#BlogTour #Review: Christmas at the Gin Shack by Catherine Miller

Today I am delighted to be hosting a stop on the Christmas at the Gin Shack blog tour. This fun little holiday mystery will not only kick your Christmas spirit into high gear, but it will also leave you craving good company and an even better G&T.


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Synopsis

Welcome in the festive season with love, laughter and the perfect G&T in Christmas at the Gin Shack – the most uplifting holiday read of 2017!

Gingle bells, gingle bells, gingle all the way…

Olive Turner might have lived through eighty-four Christmases, but she’ll never get bored of her favourite time of year. And this one’s set to be extra-special. It’s the Gin Shack’s first Christmas – and there’s a gin-themed weekend and a cocktail competition on the cards!

But, beneath the dazzle of fairy lights and the delicious scent of mince-pies, Olive smells a rat. From trespassers in her beloved beach hut to a very unfunny joke played on her friends, it seems that someone is missing a dose of good cheer.

Olive knows she’s getting on a bit – but is she really imagining that someone in the little seaside town is out to steal Christmas? More importantly, can she create the perfect gin cocktail before Christmas Eve – in time to save the day?


My Review

Okay, okay, despite my love of deep and twisty thrillers sometimes I can’t resist a a campy holiday read. And Christmas at the Gin Shack fits that bill perfectly. Truth be told though, if this story had been written with anyone other than Olive as the protagonist I might have bailed. But our gin drinking, Segway riding, craft-fiti fighting pensioner made for a story that I couldn’t peel my eyes off of.

Now add in the fact that Miller used this novel as a platform to address some pretty serious issues and my little activist heart goes pitter-patter. Elder abuse, maltreatment in care facilities, and poor programming that fails to contribute to quality of life are issues that I have fought with in the care of my own grandparents. The presence of these elements made the story feel so damn real, and grounded it in a way that made me feel Olive and Matron were actual people and that advanced crochet was possibly the most boring experience on the planet.  Other heavy hitting topics included the precarious situations of the self-employed, managing family relations after the loss of a loved one, absentee parents and navigating the aftermath of toxic relationships.

That’s not to say, however, that this was a heavy or overtly political read. Rather, the balance between these elements, Olive’s humour and infectious holiday cheer, and the cozy mystery of the craft-fiti bomber made for a light and enjoyable experience. I loved the tight-knit nature of Olive’s circle of friends, and truly felt as though I was being drawn into their circle the further the story progressed. Their unwavering support for one another was as heart warming as the holiday timing, as was the tidy nature of the ending. I won’t say too much as I hate handing out spoilers, but it really was the perfect fit for this feisty tale.

Would I recommend this book? Oh heck yes! By the time the snow starts flying this little novel will be the perfect pairing for a warm drink (or a G&T) and a blazing fire. If you’re looking for a fun, festive escape that doesn’t revolve around a holiday romance this little mystery might just be for you.


Author Information 

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When Catherine Miller became a mum to twins, she decided her hands weren’t full enough so wrote a novel with every spare moment she managed to find. By the time the twins were two, Catherine had a two-book deal with HQDigital UK. There is a possibility she has aged remarkably in that time. Her debut novel, Waiting For You, came out in March 2016. She is now the author of four books and hopes there will be many more now her twins have started school. Either that, or she’ll conduct more gin research on Olive’s behalf.

 

Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/katylittlelady.author/

https://twitter.com/katylittlelady

https://www.instagram.com/katylittlelady/


Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for organizing this blog tour, for inviting me to join, and to Catherine Miller for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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#BlogTour #Review: Dead Lands by Lloyd Otis

Today I am delighted to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for Lloyd Otis’ debut novel Dead Lands. This vintage police procedural is the perfect balance of drama and deadly. An absolute must-read for lovers of mysteries, thrillers, crime fiction, fantastic writing and believable characters.

