Friday 28 April 2017

Magic Reborn by Carly Hansen

Today's post is all about a new adult urban fantasy called Magic Reborn written by Carly Hansen. It is the first in The Peacesmith series by Hansen.
About the Author
Carly Hansen is convinced that when she was born the doctor used a novel to whack her on the bum to make her take her first breath. She’s been lost in the world of fiction ever since she can remember, either devouring books by her favorite authors or scribbling the wild imaginings that pop into her head. She's kept conjuring up stories, even after growing up and working in the admin department of a not-for-profit organization.

Carly cherishes spending time with her family and is proud to be owned by a very possessive cat and an overly-protective dog (though she suspects the real reason the pooch chases away all those other dogs in the park is so as to not have to share the treats in Carly's pocket). When not writing, Carly is likely to be found in skis or skates in the winter, or in her swimsuit throughout the rest of the year.

Carly feels humbled and grateful that she gets to share her writings with the world and positively loves to be in touch with readers.

Follow @Me_CarlyHansen on Twitter or on or visit
Buy Magic Reborn
About the book
On the run and disguised as a boy, Fenix Graystone finds sanctuary when a witch opens her home,
arms her with charmed knives, and transforms her into a fearsome fighter. But when an enigmatic vampire overlord arrives seeking help to solve the murders of three young women, Fenix’s new-found peace shatters.

The kidnapping of a fourth girl stirs up strange emotions in Fenix, bringing her illegal magical powers to the surface. But the magic within her points Fenix to suspects too close to the vampire overlord for comfort.

Now she must ally with an enemy she didn’t even know she had if she hopes to rescue the girl and bring the killers to justice—before she becomes their next victim. If you like fast-paced action, strong female leads, and a dreamy love interest, you'll want to get lost in these pages.
Magic Reborn is the first in The Peacesmith series, a new adult urban fantasy. Hansen lets the details about why the series is called peacesmith trickle through slowly, so the reader isn't overwhelmed by the revelations. It is a well-paced story with memorable characters.

It is safe to say that magic is the main ingredient of this urban fantasy. More specifically why Fenix feels the need to not only bind, but also try to hide and deny her magical powers. That happens to be easier said than done, because when push comes to shove, magic will out.

Fenix is an interesting choice for a name in a sense that in a way it alludes to her use of powers and rising from the ashes, a wee bit like a phoenix. The title is another tip of the hat in the same direction. She certainly hides well behind the exterior of being a boy or should I say trying to hide. Not everyone is taken in by her disguise. For one thing, she apparently smells really sweet to some supernatural beings, unbeknownst to her of course. Girls are made of sugar and spice don't you know.

As the story unfolds the reader is taken from the present day to the past. Fenix experiences flashbacks about a traumatic event in her childhood. Now years later when tasked with finding the killers of quite a few young girls she finds the murders are somehow linked to herself.

The author has created a solid basis for this series. There are secrets galore, a handsome and highly irritating vampire, a witch with an affinity for strays and of course the girl with palms as powerful as.. well the problem is no one really knows. Fenix is the classic unknown variable in this magical equation.

I think it's fair to say Hansen has only just begun and hasn't hit her literary stride quite yet. I'm certain she will though.

Buy Magic Reborn at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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Thursday 27 April 2017

The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker

Half the fun when you're reading crime is figuring out who the killer is, so it's unfortunate when said killer gets squished by a bus in the first few minutes of a book.

In this case it's all about finding his last victim. A one-eared teen hidden in a cement jungle in a dark room full of nasty surprises.

The killer picks his victims in an odd way. He chooses to inflict secondary pain by killing someone close to the person he wants to punish. Of course that pain is nothing compared to the butcher-like torture he expresses upon his physical victims. Bit by bit and parcel by parcel.

A cat and mouse game ensues with Detective Porter, who is dealing with plenty of personal issues at the time FMK returns to make a last stand.

There are plenty of twist and turns combined with strong characters and a compelling plot. Barker likes to take his readers to very dark places, literally dark places.

I will not tell a lie, the author manages to create the type of images that make your spine tingle and the hairs rise up on the back of your neck. It's creepy and vicious, in a very IT clown staring up at you from a drain, kind of way.

