Her Last Breath by Alison Belsham

4 Stars from me

Worth adding that is a really solid 4 stars too, this is crime thriller well worth a read.

This is actually the second in a series and, although it does work as a standalone, I would personally recommend that you go back and read The Tattoo Thief first so that you have a greater understanding of the key characters.

Her Last Breath has an intriguing and unusual storyline and there are some fab high drama scenes as DI Sullivan and his team struggle to catch the murderer before he strikes again.

A bit like with The Tattoo Thief, I felt quite sorry for Detective Francis Sullivan as he seems to perpetually take a bit of a kicking from all sides and I hope he has more luck in future books. Even his family seem to let him down in this one.

I loved it being set in Brighton, there are some great references in the background scenery and it is easy to imagine where the events are unfolding.

Synopsis: The body count is rising…and the clock is ticking.

When a young woman is attacked and left fighting to survive in hospital, the police are pulled into a race against time to save her life. But just 24 hours later, she dies and a deadly tattoo is discovered on her body.

And when another young woman disappears, Detective Francis Sullivan and his team fear a serial killer walks the streets of Brighton.

His team identify a suspect, Alex Mullins, son of Francis’s lover, Marni. Can Francis forget their shared past and save the next victim before it is too late?

A gripping crime thriller from the author of The Tattoo Thief.

Blood Family by Graeme Hampton

4 Stars from me

I love meeting new police characters and I enjoyed following DI Matt Denning and DS Molly Fisher of the East London MIT in this second book of the series.

The books starts with a brutal and gruesome crime as a family home is set on fire and it doesn’t take long for fire investigators to discover the five bodies, three generations of the Galloway family, inside. I couldn’t hep but feel relieved that they had been shot first.

Denning and Fisher are a bit of an odd pairing and I plan to go back and read the first book in the series so that I can get to know them better. However, you learn a lot about them and their own dysfunctional families in Blood Family, with Matt Denning jugging his dedication to his career along with caring for his autistic son and Molly Fisher struggling with brother.

There seemed to be a different dynamic here than in other police procedurals that I have read recently and it made the book all the more engaging as Molly is actively encouraged to take risks and more cautious Denning plods doggedly onwards to solve the crime and catch the murderer.

The aspect of dysfunction and no such thing as a normal family is a strong message and not a bad one to promote.

Blood Family is a enjoyable read and I will look out for more in the series. My thanks to Graeme Hampton and BOTBSPublicity for letting me take part in this blog tour.

Synopsis: When D.I. Matthew Denning is called in to investigate a house fire in a North London street, he never anticipated the horrors that awaited him. As Denning and D.S. Molly Fisher search the wreckage, the bodies of the Galloway family – Brian and Ellie, son Simon, daughter Amber and 9-year-old grandson Caleb – are discovered in the smouldering house.

All evidence points to a tragic accident… until Matthew and Molly discover that the family was dead before the fire, murdered in their home by a faceless psychopath. What started as a routine investigation swiftly turns into a murder investigation, with Denning and Fisher hunting a killer who has wiped out three generations with a shotgun.

But as the case deepens, Denning and Fisher discover that the Galloways were no ordinary family. Like all families, they harbour secrets – but unlike others, their secrets were so deadly, someone is willing to spill blood to keep them hidden…

An utterly gripping detective novel set in London, Blood Family will thrill fans of Angela Marsons, Mark Billingham and Robert Bryndza.

Hold Your Tongue by Deborah Masson

4 Stars from me

I love stumbling across the beginning of a new series and so was delighted to read Hold Your Tongue featuring DI Eve Hunter. Set in Aberdeen, this is a gruesome crime thriller and it very literally made me cringe in a few places. It’s so hard not to imagine the awfulness of someone sawing away at your tongue with a breadknife!

DI Hunter was an interesting character with a boot-load of baggage, making her a perfect police lead for this style of book.

Her team were a mix of deeply loyal and deeply suspicious – again perfect for the genre. There is a history behind the suspicion and the resentment from some members of her team and this is revealed throughout the story.

