December 17

Jacqueline Chadwick

When drawing up my list of favourite books of 2017 I knew that Jacqueline Chadwick was going to feature.  I knew that from half-way through her debut novel In The Still.

There was actually only one point where I contemplated not including In The Still in the list and that was when I finished her second book: Briefly Maiden (how to choose between two cracking reads?)

It has been far too long since I had the opportunity to chat with any of the authors who have featured on my blog so I was thrilled that Jackie agreed to join me for a natter about her writing and all things Ali Dalglish…

 

First Question is never a question — this is where I ask you to introduce yourself and give your books a plug.

Well, first and foremost, I’m a mother of two, wife of a firefighter and a dog lover. I’m originally from Stirling in Scotland and I grew up in Birmingham England. I was a child actor and during my career I played a couple of well known bitch roles on TV. I left acting when I was 25, homeschooled my kids and found some time for writing here and there. When I turned 40, I bought a secondhand desk and decided to write novels. I haven’t looked back since.

Published by Fahrenheit Press in July 2017, my debut novel is In The Still where we meet Ali Dalglish living a life she resents. Having stepped away from her career and having immigrated to Canada, Ali’s marriage is crumbling, she is lonely and depressed. When the body of a young woman is discovered on a trail near her home, Ali finds herself embroiled in the case and, given her expertise and experience, is left with no option but to embark upon the hunt for the killer alongside her accidental sidekick, the loveable Marlene McKean. It is a dark and twisted tale and I hope it entertains the reader from the first page to the last.

Briefly Maiden, the sequel to In The Still, is also published by Fahrenheit Press and finds Ali back in the role she loves. This time she is working alongside the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Incident Squad investigating a series of murders in the otherwise charming town of Cedar River. Ali and her partner, Inspector Rey Cuzzocrea, discover the victims are all linked to a paedophile ring and, as a result, the line dividing good and bad becomes blurred as they are tasked with apprehending a perpetrator they suspect to be a victim intent upon vigilante justice. There is a blossoming romance for recently divorced Ali, the introduction of a couple of key characters in the series and an ending that should leave the reader eager for book 3.

 

Tell us about Ali Dalglish – how would you describe her to someone yet to read In The Still and Briefly Maiden?

Ali Dalglish is bloody fantastic. She’s intelligent, funny, caring and driven by a need to protect the vulnerable. She’s Scottish, mouthy and not afraid to pepper her superior vocabulary with inventive swear words. Her marriage is a disaster, she frequently struggles to maintain a healthy work/life balance. She has fought — and continues to fight — a long, arduous battle with severe mental illness. Ali is the kind of woman we all either want to be or want by our side. She’s forthright and takes no shit, she refuses to be bracketed, objectified or intimidated and she is blessed with a mind that makes her a formidable foe to anyone daring enough to wander into her arena.

 

How much of Jacqueline Chadwick is mirrored in Ali?

Too much. I swear as much and fit into polite society just as well as she does. I suppose Ali is my way of ranting about everything that pisses me off. She’s a gazillion times more learned than I (I know that because of everything I have to research just to fit her wealth of knowledge as seamlessly as possible into her dialogue and also because I use words like gazillion).

 

We know that Ali had a very successful career in the UK prior to her decision to relocate to Canada – is there any chance we may one day see a story featuring a younger Ali – one based in the UK?

Ha! I’m writing book 4 in the series right now. It is set in Britain, but it’s not a prequel. Over the course of the series, I’m excited to drop in morsels of information about Ali’s past since it was less than functional and, perhaps, not dissimilar to the kind of childhood that could just as easily have set her on a darker path, the kind of path chosen by the predators she hunts. The great thing about having a character that had established herself professionally in Britain and then later in Canada, is that I am able to cross the pond to write and that is a satisfying and more affordable alternative to actually jumping on a flight myself whenever I’m homesick.