Barker writes a wicked plot, a wee bit gruesome and barbaric at times, but definitely a fast-paced and blood fuelled exhilarating read. Definitely an author I will be revisiting.

Buy The Fourth Monkey at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Wednesday 26 April 2017

The Cows by Dawn O'Porter

Sometimes when a celebrity writes a book their image conjures up certain expectations, so I was ready for something pleasant, warm and funny.

Instead I was surprised, in a good way I might add, by how gritty, feisty, hardcore and brutally honest it was. When O'Porter says cows she really means cows.

The reader follows the lives of Tara, Stella and Cam. Tara is a successful documentary maker, who has to put up with a misogynistic boss. Stella is grieving the death of her sister and trying to establish her own identity. Cam is a feisty blogger, who ends up becoming a bit of an online celebrity after she tells the world that she doesn't want to have children.

The lives of these three women become linked when one of them becomes a viral sensation when she is secretly filmed during a very private moment.

Leaving aside the plot and multiple story-lines for a moment, I do think the author has managed to create a sort of megaphone for women, and their opinions, in this book. Women often aren't aware that other women are actually their worst enemy and at the spearhead of the fiercest vocal opposition.

You kind of expect men to try to undermine, control and belittle women. It is unfortunately part of as yet unbroken ancient societal habits. However when other women try to bring you down, it often feels like more of an affront. Surely other women should know exactly how you feel, think and all about the problems one encounters as a woman?

One of the topics Porter sheds a light on to make this point is women who choose not to have children. You wouldn't believe the amount of criticism a by choice childless woman encounters in her lifetime. They are accused of not fulfilling their duties, not contributing to the world as they should. More power to them I say. I have plenty of friends for whom no children was and is a life choice. It has never even dawned on me to try and point the finger, convince them otherwise or chastise them. Regardless of with or without children I admire anyone who has a clear view of what is best for them, and has the guts to live the way they want to.

Women should learn to empower other women. To support other women instead of trying to break them down in an attempt to justify their own life choices or mistakes.

The second point the author makes is about the hypocritical way women are treated when it comes to sexuality, to be more specific, their sexual pleasure. They are shamed and ridiculed for having wants and needs. In this case no one points the finger at the voyeur or the person filming Tara secretly. In one foul swoop she is treated like a pariah, an unfit parent and a very loose woman. All because of one moment of intimate pleasure.

As I mentioned before I was pleasantly surprised by the in your face brutal honesty and to be quite frank our painful reality. O'Porter is definitely a voice to listen to in a crowd full of noisy voices.

Buy The Cows at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @hotpatooties or visit

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Walking Barefoot by Grace Coleman

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Walking Barefoot by Grace Coleman. Aside from my review, info on the author and the book you can also download a free copy of Walking Barefoot on Smashwords. Only today...for 24 hours!

*To claim your free copy of Walking Barefoot simply visit Smashwords on the 25th of April and enter the discount code FR64E at check out. There are no limits to the number of downloads but hurry, this code will only be active for 24 hours!*
About the Author
About the author: Walking Barefoot is Grace Coleman's debut novel. It began 6 years ago in a Byron Bay basement and had significant re-sculpturing after a Curtis Brown novel writing course in 2013. When not pretending to be an author, Grace Coleman is TV Scheduler who lives and works in London.
About the book
Set in a futuristic London in a world ravaged by war, Walking Barefoot explores the life of Will, past and present. The cocksure eighteen year old who goes travelling in a bid to find himself. The city living adult who struggles to be happy despite his well paid job, upper quadrant apartment and sexy girlfriend. When nightmares begin to haunt his sleeping and waking life Will is unsure whether he is suffering from the illness that killed his father or being led by unseen forces to uncover a city-wide conspiracy. As his paranoia heightens he must ask himself - is he willing to lose himself to find the truth?
Imagine being able to transport yourself to the place of your dreams in the blink of an eye. A bit like time-travel without the whole time-space continuum aspect of it all. In a world full of constructed reality and a life lived nearly entirely inside glass walls, it is no wonder some people try to live vicariously through others and any means possible.

Will has decided to do the equivalent of a gap year before settling down to the dreary business of life. He is fascinated by the places and countries his father once visited.

Continents, countries and towns that are virtually non-existent in the history books, the minds and memories of people. Places slowly deteriorating, decaying and disappearing from sight and mind. Will wants to walk in his father's footsteps. To smell the fresh air and to experience new worlds.
Years later, as his career is ascending into the higher echelon, his mental health starts to deteriorate. At first he thinks it is just stress and pressure, but then Will starts to question things. What is reality and what is fantasy?

You know what they say, it's not paranoia if they are really out to get you. Will is convinced that there is something untoward going on. He is determined to get to the bottom of things, except he isn't entirely convinced that his fears and hallucinations aren't just an indication of mental health issues.

Coleman has created a world built on dreams within conceptual hallucinations. It is a futuristic story with a very subtle dystopian undertone. Think Matrix with a side-order of end of the world angst and a tiny slice of horror. Although the author brings the story to a conclusion, I do think a sequel could be a possibility, then again that may just be wishful thinking on my part.

Buy Walking Barefoot at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

*To claim your free copy of Walking Barefoot simply visit Smashwords on the 25 April and enter the discount code FR64E at check out. There are no limits to the number of downloads but hurry, this code will only be active for 24 hours!*

Tuesday 18 April 2017

The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

I wouldn't describe this as a novel, it is more like a series of tales that interconnect. At the same time the tales can be viewed as short chapters, because some of the threads are woven from the first to the last one.

It is quirky with a strong geographical and cultural vibe to it. Mma Ramotswe is the main character, and boy does she drive the story.

In the midst of all the witty repertoire, folklore infused messages of morality and general sense of humour, there are some serious topics too.

I think McCall likes to slide them under innocent looking rocks, the type of rocks scorpions use to hide in the shade. When you move them or are in the close vicinity you just never know what might scuttle out and pinch you.

In a sense the author lulls the reader into a false sense of security. You get all comfortable, fuzzy and smile at jolly ol' Mma Ramotswe, then bam you're blind-sided by domestic violence. A slap to the head and you're frozen by the kidnapping and murder of children for the use in witchcraft rituals. A joke here and a giggle there, and racism raises its nasty little head.

It is a very subtle way of introducing the reader to the complexities of the country and the intricacies of the power structures within the country. At the same time the reader gets a taste of the people and their traditional settings.

I liked it. It has a quirky charm to it.

Buy The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse

Leave it to Skuse to roll out the crazy train when it comes to characters and plots. I can almost guarantee that there will be something really twisted in any story she writes.

At first Rhiannon seems like such an underdog. The type of person everyone likes to shove around and kick while they are down.

Never praised for her achievements or allowed to rise above her lowly station. Typically the type of person to end up being a victim.

Then there is the other side of Rhiannon, the part of her personality nobody knows about. Hmm well some of them know, but they choose to say nothing. thereby possibly endangering the rest of humanity. Ok that might be a slight exaggeration.

When the reader is introduced to the more vengeful side of Rhiannon they may find it hard to feel any sympathy towards her at all. She is cold, calculating, and yet at the same time you could say she is ridding the world of unsavoury characters. The thing is, who is she to be both judge and jury, and to hand out punishment. Saying that, a small part of me totally identified with Rhiannon aka Sweetpea. I'll leave it to your imagination to figure out which part of her I identified with.

Essentially that is part of the Skuse magic, she isn't afraid to write what everyone else is thinking or present the unimaginable. Occasionally we all have the kind of thoughts that could land us in prison. Luckily we don't have anyone policing our actual thinking processes yet. Close, but no cigar, as yet.

Sweetpea is a brutal read, but perhaps more so because it isn't your typical garden variety killer. You might find it an uncomfortable read at times, because there is a wee bit of Sweetpea in everyone of us. Kudos to the author for another memorable read.

Buy Sweetpea at Amazon uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Monster and The Deviants by C.J. Skuse.

Tuesday 11 April 2017

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

When you compare how many books are written about the perpetrators of the Holocaust vs books on the brave people who tried to stop the face of evil. Well, the scales are rather imbalanced. Regardless of whether it would have changed the outcome of history or not, at least they tried. Against all odds, they tried..

Marianne thinks she needs to keep her promise to protect the women and children of her husband's co-conspirators. That in itself is a noble thing to do, and she does in fact save Benita, Ania and their children in her own way, however Marianne can be very judgemental at the same time.

