#BlogTour The Story of Our Lives by Helen Warner

Today it is my pleasure to take part in the Blog-Tour for The Story of our Lives by Helen Warner. It’s a testimony of love, loyalty and friendship between four friends throughout the good and hard times. Unconditional love and support over twenty years.

About the Author

Helen Warner is Director of Daytime for ITV where she oversees a wide range of programming from ‘This Morning’ to ‘The Chase’. Previously, she was at Channel 4 where she was responsible for shows including ‘Come Dine With Me’, ‘Coach Trip’ and ‘Deal or No Deal’.

She lives in Essex with her husband and their two children and she writes her books on the train to and from work.

Follow @HQStories

Buy The Story of Our Lives

About the book

Four friends. Twenty years. One powerful secret. Everyone remembers where they were on 31st August 1997, the day Princess Diana died.

Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa certainly do -– a beautiful cottage in Southwold, at the start of an annual tradition to have a weekend away together.

Every year since, the four best friends have come back together. But over time the changes in their lives have led them down very different paths. And it’s when those paths collide that the secrets they’ve been keeping come tumbling out.

One Day meets Big Little Lies in this unputdownable read about four friends, one long-buried secret and the histories we all share.

Review 

Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa are a close-knit group of friends. The reader follows them through their trials and tribulations over a period of two decades. They meet every year at the same time to celebrate their friendships and all the changes in their lives. Pregnancies, career changes, marriages, affairs, betrayals and life in general.

There is a fair amount of victim blaming when it comes to Amy and her situation. ‘If only she was a little tougher. If she stood up for herself it wouldn’t happen.’ This is a common reaction and misconception when it comes to domestic abuse, the assumption that it is just about the victim not being able to stand up for themselves. Even her friends are quick to place the blame on her.

It’s easy to ignore the obvious, when it comes to domestic abuse. The hard part is supporting victims, despite the fact they may go back to their abuser. It takes an incredible amount of courage to leave a situation of complete control, isolation and fear.

I have this rule of thumb when it comes to books or stories I read. If the characters or premise evoke any kind of emotion, even if it is anger or irritation, then the author has done their job. So with that said let me just have a grumble about Sophie and the way she reacts at the end. Can we all just say hypocrite. Her indignation and anger are misplaced, and ironic to say the least. Talk about selective memory and being judgemental. Okay, I feel much better now.

Warner has created a story that will resonate with a lot of readers, especially those who understand the complexities of friendships between women. Friendships that stand the test of time, relationships with people who exhibit loyalty under extreme duress and are willing to stand by you through your hardest times. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

The Story of Our Lives is an ode to the special connections we make in life, about the paths we choose and the mistakes we make. It is also about the people who walk with us instead of away from us when things crumble and fall apart around us.

Buy The Story of Our Lives at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

 

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#BlogTour Hydra by Matt Wesolowski

hydralast

Matt Wesolowski is back with another venture into his extraordinary premise and story format Six Stories. Hydra lives up to its name with its many heads and threads, as the author lops them off one by one only to be confronted by yet another unanswered question. I am thrilled to be participating in the BlogTour for Hydra and hope you enjoy hearing about it as much as I enjoyed reading it.

About the Author

Matt Wesolowski is from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature Feature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio..

Follow @ConcreteKraken or @Orendabooks on Matt-Wesolowski on Facebook or visit him at mjwesolowskiauthor.wordpress.com

Buy Hydra (Six Stories 2) here

About the book

A family massacre. A deluded murderess. Five witnesses. Six Stories. Which one is true?

One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the northwest of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.

King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five key witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was as diminished as her legal team made out.

As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess… Dark, chilling and gripping, Hydra is both a classic murder mystery and an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller that shines light in places you may never, ever want to see again.

Review

When I read Six Stories I thought it was a refreshing premise. I think it is ingenious that Wesowloski has chosen to use the same format again, indeed now he has done it again a series wouldn’t go amiss.