Overall, this is a satisfying crime thriller with nice mix of human interest and gore and enough intrigue to hold your attention while you work out ‘whodunnit’.

I look forward to reading more by Deborah Masson and I am hopefully that future books will delve deeper into the Cold Granite of Aberdeen and immerse us in even darker and more uncomfortable crimes.

Synopsis:

A brutal murder.
A young woman’s body is discovered with horrifying injuries, a recent newspaper cutting pinned to her clothing.
A detective with everything to prove.
This is her only chance to redeem herself.
A serial killer with nothing to lose.
He’s waited years, and his reign of terror has only just begun…

Introducing DI Eve Hunter, HOLD YOUR TONGUE is your new obsession.

Help the Witch by Tom Cox

4 Stars from me

An odd little collection of short stories, most of which had me crying ‘Where’s the ending, that wasn’t an ending!’

A few favourites stood out:

Help The Witch
Speed Awareness
The Robot
Just Good Friends
Steve
Little Goth Twat
and the old lady hare one, I can’t remember it’s name

I would recommend dipping in and out of this book rather than reading them all in one go. I think they would be best enjoyed as standalone passages, leaving your mind free to indulge them.

What stood out most for me was that Tom Cox is a superb wordsmith and I think he should turn his hand to some new ‘fairy stories’ – I’m thinking Grimm not Disney. Tom Cox could bring new life to creepy little tales for children.

I loved the illustrations too, it is a beautiful looking book.

About: Inspired by our native landscapes, saturated by the shadows beneath trees and behind doors, listening to the run of water and half-heard voices, Tom Cox’s first collection of short stories is a series of evocative and unsettling trips into worlds previously visited by the likes of M. R. James and E. F. Benson.

Railway tunnels, the lanes and hills of the Peak District, family homes, old stones, shreds fluttering on barbed wire, night drawing in, something that might be an animal shifting on the other side of a hedge: Tom has drawn on his life-long love of weird fiction, folklore and nature s unregarded corners to write a collection of stories that will delight fans old and new, and leave them very uneasy about turning the reading lamp off.

A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay

5 Stars from me

So good, so good, so good, so good!

Another masterpiece from Linwood Barlcay, A Noise Downstairs is a fine example of the Hitchcockesque style that I absolutely raced through it and loved every moment.

Haunted typewriter – check
Average Joe murderer – check
Plot holes you can drive a truck thru – check
Accidental hero – check
Crazy old guy – check
Inappropriate psychiatrist – check
Infidelity – check
Red herrings – check
Dysfunctional families – check

It’s all there, I mean come on what more do you want from a fabulous, kitsch, creepy little thriller?

I think Never Saw It Coming will forever remain my favourite Linwood Barclay novel but this one is coming a pretty close second.

Synopsis: The New York Times bestselling author of No Time for Goodbye returns with a haunting psychological thriller that blends the twists and turns of Gillian Flynn with the driving suspense of Harlan Coben, in which a man is troubled by odd sounds for which there is no rational explanation.

College professor Paul Davis is a normal guy with a normal life. Until, driving along a deserted road late one night, he surprises a murderer disposing of a couple of bodies. That’s when Paul’s “normal” existence is turned upside down. After nearly losing his own life in that encounter, he finds himself battling PTSD, depression, and severe problems at work. His wife, Charlotte, desperate to cheer him up, brings home a vintage typewriter—complete with ink ribbons and heavy round keys—to encourage him to get started on that novel he’s always intended to write.

However, the typewriter itself is a problem. Paul swears it’s possessed and types by itself at night. But only Paul can hear the noise coming from downstairs; Charlotte doesn’t hear a thing. And she worries he’s going off the rails.

Paul believes the typewriter is somehow connected to the murderer he discovered nearly a year ago. The killer had made his victims type apologies to him before ending their lives. Has another sick twist of fate entwined his life with the killer—could this be the same machine? Increasingly tormented but determined to discover the truth and confront his nightmare, Paul begins investigating the deaths himself.

