#BlogTour Game Show by Allie Cresswell

It’s my pleasure to host the BlogTour for Game Show by Allie Cresswell today. This story is a sign of the times and it takes a frank look at human nature. It is brutal and unforgiving.

About the Author

I have been writing stories since I could hold a pencil and by the time I was in Junior School I was writing copiously and sometimes almost legibly.

I did, however, manage a BA in English and Drama from Birmingham University and an MA in English from Queen Mary College, London. Marriage and motherhood put my writing career on hold for some years until 1992 when I began work on Game Show.

In the meantime I worked as a production manager for an educational publishing company, an educational resources copywriter, a bookkeeper for a small printing firm, and was the landlady of a country pub in Yorkshire, a small guest house in Cheshire and the proprietor of a group of boutique holiday cottages in Cumbria. Most recently I taught English Literature to Lifelong learners.

Nowadays I write as full time as three grandchildren, a husband, two Cockapoos and a large garden will permit.

Connect with Allie Cresswell on Facebook: alliescribbler/

Visit allie-cresswell.com

Buy Game Show

About the book

It is 1992, and in a Bosnian town a small family cowers in their basement. The Serbian militia is coming – an assorted rabble of malcontents given authority by a uniform and inflamed by the idea that they’re owed something, big-time, and the Bosnians are going to pay. When they get to the town they will ransack the houses, round up the men and rape the women. Who’s to stop them? Who’s to accuse them? Who will be left, to tell the tale?

Meanwhile, in a nondescript northern UK town a group of contestants make their way to the TV studios to take part in a radical new Game Show. There’s money to be won, and fun to be had. They’ll be able to throw off their inhibitions and do what they want because they’ll all be in disguise and no-one will ever know.

In a disturbing denouement, war and game meld into each other as action and consequence are divided, the words ‘blame’ and ‘fault’ have no meaning and impunity reigns .

Game Show asks whether the situation which fostered the Bosnian war, the genocide in Rwanda, the rise of so-called Islamic State in Syria and the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar could ever happen in the West. The answer will shock you.

Review

I adore the kind of premise that explores human nature. The contestants for this game show are a mixed bunch of individuals, so the choices they make and the reactions they have are bound to differ. A privileged wealthy housewife seeks the thrill, as opposed to the love deprived exhausted multiple mother on a tight budget, who may be willing to be more cut-throat to win the show.

At the beginning of the book the show is set to the topic of Native Americans. The scenes are bloodthirsty, wild and barbaric, so aside from the obvious cultural appropriation going on, there is also the aspect of depicting the stereotype and misconceptions of their culture. Very much a privileged white man’s idea of amusement, and another indicator of the ‘do anything for high ratings’ mentality of our era.

The West has already experienced the Holocaust, so the answer to the question in the blurb is yes it can happen in the West. In Western European countries the far right is sitting in governments once more, swastikas and hate crimes are in abundance. In the US the alt-right marches with Tiki torches.Today, at this moment in time, Western society is being forced into a similar scenario, a division between Muslims and non-Muslims, caused by the terrorism of fundamentalists and radicals.

Cresswell mentions the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, as one of her inspirations to explore the psychology of human nature, and indeed confirm what the majority of us already know through history or perhaps even personal experience.

Given the right set of circumstances and motivation the majority of people will show the base animal instinct of human nature. Survival of the fittest, and above all power and control over others. A certain number of us will lose all inhibition and show ourselves capable of extreme violence and of inflicting pain upon those we perceive to be weaker and deserving of it.

The background of the story is set in the 1990’s to the background of the Bosnian conflict. At this point I have to say that despite constant reminders that we all never forget the atrocities of the Nazi regime, we are probably all guilty of ignoring the genocides that have taken place since then, the Bosnian War being a perfect example of that.

There is an interesting rant by Piers (producer) given in the first half of the book, when he more or less denies responsibility for any actions or events that place during the show, because in his eyes any person unable to recognise right from wrong has no moral fibre anyway. Thereby placing the blame solely in the hands of the single perpetrators. Now, don’t get me wrong they are to blame, but the person inciting them is just as culpable, actually more so.

Our television screens are awash with game shows and reality tv shows nowadays. Japanese game shows are a prime example of the balancing act between fun and bizarrely extreme behaviour. Participants are asked to act this way, they are primed and rewarded for it, and viewers lap it up. There is a market for it, and the boundaries are becoming less visible as the years go on.

There are two storylines in Game Show, both of which could survive as a standalone plot. Combined the juxtaposition of these two storylines makes the reader aware of the parallels in human behaviour in either situation. Simultaneously it also highlights the ludicrous and frankly abhorrent fact that while the rest of the world is engaged in mundane daily chores, somewhere else men, women and children are being slaughtered.

Cresswell doesn’t intend for this to be an easy read. Unfortunately it reminds us of the chaos and violence of human nature. How easily the masses are led, and how fragile our masks of civility are. Given the right set of circumstances the most docile human being can turn into a sadistic killer, and the most brash could possibly crumble at the first sign of adversity.

Game Show is about life within the confines of societal boundaries, and also when it is void of any boundaries at all. Is there really any difference between the two?

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

Advertisements

#BlogTour Carnivore by Jonathan Lyon

Let’s kick off the BlogTour for Carnivore by Jonathan Lyon. It’s a riveting combination of literary fiction meets noir, which brutally kicks the characters aside on occasion to allow for some brash contemporary reality. It is the kind of read that ends up on the tip of wagging tongues and achieving cult status.

About  the Author

Jonathan Lyon was born in 1991 in London. He studied at Oxford University, graduating in 2013 with the Gibbs Prize. He moved to Berlin in the same year. He has had a chronic illness for over a decade. He is a self-made demon. His debut novel, Carnivore, was published by HQ (HarperCollins) in August 2017.

Follow @jonathan_lyon @HQStories on Twitter & jonathan_lyon on Instagram

Buy Carnivore


About the book

Meet Leander: lover, fighter, liar.

He learnt a long time ago that nothing is as intoxicating as blood. But whether it’s his or someone else’s doesn’t matter any more. There’s a mysterious pain in every muscle of his body – and it’s got so bad that he’ll do anything to escape it.

Up to now, it’s been his secret. But it’s hard to remain invisible when you leave a trail of destruction everywhere you go. So, when he comes to the attention of one of London’s most infamous criminals, Leander decides to put his appetite for violence to the ultimate test.

Let the villain win.

Extract of Carnivore

‘What’s your fantasy?’

All sex and storytelling starts with this, of course. Sometimes the question’s self-directed, sometimes it’s only implied. But here, obviously, I was supposed to reply ‘being dominated,’ so that’s what I said.

I was actually fantasising about eating a satsuma, slowly, slice by slice, on the edge of a rooftop, or perhaps on a hilltop, watching a building below me burn in a fire I’d started. But this would be too long to say aloud, and probably wouldn’t arouse a man in the prime of his mid-life crisis as easily as a boy begging for a beating.

So now that my victim thought that I was his victim, he could breathe more heavily, and began struggling to unbutton his shirt.‘No, no you should be doing this,’ he said, fluttering his fingers. ‘I mean, undress me, boy!’

Unsuited to the dominant role, he recoiled at his own orders. Clearly, he was a submissive – if I’d had the energy, I could’ve had him on all fours in a few minutes. But energy is not one of my vices. ‘Of course, sir,’ I said instead, my mouth twitching into a smile I had to hide by lowering my head.

Beneath his shirt was a paunch of greying hairs. As I removed the rest of his clothes, he hovered awkwardly between sitting and standing, his hands just above my back, not yet confident enough to touch me.

‘Now, now… you!’ I took off my tracksuit – the uniform he’d requested – delivered my finest doe eyed simper, and knelt down. But he rejected this arrangement and instead dragged me upwards onto the bed. ‘No time for that… boy. Let’s get to the point.’ He forced my face into the pillow and I began to moan in a way that would make him hard. Perhaps he hoped I’d feel a kind of shame in this, but ‘this’ meant nothing.

‘This’ was merely boring.

Review

Leander is like a ticking time bomb with a propensity for violence and a tendency to bury any emotional response, which may appear to the mere human eye to be a humane reaction or at least one deemed suitable by society. He hides behind the games. Fighting pain with more pain, regardless of whether it is inflicted upon others or done unto him.

To be completely frank I think Lyon has carved out a large piece of his soul and woven it straight into this story.

Leander may describe himself as a psychopath, but perhaps his coping mechanisms are just a little more extreme than those of other people. His physical pain has become the demon wailing inside him and battling to take over. To combat the demon he must distract it by any means necessary. Which means hurting those who purport to love him, destroy and play mind games with the shallow ones merely craving his physical appearance.

It’s a riveting combination of literary fiction meets noir, which brutally kicks the characters aside on occasion to allow for some brash contemporary reality. It is marmite toast served with a chilled glass of champagne. It is the kind of read that ends up on the tips of wagging tongues and achieving cult status.

Jonathan Lyon devours himself, his desires, his fears and his pain whole in this ode to the black hole and Shakespearean play of millennialism. Carnivore is perfused with the wealth of an intellectual mind in constant battle with itself, refusing to be taken prisoner by the borders and boundaries of society or literature.

Are you a carnivore, am I? Are we all destined to be devoured by the hidden insanity and self-destructive tendencies of others or ourselves, whilst sailing along in the interim in our self-inflicted state of stasis, coping and yet barely living.

Yes, it is that kind of read.

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

Out in Paperback 5th April 2018

#BlogTour The Outer Circle by Ian Ridley

Today it is my turn on the BlogTour for The Outer Circle by Ian Ridley. It’s a passion piece with a variety of main characters connecting briefly, and yet each of them have their own story to tell within the confines of the bigger story.

About the Author

Ian is an award-winning football writer and the author of 10 books. A former chairman of Weymouth and St Albans City, he has been writing about football for over 30 years, having worked for various newspapers including the Daily Telegraph, The Independent on Sunday and The Observer.

Follow @IandRidley1 @Unbound_Digital Lookout for #TheOuterCircle on Twitter

Buy The Outer Circle

About the book

It’s the morning after the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in London. The city is relaxed as rarely before, delighted with itself at how spectacularly it has hosted the uplifting event. The capital, however, will be rudely and brutally awoken from its self-congratulation by a shocking atrocity committed upon innocent Muslims at the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park. How could it happen? Why did it happen? Is this a terrorist attack? Is it political? Or is it personal? THE OUTER CIRCLE is concerned with the culture of modern Britain. It follows five characters caught up in this tragic event and the aftermath of anxiety and reprisal as the answers dramatically emerge.

Review

Ridley likes to rattle cages, albeit in a subtle way with comments or opinions thrown in here and there. His intention is clearly to make the reader think about both sides of the argument, regardless of which controversial topic that is mentioned in the book.

He takes nice little pot-shots at the new era of media, and the way it is making the old media, such as newspapers, obsolete. At the way the police and journalists used to collaborate to inform the public, whereas now it is more about the media and police public relations outmanoeuvering each other to the finish line. News has become about sensationalism instead of the truth.

The Outer Circle is like a passion piece with a variety of main characters connecting briefly, and yet each of them have their own story to tell within the confines of the bigger story.

What really spoke to me, and not in a good way, was the reaction Tom had to the rape. Unfortunately this is how many men react. They make it all about their ego, their disgust and the way their lives have been changed by the rapes of their girlfriends or wives. It’s just so narcissistic and caveman-esque, with no regard for the victim at all.

The Outer Circle is a snapshot of the world we live in. The 21st century is still about religious wars, intolerance and lack of understanding. Nothing has really changed over the centuries except the setting for the battles. It is also about compassion, kindness and human interactions.

Ridley puts the focus on the humane element of the inhumane atrocities, which may sound bizarre, but it is more or less about squeezing that one good moment out of many bad ones. The glass isn’t half empty or half full, it can be refilled over and over again. In essence that is the message the author wants to convey or at least the message I received.

It’s about second chances, bad choices and the crossroads we come to in life. It is also about the reactions before, during and after terror attacks. Survivor’s guilt combined with relief, and yet also with disbelief at the horror of the situation.

Ridley confronts his readers with uncomfortable truths, and then invites them in to dissect the controversial scenarios and their reactions to them. It’s a contemporary read with an element of crime with a heavy emphasis on the unpredictability of human nature.

