Saturday, 22 October 2016

** Blog Tour ** Her Last Breath by J.A. Schneider

Her Last Breath is available now. Purchase link: ‪ 

Her Last Breath, the second psychological thriller by J.A. Schneider, was released yesterday, on October 21st.  #HerLastBreath is the second thriller - after Fear Dreams - featuring highly intuitive NYPD detective Kerri Blasco, Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite…

A chilling psychological thriller about a woman caught between two men...
Mari Gill wakes to horror in a strange apartment next to a murdered man, and can't remember the night before. Accused of murder, she feels torn between her husband, a successful defense attorney, and a mysterious, kind man who wants to help. Can she trust either of them - or even her friends? Detective Kerri Blasco battles her police bosses believing Mari is innocent...but is she?

I am delighted to welcome Joyce to the blog today as part of the blog tour. She has written a wonderful guest post. Thanks for stopping by Joyce and good luck with the book. 

How I write: AKA The Daily Terror, by J.A. Schneider

I look at that title I just wrote, and I laugh. Easy to do at times like this when I’m between books - one done, the next just starting to form - and I’m staring out at the Connecticut fall leaves turning orange and russet and, behind where I sit on the sofa, the nice aroma of last night’s fire in the fireplace still wafts in the room. It’s kind of absurdist funny, when you’re out of your writing bat cave, to remember what it feels like when you’re in it.
Oh, those twin terrors: the new, blank page, and the question, What happens next?
Which tells you immediately that I don’t outline. I start with the fun part - an idea, the beginning with my main one or two characters and a fuzzy idea of the ending. That’s the exciting part, just letting the new idea start to swirl in my head. Then more ideas come to join the Word doc of notes that I keep - but those notes start to resemble a shopping list more than any semblance of order.
I’ve tried to outline, several times gave it my best effort. Those glorious outlines maybe made it up to chapter four or five…but then what? The final stories went off the rails anyway.
So pare it back down to the naked beginning. And since I write thrillers, they inevitably start with something high adrenalin. Those opening scenes are my favourite, the cornerstone of what reading that story should feel like, with the problem looming to maintain that intensity.
Enter the hardest part: the battle with the first draft. Two of my favourite author quotes are David Baldacci’s “A writer is always terrified,” and E.L. Doctorow’s “Writing is like driving at night. You can only see as far as your headlights.” Other terrific quotes are Tess Gerritsen’s “Do you have the guts to stay with it?” and Stephen King’s “Just flail away at the goddamn thing.” I have a collection of those quotes on a Word doc which I keep open to the left of my writing draft, and those quotes are my crutch, like friends saying, “Hey, we all go through the same thing!”
It’s a comfort.
Another feeling I get when finishing a book is - How in the world did I do that? It feels like that whole story, finally and after struggle, just…took form. It feels like magic, and I don’t remember how I did it! Only that ideas come as I write. Things just finally fill in…although that never happens in the first draft.
Nobody gets it right the first time. You HAVE to do it wrong first to see how you should have done it. First drafts to me feel like descriptions of mountain climbing, where you have to pound spikes, one at a time, into the hard rock face, and then you pull yourself up to the that spike where you’re hanging on, buffeted by wind and lost sleep, and you reach up and bang in the next spike, and the next…until you’re done with the bleeping first draft.
And then you “turn the pile over,” go back to the beginning to see what you’ve got. By this point, the muddy water has cleared (these metaphors do help), and you have a clearer idea of the story. It does get easier after the first draft. Even pleasant with discovery as characters come to life and start figuring things out for themselves. Kinda  like Gepetto carving Pinocchio?
My biggest hurdle is still avoiding the quagmire of re-writing too soon, editing as I go along. I’m still trying to learn to write rough, master the art of powering through, get to the end of the manuscript and THEN worry about the quality, go back and edit.
But I’m not there yet. I still plod away, starting each day trying to get yesterday’s work into better shape, and then I move ahead. Which is better? Writing 3,000 words a day, then having a mess to go back to and edit? Or writing a more careful 1,200 words a day and having them go down cleaner?
So far, I fall in the latter category. But maybe that’s because, subconsciously, I really do have a story structure more clear than I realise in my head. Honestly, I’m not sure.

