Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings

Scars. We all carry them. Some are mere scratches. Others run deeper. 

At a school rife with bullying, Will and his best friend Luke are involved in a horrific incident that results in Luke leaving. 

Twenty-five years later their paths cross again and memories of Will's painful childhood come flooding back to haunt him. His wife, Harmony, who is struggling after a miscarriage that has hit her hard, wishes Will would open up about his experiences. But while Will withdraws further, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic stranger from her husband s past, and soon all three are caught in a tangled web of guilt, desire, betrayal.

The Judas Scar is Amanda Jennings' second novel and is published by Cutting Edge Press on 1 May 2014.

Things are never quite as they seem on the outside. That's certainly true of Will and Harmony's marriage. They appear to be rock solid. Married for twenty years and so in love, both have careers that they enjoy, they love their quirky flat, they have many friends. But this is a story about scars and their marriage bears a huge scar. Harmony lost their unborn child a few months ago, and she is hurting. Will has always been clear that he doesn't want to be a father, and when Harmony decides that she'd like to try for another baby, the old wounds beneath Will's scars open up and he discloses a secret that could potentially rip their world apart.

As Harmony deals with Will's disclosure she finds herself drawn towards Luke; an old friend from Will's schooldays. Will and Luke have matching, visible scars - across the palm of their hands and created when they decided that they were blood brothers and would never let each other down. It is clear though, as the story progresses, that Luke has invisible scars too. He and Will are not comfortable in each other's company, there are secrets in their past that have never been discussed, and Luke intends to make someone pay for the way that his life turned out.

Amanda Jennings's writing is broody and dark, there is an underlying tension throughout this novel that is just waiting to explode. Will and Harmony are well-formed characters, they both have issues; Will can't bear to talk about his schooldays or his late Father, Harmony struggles to cope with the loss of those that she has loved; her Father, her Mother and her unborn child.

Luke is obsessive. He sets his sights on Harmony and is not prepared to give up until he has got what he wants. Obsessions, tormentors, bullying and scars; both hidden and visible - these are the themes that run through The Judas Scar, and as the story twists and turns to the shocking conclusion, the reader is swept along by the wonderfully descriptive writing.

The Judas Scar is one of those novels that you need to keep reading ..... just one more page ..... because the instant that you put it down, you'll be thinking of it, and when you finish it, you'll be wondering about it for quite a while.

Tense, tightly plotted with characters that are by no means perfect, and in some cases just twisted. I was totally transfixed by the story - an excellent read from a talented author.

My thanks to the team at Cutting Edge Press who sent my copy for review.

Amanda is mother to three daughters and lives in chaotic contentment just outside Henley-on-Thames with a houseful of pets and a husband. 

For more information about the author and her books visit her website

Twitter @MandaJJennings

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Monday, 21 April 2014

The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene

Arthur Winthrop is a middle-aged headmaster at an elite prep school in Vermont. When he is arrested for an act that is incredibly out of character, the strait-laced, married headmaster confesses to a much more serious crime. 
Arthur reveals that he has had a passionate affair with a scholarship student called Betsy Pappas. But Betsy is a fickle and precocious teenager. When she switches her attentions to a classmate, Arthur's passion for Betsy turns, by degrees, into something far darker. Now Arthur must tell the truth about what happened to Betsy. But can Arthur's version of events be trusted - or is the reality much more complex and unnerving? 
The Headmaster's Wife is a dark, sinuous and compelling novel about marriage and obsessive love.

The Headmaster's Wife is published in the UK by Corvus (Atlantic Books) on 1 May 2014, and is Thomas Christopher Greene's fourth novel.

The reader meets Arthur Winthrop as he arrives at Central Park West very early on a winter's morning. Arthur is the esteemed Headmaster of Lancaster College, Vermont. Arthur's father, and his father before him were also Headmasters at Lancaster.  Arthur strips naked and walks through the snowy park, he is arrested and taken away to be interviewed by the police. During this interview Arthur confesses to a deed far more serious than walking naked in public.

Arthur's story is sad but also a little menacing. He speaks of a student called Betsy Pappas; bright and beautiful and out of bounds to a married teacher who holds a position of power and trust. Yet Arthur is totally obsessed by Betsy, risking his reputation and his marriage to catch a glimpse of her, to steal a night away with her, to try to make her love him. Betsy has become a drug, he is addicted and will let nothing and nobody stand in his way. He is determined that she will be his and his only.

Thomas Christopher Greene tells the story of The Headmaster's Wife in three parts; Acrimony, Expectations and After. Arthur's narrative makes up the first half of the story, with the second part and the ending relayed by different character's points of view. Arthur does not appear to be a terribly reliable narrator, nor does he evoke a great deal of empathy from the reader. However, just a few pages into the alternative narratives will tell the reader so much more about Arthur, and opinion and viewpoint changes dramatically.

This is a very complex story, it is also a little confusing in parts and I found it extremely difficult at times to feel anything at all for any of the characters, with the exception of Russell.

There is no doubt however that Greene is a gifted author. His words are haunting and depict the unravelling of Arthur's mind so well.  The Headmaster's Wife is a story of how grief can make life unpredictable.

Thomas Christopher Greene was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts. Tom has worked in a staple factory; as an oyster shucker; as a speechwriter and spokesperson for a presidential campaign; as the director of public affairs for two colleges; and as a professor of writing and literature.  In 2006, Tom founded the Vermont College of Fine Arts, a top New England arts college, making him the youngest college president in America at that time.

More information about the author and his work can be found at

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Sunday, 20 April 2014

Fan by Danny Rhodes

In 1989, eighteen-year-old John Finch spends his Saturdays following Nottingham Forest up and down the country and the rest of the week trudging the streets of his hometown as a postal worker. 
2004 sees Finch spending his days teaching in a southern secondary school, delaying the inevitable onslaught of parenthood. 
Leading inexorably towards the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough, the worst sporting disaster in British history, Fan glides between 1989 and 2004 when the true impact of this tragic day becomes evident. 
A book of personal and collective tragedy; it s about growing up and not growing up, about manhood and about what makes a man, and above all about football s role in reflecting a society that is never more than a stone s throw away from shattering point.

Fan by Danny Rhodes was published on 15 April 2014 by Arcadia Books.  15 April 2014 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.

I was brought up in a small North Nottinghamshire village, situated right at the very tip of Nottinghamshire and bordering both Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire.  Nottingham, Sheffield, Doncaster, Lincoln - these were my stomping grounds, the places I knew, the places that were familiar to me.
Although I don't come from a family of football fans, we were proud of  Nottingham Forest - this team who had probably the best known manager in the country, the team that had risen and seemed to be winning it all.
In 1989 I was 22 and due to be married on April 22.  A week before that, two of our wedding guests went to Hillsborough to watch their team. They were Liverpool supporters and they were deaf. With no internet and no mobile phones, the waiting and worrying for friends and family, as we began to hear what had happened that day was almost unbearable. Karen and Robert were lucky, they came home.  So many fans didn't go home, so many families ruined - an event that is etched on the heart of so many, an event that should never have happened and an event that still, twenty-five years later is foremost in the nation's mind.

FAN is told in the then and the now by John Finch, or Finchy as he's known as.  'Then' was the late 80s, Finchy was a rookie postman, starting early, delivering the council tax bills and the giros and spending what he had on following Forest. Up and down the country, crap grounds, being pissed on by rival fans, battlefields both on and off the pitch. Losing, drawing - uninspiring. Then Cloughie and the boys turn things around, Forest are winning, they are on their way to Wembley.

'Now' is 2004, beginning the day that Brian Clough died - the end of an era. Finchy lives down South, far away from the bleak Midlands town that he started out in. He's a teacher, he lives with his girlfriend Kelly, but Finchy is troubled, he's unhappy. Cloughie is dead, and then he hears that one of the 'boys' is dead too. Fellow Forest fan Stimmo - hanged himself.  Finchy is going back.

I can't go into detail. Everyone knows what happened at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989, and Finchy was there. He and the boys saw it happening, slowly in front of their eyes. They saw people die and those images were imprinted onto their brains for ever afterwards, they would never go away.  Finchy and the boys never spoke about Hillsborough, or what they saw. They went home and carried on living.

John Finch left town though. Not straight away, but not that long after Hillsborough. He came home and he fucked up royally. He didn't tell anyone what was going on in his head, he treated people like crap and then he left.

Danny Rhodes has written a novel that is sharp and raw and convincing. FAN is a story about men, and about how they dealt with the aftermath of this event that changed their lives and the lives of all British football fans for ever.  There is something incredibly unsettling about the words of this story, probably because the reader knows that Danny Rhodes is fully authorised to write them, and that underlying suspicion that actually most of this story is more fact than fiction. There is a compelling need to continue reading despite an overwhelming feeling that one is invading the privacy of the author.

In turns I was chilled to the bone by the stark description of the events of that fateful day, and moved to tears of frustration for the men who went home and tried to carry on 'like blokes do'. No counselling, or talking it over with friends as a group of women would surely do.

I have no doubt that some people won't be able to read FAN. It is a harrowing account that pulls no punches, and for those of us that remember the pictures in the newspapers over the following days, it will evoke memories that have never quite faded away.

