Blog Tour | The Escape (CL Taylor)

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“Look after your daughter’s things. And your daughter…” When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn’t. The stranger knows Jo’s name, she knows her husband Max and she’s got a glove belonging to Jo’s two year old daughter Elise. What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo’s own husband turn against her. No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there’s only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.

I admit I had never read a CL Taylor book before, but The Escape had an intriguing and creepy cover that I couldn’t stop looking at. And that blurb? Mysterious and appealing…

This is one of those books that can easily be read in a sitting (I know I did!): fast-paced, addictive and easy to read. The perfect “escape”, ideal for a relaxing evening after a busy day at work. The genre? Psychological thriller, of course.

Jo Blackmore meets a woman on the street and she asks her for a lift. This woman seems to know who Jo is and claims her husband owes her something. She also threatens to harm their daughter if Jo doesn’t help her. But Jo knows nothing about this woman and her husband assures her he doesn’t know her either. What is going on? And why does she feel she’s being watched? Has someone been at their house?

The novel had two different parts, one more “suspenseful” and the other with a more “adventure” feel. I enjoyed both, although the first one offered a quicker pace and was more traditionally “psychological”. I guess it depends on what you prefer, but this is undoubtedly a fun book worthy of your time. I remember feeling tricked when I realized something I hadn’t even considered as a possibility. Yes, there was a small, clever twist (I wouldn’t say this is a book full of surprises) that caught me by surprise and made me enjoy the story even more.

I can’t say this is a unique read, as it follows the classic psychological thriller path (a woman feeling like she’s losing her mind), but it’s still a cleverly-plotted novel that manages to keep you completely hooked and never lets you go. I admit I was a bit confused by the ending, but I think I might have read too much into it.

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ARC, Avon Books, 2017

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Blog Tour | When We Danced at the End of the Pier (Sandy Taylor)

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Brighton 1930: Maureen O’Connell is a carefree girl, but her family is on the brink of tragedy, war is looming and life will never be the same again. Jack and Nelson have always been dear friends to Maureen. Despite their different backgrounds, they’ve seen each other through thick and thin. As Maureen blossoms from a little girl into a young woman, the candle she’s always held for Jack burns bright. But just as she’s found love, war wrenches them apart. The man she cherishes with all her heart is leaving. When the bombs start to fall, Maureen and her family find themselves living in the most dangerous of times. With Jack no longer by her side and Nelson at war, Maureen has never felt more alone. Can she look to a brighter future? And will she find the true happiness she’s dreamt of? An utterly gripping and heart-wrenching story about the enduring power of love, hope and friendship during the darkest of days. Perfect for fans of Pam Jenoff, Nadine Dorries and Diney Costeloe.

First things first: the title. Isn’t it beautiful? I absolutely adore it. I was worried: what if I didn’t like the book? No one wants to say they dislike a book with such a beautiful title :O Fortunately, When We Danced at the End of the Pier was a truly enjoyable novel that I can’t wait for you to read.

This is a story about family, friendship and love. A family saga that spans quite a few years and features Maureen, Brenda, Jack, Nelson, Monica, and Maureen and Brenda’s parents. If I had to choose a favorite part, I’d say that the father story broke my heart (and it will break yours too). I desperately wanted to know what was going on, although I kind of suspected. He was a sweet and loving dad and I wanted him to get better. When We Danced at the End of the Pier is one of those novels where all the main characters are good-natured people and you can’t help but root for them. They deserve to be happy (especially my little Brenda!)

Maureen was the protagonist and a classic goody two-shoes. I’m not saying she wasn’t as interesting as the others (after all, she was the key of everything), but there were times when I wanted to sit down and talk to her, knock some sense into her. For example, she falls in love with Jack the very first time they meet and she already knows they’re going to marry one day. She doesn’t even tell him about it! I wanted to tell her that you can fall in love more than once, that there are different types of love, and that your teenage sweetheart isn’t always the person you’re supposed to be with. Maybe yes, of course, but not always. I think you can now guess who I was rooting for 😉

Even though I was completely engaged from the beginning, I still felt the writing was maybe too saccharine, as I don’t have much patience when it comes to cheesy stuff. However, I noticed that, as the main characters grew up, the writing evolved as well. And I kind of liked that, as it felt natural and fitting: the writing being a reflection of the characters’ minds. It was a rather short book but it made a lasting impression.

This is not a book filled with action, as you can expect from the title, the cover and the blurb. I remember reaching 25% and thinking that not much had happened yet, but still, there hadn’t been a dull moment. I was totally engrossed by the setting, the story and these characters. I already felt they were part of my family and their day-to-day tribulations were as engaging as any thriller I’ve recently read.

I also remember moments when I felt I had something in my eye… Finally, don’t worry if you see this is #3 in a trilogy. I didn’t know that but this can be read as a standalone. And what a lovely read!

 

Netgalley, Bookouture, 2017

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About the author
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Sandy Taylor grew up on a council estate near Brighton. There were no books in the house, so Sandy’s love of the written word was nurtured in the little local library. Leaving school at fifteen, Sandy worked in a series of factories before landing a job at Butlins in Minehead. This career change led her to becoming a singer, a stand up comic and eventually a playwright and novelist.

Blog Tour | Born Bad (Marnie Riches)

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When gang leader Paddy O’Brien is stabbed in his brother’s famous nightclub, Manchester’s criminal underworld is shaken to the core. Tensions are running high, and as the body count begins to grow, the O’Brien family must face a tough decision – sell their side of the city to the infamous Boddlington gang or stick it out and risk losing their king. But war comes easy to the bad boys, and they won’t go down without a fight. So begins a fierce battle for the South Side, with the leading Manchester gangsters taking the law into their own hands – but only the strongest will survive…

EXTRACT

As she crossed the room behind Paddy, the animated chatter calmed almost instantly to a low, mournful thrum. Everybody took a respectful step back to let the great King Patrick advance to his rightful place next to Frank, who was standing by the white and gold coffin – its lid mercifully closed now that the Vigil had taken place. Sheila had been amazed that her nephew had been made to look like he was just sleeping off a good night in Ibiza. Appearing rather worse for wear than his dead son, however, Frank now looked like he had spent the night at the bottom of a bottle of vodka. Paddy slapped him across the back and cleared his throat, his eyes darting across the room, as though he didn’t know how to react to a man who unashamedly displayed the visible pain of the bereaved.

‘Sheila,’ Frank said, his chin dimpling up and the corners of his mouth turning downwards. He embraced her warmly, leaking hot tears onto her neck. Poor bastard.
‘We’re here for you, Frank,’ she said, beckoning her girls close so that they should also show their uncle moral support. Casting an eye over the scores of O’Brien cousins, uncles, aunties, dressed to impress. ‘Your family’s all here.’

He shook his head too energetically. Wiped his eyes on the cuff of his jacket.

‘Jack was my fucking family,’ he said, hammering his chest with a nicotine-stained index finger. ‘I lost everything when I lost my boy.’

He directed a bitter stare towards Paddy.

Frank staggered out behind the coffin towards the waiting cortege that lined the leafy side-street. The gleaming black funeral limousine and hearse stood out among vehicles of relatives and pimped-up rides of Jack’s inner circle and O’Brien firm lackeys.

People thronged the street, as if it were a state burial – the men nodding respectfully and the women offering sympathetic smiles to Frank. Dressed in a fine black suit and slim tie, he looked the part, but Sheila could see from the pitch and roll of his walk and his bowed posture that e was drowning on the inside. A ship threatening to capsize. She linked arms with him, pleased to swap Paddy – who was too preoccupied with shaking the hands of his acolytes to be feeling anything but pride – for a thin-skinned man who was flooded with the full spectrum of emotions.

With the reassuring presence of Conky McFadden travelling behind them and the flower-filled hearse in front, they journeyed through the red-brick streets of south Manchester, bustling with back-packed students hurrying to their lectures, to the Holy Name church on Oxford Road. Focusing on the black peaked cap and creased, red neck of the driver, Sheila was careful to avoid the gaze of Paddy. He was sitting, legs akimbo, like he was en-route to a party, holding a monologue that nobody listened to about the O’Brien dynasty and feudal nature of respect. She made damned sure that he couldn’t see her wincing with pain from the bruising caused by his punches.

Finally, as the car pulled up behind the hearse, Sheila understood the enormity of an O’Brien being murdered. Jack O’Brien, of all people. The pavement outside the large, sandstone Catholic almost-cathedral churned with people. Gaggles of young girls decked out in hotpants and vests as though they were heading off to the Trafford Centre for a day’s shopping, taking macabre selfies with the hearse in the background. Paparazzi, snapping nattily dressed black guys whom Sheila recognised as rappers, with their arms slung nonchalantly around the shoulders of singers she had seen on the music channels that played continually on the gym’s TVs. All fluttering false eyelashes and backcombed 1950s hair. Actors, recognisable from soap operas. The region’s glitterati and gritterati had come out in force. Jack clearly hadn’t belonged to the O’Briens. He had belonged to the world. Sheila wondered how Paddy felt now, knowing he was a zero next to his dead nephew. The thought made her smile.

As the pall-bearers shuffled forwards, bearing the coffin on their shoulders, Paddy pushed his way between Sheila and the beleaguered Frank. Placed his arm territorially around Frank’s shoulder.

‘Back off, She,’ he said, glancing in her direction but not meeting her disgruntled glare. As he turned to face forwards, she was sure he winked at some groupie onlooker who was dabbing artfully at observant, dry eyes. ‘This is brotherly business.’

Feeling her cheeks flush hot, Sheila bit her lip and looked down at her shoes. Acknowledged the pain where Paddy had hit her but pushed it aside, hooking her arm inside Dahlia’s. Swallowed hard as her brother-in-law started to sob like a small boy with a skinned knee. From behind, she watched his shoulders heaving, but there was nothing she could do to comfort Frank. She walked three steps behind. Always a cheap afterthought in expensive clothing. At her side, Conky McFadden lifted his glasses and fixed her with his bulging thyroid eyes. Behind the disconcerting frog-like stare, she saw sympathy. Even Conky could see the hurt she thought she was hiding so well.

Inside, the organ played a solemn hymn that echoed around the lofty vaulted ceiling. She had loved coming here as a little girl, on the way back into town from school. Alighting from the bus at the university students’ union, she would sit in silence on one of the pews, marvelling that the tiny golden crucifix, hanging above the altar, was such a modest focal-point in such a famous and otherwise ornate church. The Smiths had sung about it. Even Elsie Tanner from Coronation Street had had her funeral mass here.

Towards the front, she spotted Gloria, looking prim but proud beneath a fascinator that had Debenhams written all over it. She gave her a fleeting smile that would remind her she was not family. Noticed Maureen Kaplan and her posse of bent accountants on the same row, all deferentially nodding at Frank and Paddy. All except for the man that wasn’t one of Kaplan’s sons. What was his name, again? Goodman. David Goodman. He looked like he was about to vomit. And, perhaps most interestingly, she noticed that Goodman was staring intently over at a small dishevelled-looking man with a buzz cut and glasses, sitting next to a frump of a woman with hair that resembled a brown helmet.

The detective and the tax inspector. The gruesome twosome. Ellis James and Ruth Darley.

I had never read any Marnie Riches’ novel before, but I had always wanted to. Her Georgina McKenzie novels are quite popular and everyone agrees she’s an author to watch out for! Born Bad was a gritty crime thriller set in Manchester with a powerful set of characters and a promising ending.

The book is told by multiple voices. Not two or even three, but actually more. I was confused at first, as every chapter seemed to introduce a brand new character and their story. However, soon it all began to click together. This is a complex tale, a story of evil and ambition, a fight for power and success. Who will be the last man standing?

Who do we have here? First, gangster Paddy O’Brien, whom I hated with a passion but was the key to everything. Then there’s his wife Sheila, his right hand Conky and his brother Frank. The Boddlington gang has Tariq and Jonny, and the dangerous Fish Man… and then you have Lev. Keep in mind that I’m not even mentioning all the other supporting characters like Gloria, Frank’s son or Lev’s ex-wife Almost all the characters were evil and hard to like, but perhaps Conky and Leviticus Bell were the ones you could understand a bit more. Not that I would ever be friends with them, but at least they weren’t as bad as the others. And that’s saying something.

The book is filled with suspense and the action begins already in the first chapter. What a way to start a book! And it doesn’t exactly slow down… This is not a fluffy read by any means and you will definitely need something lighter when you finish reading. It’s just one of those books where practically everyone seems to be over-manipulative and selfish, caring only about money and success. And that undoubtedly makes for great stories, but I still wished I had someone to root for. The dark world of Manchester reminded me of Sirens by Joseph Knox; although, Aidan, as flawed as he was, has managed to hold a special place in my heart. Sadly, I can’t say this will happen with any of these characters.

As for the ending, I think it was made clear that this is only the start of a series, and I really enjoyed the final chapters leading to that powerful conclusion. There were some fun surprises and a final twist that made me smile, even if I didn’t exactly like what had happened. Perfect for fans of gangsters, action and violence.

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Avon Books, 2017

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A Suitable Lie (Michael J Malone) | BLOG TOUR

A Suitable Lie AW.inddAndy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match… And she loves his son, too. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. He ignores it; a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything. A brave, deeply moving psychological thriller which marks a stunning departure for one of Scotland’s top crime writers.

Domestic abuse seems to be quite a popular topic in books this year. I previously read two fantastic novels: Between You And Me & Behind Closed Doors. A Suitable Lie is another great option if you’re a fan of the domestic thriller genre. This is a truly immersive book that will keep you reading for hours without even realizing it.

A Suitable Lie is about a young widowed man who happens to meet lovely Anna, whom she decides to marry after just a few months. Everything seems perfectly normal, but after the wedding, Anna begins to show signs erratic behaviour, often changing from the perfect wife to a dangerous reckless woman…

While reading A Suitable Lie, I couldn’t stop thinking about how this novel would be an incredibly polemic book in my country. Misogynist violence is one of our biggest issues and this book reverses the roles, although the reasons are never the same.

Anyway, politics aside, I enjoyed this book immensely, despite the topic being so dark. I have to say I struggled a bit with some of Andy’s decisions, but this always happens when I read this kind of stories. And when you have kids in the picture, everything is harder. Dialogues were smart and emotional and I found myself racing through the book in just one afternoon.

At a certain point, A Suitable Lie had me wondering if this was just a really old-fashioned book, but then I had to remind myself that the story was set in the 90s and early 00s. There was a particular storyline where I couldn’t believe how people were reacting. And well, the only reason why I’m not giving this the highest rating is because I didn’t feel that the “work” story was necessary and because I had figured out in my mind what was going on, which meant that there was no real surprise.

Anyway, A Suitable Lie is a gripping, violent and surprising book, one of the finest within the domestic genre and extremely compelling. You will feel like you’re part of their lives and you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.

P.S: How many times can you count “wee”? 😀
P.S 2: I want to visit Scotland!

Orenda Books, 2016

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website http://www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

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The Vanishing Year (Kate Moretti) | BLOG TOUR

esta.jpgZoe Whittaker is living a charmed life. She is the beautiful young wife to handsome, charming Wall Street tycoon Henry Whittaker. She is a member of Manhattan’s social elite. She is on the board of one of the city’s most prestigious philanthropic organizations. She has a perfect Tribeca penthouse in the city and a gorgeous lake house in the country. The finest wine, the most up-to-date fashion, and the most luxurious vacations are all at her fingertips. What no one knows is that five years ago, Zoe’s life was in danger. Back then, Zoe wasn’t Zoe at all. Now her secrets are coming back to haunt her. As the past and present collide, Zoe must decide who she can trust before she—whoever she is—vanishes completely.

The Vanishing Year is a completely absorbing book, a well-crafted thriller that keeps you engaged from the first page until its explosive ending. Although the plot seemed a bit too familiar (a successful young woman with a dark past), the book stands out from the majority of psychological thrillers out there. The writing is compelling and the final pages were unputdownable.

Zoe and Henry Whittaker are one of NY’s most successful couples. They are deeply in love and live in an expensive apartment: everything seems perfect. However, behind closed doors, Henry claims he never wants to lose her and he might be a bit too controlling. And Zoe has a dark and mysterious past that doesn’t want anyone to know about. Zoe also wants to find out what happened to her biological mother, although someone is trying to prevent her from investigating further…

One of the themes of this book is, clearly, the importance of second (and third) chances. I loved how Cash -who was a truly great character- told Zoe that her past didn’t really matter as long as she had changed. A lot of people make mistakes and then reinvent themselves, so why should we mind? And why should be always defined by our past? That’s why I loved the last sentence so much and it made me think of how we sometimes judge people based on their past actions when it’s clear that they’re not the same person anymore.

Plot-wise, The Vanishing Year had a few surprises up its sleeve, so twist-lovers don’t need to worry about this one. I had no idea what to think about the mystery until I reached the 70% mark. Enter the first “twist”, which was the one that helped me guess the final surprise. Despite that, I still had a lot to find out and I was wrong about many things! Especially regarding some of the minor characters.

If I had to point something negative, I’d say that the “past chapters” weren’t really necessary, especially because there were only a couple of them and the rest of the book was set in the present. Zoe recalls her past life often, so maybe she could’ve done just that. In addition, some details regarding the conclusion were a bit far-fetched but the ending was so satisfying that I almost didn’t mind. It was super twisty and shady and you all know how much I love these things. I’m afraid I can’t say much more without giving too much away.

I’d recommend this book to fans of addictive and compulsive psychological thrillers, the type of books that keep you guessing from the very start. If you’re intrigued by family secrets and dark pasts, I think this might be the right book for you. Of course, be prepared to hate some of the characters and prepare to get increasingly frustrated as you keep reading. This could easily become one of those “it” books everyone talks about.

Atria Books, 2016

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Giveaway: 3 signed copies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Pooja Dhar at PR Photograph

Kate Moretti is the New York Times bestselling author of Thought I Knew You, Binds That Tie, and While You Were Gone. She lives in eastern Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. Find out more at katemoretti.com, or follow her on Twitter (@KateMoretti1) or Facebook (KateMorettiWriter).

FIND KATE ONLINE:
Website: www.katemoretti.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katemorettiwriter
Twitter: @KateMoretti1
Instagram: @katemoretti1

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