Monday 27 April 2015

Time of Death by Mark Billingham

Tom and Helen, well what can I say, they aren't exactly a cosy couple are they? I don't think it is just the whole uncomfortable situation they find themselves in either. Her past certainly sits between them like a great big elephant in the room.

It was almost as if Billingham wanted to lay a stronger emphasis on the relationships between his characters, as opposed to placing all the cards on the crime element this time.

I have to say I did not understand why Helen insists on staying with a woman, who clearly harbours great resentment about their mutual past. It is uncomfortable, sometimes creepy and it seems really strange that two grown adults would subject themselves to that level of discomfort.

Personally I would have liked to have seen Helen's sub-plot developed a lot more. The reader doesn't understand the significance of her return to the friend and the town until the very end. It is such an explosive secret that it certainly deserved more attention.

In this 13th Thorne story the reader gets to see a deeper level when it comes to Helen and Tom, perhaps this actually gives a better insight into her thought processes and actions. Meanwhile Thorne is true to his stubborn detective style, he listens to his gut and not to the gossipy quick assumptions of the local population and police.
I received a copy of this book via Edelweiss, courtesy of the publisher.

Friday 24 April 2015

Q & A with Fiona Harper introducing her new book: The Doris Day Vintage Film Club

Today you are in for a bookworm treat. A great Q & A with author Fiona Harper, my thoughts on her new book The Doris Day Vintage Film Club and to top it all off you can win a vintage makeover by stylists Lipstick and Curls, all courtesy of Mills & Boon. Without further ado let's welcome Fiona Harper to the blog.

Before we get to the nitty-gritty I would like to do a set of questions called ‘Break the Ice’
Last book you read?
One Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon

Did you watch the infamous 50 Shades of Grey?
No. Haven’t read the books either!

A group, singer or song your readers would be surprised to hear you listen to? (I caught that sneaky Sisters of Mercy reference in the book!)
Well, I do have to admit to being a goth when I was a teenager, and I do still love a bit of All About Eve or The Cult.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet?
I think I'm going to have to say Doris Day – who’s just celebrated her 91st birthday. I spent so long watching her films and reading books about her when I was researching The Doris Day Vintage Film Club and I'm totally intrigued by her.

Something you treat yourself to now and again?
A good session playing Tomb Raider – any of them, from the 1997 original to the recent reboot. I love Lara Croft, and exploring booby trap-ridden temples (virtually, of course).

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk The Doris Day Vintage Film Club.

On a previous occasion you said you chose Doris Day because she ‘had been through a lot and come out smiling.’ What is it about Doris you think women of today might relate to?
Firstly, I think it’s her personality, which is partly what made her a huge star in the first place. There’s just something inescapably likeable about Doris. You see her on the screen and you think to yourself, “I’d love to be her friend.” Secondly, I think it’s the fact that although she might have seemed to have what we all want – the glamorous life, money, wonderful men and a stellar career – that everything wasn't quite as rosy as it seemed on under the surface and she had the same sort of troubles a lot of the rest of us do, especially when it came to the men in her life.

The screen icons of the Golden Hollywood era have become, aside from handful such as Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Bacall ect., a thing of the past. Nowadays women and girls look up to idols like Madonna, Beyonce, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow instead. What does Doris Day give your vintage film club (other than the fantastic films) that modern-day stars or celebrities don’t or can’t give them?
I think, despite her openness and warmth, there’s still an aura of mystery about Doris. In these days when celebrities are endlessly tweeting their every thought and bombarding us with selfies, that’s quite an attractive thing!

How important is it to you that your characters retain a sense of normality in an otherwise fairytale romance scenario? To be more specific: Is it important that real life dysfunctional families, traumatic events and personality flaws go hand in hand with your characters?
Definitely. Although I write escapist fiction, if everything’s too perfect in my fictional world then readers have nothing to relate to. I think it’s important, even when a story has that ‘how I’d like my life to be’ feel about it, that the characters struggle with the same everyday issues we deal with.

How much of yourself and your own emotions do you let flow into your stories?
Erm…quite a lot. I have been known to cry when writing certain scenes, as I get caught up in the emotion of the characters. I think if I don’t emotionally connect with the story then that’s not going to come through in the writing, and then readers won’t experience the emotional roller coaster as they read either.

Taking a closer look at DDVFC (yes it is totally an acronym now) do you think it is important for children or adults to have closure with an absentee parent?
I think we all have a very basic need to know who we are, and that can be very closely linked to where we came from and who made us. Having watched a lot of Long Lost Family (lovingly renamed “Sob fest” in my household), I’d say that many people experience a sense of incompleteness if they haven’t known one of their parents.

In Claire’s case, which is the bigger betrayal? The fact Dominic lied about his identity or where he was doing it from?
I think it just set all her alarm bells ringing. She felt she’d been duped by men who pretended they were something they weren't before and hated that feeling of being taken for a ride again. Once she calmed down a bit, she started to be able to see that maybe she wasn't just reacting to Dominic’s betrayal, but all the other betrayals that had gone before too.

