Guest Post Sarah Hilary Author of No Other Darkness

I am absolutely thrilled to be hosting a guest post by Sarah Hilary for her fabulous novel ‘No Other Darkness’.

About Sarah:

Sarah Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy.

Sarah Hilary portrait and collects of her grandparents and mother that were taken in a Japanese POW camp. Mementos - a heart shaped pendant and a crucifix carved from the canopy of a plane and a book.  Photo by Linda Nylind. 31/1/2014.

Her debut novel, ‘Someone Else’s Skin‘, the first of the Marnie Rome series, won the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015. It was the Observer’s Book of the Month (described as ‘superbly disturbing’), a Richard and Judy Book Club bestseller, and has been published worldwide.

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No Other Darkness‘, the second in the series, is out now. The Marnie Rome series is being developed for television.

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In this guest post, Sarah tells us what it is like to be a crime writer and we find that crime writers have a devious sense of humour! 

The Secret Life of a Crime Writer 

by Sarah Hilary

How do you like your crime writers? Hardboiled with our collars turned up against a brickwall, or scowling into shot glasses in the dark corners of a dodgy bar? Hunched over typewriters maybe, with our shadows leaning in across our shoulders… We’re a moody, brooding bunch—right? Our minds full of nightmares and bloody thoughts.

Well, maybe there’s something in that last bit. But really? We’re some of the nicest, most normal people you’ll meet. Well-adjusted, even. When we hang out in bars we do so in groups and you’ll hardly ever catch us scowling, except when we have a deadline or an onset of edits. And then we usually end up having an online chinwag with other crime writers, swapping stories about deadlines and edits or funny stuff our kids did, or the strange looks we got when we said out loud the things we should’ve kept inside our heads (or our books).

Since I’ve become a crime writer, I’ve made some amazing friends. I’ve been supported, cheered and consoled by other writers whose generosity has humbled me and whose sick sense of humour makes me feel a million times better about my own.

(Q. What’s red and green and silver? A. A zombie with forks in its eyes.)

I’m often asked if I read crime books for pleasure or only for work, and whether I avoid reading crime when I’m writing. I couldn’t avoid reading crime if you paid me. I love it too much. Love the shape and strangeness and the comfort of it. Of being immersed in a genre which so poetically and completely captures what it means to be human in this odd, mad, scary world we inhabit.

Crime fiction, at its best, is more honest and more subversive than any other form of fiction. I bloody love writing it, and I love reading it. I love the people who’re writing it—they’re my dear odd, mad, scary friends.

Readers of crime fiction are smart and inquisitive and won’t ever let you off a hook. All writing is a collaboration between writer and reader — a delicious dance or a hunt, perhaps — and crime fiction tops the lot. We may lay the scent and lure the reader in, but the real magic takes place in our reader’s head. That’s where the shadows become a hot spill of blood and the light scalps men into monsters.

I love the inside of a crime reader’s head. I wouldn’t trust Marnie and Noah to anyone else’s safe keeping.

If I’ve shattered any illusions about the secret life of a crime writer, just remember that the other thing we’re really, really good at is lying.

Right now I might be scowling into a shot glass in a neon-lit bar with a brickwall at my back and a dead body buried back home.

You’re the reader—you get to choose.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @Sarah_Hilary

Sarah’s blog can be found here: http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.co.uk/

You can also find Sarah on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Sarah.Hilary.Author?fref=ts

Blog Tour

Devastation Road by Jason Hewitt

Devastation Road

I was fortunate to receive a copy of ‘Devastation Road’ from the author himself in return for an honest review via #BookConnectors. It is released in hardback on July 30th 2015 by Scribner UK, part of the Simon and Schuster Uk group.

At the end of the Second World War a man awakens injured and confused in a field, wearing ill fitting clothes . He has no idea who he is or where he has come from. ‘Devastation Road’ is the story of how he finds who he really is.

‘Devastation Road’ is a stunning read. Although this era has been used many times, this book provides a totally new perspective and approach so that it is utterly captivating. As I read I felt I wanted the narrative to conclude so I knew what happened, but at the same time didn’t want it to end because I found the writing so affecting. The narrative is rather like a flower that unfurls petal by petal, as Owen’s memories return, to create a work of beauty.

This is such an intelligent book. The title ‘Devastation Road’ has multiple meanings from the literal, physical devastation of war as refugees caravan their way along the road, to the emotional and psychological devastation of memory and identity so that the reader begins to question how they may have behaved in similar circumstances.

This is a very visual narrative with settings so vivid they place the reader at the scene with the characters. I thought not translating Janek’s Czech words was perfect, giving the reader the same fragmentary and confusing experience as Owen.

As the truth about Owen’s journey was gradually revealed I found myself completely empathising with him. He is by no means a perfect person and this makes him all the more real and engaging.

