Monday, 29 May 2017

#BlogTour: Reconciliation for the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty @OrendaBooks @Hardisty_Paul #ReconciliationForTheDead

Published by Orenda Books on 30th May 2017. My thanks to the publisher and Anne Cater for inviting me on to the blog tour.

Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier. 
It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make. Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed. 
Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.

My Thoughts:

This is the first book that I have read by this author, not really sure why I haven't read the others now. The previous two books are The Abrupt Physics of Dying and The Evolution of Fear. This book is a prequel and I did not feel at a disadvantage by not having read the previous two books first. 

Reconciliation for the Dead takes us back in time as Claymore Straker recounts the events that led to his dishonourable discharge. He testifies to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Ensues is a gripping read about a subject that I didn't know much about - The Cold War and the Apartheid Regime. 

Claymore Straker is one of the most fascinating characters that I have come across in recent times. A balance of good and bad. In fact there are lots of amazingly drawn characters that build up the scene of this magnificent novel.

Steeped in atmosphere, the authors writing style is evocative and transports the reader right into the action. The arid landscapes, the dust and the horror. Power and greed being major parts of the struggle, this book was quite disturbing at times and horrifying but my goodness it is powerful. Scenes of torture and brutality were upsetting but necessary in the telling of events that were very real and that happened in our lifetimes. 

Wonderfully researched, the superb prose just rolled off the page. A wonderful reminder that we should always try to do the right thing. I could not recommend this book more. Now off to get the other two books in the series, so I can find out more about Claymore Straker. This series has well and truly captured my imagination. 

About the Author: 

Canadian Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and Director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia.

You can find him on Twitter: @Hardisty_Paul

Please do have a look at some of the other stops on the blog tour.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

All the Good Things by Clare Fisher #AlltheGoodThings @claresitafisher

All the Good Things will be published by Viking Books an imprint of Penguin Books on 1st June 2017. My thanks to the publisher and author for having me on the blog tour.

Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn't deserve ever to feel good again.
But her counsellor, Erika, won't give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby's head.
But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.
What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone - even a 100% bad person - deserve a chance to be good?

My Thoughts:

Bethany Mitchell is only young, she is also in prison. She is a bright young lady. She loves reading and writing stories, although she hasn't done much of either lately. She has committed a terrible crime. She doesn't think that she should ever be forgiven, nor does she think she should forgive herself. With the help of her prison therapist she is encouraged to start writing a list of all the good things, instead of concentrating on the bad. 

These good things allow her to tell us in order pretty much what happened to her. Her story is told in her voice and all the bits about her past life and what actually happened to her slowly unfold. I found this to be as equally moving as I did heartbreaking. I found Beth to be a very warm character and found her story to be incredibly touching. Through Beth we get an exploration as to how a series of events can spiral out of all control.

This book explores some complex and brave themes such as Mental Health stigmas, isolation, financial difficulties and growing up within the social care system. The author tackled these with much maturity and they were sensitively handled. 

I read this book very quickly, I found it to be really sad but also very real. I think the thing I will take from it is that there is always hope and good things to take from life even when things go bad. 

An extremely haunting and accomplished debut. 

About the Author:

Clare Fisher was born in Tooting, south London, in 1987. After accidentally getting obsessed with writing fiction when she should have been studying for a BA in History at the University of Oxford. Clare completed an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and now works as a bookseller in Leeds.

An avid observer of the diverse area of south London in which she grew up, Clare's writing is inspired by her long-standing interest in social exclusion and the particular ways in which it affects vulnerable women and girls.

All the Good Things is her first novel. You can find her on Twitter @claresitafisher

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

Monday, 15 May 2017

Blog Tour: Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks #Block46

Published by Orenda Books on 15th May 2017 in Paperback. My thanks to Karen at Orenda for the review copy and Anne Cater for inviting me on the blog tour. 

Evil remembers… Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina. 
Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea's. 
Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. 
Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? 
Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea's friend, French truecrime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light. 
Plumbing the darkness and the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, Block 46 is a multi-layered, sweeping and evocative thriller that heralds a stunning new voice in French Noir.

My Thoughts:

Block 46 is a book that has been expertly translated by Maxim Jakubowski. The writing flowed seamlessly. 