We are back with our investigative journalist Scott King, who uses podcasts to engage with his audience. Hydra is a set of interviews by Scott with the killer and people who have something to add to the case. Friends, acquaintances and anyone who can give insight into why this young woman would decide to just annihilate her entire family one day.

This time he is re-examining the Macleod Massacre. A young girl called Arla has been convicted of bludgeoning her parents and sister to death with a hammer. She is serving her sentence at a medium security mental institution, because the court found there was enough evidence to suggest diminished capacity at the time of the event.

There doesn’t seem to be any reason why, and yet as Scott talks with one person after the other a picture emerges of abuse, stolen innocence and of betrayal on a massive scale. In a way it is a snapshot of how society fails so many vulnerable children, and how we are too willing to ignore signs of distress and calls for help.

What appears to be a tragic and yet simple case of girl gone psycho slowly develops, under the watchful and inquisitive eye of Scott, into a series of events that in the end cause an avalanche of violence.

Wesolowski pokes the bear and angers the hive with this poignant and introspective story. Embedded in this tale of assault is the power hungry drive of a specific breed of social media user, who thrive on the fear and pain of others. Anonymity allows them to leave any semblance of societal rule and order behind, and they use their online power to spread hate and cause havoc.

It’s time the troll living under the bridge was taught that the darkness of the web isn’t impenetrable. There needs to be accountability for both words and actions, and most importantly they need to acknowledge the hypocrisy of threatening others with exposure while they themselves sit behind a shrouded cloud of anonymity.

Once again Wesolowski delivers an engrossing read with a 21st century feel, and in the midst of this intriguing thriller, he takes a well-aimed shot at the more nefarious side of the world wide web. Hopefully this won’t be the last time he rolls out Scott King the investigative journalist, podcaster extraordinaire.

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

#BlogTour The Heights by Juliet Bell

Today it’s my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for the modern retelling of Wuthering Heights. It is an ode to Emily Brontë and this larger than life classic. Get ready for a Heathcliff and Cathy in our society with 20th century problems.

About the Author

Janet Bell is the pen name for writing duo Janet Gover and Alison May.

Alison May: I was born and raised in North Yorkshire, but now live in Worcester with one husband, no kids and no pets. There were goldfish once. That ended badly.

I’ve studied History and Creative Writing, and worked as a waitress, a shop assistant, a learning adviser, an advice centre manager, and a freelance trainer, before settling on ‘making up stories’ as an entirely acceptable grown-up career plan. I’m a qualified teacher in adult education, a member of the Society of Authors, and an experienced creative writing tutor, and I’m currently Vice-Chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

I’m a published commercial fiction author. I write short stories, novels and novellas, including the Christmas Kiss series, Midsummer Dreams, and Sweet Nothing. I won the RNA’s Elizabeth Goudge Trophy in 2012, and have been shortlisted in the RoNAs and the Love Stories Awards. I’m represented by Julia Silk (in association with MBA Literary).

Janet Gover: After some fun-filled years at Queensland University (during which I passed the occasional exam), I became a television journalist, first in Australia, then in Asia and Europe. I got to see and do a lot of unusual things. I met some interesting people, including one Pope, at least three Prime Ministers, a few movie stars and a dolphin.

My first published novel, The Farmer Needs A Wife was released in 2009. It might not surprise you to learn that it was set in Australia and featured men on horses. I enjoying running workshops and teaching. Twice a year I lead writing retreats with fellow writer Alison May.

Janet Gover says:

This is a book I have dreamed of writing for years. I love Emily Brontë’s book and have read it many times. In doing this adaptation, I wanted to stay true to the darkness of the original book, and not be distracted by the common idea of Wuthering Heights as a great love story. Yes, it is a story of great passion – but it’s not love as we would know it, nor is Heathcliff a romantic hero.
I was so pleased to work with Alison on this book. She’s a terrific writer, and her background growing up not far from where the book is set was invaluable in doing justice to the time and place.
We’ve got another Juliet Bell book already underway – stay tuned for more on that.

