August 28

Adventure Time: The Original Cartoon Title Cards (Seasons 3 & 4)

Adventure Time’s adorably weird and wonderful post-apocalyptic world has captured the hearts of fans worldwide. Featuring all the title cards from seasons 3 and 4 of the show, plus early sketches, creator commentary, and exclusive insights into the vast and varied inspirations behind the art, the second volume of Adventure Time: The Original Cartoon Title Cards is an absolute must-have for every fan.

Adventure Time

My thanks to Cara Fielder at Titan Books for my review copy.

When I was young I remember watching cartoons featuring Bugs and Daffy, Captain Caveman or Godzilla. Many years have passed and today the choice of cartoons is vast – there are channels which need output 24/7 so the battle for airtime is tough.

I have two boys (both under 10) and, like their dad, they enjoy the cartoons too. However, Teen Titans, The Amazing World of Gumball and even Spongebob are nothing like the cartoons we once watched (except perhaps for Chorlton and the Wheelies which was trippy – and not a cartoon).

There is one show that both my kids cannot get enough of and that is Adventure Time. When I received the beautiful Adventure Time Cartoon Title Cards book they pounced on it with absolute glee. This book is a treat for all the fans of the show. The artwork is striking, there are sketches and outlines of images used in the show, the variant title cards are particularly fun to see and it is incredible how subtle changes can alter the whole feel of a picture.  The comic book nerd in me was lapping up the unseen artwork.

I enjoyed reading some of the artist’s notes to my younger son (who at 5 is showing way more artistic skill than I will ever achieve). The commentary and discussions nestle amongst the pictures and provide some insights into the considerations that go towards selecting the ‘right’ image to include in the finished cartoon.

Adventure Time: The Original Cartoon Title Cards (Seasons 3 & 4) would be a welcome addition to the bookshelves of any fan of the show. The book looks beautiful with high quality finish and feel to the pages. It also gave my kids the chance to discuss each of the episodes over and over – the phrase ‘Oh look’ met virtually every page turn.

 

Adventure Time: The Original Cartoon Title Cards (Seasons 3 & 4) is published by Titan Books and is available now.

 

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August 27

DM For Murder – Matt Bendoris

Dm for Murder 2Shortlisted for the Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year Award 2015.

Ten million Twitter followers. One killer. Bryce Horrigan, a Brit made good in America, makes a living rubbing people up the wrong way. He revels in antagonising guests on his TV talk show, and the thousands of death threats he’s received on Twitter are a badge of honour. But when the controversial TV host is shot dead, it leaves the authorities with one hell of a dilemma. After all, where do you start investigating millions of suspects? Detective Sorrell has to separate the keyboard warriors from the real killer who begins tweeting cryptic clues. As the investigation and media storm build, Sorrell discovers a British journalist from Horrigan’s past may hold the key.

 

My thanks to Matt Bendoris for my review copy.

 

A murder mystery story for the Twitter generation.

Bryce Horrigan is a larger than life star on American TV.  He is not afraid to speak his mind and has been revelling in the notoriety of controversy. He has been actively seeking Twitter death threats by speaking out on contentious issues – all good for ratings and his follower count.  However it appears that he has finally gone one step too far as one evening Bryce’s Twitter account is used to Tweet images of his own murder.  Millions of people see images from the moments leading up to his death and the police have a problem, how to find a killer when there are millions of potential suspects?

Meanwhile in Scotland Bryce’s friend and former colleague (Connor ‘Elvis’ Presley), is following the developing story. A reporter for one of Scotland’s national newspapers Elvis and his often-hapless colleague, April Lavender, are engaging in the constant battle to meet deadlines and source content in a bid to stop falling circulation figures.  One of the highlights of DM For Murder is the dialogue between Elvis and April who often provide some comedic interludes, these scenes nicely break up the more serious chapters that featuring the official police investigation.

Elvis manages to convince the newspaper owners that he could cover the story of Horrigan’s murder much better if he was to travel to America and be ‘on the ground’ where he could use his connections to get close to those that knew Horrigan best.  The story then splits as we have Elvis and in America and April in Scotland, each uncovering more detail of how Horrigan lived his life and who he left behind in his pursuit to the top. Their investigations run a very different path to that being followed by the police and it is great to see how Matt Bendoris portrays the different journalistic skills of Elvis and April.