This book held me completely and utterly transfixed from the first page to the last. It is shocking and daring, real and raw. I have been trying to gather my thoughts for the last couple of hours, but I am still stunned by what a talented writer Johana Gustawsson is. 

This is a complex story with many, many layers. One layer is the investigation and hunt for a depraved serial killer. Another layer is the concentration camp of Buchenwald during Nazi Occupation. The two stories are inextricably linked but the author is a master of her craft in revealing this to the reader piece by piece. 

Set in London, Germany, and Sweden. This added to the size and enormity of the events that take place within the short, sharp chapters. There are a lots of characters all that worked well and added to the remarkable plot. The pace of the story is perfect, never stilted nor moving to rapidly.

There is violence within the pages, for some it will shock and for all it should. Violence that isn't in any way gratuitous, but is the vehicle by which the story is told. We all know that terrible events occurred at concentration camps. Events that should never be forgotten to people that should never be forgotten. People who's lives were forever changed and that is the ones who made it out alive. 

Having visited what was a concentration camp whilst living in Germany, the sections set in 1944 moved me profoundly. Writers should never shy away from retelling the events that occurred and I admire the author immensely for the meticulous amount of research that she must have done. 

The past have been perfectly blended with the present when dead bodies start to turn up, young boys and Linnea a talented Jewellery designer. What links these murders with the past and can the killer be stopped before he/she strikes again. 

Dark and disturbing this book has left me with much to think about. I certainly won't be forgetting it in a hurry. Characters that make your skin crawl with a convincing and intriguing plot. I also thought the working partnership between Emily Roy and Alexis Castells worked really well. There really is nothing to dislike about this book. 

This is the best book I have read so far this year!

About the Author:

Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.

You can find Johana on Twitter: @JoGustawsson

Please have a look at the author stops on the blog tour: 

Monday, 1 May 2017

A Life Between Us by Louise Walters @LouiseWalters12 #ALifeBetweenUs

A Life Between us was published via Matador in March 2017. My thanks to the Author for sending me a review copy.

Tina Thornton’s twin sister Meg died in a childhood accident, but for almost forty years Tina has secretly blamed herself for her sister’s death. During a visit to her aging Uncle Edward and his sister Lucia, who both harbour dark secrets of their own, Tina makes a discovery that forces her to finally question her memories of the day her sister died. 

Who, if anyone, did kill Meg? As Tina finds the courage to face the past, she unravels the tangled family mysteries of her estranged parents, her beautiful French Aunt Simone, the fading, compassionate Uncle Edward, and above all, the cold, bitter Aunt Lucia, whose spectral presence casts a long shadow over them all. 

A Life Between Us is a beautifully evocative story of a family torn apart at the seams, which will appeal to readers who enjoy family sagas and modern-day mysteries.

My Thoughts:

A Life Between Us is an utterly intriguing and compelling story. It is set across varying decades including the present day and it tells the story of one family. The characters were haunting, emotive and nuanced.

An exploration of family secrets, betrayals and mysteries, makes this book taut and suspenseful. I particularly enjoyed discovering how the characters past actions can cause lasting effects in the future both for themselves and others. 

Tina is still grieving the loss of her twin, who died when they were children, she has never quite got over it. It effects her daily life and relationship with her husband. Tina's Aunt Lucia is not a likeable character and is very unhappy in life, nothing pleases her and everybody feels her wrath and bitterness. Tina is particularly close to her Uncle Edward, but he seems to have something to hide. 

Particularly poignant parts of the book include Tina's childhood letters that she writes to her cousin in America. This only added more detail to a character that was to become deeply involved with the loss of her sister. 

This book is something of a family saga with an element of mystery involved. The pace of the book is not fast but it was exciting to read, waiting patiently for the characters and their pasts to unravel for the reader. 

I found this book to be absorbing and wonderfully written, the different threads of the story never becoming confused but carefully being sewn together at the end to create a satisfying ending. 

I really recommend this one, a story of grief and loss, family ties, mysteries and secrets.

About the Author:

Louise Walters lives in Northamptonshire with her husband and five children. Louise's debut novel, Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase (Hodder 2014), was translated into 15 languages. A Life Between Us is her second novel.

You can find her on Twitter: @LouiseWalters12

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell @janelythell

Woman of the Hour was published in 2016 by Head of Zeus. My thanks to the author and the publisher for the review copy.