Follow @JulietBellBooks the pen name for writing duo @janet_gover and @MsAlisonMay & @HQDigitalUK

Visit janetgover.com and alison-may.co.uk

Buy The Heights

About the book

Two hundred years since Emily Brontë’s birth comes The Heights: a modern re-telling of Wuthering Heights set in 1980s Yorkshire.

The searchers took several hours to find the body, even though they knew roughly where to look. The whole hillside had collapsed, and there was water running off the moors and over the slick black rubble. The boy, they knew, was beyond their help.

This was a recovery, not a rescue.

A grim discovery brings DCI Lockwood to Gimmerton’s Heights Estate – a bleak patch of Yorkshire he thought he’d left behind for good. There, he must do the unthinkable, and ask questions about the notorious Earnshaw family. Decades may have passed since Maggie closed the pits and the Earnshaws ran riot – but old wounds remain raw. And, against his better judgement, DCI Lockwood is soon drawn into a story.

A story of an untameable boy, terrible rage, and two families ripped apart. A story of passion, obsession, and dark acts of revenge. And of beautiful Cathy Earnshaw – who now lies buried under cold white marble in the shadow of the moors.

Review

A classic novel reimagined in a modern day setting, is perhaps not a new venture, but definitely an interesting one. As a reader you can either spend your time comparing one story to the other or you can cast aside the old and read the new with fresh eyes. Ask yourself if the new tale pulls you in or whether the old takes on a new life in the sort of futuristic setting.

Revamping an old tale, especially a classic one can be difficult. Generally the original source is one of great inspiration, which Wuthering Heights certainly is. The trick is keeping the essence of the story intact.

If you’re familiar with both the original book and the very first films you may recognise some moments in the book. Here and there Bell replicates certain special scenes, perhaps in an attempt to connect the old with the new. An ode to Wuthering Heights if you will.

In The Heights, the modern day Cathy and Heathcliff live in a dump of a house, are subject to regular visits from social services, and their family is in the midst of the miner’s strike and the battle between Thatcher and Scargill. Poverty, hunger, abuse and dysfunctional family dynamics are mirrored in this new retelling.

Wuthering Heights is often mislabelled as a great romance, in fact it is a tale of obsession. A destructive and possessive obsession between a neglected young man turned vengeful, and a young woman with a strong streak of narcissism.

Cathy is conniving and selfish, as per usual. She attaches herself to the first viable escape option she encounters. She cares nothing for those she leaves behind. They are but mere steps on her climb out of the hole she lives in. She doesn’t even turn to notice that her companion in arms no longer walks beside her.

The narrator comes in the form of DCI Lockwood, who takes us through the story under the guise of solving crimes and finding some peace of mind when it comes to his own past with Heathcliff.

It perhaps lacks the intense obsession of the original book, however if you read this as a contemporary piece of fiction instead of the classic, everything is as it should be. The reality of the cold brusque 20th century in a town stripped of its identity, ravaged by poverty and conflict, the characters reflect the changes in modern society. There is no romanticism, instead in its place walk the Heathcliff and Cathy of today and not of times long gone.

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

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

marriage pactOkay I admit I thought the premise was fascinating. Not just because it is messed up in a culty oppressive kind of way, perhaps more so because it is a feasible premise. It is exactly the kind of big brother organisation people like to be a part of, especially if it makes them feel elitist.

Cults like Scientology spring to mind when I read books like this. Their self anointed title of omnipotent makes them believe they can do and say anything they want to. Abuse, torture, maligning reputations are right up their alley, and all whilst making their sheople pay for the privilege of being played for a fool.