‘Devastation Road’ ranks with the best books I have read since starting this blog. If readers have enjoyed, for example, the Pat Barker ‘Regeneration’ series or Sebastian Faulks’ ‘Birdsong’ then they will adore ‘Devastation Road’. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown by Lynda Renham

50 Shades of Roxie Brown

I was fortunate to receive an advanced reader copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown’ by Lynda Renham from Andrew Cook at Raucous Publishing in exchange for an honest review. It is out in e-book today, 28th July 2015, and paperback in August.

Roxie Brown works as a cleaner for the gorgeous Ark Morgan about whom she has several ’50 Shades’ style fantasies. Unfortunately for Roxie, her boyfriend is not Ark Morgan, but Arsenal obsessed Darren. When she is given predictions about her future by The Great Zehilda, on a girls’ night out, Roxie doesn’t believe a word of what she says. Maybe she should. When Roxie casually looks though Darren’s telescope she becomes embroiled in a crime adventure that isn’t going to make life any easier. Roxie needs to get her murderer and her man. The trouble is, she’s not sure which is which.

‘Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown’ is entertaining from beginning to end. I found myself laughing aloud at several points as there are misunderstandings, double entendres, quips and farcical situations throughout. I made me think of a ‘Fawlty Towers’ in book form.

The use of the first person continuous present tense gives a vibrant immediacy to the writing so that it is as if Roxie is recounting the story to you as a reader directly with a kind of breathless urgency that matches the pace of the plot. Events pile up with real speed and lead to a highly satisfying conclusion.

I did think that some of the characters were a little stereotypical, especially Felix, but then they are exactly what readers of this romantic comedy genre would expect and want. The interplay between Felix, Sylvie and Roxie leads to some of the funniest moments. Speech is natural and engaging so that you feel as if you’re eavesdropping a set of slightly insane friends as you read.

I think those who’ve read and enjoyed books like Amy Lynch’s ‘Bride Without A Groom’ and want their romance laced with drama and humour would really enjoy ‘Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown’.

You can buy ‘Fifty Shades of Roxie Brown here:

Amazon UK:    http://amzn.to/1VFVcwA

Amazon USA: http://amzn.to/1JFa5pK

Waterstones UK:  http://bit.ly/1MqR8w8

What Happens in Cornwall by T A Williams

What happens in Cornwall

I was delighted to be offered the chance by Bliss Book Promotions to read ‘What Happens in Cornwall’ by T A Williams and to take part in the launch of the book. It was released on 20th July by Carina UK.

You can read more about Trevor Williams and sample a couple of extracts from ‘What Happens in Cornwall’ here

https://lindasbookbag.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/what-happens-in-cornwall-by-t-a-williams/

Review

Sam’s relationship with Neil is not going well and the chance to get away to Cornwall for a few days seems like a good idea. A private island, an archaeological dig, several men, a reclusive world famous actress and Italian paparazzi all contribute to more than Sam might have bargained for.

Readers might be forgiven for thinking, as I did, that this is typical female authored chick lit. They would be wrong. ‘What Happens in Cornwall’ does indeed conform to many aspects of the genre, particularly with regard to romance, but it is so much more. I think the fact that it is written by a man, Trevor, gives an extra perspective so that the male characters are as well developed and believable as are the females.

The writing is assured, stylish and consequently very easy to read, sweeping the reader along with the plot at a cracking rate. There are several twists and subplots interwoven seamlessly to create a really satisfying story line that is exciting to read.

As well as elements of love and romance, ‘What Happens in Cornwall’ touches on some larger themes including the cult of celebrity, loyalty, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and education for those not fresh out of school, so that there is an intelligent depth to the writing.

The descriptions of Cornwall, the flora and fauna and the weather, create a real sense of place and setting that I found highly evocative.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘What Happens In Cornwall’ and I was disappointed when it ended. I shall be investigating more of T A Williams’ books and think they would appeal to readers who enjoy authors like Sheila O’Flannagan.

You can buy ‘What Happens in Cornwall’ here:

Amazon US: http://amzn.com/B00YUTHNNY

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00YUTHNNY

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/what-happens-in-cornwall-t-a-williams/1122082544?ean=9781474036580

If you would like to find out more about Trevor (T A) Williams here are some links:

Website: http://www.tawilliamsbooks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TrevorWilliamsBooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TAWilliamsBooks

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/GRTAWilliams

Amazon Author: http://www.amazon.com/T-A-Williams/e/B00FDVNVMA/

Win an e-copy of ‘What Happens in Tuscany’ by T A Williams

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/c48fa52738/?

The Summer of Secrets by Sarah Jasmon

summer of secrets

I was delighted to receive a proof copy of ‘The Summer of Secrets’ from Ben Willis at Transworld Books in return for an honest review. ‘The Summer of Secrets’  by Sarah Jasmon is out on 13th August 2015 in both paperback and e-book.