I’m still learning, and the learning never stops. For the next book, I’ll make another try to get a decent outline down…

About the Author:

J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek Magazine, a wife, mom, and reading addict. She loves thrillers…which may seem odd, since she was once a major in French Literature - wonderful but sometimes heavy stuff. Now, for years, she has become increasingly fascinated with medicine, forensic science, and police procedure. Decades of being married to a physician who loves explaining medical concepts and reliving his experiences means there’ll often be medical angles even in “regular” thrillers that she writes. She lives with her family in Connecticut, USA.

Please follow the other stops on the blog tour: 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

An Honest Deceit by Guy Mankowski

This book is published on 20th October 2016 in paperback and ebook by Urbane Publications. My thanks to the Publisher and the Author for the review copy.

When Ben and Juliette's young daughter dies in a tragic accident on a school trip, they begin searching for answers. But will they ever know the truth? What was the role of the teacher on the trip - and are the rumours about his past true? As Ben and Juliette search for the truth and the pressure rises, their own secrets and motivations are revealed.... An Honest Deceit is an intelligent and gripping contemporary psychological thriller that questions not just the motives of others, but the real reasons for discovering the truth.

My Thoughts:

This book is a gem of a surprise. Pitted, I believe as a thriller, it is that but it is also so much more. It sits in its own niche and is quite simply brilliant. Literary and bold, it had me turning each page faster than the last. I really felt like I was inside the head of the narrator.

The book starts out with what is believed to be an accident on a school trip. Ben and Juliette's daughter Marine tragically dies. This is not a spoiler, what happens throughout the rest of the story, centres on this event.  What ensues is a portrayal of the grief that is ever present and the incredulity that this could have happened to Marine. Narrated by Ben throughout this was an excellent tool to allow the reader to feel closer to his character particularly and his emotions. Although I did find the emotional side of the story a little bit detached. Ben is a bit naive, he struck me as a bit if a perpetual student who finds being an adult tricky at the best of times. He has suddenly found all of these new circumstances thrust upon him. 

It becomes clear further on in the story that things are not quite what they seem. This requires Ben to step up and fight for justice. A story of lies and corruption, at times brutal in its telling, are children really safe when they are sent to school? It is about whether or not power naturally goes hand in hand with trust. Ben has to take divisive action and risks ridicule if his gut instincts are not correct. This story also interestingly brings to the light the maelstrom of publicity and social media, its uses and limitations. 

This book is spectacular. It burns away with a quiet fury, that doesn't die down until the final page turns. Clever, creative, complex and unforgettable it gets under your skin and itches away. Guy Mankowski is a very talented writer, who has a real skill for the portrayal of the best and worst traits of humanity. 

I, for one will definitely be reading his previous novels. 

About the Author:

Guy Mankowski was raised on the Isle of Wight. He was singer in Alba Nova, a band who were once described by Gigwise as 'mythical and evocative'. He trained as a psychologist at The Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London. The first draft of his debut novel, The Intimates, was written when he was 21. It was chosen as a 'Must Read' title by New Writing North's Read Regional campaign. His second novel, Letters from Yelena, was researched in the world of Russian ballet. He was one of the first English people to be given access to The Vaganova Academy, possibly the world's most prestigious ballet school. The novel was adapted for the stage and used in GCSE training material by Osiris Educational. 
Twitter- @gmankow

Friday, 30 September 2016

** BLOG TOUR ** The Kill Fee (Poppy Denby Investigates) by Fiona Veitch Smith

This book is published by Lion Hudson and is available now. My thanks to them for the review copy and inviting me on the blog tour.

The Kindle edition of this book is now available on

As well as the pb edition:

Poppy Denby’s star is on the rise. Now the Arts and Entertainment Editor at The Daily Globe, she covers an exhibition of Russian Art at the Crystal Palace. A shot rings out, leaving a guard injured and an empty pedestal in the place of the largest Faberge Egg in the collection. The Egg itself is valuable, but more so are the secrets it contains within – secrets that could threaten major political powers. Suspects are aplenty and Poppy is delighted to once again be in the middle of a sensational story. 

But soon, the investigation takes a dark turn. Someone connected with the exhibition is murdered and on the list of suspects is an employee of the newspaper. Embroiled in a story that will rock the political world, more is at stake than ever before. Can Poppy see this story through to the end or will the cost be too high? 

With the first book in the series (The Jazz Files) having been shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s Endeavour Historical Dagger, you can be assured that you are in safe hands when you dive into Poppy’s enigmatic world. Filled with flappers, Jazz clubs and scandal, Poppy’s next adventure will have you ready to abandon everything so you can follow her.

