#BlogTour King of Fools by Amanda Foody

Today it’s my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour King of Fools by Amanda Foody. It’s a complex combination of dystopian meets fantasy, which is enhanced tenfold by the excellent world-building.About the Author

Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

Daughter of the Burning City was her first novel. Her second, Ace Of Shades was released in April 2018. The second book of The Shadow Game, King of Fools, was released 2nd May 2019 and the third in the trilogy will be released in 2020.

Follow @AmandaFoody @HQStories on Twitter, on Goodreads, on Amazon, Visit amandafoody.com

Buy King of Fools

About the book

Indulge your vices in the City of Sin, where a sinister street war is brewing and fame is the deadliest killer of them all…

On the quest to find her missing mother, prim and proper Enne Salta became reluctant allies with Levi Glaisyer, the city’s most famous con man. Saving his life in the Shadow Game forced Enne to assume the identity of Seance, a mysterious underworld figure. Now, with the Chancellor of the Republic dead and bounties on both their heads, she and Levi must play a dangerous game of crime and politics…with the very fate of New Reynes at stake.

Thirsting for his freedom and the chance to build an empire, Levi enters an unlikely partnership with Vianca Augustine’s estranged son. Meanwhile, Enne remains trapped by the mafia donna’s binding oath, playing the roles of both darling lady and cunning street lord, unsure which side of herself reflects the truth.

As Enne and Levi walk a path of unimaginable wealth and opportunity, new relationships and deadly secrets could quickly lead them into ruin. And when unforeseen players enter the game, they must each make an impossible choice: To sacrifice everything they’ve earned in order to survive…

Review

I highly recommend reading the first in this series, Ace of Shades. You don’t need to read it to get the gist of this one, which can be read as a standalone novel, but you are missing out on a cracking read.

Once again I can only commend Foody for creating such a complex combination of dystopian meets fantasy, which is enhanced tenfold by the excellent world-building. The characters have plenty of depth, perhaps even more so than in book one, if that is even possible.

This time the reader follows three characters or rather we get three different perspectives, of Jac, Enne and Levi, and the situations they each have to deal with. They grow individually as people and work towards their own goals, whereas previously there was more collusion between them. Having to accept certain realities about their existence and the world they live in forces maturity upon them. I think as the stakes in the game grow higher the more inclined they are to secure their own survival.

As I have said previously the whole gangs and gangland aspect of the premise reminded me of Locke Lamora, but with more of an urban fantasy vibe. This time there was a focus on political intrigue and power plays, again very different from the first book, which was all about identity and discovery of self.

I will remain purposely slightly unclear about the exact story-lines, because I think it is one of those reads that works better if you go into it without too much detail. Better to savour the intricate story-telling. What I found quite remarkable is how Foody not only managed to take things up a notch, she also took a different approach to the premise. I bet the next book is going to boggle minds. The exuberance and power of this read is palpable.

I am looking forward to reading the third book, which is due in 2020. I am genuinely intrigued as to where Foody is going to take this series next..

Buy King of Fools (The Shadow Game#2) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ Young Adult; pub date 2 May 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

Read my review of Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody.

#BlogTour Hello, My Name is May by Rosalind Stopps

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour for Hello, My Name is May by Rosalind Stopps.  It’s psychological suspense, women’s fiction and contemporary fiction.

About the Author

Rosalind Stopps has always wanted to tell the stories of the less heard.  For many years she worked with children with disabilities and their families.

She has five grown up children, three grandchildren and an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University. Rosalind’s short stories have been published in five anthologies and read at live literature events in London, Leeds, Hong Kong and New York. She lives in South East London with large numbers of humans and dogs.

When she is not writing fiction she is, mostly, reading it or working as a host at London’s South Bank Arts Centre. Hello, My Name is May is her debut novel.

Buy Hello, My Name is May

About the book

They wrote it on the wall above my bed. Hello, it said, my name is May. Please talk to me.