Writing FAN was a brave act from Danny Rhodes, this shines through in his writing. The emotion and feeling screams out from the pages.  FAN is an important book, it is a story about humans; the fragility of both bones and of minds.  FAN is a powerful story.

My thanks to the Arcadia Books team who sent my copy for review and constantly feed my appetite with their fabulous books.

Danny Rhodes grew up in Grantham, Lincolnshire before moving to Kent in 1994 to attend university in Canterbury.  He has lived in the cathedral city ever since. After a number of his short stories appeared in magazines on both sides of the Atlantic his debut novel, Asboville, was published in October 2006. Well received by critics, it was selected as a Waterstone's Paperback of the Year and it has been adapted for BBC Films by the dramatist Nick Leather. Rhodes' second novel Soldier Boy was published in February 2009. FAN is Danny's third novel, and he continues to write short stories in a variety of genres.

Danny Rhodes was at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989   #The96

For more information, visit the website  
Twitter @danrhodesuk

A percentage of profits from the sale of FAN will go to the Anfield Sports & Community Centre (ASCC), on behalf and in memory of the Hillsborough 96.

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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Surrounded By Water ~ Stephanie Butland ** BLOG TOUR ~ Review & Giveaway **

Elizabeth's world is turned upside down when her husband dies in a tragic drowning accident. 
How typical of her kind, generous husband - a respected police officer - to sacrifice his own life saving a complete stranger's.
Or so she thinks. 
What exactly was her husband doing at the lake that night? And what if his death isn't the most difficult thing she will have to deal with? 
Elizabeth must face the consequences of her husband's actions. As she does so, it seems that the end of Mike's life is only the beginning of his wife truly getting to know him.

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Surrounded By Water, the debut novel from Stephanie Butland ~ published in hardback by Bantam Press (Transworld) on 10 April 2014.

Elizabeth and Mike have lived a love story of fairy tales, although they have had their disappointments along the way, their love never faded. They were strong; best friends, lovers, running partners. Mike was generous and brave, a police officer who was dutiful and loyal.  Now Mike is dead.  Mike drowned in a nearby lake, doing what Mike did best - putting others before himself. Typical Mike ...... or was it?

Elizabeth's heartbreak and despair is palpable, she is broken, she cannot imagine life without Mike. She does not want to imagine it. She writes letters to her dead husband that are raw with grief, that express her love and her shattered heart. Mike was her one true love, she travelled across the world from her home in Australia to make a home with him in the small village where he grew up. Now she feels alone, despite being supported by Mike's two best friends and her sister Mel who has rushed across the world to be by her side, she cannot imagine how she will continue without him.  Mike's mother Patricia is also heartbroken by his death, but finds herself unable to comfort Elizabeth, everything she says seems to sound hurtful, everything she does is wrong.

Elizabeth wants to know why Mike died, what happened in those moments before he jumped into the lake to save nineteen-year-old Kate Micklethwaite?  Kate claims that she can't remember anything, she has no answers.

Told in the form of Elizabeth's letters to Mike, interspersed with scenes from 'Then', 'Between' and 'Now', this is an intensely moving and beautifully written story. Elizabeth's grief is raw, her pain seeps through the words that she writes to Mike and become more desperate and tragic with each letter.

The reader is always just one step ahead of Elizabeth and it is this that adds to the sorrow that I felt for Elizabeth, the anticipation of her reaction when she eventually finds out the truth is almost unbearable as she pours out her love to her beloved husband.

With powerful messages of hope, of disappointment, of secrets and of consequences, Surrounded By Water is a novel that draws the reader in from the first page. It is a journey of discovery; for Elizabeth, for Mike's friends and family and also for a young girl whose life will be changed for ever by secrets and lies.

A story to savour and to talk about. Stephanie Butland is a skilled author, it's very difficult to believe that this is her debut.

Stephanie Butland is a professional trainer specialising in creativity and thinking skills. She also uses her unique skills and first-hand experience to support people with cancer. She helps to raise awareness and funds for many charities and has written two books about her life with the illness.

She lives in Northumberland with her husband and two children.

For more information visit her website
Twitter @under_blue_sky 

My thanks to Patsy Irwin from Transworld who kindly invited me to be part of this Blog Tour and is providing a signed hardback copy of Surrounded By Water as a prize in this giveaway. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter widget below - UK entries only please.   Good luck

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Saturday, 12 April 2014

The In-Between by Barbara Stewart

Ellie Moss is moving away from her ex-best friend, away from Jackson High School and away from The Worst Year of Her Life. It will be a New Beginning, so she can become New Ellie – the Ellie who is pretty, smart and popular. 
But then, a terrible car accident changes her life forever. Reeling from the shock of losing one of her parents, Ellie starts her new high school and meets a new friend. 
Madeline is everything that Ellie wants to be: beautiful, bold and brave. But as Madeline’s influence over Ellie grows, and her life begins to spiral out of control, Ellie starts to question if she can trust her – and, more to the point, can Ellie even trust herself? 
Because Ellie knows what happens when your best friend becomes your worst enemy. But what happens when your worst enemy is yourself?

The In-Between is Barbara Stewart's debut novel, aimed at a Young Adult market and was published in the UK in paperback by Pan Macmillan on 27 March 2014.

Sometimes I'm really envious of young people today, they have such a wide range of fiction to choose from, far more than was available when I was in my teens. I seemed to make the transition from children's books to adult fiction in one huge leap. One day I was reading The Famous Five and Nancy Drew and then all of a sudden my bookshelves were filled with Judith Krantz and Shirley Conran. Thinking back, that is quite a leap!

Barbara Stewart's debut novel The In-Between is not the easiest story to read. With dark and difficult themes, it is a story that will made the reader question the lead character Ellie thoughout.

Ellie and her family are moving away. They are going to make a new start and Ellie has promised to become New Ellie.  Old Ellie was overweight, she was drab and she tried to take her own life. New Ellie will lose weight, be bright and funny. She will wear colourful clothes and she will do well at school.

Whilst on this journey to the New Beginning, the new, brighter future is snatched away in moments. A car accident leaves Ellie with just one parent - they are certainly going to start anew, but not as planned.

When Ellie meets Madeline, she can't quite believe that such a pretty and clever girl could want to be friends with her. It's at this point that the reader begins to wonder just what is happening. It's clear that Madeline is not just the girl next door - is this all some sort of supernatural episode, or is Ellie suffering from some sort of psychosis?

There is a sense of disorder about The In-Between, but this just emphasises Ellie's state of mind, and for me, the questioning and the uncertainty were what made the story all the more enjoyable. I'm sure though that many readers will hate this, and I'm positive that this novel is going to be a 'love it' or 'hate it' type of book.

The beauty of this novel is that it will be a very different story for each reader, depending on what the reader chooses to believe. I'm not a huge fan of paranormal fiction, and I want to believe that Ellie was suffering episodes of psychosis brought on by a mental illness. There are certain descriptions that ring so true for me, having worked with young adults with mental illness I recognise many of the things that Ellie claims, and some of her behaviours. Other readers will disagree, and see ghosts and spirits.  And that's fine, and that's what is so clever about The In-Between.

Dark, uncomfortable yet oddly compelling at the same time. The In-Between is very well written, absorbing story that will certainly create a lot of debate.

My thanks to Emma from Pan Macmillan who sent my copy for review.

Barbara Stewart earned an M.F.A in creative writing from Wichita State University.
The In-Between is her first novel.
She lives with her husband in the Catskill Mountains of New York

For more information visit her website
Check out her Facebook page     Follow her on Twitter @BarbStewartYA Follow on Bloglovin

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Man Who Couldn't Stop by David Adam

Have you ever had a strange urge to jump from a tall building, or steer your car into oncoming traffic? 
You are not alone. In this captivating fusion of science, history and personal memoir, writer David Adam explores the weird thoughts that exist within every mind, and how they drive millions of us towards obsessions and compulsions. 
David has suffered from OCD for twenty years, and The Man Who Couldn’t Stop is his unflinchingly honest attempt to understand the condition and his experiences. 
What might lead an Ethiopian schoolgirl to eat a wall of her house, piece by piece; or a pair of brothers to die beneath an avalanche of household junk that they had compulsively hoarded? 
At what point does a harmless idea, a snowflake in a clear summer sky, become a blinding blizzard of unwanted thoughts? 
Drawing on the latest research on the brain, as well as historical accounts of patients and their treatments, this is a book that will challenge the way you think about what is normal, and what is mental illness. 
Told with fierce clarity, humour and urgent lyricism, this extraordinary book is both the haunting story of a personal nightmare, and a fascinating doorway into the darkest corners of our minds.

The Man Who Couldn't Stop : OCD, and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought by David Adam was published by Picador (Pan Macmillan) on 10 April 2014.

How many times have you said 'Oh, I'm a little bit OCD about that'?  Maybe, like me, you like to hang out the washing using certain coloured pegs for certain garments, or maybe you have to have all your Coca Cola cans facing the same way in the fridge (just like David Beckham). Most of us have a few little rituals that we carry out, but most of us don't let the thoughts about our rituals, or what would happen if we didn't do them, take over our lives. Most of us don't have OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, we just have a couple of little quirks.

David Adam is a science journalist, he has suffered from OCD for twenty years.  He is tortured by his thoughts, he is convinced that he will catch AIDS.  He is also a very intelligent man who realises that his thoughts and actions are intrusive and are affecting his daily life far too much.

The Man Who Couldn't Stop is a mix of personal story from David Adam, the results of research from all over the world, and stories of actual patients and how they have reacted to treatment.  The author perfectly blends the scientific, the medical and the real life cases together to produce an easy to read, informative, at times sad, and often humorous  look at this peculiar illness that affects so many people.

Cases of OCD have been reported for centuries, some were dismissed, some were treated - often with surgical interventions which are recounted here in much detail, and will shock. Like all mental illnesses, debates and discussions will rage for many years to come. It is interesting to read the evidence for the scientific causes, the medical causes and the possible genetic causes of this illness, which, putting aside the quirky and the funny, really can be life-changing and so debilitating for sufferers.

Accessible, well-written and fascinating, The Man Who Couldn't Stop is an honest account of living with OCD combined with research and historical fact.

My thanks to Camilla from Pan Macmillan who sent my copy for review.

Dr David Adam is a writer and editor at Nature, the world’s top scientific journal. Before that he was a specialist correspondent on the Guardian for seven years, writing on science, medicine and the environment. During this time he was named feature writer of the year by the Association of British Science Writers, and reported from Antarctica, the Arctic, China and the depths of the Amazon jungle.

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Thursday, 10 April 2014

Precious Thing by Colette McBeth

Remember the person you sat next to on your first day at school? 
Still your best friend? 
Or disappeared from your life for good? 
Some friendships fizzle out. 
Rachel and Clara promised theirs would last for ever. 
They met when Rachel was the new girl in class and Clara was the friend everyone wanted. Now in their late twenties Rachel has everything while Clara's life is spiralling further out of control. Then Clara vanishes. 
Imagine discovering something about your oldest friend that forces you to question everything you've shared together. 
The truth is always there. But only if you choose to see it.

Precious Thing by Colette McBeth is published in paperback today April 10 2014 by Headline Review.

It's really difficult to talk about the plot of Precious Thing without giving anything away, and to give away some of the most important parts of the story would be to spoil it completely for other readers - I can't do that, so I won't.

Lets say this is a story about two women; Clara and Rachel met at school and their friendship continued through the years. Clara has disappeared, and Rachel is worried.  Her worry changes over the course of the story, as she begins to learn more and more things about her friend. Things that surprise her, that shock her, that disappoint her - things that will change her life.

Other the years, Clara and Rachel have changed. At school, Clara was the girl that everyone wanted to be friends with, Rachel was the new girl - overweight with ginger hair and usually shunned by most people. As adults their roles are reversed. Rachel is a sucessful TV news presenter whilst Clara's life spiralled out of control some years ago.

Precious Thing is written in the form of a letter from Rachel to Clara, and it is clear that Rachel is speaking after the events, this is not a running commentary relayed as things happen. I must admit that at times I found Rachel's 'voice' quite difficult, and the style can be a little confusing at times. However, this does not detract from the fact that Precious Thing is a chilling read and despite my initial struggle with the writing style, I was soon drawn into what becomes a tense and intriguing story.

Most women will have suffered at some time at the hands of their friends, most women will have made their friends suffer - it seems to be what women do. We make friends, we share our innermost thoughts and our dreams with a person, we become close, and then sometimes that closeness becomes a weapon. Precious Thing is a portrayal of a friendship that was based upon jealousy. The author expertly dissects the personalities of Rachel and Clara, but despite this, the reader still questions the reliability of Rachel as the narrator.

Precious Thing is a clever story, and although there were times when I wanted to move Rachel along, away from her almost melodramatic thoughts, the sense of danger and  possible manipulation of the reader outweighs those feelings.

My thanks to Sam Eades at Headline who sent my copy for review through BookBridgr

Colette McBeth was a reporter for ten years working for One O'clock, Six O'clock and Ten O'clock news - covering cases such as the Suffolk Strangler and the murder of Billie-Jo Margaret Jenkins.  
Colette featured on the 2013 The Red List Hot 100, released by the The Red Pages - a list which sets out to predict up and coming names in the world of fashion, music, TV, film, politics, sport and society. She is also a graduate of the hitmaking Faber Academy. She studied the How To Write A Novel course under the tutorage of Richard Skinner.

Her new novel THE LIFE I LEFT BEHIND is published in hardback in August.

More information can be found at
On Facebook and Twitter @colettemcbeth

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