My Thoughts:

This book for me has seen a welcome return of Poppy Denby who works at The Daily Globe. The Kill Fee is another murder mystery set in the 1920's. These books work for me because this a period in history that I am interested in. 

The author is clearly well researched. This time the historical facts centre around the Russian Revolution. The author clearly knows her stuff and this makes the book all the more engaging. These books are actually are like an adventure individually. The mystery side of the story and the historical side of the story. I feel that I have learnt something from reading this story.

Poppy Denby is a character I love, forward thinking and ahead of her time. She makes this story, along with a cast of as equally good characters. Full of mystery and suspense. I found this book to be entertaining and beguiling. 

There was an excellent plot with plenty of twists and turns that kept me guessing. This book was like returning to old friends, with a story that is more complex than the cover might make you think.

A thoroughly enjoyable read.

About the Author:

Formerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smith is now an author of books for adults and children. Based in Newcastle, she has also written theatre plays, screenplays and been a university lecturer. Her adult mystery series set in the 1920s, Poppy Denby Investigates, is published by Lion Fiction. The first book in the series, The Jazz Files, is a nominee for the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Endeavour Historical Dagger award, 2016. The second, The Kill Fee, was published in September 2016.

 For more information on the author: 
Twitter: @fionaveitchsmit

Please do have a look at the other stops on the blog tour:

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Hope Family Calendar by Mike Gayle

Published by Hodder & Stoughton this book is available now in Hardback and Ebook with the paperback due to be released 1st December 2016. My thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

Tom Hope is broken. Ever since his wife Laura died he hasn't been the same man, and definitely not the same father. Luckily for Tom, his mother-in-law Linda is around to pick up the pieces and look after his two struggling daughters, Evie and Lola.
Linda has put her own grief aside this past year to help her family in their time of need - moving into the family home to be there for her son-in-law and grandchildren. But Tom getting arrested on the first anniversary of his wife's death is the last straw for Linda.
In a last bid attempt to make Tom reconnect with his life, she takes drastic action and leaves for  Australia. There, Linda realises she must face up to her own past before she can find hope for the future.  

At home, with two fast-maturing girls on his hands, Tom has to learn how to accept his responsibilities and navigate the newly discovered world of single fatherhood - starting immediately. With only himself to rely on, will Tom fall back into grief or finally step up and be the father his girls need?

My Thoughts:

I have previously read books by this author and I enjoy his writing very much. This one is somewhat of a surprise but a pleasant departure from the wit and humour that I have read in his previous novels. This one is a lot more serious but is sensitively handled and beautifully written.

I love the way that Mike Gayle's books are written from the male perspective, but there is empathy and warmth in all of the characters. In this book we are told the story through the eyes of Linda and of Tom. This works well as you can see both sides of the story coming to light and both lots of emotions. The children Evie and Lola are strong and courageous given they have lost their mother. 

Linda has lost her daughter and Tom has lost his wife. Tom in amongst his grief has forgotten he has children, children who are grieving too. This is a story of grief and loss but of also moving forwards into a new future. A future that nobody expected but one they all have to get used to nonetheless. 

Some might say that the worst of Tom's behaviour is indulgent but I just found it heartbreaking and really created empathy in the reader for his bereavement and feeling alone in the world. His wife Laura was the organiser, the planner and the doer. Without her, Tom is completely cut adrift. The narration style works very well as it shows Linda is struggling too, although on the surface she is the one that tries to hold everything together. 

There are still traces of humour throughout that keep this story at the right end of touching. Strange that the family name is Hope, as in amongst the grief and loss this whole story takes on a sense of hope. Moving, entertaining and beautiful, Mike Gayle has triumphed again. Now to clear the lump in my throat.

Pass me a hanky please!

About the Author:

Previously an Agony Uncle, Mike Gayle is a freelance journalist who has contributed to a variety of magazines including FHMSunday Times Style and Cosmopolitan. His bestselling novels include MY LEGENDARY GIRLFRIEND, MR COMMITMENT, TURNING THIRTY, HIS 'N' HERS and BRAND NEW FRIEND. He keeps a website at and can be found on Facebook and on

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney

Published on September 22nd 2016 by Harper Collins my thanks to the author and the publisher for the review copy.

The day that Jess’s daughter, Anna, is reported lost in an avalanche is the day the changes everything.
Left to explain her absence to Anna's five-year-old daughter, Rose, Jess isn't yet ready to admit to herself that her daughter might not be coming back. But Anna's disappearance has opened a Pandora's Box of lies and Jess begins to discover that she never really knew her daughter at all.

And when she unearths a secret that could irrevocably change her world and her family, she has to decide whether a mother's love is unconditional...

My Thoughts:

I was delighted to be sent a review copy of this authors second book, having read and enjoyed her first, You, Me and Other People last year. You can see my blog tour post for that here.

Fionnuala Kearney is an author that writes with real heart and soul. She manages to create characters that have their own nuances who on the whole aren't perfect and this brings a reality to her stories. She writes about realistic situations and I think she is manages to actually drill down into the characters emotions and that is what makes this story come alive.

This story is a portrayal of how a family can implode, running amidst the trailing emotions of bereavement. When secrets and lies come to light after the event and threaten to effect everybody. We have a few central characters. Jess, Anna, Theo and Rose. Jess is Anna's mother and is struggling to cope, she refuses to give up hope and is struggling to forge a way forward. She seems overprotective and overbearing. She is on a knife edge all the time. Anna's side of the story comes in the form of blog entries. I found this to be a useful tool as it allowed her story to come out in her owns words over the course of the book. Rose is five years old and is Anna's daughter, she is being cared for by her grandmother and I think is lost and confused as to where her mother is. Theo is Anna's best friend, a local GP and somewhat of an enigmatic character. Theo, Theo, Theo, I wasn't quite sure whether to love or loathe him. 

I wasn't quite drawn into an emotional state when I read this, but it does possess some very emotive storylines about Mother and Daughter relationships, about family secrets and trust. It is also a story of grief and love. That at times I was deeply moved. This story implies that nothing is perfect, even that which we think is, indeed that is what is known as the human condition.

A beautiful, poignant page turner from a talented writer, with a cast of richly drawn unforgettable characters. When is book three coming out?

Really recommend this author. 

About the Author:

Fionnuala Kearney lives in Ascot with her husband. They have two grown-up daughters (both with deliberately simple monosyllabic names). One of seven children, Fionnuala likes to write about the nuances and subtle layers of human relationships, peeling them away to see what’s really going on beneath. The Day I Lost You is her second novel. She can be found on Twitter @fionnualatweets.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Willnot by James Sallis

This book was published on 23rd June 2016 by No Exit Press. My thanks to them for the review copy.

In the woods outside the town of Willnot, the remains of several people have been discovered, unnerving the community and unsettling Dr Lamar Hale, the town's all-purpose general practitioner, surgeon and town conscience. 

At the same time, Bobby Lowndes - his military records missing, and followed by the FBI - mysteriously reappears in his hometown, at Hale's door. Over the ensuing months, the daily dramas Hale faces as he tends to his town and to his partner, Richard, collide with the inexplicable vagaries of life in Willnot. And when a gunshot aimed at Lowndes critically wounds Richard, Hale's world is truly upended. 

My Thoughts:

When I picked this book up I had never heard of the author, not realising quite how prolific he is. Now however he is an author I won't forget. This book is quite simply sublime. It is only 192 pages long and yet its brevity belies the quality and the quantity of work that is inside it. 

This book turned out not to be quite what I was expecting and yet it turned out to be so much more. If you are reading this expecting a straight forward crime and mystery you might be disappointed to start with but then will feel compelled to keep reading just like me.

A crime has taken place of course, bodies have been found in the woods and there is a couple of mysterious men knocking around. Really however this crime is almost a sideshow to the real heart of the story. This is the kind of book that is open to so many interpretations and views so I can only give you mine. 

To me it is an examination of small town USA life. It is in my opinion very allegorical. The author touches on religion, politics and the medical and teaching professions. Our main character is Dr Lamar Hale he is the town Dr, friend, peer and pillar of the local community, he lives with his partner Richard. They are both disillusioned with their professions, Richard is a teacher. Lamar is questioning his own mortality, ironic given he is a Dr and a surgeon. He is having something of an existential crisis. There are elements to his parts of the story where he is having dreams or visions or suchlike. He is such a curious character. This story is part an examination of human fears etc. 

The writing enclosed within these pages is bold and beautiful. It makes you think and it makes you care. Within such a small space James Sallis has created a glimpse at the location and cast of individual and fantastic characters all as if the reader is looking through a window. The characters all have a uniqueness but no one is more important than another. The writing is sparse and poetic. At times brutal but always honest. 