 

I need to ask about the old day jobs…how does appearing in two of the UK’s most watched TV shows prepare you for writing dark and gritty crime thrillers? 

I’m having a giggle as I answer that one because being in British soap was no preparation whatsoever for anything at all in life. Wow, that was a weird trip. I can’t imagine what it would take to stay sane in that industry longterm. I stuck it out for a decade and a half but I just wasn’t the kind of puppet an actor is expected to be. I’m not very good at shutting my mouth and being what someone else tells me to be. It’s simply not in my nature and I never did feel very comfortable with it all. Honestly, I barely remember that time now, it’s just something I did as a child and as a young woman. I would have nightmares — actual wake-up-sweating-and-shaking nightmares — for the first few years after I left because I’d dream of being back in front of the camera. Give me a quiet room, some paper and a pen and I’m me.

 

Can I ask about your “Path to Publication”? (it gets capitals). Does Chez Chadwick have a drawer crammed full of rejection letters or did you ace it and get picked up in record time?

I’ve had a few false starts in writing. It has always been my goal to write for a living and so I do have a healthy amount of rejection slips although I’d never keep the buggers so, no, there isn’t a drawer stuffed with them. Rejections get deleted or binned as soon as they are received so that I can go on deluding myself into thinking I have something to offer. I was lucky with Ali Dalglish, I wrote the first three novels in the series before I let anyone read them and I sent them off to the publisher who terrified me most and felt out of reach: Chris McVeigh at Fahrenheit Press. I knew that if my work was shit, he’d tell me. Thankfully, he liked the books (all except the original ending to In The Still which he told me, in his own inimitable way, to scrap) and I’ve been lucky enough to join the Fahrenheit Press family and get on that particular thrill ride.

 

Rumour has it that there may be a third Ali Dalglish book on the horizon — can you share any sneaky hints?

I Loooove book 3 in the series. It’s called Silent Sisters and it addresses a problem I care about very much. It takes place in and around an Aboriginal reserve on Vancouver Island and, I hope, will bring attention to the very real issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls and the indifference the subject seems to inspire in political leaders. But there are two major elements to the story and so it satisfies the insatiable itch that Briefly Maiden left me with. It is gruesome and dark, twisted and grim because, in my humble opinion, murder and abuse should be nothing but those things, we should feel sickened and touched by the telling of stories that, no matter how bleak, are nothing close to the horrors of the real world.

 

And to wrap up, some quickfire questions:

What was the last book you read?

I reread ‘It’ by Stephen King after I went to see the movie (I forgot how long that sucker is).

 

City Break or Beach Holiday?  (and where is the dream destination)

Definitely city, I would love to take my family on a European tour before they’re so grown that it would be sad to go away for a month with Mum and Dad.

 

Did you ever get “star-struck” when meeting someone famous?

I’ve been to two Billy Connelly concerts and finding myself in the same room as ‘the big yin’ takes some beating.

 

Favourite pizza topping (and be warned that answering ‘pineapple’ will probably spark some twitter carnage)

I’m like Kevin in Home Alone; I want a plain cheese just for me.

 

What do you miss most about the UK?

Irn Bru, tattie scones, square sausage, not having to explain my humour and Sunday lunch over a pint in a proper pub.

 

Huge thanks to Jackie for taking time to answer my questions. I don’t have the words to tell you how much I have enjoyed her books and it is a real thrill to be able to share our chat.

In The Still and Briefly Maiden are published by Fahrenheit Press and you can order both books here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jacqueline-Chadwick/e/B074JCXLRD/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1513554879&sr=8-1

 

 

 

 

 

Category: From The Bookshelf, Guests | Comments Off on Jacqueline Chadwick
December 17

Scorched Shadows – Steve McHugh

In the final chapter of the Hellequin Chronicles, secrets will be revealed, friendships tested, and destinies fulfilled.

Avalon is under siege. A shadowy cabal, headed by a mysterious figure known only as “My Liege,” has launched a series of deadly attacks across the globe, catching innocent human bystanders in the crossfire.