Although the stars of the book (for me) are April and Elvis, we also follow the official police investigation headed up by Twitter ‘noob’ Detective Sorrell. With a high profile victim and no real leads Sorrell is under pressure to come up with visible results. Help comes from unexpected sources as Twitter users start their own witch-hunt of possible suspects. More importantly for Sorrell is one user who is reaching out to him directly – suggesting a Tweeter that may merit close investigation.

If you are comfortable with Twitter you will enjoy DM For Murder immensely, the concept of the murder Tweets is unsettling but you cannot help but feel that if such an event were to happen IRL (as it were) then the retweet count would go through the roof. If Twitter is not for you then do not despair, both Sorrell and April are new to the world of Twitter and through them the concept of Tweeting and Direct Messaging is explained so everyone can easily follow how the mystery is played out.

Fun, fast paced and a cracking whodunnit…this is my type of story. I thought I had solved the murder with around 80 pages to go but I was caught out by a red herring. Well played Mr Bendoris I liked this very much.

 

DM For Murder is published by Contraband and is available in paperback and digital format

Matt Bendoris is on Twitter (I assume he knows the risks): @MBendoris

 

 

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August 18

In A Dark, Dark Wood – Ruth Ware

In A Dark Dark WoodSomeone’s getting married.

Someone’s getting murdered.

In a dark, dark wood

Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

There was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room….

Some things can’t stay secret for ever.

 

Thanks to Harvill Secker for my review copy which I received through Netgalley

 

A male blogger reviewing a Hen Night book. Tricky! I asked my wife about her Hen Nights (plural). Great fun apparently (though I do recall picking broken glass from the soles of her feet) but seemingly it can be awkward bringing random strangers together who have little in common – other than the fact they all know the bride.

Between finishing In A Dark, Dark Wood and writing this review I also saw a comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe*.  He had been a barman for many years and had an interesting view on group dynamics.  He believed that Stag Parties have an Alpha who the group will blindly follow – Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.  Hen Parties he compared to Game Of Thrones, anyone can betray anyone else in the blink of an eye.

In a Dark, Dark Wood did read just like he described.  A Hen Party where you do not feel any alliance is truly believable and (through clever use of jumping the reader forward in time to events after the hen weekend) we know that something has gone very, very wrong.

The lead voice in the story is that of Nora, a writer who lives a private and quiet life.  Out of the blue she receives an invitation to a hen party for one of her oldest friends. However, she has not seen this friend for many years and the invitation is very unexpected. Persuaded by a mutual friend from their University days (who also has an invitation) Nora agrees to travel to a remote area of Northumberland in deep, dark Autumn to spend the weekend in the company of strangers. This may not be the best decision she makes all year!

The remote setting and the oddly assembled cast of characters was very reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel ripped forward into a 21st Century setting. You know that the ‘bad guy’ is likely to be one of the guests (but perhaps not) and you know that the ‘nice’ people are most at risk (unless the irritating one is).  Beautifully complicated dynamics.

It was impossible for me not to make judgement on each of the characters, some I liked, others I did not and one person irritated the Hell out of me. Knowing that events were soon to spiral out of control I did find myself willing the nicer people to be spared from future horrors.

As the story unfolded (and Nora’s discomfort increased) I became increasingly engrossed in the book. The writing was top quality and I have to applaud Ruth Ware for transporting me from poolside in sunny Ibiza to a bleak Northumberland wood on a chilly and dark night.

In A Dark, Dark Wood is a cracking read and comes highly recommended. Definitely one to add to the shopping basket next time you are in the market for a slick and thrilling tale.

 

In A Dark, Dark Wood is published by Harvill Secker and is available in Hardback and digital format now.

Ruth Ware is on Twitter: @RuthWareWriter and at www.ruthware.com

*The comedian I have quoted is Chris Betts – he is well worth tracking down at comedy clubs/festivals. He also collects graffiti from toilet walls.

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August 14

Ava Marsh – Untouchable Q&A

Untouchable coverToday I am delighted to welcome Ava Marsh to Grab This Book.  Ava’s novel Untouchable released earlier this year in digital format and instantly became one of my favourite books that I have discussed on this blog (review link below).  This week Untouchable receives a paperback release and Ava has kindly taken some time to answer a few of my questions:

 

Shall we start with an easy one? Tell me about Untouchable and who is Stella?

Untouchable is the story of a high-class escort, Stella, who finds herself uncovering a top-level conspiracy after the murder of friend and fellow call girl Elisa. But as she becomes more deeply enmired in Elisa’s death, Stella’s own shadowy past starts to catch up with her.

Can you outline Untouchable for me in a single sentence?

Oh goodness, I’m so rubbish at summing things up neatly. How about ‘call girl revenge saga’? Hmm, no. Okay, what about ‘Gone Girl meets 50 Shades’? Perhaps not. I think I’ll go with ‘a compelling story about one woman’s fight for justice against a powerful and corrupt elite.’

You will probably be aware that there was considerable Twitter speculation over how you researched the lifestyle of an escort. Is there a balance of research and author imagination or did you actually base Stella’s routine on recounted events?

You’re right, I have been asked that question a few times! The truth is it’s a combination of both. I know several intelligent, professional women who have gone into escorting, for various reasons, and some of the scenes in Untouchable reflect their experiences. But there’s also a wealth of stuff on the internet; many escorts have blogged about their lifestyle, and how they feel about it, so it’s not hard to research.

And yes, I just made a lot up.

As Stella/Grace is the hero of the story does that make her clients default villains?  At no time while I read Untouchable did I feel that the reader was asked to make judgment on prostitutes or their clients.

I’m pleased you didn’t. I get tired of the widely-held stereotypes and general demonization of prostitution. Not all prostitutes are alike, just as not all writers are alike either – there is a world of difference between a woman with a drug habit working in Kings Cross to someone operating at Stella’s level, just as there is all the difference between being a hack writer for the Daily Mail and writing 1,000 page literary novels a la Donna Tartt or Haruki Murakami. The idea that all escorts are downtrodden or degraded by their work just isn’t true, as Brooke Magnanti (Belle de Jour) has amply illustrated.

The same holds for punters. Men have myriad reasons for paying for sex, and many of those reasons are perfectly understandable. It’s not uncommon for men to find themselves stranded in sexless marriages, for instance, and rather than leave their wife or have an affair, some decide that discreet, paid-for physical companionship is the lesser of several evils. Which is entirely fair enough, in my opinion.

Did you ever consider that you were taking a risk making your lead character a prostitute? I cannot imagine everyone will respond sympathetically to a character that has chosen this lifestyle.

I did consider it. I think there’s still a huge taboo around sex work, and there’s always the danger of being tainted by association. But I wanted to tell Stella’s story, as well as undermine some of the popular mythology around escorting.

This may be a bit of a chicken/egg question: as Untouchable developed did you start with the idea of building a story around escorts? Or was the basis of the story in your head and the characters (and their profession) subsequently fell into place?

Untouchable started when I realised that high-end escorts can find themselves in a unique position of interacting with sometimes very powerful men, in a situation where those men might well let down their guard. That led me to start wondering what might happen if an escort heard or discovered something significant or dangerous. What might she do with that information? How might she react?

I know that Untouchable has been available digitally for some time – does holding a paperback of your novel make it feel more special or real?

There’s nothing quite like holding your book for the first time. Especially when it has a lovely velvety-feel cover like Untouchable.

You were one third of the Femmes Fatales panel during the Brit Crime online book festival.  As a reader I found the whole event an absolute joy, how was it from the author viewpoint?  

Oh, such fun. I love interacting with other writers and with readers, and will debate anything almost endlessly. Just wind me up and watch me go!

A few years ago I was at the Aye Write festival in Glasgow and I got to hear Mark Billingham and Jo Nesbo compare their ‘journey’ to publication.  How long did it take you to get Untouchable from concept to a finished article that readers could enjoy?

Untouchable got its fair share of rejections. A number of agents and editors seemed unsure how to peg the book, especially as it’s fairly explicit. In terms of the time it took to write, that was about six months, then another six or so to find an agent and publisher. After that came the long slog of editing and tweaking and waiting for publication, which in this case was about 18 months after acceptance. You need patience to survive in this industry.