In the summer of 1983, 16 year old Helen’s world is suddenly injected with life and friendship as the Dover family move in near by. But all is not as idyllic as it may first appear and the events and secrets of that summer reverberate for 30 years.

I found it hard to believe that this is a debut novel, so assured and atmospheric is Sarah Jasmon’s writing. The style is mesmerising, encapsulating perfectly, through Helen, the feeling of being an outsider and never quite belonging. There is an underlying tension and wistfulness that draws in the reader. Helen experiences burgeoning sexuality, loneliness, love, and rejection. I think I felt every emotion as Helen, rather than with her, as her deep need to be accepted was conveyed so beautifully. I thought Helen was a kind of Everywoman in whom we can all find traces of ourselves.

I also thought the structure was perfect. Helen’s first person narrative set in 2013 is given through the prism of memory, secrets and denial so that the reveal at the end of the novel is all the more affecting. Using the third person to convey what happened in the past of 1983 is a stroke of genius. It is as if Helen is trying to distance herself whilst relentlessly replaying her life in her head and almost telling herself the story, rather than the reader following a plot. But Helen refuses to acknowledge the biggest secret of all – her own.

The quality of writing, the sense of atmosphere and the underlying emotion make Sarah Jasmon’s ‘The Summer of Secrets’ a novel that will stay with me for a very long time. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

A Rancher for Rosie by Molly Ann Wishlade

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I have read very few erotic romances and, if I’m totally honest, have always been rather contemptuous of the genre. So, when the opportunity arose to read ahead of the publication of ‘A Rancher for Rosie’ by Molly Ann Wishlade I thought it would be interesting to consider a different style. I have to admit that my preconceived ideas were both misplaced and wrong.

‘A Rancher for Rosie’ is the second in the ‘Duggans of Montana’ series. Rosie loves Joshua, but he is younger than she and obliged to uphold the family name by conforming to his parents’ wishes. Unfortunately for their relationship, these wishes do not include marrying an older, and possibly barren, woman.

Despite being a novella, ‘A Rancher for Rosie’ has a well developed plot with plenty of action so that events race along to a highly satisfying conclusion. There are references to the first book in the series and I intend to read that too now but this book can be read as a stand alone story.

The characters are precisely defined and I found myself wondering what had happened to them, Catherine in particular, in the first Duggan book. There’s a good sense of the era through both the characters and setting.

The scenes of an erotic or sexual content are sensitively portrayed and highly effective and I think regular readers of this genre would love the book. My only complaint is that Joshua is too fair for my taste as I prefer dark haired men!

Whilst all the elements one would expect for this genre are present, what I hadn’t anticipated was the high quality of the writing. Hooks at the end of each chapter keep the reader interested. Conversation is natural and engaging and descriptions convey place extremely well.

A Rancher for Rosie is published on 4th August by Totally Bound Publishing and I wholeheartedly recommend it to lovers of erotic romance.

The Prodigal by Nicky Black

The prodigal

I was asked by the author, Nicky Black, if I would like a copy of ‘The Prodigal’ in return for an honest review. I was delighted to accept. It is available from Amazon, currently for 99p, as an e-book and also in paperback.

Detective Sergeant Lee Jamieson is returning to Newcastle, after 16 years away, to meet his daughter for the first time and take up a new police post. He isn’t prepared for just how deprived, and depraved, the area he grew up in has become. When he finds himself involved with Nicola, his world becomes ever more complicated and dangerous.

I’m not a natural reader of crime fiction but I can honestly say that I found ‘The Prodigal’ absolutely brilliant.

The fact that this originally began life as a television script serves only to amplify the quality of the writing. Much of the original dialogue has apparently been retained and means that speech is natural and completely realistic. Equally, descriptions are stunning and the whole novel is highly visual. Both setting and characters come to vivid (and sometimes terrifying) life because of the carefully wrought crafting. Each character is so clearly defined and three dimensional that the reader almost becomes them. I thought Micky was a triumph.

The themes are huge and sadly still all too familiar. Nicky Black does not shy away from divorce, domestic violence, drug culture, gangs, and relationships in all their brutal truth. To quote from the narrative, what we have here is often ‘Hardened, pitiless, vicious’. Reading ‘The Prodigal’ genuinely made my heart thump.

The plot is incredibly fast paced. There are twists and red herrings so that the reader is absorbed into the drama throughout. I cannot believe that the original script didn’t make it to production.

As well as being a fantastic read, I thought ‘The Prodigal’ was actually a terrifyingly accurate portrait of some of the most deprived areas we have, with the violence, filth and, more importantly, the lack of hope some people face. For what is, in essence, a crime novel, ‘The Prodigal’ is, curiously, profoundly moving. I cannot recommend it highly enough.