Meet Liz Lyon: respected TV producer, stressed-out executive, guilty single mother.
StoryWorld is the nation's favourite morning show, and producer Liz Lyon wants to keep it that way. Her job is to turn real-life stories into thrilling TV – and keep a lid on the scandals and backbiting that happen off-stage.
But then simmering tensions erupt at the station, trapping Liz in a game of one-upmanship where she doesn't know the rules. As the power struggle intensifies, can Liz keep her cool and keep her job? Does she even want to?
In this gripping novel of power, rivalry and betrayal, Jane Lythell draws on her experiences of working in the glamorous, pressurised world of live TV.

My Thoughts:

Woman of the Hour is a behind the scenes look at a TV Station. All of the pressures, power struggles and petty rivalries are laid bare in this entertaining and absorbing novel. 

Liz Lyon is pretty much at the top of her game, having worked her way up at Storyworld, she manages to hold down a demanding job on top of being a single Mum to her teenage daughter Flo. I take my hat off to her! 

I believe that this book is the first in a series and I will be delighted to find out more about our delightful cast of characters in future. The characters are all unique and some are more likeable than others. All have there own pressures behind the Storyworld set. The youngsters are trying to make their way in the new world of television and hoping for their big break. The more established members of staff are battling to keep their jobs in the midst of budget cuts and more. The boss is demanding, often unreasonable and clearly on a power trip. 

This book is a fantastic look at workplace tensions and problems that can arise in such a pressurised environment. Sexual harassment forms part of the story and also the point is made that a job in television is not always as glamorous as it sounds. 

As a reader you feel the various workplace tensions building throughout the book, everything is about to blow apart and all of the pressure seems to be on Liz. Can she restore harmony? 

I found this book to be an interesting and highly entertaining read and will be looking forward to reading more about Storyworld and from this host of fascinating characters and egos in the future. 

About the Author:

Jane Lythell worked as a TV Producer for fifteen years. This has provided much of the inspiration for Woman of the Hour. She lives in Brighton. She has also written two other novels, After the Storm and The Lie of You. She has also worked at the British Film Institute, BAFTA and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She now writes full time.
You can find Jane here:

Twitter: @janelythell 
Facebook: Jane Lythell Author
Instagram: jane_lythell_writer
My blog:

Monday, 24 April 2017

Guest Author: Laurie Ellingham @LaurieEllingham #OneEndlessSummer

One Endless Summer was published by HQ on April 20th 2017. It is available for Kindle and in Paperback.

Three best friends.

Three continents.

Three months to live.

How long can you keep a secret?
Three best friends are embarking on an all-expenses paid trip of their dreams. The only catch? Every moment will be documented on film.
Lizzie’s battle with cancer is coming to an end, and now she’s ready to embrace adventure for the very first time. There are only three months, but it is Lizzie’s time to finally start living!
Jaddi is known for her stunning looks, flirtatious attitude and many conquests. But Jaddi has a secret and on this last trip together she needs to decide whether her best friends will ever know the real her.
Samantha has always been the ‘grown up’ of the group, the one with a five year plan. What Lizzie and Jaddi don’t know is that Sam is trapped, and her perfect life isn’t quite what it seems…
As they trek across the globe Lizzie, Jaddi and Samantha must come to terms with loss, love and trusting one another. But will it all be too late…

I am delighted to welcome Laurie Ellingham to the blog today, she has written a great guest post about her journey to publication. 

One Endless Summer

My rollercoaster journey to publication

When I hear Ronan Keating singing: “Life is a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it,” I always wonder if he’s singing about the life of a writer, because for every high we have, a low always follows. From the day-to-day feeling of writing a good or bad chapter, to obsessively checking Amazon rankings, life for us authors really is a rollercoaster.

One Endless Summer (released on 20th April by HQ/Harper Collins) is a journey in every sense of the word. It’s the journey by three best friends to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Australia, and America. It’s also a journey of friendship and love and the unravelling of secrets. Just as there are highs and lows within this story, the journey of its creation was also a rollercoaster ride.

This is my rollercoaster journey of One Endless Summer (so far!)

January 2015 High and Low

A massive high came when I grabbed hold of the idea for One Endless Summer. I knew straight away that this was going to be a very different style of book and I was so excited, but there was also a huge amount of self-doubt. Could I write it? Did I have the skills to convey the emotions I knew this novel would need?  In the end I decided there was only one way to find out...I had to start writing.