But that may not be the best thing to do. Maybe Paul should just take the typewriter back to where his wife found it. Maybe he should stop asking questions and simply walk away while he can…

Are You Watching by Vincent Ralph

5 Stars from me

This little belter of a book had me utterly hooked. I read it in one day and found it incredibly hard to put down.

Jess is a likeable character and her little family are filled with charm despite the obvious hole in their lives left behind by Jess’ mum who was murdered by ‘The Magpie Man’.

There is a nice balance of tension, emotion, relationships, peril and intrigue throughout the story and a good solid whodunnit with a few clever red herrings, some clues and satisfying outcome!

I loved the use of the YouTube reality show as the platform for Jess to try and find her mother’s killer and thought the concept was very well described and enacted – perfect for the YA audience but I have to say I read this book without realising its target market and I absolutely loved it. So I would say it is perfect for the not-so-young-adult market too!

Synopsis: A page-turning new YA thriller for the social media age, perfect for fans of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and One Of Us Is Lying.

Ten years ago, Jess’s mother was murdered by the Magpie Man. She was the first of his victims but not the last. Now Jess is the star of a YouTube reality series and she’s using it to catch the killer once and for all.

The whole world is watching her every move.

And so is the Magpie Man.

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

5 Stars from me

Oh my god – this book, this book, this book!

#ThreeHoursNovel by Rosamund Lupton is absolutely breathtaking. I really can’t recommend this book enough. Every page is powerful and beautifully crafted and I read most of the story with my breath held and my heart in my mouth.

The emotions within the book are captured perfectly and I was taken through the whole gambit from joy to fear to heartbreak and back again.

My heart broke for the poor mum who was waiting for news of her son, her emotions were tangible, palpable and I lived them with her. The emotive feelings from this stayed with me for days after I had finished the book.

The breaking of the story via Twitter and YouTube was cleverly delivered and again utterly believable and compelling.

Without wishing to give the story away or drop any spoilers, the brain washing and manipulation was terrifying and heart breaking again in equal measure.

However, among the horror and awfulness of the hatred and intolerance a bright light of love and warm shone out. The spirit and strength of the school staff, the resilience and protectiveness of the students, the faith in each other was beautiful.

I had high hopes owing to the sheer brilliance of Sister and can definitively confirm that I was not disappointed. Three Hours is a must read of 2020 and I am truly honoured to be kicking off the blog tour for Penguin Books.

Synopsis: The extraordinary new novel everyone is talking about from the Sunday Times best-selling author of Sister

Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.

It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.

It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.

It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.

In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. Told from the point of view of the people at the heart of it, from the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.

Joining Blogging Book Tours – pros and cons

2019 has proved to be a wonderful year for me from a book blogging perspective. I have read some incredible books (I’ve read 72 according to Good Reads but I know it is a few more than that!).

I have always been a keen and regular reader – escapism at it’s finest!

During 2019 I’ve really embraced taking part in blog tours for books and I’ve hugely enjoyed it, it feels really good to be tiny part of the publicity and promotion for an author and to feel like I might in some small way have contributed to their sales 🙂

At this point, I would like to offer very genuine and heartfelt thanks to those who have welcomed me into their reviewers fold:

Damp Pebbles Blog Tours – got to start with Emma and Damp Pebbles as this was the first blog tour I joined and I have read some fabulous books thanks to Emma and the excellent service she offers to authors and reviewers.

Tony Marturano – next I move to Tony who introduced me to the fascinating and hugely exciting world of being invited to join a readers panel with a view to being an early reader to provide honest feedback intended help shape the editing process prior to publication. I was honoured to be able to this for Tony with his own books and also with Eye for Eye by J K Franko.

Book on the Bright Side Publicity – then there is the lovely Sarah from BOTBS who again I have taken part in some brilliant tours with and is super lovely to deal with too.

R&R Book Tours – now the lovely Shannon from R&R tours… Not only do I get to discover new books with her but she sends me MAGIC content that is all whizzy and HTML codey wizardry!

Random Things Tours – the most recent sign up for me is with the lovely Anne from Random Things Tours. Anne is great to deal with and super organised – thanks again for letting me take part.