Emerging from the debris of battle, Nate Garrett, the sixteen-hundred-year-old sorcerer also called Hellequin, and his friends must stop My Liege once and for all. But powerful forces stand in their way. To save Avalon, they will need to enlist the help of Mordred, once Nate’s greatest nemesis, now his most formidable ally. But Mordred is grappling with a dark prophecy that could spell Nate’s doom…

The fate of the world hangs in the balance. Even if Nate can halt the war, will there be anything left worth saving?

 

My thanks to Anne Cater for the opportunity to join the blog tour

Initially it seemed odd picking up a new series at the last book, but I have heard great things about Steve McHugh’s books from some of my blogger pals so I really wanted to try Scorched Shadows.

Now I can see why they have been so keen I try Steve’s books – Scorched Shadows was a treat to read.

Take a modern day setting then bring in King Arthur, Mordred and other characters of lore and legend – the mix of fantasy and thrilling adventure made for great reading. A full-on battle to save the world which features sorcerers, magic, battles and plenty of lighthearted moments to break up the action and nicely pace it out.

I enjoyed the dialogue between the characters. The events of six previous books are clearly very relevant but at no stage did I feel disadvantaged by not having read them. Sounds like this should not be possible yet the author brings through all the salient points (without leaving this reader feeling the backstory had been crushed in). Past alliances, conflicts and liaisons all neatly get dropped into the plot and new events zip along.

I was engaged from the first chapter – an explosive opening if you will – and once caught up in the story I just could not stop reading.

Now I know how the story ends I want to go back and see how it begins! I don’t read as much Fantasy as I once did and Steve McHugh has made me want to read more – I shall start with his books…seems a great place to start.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scorched-Shadows-Hellequin-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B071WC6Q5W/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

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December 10

From The Cradle – Louise Voss & Mark Edwards

When Helen and Sean Philips go out for the evening, leaving their teenage daughter babysitting little Frankie, they have no idea that they are about to face every parent’s greatest fear.

Detective Inspector Patrick Lennon is hopeful that the three children who have been abducted in this patch of south-west London will be returned safe and well. But when a body is found in a local park, Lennon realizes that time is running out—and that nothing in this case is as it seems…

Blending police procedural with psychological thriller, From the Cradle will have every parent checking that their children are safe in their beds…then checking again.

 

From The Cradle is published by Thomas & Mercer – you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cradle-Detective-Lennon-Thriller-Book-ebook/dp/B00K8EM27C/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

This book has been on my TBR pile for far too long, so when the chance to listen to the audiobook arose I was delighted.

This is a kidnap tale – three toddlers have been stolen away from their families by person or persons unknown.  DI Patrick Lennon is leading the investigation and he has his own family problems bubbling in the background – his wife is (shockingly) out of the picture and he is reliant upon his retired parents to help look after his young daughter.

A quick look at these lines from the description of the book:

The first child was taken from her house.
The second from his mother’s car.
The third from her own bedroom…

The third kidnap is the point where the reader joins the story. Helen and Sean Phillips are enjoying a comfortable life but everything is about to come crashing down around them, returning home from a romantic dinner they find their young daughter’s bed empty. Her big sister is sleeping on the couch but she is unusually drowsy and the backdoor (which was to be kept locked) is very much unlocked.

Most of the narrative will follow either the kidnap investigation or events in the Phillips house where tensions are as high as you may expect.  There are some additional players who will play key roles in the hunt for the missing children – but their involvement represent spoilers so you will have to find out about the delightful extra details for yourself.

For the audiobook – James Clamp narrates brilliantly and his skills at presenting multiple characters gives From The Cradle a boost above other books I have listened to – easier to enjoy a listen when the narrator is so good.

 

 

 

 

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December 7

My Favourite Reads of 2017

December is a tricky time for bookbloggers. We spend all year reading and enthusing about all the great books we have had the opportunity to read but come December many of us feel the need to create a list of favourites.