April 2015 - High

A literary agent called me (for the first time ever!) to tell me that she liked my writing but didn’t love it enough to sign me. This was for a previous book, and whilst it was a rejection she gave me a crucial piece of advice about my style - don’t be afraid to add depth. She loved the sound of One Endless Summer and encouraged me to send it to her when it was finished.
I danced around the kitchen and sat back down to work.

May - August 2015 Highs and Lows again

In the thick of the novel there were days when I loved every word that poured onto the page. Then there were days when I agonised over a comma. I was desperate for feedback and any kind of validation that I was onto something different, but for that I had to finish.

September 2015 Higher and Higher and rock bottom

I finished the first draft! YAY! There are few better feelings for us writers than writing THE END. I sent a submission back to the agent and she requested the full manuscript (another first!).  Then the no came, along with some extremely harsh feedback which stung for a long time.

October - December 2015 Lower still

Suddenly all my confidence was gone. I tried a few more agents but after more rejections I stopped and went back to the drawing board. I needed editorial help; I needed to know if my gut feeling about this book was right. So I paid a lot of money to have it edited. 

January - March 2016 Climbing again (slowly)

The editorial feedback gave me something to work on. Again, I wasn’t convinced the editor had grasped what I was trying to achieve, but I felt I was making progress. I was also accepted for an agent one-to-one at the London Book Fair, which would be my first ever face-to-face meeting with a literary agent.
In March I plucked up the confidence to submit One Endless Summer directly to a publisher who didn’t require authors to be agented. They wanted the full manuscript. YAY!

April 2016 Lows and scraping the sky

The agent one-to-one did not go well. “The concept of three main characters travelling the world just wouldn’t work,” she said. I was about to give up on the idea of traditional publication and self-publish when I received a call from the publisher I’d submitted it to. They loved it. Really loved it! Would I consider a two-book deal? umm YES!
The rollercoaster didn’t stop there, but at least I had an amazing editor sitting beside me on the ride. Someone who saw what I saw in my novel.
I’m still on the rollercoaster now and face daily highs and lows with the novel I’m writing, but with the added nerves of having One Endless Summer out there for everyone to read. Looking back, my journey from starting my novel to signing with a publisher was a short one, but it came after ten years of writing and submissions. Ten years of riding the rollercoaster.
My advice to anyone else thinking of writing a novel or who has made the leap and started - Hold on tight, persevere. Don’t get off!

Thank you Leah for having me as a guest on Reflections of a Reader. 

About the Author:

Laurie lives in a small village on the Suffolk borders, with her husband, two children, and their cockerpoo, Rodney. When she is not disappearing into the fictional world of her characters, preferably with a large coffee and a Twix (or two) to hand, she is running through the countryside, burning off the chocolate intake and plotting her next chapter.

To find out more visit, or find her on Twitter @LaurieEllingham and Facebook Laurie Ellingham Author

Sunday, 23 April 2017

World Book Night 2017 - Giveaway #WorldBookNight

It is the time of year for World Book Night and in order to celebrate reading and encourage others to do so, I have an exciting giveaway for you. World Book Night is run by The Reading Agency, a national charity that inspires people to become confident and enthusiastic readers.

The official books chosen for World Book Night can be seen below, although I have something a little different for you...

As readers of my blog will know my favourite book last year was The Wacky Man by Lyn G. Farrell, today also happens to be her birthday which is very timely. You can read my review of her book here, and an interview I did with her here as part of my Monday Musing series.

Lyn has very kindly given me five copies of her book to give away and I have added some miscellanous, surprise stationery items. So that is five prizes to be won, I will leave the competition open for a week and then the winners will be selected at random. I will then contact you and get the prizes sent out to the five lucky winners. As it is World Book Night, I have decided to open this competition internationally.

Now about The Wacky Man...

Longlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker prize 2016
'An astonishing tour de force!' -- The Daily Mail
'Book of the Year!' -- Clio Gray, Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction-shortlisted author
A striking debut from the winner of the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary
My new shrink asks me, 'What things do you remember about being very young?' It's like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone...
Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised.
As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?

World Book Night Giveaway

Thanks for entering. Good Luck.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Blog Tour: Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl @OrendaBooks #Faithless

 Faithless is published on the 15th April 2017 by Orenda Books. My thanks to the publisher for the review copy and to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour. It is translated by Don Bartlett. 

Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back … and this time, it’s personal… 

When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her … and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he begins to look deeper into the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda finds another body, and things take a more sinister turn. With a cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway casting a shadow, and an unsettling number of coincidences clouding the plot, Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again. 

Dark, brooding and utterly chilling, Faithless is a breath-taking and atmospheric page-turner that marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.

My Thoughts:

I jumped at the chance to review this book when asked as I really enjoy nordic noir, particularly on television but haven't really read that much fiction in this genre. I anticipated that I would find it quite hard to get to grips with but the translation by Don Bartlett was seamless and the story flowed effortlessly. 

This book is part of a series but it reads perfectly as a standalone although I for one will definitely be seeking out more from this author. 

Chock full of suspense, this book hooked me in from the first page. Short sharp sentences and brief narratives made this book punchy and kept me turning the pages. Frølich was something of an enigma for me but I found him all the more engaging because of this. 

Frølich is shocked to discover that a body of a woman is somebody he knows, and indeed somebody he had detained previously. She was also the partner of one of his oldest friends. Frølich seems to be embroiled in something and the past may or may not play a part. Alongside this a student goes missing and it isn't clear initially if the two cases are connected. 

There is plenty of suspense, mystery, lies and red herrings wrapped up in a relatively short novel. I loved the old fashioned police work and the setting for this novel and was completely and utterly wrapped in the moment. The norwegian setting worked really well for this story, and it would also work well as one of the television series of the genre I love so much. 

I will most definitely recommend it and look forward to reading more of this authors work in the future. I found is engaging, exciting and original. 

About the Author: 

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

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

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Blog Tour: The Blood The Binds by Dave Sivers @DaveSivers

 “Two intriguing cases – one twisted plot.” – Alison Bruce

"Stylish, skilful and packed with suspense.” – Sharon Bolton


The quiet Buckinghamshire village of Houghton is reeling. Soon after twelve year old Leanne Richards is killed by a hit and run driver, the two classmates who were with her that night disappear, one by one.

Jade and Becky said they couldn’t identify the car or the driver. Does someone want to make sure it stays that way? Or are other, darker motives in play?

As DI Lizzie Archer and DS Dan Baines search for the truth, buried pasts and secret loves begin to reveal themselves. But is time running out for the girls? Or is it already too late?


‘You’ll enjoy this if you liked Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Gillian Hamer's Gold Detectives series and Val McDermid's Wire in the Blood’
- J J Marsh, author of the Beatrice Stubbs novels.

I am delighted to welcome Dave Sivers to the blog today as part of The Blood That Binds blog tour. He has written a great guest post about speaking at the WI. Thanks for stopping by Dave, and good luck with the new book. You can see his post below. 

Not All Jam and Jerusalem
Talking Murder and Mayhem at the WI

Okay, first a confession.

I’m a WIMP.

No, no, that stands for WI Male Partner. It’s what Women’s Institute members – at least those in my little corner of the Chilterns – call their significant others.

It so happens that Buckinghamshire – where I live, and the setting for my Archer and Baines novels – boasts the oldest WI County Federation in the country. And my own local institute, which will be 100 years old in May, is the oldest in Buckinghamshire.

The Bucks County Federation has its own speaking circuit, and it occurred to me last year that – especially as 80% of all book purchasers are apparently female – this was something I ought to get in on. What better way to boost my readership than talking to groups of women all over the county where Archer and Baines fight crime – and getting paid for it, too?

So I applied, with some stuff about me, and a bit of blurb about the talk I proposed to do. There’s quite an approvals process. The relevant committee has to decide to give you an audition, and then you give a cut-down version of the talk – about 20 minutes – to a packed hall of representatives from all over the county, who will be hearing from several hopefuls that day.

I didn’t have a satnav back then, and I’m rubbish at navigation, but AA directions had always served me well. So, allowing myself an extra half hour to get there and find the place, I set off – only to find that the village in question was a sprawling, rural affair, and that there was something hokey with either the directions or the postcode. It took three locals to help me find it and I arrived in a state of panic about five minutes before my slot.

Fortunately, I’m no stranger to public speaking, so I was able to gather myself and present my patter to this sea of ladies, who fortunately laughed in the right places and asked some interesting questions at the end.

