like nowhere else.
Ruth wants to be remembered by her grieving mother.
Dora wishes she was invisible to her abusive father.
Alyce is staying at home to please her parents.
Hank is running away for the sake of his brothers.
Four very different lives are about to become entangled. Because if we don’t save each other, how can we begin to save ourselves?
Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s extraordinary debut is both moving, and deeply authentic. These intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare talent.
The Smell of Other People’s Houses is lovely young adult book about life in the 70s in Alaska. I’ve always been interested in Alaska and I was intrigued by the title of this book.
This book is very different to what I normally read, but it was nice to have a change. Although it felt slow to start and I had to remind myself that thrillers start with a bang, but other genre’s are slower to get going. The Smell of Other People’s Houses turned out to be a lovely book, I loved how the story of the teenagers evolved and how they were all connected in unexpected ways.
An easy read, The Smell of Other People’s Houses is a charming book and gets a solid 3*s from me.
I was given a copy of The Smell of Other People’s Houses by the publishers via Netgalley in return for an honest review.
The first gripping book in The Organised Crime Team series by NY Times bestselling author of the Justice series, M A Comley and co-author Tara Lyons, author of In The Shadows.
When The Caller rings… what would you do?
The Organised Crime Team is a newly-formed unit with one of the toughest tasks in London. Led by DI Angie North, their first investigation is a cold case that has foxed several officers in the Met for months.
After Angie holds a TV appeal regarding the case, a number of similar aggressive attacks are brought to her attention. The team call on their contacts on the street for help. Their interest is sparked when several local names surface.
To bring the criminals to justice a member of the Organised Crime Team is asked to risk their life in a dangerous covert operation.
I was quite excited to read The Caller, I haven’t read any books by either of the authors but have heard plenty about them. I also felt intrigued about two authors writing a book together and how that works and comes together.
The premise of The Caller is simple enough, but very realistic and something that as the reader I couldn’t help but think that this could happen to me. In fact, to a degree it did. While I was reading The Caller I got a phone call just like the one that the victims in this book do, someone wanted me to confirm my address. I refused and the bemused caller no doubt thought that I was slightly strange, I was tempted to tell them that I was reading a gripping thriller and this call was too close to the storyline of it, but I didn’t and eventually they agreed and told me the address they had for me so that I could confirm that was correct.
It isn’t often that a book impacts real life like that, to me it is the sign of a really good book, and one that feels very real. The Caller is really well written, it is seamless in that there is no obvious difference depending on which author is writing. I liked the characters, especially Angie and her wonderful relationship with her husband. I liked how The Organised Crime Team were introduced to us and the snippets that we got to find out about each of the members and I look forward to finding more about them in future books in the series.
This book came very close to getting 5*’s from me, unfortunately I felt that the ending was rushed which was disappointing and frustrating. But The Caller is still a very good book and definitely the start of a series to watch out for, it is a shame that both authors are currently working on individual books and there is no firm plan for when book 2 will be written.
I received a copy of The Caller from the authors in exchange for an honest review.
Today I can share with you an excerpt from Nigel May’s book Lovers and Liars, published by Bookouture.
LOVERS AND LIARS BY NIGEL MAY
The paint on the domed ceiling of the Velvet hotel’s specially erected sports arena was barely dry before the boxing match was announced globally. Hatton Eden, reigning welterweight champion of the world, the man known to his legion of superfans worldwide as ‘TMM’ – The Main Man – was to take on newcomer Orlando Vince in what TV sports channels around the globe had dubbed the ‘Belter in the Swelter’ from the moment tickets for the 18,000-seater arena went on sale. The boxing world had lived through the legendary ‘Thrilla in Manila’ and been hypnotised by the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ and now a new gladiatorial pairing was set to make sports history.
The Belter in the Swelter was the perfect title for the match which would take place at the famous Velvet hotel in Barbados, the island’s six-star celebrity haunt and the flagship of the lucrative worldwide chain of luxury hotels owned by Sheridan Rivers. Situated on the west side of the island, the hotel was a triumph of cool, with the Hollywood elite, fashionable rich-kid popstars and megabucks media moguls alike booking in to sample its many amenities and to feel their skin change colour as they lay on the powder-fine sands under the blistering heat of the Caribbean sky.