The pain, horror and difficulties of those considered to be the guilty party tend to be swept under the rug. After everything the people of Germany did, and their collaborators of course, why would anyone feel any pity towards them? The author gives the reader a flavour of some of those post-war difficulties. This doesn't mean she excuses or shifts the blame, she just tries to remind us that in war there is a lot of collateral damage, and the lines between guilt and innocence are often very blurry.

Towards the end of the book there are conversations between Ania and her daughter Mary. They are reminiscent of conversations, questions and clarifications Jessica Shattuck had with her own grandmother about her past.( I loved my grandmother, but she was a Nazi) Shattuck has tried to align the image she has of her grandmother with that of her past as a member of the Nazi party.

Many scholars and historians have spoken of a collective criminality, responsibility and guilt when it comes to the Nazi era. Men and women, who under normal circumstances would never have committed crimes, are guilty of participating in and allowing the worst of atrocities.

No matter how hard Shattuck looks for an explanation there will never be a satisfactory answer. The majority of these men and women weren't sociopaths, psychopaths or sadists. The majority of them were normal people in the midst of a mass movement of propaganda, patriotism and not so subtle brainwashing, who did condone and commit sadistic crimes. They looked the other way and chose to believe the truth of the concentration camps was merely Allied propaganda. It's easier to ignore than to accept that you are part of the problem.

The one thing Shattuck can and should take away from all of her literary attempts to alleviate some genetic sense of guilt, is that the descendants are not to blame for the sins, mistakes or crimes of their ancestors.

The Women in the Castle is a well balanced read. It considers both sides of the coin, and most importantly the collaboration of both sides to attempt to rebuild lives after the war. Marianne, Ania and Benita are mothers and friends, there aren't just women influenced and driven by the choices of their past.

It is tale of friendship, hardship and ultimately one of loyalty. Shattuck delivers the harsh reality of war in a direct and no nonsense way. There is no need for violins or overly dramatic scenes. The truth is sufficient. Definitely an author I will be revisiting again.

Buy The Women in the Castle at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Choir on Hope Street by Annie Lyons

This is a story of support and friendship, and how the smallest of lights can become a beacon of hope in the darkest of times. The members of the group are as different as can be, and yet they all have at least one thing in common.

The Choir brings them all together, and although the main reason is to save the hall, they really enjoy being a group. It's like a home away from home.

Two women strike up the unlikeliest of friendships, even if it is more of a tenuous one at first. Both of them are struggling to cope with problems in their private lives, whilst trying hard to maintain their composure and the outside façade.

Natalie finds her supposedly perfect life in sudden disarray when her husband suddenly decides to change the parameters of their relationship. Caroline is struggling to connect with her mother, with whom she has always had a strained relationship. Dementia is a cruel companion, an illness that takes no prisoners and leaves no family member unaffected.

Lyons knows exactly how to portray the reality of relationships, which is especially evident in the 'thought bubbles' of the characters. You can say one thing, but think an entirely different one. The relationship between the two women is like a tug-of-war of emotional support. They are both frightened to admit that they need someone in their corner.

As always it is a story readers can relate to. Nearly everyone tries to remain strong in difficult situations. Admitting that you need a friend or support can be tantamount to a sign of weakness for some. The truth is everyone needs help now and again. Maybe everyone needs a song too.

Buy The Choir on Hope Street at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @1AnnieLyons or @HQStories visit or connect with Annie on Facebbook

Read The Happiness ListLife or Something Like it or Not Quite Perfect by Annie Lyons.

Friday 7 April 2017

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

This book is one of those little gems shining through in a sea of books.

Barr manages to present a rather tragic story with an incredible amount of humour, love and compassion.

The reader meets two versions of Flora, actually make that three, because there is also an in-between grey area. We meet docile Flora, the girl who follows rules and listens to her parents. Then there is Flora the impulsive adventurer. The girl who is off her meds. Third Flora is the girl who exists in the confusion of post-tablets and pre-clarity.

Flora has problems with her short term memory. She relies on post-it notes, written messages on her arms and a handwritten book of memory props to get along every day.

Now at this point I have to wag a finger at any a parent who would leave a vulnerable child, teen or young adult alone based on the assumption that another teen will be looking in on them. Teenagers can be as flighty as birds and as dramatic as a reality TV show character on LSD.