I gather the feedback from each audition then has to be discussed by the committee – but in due course I received an email saying I was in!

New speakers go in a directory (for which there’s a small fee) and get advertised in the county newsletter when  they’re first approved. Within a short while of my details appearing there, I started to get contact from various programme arrangers. Not just WI, either. By whatever route, some other organisations also contacted me, including wives’ associations, a senior citizens’ club and, my favourite so far, the Aylesbury Ladies Electrical Association.

The Electrical Association for Women was founded in 1924 to teach women how to use electricity. By the 1930s there were 260 branches throughout the country, including Aylesbury. The association into liquidation in 1986, but the Aylesbury branch, with about 100 enthusiastic members decided to carry on under the new name of Aylesbury Ladies' Electrical Association.

Anyhow, I digress! The upshot is that I have at least one engagement for every month this year, and I’m already receiving approaches for 2018 – again, not just from WIs.

And it’s great! I now have a car with a satnav (affectionately known as Zoe). I load up a box of books, tell Zoe where I’m going, arrive at a village hall or community centre, set the books up and speak when they want me to. The talk is about 40-45 minutes and I speak about my writing journey, the fast-moving changes on the publishing landscape, and the challenges of writing gritty crime fiction in a pleasant rural area. I leave time for questions, and the questions are always great (and show that my audience managed to stay awake).

And they buy books. Mostly the first in the series though. I’ve had to order more copies of The Scars Beneath the Soul, as my stock is almost sold out. There are always a couple of gift purchases for members’ WIMPs, too.

It’s often said that the WI isn’t all Jam and Jerusalem. Well, it’s early days of my bringing them Murder and Mayhem, but so far only one group has sung Jerusalem. It would have been churlish not to join in, but I was very aware of being the only male voice in the room.

As for the jam – there is sometimes cake, and you’ll find a Victoria sponge with jam in on those occasions. Mostly it’s biscuits with the tea though, which is just as well for my waistline.

If you’re an author and you fancy a few nice evenings out, with a warm welcome, a lovely audience, and a chance to earn a small fee and flog some books, I recommend applying to your local WI federation. I’m absolutely loving it!

About the Author:


Dave’s civil service career took him to exotic places like Rhode Island USA, Cyprus, Brussels, Northern Norway and Sutton Coldfield. Along the way, he moonlighted variously as nightclub bouncer, bookie’s clerk and freelance writer, as well as picking up a first class honours degree from the Open University.
Writing has always been his passion and, since giving up the day job, he has launched a second career as a novelist.
The Scars Beneath the Soul, the first book in his popular Archer and Baines crime series - set in Buckinghamshire’s Aylesbury Vale - and the follow-up, Dead in Deep Water, both hit the top three in Kindle’s ‘Serial Killers’ chart. The Blood That Binds is the fourth in the series featuring DI Lizzie Archer and DS Dan Baines.
Dave has also won prizes and publication with his short fiction, written for newspapers and magazines, and writes material for the amateur stage.
Dave lives in Buckinghamshire, England, with his wife, Chris.

Twitter: @DaveSivers
Facebook: @davesiversauthor1

Goodreads: Dave Sivers

Do have a look at the other stops on the blog tour and if I have tempted you to read this book it is available now from here.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Blog Tour: Stronger Than Skin by Stephen May Stephen_May1 #StrongerThanSkin

Stronger Than Skin was published by Sandstone Press on 16th March 2017. My thanks to them for sending me a copy and for having me on the blog tour.

Mark Chadwick is cycling home from work, eager to get back to his pregnant wife Katy and two children, when he sees the police calling at his house. He knows exactly why they are there and he knows that the world he has carefully constructed over twenty very deliberately uneventful years is about to fall apart. He could lose everything. A story of a toxic love gone wrong, with a setting that moves easily between present day London and 1990s Cambridge, Stronger Than Skin is compulsively readable, combining a gripping narrative with a keen eye for the absurdities of the way we live now.

I am delighted to be able to host the blog tour today, I have an extract for you below, do let me know if it encourages you to read the book. 