May has been moved to a care home after her stroke. She can’t communicate, all her words are kept inside. If she tries to point, her arms swing in wild directions, if she tries to talk, strange noises come out of her mouth.

May is sharp, quick, and funny, but only her daughter Jenny sees this, and Jackie, a new friend at the home who cares enough to look and listen closely.

When May discovers that someone very familiar, from long ago, is living in the room opposite hers she is haunted by scenes from her earlier life, when she was a prisoner of her husband’s unpredictable rages. Bill, the man in the opposite room seems so much like her husband, though almost a lifetime has passed, and May’s eyesight isn’t what it was.

As Bill charms his way through the nursing home, he focuses his romantic attention on Jackie, while all May can do is watch. She is determined to protect Jackie and keep herself safe, but what can she do in her vulnerable, silent state?

hellomay7Q&A

Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know) I’ve been reading Middlemarch for absolutely weeks.  I love it, but I so want to finish and move on – next I can’t wait to read Jill Dawson’s new book, The Language of Birds, which tells the story of the nanny who was killed by Lord Lucan, a famous case from the 70s.

The actual last book I read was Normal People by Sally Rooney, which I thought was wonderful, marvellous and moving.

The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it)? Wild Rose.  I saw it last week and I loved it.  The music was gorgeous, the acting was great and the story, which is always my prime concern, was a feelgood tale of triumph over adversity.  A good night out.

Writers or books who have inspired you to put pen to paper? Stephen King, always.  Elizabeth Strout and Ann Tyler because they tell the stories of ordinary women.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet? This is such a difficult question!  Everyone I think of makes me feel either prim or shallow!  But the true answer is, without a doubt, that I’d like to meet Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe, who was once the lodger of a local friend of mine.  She’s been in prison in Iran for three years after going there on holiday with her little girl to see her parents.  She’s unwell and is being held hostage, and I’d love to meet her because it would mean that she had been released, and that there was a happy ever after ending to her story.

Also I’d like to ask her how she coped with being locked up for three years.  Human bravery in extreme circumstances has always interested me.

A famous declutterer a la Marie Kondo has decided to help you organise your home – you have to get rid of all but three of your books (the ones you have written yourself are exempt) which three would you pick and why? Good idea.  I wish this would happen in real life. There are books everywhere in my house and I’d love to keep them electronically only.  I’d save a book of Flannery O’Connor short stories, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and maybe a massive book with pictures of every kind of dog, in case I ever haven’t got a dog with me.

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about Hello, My Name is May.

I really enjoyed the same woman in two different periods of her life and the way you show the readers the invisible scars and damage left by abuse.

Tell us about the inspiration for this story. My sister had a brain haemorrhage when she was sixty.  She’s not May, she never lost her voice, but she does live in a nursing home now and one day when I was visiting her we chatted about how we could see into the room across the corridor.  ‘Wouldn’t it be weird,’ I said, ‘if someone from your past turned up, but someone you didn’t want to see.’   

It’s the kind of thing I’ve always done, made up stories about what I can see around me. But the idea was there and I couldn’t stop thinking about what might happen.  

I also wanted to write about domestic abuse, because it’s an area of life that’s still often hidden away. Nothing seems to have changed too much since I was a young woman, despite the better training of police and the women’s movement.  In fact, lots of the hostels that were opened have been closed for lack of funding. 

How important was it to show that the abuse people endure leaves invisible damage, the kind of damage that determines other relationships and future reactions to situations and other people? I believe that everything that happens to us stays with us in some form.  We can learn to deal with it but it’s there, and although it doesn’t have to define us it’s a part of us.  I wanted to show that by showing how May’s response to her situation was totally bound up with the things that had happened to her when she was young.  She is fiercely protective of her new friend Jackie, and she wants more than anything to protect her from harm.  She’s spent her life protecting herself from further harm, and she wants to look out for her new friend as well.