On a more personal level, what do you enjoy reading? Who do you consider to be your favourite authors?

When I was younger I tackled many of the classics with enthusiasm, and I still read quite a few literary novels. I particularly love Haruki Murakami, Anne Tyler, Kate Atkinson and Donna Tartt. In recent years I’ve been drawn more to genre fiction – hard to pick favourites, but Gillian Flynn is a fabulous prose stylist, while Elizabeth Haynes, Sarah Ward, Mark Edwards, Eva Dolan, and SJI Holliday are all up there on my must-read list.

When do you find time to write?

Whenever I can find the energy. I tend to fit it in around whatever else I’m doing, though I’m trying to prioritise it more these days.

Can you give us any clues as to what you are working on now?

Certainly. My next book, currently in the first round of structural edits, is called Exposure and kicks off with a porn star in prison for double murder. The rest of the story essentially explores how she landed up there.

When not writing how do you enjoy spending your downtime?

Downtime? What’s that? On my rare days off I like to get out and get active – running and kayaking both help me work off a head of steam. I read, obviously, and go to the cinema as often as I can. I also watch a lot of news and documentaries.

These days it’s the ordinary stuff that pleases me more and more. Too much drama puts me off my writing stride. I save it for my novels.

 

My thanks to Ava for joining me today.  As promised my review can be found here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=773

 

The Untouchable blog tour continues on Monday 17th with @crimethrillgirl

UntouchableBlogTour (2) [77433]

Untouchable is available in paperback and digital format.

Ava Marsh is on Twitter: @MsAvaMarsh

And online at:  http://www.avamarsh.co.uk/

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August 13

Acoustic Shadows – Patrick Kendrick

Acoustic ShadowsA thriller that will take you on a heart-pounding, pulse-racing rollercoaster ride. Perfect for fans of Harlan Coben, Lee Child, and Michael Connelly.

Erica Weisz, a new substitute teacher in the small town of Frosthaven, Florida has a dangerous secret. When two gunmen attack the school where she works, it becomes impossible to keep the truth buried. Erica is in the witness protection program and the man who is meant to be protecting her has sold her out. Wounded and running for her life she must learn to trust the only person who can help her, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agent Justin Thiery. But Thiery has his own personal demons to overcome if he is to save Erica and find redemption for himself.

 

Thanks to the Killer Reads team for my review copy which I received through Netgalley

Acoustic Shadows opens with a Hell of a bang – we follow Erica Weisz on her walk to work in the Elementary School in a small Florida school. However, before her day can get started the school comes under attack from two gunmen. However, these killers are not randomly targeting the young students, they seem to be looking for someone in particular.

When confronted by one of the gunmen Erica manages to draw a pistol from her bag and kill the shooter before he can harm her or her students. During the ensuing chaos Erica finds herself face to face with the second gunman and this time she does not escape unscathed.

The authorities are struggling to make sense of the incident. Why was the school targeted? Why did Erica bring a gun to school? And most importantly – who is this young teacher that was able to save the school children? Agent Justin Thiery is brought in to assist local law enforcement agencies, a political move which does not sit well with the town’s police force. But before any answers can be provided Erica disappears.

Acoustic Shadows is a chase novel which unfolds at breakneck pace and keeps readers gripped. We follow Erica’s escape from the aftermath of the shooting. We learn (slowly) of the reasons Erica may have been a target and we get to see her pursuers and follow their progress in tracking her down.

I really enjoyed Patrick Kendrick’s action adventure, it drew me in and kept me reading well into the night.  Normally I will have three or four books on the go at one time, after starting Acoustic Shadows I did not turn to any other books until this was finished.

 

Acoustic Shadows is published by Killer Reads/Harper Collins and is available in paperback and digital formats.

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August 12

Blood Moon (The Huntress/FBI Thrillers) – Alexandra Sokoloff

BloodMoon_TM_CVRTwenty-five years have passed since a savage killer terrorized California, massacring three ordinary families before disappearing without a trace. The only surviving victim of his rampage was a child…who is now wanted by the FBI for brutal crimes of her own.

Special Agent Matthew Roarke is on an interstate manhunt to track her down, despite feeling torn between his dedication to duty and his sympathy for her horrific history and motives. But when Roarke’s search unearths evidence of new family slayings, the dangerous woman he seeks—and secretly wants—may be his only hope of preventing another bloodbath. He just has to find her first.

The pulse-pounding sequel to Huntress Moon is sure to leave readers on the edges of their seats.

 

Review copy provided through Netgalley by Thomas & Mercer.

The second book in the Huntress/FBI Thriller series by Alexandra Sokoloff picks up after events of Huntress Moon. Reading Huntress Moon before Blood Moon is not essential but is highly recommended!

At the age of 5 Cara Lindstrom was the sole survivor of an attack on her family by a serial killer known only as The Reaper. Moved through the system throughout her childhood Cara ‘disappeared’ when she reached maturity and gained access to a substantial trust fund. Cara believes she was touched by ‘evil’ during her encounter with The Reaper and now is on a one-woman retribution campaign, killing those that she considers need to die. In killing her victims she kills the ‘evil’ within them and temporarily tames the Evil within herself.

The complexity of Cara’s character is such a pull while reading these books.  As a killer she should be the character the reader wants to see captured. Yet are her killings justified?  In killing pimps, killers and men responsible for the sale and prostitution of children does that make her the heroic character?  Having grown up as an avid reader of Marvel Comics I have a mental image of Cara playing the role of The Punisher yet she is the embodiment of Electra (the ninja assassin).

Although Cara was very visible during Huntress Moon I felt that in Blood Moon she was much more in the background. That said her presence is very much at the forefront of the story and the reader gets to experience Agent Rourke’s obsession to track her down.

There are many threads woven together during Blood Moon which make it an absorbing read. Roarke’s historical fascination with The Reaper, the influence of the moon over Cara’s actions, Rourke’s increasing obsession with Cara creating issues within his team and there are others that will reward the returning reader.

Blood Moon is book 2 of what is expected to be a 5 book series.  So far so…brilliant. I need more Huntress stories and soon! A 5/5 read.

AlexandraSokoloff.com

The Huntress/FBI Thrillers: Out now!

UK  Huntress Moon  http://amzn.to/1wEwxZo

UK Blood Moon  http://amzn.to/1CPG4Uw

UK Cold Moon  http://amzn.to/1xBtA2U

US Huntress Moon  http://amzn.to/1z3pSh5

US Blood Moon  http://amzn.to/1EqoKax

US Cold Moon  http://amzn.to/1ymNA6b

 

Alexandra Sokoloff is the bestselling, Thriller Award-winning and Bram Stoker and Anthony Award-nominated author of eleven supernatural, paranormal and crime thrillers. The New York Times has called her “a daughter of Mary Shelley” and her books “Some of the most original and freshly unnerving work in the genre.”

As a screenwriter she has sold original suspense and horror scripts and written novel adaptations for numerous Hollywood studios. She is also the workshop leader of the internationally acclaimed Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workshops, based on her Screenwriting Tricks for Authors workbooks and blog.

Her Thriller Award-nominated Huntress Moon series, following a haunted FBI agent on the hunt for a female serial killer, is out now from Thomas & Mercer.

Website: http://alexandrasokoloff.com

Twitter: @alexsokoloff

 

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August 7

The Killing Lessons – Saul Black

Killing LessonsWhen the two strangers turn up at Rowena Cooper’s isolated Colorado farmhouse, she knows instantly that it’s the end of everything. For the two haunted and driven men, on the other hand, it’s just another stop on a long and bloody journey. And they still have many miles to go, and victims to sacrifice, before their work is done.

For San Francisco homicide detective Valerie Hart, their trail of corpses – women abducted, tortured and left with a seemingly random series of objects inside them – has brought her from obsession to the edge of physical and psychological destruction. And she’s losing hope of making a breakthrough before that happens.

But the slaughter at the Cooper farmhouse didn’t quite go according to plan. There was a survivor, Rowena’s 10-year-old daughter Nell, who now holds the key to the killings. Injured, half-frozen, terrified, Nell has only one place to go. And that place could be even more terrifying than what she’s running from.