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Dead-LandsTitle: Dead Lands

Author: Lloyd Otis

Publisher: Urbane Publications

Publication Date: October 12, 2017

Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Crime Fiction

Themes: Murder, Racism, Organized Crime


My Rating:  5/ 5 


Synopsis

Dead Lands is a thrilling crime story set in the 1970s. When a woman’s body is found a special team is called in to investigate and prime suspect Alexander Troy is arrested for the murder. Desperate to remain a free man, Troy protests his innocence, but refuses to use his alibi. Trying to protect the woman he loves becomes a dangerous game – questions are asked and suspicions deepen. When the prime suspect completes a daring escape from custody, DI Breck and DS Kearns begin the hunt. Breck wants out of the force while Kearns has her own agenda and seeks revenge. Breck has his suspicions and she wants to keep it from him, and a right-wing march provides an explosive backdrop to their hunt for Troy. Dead Lands is the thrilling debut of award winning short story writer Lloyd Otis, and intelligently covers issues of race, discrimination and violence in a changing 70s landscape.


My Review

There is nothing I love better than a good, old fashioned police procedural. And Lloyd Otis’ debut novel certainly hit the ticket. Not only is the police action and investigation absolutely spot on, but it takes the notion of ‘old fashioned’ back to an era that give the give the story the perfect vintage feel.

Oh, and that opening! I couldn’t have asked for a more engaging entry point into this twisted little thriller. Starting off with the killer’s viewpoint left me constantly guessing as to who they actually were and how they fit into Otis’ carefully crafted puzzle. The details of the kill kit, the cellophane, and the rituals of the murder left me expecting a serial spree, so I was thrown for a loop when it started looking more like organized crime. The forever shifting landscape, approach, and viewpoints kept me off balance and from guessing the ending, and for that I have to give kudos!

Normally I’m a sucker for the female lead in any story, but I have to say that DI Arlo Breck absolutely stole the show. I really enjoyed how the depths of his character and the personal challenges that he is facing is unveiled slowly. The breadcrumb style of character building kept me constantly sympathetic and always wanting to know more about what was coming next. And, being me, I was almost more interested in finding out what happened to Breck’s girlfriend and the resolution of her case – but the ways in which her case and Breck’s current investigation were intertwined were absolute gold. The stories drove one another, and I must admit that I was completely caught of guard by the ending. I wasn’t expecting Breck to take the high road, but I’m really glad that he did!

And where to start with DS Kearns? I gripe about gaining ground in the workplace, and her struggles to be taken seriously and earn respect seriously forced me to take a step back and be thankful for what I have. What I loved the most about her though, was how she tried to take the other female officers under her wing, trying to raise them through the ranks based on merit rather than gaining ground through promiscuity… even when she doesn’t particularly care for an officer.

Ultimately though, the stories of Kearns and Breck come together perfectly to create the perfect balance between police procedural and personal drama. Now add in the 70s fashion that left me dreaming of bell bottoms and gold hoops, suspects using aliases, some stereotypical douche-bag officers, and a seriously twisted killer and you’ve got a but novel that leaves one dreaming of a series, or at the very least a follow-up or two delving deeper into the stories of Kearns, Breck, or maybe even the adventures of the elusive Troy.

Would I recommend this book? Oh hells yes! Not only is it a fun piece of historical fiction in an underwritten era, but it touches on so many issues that are still relevant today. Dead Lands is a must read for lovers of crime fiction, mysteries, and thrillers.


Author Information 

LO2Lloyd was born in London and attained a BA (Hons) in Media and Communication. After gaining several years of valuable experience within the finance and digital sectors, he completed a course in journalism. Lloyd has interviewed a host of bestselling authors, such as Mark Billingham, Hugh Howey, Kerry Hudson, and Lawrence Block. Two of his short stories were selected for publication in the ‘Out of My Window’ anthology, and he currently works as an Editor.

 

Authors links:

Web: http://www.lloydotis.com/

Via Urbane: http://urbanepublications.com/book_author/lloyd-otis/

Twitter: @LloydOtisWriter

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


Many thanks to Lloyd Otis for providing an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review, and to Abby Fairbrother-Slater @annebonnybooks for arranging this fabulous Blog Tour!

#BlogTour #Excerpt #Review: Sometimes the Darkness by Will Campbell

Today I am delighted to be hosting my spot on the blog tour for Will Campbell’s debut novel Sometimes the Darkness. Packed with hard hitting messages, painfully real characters, and history that so many try to ignore this one that I more people will take the time to read. Bravo!

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Synopsis

American Hanley Martin is troubled by his success. A wealthy aerospace industrialist, he was taught he should help others as a means of balancing the scales for his good fortune. He searches for ways to give back that will comfort his soul.

A trip to the Paris Air Show in 1999 changes the course of Martin’s life when the head of a Catholic mission in southern Sudan tells him of the need for pilots to fly medical supplies and visiting doctors to and from their remote clinic and school in Mapuordit, which sits on the refugee trail from Darfur to Kenya.

Sister Marie Claire, a French nun working at the Mapuordit mission, helps the Sudanese people fleeing the war in Darfur. She’s crafted a network of volunteers to save the children sold into slavery and forced to work in the country’s more prosperous cities. She needs only one additional piece to complete her plan.

As Hanley Martin and his plane arrive at Mapuordit, she asks herself if the American may be the answer to her prayers.

Sometimes the Darkness is the first novel by the author Will Campbell. It tells the story of two people brought together by fate and the price they pay helping a horrific war’s most vulnerable victims.

Purchase from Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sometimes-Darkness-Will-Campbell/dp/1912262215/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1505943141&sr=8-1

Barnes & Noble – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sometimes-the-darkness-will-campbell/1126962936?ean=9781912262212


Excerpt

Jumma, the young Sudanese who has become Hanley’s assistant, while on a flight with the American Hanley Martin, remembers the time when the war in Darfur, the darkness, came to their village for the first time.

His father drank water from an old blue metal cup with white speckles, a cup Jumma had seen his grandmother drink from, then said, “I know I have said the troubles will not visit us here. But, this has changed. We must talk of how we can protect each other should the war make its way to this village. We will talk about it, we will practice it, like you practice your school lesson, for someday, you may need these lessons to help each other. We must not be afraid, but we must be smart. Do you understand?” his father asked. Jumma remembered nodding at the question. Drinking again, his father reached for him, rubbed his head and smiled. Jumma also remembered the warmth of his father’s hand, could still feel it, the recollection of the touch brought him joy, as he flew with the American to Kenya.

The discussion and the lessons of his father continued in the days before the men on horseback arrived. The instructions, the lessons, were simple suggestions repeated each evening. If separated, they were to make their way to Rumbek, farther south, away from the fighting. Each family member was to say their father worked as a laborer for a company that constructed roads and dug wells. If caught, they were to say the family went to Abyei, the ancestral home.

His father worked in a shop in Uwayl, making sandals, belts and pouches. The shop, like a cave, dark and deep, its walls were a faded stucco,  his work table near the rear, kept the family fed. His father did not talk of moving. Their home was sound, a good place for Jumma and his family. A small productive garden, some chickens and goats also helped keep them fed. It was a good life, he was told. Their good life may have continued on, had the war not come to them. His mother called the war the loss of sunshine, or sometimes the darkness.

Blinking rapidly, Jumma woke to a rattling sound in the distance. There were gaps in the sound, no rhythm to it. The duration of each packet of sound lasted but a few seconds, a thrumming, like rocks thrown against cement blocks. Listening, he heard the sounds of the house in between the rattles, the creaks and murmurs, the sound of breathing, his sisters and parents. Years later, he would remember the sounds of his family breathing, the last comforting sound before the darkness descended on his family.


My Review

I’m not going to lie, this is one novel that it took me a little while to warm up to. The beginning is packed with loads of context and exposition, so it takes a good chunk of reading before anything truly exciting begins to take shape. The same can be said for the characters, there is a lot of ground-laying and back story, but once the story kicks off even those characters that I found frustrating at the beginning took on new dimensions and quickly earned my admiration.