Last but by no means least, I have also done a couple of reviews with Mirror Books and have a couple more lined up for the New Year. They are also great to work with and have some really exciting publications.

Also a nod to NetGalley, I absolutely love NetGalley!

So again, huge thanks to you all.

Now to Pros and Cons

I’ll start with cons as then they are out of the way. It can, at times, feel pressured. It can, sometimes, feel as though you are reading to meet a deadline rather than reading for enjoyment. There will be times when you don’t like the book. You will need to be clear and strong with your own opinions – without damaging the tour. You will need to be organised and meet the commitments you have made in terms of reviews – people are relying on you to publish on the right date. Never ever do it for the ‘free’ books, they aren’t free, think about the cost of your time!

Phew, now, on to the pros! So many positive aspects here, you get to read some amazing books – for me personally I’ve read books that I would probably not have ever encountered and a lot of them have been brilliant! You get to make connections with other people who love books 🙂 it’s a beautiful thing giving someone a book recommendation and then getting a tweet in a couple of weeks time to say they loved it. Reading an advance copy of a book for a nerd like me is exquisite! And, for me, the best thing is knowing that I’ve helped an author or made them smile when I can honestly say ‘I loved your book’.

So thank you all once again and I look forward to reading and reviewing many more fabulous books in 2020.

Lisa x

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

3 Stars from me

Yes, 3, unpopular opinion I know. I do feel conflicted over this as it is not owing to the quality of the writing which, for the record, is excellent.

For me, My Dark Vanessa should have ended at about the 55% mark. Even up to this point I found the book a little laborious but I distinctly recall looking up to see how much of the book was left as I couldn’t believe it hadn’t ended, and it then being 58%. I truly felt the book had reached it’s natural conclusion. (I did go on to finish the book but felt it really dragged after that point.)

The subject matter isn’t great but that’s not to say it wasn’t a good story and an important story. This level of grooming and abuse goes on far too frequently and it is important that attention is drawn to the issue so that people can stop turning a blind eye out of misplaced politeness. However, having said that the books goes to great lengths to stress that both Stane and Vanessa see it more as a love story which, for me, muddies the waters massively on this being a positive message.

I would very much read something else by the same author as the depth and quality of the writing really was great, the characters were all credible and scenes and places were are well described.

Synopsis:

An era-defining novel about the relationship between a fifteen-year-old girl and her teacher

ALL HE DID WAS FALL IN LOVE WITH ME AND THE WORLD TURNED HIM INTO A MONSTER

Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.

Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that.

Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.

Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, and as riveting as it is disturbing, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues our age is grappling with.

Victim of Innocence: a DCI Matilda Darke short story by Michael Wood

5 Stars from me

Victim of Innocence is a prequel to the incredible DCI Matilda Darke crime series.

This, short story, is a must for fans of the series and you get to meet a slightly different Matilda. In this book her beloved husband is still alive and she is more fun, flirtatious and coquettish. It’s a little bit heartbreaking to know just how things are going to end up, yet still wonderful to see them together.

The story shows Matilda having to work alongside DI Ben Hales as they have to work together to find a killer before he strikes again.

There are some great scenes of tension and peril, particularly during the undercover section and it is a cracking plot.

Not everything is quite as it first seems…

If you have a book lover in your life and know that they enjoy crime thrillers – then this book is a must buy for their Christmas list!

Synopsis: The nightmare is just beginning…

A short story and prequel featuring DCI Matilda Darke, star of Michael Wood’s darkly compelling crime series. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons and Patricia Gibney.

She invited the killer into her home…
 
The body of a young woman is found in an apartment block in a Sheffield suburb. She was attacked at home, in a sudden moment of violence that sends shockwaves through the community.
 
DCI Matilda Darke has no choice but to work with her rival, DI Ben Hales, as the investigation takes them undercover into the dark world of a serial rapist targeting innocent women on the streets of the steel city.

But can Matilda and Ben finally put their grievances aside and work together? Or will this case be their last?