It has both a masochistic and sadistic streak all the way through it. Alice almost seems to enjoy or thinks she deserves the punishment she receives. She also appears to want Jake to feel the same way. Take your punishment, enjoy it and learn from it. Talk about messed up brainwashing and playing on the vulnerabilities of people.

The goal of The Pact is to keep marriages sustainable, intact and supposedly happy. The Pact comes with a whole manual full of rules and punishments. You break a rule and you get treated to the equivalent of justice via cult dictatorship.

Richmond doesn’t just question what makes a marriage work long-term she also shines a great big spotlight on groups, religious or otherwise, masking as havens for those who need to feel as if they are more important than others and those who just want to belong.

It’s a compelling thought-provoking read.

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

Follow @michellerichmon @MichaelJbooks

Visit michellerichmond.com

The Invisible Crowd by Ellen Wiles

invisible crowdWhat a thought-provoking book title, and a very astute way to describe this particular group of people.

The story is about a refugee fleeing a brutal civil war and the people he encounters on his journey to freedom. The process to remain and the interviews are quite frankly bordering on harassment.

There is being specific and then there is being insulting for the fun of it. Victim blaming is the least of it. I know it is their job to determine whether there is an actual threat waiting for them if they return to their home country, so a certain level of toughness is to be expected.

I’m not going to lie, the headlines from the ever so reliable and never objective newspapers are depressing. It also angers me that the masses are spoon-fed this over-hyped tripe as real news, and of course the majority believes the headlines are not only true, in their minds they also apply them to every single refugee. The masses are whipped into a frenzy and blame everything on any foreigner they can find, even if they are of the fictional variety. There are bad apples in every basket, regardless of which type or brand of apple they are.

Wiles has written an interesting all-round account of the political situation we find ourselves in. In fact she has probably barely broken the seal on the Pandora’s box of trauma refugees go through. Human trafficking, profiting from the desperation of others, modern day slavery and just exploitation in general.

It’s important that people comprehend the difference between an immigrant and a refugee. A refugee has bag full of trauma by the time they arrive in the safe haven they are heading for. They encounter discrimination, racism, neglect and pure dislike.

Hopefully this story will make a few readers reconsider their opinions on refugees and the personal individual stories behind each person.

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

Follow @ellenwiles @HarperCollinsUK

Visit ellenwiles.com

#BlogTour East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman

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Today is my stop on the Blog-Tour for East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman. It is a contemporary novel, a sign of the times, and an attempt to understand the complex thought process of men and women who choose to view their own society and fellow humans as the enemy. Of course there is an amusing story wrapped around the more serious twist.

About the Author

Born in Karachi, Pakistan in 1975 Khurrum moved to England when he was one. He is a west London boy and now lives in Wraysbury with his wife and two children. Khurrum graduated with BSc Honours and has been working in IT for a Local Authority for over 18 years.

His keen interest in fiction initially drove him to write screenplays and write for an independent film maker. However, his true passion lies in reading crime thrillers which have inspired his current work. He has employed his unique perspective and careful study of great writers to develop a fresh voice that crackles with originality.

Follow @KhurrumRahman @HQStories

Buy East of Hounslow

About the book

East of Hounslow (HQ), is Khurrum Rahman’s debut novel, it is part one of a gripping spy thriller trilogy that centres on Javid Qasim, a happy-go-lucky small scale dope dealer in West London. When the Security Service identifies him as a potential recruit and the hardliners at his Mosque start thinking he may be useful to them his happy quiet life begins to implode. To complicate matters further, his best friend is now a Detective Inspector in the local police and, rather carelessly, Javid has also managed to lose his new BMW and £10k he owes his psychopathic drug supplier…

Review

It is gritty, witty and a breath of fresh air. It is relevant to our day and age, and the problems we face in our society. Javid is the boy next door, the last person you would suspect of planning a terror attack, and of course that is the actual problem. The reality is that the world is filled with vulnerable young men and women, who are easy to persuade and lead towards the dark side of life.

Javid Qasim accidentally falls into the role of double-agent, when he is forced to pretend to become a jihadi. If he actually had a choice in the matter he certainly wouldn’t even be entertaining the idea, but when you’re a small time drug dealer with a price on your head you just have to go with the flow, even if it means putting yourself in the middle of a dangerous situation.

Javid can either face his supplier, to whom he owes quite a lot of money and drugs, or infiltrate an terrorist cell supposedly operating out of his local mosque. Seems like a double-edged sword, which of course it is because it’s a lose-lose situation. His decision is swayed by the fact his neighbour and friend Parvez appears to be caught up in the group.

Throughout the book there is this sense of uncertainty when it comes to Javid. Will he be sucked in and enjoy the brotherhood? Is it possible that he believes the mantra of the jihadi and has finally found a way to vent his frustrations against society?

Rahman does a fantastic job of introducing readers to a basic understanding of the religious setting. It is done in an explanatory way, as opposed to a ‘come hither and partake of this field of gold’ way. I found that particular element of the story quite informative. The most important point Rahman makes is that just because Muslims pray at the local mosque and adhere to the rules of their religion, it does not mean they are also planning to wipe out every infidel they can find.

He also portrays the antipathy of the general public towards the Muslim population. Open hostility and a large helping of side-eye has become a daily occurrence. Unfortunately the terrorists, and right-wing groups, use this imbalance between the two groups to incite more hatred, recruit more members and create more chaos.

Although the topic of the plot is a serious one, Rahman still manages to evoke a sense of empathy for his characters, especially the crooked yet charming Javid. Camaraderie and friendship play a pivotal role in this contemporary novel which also has a subtle layer of humour. It’s a read you won’t want to miss.

Buy East of Hounslow at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister

anything you do sayFair warning *Possible Spoilers*

This is the kind of story which evokes a lot of emotions, controversy and discussion. So it probably isn’t any surprise that I want to have a really good chin-wag about it.

There are so many elements of this story that are hot topics at the moment. The systemic abuse of women, cross-race effect, the morality of her actions, why self-defence is negated in cases of severe force and the whole decision whether or not to act or help.

The behaviour Joanna encounters in the bar is fairly atypical unfortunately. The fact it happens so frequently probably explains her lack of response, which is in no way meant to sound like victim-blaming. Women have become so used to the systemic abuse that they tend to brush it off or ignore it, because making a big deal or speaking up can lead to escalations.

Joanna is on edge when she leaves the bar and almost expects Sadiq to follow her home, and of course this assumption of bad intentions is part of the problem. Then there is the issue of cross-race effect, ergo being able to recognise faces of ones own race easier and finding it more difficult to differentiate the faces of different races. This phenomenon causes a lot of misidentification when it comes to crimes.

Then there is the issue of self-defence, and I can guarantee the majority of people will think they have the right to defend themselves with any force necessary, however the truth is the legal situation isn’t as simple as it may seem. Reasonable force is the important factor and whether or not the victim believes they are in imminent danger, but it must be proportionate to the supposed danger. If the response causes injury or death it can be ruled as excessive force, ergo the victim then becomes the perpetrator.

The story follows Joanna in two scenarios simultaneously, the Joanna who reports the incident and the Joanna who tries to cover it up. Put yourself in her shoes for a minute, ask yourself what you would do in the same set of circumstances. Would you leave, watch him die, call for help or pretend it never happened at all?

This book is an excellent read because it challenges our perception of this event and possible scenarios we might encounter. I think the foremost question on my mind, whilst reading this story, was what I would do in the same situation. The answer to that particular question will be different for every single one of us and based on our own frame of references.

McAllister likes to present readers with complex characters and the kind of situations that are neither black or white. The grey areas become murky and distorted, which is what makes her stories so compelling.

Buy Anything You Do Say at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @GillianMAuthor

Visit gillianmcallister.com

Read Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister