#BlogTour Girl Targeted by Val Collins

Today is my stop on the Blog-Tour for Girl Targeted by Val Collins. It is a tale of murder with an underlying sense of darkness throughout, but not just because of the murder per se. Her main character has a nose for murder, which leads to the discovery of self and snake pit full of lies.

About the Author

“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read but writing is a pretty new adventure for me.

Of course I wrote stories when I was very young and I especially loved rewriting the ends of movies but I was an impatient kid and had an unfortunate tendency towards perfectionism. When, at around the age of ten, I realised my attempts at writing dialogue were dire, my writing career came to an abrupt end. A few years ago I decided to try my hand at writing again and Girl Targeted was the eventual result.

Girl Targeted is set in Ireland where I have lived all my life. It’s set in an office, an environment I know well as my entire working life has been spent doing office work. I’ve worked for small and medium sized organisations, for multinationals and for many different business sectors. Unfortunately, I was never lucky enough to come across anything as exciting as a murder so I had to rely on my imagination to create Aoife’s world.

I really loved writing Girl Targeted and I hope you enjoy reading it. Val”

Follow @valcollinsbooks on Twitter or ValCollinsBooks on Facebook

Visit valcollinsbooks.com

Buy Girl Targeted(UK)

Buy Girl Targeted (US)

About the book

A Psychological Thriller/Suspense set in Ireland.

Office jobs can be stressful. Aoife’s may be lethal.

Aoife’s life is finally on track. She’s happily married, pregnant with her first child and has the world’s best mother-in-law. But when Aoife accepts a job as an office temp, her entire life begins to unravel. Is one of Aoife’s colleagues a murderer? Is Aoife the next target? Why is her husband unconcerned?

Can office politics lead to murder? Girl Targeted is a perfect read for fans of Behind Closed Doors, Girl on a Train and the Silent Wife.

Review

It is a tale of murder with an underlying sense of darkness throughout, but not because of the murder per se. The feeling of fear, uncertainty and confusion comes from an entirely different place.

The story pulls the reader in two directions, and if I am being completely frank, I am not sure that was intentional. I think the relationship between Aoife and Jason was supposed to be a mere distraction in the background with the murder mystery taking centre stage. Personally I found their relationship and the clear message it sends, far more compelling than Aoife playing a very young and naive Miss Marple.

There was one thing that bothered me about Girl Targeted, and I could not be clearer about it being a personal preference thereby having nothing to do with how much I enjoyed the read. When it comes to names that look one way and are pronounced a completely different way I tend to suffer from my very own version of the Stroop Effect. Example: the word purple being written in red, do not read the word say the colour. So, the same happened with the name Aoife. Pronounced Ee-faa (and yes the author does tell the reader how to say it), my mind says Oyff. I was annoyed by own brain going Oyff nope Ee-faa the entire time. ‘Sigh’

I digress.

Let’s get back to what really had me intrigued when it came to this story. On the surface Aoife and Jason appear to be a happy young couple with a new baby. Jason’s views are perhaps a wee bit chauvinistic, but there is nothing wrong him wanting her to stay at home with the baby, right. There is however something wrong with Jason. He wants to control all the money, the narrative and who Aoife meets or talks to.

Wrapped in a bubble of apparent concern is the insidious nature of the beast called abuse. Jason uses emotional abuse to control Aoife. He uses neglect and coercion to convince her to do everything he wants. He traces her every move, controls every penny and manipulates others to get his wife to do what he wants.

It seems almost innocent and can easily be mistaken for overprotective love or concern for a loved one, which is often how an abusive partner gets away with it. They try and take away any financial freedom, make the victim dependent upon them in every way and seclude them from family and friends. Extreme jealousy and paranoia are usually precursors for abusive behaviour.This element of the story, and the way it evolved, was really interesting.

Girl Targeted is a murder mystery with the serious topic of abuse woven into the story. The main character has a nose for murder, which leads to the discovery of self and a snake pit full of lies.

Buy Girl Targeted at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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Blog-Tour: Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech

Today I am thrilled to welcome an author from my local area, and to be taking part in the Blog-Tour for Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech. It is a remarkable read you don’t want to miss.

About the Author

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines.

Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.

Follow @LouiseWriter @Orendabooks #MariaintheMoon

Visit louisebeech.co.uk

Buy Maria in the Moon

About the book

‘Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’

Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.

With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything.

Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

Review

Maria in the Moon has echoes of Eleanor Oliphant, especially when it comes to the anti-heroine type of main character. Another common denominator is the fact I enjoyed both stories, because the authors travel far off the well beaten path of literary clichés.

Catherine-Maria has this strange need to help others, she does this by volunteering at crisis helplines, which brings her into contact with people at their most vulnerable moments and often their last moments. Regardless of her own issues, and there are plenty of those, she always manages to wrangle herself into a position where she is confronted with the worst case scenarios in society. Her new pet project is a helpline set up to help the victims of the 2007 floods of Hull and East Yorkshire.