Another important aspect of the story is the helplessness May feels because of her medical situation and being unable to communicate. Do you think the feeling of helplessness triggers the memories and paranoia? I think you don’t have to be in such an extreme situation as May to experience the feeling of helplessness and panic she describes.  Most people can relate to a time when they weren’t listened to, or taken seriously, and May has that feeling, justifiably, all the time.  It’s bound to take her back to the other time in her life when she didn’t have a voice that was heard, and when she lived with the constant threat of danger.

I found it quite interesting that nothing is black or white when it comes to May. She is both victim and simultaneously not completely innocent. Was this a contrast you wanted the reader to experience? I’ve always loved unreliable narrators and flawed heroes.  I think they are far more realistic.  Isn’t May like all of us, a mixture of saint and sinner?  I wanted the reader to be slightly unsure, to care for May without knowing quite whether to trust her or not.  

Is May so concerned about Jackie because of her own past and Helen? Definitely!  May didn’t manage to protect Helen but she’s not going to let another chance of protecting a friend slip away.

The reader can feel the frustration and fear May feels throughout the story, how important was it to be able convey those emotions accurately? I guess that’s the mark of a good storyteller – the one who can make you shiver when it’s warm and see shadows even when it’s bright sunlight.  I wanted to share how May thinks about the world with my readers, let them really hear her voice.  I so hope I’ve done that.

Thank you answering all of my questions, even the odd ones. Not odd at all, but really interesting.  The hardest one, surprisingly, was which person I’d most like to meet.  My granddaughter is studying like mad for GCSEs at the moment and I felt as though I was taking an exam too – I really enjoyed it!

Review

Imagine yourself bound by the limitations of your own body and consigned to a care home. Being eager to communicate, but unable to do so. May spends a lot of time inside her head with herself, and memories that have been brought to the surface by certain people in the home.

May, or Stopps, takes us back into another time in her life when she thought she had a voice, but in actual fact she didn’t. Her voice was being silenced by someone with a cruel streak and lack of compassion.

The physical damage of abuse heals, well at least the non-permanent damage does, but the emotional damage and the inner scarring never disappears. It’s always there like a haunting presence in the back of your mind, influencing relationships, emotions and actions.

The juxtaposition of her status as a victim and simultaneously as the perpetrator is quite intriguing. It also makes it difficult to put this read into a specific genre. It’s psychological suspense, women’s fiction and contemporary fiction. May is the voiceless victim of an overladen system, but somewhere deep inside lives the woman she used to be. The woman who knows the taste, smell and looks of an abuser, because her life was defined and controlled by one.

It’s all about wanting to be heard. May spent so many years hiding the truth that she no longer wants to be silent. It’s about protecting those who cannot see what is right before their eyes. How do you do that when you can’t warn anyone and your body has become your enemy?

I like the way Stopps keeps the reader on uncertain ground, which means she can slip the real intention by on the sly. 

Buy Hello, My Name is May at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ: pub date 18 April 2019. Buy at Amazon com, At WHSmith, Waterstones.

HelloMyNameIsMay_BlogTour

#BlogTour The Start of Something Wonderful by Jane Lambert

It’s my turn on the Audiobook Blog Tour for The Star of Something Wonderful by Jane Lambert. It’s contemporary and women’s fiction. It’s all about taking charge in life and reaching out to grab your dreams.About the Author

Jane taught English in Vienna then travelled the world as cabin crew, before making the life-changing decision to become an actor and voiceover artist in her mid-thirties. She has appeared in “Calendar Girls”, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time”, “Deathtrap”,  and most recently “True West” in London’s West End.  She has recorded audiobooks for BBC AudioGo, Isis Publishing and HarperCollins. She is currently adapting “The Start of Something Wonderful” into a 6-part comedy drama for TV.

Follow @JaneLambert22 @HQDigitalUK on Twitter,

Buy The Start of Something Wonderful

About the book

It’s never too late to follow your dreams….

