BritCrime giveaway – enter the raffle to win

To celebrate the launch of BritCrime’s first free online crime fiction festival, 11-13 July, I have teamed up with BritCrime authors to give away one fabulous prize.

You could win a gift bundle of ten print books, including new releases by Colette McBeth and Sarah Hilary, and MJ McGrath’s Gold Dagger longlisted White Heat. This giveaway is open internationally. One lucky winner will win all ten books.

Please complete the entries in the Rafflecopter before midnight 9th July for a chance to win.

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/230d85cf4/

To learn more about the BritCrime festival, please visit http://www.britcrime.com/ and sign up to the newsletter. There will be giveaways and live Q&As with bestselling British crime fiction authors hosted on BritCrime’s Facebook page 11 & 12 July.

The Magpies + What You Wish For by Mark Edwards
No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary
The Life I Left Behind + Precious Thing by Colette McBeth
White Heat by M J McGrath
Beyond the Rage by Michael J Malone
Follow the Leader + Watching Over You by Mel Sherratt
The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Leave a comment

Filed under crime fiction

The End of the Wasp Season

Well the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is only two weeks away. Therefore the 2015 Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Challenge (try saying that quickly after a couple of glasses of wine) is very nearly at an end.

By my reckoning there are 56 authors appearing during the main three days of the festival. Of those there are 28 authors that I haven’t read. That is a pretty poor show by anyone’s standards. I’m actually beginning to think that this might be an impossible challenge. I think I need to join forces with some of my fellow bloggers who are attending. I’m sure if we all put our heads together and combined our reviewing forces we’d be able to cover all the authors. Maybe I should arrange for us all to meet for a coffee at Harrogate and we can see if we’ve managed it?

On the positive side however, the TOPCWFC2015 Lite as I’m now calling it is much more manageable. The aim of this one is to read at least one author in every session. Again by my own calculations removing things such the dinner, and the reader awards there are 16 sessions. Currently I have read at least one book by an author in 15 of these sessions. I think with two weeks to go that is pretty good going, so it’s just one more book to go.

Of course the actual blogging is very far behind the reading
I had an interesting conversation the other day with someone who was saying they used to write a book review blog, but found that they read more than they had time to review so gave it up. I completely understand what they mean, I definitely read alot more books than I actually review. I suppose it depends on what you like doing most. If you let yourself get bogged down in it, the reviews start taking over your life, the unwritten ones becoming as annoying as a wasp round your glass of wine. I enjoy writing this blog and I like to think that occasionally someone other than my family actually read it, but for me it’s always the actual reading that is the best part. The blog is just an added bonus. On that note, time to stop writing and get on with some more reading I think. Challenge completion here I come.

Leave a comment

Filed under blogging, Theakstons Festival

Fear Nothing

I’m writing this sitting on my own in a lovely restaurant, on an incredibly busy street in Toronto. I’ve just finished a very tasty risotto with fiddleheads (I had to ask the waiter, they are basically rolled up green beans) whilst enjoying a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve had a very busy day, I’ve been on a bus tour of the city, I’ve been on a boat round the islands, I’ve visited a food market, I’ve found a bookshop that apparently has 12 miles of shelves although I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration and I’ve sat in a sports bar and had a beer amongst a group of blokes watching the blue jays play the Canadian version of rounders.

All in all it’s been a pretty good day. As I’ve been wondering around on my own it seems that everyone wants to talk. Everywhere I go people have been chatting to me, and without fail they always seem surprised I’m travelling on my own, and they tell me how they wish they had that confidence. Obviously it is not something I had a choice in as I’ve come for work (I volunteered purely for the good of the team obviously, I’d hate to put anyone else through this hardship) It was however my choice to fly over a few days early so that I could enjoy the city and have a couple of days holiday on my own.

I never think of myself as particularly confident, especially compared to others. I walk into a restaurant and I’ll sit at the table I’m given and stay there even if I don’t like it. I’d hate to cause a scene after all. Yet having sat here that is clearly not what others think as one couple I’ve been watching have sat at five different tables before they eventually ordered some food. I would avoid walking into an empty shop as I’d feel compelled to buy something I didn’t want just because I’d feel bad walking out empty handed. If I pick up a bottle of orange juice instead of apple juice, at the till I’ll pretend it is what I wanted rather than ask to change it and hold up a queue.

Canadian’s don’t seem to have any such qualms when it comes to causing a stir. I visited the CN Tower yesterday and unwittingly ended up causing havoc. I got to the ticket office which was practically empty and obediently stood where I assumed the queue started. Unfortunately this wasn’t the designated area for people to line up. When I stepped forward to buy my ticket a massive queue of people had built up behind me. Whilst I quietly bought my ticket and slipped away pretending it was nothing to do with me, the staff were threatening to call security in order to move people who were refusing to lose their place in the queue and move to the correct side. If anyone had asked me to move in the first place I’d have gone bright red, and moved as fast as I possibly good whilst mumbling apologies to anyone who was nearby.

I think the idea of confidence is often misrepresented though as I don’t believe it is something you are necessarily born with but it is something you can choose to have. I was nervous of flying alone to a foreign country. I could have chosen to wait and come out with others, but I chose to do it on my own. (I should point out here that whilst in my head I am now the modern day Amelia Earhart, I am aware that travelling to Canada is not exactly the same as back packing round India, or trekking through the Amazon rainforest on my own!) Once I got here I could have spent every night sitting on my own in my hotel room cooking my own meals (A handy travel tip for the middle classes – two Gideon bibles and an up turned iron is a great way to cook an egg apparently) yet whilst I’m here I want to experience as much as I can. I have one rule when away which is that I can only eat in places we don’t have in York, that is obviously a lot easier here in Toronto than in Birmingham.

I remember when I was young and went through a phase of thinking I was very cool and trendy and writing great life affirming slogans on my pencil case such as Don’t worry be happy. One such phrase was ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ As annoying as it sounds now, there is some merit in that one. Whilst clearly once I get home and the holiday spirit wears off I’ll revert back to my usual self. Someone who will walk into a shop and wonder round pretending to be really interested in purchasing items, even though I’ve accidently walked into Burtons for men, instead of Dorothy perkins. At the moment I think I am brave enough to return the wine I’ve just bought as it’s a merlot not a cabernet – then again let’s not be silly wine is wine after all.

1 Comment

Filed under Holiday

Finders Keepers

It has been said to me that I’m quite a nosy person. I don’t think that is true, but I must admit to a complete fascination with other people’s bookshelves. There is nothing better than a nicely organised wall of books. I love walking around at dusk when the lights are on but people haven’t yet shut their curtains and seeing what people have on their shelves.  (That statement sounded better in my head than written down!) That’s why I was really interested to read the recent post by Cleopatra loves books ‘On my bookself‘ and her inspiration Snazzy books.

As you can imagine I have quite a large number of books, although I can’t say they are particularly well organised. I think how a person categorizes their books says a lot about their personality. I imagine some people have a full a-z system going with excel files detailing everything they own and what shelf it is on at any particular time or who is currently borrowing it (that reminds me I must ring my sister)

I’ve seen others who shelve them by colour, others by size, some people don’t keep books in the house donating them straight to charity as soon as they have read them. I imagine there are others of the kindle generation who think bookshelves are all flat screen images.

Clearly none of those enviously organised systems are me. I’m definitely a bit of a hoarder when it comes to books, but whilst I wouldn’t give dewy decimal a run for his money I do try and keep a vague system and always aim to store books by category. By far my smallest category is travel books. 20150602_205254Obviously these are on pride of place by the door – let’s be honest we all put our guidebook selection where it can be seen by guests, unless of course the only travel that’s ever been done is a caravan to Skegness for the weekend.

20150517_130446My next shelf is cookbooks, this is quite a large shelf. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I do love a good cook book. Clearly the majority of my books are vegetarian ones, and I do like to waste a bit of time reading through nice looking recipes whilst waiting for the pizza to be delivered.

By far my largest category of books, is crime novels. Even in here there is a vague system. 20150602_205329The top shelf is full of those books I’ve got signed, there is then a section for those I’ve not yet read, and there is a special section for those I wish I’d read but never going to try which is hidden behind the curtain.

Of course I do wish I was a bit more organised. Over the years I dread to think, not only how many books I’ve acquired by ‘borrowing’ from others and simply forgotten to return, but also how many I’ve lost by lending them and completely forgetting about them. It’s most definitely a case of finders keepers when it comes to books in my house, but I have to admit that to me that’s what books should be about. Whilst I do love seeing the lovely organised shelves of other people, there are not many readers who come to my house and go away empty handed. Although I probably won’t remember what they took the following day, so if you are looking for  a new read pop round!

5 Comments

Filed under libraries, Reading

Disclaimer by Renee Knight – a review

This was a book I had picked up and looked at a few times in bookshops recently. So I was very pleased to see that it was to be featured in my favourite panel of the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writers Festival, the New Blood one. As I’ve said before if it’s good enough for Val McDermid it is good enough for me so I purchased my copy.
Disclaimer centres on Catherine. She’s a successful film  maker, who has recently moved into a new house with her husband Robert. One night she picks up a book that she finds on her bedside cabinet, which she has no recollection of buying (not quite sure why she doesn’t think a book just arriving like this is strange but let’s gloss over that bit!) The standard disclaimer at the front that states ‘the characters are not based on real life’ has been crossed out. As Catherine starts to read she realises that the strange book is about her. The story in it is describing a secret relating to her son that she has tried to bury. Things become even more sinister when her drop-out son also says he’s recently read a copy of the book which had been pushed through his flat door one day. The other main character in Disclaimer is Stephen who has recently lost his wife, and spends his days talking to her in his head whilst he sorts out her clothes. It soon becomes clear that Catherine and Stephen are linked.
Disclaimer is one of those stories that to really enjoy you are best not knowing much about it, so it’s difficult to review properly. However I can say I thought it was a really good story that I read over 5 days (whilst going to work and having the occasional social outing) Every time I thought I was going to guess the ending, there was another twist and off it went again. 
Throughout the story I kept changing my perspective of who was good and who was bad, and I can’t say any of them were particularly likeable but that’s often the case with this type of novel. It would all have been much simpler had Catherine just told her husband the truth, but then she thought she would never be found out.
There were a few unnecessary bits, and i thought the ending was a little weak. Yet despite this I thought Renee Knight’s debut novel was excellent and look forward to seeing her at the festival in July. 

3 Comments

Filed under book review, Theakstons Festival, Uncategorized

The Sick Rose by Erin Kelly – a review

I picked this book up on a recent trip to a fantastic bookshop in the middle of Helmsley. I had tried to buy this from amazon once before but I had obviously gone too click happy and had ended up with The Poison Tree instead (review here) That of course is one of the bonuses of a real bookshop, you know you are getting the right thing. Slightly confusingly though, at the same time I was reading this, my current audio book was another Erin Kelly, this time the Burning Air. Luckily I really enjoyed them both.

The Sick Rose centres on Louisa and Paul. Louisa is a gardener who is working on recreating a garden at an Elizabethan Mansion. Paul is a witness to a crime and is sent to the garden to hide until he has to testify. Both of them are hiding their backgrounds from those around them, and begin to form a relationship with each other.

This was an excellent book. I realise that I use the phrase ‘I couldn’t put down’ in nearly all of my reviews. I also realise that it is not strictly true as unless I’d had an unfortunate incident with some super glue of course I can put it down. However what I should say is, I didn’t want to put it down. 

The gradual unveiling of what had happened to Louisa as a naive rebellious teenage was really interesting. You could see from the outside it was all going to end in tears, but equally you can see how it’s the way the teenage mind works. Both characters had childhoods with little guidance and so they get caught up in things they don’t know how to get out of.

The way the two are drawn together despite their age difference is cleverly written, and by the end you really hope they will work out. Despite Louisa being older, she’s also the more naive having spent most of her life hiding from her past. Wheras Paul knows where things went wrong in his past, but was still powerless to stop it.

The final chapter of the book was something I didn’t see coming at all, and I thought the epilogue was a great addition. Often they can be seen as just a way of tying up lose ends, whereas this epilogue left me shocked.

I would definitely recommend this book, and if Erin Kelly is an author you haven’t yet tried, but are a fan of psychological crime novels I would urge you to try it (I’d also urge you to visit the bookshop in the centre of Helmsley if you are ever that way!)

1 Comment

Filed under book review

The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson – a review

I was lucky enough to be given a copy of this via netgalley. Although I’ve since found out that Catriona McPherson has an extensive back catalogue of books, this was the first of her books I’d read. I have got one of her previous novels, ‘As she left it’ on my to be read pile but for some reason it never made it to the top.

The Child Garden, centres on an old school called Eden. It was a school (I think set in Scotland) that prided itself on being an alternative school for happy children. The school was shut down after a child died during an overnight camping trip, and is now being run as a care home. The ex-school’s only neighbour is Gloria who has a son in the home. She lives in Rough House which is a spooky old place that belongs to one of the home’s residents, Miss Drumm.  Gloria’s life starts to change when an old school friend, and previous Eden pupil turns up on her doorstep. He claims that he is being stalked by an old friend from the school, and that she wants to meet him. Things are clearly not that simple however.

This book quickly hooked me in. During the first few pages I thought it was going to be a bit of a run of the mill, nasty man harasses naive reclusive women novel. However I was soon surprised. This was a really interesting story that was full of twists and turns. There were some bits that I thought were a little predictable, but there were enough surprises that this didn’t matter, and it soon swept you along. Equally at first I thought I was going to dislike Gloria as she started off seemingly rather meek and mild, yet as the story progressed I began to see that actually she was just lonely and mourning a son who wasn’t yet dead.

The plot was quick moving, and I liked the way the characters were introduced. There was almost a sense of each character having a seperate story. You found out their story and what had happened to them, then the chapter was closed and you moved onto the next one. This appealed to the soap opera fan in me, where each character has its own spotlight, and it is not til the end they all come together.

My only slight critiscism was the prologue at the end which I felt was all a little bit too ‘happy ever after’ for those involved. However saying that I don’t like it when a story isn’t concluded properly, so maybe its better this way.

Overall I would say this was a thoroughly good read, and I’m definitely going to give ‘As she left it’ a go shortly.

Leave a comment

Filed under book review