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.

Blog-Tour: Reconciliation for the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty

Today it is my turn on the Blog-Tour for Reconciliation for the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty. It is a fascinating read, and yet also one that may make you sit back and ponder it, especially when you read the historical note and acknowledgement at the end of the book.

About the Author

For the past 30 years, Paul E Hardisty has worked all over the world as an engineer and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, and rehabilitated village water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Yemen in 1994 as the civil war broke out, and in Ethiopia as the Mengistu regime fell. In 2015, his first novel, The Abrupt Physics of Dying, was published to great acclaim – it was shortlisted for the CWA Creasy dagger award for best thriller or crime novel in 2015, and was one of the London Telegraph’s 2015 crime books of the year.

Lee Child called the sequel, The Evolution of Fear: “A solid, meaty thriller. Hardisty is a fine writer and Claymore Straker is a great lead character.” Paul is currently working on the third Claymore Straker novel, a prequel set in Apartheid era South Africa. One of his short stories, Blue Nile, will shortly appear in an anthology entitled “Sunshine Noir”. He lives in Western Australia, and is a keen outdoorsman, triathlete, and martial artist.

To connect with Paul E. Hardisty follow @Hardisty_Paul or @Orendabooks on Twitter or on facebook.com/paul.hardisty.9

Buy Reconciliation for the Dead

About the book

Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier. It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make.

Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed. Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.

Review

When it suddenly dawns on you that the story is more than just a fictional plot or the creative imagination of the author in question. It’s actually worse when you realise that even the most talented weaver of stories hasn’t got a thing on the actual depths of inhumane behaviour and unimaginable cruelty real humans are capable of.

South Africa has a very turbulent and volatile history, especially events that took place in the 20th century. I think, like many countries, there is plenty of revisionism going on and selective amnesia seems to be a problem. Apartheid, genocide, land dispossession and the South African Police, who were little more than a murder squad during certain periods of time in history.

Claymore Straker is an interesting character. He doesn’t try to excuse his actions, in fact he feels such immense guilt that he finds it difficult to find any peace at all. Clay is a soldier, a killer who follows orders, and yet he is also a man with a conscience. He often tries to do the right thing, despite putting himself and others in danger.

On a side note, I really enjoyed the banter and relationship between Clay and Eben. The two of them are on the same wavelength when it comes to justice. Eben just tends to be a wee bit more reckless. They have a bond, a brotherhood, which is often formed between soldiers in dangerous situations.

Hardisty has only taken a small section of that history and of the political unrest of South Africa and combined it with a fast-paced and heart-wrenching plot. It is also brutal, violent and not for the faint of heart. At the same time the author has managed to create characters, who evoke empathy, which is quite extraordinary considering the hardcore events that unfold around them.

Reconciliation for the Dead isn’t just a story, it is a stark reminder of South African history. Without delving too much into the plot and revealing any spoilers it is a cracking read, and it is and was a shocking plan. What is even more disgraceful is the real lack of restitution, despite the reconciliation. Criminals who deserved a firing squad walked away scot-free.

When it comes to military thrillers authors often can’t find the right balance between the cold hard facts of war, weaponry, logistics and the storytelling. Well, let me tell you Hardisty doesn’t have any problem at all in that regard. He strikes exactly the right tone in both areas. This is a captivating and poignant read, and yet it is also one that made my soul weep for humanity.

Buy Reconciliation for the Dead at Amazon Uk or go Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse

sweetpeaLeave it to Skuse to roll out the crazy train when it comes to characters and plots. I can almost guarantee that there will be something really twisted in any story she writes.

At first Rhiannon seems like such an underdog. The type of person everyone likes to shove around and kick while they are down. Never praised for her achievements or allowed to rise above her lowly station. Typically the type of person to end up being a victim.

Then there is the other side of Rhiannon, the part of her personality nobody knows about. Hmm well some of them know, but they choose to say nothing. thereby possibly endangering the rest of humanity. Ok that might be a slight exaggeration.

When the reader is introduced to the more vengeful side of Rhiannon they may find it hard to feel any sympathy towards her at all. She is cold, calculating, and yet at the same time you could say she is ridding the world of unsavoury characters. The thing is, who is she to be both judge and jury, and to hand out punishment. Saying that, a small part of me totally identified with Rhiannon aka Sweetpea. I’ll leave it to your imagination to figure out which part of her I identified with.

Essentially that is part of the Skuse magic, she isn’t afraid to write what everyone else is thinking or present the unimaginable. Occasionally we all have the kind of thoughts that could land us in prison. Luckily we don’t have anyone policing our actual thinking processes yet. Close, but no cigar, as yet.

Sweetpea is a brutal read, but perhaps more so because it isn’t your typical garden variety killer. You might find it an uncomfortable read at times, because there is a wee bit of Sweetpea in everyone of us. Kudos to the author for another memorable read.

Buy Sweetpea at Amazon uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Monster or The Deviants by C.J. Skuse.

Written in Bones by James Oswald

written in bonesI still think you shouldn’t rule out dragons completely. I’m with the smart kid, if it looks like a dragon-kill it probably is one. Just Saying.

Aside from the possible involvement of fiery scaled flying creatures, the story offers an interesting mixture of crime and something with an undertone of the occult.

Oswald has a tongue in cheek humour, the kind of humour that makes you smirk as you read. It’s very subtle and it doesn’t disturb the serious intent of the plot.

The opening scene is an excellent example of what the author is capable of. You can almost hear the blood dripping and smell the fear. It is an unusual and very violent crime.

There is a strange undercurrent of something evil and supernatural woven into the fabric of what appears to be the culmination of an internal feud between criminals. The author toys with the unexplained element in a way that makes the reader think it could possibly just be an exaggeration by the main character.

Is it his imagination or stress induced hallucinations? Then again if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it probably is some kind of duck.

Hopefully McLean will encounter his nemesis in the next book and the strange entity will be explored a wee it more.

Buy Written in Bones at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Blog-Tour: Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

I am especially excited to take part in the Blog-Tour for Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski today. It is an innovative read you won’t want to miss. Aside from my review, I also have a great guest post, My Writing Day by Matt Wesolowski, to share with you.

About the Author

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young people in association with New Writing North. Matt started his writing career in horror and his short horror fiction has been published in Ethereal Tales magazine, Midnight Movie Creature Feature anthology, 22 More Quick Shivers anthology and many more. His debut novella The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013 and a new novella set in the forests of Sweden will be available shortly. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. He is currently working on his second crime novel Ashes, which involves black metal and Icelandic sorcery.

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

Buy Six Stories here


About the book

One death. Six stories. Which one is true?

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame … As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

Guest post by Matt Wesolowski

My Writing Day

To the disbelief (and jealousy of my writing peers) there was once a time in my life when my writing day looked like this:

Up at 7.30 – 5k run, listening to an audio book.

8.30 Breakfast, hang with the family.

9am -2pm  – uninterrupted, glorious writing, lunch interspersed with cups of green tea.

2pm – 5pm – sit in the conservatory with a mug of more green tea and disappear into a book.

Yes, this was genuinely my writing day, albeit for just under a year. And so much got done! Two novels, blog posts and a load of short fiction.

Then life got in the way. Change of family circumstance, job, move of house, move of job. The structure of the bygone era is now a glorious and ancient memory.

My day job’s hours are sporadic and are in a constant state of flux. I live alone now and have food to make, a cat and child to maintain as well as my own constant cleaning compulsions.

An idyll of a full writing and reading day is a luxury. Unless you are in the position to write full-time, then it’s mostly unrealistic. I sincerely believe that when you want to write, if you really want to write, you have to make time. I often wonder why so many people say they ‘don’t have time’ to read but can sit, staring at social media on a phone for hours.

Writing is like any job, if you want to be any good at it, you have to do lots of it and you have to do it even on the days you don’t want to. For me, some days are plain sailing on a sunny sea of fiction and some days (more often) are quite simply not.

I often liken writing to sawing through wood. There are easy bits where the teeth of the saw glide through and there are knots, great big tough twists of dead branch where the saw won’t catch, let alone cut.

Personally, I work to a realistic daily word count. If I have a significant part of the day without work then I aim for 2000 words. Sometimes it’s 2000 words of rubbish, but hey, we all have bad days at work. For me, the most important thing is to get something done, to keep my mind used to writing, at least something every day.

So now, a typical day looks like this:

7am – feed the cat, get my son ready for school, make breakfast, school run.