So Flora is left to her own devices and ends up coming off her medication. Even before that she spends an unhealthy amount of time obsessing about being kissed by her best friend's boyfriend. The kiss becomes a pivotal part of the story, her obsession and a possible recovery.

Her search for Drake is a bold one, but it is also one ridden with dangers. The fact she is lucky enough to encounter people who care, which is perhaps a scenario we all wish for, if one of our children were alone and in trouble. Flora is halfway across the globe searching for love, and the only person who is aware of her exploits is her brother.

Barr makes an important point when it comes to vulnerable people and independence. Are they hindered by their loved ones when it comes to evolving, growing up and being able to make their own decisions? The gut instinct to keep them safe may also be the factor keeping them from moving forwards.

I really enjoyed the read. It is funny without being insulting, it is realistic without bending the boundaries of imagination and it definitely pulls on the heartstrings. I would love to know what Flora gets up to next. At this rate she may end up in a tent on top of Mount Everest.

Buy The One Memory of Flora Banks at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @emily_barr Visit

Follow @PenguinRHUK

Read The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

Thursday 6 April 2017

Blog-Tour: Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl

Today I am excited to take part in the Blog-Tour for Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl. 
Faithless is part of a police procedural series featuring the #Oslodetectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich.
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.
About the book
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, atmospheric page-turner marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.
Buy Faithless
Faithless is a psychological thriller done Dahl-style. The author captures the noirish witty quality of Scandinavian banter, especially between the police officers or detectives.

I think at one point I actually gawped at the pages, due to the amount of rubbish Frølich had to put up with. The sheer audacity of Janne and Karl, but especially Janne. She gives off a Children of the Corn crazy cult chick vibe. All wagging fingers and lectures. Kudos to Frølich for keeping his cool in the face of her cray cray logic.

Multiple crimes and story-lines are woven seamlessly into the story, which sounds easy, however it does take skill to do so without one being detrimental to the other. The author does this in such a subtle way that the reader just goes along with the flow of it.

Dahl has created strong memorable characters with quirky personalities. They think nothing of taking the proverbial urine out of each other, then seconds later they maintain the face of pure professionalism. Saying that, certain members of the team have the tendency to go all lone wolf in their investigations, and one of them ends up in mortal danger.

The author delivers a captivating read and mixes his specific panache with a Nordic Noir style. He pulls the reader along for a wild ride of suspicions, accusations and rash decisions.The Gunnarstranda and Frølich books can be read as stand-alone novels. You don't really need the back-story to get the gist of it. Either way you're in for a great read.

Buy Faithless at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Connect with @Orendabooks

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister

I have to admit this one had me muttering and shaking my head, whilst I was reading.

Aside from being a wee bit obsessed and jealous, Rachel is quite simply a rather big hypocrite throughout the entire book. Omitting the truth and keeping secrets, well let's just say Jack isn't the only person guilty of doing that.

I think McAllister has incorporated a pretty controversial topic in this read. How far would you go to defend your family and keep them safe? Seems like a straightforward question, right? I suppose if you disregard the law and a few morals it isn't such a big issue.

My dislike for Rachel, or rather her character, grew exponentially as she discovered more about Jack and judged him consistently. I understand why he did it. The law and the enforcement of the law is tantamount to a sham when the criminals can do whatever they like without any repercussions at all. To make matters worse, the victims can't legally protect themselves or their property without falling foul of the law themselves.

We live in an age, an era which allows a criminal who has broken into your home to sue you if you hurt them or they hurt themselves during their criminal escapade. The rights of the criminals seem to have taken precedence over those of their victims.

Taking all the prior events into consideration I fail to see why Rachel is so disturbed by it all. He lied to her, I can understand why that would be an issue, but surely she can find some compassion for the predicament he found himself in?

Told you, I just got very annoyed by her reactions, especially considering her own past indiscretions and unethical decisions. They are not far from being on equal standing where bad decisions are concerned.

To me a plot with a moral dilemma worthy of many a discussion is a good read. McAllister does it in a really subtle way, in a way that draws you in and makes you mumble under your breath. Ok, maybe that's just me.

