Sunday, 22 February 2015

The One Saving Grace - Julie Houston

About the book… 
Lowering her voice so that the three police officers couldn’t hear, Grace whispered, ‘Harriet, could you just moan a bit more confusion, perilously clinging on as the chain of events threatens not only their comfortable, ordinary lives but also their very existence…

The One Saving Grace continues the story of Grace, Harriet and Amanda begun in Goodness, Grace and Me which reached #1 in Amazon’s Top 100 for Humour in 2014.

Buy Links: 

About the author… 
Julie Houston is Yorkshire born and bred. She lives in Huddersfield where her novels are set and her only claims to fame are that she taught at ‘Bridget Jones’ author Helen Fielding’s old school, her neighbour is ‘Chocolat’ author Joanne Harris and her friend is about to marry Tracy Emin’s cousin! Oh, and she was rescued by Frank Bough when, many years ago, she was ‘working as a waitress in a cocktail bar’ at the Kensington Hilton in London.

After University, where she studied Education and English Literature, she taught for many years as a junior school teacher. As a newly qualified teacher, broke and paying off her first mortgage, she would spend every long summer holiday working on different Kibbutzim in Israel. After teaching for a few years she decided to go to New Zealand to work and taught in Auckland for a year before coming back to this country.

She now teaches part time, and still loves the buzz of teaching junior-aged children. She has been a magistrate for the last thirteen years, and, when not distracted by ebay, genealogy (so time consuming but so interesting - she recently discovered her husband is descended from the poet Shelley and the Duke of Milan!!) and crosswords, she spends much of her time writing.

Julie is married, has a nineteen-year-old son and sixteen-year-old daughter and a mad cockapoo called Lincoln. She runs and swims because she’s been told it’s good for her, but would really prefer a glass of wine, a sun lounger and a jolly good book.

Contact Links: 

My thoughts…
I have to confess straight off, I am a 'cover tart' and I absolutely love the cover for this and Julie's last novel Goodness, Grace & Me - they make you want to pick them up to start with.

This book gets off to a hilarious start that had me laughing and cringing in equal measures - never again will I be able to visit Harvey Nicks without a detour to the mens 'smalls dept' for a giggle.  Harriet, the lead female in this novel and her best friend Grace are  both expecting, due within weeks of each other.  They are on a little shopping trip when Harriet goes into premature labour - she's not due for another two months!  What ensues is nothing short of 'Comedy Gold'.  The two women spark off each other with an ease that is only seen with long term friends - add to the mix a drop dead, gorgeous, hunk of a knight in shining armour and a couple of scrapes with the law, as the girls try to execute an escape back to Yorkshire from Manchester wanting the babies (she's expecting twins) to be born on home turf, was like a scene from 'Thelma and Louise'.  If I tell you I sat grinning like a slightly insane person, laughing out loud regularly and you've got the measure of this book from the off.

The story really begins to split into two once the babies for both women are born.  Harriet's twins make five children for her with Grace giving birth to her first.  Julie describes with ease, two very different reactions to pregnancy and birth, one had no real plans, was very laid back and the other had the pregnancy, birth and post labour organised down to the last detail.  Suffice to say life isn't easy for either of the women, Grace's plans go by the wayside and Harriet needs an extra 12 hours in every day just to stay on top of day to day life - they begin to drift apart without realising it, their friendship stretched beyond recognition in the end.

It's clear to the reader that Grace is suffering from Post Natal Depression, something that best friend Harriet doesn't even realise for a long time because she literally doesn't have a minute left in her day for anything other than grabbing a few minutes sleep.  Such a serious topic could so easily have dragged the mood down but Julie deals with it in a sensitive but realistic way, balancing it with snippets of humour usually caused by Harriet's chaotic household.

What I wasn't prepared for, was the other storyline.  Harriet and Nick live happily with their brood of five, they clearly adore each other but neither has any time - Nick is always travelling with work, trying to build his business as security for his family and poor Harriet is worked to the bone.  As one day ends, the next instantly begins - the clock ticking faster than she'd like, there are simply not enough hours in the day.  The scene has been set so when Harriet finds herself locking eyes with the hunk from Harvey Nicks, in her living room of all places, she goes into a melt-down. Such was Julie's description I could literally feel the attraction fizzing off the page.

Julie introduced a supporting cast of family, friends and relations that read like a page from Ancestry.Com - everyone was seemingly connected or related to each other in some way - so and so's brother's, sister's, mother's, uncle that married .... You get the picture?  I thought I'd never keep up but it all slotted together, surprisingly quickly I'm glad to say and there wasn't a single one that I thought was un-necessary to the plot.  Some I liked more than others, but that's real life isn't it?  

There are many twists and turns, things don't always happen as you'd expect and some things were definitely not as clear cut as I initially thought.  It's this and the pacing that kept me turning the pages - wanting to see if my guesses were right (they mainly weren't). Both women reached rock bottom before they could climb back up and re-build their lives - many relationships were shattered along the way some irretrievably and it was difficult at times to see how there could be any positive outcomes at all. I thought Julie bravely, but sensitively dealt with both the post natal depression and the infidelity in such a way that the reader is left in no uncertain terms as to the wider ripples caused by both.  I was left thinking and analysing long after the final page.  This wasn't your classic happy ever after chick lit, girl meets boy, falls in love, runs off into the sunset.  It was a million times better than that - because it was about real life and real life isn't all hearts and roses every day.  We get up in a morning and don't know what curve balls are coming our way.  One thing Julie demonstrated particularly well, is that the grass isn't always greener on the other side and time is a great healer.  We cannot force issues, people heal and build themselves back up at their pace and in their own time and only they know if they can move forward or need to take a different path.  But , true love runs deep and if you love someone you have to let them go - if it's meant to be, they'll come back.

This book is the authors second novel but can easily be read as a stand alone.  I loved it, even if I did get a bit confused at times ;D - there are some truly hilarious moments amongst the serious bits, Julie has brilliant comic timing and some of her terminology was hilarious.  I'd love to know who her characters were based on and how much of herself is in this book.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Silent Scream - Angela Marsons

About the book… 
When a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the death marks the beginning of a spate of gruesome murders that shock the Black Country. 

But as human remains are discovered at a former children’s home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim
Stone fast realises she’s on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades. 

As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer, can Kim confront the demons of her own past – before it’s too late?

Buy Links:

About the author… 
Angela Marsons was born and raised in the Black Country and still lives there, along with her long-term partner, as well as a bouncy Labrador and a potty-mouthed African Grey parrot. Although she has been writing since her early teens, Silent Scream is her first novel.

Contact Links: 

My thoughts…

The day has finally come when I can share my review of this amazing book with you all. I was given an ecopy from Bookouture, Angela Marsons publishers in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to do.

There are rare times when you pick up a book, by an author you've never heard of and are blown away - this was one of those times. When I heard Bookouture had signed a thriller writer I was beyond excited - my expectations were high and Bookouture and Angela Marsons surpassed each and every one of them.

The story begins ten years back in time with five people stood around a grave that had just been dug, the assumption from the text is that the grave is that of a child - they make a pact to keep the truth to themselves and then we are fast forwarded to the present day and before we are 1% into the book we're witness to a murder that had my heart pounding - it was like a scene from 'Sleeping With The Enemy'. With my heart pounding, I felt the same as I did when I watched the film - desperate to read on, but almost too scared to do so.

Enter D. I. Kim Stone - a woman with more facets than a diamond - first impressions are a brash, matter of fact, hard nosed Inspector hell bent on solving a crime - she really takes no prisoners, with suspects, colleagues or superiors. Yet, it is clear from the off that her team have her back - despite the gruelling regime she expects them to work under. I get the impression they see her character clearer than she does herself. Though, even from the beginning there are hints for the reader to a softer character hidden beneath the hard exterior she's built around herself. She clearly has a history that has shaped her into the person she's become and as the novel progresses and her 'story' unfolds along with mounting crimes we, the reader, begin to understand a little of the reasoning behind her drive and determination.  

The book is set in the Black Country and the story revolves around a now closed children home, bones have been found in a shallow grave in what used to be the grounds. So now there is a historic death to solve - are the bones that of a child if so is there a link to the death that occurred in the first chapter? I was totally gripped, the pace of Silent Scream was just at the heart pounding stage - a list of people to question was composed and just before, or just after they are questioned by D. I. Stone and her team they meet an unfortunate end! How many murders will there be before the crimes are solved and are the modern day murders linked to the bones found and or the children home.

The hints and insinuations that the bones unearthed are children bones and found within the grounds of a children's home focuses the mind in only one direction, some kind of child abuse. A very disturbing and brave subject for an author to pursue in a first novel - there has been so much historic abuse brought to the fore in recent years. D. I. Stone does an incredible job, driving the narrative, pushing her team forward - her instructions are un-negotiable. Yet, every now and again her true character, buried so deep it's impossible to see, comes to the fore and she displays a sensitive side - putting her own head on the block whilst protecting her team - fully prepared to take the wrap because her drive to solve the crime goes deeper than anyone could possibly imagine.

I like to second guess 'who dun-nit as I'm reading a crime novel and all too often authors can be so embroiled in blood and gore they leave the plot and culprits out to dry for anyone to see, not so in this case. I had no idea who, what or why until almost the end. Even then getting it wrong. At one point I thought I had it solved crying NOOOOO it can't be ........, I was gutted, only for the story to pitch again. There are so many twists and turns - chapters that are seemingly unrelated, characters that show themselves but are so 'holier than thou' they don't even touch the radar. It was a breathe of fresh air to read about complex characters not drowned in blood - so unnecessary to a story in my opinion - only resulting in detracting from the story and putting me off!

For an author to spin such a complex tale, that kept my heart beating at an increased rate but didn't scare me to death is, in my humble opinion, truly brilliant. Angela gave just enough detail to satisfy the curiosity, leaving me wanting more - I can't tell you how excited I was to realise there will be a series based around D I Stone - something that I'd totally missed until way after I d finished the book. I look forward to digging deeper into her character. She is a character at odds with herself - she has such a high profile job - happy to go out and shout her mouth off in the line of duty but preferring to blend into the background on a personal level, not wanting any accolades or acknowledgements for herself personally.

I really can't tell you how brilliant this book was, I turned the pages at a rate of knots desperate to read just one more chapter - willing myself to get to the end of the book and solve all the crimes. Disappointed and sorry when I did. Not because the book was disappointing, but because I felt bereft. I didn't really know what to do with myself when I finished Silent Scream. The outcome was traumatic, yet at the same time uplifting I'll be shouting about this book and author for a long time to come and drumming my fingers repeatedly until book 2 is released.

I was fortunate enough to interview Angela Marsons and you can read my interview HERE.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Interview with the author of Silent Scream = Angela Marson

An Interview with Angela Marsons...

Welcome to Crooks on Books Angela.

Hi Dawn, thank you for inviting me.
  • Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I live in the heart of the black country with my partner Julie, our Labrador named Kizzy and our African Grey parrot called Nelson.  I’ve spent most of my working life in the security industry and am currently a control room supervisor.
  • How and why did you get into writing?
From a very young age I loved to play with words.  I marveled at the power they had over me when I read a book.  When I was in my early teens I wrote a short piece on the relationship between the coastline and the sea.  My English teacher loved it and brought in some books that were above my reading level and which focused on the complexities of human relationships.  After reading those books I realized that I wanted to create such stories and take the reader on a journey.
  • If you wasn’t a writer what would your dream job be?
I think it would have to be some type of Counsellor.  I love to listen to people and unravel their stories.  I’m also very nosey and quite free with my advice.
  • Describe a typical day in the life of Angela Marsons the author.
On a writing day I love to rise early and sit at the dining table writing while it’s still dark outside.  As the day comes alive I join the rest of the world and succumb to Facebook and Twitter and emails.  Normality inevitably intrudes and prompts me to cook and clean but I like to be back at my writing table as the world goes back to sleep.
  • Do you read and write in the same genre?
Yes, I am an avid reader of Karin Slaughter, Val McDermid, Lynda La Plante.  The list goes on.
  • Tell us a little bit about about your current book Silent Scream.
Silent Scream is a crime novel set in the Black Country and centres on the brash, sometimes rude, Detective Inspector Kim Stone.  While investigating a series of current murders she must uncover some secrets from the past.
  • Silent Scream is  not just about solving murders, both current and historical, it’s about child abuse, serious ill health , trust and the evolution of DI Kim Stone a character with a history that shows she is clearly not comfortable in her own skin. Where did you get your inspiration for this story-line?
I’ve always wanted to write about a character that was less than perfect.  She is not always likeable but her integrity and passion for the underdog is always present.  The story was inspired by a bus journey I would take as a teenager.  The route passed by a local children’s home.  I always found myself curious about the residents and the air of mystery that surrounded the facility.
  • How much research into the locations and the psychology of the story lines was required to give realism to the novel?
Luckily I know the area very well as it is where I have always lived.  The psychology of the storylines came from the image that I wanted to portray.  I wanted to show Kim’s vulnerable side by giving her a bond with a girl who although is limited and challenged is a fighter.  I wanted to demonstrate her humour by giving her a colleague with whom she could banter.  I also wanted Kim to have an affinity with the victims so I chose girls to whose emotions she could easily relate.
  • For me the story was compulsive and I developed an obsession of sorts, staying up half the night to read it.  The story and characters stayed with me long after the end of the book.  How easy was it for you to detach yourself once the book was finished?
I didn’t want to finish writing the story but I had to let it end.  There was a period of mourning initially where I felt that I would never discover this story again.  So, I did the only thing I could think of.  I went ahead and got started on another.
  • If Silent Scream was to be made into a film would you want to be on the casting couch and if so who would you put into the key roles? 
Oh, I would love to be on the casting couch.  If I had my way Kate Beckinsale would be cast as Kim Stone.  I would choose Bradley Walsh to play Bryant.
  • Is there a message for your readers in your book and what do you hope they take from them?
The only message I’d like a reader to take from the book is the fact that no-one is invisible.  The victims from the children’s home had painful, tragic histories but they all had problems and feelings and deserved a voice. 
  • Describe the feeling when you held your first finished novel in your hands.
Pure unadulterated joy.  Seeing and holding my thoughts as a real life book was probably the proudest moment of my life. It is a moment you dream of but the reality is so much more.
  • Do all of your friends now expect free copies of your book and was having a novel published a bit like winning the lottery all your friends and acquaintances suddenly wanting to become your best friend?
No, luckily my friends and family all want to buy it which is good because I don’t think I can let any of my printed copies go.  It would be like giving away a family member
  • What can we expect from you in the future?
The next story for Kim Stone is called Evil Games where Kim must enter into a game of cat and mouse with a female psychiatrist who uses her patients for experimental purposes.

Now for a little bit of fun, a glimpse at 
the real Angela Marson:-

What’s your favourite tipple? 
Sparkling wine
Do you prefer savoury or sweet things? 
Friends coming round  - cook or get a take-away? 
Do you prefer hot or cold climates? 
Do you prefer a beach holiday or city break? 
Beach holiday
Which would you prefer luxury cruise or fly long haul first class? 
Luxury cruise
Do you prefer to go to the cinema or theatre? 
Which do you prefer comedy or true stories when watching a film? 
True Stories
Do you have any pets? 
A dog and a parrot
Tell us something we don’t know about you? 
I drove a moped until I was forty years old.

Thanks for visiting my blog Angela :)

Thank you for inviting me.  It’s very nice here ☺

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Valentine's on Primrose Hill - Nikki Moore

About the book… 

For Georgiana Dunn, life changed forever in the devastating moment that the lorry hit her car.
Scarred and scared, she's not left the house properly in months. Then her mum buys her a puppy, forcing her to face the world again, walking on London's beautiful Primrose Hill. But that doesn't mean she's looking forward to Valentine's Day.

Leo devotes himself to working with children with special educational needs. In fact, he does very little else, and his friends are always telling him to get a (love) life. So when they challenge him to find a date for Valentine's Day, and he meets a lovely but lost girl who looks like she could use a friend, he thinks he's found the perfect solution.

But life has a way of being less than perfect … Will he be left standing on his own on the most romantic day of the year?

About the author....

Nikki Moore lives in beautiful Dorset and writes short stories and touching, sexy romantic fiction. She's thrilled to be published by Harper Impulse, the digital first romance imprint of Harper Collins.

Be My Valentine, a collection of poignant short stories by Nikki and other Harper Impulse authors was published on 13 February 2014 and has received four and five star reviews. Her debut novel Crazy, Undercover, Love was published by Harper Impulse on 24th April 2014 and will be available in paperback on 25th September but can be pre-ordered via Amazon now.

On 21 February 2014 her short story 'A Night to Remember' was published in digital and print editions of the Mills & Boon / RNA anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply, edited by author Sue Moorcroft. Best-selling authors including Carole Matthews, Katie Fforde and Adele Parks feature. Nikki's short story in that anthology has been bundled with stories by Katie Fforde and Heidi Rice in a shortened ebook available from 1st April.

Nikki's was a finalist in several writing competitions from 2010 onwards, including Novelicious Undiscovered 2012. A member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, she has contributed to their magazine 'Romance Matters,' has far too much fun attending the annual conferences and has also chaired a panel and taken part in a workshop at the Festival of Romance.

She posts about three of her favourite things - Writing, Work and Wine - on her blog and believes in supporting other writers as part of a friendly, talented and diverse community so she often features other authors and new releases on her blog.

Contact Links: 

Twitter: @NikkiMoore_Auth 

My thoughts…

Valentine's on Primrose Hill is the third book in the #LoveLondon series by Nikki Moore, having read the previous two stories I couldn't wait to read this one.

Georgina and Leo, the two main characters in this book are easy to like, Georgina has turned into a recluse, hiding behind the curtains watching life pass her by having been involved in a horrific accident, leaving her with life changing injuries. Despite being at a really low ebb, there are hints of her true character underneath and I fully invested in her story, willing her from almost the first page to get up, raise her chin and start to live again. Leo, is the floppy haired hero of the book - almost too good to be true working as a teacher with special needs children and then through a chance meeting with Georgina sets out to prove that Georgina could and should start living a full life again. He comes across as a laid back, easy going guy, with his kind and gentle nature easy to see.

The pair are brought together by Button's a puppy bought by Georgina's well intentioned mother as a way to lure her out of the house. Because of him Georgina nearly breaks her neck and is saved by Leo. A situation causing her more stress than she ever thought possible.

This was such a beautiful read, a book that has friendship and trust way up in the pecking order, the foundations that give love the best chance. Georgina, sapped of all confidence, is terrified of her own shadow and can't envisage ever leading a normal life because of her physical injuries. Nikki took us on a journey demonstrating through Leo that it is the inner person that is beautiful and not the outer packaging. Leo is used to dealing with the problems and torments of children with special needs on a daily basis and genuinely seems to see straight into Georgina's soul.  A tentative friendship begins and confidences are shared on both parts.

Nikki prods beneath the surface demonstrating time and time again that what you see isn't always what you get, Relationships built on friendship first are usually the strongest. But, just when I was headed to the shops for a hat a secret is cruelly revealed and life comes crumbling back down for the pair of them.

This book was uplifting and at the same time thought provoking too.  Was the bond and friendship Georgina and Leo forged be strong enough to lift Georgina out of the hole into which she's fallen or was Leo really shallow and the lies told actually true?  You'll have to read and work it out for yourselves, remember - this is Valentine's Day and we all love a happy ending :) I guarantee you'll be hitting that button on Amazon to order the fourth book in the #LoveLondon series as soon as you've finished this one.