Challenge Participant


Friday, 7 August 2015

Blog Tour - Sarah Hilary No Other Darkness

Today I am pleased  to welcome Sarah Hilary to my blog following the publiation of her second novel featuring DI Marnie Rome, her female lead detective character, No Other Darkness.

Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut novel, SOMEONE ELSE'S SKIN, won the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015. It was the Observer's Book of the Month ("superbly disturbing”), a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller and has been published worldwide. NO OTHER DARKNESS, the second in the series is out now. The Marnie Rome series is being developed for television. 

 I recently met Sarah Hilary at my local literary festival, Worcestershire LitFest and Fringe, where she took part in the Illustrious Crime Panel with fellow crime writers: Clare Mackintosh, Alex Marwood and Chair of the Panel, local girl, Cally Taylor, read my review here. While taking part in the panel, Sarah Hilary mentioned that has always found it difficult to write strong female characters but after the discovery of flash fiction she hit the mark with DI Marnie Rose, and so I asked Sarah how she created the men within Marnie's world.....

Writing the Men in Marnie Romes life
by Sarah Hilary

Patricia Highsmith was a great advocate for writing from the subconscious or unconscious mind. She took it to the extreme of being blind drunk or half-asleep before she sat down to write. Dreams, weirdness, monsters, fearsall the best stuff, Highsmith insisted, is lurking in our unconscious minds. This, I think is part of the reason why she wrote such convincing men. Because she was mainlining her id, keeping her ego in its place (and taking every chance she got to thumb her nose at the superego).

So it is with me when Im writing Noah or Stephen or Welland. These characters so removed from me and my reality trip from my fingertips. Marnie comes more reluctantly, always guarding her secrets. But writing a nightclub scene with Noah and his boyfriend, Dan? Easiest thing in the world. Even nineteen-year-old Stephen Keele, his mouth lush with silence, comes more easily than Marnie.

So which of the men in Marnies life is the best fun to write? Heres my top five.

Ed Belloc

Every story needs a resting place. Eds my version of the underground bunker with the tinned peaches from Cormac McCarthys The Roadbut for that breathing space it would be impossible to continue. (Although readers of No Other Darkness will want to point out what I did with an underground bunker and peaches.)

Noah Jake

Noah is a joy to write. Hes smart and sensitive and no matter what I chuck at him, he comes back for more, usually after some well-earned downtime with Dan.

Tim Welland

Welland is Marnies boss, and father figure. Gruff as an old bear, I love the way he watches out for Marnie, knows her weak spots, keeps her on track.

Adam Fletcher

Adam makes his debut in No Other Darkness, but hes been in Marnies life since she was sixteen. Hes a snarky son of a bitch. Im not sure Ed would approve of the unholy kick I get out of writing Adam.

Stephen Keele

If Ed is the steady place in Marnies turning world then Stephen is the opposite. He became her bogeyman when he was fourteen, and shows every sign of becoming more frightening as the series progresses. In No Other Darkness he hands Marnie a reason for what he did that messes with her head, hugely.

Whether or not its my unconscious that serves up the men in my books, I do love writing them. I hope readers love (or love to hate) them too.

Thank you to Sarah for visiting my blog today. I am currently reading No Other Darkness, and loving it and my review will follow soon. I am enjoying it so much and didn't want to miss anything by rushing to the end to publish my review with this blog post.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Worcestershire Literary Festival – Covert Operations with Cameron Addicott

My second visit to St Johns Library in this festival was for a very different event to my first, the illustrious crime panel, this time I was looking forward to being given an insight into the criminal underground where drugs are the main currency and people take unbelievable risks to traffic them into the country. The programme promised discussion to include criminal motivation, methods of intelligence gathering, cocaine production and smuggling and money laundering.

Cameron Addicott was an undercover officer in H.M Customs and the Serious Organised Crime Agency for nearly twenty years . He was a Criminal Investigator, Covert Surveillance Operative and Commander,  an Informant Handler and an Undercover Officer. Since leaving this work he is now a director of a Security Services company and is writing another book.