I’m trying really hard not to let too many details of the story flow into the questions (spoilers), so instead let me ask you this: The DDVFC is a band of women + George, who befriend and support each other, which is an incredibly important theme throughout the book. Is that something you think our society lacks in general? Women coming together and supporting each other in a way only women can?
I think we all want good friends around us, people who will stick by us through thick and thin. Some women have that, and some would like more of those connections in their lives. I do think we’re becoming more insular as a society – connected to our smart phones and tablets instead of to other people – and it’s not a bad thing to remember how much joy interacting with another human being (or two, or even eight!) can be.

Finally I would like to say thank you for answering my questions, including the stranger ones!
Thanks, Cheryl! They were great questions! Really made me think.

Now for my thoughts on The Doris Day Vintage film Club aka my review:

The Doris Day Vintage Film Club is a mixture of a comedy of errors, strong female friendships, solace in companionship and the accidental collision of two people, who are meant to be together.

The story features an amusing twist much like a Shakespearean comedy of errors.

It is actually done in a very realistic way, and I can certainly see something like that happening in a real life setting.

It is more than ironic that Claire finds herself in a 'Pillow Talk' situation, echoing a Doris Day classic film. Not that she is aware of it, because as far as Claire is concerned Nic is a possible Mr Right under a completely different set of circumstances than she is actually aware of.

A funny war of written words leads to a huge lie, which starts out small and grows so large that a disaster is unavoidable. The perfect romance turns into a tale of disappointment and perceived betrayal.

Harper places an emphasis on romances set in a realistic scenario. No person or life is perfect, and everyone has problems. That is exactly the type of story Harper excels at, the kind of story that gives the reader the flair of romance without being left with a sense of disbelief.

At the same time throughout the book there is a strong theme of women supporting other women. Essentially the film club provides a place of comfort, a place for conversation or advice and a place where women can make other women stronger.

The women take a young girl under their wings and help strengthen her self-image and teach her to discover her personality, femininity and teach her to deal with her overbearing abusive mother.

I think that sub-plot in particular is quite important in our day and age, because we live in a time of virtual contact, online friendships and no longer get together they way we used to. It makes clubs like the Vintage Film Club even more important, both in this fictitious setting and real life settings.

Overall this is a lively, witty romantic story with some serious undertones and sub-plots. Harper has let those serious points flow into the story without disrupting the fun, the humour or the budding relationship between Claire and Nic. The are so close, and yet so far apart at the same time.

Mills & Boon is also running a Pinterest competition #VintageFilmClub Pin it to Win it for The Doris Day Vintage Film Club, giving one reader the chance to win a vintage makeover with stylists Lipstick & Curls for themselves and a friend.

Buy The Doris Day Vintage Film Club at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @FiHarper_Author@HQStories or @HarperCollinsUK

Read The Summer we DancedThe Other Us or The Little Shop of Hopes and Dreams by Fiona Harper

Monday 20 April 2015

Blog Tour ‘The Doris Day Vintage Film Club by Fiona Harper April 20th – 26th

Looking forward to the blog tour this week. I will be featuring a Q & A with Fiona Harper and talking about her new book The Doris Day Vintage Film Club

Kicking off the tour on

Tuesday the 21st is

Wednesday the 22nd on

Thursday the 23rd on

Friday the 24th right here and over at CherylM-M’s Book Blog

Saturday the 25th at and also on

and Sunday the 26th at

Mills & Boon is also running a Pinterest competition #VintageFilmClub Pin it to Win it for The Doris Day Vintage Film Club, giving one reader the chance to win a Vintage makeover with stylists Lipstick & Curls for themselves and a friend.

I hope you manage to join myself and my fellow reviewers/ book-bloggers for a chat, review and questions about The Doris Day Vintage Film Club, and perhaps some of the Fiona’s answers in the Q&A’s will reveal equally interesting insights into the author.

All this is courtesy of Harlequin UK /Mills & Boon and of course Fiona Harper.

Sunday 19 April 2015

The Girl Who Wouldn't Die by Marnie Riches

Busy, Busy, busy that is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of this book. There is so much going on that it is probably to the detriment of the actual story.

It starts off with a strong prologue that draws the reader in hook, line and sinker, the way a beginning or prologue should.

The part of the story that features the person, who passes on information in an active case to a casual bed partner, was extremely hard to swallow. I guess Georgina has to get her clues somewhere or rather the story has to flow somehow.

George/Georgina finds it difficult to cut away the ties of her past, and also finds herself drawn towards solving crimes and seeing that justice is done. Just a shame her relatives and old friends don't feel the same way.

The storyline involving the killer was quite good, and the strongest part of the book, aside from the prologue. The author wanders off on a tangent involving a suspect and the boyfriend, which was completely superfluous and didn't add much to the creepy psycho killer storyline.

Overall it is an ambitious, but perhaps overeager piece of writing. The plot needs tightening and the characters need more depth. It does however show a lot of potential.
I received a copy of this book, courtesy of the publisher, via NetGalley.

Friday 17 April 2015

The Safe Room by B.A. Shapiro

The story sways from Lee in the present to Sarah in the past. At the centre of both stories is Harden House, the house of Lee's ancestors, which now belongs to her grandmother.

The past tells the story of a forbidden love and the hypocrisy of a person, who says one thing and thinks another. Both Sarah and Lee have to battle the repercussions of the tragic events Sarah's father and Lee's ancestor

Sarah's father reacts in a way that makes her question all her beliefs about him. Silas was right after all. It is one thing to be an abolitionist and quite another to let your daughter wed a slave.

That in itself is quintessential in the thought process of said person, who believes no man should be a slave and yet at the same time thinks the same slaves aren't good enough to be part of the family.

I have to say I figured out the whodunnit fairly quickly, but the historical aspect and ghost story that played alongside the murder mystery were interesting enough to keep me captivated.

I think what I took away from this story is how little we learn about the Underground Railroad, the people who helped and those that used the network of the Underground Railroad, especially in Europe. Because it is a large part of US history it isn't really taught in other European schools the way it should be.

The Civil Rights Movement has a well deserved important place, but the slavery and the fight against it, still doesn't get the recognition it deserves. It is nothing less than admirable, courageous and extremely brave, the way the creators and users of the Underground Railway system, connected to try to save so many lives.

In its own way this story helps to inform and shine a small light on such an immensely important part of history.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets, An Anthology of Holmesian Tales Across Time and Space

If you're a hardcore Sherlockian then you will either love the enthusiasm and creative ideas in this anthology or dislike it with the same passion.

Some of these pieces or authors take the global favourites and twist, turn and reinvent them.

Personally I can say some of them spoke to me and others didn't, which is normal with anthologies.

However I can appreciate both the idea behind the anthology and the abundance of creativity that has gone into it.

The book is edited and introduced by David Thomas Moore and below are the stories featured in the anthology. I have also added the author of the piece and their websites, so readers can have a look at the writers other work.

A Scandal in Bohemia by Jamie Wyman
Black Alice by Kelly Hale
The Adventure of the Speckled Bandana by J.E. Cohen 
The Rich Man's Hand Joan De La Haye
The Lantern Men by Kaaron Warren
A Woman's Place by Emma Newman
A Study in Scarborough by Guy Adams
The Small World of 221B by Ian Edginton
The Final Conjuration by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Innocent Icarus by James Lovegrove
Half There/All There by Glen Mehn
All the Single Ladies Gini Koch
The Patchwork Killer by Kasey Lansdale
Parallels by Jenni Hill

Prepare to be surprised, creeped out, shocked and to have a few laughs. I really enjoyed the way one author put the helpful little old loyal Hudson right smack bang in the middle in a new role.
I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley.

Thursday 2 April 2015

The Critic by Peter May

As always Peter May has created a fascinating plot with an abundance of knowledge. This story is centred around wine production and the wine industry.

Enzo is drawn into the middle of a cold case that has just become smoking hot. The body of a wine critic, who disappeared a few years ago in France has suddenly turned up in the middle of a vineyard.

Enzo is known for being like a dog with a bone when it comes to cold cases. The so-called unsolvable ones, the ones with hardly any clues. Well, this case has just taken a turn for the better, if you can call finding a body or two better.

I have to say the information about the production and history of wine making was quite interesting, especially the comparison of the processes then and now.

The modern-day process has become scientific and sterile. The taste of wine can be broken down into the smallest detail and reproduced this way, whereas the old guard still places the emphasis on the territory it is grown in.

The worlds of old and new collide in this murder mystery with the wine taking centre stage. Enzo follows the complicated trail of clues, bodies, family history and romantic entanglements to the surprising conclusion of this murderous page turner.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Second Life by S.J. Watson

S.J. Watson made quite a splash with Before I Go to Sleep and this second novel Second Life is just as good at questioning the supposedly normal and happy life of the main character.

Julia seems all too eager to wade into the shoes of her sister's secret life. At first it is odd and then the cautiousness changes into excitement. She starts seeking the danger and the thrill.

Not sure why she is completely oblivious to the warning signs, and to be quite frank I think it stops being about her sister and more about Julia's secret desires.

Obviously on the surface the relationship between her and Hugh seems perfect, but obviously that can't be entirely true. They are both so disconnected from each other without even knowing it. Seeking comfort, love and thrills in the arms of other people.

I was surprised how willing Julia was to wade into something so risky. Not one doubt or thought to her safety, which I hope isn't indicative of a future trend. Oh hey, wait a minute, it already is. The virtual world has created a fine little loophole for people, who prey on the vulnerable on the net.

Whether you are single or in a relationship and decide to go looking for a secret thrill, romance or the love of your life, you would do well to remember that not everyone on the web is who they say they are. Safety and caution are always paramount when it comes to interactions on the web. That particular message comes through nice and clear in this story thanks to Watson.

I think that happens to be a special brand of S J Watson, putting the fear of doubt and the inner worm of mistrust into the head of the reader.The ending seemed a wee bit 'out there' and perhaps a little rushed after the lengthy secret meetings and the relationship between Julia and her paramour.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.