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

#BlogTour A Blindefellows Chronicle by Auriel Roe

Today it is my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for A Blindefellows Chronicle by Auriel Roe. It is an unusual read, think quaint and quirky with a spark of nostalgia.

About the Author

Blindefellows is my first published novel and is the result of a few years’ worth of quirky scribblings in a stack of notebooks. I wrote the novel I always wanted to read but couldn’t find, partially inspired by my favourite authors, Stella Gibbons, PG Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh.

In addition to my writing, I am also an artist, from ram-sized pugs to sedate still life. I add a small observation and image to my blog on a daily basis which can be found on my website

Follow @AurielRoe @unbounders Look out for #Blindefellows

Buy A Blindefellows Chronicle

About the book

At midday on 31st August, Sedgewick, the new history master, arrives at Blindefellows, former charity school for poor, blind boys, now a second division private school for anyone who can pay. The naive newcomer is quickly taken under the wing of the rumbustious, philandering Japes, master of physics, who soon becomes something of a mentor, though not in an academic sense.

A Blindefellows Chronicle follows the adventures of Sedgewick, Japes and a handful of other unmarried faculty at an obscure West Country boarding school including the closeted headmaster, Reverend Hareton, stalwart Matron Ridgeway and loathsome librarian, Fairchild.

Review

You can tell that Roe takes her inspiration from classic writers like Wodehouse. The plot reminds me of the old chums sentiment Enid Blyton was known for in her Famous Five and Mallory Towers books, but for an older audience. Think quaint, quirky and nostalgic.

The author takes us through the years 1974 to 2014, following the Blindefellows school, as it embraces modern ideas and moves forward with the times. The introduction of women as upper staff, which causes a lot of friction among the rigid and snooty tutors. The way the students embrace anarchy and stand up for their rights, albeit using stubborn four-legged woolly menaces, who like to chew on rare first edition literature. Viva la Sheep!

I have to say, although it is meant to be a light-hearted read, the author still manages to insert quite a few serious topics into the story. One of those is the class excursion to the sites of World War graveyards, memorials and battle sites. It is a poignant lesson in teaching the young men how many sacrifices previous generations made to make sure the younger generations can live their lives in peace. A subtle reminder that the tutors at the school have their own stories to tell.

The sad tone of the last chapter belies the light-heartedness of the rest, but only because the author brings the story to a conclusion with a sharp slap of reality.

Roe combines a snarky tongue in cheek sense of humour with an aura of the stiff upper lip the British are known for. Which means you get a a strange balance of real and vulnerable characters combined with seemingly absurd situations. It’s this flair for the old masters that makes A Blindefellows Chronicles more than just the average story.

Buy A Blindefellows Chronicle at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

only childThis story is perhaps even more relevant after the events in Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida a few days ago. Yet another horrific mass murder in a school.

I have to admit, a few pages in and the tears came. It’s his voice, his innocent little voice robbed of his childhood as the sound of unimaginable horror, violence and destruction rolls towards him through the school corridors.

His days of worry-free play ripped from him as he cowers in a school closet knowing his world is changing forever, and yet at the same time not knowing how or why.

The reader follows his grief, guilt and confusion in the wake of his personal loss. It’s hard to feel sad when all you remember is the anger. It’s even harder when you don’t understand the concept of loss and death.

I think what really pulls at the heartstrings isn’t the loss per se, but rather the neglect of the child who survives. Mother and father are too engrossed in their own personal problems to pay attention to Zach. Feeding him, noticing his bed-wetting or when he disappears for hours. Zach becomes an invisible victim of the assault.

Barring a few moments when six-year-old Zach sounds and thinks like an adult, Navin does an excellent job of keeping the dialogue and narrative at the level of a six-year-old child throughout the book. The author shows the full range of emotions a family in this situation goes through, especially the anger and the thirst for revenge. A heinous event like this leaves permanent wounds and scarring.

It is an emotional and poignant read. The last few chapters made the tears trickle again, perhaps because the whole idea is painful and makes me feel powerless. On the other hand it’s because Navin captures the essence of this child and the emotional turmoil so well. It’s an upsetting yet extremely beautiful read.

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

Follow @rhiannonnavin @panmacmillan @MantleBooks

Visit rhiannonnavin.com

#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.

 

#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.