 

Thanks to Orion for my review copy, received through Netgalley

 

The Killing Lessons opens with a brutal attack on a family – two men enter their home and butcher a mother and her son.  10 year old Nell is also in the house but she manages to escape and begins a desperate flight for freedom through the woods at the back of her remote home.

Valerie Hart is a homicide detective who has been trying to track down a serial killer who mutilates female victims and leaves an obscure and seemingly random object inserted into their body. Hart has a great reputation amongst her colleagues, however, she feels increasing under pressure as the long hunt for this elusive killer drags on.

The Killing Lessons splits the story between Hart and her colleagues, the killers and young Nell who has found refuge in an unlikely place – yet she remains in jeopardy as the isolated haven she finds does not offer her the opportunity to contact the police.

The story is brilliantly balanced and Hart is an engaging lead character that you quickly find yourself rooting for.  The dynamic between the two killers is fascinating.  There is clearly an Alpha Male in the partnership, however, their relationship turns out to be quite complex and Saul Black unveils nuggets of detail as we learn more about the pair’s murderous past.

The Killing Lessons had me hooked from the outset. Seeing the hunt for a killer unfold while also keeping up with the murderers and knowing how close (or not) they were to capture was compelling reading.  The final showdown was the perfect finale too.

An absolute must read for crime fiction fans.

 

The Killing Lessons is published by Orion and is available in Hardback and digital format.

 

 

 

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August 1

Sarah Hilary – No Other Darkness

No Other Darkness PbkToday I am delighted to be able to welcome Sarah Hilary back to Grab This Book. Sarah’s second Marnie Rome novel No Other Darkness has just released in paperback and today’s visit is my leg of the Blog Tour.

I know Sarah is a horror fan and I was keen to find out if this filtered through into her writing:

 

It’s alive! Tapping the rich vein of horror

by Sarah Hilary

If you have a sofa handy this might be the moment to duck behind it. Because I’m going to riff about how much I love horror. This will come as no surprise to readers of my Marnie Rome series. No Other Darkness starts in an underground bunker, and doesn’t really let up until the very end.

Adding a dash of horror is a worthy tradition in literature; the Brothers Grimm were writing about cannibalism a century before Thomas Harris gave us Hannibal Lector, and it’s hard to beat the Room 101 rats in Orwell’s 1984 for nail-biting nightmare potential.

Crime writers have known this trick for decades, seasoning our stories with a dash of darkness. Arthur Conan Doyle served it up in spades, from The Hound of the Baskervilles to The Creeping Man.

Photo by Linda Nylind.
Photo by Linda Nylind.

Contemporary crime writers use horror to great effect, too. Mo Hayder’s Tokaloshe in Ritual and its sequel, Skin, is a blood-curdling example of how a skilled writer can weave a disturbing sense of the supernatural into hard-hitting crime stories. French crime writer, Fred Vargas, has given us ghosts, werewolves, plague rats and vampires. Enough supernatural horror to satisfy any aficionado, although Vargas (like Hayder) does a neat line in explaining everything in rational terms in the end.

 

Horror works best when it’s used sparingly. A surfeit can force the reader to look away or worse—to laugh in order to relieve the tension. Maestros know this and will provide a little light relief so that you chuckle in the intended places (usually right before you jump a foot in the air). The very best exponent of this is George A. Romero, one of my favourite film directors. Yes, zombies can be funny — cheerleader zombies, barbershop quartet zombies, Hari Krishna zombies — but always watch out for your feet and elbows. (If I have a criticism of The Walking Dead it’s that it lacks a sense of humour.)

A glimpse of the monster under the bed (or in it) is always more effective than a lingering twelve page forensic examination. Plant a seed, refer to it on occasion to be sure the idea doesn’t die in the reader’s mind, let their imagination get to work. Then—let them have it.

No Other Darkness, I hope, lets you have it with both barrels.

There’s a little horror lurking in everyone’s head. My job is to let that little horror out to play.

Blog Tour

My review of No Other Darkness can be found here:  http://grabthisbook.net/?p=468

Back in April Sarah kindly took time to join me for a Q&A to discuss No Other Darkness, our chat is here: http://grabthisbook.net/?p=743

No Other Darkness is available in paperback in all good bookshops and can be purchased in digital format too.

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