Katy has told me not to go back home tonight but I can’t stay in that room either. I have to go somewhere. I have to do something.
I have a shower. I use up an entire bottle of kelp body wash and head off out of the Castle into the night, smelling like the sea.
            I seem to cycle around most of North London, music loud, still trying hard not to think.
There’s a breeze spiteful enough to keep people off the streets, but even so London seems freakishly quiet. Whatever the weather a London night should be raucous, should be mixed martial arts meets burlesque. It should be theatre. London at night should be all pissed up street-poets bobbing restlessly through the streets like discarded plastic bottles down the Thames. But not tonight. Tonight London is pensive, aloof and grown up. Things on her mind.
I stop once at an all-night cafe and the cabbies and the call girls and the foreign students chat together in a way that seems strangely small-talky. The weather, the football, the economy – how since the internet no one wants to pay the proper rate for anything. How we’re all working harder for less, running to stand still. It reminds me of the staffroom. When did London get as banal as this?
Every half hour or so I make a stealthy return through the chill drizzle to the end of Haverstock Road but there is always that bloody police Astra outside the house.
I wonder what they think, the police. Sitting for hours in the sweaty cubicle of the car, waiting to nick a guy who hasn’t had so much as a parking ticket in twenty-odd years. Do they really believe this is a good use of police resources? They should be angry, they should be wanting to chase real criminals: muggers, burglars, rapists, terrorists. If they joined the force because of the hope of making a real difference to how things are, then they’ve been cheated.
Five times I come back, and the last time – at gone midnight – hanging back in the dark, I see our master bedroom light go off. I wait around another twenty minutes to see if the team in the panda car give up, but they seem pretty dug in. Not going anywhere. No getting past them.
I’m going to text Katy a last goodnight, only I realise I’ve left my phone back in the Castle. But at least I’m maybe tired enough now to sleep. Time to go back.
When I get back to the King George Suite I’m going to make the most of the facilities, I’m going to drink the minibar dry. I’m going to dive into the poshcorn. I’m going to warm up with a long bath. If I find myself crying, then a bath is the place to do it.
I wonder how safe it would be to email Katy from the hotel. Best not. It’s not just mobiles they monitor these days. Funny, if a postie tampers with the snail mail then he goes to prison – but the electronic postmen, they seem immune. They get rewarded, even. These days you never know who is reading your stuff. Some googlenaut in Motherfuck Nebraska, some minimum wage Amazon drone hunched over his algorithms in Idaho, some spook in Murmansk, all of them getting a bonus for each piece of intel they extract. People forget: an email is not a private letter. It is a publication. It is the magazine of you carelessly discarded in the waiting room of the world.

I am just outside the Castle about to swipe my key card when the door opens and Jake Skellow hurries out, takes me by the arm in a strong-fingered grip and hustles me into the shadows whispering urgently as he does so.
‘None of my business Mr Chadwick, but the old bill. They’re waiting for you. In your room.’
‘Yeah, they came about twenty minutes ago. I’ve been looking out for you.’
‘I wonder what that’s all about?’ I say. I’m trying to move my features into a frowning picture of professorial puzzlement. I’m cursing myself for not switching that bloody phone off, or for not throwing it away even. Jake straightens himself to his full height. This pretence has irritated him. He’s lost a bit of respect for me maybe. He’s come out from behind his desk into the cold night to give his old teacher a heads-up. I should be a little more honest. There’s a pause. What do I do now?
‘You know, Jake, I’m really not up to facing questioning by the police. Not tonight.’
Jake smiles. Another quick happy flash of those big white teeth. I have seen this before with kids at school, how they love to turn the tables, love to become the teacher themselves. The way they like to educate you about how the modern world works. About phones and computers. About pop or fashion. About how to escape from justice too it seems, because he has an idea.
‘You could go to my place. Kip the night there. If you wanted.’
Now I remember some staffroom talk about the troubled background Jake comes from. Some gossip about how his family were at war with the authorities, of the Skellows being involved in all sorts of dubious businesses – believable rumours of loan sharking, cigarette smuggling, buying and selling of knock-off goods, the breeding of banned dogs. It’s fair to assume that Jake has not been brought up to respect the forces of law and order. 

About the Author:

Stephen May’s first novel TAG was longlisted for Wales Book of The Year and won the Media Wales Reader’s Prize. His second, Life! Death! Prizes! was shortlisted for the 2012 Costa Novel Award and The Guardian Not The Booker Prize. He also collaborates on performance pieces with theatre-makers, artists, film-makers, musicians and dancers. 

You can find him on Twitter: @Stephen_May1

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