Part and parcel of the volunteering is being known under an alias. This is to keep both the volunteers and the callers safe. In Catherine’s case the pseudonym is also an important part of her identity crisis. How can she be Catherine-Maria when she doesn’t really know where Catherine-Maria went.

She knows Catherine, the promiscuous danger loving girl with a prickly attitude and a sharp-edged tongue. She knows all the personalities and names she pretends to be. She is a walking, talking example of coping mechanisms. The question is what is she trying to cope with, because at this point she doesn’t have a clue. The only thing she knows is she can’t remember entire years from her past, and someone is haunting her both at night and during the day.

She meets Christopher there, yet another man she connects with via her volunteer work. At this point one could start to question whether her romantic relationships are just an involuntary reaction to the emotional distress caused by the phone conversations she has to navigate and digest.

Another major part of her story, and the person who steers the majority of her reactions, is her mother. Their relationship is complex and most certainly the cause of many of her problems. Their problems go beyond the normal mother and daughter conflicts.

Maria in the Moon is a cold realistic ‘look in through the window’ approach to a highly sensitive subject. Beech pulls it off like a million dollar art heist. Although Catherine isn’t the most sympathetic of characters, which is completely on par with a real situation of this kind, she does build a tenuous rapport with her audience, the readers. Kudos to Beech for being able to convey the confusion, pain, anger and desperation of the emotional turmoil and most importantly the complexity of the situation.

A commendable and memorable read.

Buy Maria in the Moon at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

the roanakeThis will be a difficult read for any reader, but especially those who have experienced anything of this nature.

Lane is called back to Kansas when her cousin goes missing. Returning to the place her mother ran from, that Lane ran away from and quite a few other Roanoke girls have run from. There seems to be some reason the women in the family try to escape from the seemingly idyllic ancestral home.

What Engel captures well is the co-dependent relationships in these scenarios. The people and relatives who remain silent, condone and often even facilitate the abuse. She also hits the nail on the head when it comes to the insidious nature of sexual abuse.

In this case it’s grooming in the form of family loyalty, devotion and love.

The reactions of both Lane and Allegra may seem a contradiction at times, however they are a true representation of the complex emotions victims of abuse go through.

To know it’s wrong on a base level and at the same time to crave the love and attention of the abuser, it’s all part of the spider-web of incestuous relationships. In a scenario with multiple children or teens there is also the question of why her/him and not me? Feelings of guilt are mixed with fear, confusion and disgust.

Yates is charming, enigmatic and has all the power in each relationship he has. There is no ugly monster lurking in the shadows or a stranger trying to persuade them into a dark corner. Instead the real monster is a handsome loving father and grandfather. Of course he believes it is just a meeting of the minds and soul-mates. They are simply made for him.

Yes, it is that creepy. At the same time it draws you in, despite the subject matter and the sheer horror of the scenario. The fact that this happens all the time, and isn’t just an outlandish fictional idea, is what makes the plot even more compelling.

Buy The Roanoke Girls at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any retailer.

The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve

the starsIn our day and age the problems Grace encounters might seem conventional and the way she deals with them completely normal. In 1947 her attempts to be independent and raise her children as a single mother would have been frowned upon. In that era the wife was still very much considered to be property of said man. Women were still coming into their own and starting to throw off the chains of their servitude.

Grace has no idea that her marriage isn’t like every other marriage. Gene is her first sexual experience and her first encounter with what she believes to be love.

When Gene disappears in the midst of a terrible fire she gets the opportunity to discover new emotions and real love. She also experiences friendship with both genders and the kindness of strangers.

Faced with a life of abuse, neglect and anger she has to make a choice to either stay and be silent or refuse to endure a life lived on the terms of a bully.

Kudos to Shreve for adding historical facts and for the authentic feel of the story. Grace was and is every woman, regardless of the era.

Buy The Stars are Fire at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer

Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon

dont closeThere are plenty of hot topics in this psychological thriller, however I think there was one in particular that resonated more with me. Possibly because in this story it is the root and cause of everything else, all the other problems to come, and perhaps also because it is so commonplace nowadays.

Divorce, separation, custody battles and enforced patchwork families. That doesn’t mean some families don’t manage amicable arrangements, however the emotional trauma still remains the same. Depending on how vicious and vindictive things get the emotional damage is unmeasurable.

For the twins, Robin and Sarah, the moment they are ripped apart is the beginning of the end. The reader meets two happy little girls in the past and then moves forward to encounter two unhappy women in the future. The paths the two of them take are completely different. Robin finds fame and enough anxiety to fill a house, whereas Sarah creates a family, but is ousted by her manipulative husband.

It is fair to say that all is not what it seems, as the layers of this story are slowly torn away like someone peeling an onion. The anger, abuse and hate ripples through the two families over the years. It leaves victims in its wake.

Seddon confronts the reader with quite a few uncomfortable truths, and yet simultaneously she spins a web of fear, deceit and mayhem around them. It is done in such cunning way that you don’t see the twist coming until it nearly smacks you in the face.

Buy Don’t Close Your Eyes at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @hollyseddon and @Atlanticbooks

Read Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

Blog-Tour: Don’t Say a Word by A.L. Bird

I do ‘love me some A.L. Bird’ so it is my absolute pleasure to kick off the Blog-Tour for the amazing Don’t Say a Word by A.L. Bird. Get ready for another tense and captivating read.

About the Author

AL Bird lives in North London, where she divides her time between writing and working as a lawyer. The Good Mother is her major psychological thriller for Carina UK, embarking into the world of ‘grip-lit’. Don’t Say a Word is her new psychological thriller from HQDigital, an imprint of HarperCollins. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London, and is also an alumna of the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course, which she studied under Richard Skinner. She’s also a member of the Crime Writers’Association.

For updates on her writing, you can follow her on Twitter, @ALBirdwriter, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ALBirdwriter or by visiting her website, at www.albirdwriter.com

Buy Don’t Say a Word

About the book

A happy child.

Every parent knows the world can be scary. Lawyer Jen Sutton knows it better than most. And she’ll go to any length to protect her son from what – and who – lies outside their front door.

A loving mother.

Some might say she’s being over-protective. But isn’t it a mother’s duty to protect her child from harm?

A family built on a lie.

Jen has kept her secrets safe. Until the postcard arrives, signed by the one person she hoped would never catch up with her… and her new case begins to feel a little too close to home.

One thing is clear: Jen has been found.

Now, she faces a choice. Run, and lose everything? Or fight – and risk her son discovering the truth.

Don’t Say a Word is the electrifying new psychological thriller from AL Bird – perfect for fans of CL Taylor and Sue Fortin.

Review

It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. In a nutshell that is both the life motto and curse Jen lives by and with. She is convinced her past is right on her heels and ready to implode her new life. She is hiding from a vengeful, abusive ex, and someone who used to be both her closest confidante and her nemesis at the same time. Chloe is with Jen 24/7. In her head, on her mind and featuring in quite a few flashbacks. Jen feels as if she is hemmed in by the paranoia and the gut feeling that retribution is waiting just around the corner.

So when a case at work starts to ring a few alarm bells she puts it down to her heightened senses and her instincts. All she ever thinks of is her son and keeping him safe. These coincidences are exactly that, aren’t they? And that is precisely why Jen is always in a constant state of anxious apprehension. She knows the fear will always follow her around like a little black rain cloud.

There is a chapter in this book that really annoyed me, not from a plot point of view, but because it is the painful truth. The way some children fall through the system. The kids with no voice, the ones no one ever listens to, because they are invisible. Then the way the system or rather those enforcing the system, become nothing more than highly judgemental morality police. They judge based on ticked boxes, theoretical knowledge and false assumptions.

Be prepared for the kind of read that makes you query the characters, the truth and perhaps even the systems our society uses to keep our children safe. Whether we like it or not there is a level of indifference, which in turn explains why abuse and domestic violence are still so prevalent in the 21st century.

Sometimes I think Bird takes pleasure in screwing with our brains. Nothing is ever what it seems in her stories. The lines between the good and the bad guys are always skewed. Fifty shades of grey instead of clear black or white. The reader is often suddenly blind-sided by the unexpected twists and turns.

Don’t say a Word is a ride on the wild side with barely any space to take a breath and exhale. Bird combines her experience of the real world with her innate talent for creating fascinating reads.

Buy Don’t Say a Word on Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.


Follow @ALBirdwriter and @HQDigitalUK

Read The Good Mother by A.L. Bird.

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

good-meThe age old question arises in Good Me, Bad Me. Does nurture win over nature? Can the environment change what years of nature have defined and formed?

It’s actually quite interesting that Annie has become Milly. In a way the two names and identities are a symbol for the two sides warring within her.

Annie represents the old life, the life filled with abuse, pain and killing. Milly represents the new life, a family with no ties to her dark past and the possibility of a normal life.

I have to admit I wanted Bad Me to come out to play more often when it came to Phoebe. After all those dark years with her mother Milly is then subjected to the horrors of high school bullying. On a level, which would break even the hardest of people. Good Me tries really hard to keep Annie at bay, but ultimately she peeps out now and again to defend herself.

Throughout the book we see Milly struggle with her emotions. She is happy to finally be free of the horror and yet at the same time her greatest desire is to see her mother again. Is that evidence of her inner conflict and her inability to comprehend the destructive nature of their relationship or is it an indication of something more nefarious?

What Land does really well is make the reader feel sympathy for someone who might not be worthy of it, but then the world isn’t really made of black or white scenarios. It’s the shading and the grey that makes for the unusual exceptions in life. Milly is most certainly an exception to the rule.

The other aspect Land excels at is the question of guilt. To what degree is Annie the victim and to what degree is she as guilty as her mother? Will the child raised by an abuser and killer possibly follow the same path in life or will she gladly settle into obscurity and a normal life.

This book will probably make readers sit on the fence and watch with bated breath as the story unfolds, and yet in the end they still might not be able to decide whether Good Me or Bad Me wins. I know who I am rooting for and it probably isn’t the one you think it is or the one I should be rooting for.

Well done to the author for the fascinating read.

Buy Good Me, Bad Me at Amazon uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.