Friday 26 June 2020

Two KInds of Blood by Jane Ryan BLOG TOUR #TwoKindsOfBlood @RyanerWriter @RandomTTours #RandomThingsTours @PoolbegBooks

Garda Bridget ‘Bridge’ Harney’s phone bleeps with a message. A video of Se├ín Flannery – a violent criminal – at her mother’s nursing home. His hand on her mother’s shoulder. Goaded to the point of madness, Bridge gives chase but Flannery disappears.
A huge drugs seizure – the kind that means the cartels are exporting directly to Ireland – is abandoned in Kilkenny. In a high-tech processing plant a dead woman is found.
Bridge believes all three events are linked. As she begins to examine the connections, she comes up against the Fuentes cartel. An organisation with billions of dollars at its disposal, a transport empire and informers everywhere.

Two Kinds of Blood by Jane Ryan was published by Poolbeg Press on 20 April 2020.

As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to welcome the author here today. She's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life In Books

My Life In Books - Jane Ryan's more like sixteen and that may be way too many but it's hard to stop when you start! I'll take them in genre rather than individually if that lets me fit in a little more.

Anne of Green Gables was one of the first books I read, the famous story about a red haired orphan. It was so different from my experiences as a child, the time it was set in, the landscape and cleverly crafted characters. The drama and humour, I was hooked from the first moment when Matthew set off to collect Anne at the train station. In later life I would read many Canadian authors and studied at the University of British Columbia and I date my fascination with all things Candian from this first experience with Anne. 

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was not my first Agatha Christie, but I have always marvelled in 1926 how Agatha pulled the reader in with the now common use of the untrustworthy narrator. It was my first taste of it, and in my opinion the precursor of the modern thriller. The Silent PatientThe Kind Worth Killing, The Girl on the Train all put me in mind of Christie's finest book.

Of course it started me down the road of crime (and organised crime) fiction and I've never been able to get enough! I'm a voracious reader (whomever is reading this blog most likely is too) and Poirot and Marple saw me through my teens as did the Godfather. Reading Puzo at age thirteen made a lasting impression, I lived in a 'if you can reach it you can read it' house. I moved to  Morse, Rebus, Smiley and Arkady Renko. I'm a sucker for upended reader expectations - obviously the more you read the more difficult it is to be upended - but I'm endlessly impressed with the authors that continue to surprise. Irish authors in crime are prolific with some of the best in class writing police procedurals, Patricia Gibney, Jane Casey, Jo Spain and Adrian McKinty to name a few.

I adore laughing, and a book that can have me chuckling during my nightly read or keep the light burning for one more chapter is the type of book I relish. McCarthy's barConfederacy of Dunces and Rumpole of the Bailey are all in this category. It's the absurdity I'm drawn to, the language seems to recede into the page as you move from the serious to the silly in a nanosecond. Similarly, The Hungry Years is a clever and funny take on a personal memoir and a journey to the centre of yourself.

The Shipping News is a poignant book with the story written between the words, many reviewers will cite Suite Francaise or All The Light We Cannot See - both incredible books -  as the perfect example of this type of storytelling, but for me nothing beats the Shipping News. It's the action in the silences I keep coming back to, the quiet pain in the mundane. And of course there's the Canada connection!

John McGahern's Amongst Women  - or any of his books - is quintessentially Irish and global at the same time. The themes and incredible structure of the prose resonate. The University of Liverpool has an annual John McGahern Book Prize and it was my privilege to be shortlisted for it in 2019 for 47 Seconds.

Pride and Prejudice needs no introduction from me and will most likely be on many lists. It's sublime.

Stoner by John Williams was a book I happened across, why pick this instead of Richard Ford's Frank Bastible or Richard Flanagans' Road to the Deep North? Hard to say other than it combined all of these - true favourites of mine - into one. It's a quiet journey of an individual passing through life, finding disappointment yet the will to continue and survive.

I could go on and on....twelve seems so few yet I'm very grateful it wasn't one....that's impossible!

Thank you for giving me the chance to share this, Anne. It's been wonderful to reminisce.

Jane Ryan - June 2020 

Jane Ryan studied with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland and has worked in the technology sector in UK and US multi-nationals for almost twenty years. 
She has written articles for The Irish Times and the Irish Daily Mail and was short-listed for the Hennessy Literary Award. 
Her debut novel, 47 Seconds – which also features Bridget Harney - was published in 2019 and was short-listed for the inaugural John McGahern Annual Book Prize. 
Her work has won praise from Jo Spain, Jane Casey, Eoin Colfer and Patricia Gibney. 
Jane lives in Dublin with her husband and two sons

Twitter @RyanerWriter

Thursday 25 June 2020

Happy Publication Day A J Park @AJParkauthor #TheFirstLie @orionbooks @orion_crime #HappyPublicationDay

A freak accident. An impossible choice. But what was... THE FIRST LIE
When Paul Reeve comes home to find his wife in the bathroom, bloodied and shaking, his survival instinct kicks in.
Alice never meant to kill the intruder. She was at home, alone, and terrified. She doesn't deserve to be blamed for it. Covering up the murder is their only option.
But the crime eats away at the couple and soon they can't trust anyone - even one another...

Wishing author A J Park a very Happy Publication Day today. The First Lie is published by Orion Books, today, 25 June 2020

I read and reviewed The First Lie earlier this month, and here's what I said:

"It's a very long time since I've felt so uneasy whilst reading a book. The First Lie begins as Paul Reeve returns home from work. The front door is open, and he has six missed calls from his wife Alice.
It's no spoiler to tell you that when Paul finds Alice, he also discovers that she has killed a man. The body of an unknown intruder is laying half in, half out of their bath, covered in blood. Stabbed to death with Paul's own letter opener.

Paul makes a decision, right there, and this is the first lie. He has to protect Alice who he adores and who is clearly mentally unstable. He also has to protect his career. He's almost certain to be appointed as the youngest Circuit Judge in the UK; the pinnacle of his legal career, and everything that he's worked towards.

That October night shapes Paul and Alice's life from the moment their decision is made, and makes for a tense and dark read that chilled me to the bone on many occasions.

The novel has an unusual structure; told in the first person by Alice and by Paul in alternating chapters, with glimpses into the police investigation into some violent and disturbing murders. DS Katherine Wright and DC Ryan Hillier are on the hunt for a deadly assassin. An obviously skilled and methodical killer who has left no trace at the murder scenes of at least three victims. As the case progresses and they find similarities between the victims, the reader begins to realise that maybe Alice and Paul may have had a lucky escape. Are they lucky though? They may be still alive, but their lives are in turmoil.

Alice's behaviour becomes more and more bizarre. She cannot cope with either the first lie, or the many that have followed. Paul is trying to keep her calm whilst presiding over a court case that it just a little too close to home for him.

Don't expect to like these characters! They are not easy to empathise with, it can be difficult to understand why an intelligent, law-abiding man such as Paul made the decision that he did, and as his own behaviour and actions becoming increasingly chaotic, so the story takes on an urgency that is both compelling, but quite disturbing.
However, despite how unlikeable they are, they are both extraordinary characters. Drawn with a precision that is so cleverly done; full of surprises and many hidden layers that are slowly and surely exposed as the story progresses.

I applaud AJ Park, he's managed to write a story that is populated with some downright awful people, yet it is so hard to put this one down. There's an urgency that mounts as the story progresses, urging the reader to read on, and on, until at last, the whole sordid tale is pulled together with a devastating and spectacular ending.

Recommended if you are a fan of dark, brooding psychological thrillers. I look forward to the author's next book."

Praise for The First Lie 

"A. J. Park is a master of suspense who knows how to keep readers hovering tensely over the edges of their seats." 

Sophie Hannah


"This is a real page-turner. I finished it in one go!"

Martina Cole

A husband and wife cover up a murder. But the lie eats away at the fabric of their relationship and things unravel till they can't trust anyone - even each other.

"A great thriller that will keep you turning the pages late into the night."

Luca Veste

A freak accident. An impossible choice. But what was the first lie?

When Paul Reeve comes home to find his wife in the bathroom, bloodied and shaking, his survival instinct kicks in.

Alice never meant to kill the intruder. She was at home, alone, and terrified. She doesn't deserve to be blamed for it. Covering up the murder is their only option.
But the crime eats away at the couple and soon they can't trust anyone - even one another...

But there is much more at stake than anyone realises - and many more people on their trail than they can possibly evade...

"Fast-moving, gripping, the ground shifting perpetually beneath your feet as you read... I read it in one sitting."

Alex Marwood

Available as a paperback, ebook and audio book.
Waterstones Paperback:

Wednesday 24 June 2020

The Shadow Friend by Alex North @writer_north @MichaelJBooks #TheShadowFriend @Ells85 #BookReview

Twenty-five years ago, troubled teenager Charlie Crabtree committed a shocking and unprovoked murder.
For Paul Adams, it's a day he'll never forget. He's never forgiven himself for his part in what happened to his friend and classmate. He's never gone back home.
But when his elderly mother has a fall, it's finally time to stop running.
It's not long before things start to go wrong. A copycat killer has struck, bringing back painful memories. Paul's mother insists there's something in the house.
And someone is following him.
Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn't just the murder.

It was the fact that afterwards, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again . . .

The Shadow Friend by Alex North is published on 9 July 2020 in hardback by Michael Joseph. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

Last year I read The Whisper Man by Alex North and have been shouting about it ever since. I was very excited to be able to read his latest novel, and also had a slight concern. Could he do it again?

He could, and he did. Once more this talented and very skilled author has produced a story that made me wake at night in a cold sweat, with vague feelings of being amongst 'the shadows' and wondering if I'd made myself go there, and been able to wake myself up. Dreams and dreaming have taken up so much of my head space since reading this novel.

Paul Adams has returned to Gritten, the small town that he was brought up in, and a place that he hasn't returned to for over twenty-five years. Paul's mother is terminally ill in a Hospice and the pull of that enduring mother-son relationship has finally brought him home. Paul has a ton of emotional baggage, memories that have haunted him for his entire adult life, and going home means that he will have to dig into those memories, and what he finds out will alter him forever.

When they were teenagers, Paul's friend was murdered. Killed in cold blood by two very troubled teenagers. The ring-leader Charlie Crabtree disappeared after the killing and has never been traced.
Gritten is a small place and Paul was closely linked to both the victim and the killers, he's always held himself partly to blame and has never been able to re-visit the town.

The story is structured very well; told from the point of view of Paul now, and also from the past. Detective Amanda Beck (who readers may recognise from The Whisper Man), is also a main focus of the plot, as she investigates the murder of a teenager; a case that bears some striking familiarities with the Charlie Crabtree case.

The Shadow Friend is a complex and chilling story. The author has created a sense of unease that never goes away. As Charlie coerces his friends to take part in his dream experiments, convincing them that they can have lucid dreams which can actually be real, the tension mounts.

This is crime fiction at its best. Alex North not only creates brilliant plots, his descriptive prose is quite wonderful. From the dark, forbidding woodlands, known locally as The Shadows, to the run down town streets; the sense of place is really quite eerie, conjuring up images that have stayed with me.

As in The Whisper Man, there are some beautifully detailed relationships within this book. The intricate and often fractious mother/son links are beautifully done along with the very toxic friendships that can develop between teenagers.

The Shadow Friend races towards an ending that took me totally by surprise. This is an ambitious story that is told incredibly well. It is dark, creepy and at times, a little bit terrifying. I found it really difficult to put down, and impossible to forget. Oh, and look closely at that cover, at the centre of the flower ... so so clever.

Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son.  He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in their sociology department, The Whisper Man was an instant Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, and is an international sensation, with rights sold in 28 languages.
Alex's writing has been a smash-hit with reviewers, gaining praise from best-selling authors such as AJ Finn and major celebrities like Andrew Lincoln.
The Whisper Man has a significant Hollywood film deal with the Russo Brothers, directors of the Avengers series.

Sunday 21 June 2020

The Man Behind Closed Doors by Maria Frankland BLOG TOUR @writermaria_f #TheManBehindClosedDoors @RandomTTours #GuestPost

What could be so bad that a six-year-old stops talking?

Domestic violence isn't only perpetrated by men. Ask Paul Jackson who is on remand, accused of stabbing his wife, Michelle.

As he reveals his reality behind their troubled marriage, it seems that only his six-year-old knows what really happened. But she's trapped in her own world of silence.

The Man Behind Close Doors by Maria Frankland was published in May this year. As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour I am delighted to share a guest post from the author with you today.

Guest Post from Maria Frankland

I would like to say a huge thank you to Anne Cater, firstly for inviting me to be a guest on her brilliant blog, and also for putting together another exciting book blog tour for me. I have been following her blog for some months, and as a fairly new published novelist, it is a wonderful opportunity to be situated here, amongst authors who I have read and followed for years.

I am going to talk about something I have not discussed before: the inspiration behind my latest novel, ‘The Man Behind Closed Doors,’ a book that has been around eight years in the making because it was so difficult to write. 

This was not just down to the amount of research that had to be carried out in terms of police, court and prison procedure but because of the amount of personal experience it was necessary to draw on to bring the situations to life effectively.

In 2013, I escaped a toxic and unhappy marriage and had already begun writing ‘The Man Behind Closed Doors’ as a kind of ‘therapy’ to pour my difficult circumstances into.  However, I hid the examples of my marital ordeals by inventing characters to live them out and also by swapping the genders around, so the man was the character bearing the brunt of the situation instead of the woman. The personal experiences were then ‘hung’ onto the fictional story arc I created.

Married to someone who thought my writing was ‘a complete waste of time,’ meant that the early draft of this novel was written in secret.  An early rejection from a literary agent cited one of the reasons for not taking it forward was that the protagonist was ‘too feminine’ and therefore not realistic – no surprise really! 

One of the first things I did after leaving my marriage was to enrol onto the MA in Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University where I was able to hone my writing craft a little more and I continued working on ‘The Man Behind Closed Doors.’

Several more rejections led to me squirrelling it away until it was eventually shortlisted into the top ten for an international novel prize in 2016.  (Luke Bitmead/Legend Press.)  I then took part in ‘The Dragon’s Pen’ at Harrogate Crime Writer’s Festival in 2017 and two publishers asked to see it. 

That was as far as it went, but finally, I knew my novel had ‘legs.’  Spurred on by these ‘near misses,’ I worked and re-worked it, edited and edited some more, and it’s had what feels like a million other pairs of eyes on it to bring it to this ‘ book launch’ point.  In the meantime, I’ve published two other novels, even though ‘The Man Behind Closed Doors,’ is technically my first one.

It tells two stories concurrently, the ongoing incarceration of Paul, arrested then remanded, suspected of stabbing his wife Michelle.  Then through flashback writing, the story of their toxic relationship is revealed.  The reader is made aware that there are several other possibilities of who might have hated Michelle enough so take a knife to her, but it seems only their six-year-old daughter knows the truth.  And she, so traumatised by what she has lived through, has gone mute.

I believe this novel is relevant right now.  In this current era of ‘lockdown,’  there are many adults and children, trapped behind closed doors, enduring domestic abuse at the hands of a partner,  My novel deals with this abuse in all its forms, physical, mental, verbal, psychological, financial, sexual and coercive control.

Seven years on from my marriage break up, I married a wonderful man on Valentine’s Day, and we were lucky enough to have our wedding before the Coronovirus situation took hold. 

Throughout lockdown though, my thoughts have frequently turned to the vulnerable victims of domestic abuse out there, more imprisoned than they ever have been.  There has been substantial mention of their plight in the media, but I have noticed that the focus seems to be on women and children, with little mention of men, some of whom may also be suffering within an abusive relationship at this time.

I have felt so moved by thinking about it, that my husband and I decided to do a ‘garden marathon’ (half a marathon each) which took us all afternoon and evening, running around the perimeter of our modest garden! 

I wanted to raise money for a domestic abuse charity.  However, I found the charities nominated in partnership with JustGiving at this time, were mainly geared towards women, so we ran the marathon and raised the money for Women’s Aid.

But this also, made me think of just how my book might raise some further awareness out there – that men too, can be victims.  As well as being pulled into the twofold drama of the story, I hope that ‘The Man Behind Closed Doors’ will also offer readers some insight into what subtle signs of abuse to look out for, in both women and men.

Maria Frankland's life began at 40 when she escaped an unhappy marriage and began making a living from her own writing and becoming a teacher of creative writing.

The rich tapestry of life with all its turbulent times has enabled her to pour experience, angst and lessons learned into the writing of her novels and poetry.

She recognises that the darkest places can exist within family relationships and this is reflected in the domestic thrillers she writes.

She is a 'born 'n' bred' Yorkshirewoman, a mother of two and has recently found her own 'happy ever after' after marrying again.

Still in her forties, she is now going to dedicate the rest of her working life to writing books and inspiring other writers to also achieve their dreams too!

The Colours by Juliet Bates @julietbates0 BLOG TOUR #Giveaway @FleetReads @GraceEVincent @RandomTTours #Win #Competition

Ellen sees the world differently from everyone else, but living in a tiny town in the north-east of England, in a world on the cusp of war, no one has time for an orphaned girl who seems a little strange. When she is taken in to look after a rich, elderly widow all seems to be going better, despite the musty curtains and her aging employer completely out of touch with the world. But pregnancy out of wedlock spoils all this, and Ellen is unable to cope. How will Jack, her son, survive - alone in the world as his mother was? Can they eventually find their way back to each other?
The Colours is a sweeping novel of how we can lose ourselves, and our loved ones, for fans of Kate Atkinson and Virginia Baily.

The Colours by Juliet Bates was published in hardback by Fleet on 9 April 2020.

As part of the #RandomThingsTours blog tour today, I'm delighted to offer one copy as a giveaway. Entry is simple, just fill out the widget at the end of the blog post.  UK ENTRIES ONLY PLEASE.


One copy of The Colours by Juliet Bates

Juliet Bates studied art and art history in Bristol, Birmingham and Strasbourg, and has since lectured at graduate and post graduate levels. 
She moved to France in 2000 to a post as professeur at the Ecole régionale des beaux-arts Caen la mer. 
She has published a number of short stories in British and Canadian literary journals.

Twitter @julietbates0

Instagram @julietbates


Friday 19 June 2020

Life and Other Happy Endings by Melanie Cantor @melaniecantor @TransworldBooks #LifeAndOtherHappyEndings #BookReview

Three letters. Two mistakes. One Last chance.
When Jennifer Cole is told she has three months to live she decides to write three letters sharing the desires, fears and frustrations she has always kept to herself. And at first she finds that telling the truth makes her feel free and liberated.
But three months later, Jennifer’s secrets are alive and out in the world… and so is she. As she discovers, sometimes the truth has a way of surprising you…

Life and Other Happy Endings by Melanie Cantor was published in paperback on 11 June 2020 by BlackSwan. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I read this when it was published in hardback last year, with the title Death and Other Happy Endings. My review got lost amongst my computer files; I found it, here it is!

A note from the author about the title change:

A few years ago, when I sat down to write the story of a young woman confronted by her own mortality, I could never have imagined that in 2020 we would all be facing the same.

Even when it was first published in June 2019, Death & Other Happy Endings was a brave title. But it perfectly summed up the paradox of the book and I felt proud to stand by it. Today however, with death and the possibility of death literally hanging in the air, the word no longer feels appropriate. And since the arc of the story is very much focused on life, we are changing the title to Life & Other Happy Endings, which, in a world where we all need hope, strikes a vital positive note.

And the book is positive. It shows that when faced with the worst, our values, the things we hold dear, crystallise, making us want to grab life with both hands. We see things in sharper focus from our friends and family to the world of nature that sits on our doorstep. Things we might previously have taken for granted. And yes, the novel does have a happy ending and in these scary times, we need to know that happy endings are possible and that life will always prevail.

Stay safe. Choose Life.

All very best wishes,


I think it's fair to say that this lovely little book was not what I was expecting at all. It took me completely by surprise; I loved the main character (she reminds me a little bit of myself), and I love the journey that the author created for her.

Jennifer get the worst news ever. She's told that she has an incurable blood disorder and her prognosis is not good; she has around three months left. She is going to die.
Jennifer doesn't have a 'bucket list'; there's no plans to jump from a plane, or walk across burning coals, or even eat enough ice cream to make anyone sick. No, Jennifer decides that she has to make sure that three people who have all played really important roles in her life, know exactly how she feels about them.

The recipients of the letters are, ex-husband Andy, ex-boyfriend Harry and sister Isabelle. Jennifer has a lot to say to each of them.

I cheered when Jennifer decided this. There are a few people who've been in my life who I'd love to write to, and whilst Jennifer found it quite difficult, going against her usual compliant ways, it was clearly therapeutic.

What follows is a funny, emotional and candid look at relationships and how these, and the memories of them can affect our lives. 
The author writes with a style and wit that is most compelling, developing the story and characters carefully along the way.

It's a journey of discovery and one that will make the reader consider how they might feel in Jennifer's situations. It is not downbeat, it is uplifting and hopeful. Moving and thought provoking.

Melanie Cantor worked for many years in PR and as a celebrity talent agent, and has dabbled in interior renovations, which led to her hosting the TV series Making Space on Channel 4, in which she tidied up people's messy houses.
She has since concentrated on writing: Life and Other Happy Endings is her first published novel.

She has two grown up sons and lives in London with her dog, Mabel.

Twitter @melaniecantor

Thursday 18 June 2020

Season Of Second Chances by Aimee Alexander @aimeealexbooks BLOG TOUR #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours #SeasonOfSecondChances

Grace Sullivan flees Dublin with her two teenage children, returning to the sleepy West Cork village where she grew up. No one in Killrowan knows what Grace is running from - or even that she's running. She'd like to keep it that way.

Taking over from her father, Des, as the village doctor offers a very real chance for Grace to begin again. But will she and the children adapt to life in a small rural community? Can she live up to the doctor that her father was? And will she find the inner strength to face the past when it comes calling?

Season of Second Chances is Grace's story. It's also the story of a community that chooses the title "Young Doctor Sullivan" for her before she even arrives. It's the story of Des who served the villagers all his life and now feels a failure for developing Parkinson's disease. And it's the story of struggling teens, an intimidating receptionist, a handsome American novelist escaping his past, and a dog called Benji who needs a fresh start of his own.

Season of Second Chances is a heart-warming story of friendship, love and finding the inner strength to face a future that may bring back the past.

Perfect for fans of Call The Midwife, Virgin River, Doc Martin, The Durrells and All Creatures Great and Small. The villagers of Killrowan will steal into your heart and make you want to stay with them forever.

Season Of Second Chances by Aimee Alexander was published in April this year. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review. I'm delighted to share my thoughts today as part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour

Season of Second Chances is an absolute delight to read. The novel could appear, at first glance to be just another story about a small Irish community, but it is far more than that. Whilst the author does create a wonderfully realistic small-town story, she also deals with some very dark and emotional issues. The reader is very quickly consumed by Grace's struggle to overcome her past, and create a new future for herself and her two children. 

Grace's father Des is about to retire. He's been the local GP for many years and is struggling to come to terms with his own diagnosis. For Grace, this is her opportunity to escape the abusive, controlling husband who has made her life hell for years. 

However, coming home is not always easy. People have long memories and some have never quite forgiven Grace for getting ideas above her station and moving away, and others would prefer not to be treated by a female doctor. For Jack and Holly; Grace's two children, this is like living in a different world. Used to the cosmopolitan city of Dublin, it's going to take time to adjust to this slower pace of life. However, both of them have their own problems, and this move to the country really could help them.

Aimee Alexander writes with flair and style. She delves deep into her characters and their issues are dealt with sensitively and with empathy. The small community is described wonderfully, with each character and situation coming alive on the pages. 

This is an immersive and compelling story, carefully woven with characters to cheer for.

Aimee Alexander is the pen name of best selling author Denise Deegan who writes contemporary family dramas about ordinary people who become extraordinary in crisis. Her novels have been published by Penguin, Random House and Hachette.

Aimee lives in Dublin with her family where she regularly dreams of sunshine, a life without cooking and her novels being made into movies. She has a Masters in Public Relations and has been a college lecturer, nurse, china restorer, pharmaceutical sales rep, public relations executive and entrepreneur.