9am – A combination of: cleaning/cooking/writing/reading/working.

3pm – School run, hang out with the boy, eat tea together, do homework, play Lego.

8pm – Writing or kickboxing.

10pm – Reading.

11pm Sleep.

Of course there are variations, as a single parent, I only have my son for half the week so there is more time when he’s not here but a lot of that time is spent on the week’s cooking and cleaning, making sure when he is here, that I am available.

Then there’s that thing where you see your friends and loved ones and do social stuff. Yeah, that sometimes happens too!

Above all, the drive to write inside me never diminishes, I can’t even sit in front of the television without a notebook and a pen to hand; I listen to an audio book whilst cleaning and true crime podcasts while I’m cooking.

But that’s just me, I’m not any better or worse than anyone else and everyone does things their own way. I think if you have a dream, you cannot sit back and wait for it to land in your lap, you have to chase it until you feel your own blood squelching in your

Review

The story is set-up as a series of podcasts by someone who investigates cold cases. The reader experiences the podcasts via written transcripts of interviews with the suspects. The cold case in question is the disappearance of teenager Tom Jeffries, and the subsequent discovery of his body a year later. Nearly all the suspects were also teenagers at the time the crime took place.

It might sound a little cold or clinical for a fictional book setting, however that couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the aspects of the story is the way the podcast listeners are captivated by the intrigue, mystery and gruesome details of the cold case. The followers play an integral part in the story, despite being an anonymous and unseen entity.

It seems more than likely that the teens involved in the case, who were also the last ones to see and interact with Tom, are also the people with the answers to all the questions. Is one of them lying? Did one of them inadvertently see more than they think they saw?

During the interviews the reader hears about the secrets, the fights and all of those tiny details the police never uncovered. The kind of details that would have led them straight to the killer.

Twenty years after the murder none of the people involved want to muddy the waters, get anyone in trouble or possibly reveal themselves as a culprit.

Although I figured out the who and the twist I have to admit I didn’t see the why coming. It is a really well-thought out crime. The author explores the complexities of social interactions and hierarchy issues between teenagers, and the implications for individuals in group situations.

Six Stories is an innovative, captivating and creative read. Wesolowski channels new technology and important social issues of our time, whilst integrating a nefarious crime into the mix. I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from this particular author in the years to come.

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

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

sometimes I lieI like the lead-in to the book. It’s catchy, it makes you wonder and more importantly it makes you want to read beyond the memorable intro. However the book should have probably simply been called Malevolence. Why? Because it packs a heavy punch of malice.

There is just so much to talk about when it comes to reviewing this book. I want to give it the attention it deserves without giving away all the twists and turns. I will try to just focus on the parts that left the strongest impression on me.

One of those has got to be the living dead aspect of being in a coma. Just imagine being able to hear and feel everything around and yet being completely unable to open your eyes, move, speak or react at all. Leaving you vulnerable, panicked and scared.

What a horror scenario, a complete lack of control, whilst being aware of everything the entire time. On top of that Amber can’t remember how she ended up in hospital. She remembers pieces and fragments, enough to confuse her and make her frightened. At this point in time she doesn’t know who to trust, because this wasn’t just an accident or was it?

The author takes us in and out of the past and present. It’s a constant spiral of childhood flashbacks, recent memories and interactions in the present. When I say interactions, what I mean is Amber hears and everyone else interacts around her, over her and with her physical body.

Amber suffers from OCD, anxiety and a general mistrust of the people around her. She finds it hard to fit in and make friends. She does however have a really strong sense of survival, sometimes to the detriment of others. She believes her sister is a wee bit too flirty with her husband and in turn her husband seems very comfortable with Claire, then again it could just be her over-active imagination.

I could go on and on about the superb twists in the plot and about who the real culprit is, but the truth is there is no black or white answer. Where one thread of guilt, anger and fear ends another one connects immediately, which is why the reader is left in a constant state of uncertainty.

Feeney writes a wicked tale and I hope this is the first of many to come. It is enthralling, rancorous and controversial. Why is it controversial? Read it and find out.

Buy Sometimes I Lie at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @alicewriterland @HQStories on Twitter, Facebook: AliceFeeneyAuthor/  or visit  alicefeeney.com