Let’s face it, it’s easy to dislike Hanley Martin, throwing away all the success that others would kill to have. I spent so much time wondering how this was going to be anything more than some self-gratifying mission – much like Sister Mary Claire. Boy was I wrong! And, when it comes to books, I love being wrong. As the book progressed Hanley got more real, less conceited, and finally started to ask the questions that really mattered.

Sister Mary Claire, on the other hand, was a character that I gravitated to almost immediately. The surly rebel nun instantly caught my attention and never failed to relinquish it after she was introduced. I appreciated how she questioned absolutely everything including her faith, herself, her position, as well as where and how she was truly needed. Her dedication and commitment was more touching and inspiring than Hanley’s quest, and I was left wanting to know more about her.

I was initially curious as to why so many ‘smaller’ characters such as Hanley daughter, Rocky, and Jumma were included as primary perspectives rather than simply being left as supporting characters, but the end result was absolutely stunning. The way everything came together carefully crafted, and really added to the emotional resolution of some hard-fought battles.

The time and the location of the novel made for an interesting read, especially as it calls out global indifference to genocide and human trafficking. We need more works that examine the human impact these events have on the world, and not just the impacts that events like these have on global markets and the profits of individuals. For this alone I can’t help but praise Sometimes the Darkness with it’s real, gritty intensity and refusal to bow down to an ugly subject. I laughed, I cried, and I found myself completely caught up in the shifting perspectives of not only characters, but also the situation itself.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! It’s an outstanding debut novel, and I am sure that there are many, more amazing things to come from Mr. Campbell.


Author Information 

Will Campbell is the pen name of Stephen Weir. He lives in Charleston and Greenville, WV. Stephen Weir is a former certified economic developer (CEcD) with over thirty years experience managing economic development organisations from the city to state level. He has also worked in international trade, helping establish the West Virginia’s first international trade office in Nagoya, Japan. He has previously published economic development articles and op-ed pieces in the Economic Development Review, West Virginia Executive Magazine and the Charleston Daily Mail and Gazette. His interest in politics, literature and writing led to the penning of his debut novel.


Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Authoright Marketing & Publicity for organizing this blog tour, and to Will Campbell for sharing an ARC of his debut novel in exchange for an honest review (and in paper copy too!).

Also, my most sincerely apologies for what it sure to be seen as a late posting – I completely forgot that this was a UK blog tour and scheduled it in my Canadian Mountain Time!

#Book #Review: The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews

Okay, okay, I know I’ve said that I don’t enjoy romances but there is one major caveat to that statement. I have this horrible soft spot for certain period romances, and this Victorian beauty and the beast was just the ticket after a particularly hard day. Short and sweet with just enough steam to keep the pages turning, this is the perfect quick read with a tidy happy ending.


lost letterTitle: The Lost Letter

Author: Mimi Matthews

Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press

Publication Date: September 19, 2017

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance

Themes: Romance, Blackmail, Start-crossed lovers


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

England, 1860. An impoverished Victorian beauty is unexpectedly reunited with the now beastly earl who once broke her heart. Will they finally find their happily ever after? Or are some fairy-tale endings simply not meant to be?

A PROUD BEAUTY 

When the tragic death of her gamester father leaves her destitute and alone, society beauty Sylvia Stafford finds work as a governess in a merchant’s household in Cheapside. Isolated from the fashionable acquaintance of her youth, she resigns herself to lonely spinsterhood…until a mysterious visitor convinces her to temporarily return to her former life–and her former love.

A SCARRED BEAST 

Colonel Sebastian Conrad is no longer the dashing cavalry officer Sylvia once fell in love with. Badly scarred during the Sepoy Rebellion, he has withdrawn to his estate in rural Hertfordshire where he lives in near complete seclusion. Brooding and tormented, he cares nothing for the earldom he has inherited–and even less for the faithless beauty who rejected him three years before.

A SECOND CHANCE

A week together in the remote Victorian countryside is the last thing either of them ever wanted. But when fate intervenes to reunite them, will a beastly earl and an impoverished beauty finally find their happily ever after? Or are some fairy-tale endings simply not meant to be?

 

 


My Review

This book hit me in all the mushy spots. First off, Sylvia is a book lover and a bit of a grafter despite the raw deal that she’s been handed, so I couldn’t help but love her. Then there’s Julia, who’s probably the most annoying little creature since Jane Austen’s Lydia, who is somehow still endearing and manages to steal the show. And then there’s Radcliff who manages to say all the wrong things at all the wrong times, jumps to conclusions, and who shouldn’t be left to stew in his dangerous imagination who manages to overcome his own delusions and stubbornness to become a terrific romantic hero.

And lets face it, I’m a sucker for period costumes. The descriptions of the clothing and costumes in this book are so spot on it hurts. reading something like this so close to halloween for me is practically suicidal. I’ll be dreaming of nothing but gathered skirts, petticoats, and ribboned bonnets for days to come. But more than anything I love how the clothing symbolized the changes, moods, and station of every character in the book. I loved knowing what to expect from the descriptions, which is one of the most interesting foreshadowing techniques I have seen in a good long while.

Finally, part of me really loves how creepy Radcliff was. Seriously though, lurking in the upstairs windows watching the ladies ride by? Getting jealous over a smile? Hello stalker! The sticking to the shadows was also a fun touch, and so was trolling the house at midnight. Broody, entitles, and ridiculously rich makes for a fun combination and it certainly kept me turning the pages even if Radcliff wasn’t intended to be the comic relief.

Would I recommend this book? Heck yes! Grab your wine, chocolate, and scented candles because this baby deserves a little ambiance. I will be keeping this one on my beach reading list, and have no doubts that I will be revisiting it again in the not too distant future.


Many thanks to Perfectly Proper Publishing for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#ShortStory #Review: Soul Siphon by T. L. Branson #YALit

Today I thought we’d do something a little different and review a short story. I really enjoy shorter pieces, but always struggle with trying to fit them into my TBR schedule, so I was absolutely delighted when T. L. Branson approached me for a review. And if this baby is any indication of the what Branson’s upcoming novel Soul Render is going to be like, I think we’re in for an action packed treat!


soulTitle: Soul Siphon

Author: T. L. Branson

Publisher: T. L. Branson

Publication Date: September 29, 2017

Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Teens & YA

Themes: Magic, Rival Kingdoms, Greif, Quests

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

Alexander Drygo, king of Sunbury, is reeling from the loss of his wife. Despite his best efforts using an incredible power, she is no longer among the living.

When a rival kingdom seeks to take advantage of this delicate time in Drygo’s life, he is thrust into a battle for the future of his kingdom.

Can he save his people where he could not save his queen?

 


My Review

At just 5000 words anyone, and I mean anyone, has the time to fit this story into their reading schedule. Not only are we offered an in depth look into the character traits of Alexander Drygo, there is so much world building and plot foreshadowing that I was left immediately checking the release dates on the upcoming novel.

What stood out the most however, was the unique magic system that seems to seems to form the backbone of the narrative. The concept of soul manipulation is one that I have always been drawn to as a YA and Fantasy reader, and while there are echoes of other works, Branson’s systems has all the working of something entirely new and exciting.

The premise of Drygo’s quest is one that has me wanting to know more, his grief makes me relate to him as character, and high-level action makes the story as a whole easy to read. In the writing itself there is just enough detail to get a clear picture of everything that is going on (especially the gore of the battles), but not so much detail that you get lost in explication.

As a promotional piece for Soul Render this baby has certainly done it’s job! I can’t wait for the novel to come out, and I highly recommend that any other lovers of YA fantasy, or even just high fantasy in general jump on board because the way things are looking this is going to be quite the ride.

 


Many thanks to T. L. Branson for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.