The following ten titles are the books I enjoyed  most this year. Not all were published in 2017 but it is WHEN I read them that counts (my blog so my rules).

There are some titles in this list which I did not actually “read” I listened to  them through Audible.co.uk

The “talking book” experience has been brilliant for me over the last six months. A job change meant I spend 4 to 5 hours driving each day so my reading time became listening time. It is only right that my list includes books I enjoyed because of the skill of a narrator as well as for the talent of the story-teller.

 

No ten to one countdown, these titles are equally ranked as my favourite books of 2017

 

 

Perfect Prey – Helen Fields

There could easily have been two books by Helen Fields in my list as I really enjoyed her debut novel Perfect Remains too. These dark crime thrillers introduced Luc Callanach to the streets of Edinburgh and he has to take on some extremely disturbing cases as he struggles to integrate into life within Police Scotland.  Chilling, Twisty and unmissable.

 

 

 

Block 46 –Johana Gustawsson

First of the audiobooks in my list.  I was captivated by this tale which takes the reader from WW2 concentration camps to present day and shows how a serial killer was able to stay hidden for decades. Two narrators on the audiobook really highlighted the “then” and “now” side to Block 46 and the story was outstanding.

 

 

 

Blackwater – GJ Moffat

Sometimes you just pick up a book and get lost in the story. That is exactly what happened to me when I started Black Water.  I flew through the chapters with little awareness of what was going on around me When I finally reached the end I had the “slump” of knowing the next book would just not match the captivation levels I had just experienced.

 

 

 

 

Say Nothing – Brad Parks

All I ask from any book I read is that I am entertained. Brad Parks clearly got the memo!  Say Nothing was another book I just did not want to put down. A kidnap story I had initially thought but the central character was also a judge so Say Nothing had the added bonus of courtroom and legal drama too.  One of the easiest decisions I had all year was to call this as a 5 star read.

 

 

Whiteout – Ragnar Jonasson

Another audiobook and another example of brilliant storytelling.  Whiteout sees the return of Jonasson’s popular Icelandic cop Ari Thor   What made Whiteout special for me was the way the author took the smallest cast of possible suspects and made a brilliant “whodunnit” murder mystery.  I have compared Ragnar Jonasson’s works to that of Agatha Christie in the past…Whiteout only reaffirms my assertion.

 

 

 

The Damselfly – SJI Holliday

Nobody captures characters like Susi Holliday. She could write about two strangers doing their shopping and make it feel like you had known these people all your life.  The Damselfly was the third book in the Banktoun series and it felt like I was returning to a place I had lived in the past.  Characters I loved from earlier books made cameo appearances (always appreciated) but the murder story which dominates events was superbly pitched and had me hooked.

 

 

The Fourth Monkey – JD Barker

Another of the darker titles on the 2017 list.  This was disturbing, graphic, darkly comic, superbly written and (more than once) utterly gobsmacking.  A book which just grabs you from page 1 and does not relent until you reach the last page.

 

 

 

 

The Beauty of Murder – AK Benedict

The audiobook of The Beauty of Murder was recommended to me by JS Law (author of The Dark Beneath). Boy did he call that right!  The Beauty of Murder is a serial killer story in which the killer has the ability to travel through time.  Loved that twist and it gave The Beauty of Murder an edge which most books simply didn’t have.  The time travel is not just a clever gimmick though, this is a wonderfully compassionate and clever story. With much of the action taking place in and around Cambridge University (with a Philosophy Lecturer as a lead character) it throws up some interesting discussion points too. Hugely enjoyable but with one of the saddest moments of my reading year too…

 

 

The Quiet Man – James Carol

Jefferson Winter is a profiler and he is called to give his thoughts on an unusual series of murders – each occurring on the same day year after year. Another book which simply had me hooked from the initial premise and the story had me captivated right to the end.   I enjoy the vast majority of books I read but some stories have an extra something which keeps me thinking about them (remembering them) weeks after I have finished reading and moved on to new books. The Quiet Man had that extra edge – loved it at the time and kept thinking about it. Had to be included in the “favourites” list.

 

In The Still – Jacqueline Chadwick

If you follow me on Twitter you will know that my lovely blogger pal Kate (Bibliophile Book Club) and I have been raving about In The Still since it released earlier in 2017 – with good reason.

In The Stil introduced Ali Dalglish – a feisty and formidable Scot who was formerly one of the top forensic pathologist and criminal psychologists in the UK. Ali has a lot of strings to her bow and she has been one of the stand-out characters for me this year.

Jacqueline Chadwick’s books are slick and powerful and her depiction of crime scenes and the investigations incredibly detailed and considered.  In The Still was pure reading joy – it was followed up by Briefly Maiden (which could easily have made the list too).  If you have yet to discover Jacqueline Chadwick’s books then that should be your 2018 New Year Resolution – if you like a bit of gritty noir.

 

 

So there they are – 10 of the best.  I read some amazing books this year and there are several which narrowly missed out on inclusion in this list.

Authors rely upon reader reviews and I would urge anyone that reads a book today, tomorrow or at any stage in the future to consider leaving a review for the author.  You don’t need to blog about it, you don’t need to write screeds of analysis – just a single line can make all the difference. Please remember “Wheaton’s Law” and if you cannot be kind then simply try the line “not for me”.  If you loved a book then tell everyone – chances are someone else will love it too.

To ALL the authors – I love your work…thank you.

To the publishers and authors who made it possible for me to continue blogging for another year, I am so very grateful for your trust in me.

And for my fellow bloggers who share my reviews and keep me entertained every single day – you guys rock.

 

 

 

 

 

Category: 5* Reviews | Comments Off on My Favourite Reads of 2017
December 3

Just One Time – K.S. Hunter

Desire can have dire consequences 

Two years ago, David Madden made a mistake that almost cost him his marriage. His wife, Alison, gave him another chance, but she has not forgotten, nor has she forgiven.

She is irresistible

Then David meets the alluring Nina at a theatre in London. When he loses his phone in the dark, she helps him find it, and by giving her his number he unwittingly invites her into his life.

What David initially views as an innocent flirt turns into a dangerous game of deception. His increasingly suspicious wife thinks something is up, and each lie he tells pushes them further apart.

She is insatiable

Nina pursues David relentlessly, following him to New York where she gives him an ultimatum: sleep with her, just one time, and then she’ll get out of his life forever; or she’ll ruin everything he holds dear.

She is unstoppable

Of course, once won’t be enough for Nina, and what David hoped would be the end is merely the beginning.

A modern-day Fatal Attraction, Just One Time is a steamy psychological thriller that will have you hooked from the first page and holding your breath until its shocking conclusion.

If you liked Gone Girl and Maestra, you’ll love Just One Time.

 

Thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to join the tour.

 

I am glad the book’s blurb mentioned Fatal Attraction – I have not seen many films made after 1995 and I was worried that stating Just One Time had reminded me of Fatal Attraction would make me seem a bit out of touch!!!

But it did. Remind me of a film with an obsessive female and a man totally out of his depth.

Just One Time opens with David getting drunk and intimate (graphically) on a one night stand.  His wife finds out about his dalliance. We spin forward two years and David’s marriage is just holding together, his wife has not forgiven him but for the sake of their young daughter she has not kicked him out.  David is very much aware that he is on his last chance but his “moment of weakness” had been Just One Time.

But on a night at the theatre David meets Nina.  She gets his phone number and she wants him. Obsessively and Nina is not going to give up until she gets her man. So will begin David’s torment.  Shunned by his wife and desired by a gorgeous woman will David give in to his temptations?

Well there are spoilers in answering that so you will need to read to find out more.  However, I can share that Nina will stop at nothing to get what she wants and David will find it increasingly hard to escape her advances.

Just One Time was a quick read – Amazon showing 180 pages in length so I zipped through it.  But it held my attention well and it gave more than one instance of uncomfortable reading. I appreciate why the description used Gone Girl and Maestra, it did merge the more notorious elements of each book.

A wee change of page from my normal books and I did enjoy it, some nice wee twists along the way too.

 

Just One time is the first novel by K.S. Hunter, the alter ego of an international bestselling author, whose identity will remain a secret.

The book releases on Kindle on 7 December 2017 and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Just-One-Time-K-S-Hunter-ebook/dp/B077CXFVK3/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1512246860&sr=8-1&keywords=just+one+time

 

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December 1

Gilding the Lily – Justine John

A gripping mystery of jealousy, murder and lies.

An invitation to her estranged, wealthy father’s surprise 75th birthday party in New York sees Amelia and her husband, Jack, set off across the pond to meet a whole new world of family politics.

Amelia, now a successful businesswoman, feels guilty about never liking her father’s women, so does her upmost to give his new socialite partner, Evelyn, the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just all get along? But there’s something very dark, determined and dangerous about her…

When Amelia’s father, Roger, becomes ill, Jack grows suspicious that there is more to it. Amelia understands why, but no one else will believe them. They travel back to America to piece together the puzzle, but when Roger goes missing, the couple are driven to their wits’ end. It takes a DEA officer and a secret assassin to bring them answers, but the ruthless truth is something no one expected…

 

My thanks to Justine for the invitation to join the blog tour and for allowing me the opportunity to provide a free and fair review of her novel.

 

I came to Gilding the Lily blind. I like to do this from time to time, start a book with out knowing what the story is about or even who the lead character is. I get to enjoy the story “cold” without waiting for an event (be it murder, marriage or mistake) which has been revealed in the book’s description.

Because I came to Gilding the Lily without any forewarning of what to expect I was horrified at the extent of the evil behaviour of one of the characters.  It built up slowly so by the time I came to realise what was going on I was fully caught up in the drama.

The clues had been there…

Evelyn has made a success throughout her life of captivating a partner who will look after her and give her opportunities and wealth. With more than one husband dead and gone she seeks out a new mate and further comforts her nest. She is now with Roger, he is older than Evelyn and has a grown daughter (Amelia) who he does not see very frequently.

Evelyn and Amelia do not get along. Mainly down to Evelyn’s unusual behaviour when Amelia is around. However, as Roger’s health starts to fail Evelyn becomes more and more unpredictable. She soon makes it clear to Amelia that Amelia’s attempts to see (or even speak with) her father is becoming too tiring for Roger and Evelyn and she asks that Amelia gives them peace.

Amelia is horrified by Evelyn’s behaviour. She will not accept that her father does not want to see her and she starts to worry how much input her father has had into the decision she must stay away. Is Evelyn deliberately turning Roger against his daughter? How ill can her father really be that he would turn away his own child?  Then Amelia’s husband Jack makes an alarming observation which leads Amelia to believe that something very sinister is going on.

It is tricky to give too much information on the relationship of the characters in Gilding the Lily, much of the enjoyment in this dark and duplicitous tale comes from not knowing what you can trust. Evelyn is clearly a gold digger and Roger does seem rather distant from Amelia. But is Amelia simply paranoid?  Does she object to her father taking a new partner after the death of his wife (Amelia’s mother)?

Justine John teases out shocks and twists right to the last page. I read Gilding the Lily in a single sitting…I HAD to know what was happening!  Really entertaining but with a healthy dose of anxiety for the characters. Look out for this one it is great storytelling.

 

Gilding the Lily is available in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gilding-Lily-Justine-John-ebook/dp/B01N535MZY/ref=la_B01MYYADH3_1_1_twi_kin_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1512084367&sr=1-1

 

 

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