I really enjoyed listening to Cameron talk, as did my husband. He told a number of stories about his working life and reminisced about life undercover before turning the conversation to the dramatisation of his first book ‘The Interceptor’ which is currently being shown on BBC1. It has been a fantastic series and I hope that it is optioned for a second series.

Thank you to the festival organisers for supplying me with two tickets in return for a review.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Blog Tour - The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

The Quality of Silence (Hardback)

On 24th November Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrive in Alaska. Within hours they are driving alone across a frozen wilderness Where nothing grows Where no one lives Where tears freeze And night will last for another fifty-four days. They are looking for Ruby's father. Travelling deeper into a silent land. They still cannot find him. And someone is watching them in the dark.

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group

ISBN: 9780349408125

Rosamund Lupton has written some fantastic books: Sister and Afterwards, both of which have been international bestsellers and this, her third book, I believe is heading the same way.

Telling the story of Yasmin and Ruby, who is deaf, mother and daughter travel to Alaska in search of Ruby's father. They are starting on a long journey which leads them deeper into the Alaskan landscape, where they never feel they are alone. This landscape is a fantastic backdrop to the story, which keeps the reader on their toes throughout the book. 

Lupton's fantastic writing style continues as a brilliant storyteller. The storytelling is haunting but beautiful, often at a break neck speed as the hunt for Ruby's father continues to gather pace, leaving them both in peril. It is one of those books which are hard to put down, always wanting to know what will happen next. However, although this book is a thriller, there are also moments of humour, in Ruby's narrative, and also an insight into living with deafness where the environment is seen in a different way, with other senses heightened as one is lost. 

I would recommend this book to existing fans of Lupton, however it is also a fantastic introduction into Lupton's books which never fail to impress. 

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Worcestershire Literary Festival - Our Illustrious Crime Panel

The scene was set in St John’s Library, Worcester, for an enjoyable evening spent in the company of four, fairly new, crime authors for Worcester Literary Festival’s Illustrious Crime Panel. Chaired by local girl Cally Taylor (C L Taylor), author of The Accident and The Lie, Sarah Hilary, author of Someone Else’s Skin, for which she has been nominated for Crime Novel of the Year at Harrogate and No Other Darkness, Clare Mackintosh, who’s debut novel I Let You Go, is a Times Best Seller and is one of the current Richard and Judy Book Club Reads, and Alex Marwood, author of The Wicked Girls, who has been awarded an Edgar award and has Steven King’s endorsement on the front cover. 

The authors were ready, the pick and mix was being politely passed around the room, under the eagle eyes of the authors, who wanted it returned before they started the event, and the audience primed, ready to hear about the world of psychological thrillers, before asking their own questions of the visiting authors. The event started with the obligatory selfie.

The author’s all introduced themselves, with Clare Mackintosh talking about her life as a police officer, and her time spent as a Riot Commander, before leaving the force to look after her young children and write a book; Alex Marwood was a journalist, working on The Independent, Cally Taylor wrote two chick lit books first and then wrote her first psychological thriller  while taking part in a mad 100,000 words in a 100 days challenge and then The Lie was written while on maternity leave, plotting in her head throughout all those night feeds and Sarah Hilary who writes her crime thrillers without the aid of a police consultant advisor (much to the horror of Claire Mackintosh)!

There was a short discussion on the topic of women writers, typically expected to write chick lit book, however many more women are now exploring the darker side of psychological thrillers, making the literary move from chick lit to what is being lovingly entitled ‘domestic noir’. The authors did suggest that the chick lit genre explored fears but left the reader with their happy ever after, whereas this new genre gives the reader more satisfaction with a meatier story and an ending which keeps the reader gripped right to the end.

Clare Mackintosh has always enjoyed writing and in her time as a serving policewoman, enjoyed writing witness statements and reports, ensuring that the victims got to tell their story in court. She has a wealth of experience which she brings to her writing, having been in contact with many walks of life from the homeless through to royalty, couple this with the paranoia linked to motherhood and she has a great base from which to write.  She has said that she felt, until she read Sarah Hilary’s first novel, that there were not many police characters who felt authentic and that DI Marnie Rome was one of the best fictional detectives around.