It was Sheridan who had fought to have the arena built at Velvet in the first place, determined to draw the boxing crowds away from Las Vegas and bring the sporting superstars of the world to the tropical jewel in his billion-dollar crown. And when Sheridan Rivers decided he wanted something, nothing or no one could stand in his way. The Brit businessman had not built his empire, now with twenty-plus hotels around the world in destinations ranging from Tokyo to Honolulu, by rolling over and submitting to money men who said no, planners who tried to wrap him in red tape or architects who said that something couldn’t be done. Everything was possible in Sheridan’s world so long as you didn’t have to listen to other people’s opinions and surrounded yourself with ‘yes’ people who would always loyally agree with everything you suggested.
And after months of hard work the night of the bout had finally arrived. Sheridan couldn’t have been happier as he watched the crowds starting to take their seats at the beginning of the evening. He was watching from the highest point of the arena, a gangway that ran around the top edge of the dome. It was the perfect vantage point from which to calculate how much money he would be making from the evening. He’d spent a lifetime looking down on others so why stop now? All 18,000 seats had been filled, with tickets ranging from $1,500 through to $7,500, and then there were the pay-per-view TV rewards to be considered. All in all, he’d make a tidy sum out of tonight’s proceedings, maybe enough to open another hotel, which considering everything that had happened in the run-up to fight night was pretty incredible. It had been quite some ride and he was glad that the night was finally underway.
He gazed down at Blair Lonergan, famed DJ and worldwide music star, the man spinning his musical web of wonder from a purpose-built stage on the far side of the arena. His latest chart-topping collaboration, a funky slab of dance-floor-filling beats mashed with vocals from some vacuous pop starlet of the moment, boomed out from a bank of speakers either side of the stage. New Yorker Blair was adored worldwide and even Sheridan had to admit that he could see why – even if he wasn’t his number-one fan. He was ridiculously handsome, his chiselled features giving him an almost action-hero quality. His blond buzz cut, streetwise air of cool and rock-hard abs had made him the poster boy of the DJ world and the face and body of countless fashion houses. He was Abercrombie & Fitch fit with a talent that had seen him bag DJ residences around the world, including a twelve-month run at a succession of Velvet hotels across the globe. He was the best and that’s why Sheridan had employed him, both for regular nights at his hotels and also to keep the party pumping before the evening’s main event.
‘Make the most of it though, you fucking upstart,’ sighed Sheridan as he watched. ‘Because this is it.’ A smile spread across his face, a grin of knowledge and power puffing out his chest as he spoke. Sheridan felt good – he always did when he was on top.
A female voice sounded beside him. ‘It’s time to get ready, sir. The fight starts in about an hour and a half and you need to be looking your best – the eyes of the world are upon you tonight. Not that you ever look anything less, of course.’
Sheridan turned to look. ‘Thank you, Kassidy. Is my suit ready for tonight?’
‘Yes, sir. Clean, pressed and set for wearing.’
‘And my diamond cufflinks are here?’
‘Two commissioned diamond boxing gloves arrived by courier from London this afternoon.’
‘I had one of the bellhops shine them until he could see his face in them.’
‘Nikki will be here despite everything. Have you two managed to—’
‘I’m not talking about that now.’ Sheridan’s words, brusque and sharp, cut Kassidy off in full flow. ‘What about Heather?’ Sadness washed over him as he asked.
‘Well, boxing’s not really her thing but she said she’d be here. I’ll check for you.’
‘And my wife?’
‘Mrs Rivers has booked herself into the hotel spa for a last-minute manicure and facial and says that she’ll see you at your seat for the fight.’
‘Typical Sutton,’ stated Sheridan. ‘So, we’ll be alone again in the penthouse then, Kassidy. Mind you, my wife’s not slept there for days anyway.’ He moved towards her and gave her backside a squeeze as he walked past. Not as firm as it used to be, he thought to himself. ‘Good, I’m thinking there might be some last-minute odd jobs that need doing.’ He gave his growing erection a squeeze too as he felt it through his linen trousers. ‘You reckon you can sort that for me, too?’
‘Of course, sir,’ smiled Kassidy. But it was a smile riddled with doubt. After ten years of being both Sheridan and Sutton Rivers’ personal assistant, a job she had started when she was just nineteen, Kassidy Orpin was more than a little over blowing the boss whenever he demanded. But as she trotted off behind him in the direction of his hotel penthouse she knew she’d be on her knees within a few minutes – it was what she did. If she wanted to get ahead and realise her ambitions then giving head was just one of the many things on her to-do list. It was how she’d secured the job in the first place. A willing mouth and no gag reflex could erase a CV stating that she left school at sixteen back in Dublin with no real qualifications, especially if your potential boss was a player who couldn’t keep his prick in his pants. And Sheridan Rivers had been good to her over the years, which is why she had loved him, both in and out of the bedroom. But only when he chose. And only when Sutton was not within nagging distance – and preferably in another time zone.