I loved it and will read more by this author. This was stunning. 

About the Author:
James Sallis has published sixteen novels, multiple collections of short stories, essays. and poems. He has written about books for the LA Times, New York Times, Washington Post, and for some years served as a books columnist for the Boston Globe. He has received a lifetime achievement award from Boucheron, the Hammett Award for literary excellence in crime writing, and the  Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. The Cannes award-winning film Drive derived from his novel of that title. Jim plays numerous intruments with his string band Three-Legged Dog and with other musicians in the Phoenix area. He stays busy. 

Monday, 19 September 2016

#MondayMusing with Guest Author: Christina Philippou

A product of contemplation; a thought: "an elegant tapestry of quotations, musings, aphorisms, and autobiographical reflections" (James Atlas).

Today I would like to welcome Christina Philippou to the blog. She has recently had her first novel published. She has written a piece about her writing and her route to publication. Many thanks to her for doing this and for being so supportive and sharing on social media. 

Lost in Static

Sometimes growing up is seeing someone else's side of the story.

Four stories. One truth. Whom do you believe? 

Callum has a family secret. Yasmine wants to know it. Juliette thinks nobody knows hers. All Ruby wants is to reinvent herself. 

They are brought together by circumstance, torn apart by misunderstanding. As new relationships are forged and confidences are broken, each person's version of events is coloured by their background, beliefs and prejudices. And so the ingredients are in place for a year shaped by lust, betrayal, and violence... 

Lost in Static is the gripping debut from author Christina Philippou. Whom will you trust?

Lost in Static is available from, amongst others, Amazon UK, Amazon US, and direct from the publisher, Urbane Publications.

Happy Monday! Delighted to be on Reflections of a Reader today, musing away on ‘the journey’ to publication – thank you so much for having me J

So who am I and why am I here? Well, I’m just fresh from the release of my debut novel, Lost in Static, which tells the same story from four students’ (sometimes very) different points of view. But apart from that, I’m fairly normal. I have a job and kids and a very hectic life…

I wrote Lost in Static while on maternity leave with my second child. Completely overwhelmed and frazzled with my life, my husband sat me down and told me I needed to find some time for myself. I laughed. Then I cried. And then I decided he was right and registered on an online creative writing course ‘for fun’.

I’ve always loved different structures of narratives. Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet had impressed me as a younger reader, along with books that played with perspective and reader expectations, like The Turbulent Term of Tike Tyler by Gene Kemp or Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. And so, when I started to draft a story, I decided that I, too, would play with perspective.

But it wasn’t that simple. People always recount the same events slightly differently, and I wanted to show that through my writing. My biggest fear wasn’t that people would disagree with the multi point-of-view (POV) narrative style (more on that later), but that they would think that the characters sounded the same. I needn’t have worried too much about the latter, but the former was actually the biggest sticking point when it came to publication.

Most multi-POV narratives ‘pass the baton’, so that the story moves along as the characters take the story onwards. I didn’t want that – I wanted to show the four different versions side-by-side, so each chapter is one event retold by each character present, with each retelling revealing a little more of what happened.

Once I’d finished writing and editing, the real work began. I believed in the novel so I submitted to agents, but the ones that discussed my work were worried about the structure, thinking it too risky and different, and suggesting a less complex style or a third person narrative. The editing service I used, on the other hand, loved the structure but thought that most publishers would want me to change the ending. I started to wonder if I should self-publish instead of trying to find a traditional publisher that would want to change what I considered the fundamentals.

And, while I was debating this, I went to a writer’s day and met Matthew Smith of Urbane Publications, an independent publisher who talked about taking risks on new authors and interesting books. I submitted to Urbane and I was delighted that the publisher not only offered me a contract, but was also happy with both the structure and the ending of the book. And, after another year of editing, Lost in Static was published in September…

Author Bio

Christina Philippou’s writing career has been a varied one, from populating the short-story notebook that lived under her desk at school to penning reports on corruption and terrorist finance. When not reading or writing, she can be found engaging in sport or undertaking some form of nature appreciation. Christina has three passports to go with her three children, but is not a spy. Lost in Static is her first novel.

Christina is also the founder of the contemporary fiction author initiative, Britfic.

You can connect with Christina on TwitterFacebook, Instagram and Google+.