Sarah Hilary has always found it difficult to write strong female characters but after the discovery of flash fiction she hit the mark with DI Marni Rose. She has found a love of writing closed environments  with one book being set in a  women refuge and tackles hard hitting topics including domestic violence.  She also has a love for television dramas including the popular Broadchurch.

Alex Marwood loves to explore how people can live after doing something bad – she was a journalist during the Jamie Bulger incident, which gave an insight into the public’s perception of crimes against children and the press’ response and was also fascinated by the Christopher Jefferies fiasco, where the police and  public’s perception of a person led to an incorrect arrest.  Alex Marwood has found it difficult to shrug off her journalistic background, after which she decided on the pen name Alex Marwood. I was surprised to find that she often asks advice off her pal, in her words ‘author of filthy bonkbusters’ Rebecca Chance! She also said that the American audience take her much more seriously and comparing the two audiences, American’s don’t like any swearing whereas the UK audience were in uproar when she killed a dog in the book, which was done discreetly and not part of the main story.

Cally Taylor’s thrillers are partly autobiographical, with her love of breaking bad and the sopranos providing many other possible story ideas. but she surprised the other authors with her meticulous planning process. She has, in the past, plotted the whole emotional arc which will structure her book. This is completely different to both Marwood and Mackintosh who don’t give their publishers a detailed synopsis until they have written about two thirds of the book and Sarah Hilary compares her planning process looks like a science project with post it notes everywhere.

Clare Mackintosh and Sarah Hilary have both been chosen as Richard and Judy Book Club reads, which they acknowledged was a great achievement. Mackinstosh found out in the middle of Marks and Spencers she had been chosen for this Summer’s list, while out shopping with her children, and her publisher told her to go and buy some lucky knickers!! The power of Richard and Judy’s bookclub is evident. Richard and Judy were on BBC1’s One Show talking about this year’s chosen titles and mentioned three of the titles, including Macintosh’s ‘I Let You Go’ and the following day she was delighted to find that she reached number one on Amazon, with the other titles also shooting up the charts.  Mackintosh also told the audience about her interesting way of writing scenes, for which she thanks her mother, who ensured she leant how to touch type, enabling her to close her eyes while writing her novels, and watch the story play out in front of her eyes.  Mackintosh also told how she wrote her first novel, submitted it to her publisher, who made an offer, which she then, on the advice of her agent, turned down and started again on what was to become a Times Bestseller I Let You Go. This seems to be a pattern for Mackintosh as she recently finished the first draft of her second book, which she gave to her agent, who read it and wasn’t sure, neither was Clare and they decided to scrap it and now Mackintosh has started again with a completely different idea – it all sounds very exciting, set on the London Underground

Cally Taylor is a local girl, with some of her family still living around Worcester, although she has relocated to Bristol. Her mother was in the audience and was able to ask a question which she admitted she had never thought to ask her daughter..  Cally also talked about one of the highlights of her career was when Home for Christmas, an early book by Taylor, being made into a film by an independent movie producer, and it was set in the actual cinema that Taylor had set the book in.  Although it was wasn’t a blockbuster, she loved seeing it on the big screen and both she and her family had a walk on, extras part in the movie. Cally also divulged that she completely changed the killer in one book after she had finished writing the first draft but likes to give the readers lots of red herrings and rounded characters.

The final question was asked by fellow author Meg Sanders, who wanted to know, if the police were to take your laptop and search it, what is the weirdest thing they would find on it? The answers were weird and wonderful, and of course I can’t divulge their secrets – although Alex likes tartan kilts and Clare is fascinated by the Underground.


I have reviewed many of Meg Sander's books, which she has co-written under the psuedoymn Annie Sanders, on this blog and we have missed each other at the last two ChipLit Festivals, so it was lovely to finally meet her and here is the obligatory photograph.

The event was fantastically organised by Worcester Literary Festival team, the setting was perfect, small and intimate, but did not feel cramped or uncomfortable. There was lots of interaction between the authors and the audience and following last year’s Romance panel event (organised by Alison May) I look forward to seeing what is in store next year. I also loved the opportunity to meet up with author Meg Sanders, following two missed oppurtunities at Chipping Norton Literary Festival, who has written lots of great books as one half of the partnership Annie Sanders.

Thank you to Martin Driscoll, festival director, for offering both myself and my husband a complimentary ticket in return for an honest review.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show Offs by Sarah Forbes

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-Offs - Elspeth Hart 1 (Paperback)

Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs is the first adventure featuring the fabulous Elspeth Hart, a modern heroine with doodles on her trainers and unstoppable determination. Can you imagine never being allowed to play outside, dear reader? How about sleeping in a wardrobe every night? That's what life is like for Elspeth Hart. Ever since her parents were tragically washed away in a flood, poor Elspeth has been forced to live with her disgusting aunt, Miss Crabb, in the attic of the Pandora Pants School for Show-offs. Elspeth spends her days sweeping up mouse droppings, washing filthy pots and dodging Tatiana Firensky, the most horrible show-off of all. But what Elspeth doesn't know is that things are about to change...A fast-paced and funny story from a fresh new voice in children's fiction, Elspeth Hart's quirky adventures will delight fans of David Walliams, Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl.

Publisher: Little Tiger Press Group
ISBN: 9781847155955

What happens if you take Hogwarts from Harry Potter, add in the cast from Holly and Kelly Willoughby's School for Stars and the mischief of Dirty Bertie and you are left with this book!! A modern day Malory Towers style boarding school where the pupils work hard, but they also play hard. There is an air of Roald Dahl's humour throughout the story which I am sure will make it very popular and appeal to both boys and girls.

I loved this book - as I have said already there is a fantastic setting of a boarding school full of wannabee stars of stage and screen who think they are above Elspeth Hart the niece of the school's cook, Miss Crab, who set Elspeth to work each day with the worst jobs possible. As with all schools there are troublemakers who make Elspeth's day even worse but she also has her firm friends who make life manageable.

The story has lots of funny bits which will have children laughing out loud and will keep their attention to the very last page - and wanting the next book in the series! 

I even love the cover of this book - it has cut out windows which, when the cover is opened, reveals another picture behind of the school girls 'posing' while Elspeth cleans. The fantastic illustrations continue throughout the book, and the illustrator, James Brown, has captured the aloofness of the school pupils and the performance art teachers in every pencil stroke.

I am really looking forward to the next installment of school life at Pandora Pants School for Show Offs (Yes that really is the name of the school) and can't wait to see what happens to Elspeth Hart, who I think life may be very different for, in the future.

Thank you to Stripes for sending me this book to review and to the author, Sarah Forbes, for joining me at my blog, for a stop on her blog tour.

Blog Tour - Elspeth Hart and the School For Show Offs by Sarah Forbes

Today I am pleased to welcome Sarah Forbes to my blog. Sarah has, in the past, worked on magazines, interviewing pop stars, and is also an editor. She can now add author to this list, as her debut children's novel, Elspeth Hart and the school for show offs, hits the shelves this month.

Sarah joins me today to tell me about her writing influences.

My writing influences 

I find it hard to pick out my exact writing influences, but it’s something I like thinking about, because it lets me daydream my way back into the books I loved as a child. My first book, Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs, is set in a very odd boarding school. Inspiration for that setting must have come from the piles of school stories I devoured as a kid: Mallory Towers, Chalet School, St Clare’s, Trebizon, Dimsie Goes to School…most of these were in my local library and I can still remember how their yellow pages felt between my fingers. The world of Mallory Towers is a long way from Aberdeenshire in the 1980s, but like so many kids I found myself immersed in a world of lacrosse and tuck-boxes and prep. I was fascinated by it all.

Other writers I adored: Anne Fine, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl (of course). The atmospheric mystery of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. But also the dark, intriguing, Rats of Nimh books, Stig of the Dump, and the Choose Your Own Adventure stories I used to swap with friends.

We studied some great books at school as well; The Monster Garden by Vivian Alcock sticks in my mind, as does Carrie’s War and Joan Lingard’s Across the Barricades. So that’s quite a mash-up of different styles I was reading as a child!

I suspect anyone who writes is influenced by so many things: TV, movies, music, art, overheard conversations… you name it! I sometimes laugh quite hard at childish slapstick humour (people falling over or slipping on things, for example) and so a fair bit of that creeps into the books. I’m also constantly peckish, so it’s no surprise that Elspeth’s story features a top-secret-sticky-toffee-sauce recipe.

Ultimately I think the best inspiration is time, having space to think, but this is in short supply for most of us. One good thing about having started my career as a journalist is that I got used to coming up with a constant stream of ideas under pressure… so maybe my days writing quizzes about Girls Aloud were all good practice for writing books!

Thanks very much for featuring me, Sarah 

Thank you Sarah for visiting today and tells myself and my readers about your writing influences. I too enjoyed Malory Towers, Trebizon and St Clares when I was younger and I must confess that I have read Malory Towers recently and now I want to re-read St Clares too. Unfortunately my daughter does not share my love of these books but I still have copies on my bookshelves just for me!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Blog Tour - Delete by Jeff Povey

Delete: Shift #2 (Paperback)
'Tense and witty drama' Sunday Times 'High-concept sci-fi series with shade of Michael Grant a strong shot of black humour' The Bookseller Just when you thought the apocalyptic detention was over...Having fought their way back to what they believe to be their home world, Rev, GG and The Ape discover that they're now stuck in the nightmarish world of doppelgangers, surrounded by a town of super-powered killing machines. Johnson, Billie and the Moth are still trapped in the empty world. Alive, but with no way home. Can Rev get the misfits back together? And even if she can will she be able to do it before the world ends. Time is running out...And believe it or not that's the least of their problems.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
ISBN: 9781471118708

Last year I was asked to be a part of Jeff Povey's debut children's novel, ShiftI was very lucky to share the first chapter with you, my blog readers, of his novel which was described as an apocalyptically funny and thrilling read for young adult readers.  Now, twelve months on, Jeff is back with his second book, Delete, which is the sequel to Shift, and is again visiting my blog, this time with a conversation between Ape and Non-Ape



- A Polemical Discourse OnProblems Within The Education System-


After we arrived in London and found the rubble that was once a five star hotel Non-Ape ate solidly for three straight hours.  He grew larger and stronger by the minute and the Ape started wondering just how strong and big Non-Ape could get.

‘Could you lift a tree?’


‘A car.’


‘How about a bus.’

Non-Ape chewed on that one for a moment.  ‘Does it have people in it?’

Oh my God, that means he must have lifted a bus with passengers inside.  I started to realise just how powerful – and dangerous – he must be. An Ape with that sort of power must need very careful management.

‘Say it’s packed.’

‘What’s packed?’ Hanging onto a train of thought has never come easy to Non-Ape.

‘The bus.’

‘Oh yeah.  Easy.’  Non-Ape smiles and I’m pretty sure he has definitely lifted a commuter packed bus at some stage in his oafish life.

The Ape would never be one to worship or idolise but his eyes had widened in a subtle wonder.  But then again he was talking to himself in many ways so it was probably more that he was thinking of trying the same when he got home.

They high fived and I could see the Ape racking his brains now.  Thinking of all things heavy.

‘A JCB digger.’


‘A big cow.’


‘Those big metal rooms in banks.’

‘What are they?’

‘Where they hide money.’

The Ape was thinking of a bank vault but I’ve only ever seen them in films.  Do they really exist?  Non-Ape’s grin spread all the way across his lips as a lightbulb lit up in his huge head.  ‘Yowza.’

I could see it now, Non-Ape marching into a bank and dragging the vault home with him.

‘Could you lift a tank?’

Non-Ape shrugged.  ‘Already did.’

The Ape looked impressed.  ‘Yowza.’

‘Threw it in a field.’

‘Yow----za!A whole tank.’

‘Yeah.’  Non-Ape wasn’t even boasting, it was as if he threw tanks into fields every day of his life.  Maybe he did.

Non-Ape stopped shoveling pasta down his throat.  ‘They shouldn’t have got me mad.’

The Ape couldn’t help but grab pasta for himself as Non-Ape continued.  ‘They said I got bad marks at school.  And I said no way.  I got four U’s.’

‘Fouris genius.’

‘That’s what I said.  Who else got that many?  I’ll tell you.  No one.  But they said I had to leave school.’

‘With four U’s?’  Non-Ape shook his head, as if he was totally bewildered.  ‘They should leave school.’

‘What I said.’

‘U stands for University.’  The Ape suddenly declared.  ‘You could go to four of them.’

U stands for Ungraded.  It usually means you were either absent during the exam or you got a low score that meant you failed to get a grade.  Zero counts as a low score and I wondered how many zeroes Non-Ape got.  I’m thinking four.

Non-Ape stopped eating for a moment.  He was definitely getting bigger and the chair he was sitting on was starting to buckle under his weight.  ‘Four U’s and they were yelling at me.  Yelling ain’t teaching.’

‘It’s just yelling.’  The Ape agreed and it started to feel like that there was a great meeting of minds taking place.  No two people could have been so similar in their outlook.‘Should’ve got a gold star.’  The Ape slurped more pasta.

‘I asked for one.’

‘They didn’t give it?’

Non-Ape shook his head again and looked quite hurt.  ‘Not even a green one.’  Do they really give out stars to seventeen year olds?  Sometimes the Apes were almost too heartbreakingly naïve.  I could see them in their classroom’s, probably never listening and thinking up ways to make people laugh or get their attention.  They only grasped a quarter of what was being said and didn’t ever really get that school and learning was something important.

‘Four U’s, that’s got to be a record.’  The Ape could feel Non-Ape’s pain.

‘So the teacher’s yelling and I’m thinking, is he shouting at me?  Or is it someone behind me?’  Non-Ape clearly felt his four U’s were worthy of amuch better response.

‘Was there someone behind you?’  The Ape asked.

‘Was just a wall.  I sit at the back.’

‘Me too.Every class.’  The Ape and Non-Ape stopped to bump fists, excited that they were so alike.

‘So he’s yelling and he’s been eating onions which makes the air smell bad.’

‘Onions.’  The Ape executed an exaggerated retching reflex.

Non-Ape retched in return.  ‘And I wave the smell away.  Only he’s too close and next thing I’ve hit him in the face and he’s gone out the window.’

The Ape sits forward, he’s getting into the story now.  ‘You knocked him out the window?’

‘It was open.’  Non-Ape stopped to dredge through his memory.  ‘Well. It was definitely open afterwards.’

‘Should’ve cleaned his teeth.’

Non-Ape started laughing.  ‘He landed in the car park and the alarms started going off.’

The Ape joined in with a big hearty laugh and they spent a good two minutes just laughing and making car alarm noises. Non-Ape shifted in his chair and the pained creak filled the hotel kitchen.

‘Then the Head came into the classroom.’

‘Did he have onion breath?’

‘Probably.’  Non-Ape slurped more pasta and was still growing bigger.  ‘He said I had to leave school.’


Non-Ape nodded.  ‘I got four U’s!’

‘Four Universities, got to be a world record.’

‘Got to be.’  Non-Ape stopped to let out a low belch.  The Ape immediately responded with one of his own.  ‘But I just sat there.  Said I’m not leaving.  So he phoned for a tank.”

The Ape was still impressed.  ‘Was it loaded?’

‘They said it was.’

‘Probably was then.’

‘Probably.’  Non-Ape’s chair wasn’t going to hold.  I gave it another three minutes at best.  ‘They told me to come out of the classroom.’


‘So harsh.’  Non Ape wiped his mouth with the back of a hand the size of a frying pan.  ‘The whole school was outside.’

‘Like for a fire alarm?’

‘Yeah.  And the Head was yelling stuff.’

‘What stuff?’

‘Dunno, wasn’t listening.’  Non-Ape shrugged.  ‘But I got up and went outside.  Wanted to see the tank.

‘Never seen a live one.’

‘Me neither.’  Non-Ape sucked up more pasta.  ‘Everyone was yelling stuff now.  So I picked up the tank and threw it away.’

‘Good.  Because yelling ain’t teaching.’  The Ape repeated knowledgeably.

‘Tell you something.’  Non-Ape said after finishing the last of the pasta.

‘What’s that?’

“I’m not going to bother next year.  Learning and that.  If that’s how they treat you when you get four U’s.’
Thank you again to  Simon and Schuster  Children's Books and Jeff Povey for inviting me to again take part in their blog tour and apologies for the late publication of this blog post.