Today If Only I Could Read Faster is taking part in the blog tour for The Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant. It’s nice to have something bright and colourful on the blog for a change! I have yet to read the book but today I’m sharing the first chapter with you.
THE LITTLE VILLAGE BAKERY by TILLY TENNANT
On the hottest day of the year so far, the sprinklers on the green of the tiny village of Honeybourne made miniature rainbows in the shimmering air. Jasmine Green’s triplets, Rebecca, Rachel and Reuben, squealed as they raced backwards and forwards through the water, while Jasmine folded the last of the bunting from her stall of homemade crafts and furnishings.
‘It’s been a fabulous day for it,’ she commented cheerily to the vicar as he wandered over.
‘Certainly has,’ he agreed, looking round at the other stalls lined up around the perimeter of the green, their owners also packing away. ‘I love the fête, the one day of the summer when the whole village comes together to have fun.’
‘The children have certainly enjoyed it this year.’ She looked fondly over at her offspring, now soaked through but grinning all over their faces.
‘Some of the adults have had a good time too,’ he replied, angling his head to where Jasmine’s husband, Rich, was sitting on a deckchair looking distinctly sunburnt despite his dark hair and complexion, grinning drunkenly and staring into space.
She blew a ringlet the colour of candyfloss from her damp forehead and giggled. ‘I told him to be careful with Frank Stephenson’s scrumpy.’
‘Who’s got scrumpy?’ Rich asked, now squinting up at them.
‘No more for you today,’ Jasmine scolded, but only half-heartedly. He pouted like a little boy and she smiled indulgently. ‘If you can manage to walk in a straight line, how about you gather the kids up and help me get this stock back to the van?’ She folded her arms. ‘I suppose I’m driving home too as you’ve lost the ability to coordinate your limbs properly?’
He pushed himself up from the chair and made a move to take her into his arms. ‘Who can’t coordinate his limbs? You wait till later, my gorgeous little hippy chick,’ he said, wrapping her in his strong embrace. ‘I’ll show you how to coordinate limbs.’
‘Richard Green, the vicar is standing right there!’ Jasmine giggled.
‘Don’t mind me,’ the vicar said amiably, ‘I’ll just peruse the lovely items you have left on your stall here. Honestly, this metalwork is quite spectacular.’ He picked up a pendant and turned it over in his fingers. ‘You have lots of special things here, Mrs Green, but in the main a remarkable talent for making unusual jewellery.’
‘Take something home for Mrs Vicar,’ Rich said with a grin. ‘Pretty trinkets always work on the missus.’
‘Not when the missus has made them herself, they don’t,’ Jasmine said with a mock scowl.
‘Fair point.’ Rich hiccupped. He was a good foot taller than Jasmine and she had to stretch up to kiss him.
‘Go and get your children, there’s a good boy,’ she laughed.
He let go of her and staggered off. But when Jasmine looked up again, he was chasing the children through the sprinklers, making monster noises as he went, sending them scattering and squealing with delight. Some of the other villagers had joined in with their children. Jasmine stopped her packing for a moment and watched them all play their elaborate game.
‘You know, Vicar,’ she said in a voice full of lazy contentment, ‘I really don’t think there is a happier place to live on Earth than here.’
* * *
In her kitchen, a hundred miles to the north of where Jasmine Green was ushering her reluctant family into a van, Millicent Hopkin – Millie to the handful of people who dared get close enough – was sobbing. It felt like she did little else these days, though she was always careful to save it for when she was alone. Some would take great satisfaction in her pain. She probably deserved it, but that still didn’t give anyone the right to victimise her.
The car had been the last straw. She’d spent the last three hours trying to scrub away the vile words. Whoever wrote the old rhyme about sticks and stones was wrong. The smashed windows, the faeces shoved through her letterbox, the mysterious taxis and pizza deliveries in the early hours that she had ended up having to pay for when they insisted she’d ordered them – she’d borne it all with a quiet fortitude. But the words… Words had magic, they had power – the power to heal, to hurt, to make things happen, and the ones she’d failed to
remove from her car, even though she’d rubbed and rubbed until her hands were raw, had hurt her as much as any stick or stone could. She’d had enough.