Forty-year-old air stewardess Emily Forsyth thought she had everything a woman could wish for: a glamorous, jet-set lifestyle, a designer wardrobe and a dishy pilot boyfriend. Until he breaks up with her…

Catapulted into a midlife crisis she wishes she’d had earlier, she decides to turn her life upside down, quitting her job and instead beginning to chase her long-held dreams of becoming an actress! Leaving the skies behind her, Emily heads for the bright lights of London’s West End – but is it too late to reach for the stars?Review

When her boyfriend breaks up with her, Emily decides it’s time to change her entire life. She decides to try and achieve a dream of hers that she tucked away a long time ago. Now, in the midst of a midlife crisis of sorts she changes her entire life to chase that dream again.

It isn’t exactly an easy dream either, becoming an actress, especially when it’s harder to get into the business the older you are. Well, perhaps more of a problem for women that is. What follows are quite a few difficult, ironic and entertaining situations, as Emily fights for what she really wants.

I actually bought the ecopy of this after listening to the audiobook. I wanted to compare the written version and the audio version.

The author actually narrates the book herself, which isn’t as common as one would imagine. What I can say unequivocally is that Lambert gives the audiobook an entirely different feel to it, as opposed to the written words.

It’s upbeat, witty, fast, quirky, breathless and some kind of wonderful. If I am being entirely honest I think Lambert infuses the audio version with all the emotions and expectations she wants her readers to experience with the story, whereas the written version can seem a little more downbeat at times. I would certainly recommend picking up the audiobook to hear the character of Emily as Jane imagines her to be and not just read about her.

Apparently Lambert is adapting this book into a six part comedy drama for television. I can absolutely see that being a hoot, because Emily is the kind of character who is inadvertently amusing and very snarky. The premise will work well on the screen.

It’s contemporary and women’s fiction. It’s all about taking charge in life and reaching out to grab your dreams.

Buy The Start of Something Wonderful – Audiobook at Amazon Uk or Ecopy, or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Limited and HQ Digital. Buy the Audiobook at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Rules by Kerry Barnes

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Rules by Kerry Barnes.  It’s a story with a criminal as the one in charge.

About the Author

Kerry Barnes – born in 1964, grew up on a council estate in South-East London. Pushed by her parents to become a doctor, she entered the world of science and became a microbiologist. After studying law and pharmaceuticals, her career turned to medicine. Having dyslexia didn’t deter her from her passion for writing. She began writing when her daughter was born thirty years ago. Once her children had grown up she moved to the Kent coast and now writes full time.

Follow @KerryBarnes1 @HQDigital on Twitter, Visit authorkerrybarnes.co.uk

Buy The Rules

About the book

Do you live by the rules, or die by them?

Holed up in prison, Mike Regan is offered a deal – his freedom in exchange for his firm taking down the gang that is supplying a new dangerous drug that has hit the streets. What starts as a game soon becomes a shocking revelation with devastating consequences.

Meanwhile, Mike’s fiancé, Zara Ezra, has her own firm to run. But when the so-called Governor is out to take her down, she has her own decision to make – either fight, run, or write her own rule book…

Review

Hmm imagine a world where the police force is so ill-equipped to deal with not only the rise in crime, but the types of crime being committed, that they try and rope in the older generation of criminals to help them.

There used to be an unwritten law, which was particularly evident on the streets and inside prison. Even criminals have rules about what they consider to breaching an unspoken rule of conduct, and breakers of said rules were treated accordingly. Even today criminals want a line to be drawn between themselves and deviants, especially any deviancy involving children. That’s still a big no-no.

The problem is the world has moved beyond those romanticised versions of the Kray twins and other old-school criminal types. Just to be clear the Krays were ruthless monsters, the world just likes to paint them as something akin to Hollywood or mob royalty.

The police of today are dealing with unimaginably cruel and inhumane crimes. There are no boundaries to what some people will do to make money or to cause pain. How do you fight people who are monsters when you, the police in this instance, are given no respect from the majority of the public and no appropriate way to combat said monsters. Perhaps turning to the old guard doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

Barnes takes it up a notch in this book, which is violent, graphic and fast-paced. The reader needs to keep their eye on the ball in order to keep up with who the bad and the good guys are. To be fair I think those lines are well and truly skewed by the end of the book.

It’s perhaps a wee bit too fast in some places, which gives the plot a disjointed feel at times, but also in equal measures a way to represent the chaos of modern crime on our streets at the moment. It’s an eye for an eye kind of justice with no attempt to hide the brutality of that thought process. It’s a story with a criminal as the one in charge.

Buy The Rules (The Hunted #2) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read my review of Deceit by Kerry Barnes

#BlogTour A Fatal Flaw by Faith Martin

Today it is my turn on the BlogTour A Fatal Flaw by Faith Martin.This is the third book in the Ryder and Loveday series, a cosy crime series with an unusual crime fighting duo.

About the Author

Faith Martin has been writing for 30 years. She signed a massive 3-book deal with the publishers Harper Collins/HQ, who have published her Ryder & Loveday novels. All three novels, A Fatal Obsession, A Fatal Mistake and A Fatal Flaw are available now.

Follow @FaithMartin_Nov @HQDigitalUK @HQStories

Buy A Fatal Flaw

About the book

1960, Oxford

As the city of Oxford prepares itself for the inaugural Miss Oxford Honey Beauty Pageant at The Old Swan Theatre, excitement is in the air. But when one of the leading contestants is found dead, suspicion hangs over the competition.

Poisoned, the authorities assume her death was suicide. But after a malicious series of pranks and blackmail attempts are reported, WPC Loveday and Coroner Clement Ryder are called upon to solve the case.

In an atmosphere of fierce competition, the list of suspects is endless. Could what have started as harmless fun become a deadly race to win the prize?

With time running out, the duo need to spot the killer before tragedy strikes again…

Review

This is the third book in the Ryder and Loveday series, a cosy crime series with an unusual crime fighting duo. Loveday is a probationary WPC and Ryder is a coroner, many years her senior. 

Loveday has to suffer the misogynistic and sexist attitudes of her male colleagues. She is relegated to making tea, searching female suspects and family liaison. She would rather be at the forefront of crime like her colleagues, which is why she doesn’t say no when a potential crime falls into her lap.

Ryder has become Loveday’s inadvertent sidekick, but does so with great pleasure. He is busy trying to hide the fact he has a medical condition, which could end his career. Hiding the physical impairments of his Parkinson’s disease is becoming increasingly difficult, and are being mistaken for alcohol related incidents.

The combination of the two of them gives the story a light-hearted and comfortable feel, despite the crime element. Ryder gives Loveday the platform to evolve professionally and Loveday connects with Ryder in an almost familial way.

There are plenty of cosy crime books, but what Martin does is slide an element of modern crime in with the easy flow. You get an early Jane Tennison feel, which addresses the difficult aspect of being a woman in the police force, and the discriminatory treatment of people with medical issues and gender inequality.

It might seem a strange thing to say about a crime story, but the relationship between Ryder and Loveday gives it a feel-good element, despite the murders. Martin mixes the more nefarious aspects of human nature with an entertaining crime-solving duo. This is what happens when conscience and empathy meets murderous intention.

Buy A Fatal Flaw at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ Digital; pub date 1 Feb. 2019, Paperback pub date 18 April 2019

Read my review of A Fatal Obsession (Ryder and Loveday Mystery #1)

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

woman in the windowThis is an ode to Hitchcock and the classic tale of suspense.

Anna’s story is also indicative of the stigma and discrimination, which is prevalent in our society,  that people with mental health issues have to deal with.

Regardless of your social status, professional background, age or gender, a mental health diagnosis brings an entire busload of baggage with it. Suddenly you are no longer considered competent enough to make decisions and are an unreliable source.

Anna finds herself going from respected professional to the lonely lady who lives in her bathrobe and survives on a few bottles of wine a day. Her perfect family is a thing of the past. Her husband and child no longer live under the same roof, and Anna holds on tightly to every phone call and every conversation she has with them.

Her agoraphobia holds her prisoner in her very large house. The only contact to the outside world is via internet forums, her lodger in the basement and the people she watches through her windows. The neighbours who don’t know that she views them through her camera lens during the night, the day and any time she needs to feel a connection to the outside world.

The Hitchcockian aspect of the story starts when Anne meets one of her neighbours and later witnesses something horrific during one of her spying episodes, thereby starting a cycle of terror and mistrust. Suddenly everyone around her doubts each word she says and every action she takes. Anna becomes the crazy lady, who is scared to leave her own home.

The Woman in the Window is a story of grief, desperation, self-doubt and in the end of self-preservation. It’s also about momentary lapses in judgement and choices that can destroy lives. I can understand why it has been picked up to be developed into a film.

Finn has infused the story with fear of self and the unknown, and given it an air of nostalgia. Fans of classic films will perhaps recognise certain scenarios or films that are mentioned throughout the story.

It’s compelling and full of suspense, and Finn is definitely an author I look forward to hearing more from.

Buy The Woman in the Window at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @AJFinnBooks @HarperCollinsUK @KillerReads

The Other Us by Fiona Harper

The other UsIn The Other Us Harper moves away from her usual repertoire we have come to love and enjoy. She takes a big step away from her witty romantic comedies and leads her readers into this emotionally complex story. She still manages to infuse her special brand of humour into the characters and the story though.

I really enjoyed it. Leaving the elaborate plot aside, and I do so enjoy reads that make you ponder and sometimes screw with your brain, I do think this story is one readers will be able to relate to. Why? Because the majority of people will always believe that the grass is greener on the other side. They may not believe it all the time, especially during long-term relationships, but there will be occasions when they think about greener pastures.

Maggie wakes up one morning to find herself right back on the day she made a choice, the kind of choice that determines which path you take in life. So, the question is whether she should take this bizarre opportunity to choose a different life for herself.

Imagine being able to revisit some of the most important decisions in your life, but armed with the knowledge of your future. Sounds like an intriguing proposition to me, having the ability to change the outcome of your future. Except for the minor issue of the butterfly effect. You change one detail and inadvertently you may set a whole different sequence of events in motion.

Maggie has a grown daughter and is married to a dependable, and yet a wee bit boring Dan. She is thrilled to wake up a few decades earlier and have the opportunity to pick the love of her life Jude. Life with Jude means not having her daughter or her best friend Becca though. Is being with Jude worth it? And as if that wasn’t complicated enough, Maggie jumps back and forth into more than one alternative life.

She has no control over when, where or who she will end up with from one day to the next and is thrown into a state of constant emotional confusion. Does she give up one person to live with another, will she ever see her child again or in fact ever become a mother? In fact I think that was one of the most prolific questions the story raised. I’m sure plenty of people have mentioned flippantly that if given the chance they would have done things differently and made other choices. If you have children now that also means those children would probably not even exist in the new reality. So a choice against the father of your children is also a choice against the children you love. Maggie has to deal with the same dilemma.

Harper delivers an intriguing premise and an invigorating read. The time-hopping element and parallel realities give this story undertones of a science fiction plot, however the whole scenario could also just be one very long vivid dream. A dream full of Freudian slips with far-reaching consequences, all with the ultimate goal of comprehending that your own lawn is the same shade of green. Your subconscious often sends you very vivid messages, maybe this is just a very graphic wake-up call for Maggie. Kudos to Harper for the great read and the ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ Ewing reference, it was the first thing I thought of.

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

Follow @FiHarper_Author@HQStories or @HarperCollinsUK

Read The Summer we Danced, The Doris Day Vintage Film Club or The Little Shop of Hopes and Dreams by Fiona Harper