Buy Everything but the Truth at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @GillianMAuthor


Read Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister
Read No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister
Read my review of The Evidence Against You by Gillian McAllister

Saturday 1 April 2017

Blog-Tour: Vixenhead by Eve Seymour

No this is not an April Fool's Joke, instead the Blog-Tour for Vixenhead by Eve Seymour is a fabulous pre-Easter treat featuring a fantastic guest post by Eve Seymour!
About the Author
Eve Seymour was born in West Bromwich in the West Midlands and spent much of her early years in the surrounding area. Through an unhappy chain of events, she was sent away to school in Malvern then Cheltenham, later fleeing institutional life for the bright lights of the Edinburgh Festival. Captivated by the city, she decided to stay – home being a grotty bed-sit next to a football ground - and paid the rent by selling stationery supplies.

After a move to London, she began an arts degree, which she dropped out of to join a public relations consultancy – home moving up several gears to a flat in Kensington, shared with a couple of old school-friends. During her P.R. career, she was involved in a number of accounts, mainly medical and nutritional, and included the Woman’s Own Children of Courage awards, which she ran for two years. After another move to a P.R. consultancy in Birmingham, she married and moved to South Devon. Five children later, she began writing in her spare time. Previous writing credits include a number of short stories broadcast on BBC Radio Devon, and articles in Devon Today magazine. She has since bent the ears of a number of police officers in Devon, West Mercia and West Midlands, including Scenes of Crime and firearms, in a ruthless bid to make her writing career more enduring than previous attempts.

Follow @EveSeymour  and @HarperImpulse. Connect with Eve Seymour on Facebook or visit
Buy Vixenhead
About the book
Somewhere in Vixenhead, I’m certain the truth lies...
A sudden disappearance
When Roz Outlaw's partner Tom mysteriously vanishes, she knows his life is in danger. Tom has been distracted lately, afraid, as though he is being hunted...
A desperate search
With the police showing little interest Roz knows it falls to her to find Tom. But as Tom's secrets are uncovered nothing can prepare Roz for the dark lies and twisted truths she finds. She thought she loved Tom, but quickly realises she has been living with a stranger – a man with murder in his past.
A house of evil
The key to unlocking Tom's past lies in his childhood home – Vixenhead. A house of wickedness that keeps its secrets well hidden. Can Roz find Tom before it's too late or will the evil within Vixenhead claim her too...

Guest Post
The Writing Process by Eve Seymour

My writing process has evolved over the years.  I used to be very technical and write pages of character profiles in long hand, followed by sixty page ‘treatments’ for plot purposes.  A ‘treatment’ would consist of spelling out the inciting incident (the event from which the story sparks) followed by Acts broken down into scenes, broken down into turning points (revelations).  In other words, ‘Plan, Plan and Plan!’  The ‘big finish’ (when main player comes up against main foe) was always quite detailed before I put pen to paper - or rather fingers to keyboard.

When writing spy fiction I carried out an enormous amount of research on intelligence agencies and on chains of command within the intelligence cycle. This would also involve looking at the politics of countries as well as reading up and talking to people involved in organizations like the United Nations and The Refugee Council.  After assimilating every piece of information, I’d work out a storyline and then write.  I still work on detailed character profiles but the actual plotting is more relaxed.  The terrific thing about writing psychological thrillers with strong family dynamics is that little research is required.  Either it’s imagined, or drawn from direct personal experience.  I reckon most writers are amateur psychologists and it’s really important to understand how people tick.  It’s also something that deeply interests me.  Given another life, I would choose clinical psychology as a profession.

While a premise for a novel might spring to mind randomly and quite quickly, I may spend many months ‘noodling’.  For this, I use a new notebook and simply jot down ideas, interesting lines I might overhear in a restaurant – I’m a terrible eavesdropper – and character traits.  The longer I wait, the more ideas bed down.  Again, the ones that aren’t workable, no matter how I approach them, are jettisoned.  There comes a saturation point when I simply sit down and throw away most of what I compiled.  What’s left is then put into some kind of order that only makes sense to me, and then I write the first draft.  During that time, I might go ‘off piste’.  This often occurs when a character doesn’t quite behave in the way I first imagined.  However I’m quite structured so always find my way back to the main thrust of the storyline.