Drying her tears, she tried to concentrate on the task in front of her. The only constant in her life now was her creativity, and baking was the one creative thing she could still do that brought pleasure to others. Although these days she didn’t know who she could share this one with when the people she had once called friends had all turned against her. She had tried to be a good person, to set things right, but in the end it had meant nothing. Turning her attention to the mixing bowl in front of her, she added ingredients to the mix – cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla, a pound of dried fruit, a sprinkle of heartsease, her unintentional tears – and thought about how she needed a new start, somewhere far away where people didn’t know her. Somewhere people wouldn’t judge her or hurt her or blame her for everything that had gone before.
She focused on the thought, on the photo of a tumbledown old building on a property website that had captured her imagination, four walls in an adorably named village that might just be the new start she’d been searching for. She closed her eyes, pictured the bakery – her bakery – and tried to imagine the sweet smells, the bright colours of the cakes, the chatter of customers, opening the shutters on every new day and welcoming it in; she tried to remember what happiness felt like, how
it was to want to live. She longed for it with every fibre of her being. In less than a week, if the universe was finally smiling on her, maybe she would find out.
When the mix was done, she poured it into a tin and whispered a last wish before she put it into the oven. She needed a new start. Perhaps the cake would make it so.
I’m delighted to share Deborah O’Connor’s post today on If Only I Could Read Faster as part of the blog tour for her book, My Husband’s Son. When I first read this I had a good chuckle, so I hope that you enjoy it too!
HOW MUCH SEX IS TOO MUCH SEX IN A NOVEL?
‘It’s good but there’s one nipple too many for my liking.’ This was the feedback from my friend and trusted first reader Tom on an early draft of my debut novel MY HUSBAND’S SON.
In actual fact, at that time, there were only two mentions of the word ‘nipple’ in the entire book. But sex scenes are funny like that. They and the words you use to describe them tend to lodge in the head. Our brain gives undue emphasis to the mucky stuff.
Which begs the question, when it comes to writing a novel, how much sex is too much?
In light of recent publishing history you’d think the answer would be, never enough. EL James, Lisa Hilton and a whole host of others have made their names (and their fortunes) by writing blockbusters packed with shagging. But what if, like me, you’re writing a psychological thriller and although the sex scenes play an important, even critical part, they’re not the be all and end all. What then?
I started writing my novel during a six-month long stint at the Faber Academy. Occasionally we could request to focus a session on a specific aspect of the craft. So one week, halfway through the course, I asked if we could please talk about how to write sex and how to write it well. Louise Doughty our teacher agreed and asked us all to bring in an example of a fictional sex scene we thought was awful and one we thought was good. Great, I thought. Problem solved. Then it came round to the actual class.
That evening we all sat there clutching our choices in our sweaty little hands. We thought maybe we’d have to paraphrase them, that maybe (best case scenario) we would pass the offending passages around the table so we could each study them in turn. Wrong. Louise now revealed that she would like each of us to READ OUT LOUD TO THE REST OF THE GROUP from a pertinent section of our chosen novels. (Dear reader, it is one thing to see the words ‘purple’, ‘moist’, ‘thrusting’, and ‘shaft’ photocopied on a nice white sheet of A4, it is another thing entirely to verbalise them to a room full of your peers.) Naturally, there followed a lot of nervous laughter, but we all did it and it turned out to be yet another brilliant session on the course. When it came to the end of the night I felt like I’d learned an important lesson. Namely, for a sex scene to earn its place in a novel it needs to have a subtext. Not only that, it needs to add something to the action that you wouldn’t be able to add any other way.
I set about sharpening the existing sex scenes in my book and then I went and wrote in a whole heap more. They say show don’t tell. I found that I could show a whole lot of really important stuff whenever I described how and when my main character had a sexual encounter, either with herself (yes, yes, my novel features masturbation) or with others, especially people other than her husband. I also took guidance from one of my favourite thrillers – In The Cut by the American writer Susannah Moore. Moore’s novel is a masterpiece in the use of sex and sexuality as a way to advance and reveal different aspects of her character and plot and, although quite graphic in places, she manages to do it without it ever making it feel cringey or like some superfluous, titillating add on. I hope that I’ve managed to do the same (but I’ll let you be the judge of that).
Which takes me back to the original question of this piece:
how much sex is too much? Ultimately, I think the answer lies in real life. If you ask a group of people how often they like to get their leg over they will all reply differently: some people like to do it five times a day, some only once a year, on the Queen’s birthday, others not at all. It’s up to you how much sex (if any) you decide to include in your book. You might decide to really go for it, like me, and throw in ‘nipples’ here there and everywhere, or you might decide to abstain. But if you do decide to go for it, then just keep in mind that a year or so from now, a group of students sat around that legendary oval Faber Academy table might be reading your work aloud, to the rest of the room, and trying their absolute hardest not to stutter and blush and wishing to god they’d asked their teacher to run a session on the merits of the omniscient third person instead.
My Husband’s Son (eBook) by Deborah O’Connor is published by Twenty7 on 16th June 2016 at £4.99.
My Review of My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor:
‘Heidi and Jason are a couple brought together by their shared experience of losing a child. Heidi’s daughter was kidnapped and killed while Jason’s son went missing and was never seen again. His life is consumed by finding Barney and the fact that Heidi understands his grief more than most people brings them together.
This book has a really interesting premise, Heidi believes that she’s found Barney but Jason is convinced that she is wrong, but Heidi just cannot let it go. As the reader you’re never quite sure whether Heidi is right or not, everything seems to be suggesting that he is not Barney, but could she be right?
I found Heidi to be really unlikeable. As a parent I can’t help but feel compassion towards her for the loss of her daughter, but she makes some really really strange decisions that I just struggled to make sense of. I spent large portions of the book convinced that she was totally crazy, however I couldn’t shake the nagging doubt that maybe she wasn’t.
Jason meanwhile is a bit of a non event. He is clearly being eaten up by the loss of Barney, the not knowing what happened to him, and he isn’t dealing at all well with it. Although who can blame him?!
I found My Husband’s Son really easy to read, the author writes well and keeps the intrigue going throughout the book. The ending was nothing that I had imagined at any point while reading. It totally threw me, and confused me, and then once the shock had worn off it made me think.
I received a copy of My Husband’s Son via Netgalley from the publishers in return for an honest review.’
The powerfully gripping new book from USA Today bestselling author Kate Hewitt.
Josh and Ben are nine years old and best friends, until a single, careless act in the school playground destroys the lives of both families – and wrenches their small Manhattan school apart.
As both mothers Maddie and Joanna try to find out what really happened between the boys, they discover the truth is far more complicated and painful than either of them could have ever realised with lasting repercussions for both families.
And when tragedy strikes again in the most unexpected of ways, the lives of these two women will be changed once more, and this time forever.
When He Fell explores the issues of parental responsibility and guilt, and whether there are some acts that human nature just cannot forgive.
My 3* review:
When He Fell tells the story of two families, their sons are best friends, two misfits who form a bond. One day in the school playground tragedy strikes. One boy is in a coma and the other is refusing to talk, throwing the families into a nightmare that neither were expecting.
I really enjoyed the start of When He Fell, the concept was interesting and I wanted to know what had happened and why. But as the book continued I became more and more frustrated with the characters, none of them were very likeable and a lot of their decisions really didn’t make a lot of sense. I also felt that the book lost its way in the middle, there were large chunks that didn’t do anything to add to the story.
The last part of the book did improve, the questions were answered and we saw the future of the families involved. It was a shame that a book that had started so promisingly lost its way, but I still enjoyed reading When He Fell, and it certainly made me think about the fragility of life and the way that I parent my children.
I received a copy of When He Fell from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review.
Kate Hewitt is the author of over 40 novels of women’s fiction and romance. She loves telling an emotional story in a variety of genres, and has been nominated for the Romance Writers of America RITA Award twice. An American ex-pat, she lives in the Cotswolds of England with her husband, five children, and an overly affectionate Golden Retriever. You can follow her adventures in village life on her blog, A Cumbrian Life.
Just in case my review of The Couple Next Door doesn’t make it obvious, I loved this book. It totally gripped me and I just didn’t want to stop reading it. Books like this don’t come along too often!
‘Wow. I absolutely loved this book. It grabbed me right from the start and I just didn’t want to stop reading. The pace never let up, which is pretty impressive.
The book starts with parents Anne and Marco spending the evening with their neighbours, using a baby monitor to listen out for their six month old Cora who is sleeping at home. When they return home at 1.30am the front door is open and Cora is missing.
I just love this book and how it takes the reader on a journey, at first you’re not really sure exactly what happened and who was involved. Then you think that you know what happened, but suddenly things change and you hadn’t worked it out at all. Talk about twists and turns.
This is a damn good read, I look forward to reading more from the author. I am sure that this book will be high up in my top ten reads of 2016, if I could I’d give it more than 5 stars!
Thank you to the publishers for an ARC of The Couple Next Door via Netgalley in return for an honest review.’
The Couple Next Door will be released on 14th July 2016 and is available to pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now.