For Vixenhead, some of the above went out through the proverbial window.  I had the idea for the story many years ago, but couldn’t think of a way to make it work.   The ‘light bulb’ moment occurred when I hit on the idea of a dual narrative – something I’d never done before.  Only through writing and crafting the story did I discover that dual narratives come with an attached risk:  if you aren’t careful, the wrong character gets the equivalent of prime time viewing.  Initially, I found it hard to strike the right balance.  Several drafts later, it became obvious that Roz Outlaw should take precedence over her missing man, Tom Loxley.

In the early days, I’d schedule sixteen weeks or so of writing time to fashion a first draft.  It felt slightly like running a marathon and I’d be quite pedantic about jotting down a word count each day.  With ‘Vixenhead,’ I sprinted through the first draft in short bursts – no word counts.  This method would take the form of a week on, maybe a couple of weeks off, to fit it around my day job and family commitments.  The advantage:  it gave me a chance to think about the story when I wasn’t writing.  I then returned to it with fresh eyes and revised.  Personally, I think it also helped to increase pace and tension.  There wasn’t that awful temptation to slump into snooze time mid section.  After the first draft was buttoned down, I concentrated more fully on writing and revising over longer periods of time.

As with most stories, the editing process continues after a publisher decides to publish a book.  This is always the scary bit.  They’ve said ‘yes’ and yet there is always a ‘but’.  Seeing someone else’s take on the novel you’ve spent so much time crafting can be a tad daunting – even when your editor is spot-on with comments and suggestions.  Next, comes the ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ moment because most writers, and I’m no exception, can be quite blinded by the words they lovingly put on the page.  I usually deal with this by shouting a lot followed by doing absolutely nothing for a few days.  Once my editor’s suggestions have time to percolate, I usually (and often with a red-face) see a clear way forward and think how dim I was not to have seen it before.  It’s fair to say that, with ‘Vixenhead’, Charlotte Ledger’s insightful suggestions made my story so much better than I could have dreamed up on my own.  

So, for me, ‘Vixenhead’ was a great adventure in terms of content, character and the way in which I crafted the story.  I hope some of that thrill shines through.

Read my review for Vixenhead here

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Vixenhead by Eve Seymour

You think you know someone, but the reality is nobody really knows anyone completely. Everyone keeps secrets and in this case the secrets are the kind that destroy lives.

Roz thinks her boyfriend of three years is her Prince Charming, until one morning when he drops a few reality shocks on her ever so perfect life. All of a sudden he doesn't want the same things she does. Then later that day he disappears into thin air.

It is by sheer chance that Roz finds out Tom has been hiding not one, but multiple past lives from her. A criminal who is trying to hide from the consequences of his crimes. Or is he?

Seymour brings together a painful past and a violent altercation, which somehow sets the path for a young boy and his life on the run. His life of lies and deception.

I liked the way the author brought it all together in the end. There isn't a neatly tied bow with a warm and bubbly happy ending. Instead there is realistic one.

The lines between guilt and innocence become rather blurred in this story. The main character makes the reader wander between sympathy and antipathy with the frequency of a ping pong ball in a tournament.
It's an interesting read.

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The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

I've read a lot of books about the Holocaust. Non-fiction, fiction, biographical and eyewitness accounts. I admit to being shocked and saddened when I read a fact about the Holocaust I wasn't previously aware of.

Unfortunately it is usually something even more inhumane and heartbreaking than the facts I have already read about.

After all these years, and all the accounts, I still find it hard to fathom and comprehend the atrocities committed during the Nazi era. Pam Jenoff discovered the reference to and details of the baby train in the archives of Yad Vashem.

A train carriage full of babies on their way to a concentration camp. No food, no water or milk, no human touch and no saviour in sight. Just helpless infants on the road to certain death. Many of them succumbing to the lack of care before they reached their final destination.

Jenoff combines this horrific fact with the true story of circus families who hid Jews in the midst of their travelling shows, during the Nazi-era.

The baby in this story is pivotal in connecting and binding all the characters. The child is a symbol for Noa and is synonymous with survival. The survival of every Jew, every gypsy and every victim of the regime. It doesn't matter where he came from or who he really belongs to, all that matters is making sure he lives to tell the tale.

Jenoff tugs on the heartstrings, whilst awakening the moral compass in every one of us. She mixes fact with fiction to create memorable reads. If you want your heart to bleed, your eyes to weep and want to reach inside the book and hug the characters, well that's what this author does best.

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Read The Last Embrace or The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff.