Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery

Last Pen Standing Vivian Conroy 4*#Review @PPPress @VivWrites #CozyMystery #StationeryShopMystery #BookReview #PublicationDay #Montana

Will this paper trail run cold?

As the new co-owner of Tundish Montana’s stationery shop WANTED, Delta Douglas knows how to organize a killer crafting event. Creativity and cardstock are all she needs to move one step closer to her ultimate dream: developing her own line of crafting products. But on the night of the workshop, at the swanky hotel venue, glitter isn’t the only thing found sprawled on the floor. A hotel guest is discovered dead in the bar, and amid the confusion, Delta’s best friend is suspected of the crime.

Enlisting the help of her Paper Posse and Spud, her canine sidekick, Delta dives into the investigation. But with many high-powered suspects on the line, Delta soon realizes her sleuthing may come with deadly consequences

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I received a copy of this book from Poisoned Pen Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This promises to be a truly unique cozy mystery series. Beautiful stationery, lovely animal companions and a clever, courageous amateur sleuth in Delta, what more can you ask?

The setting is vivid and easy to visualise from the descriptions in the story. There are many personalities to meet, some of which will feature hopefully in future stories, The plot has lots of twists and all the clues and false leads that this genre demands.

Friendship, mystery, and a hint of romance make this a lovely escape, to the hills of Montana, but be careful, not all the residents are as harmless as they appear.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, Guest post, Holiday Romance, Romance

Magic Under the Mistletoe Lucy Coleman 5* #Review @Aria_Fiction @LucyColemanAuth #FestiveRead #Christmas #FakeDate #FamilyDrama #Relationships #Fate #Friendship #BlogTour #GuestPost #BookReview

#MagicUndertheMistletoe

It’s December 23rd and while everyone else is rushing home for the holidays, workaholic Leesa Oliver is dreading switching on her out-of-office for the festive season. And it seems her equally driven boss, Cary Anderson, isn’t relishing spending Christmas at his family’s country estate either.

So together, they draft an unexpected Christmas contract: They’ll spend half of the holidays with each other’s families, pretending to be a couple. Leesa knows the insufferably good-looking Cary will make her Christmas more bearable, but what happens after the last of the mince pies have been eaten…?

Leesa signed off on a sensible business agreement, but somewhere, amongst the fairy lights and carols, something seems to have changed… It seems there might just be some magic under the mistletoe this Christmas!

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I received a copy of this book from Aria in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Mistletoe historically conjures up images of the festive season, and romance for me, and this story beginning and ending with Christmas has plenty of magical mistletoe and romantic kisses.

Leesa and Cary are returning to the UK from a business trip in Australia. Both are career-driven, but whilst Cary reels off his criticisms in the comfort of first-class, Leesa is struggling to survive amidst a boisterous toddler and a lady determined to sort out her cavernous handbag. Battered and a little bruised both mentally and physically she plots her revenge. Then he takes the wind out of her sails, by offering her much needed sustenance, and a surprisingly pleasant insight, into his closely guarded personality. Stranded by uncharacteristically festive weather, Leesa accepts an invitation that leads to something unexpected.

I always find Lucy’s books heartwarming, insightful and romantic, and this one is all of these, with a festive twist. There are lots of characters, and sub-plots, which add depth to the story, and provide clever insight into the emotional baggage Leesa and Cary carry around. There is a good use of the fake date trope and slow-burning passion building between the couple, who are so successful in their professional lives to the exclusion of their personal happiness.

Fate and festive magic play their part in this complex romance, which begins and ends at a magical time of year.

Guest Post – Inspiration for my stories – Lucy coleman

It’s so lovely to be back again, Jane – thank you so much for the invite! As an author yourself, I’m sure this topic is one you experience all the time, too!

One of the first questions people ask when they are introduced to an author is ‘where do you find the inspiration for your stories?’

Mine usually come as a one-liner thought and I always carry a notebook and pen as things will spring into my head when I’m in the car, queuing in the supermarket and especially when out walking.

I have a folder full of jottings because that one-liner is just the initial spark. What usually happens, is that by the time I’m ready to pick it up and develop it, there will be a pile of little notes clipped together.

One such spark was triggered by a photograph I saw of Lisbon. This time it was the setting that was going to inspire the story and as my husband and I headed off for a four-day research trip, the two main characters were already introducing themselves to me.

Now I’m not a plotter, so the story reveals itself to me as I get to know the characters. It’s a fun way to write. But sitting on the plane that day, I didn’t really know what this story was going to be about.

We dumped our suitcases with barely a glance at our gorgeous hotel room and off we went to explore. We chose a hotel that was only a ten-minute walk from Cristo Rei – the majestic statue of Christ, similar to the ones in Brazil and Bolivia. Even though it was on the opposite side of the river to the town and in a quieter setting, it was top of my must-see list.

That afternoon as we did the uphill climb, I was buzzing and as I stood looking up at the statue the story was there, in my head. As my husband went exploring, I sat in the little café making copious notes. We went there every day after other sight-seeing trips, and it was the last place we visited before it was time to leave for the airport.

For the first time ever, I have pages of conversation between the characters. On each visit, I saw my characters walking around as if they were really there and I took hundreds of photos so I will be able to spirit myself back to that time and place.

When I returned home, I simply wanted to sit down and write the story, but other work in the pipeline had to be completed and two other books edited, first. I’m currently writing my 2020 Christmas book, then one more little project and Lisbon here I come.

I usually write about locations I know well from previous travels and it’s rare for a location to grab me as Lisbon did, simply from a shot, I saw on TV. Having said that… maybe there’s a pattern developing. In October I’m off to a monastery in Spain after a random idea popped into my head.

That’s the trouble with listening to your imagination – it knows no bounds!

Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean in the UK with her lovely husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been shortlisted in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Lucy won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Noir, Thriller

The Quiet Ones – Theresa Talbot 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @Theresa_Talbot #Crime #InvestigativeJournalist #OonaghONeil #Thriller#BlogTour #bookreview #author #interview

If only someone had listened…

When the supposed suicide of famous Scottish football coach Harry Nugent hits the headlines, the tabloids are filled with tributes to a charitable pillar of the community that gave so much back to sport and to those less fortunate.

But something isn’t right. Normally celebrities are queuing up to claim to have had a very special relationship with the deceased, but investigative journalist Oonagh O’Neil is getting the distinct impression that people are trying to distance themselves from Harry.

Oonagh’s investigation leads her to uncover a heartbreakingly haunting cover-up that chills her to the core… and places her in mortal danger from those willing to protect their sadistic and dark secrets at any cost…

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I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The third in the series of the investigative journalist, Oonagh O’Neil, novels, once again tackles a heinous crime that is currently topical. The grisly death of a high-profile football coach opens a dark and powerful web of lies and secrets that exist in plain sight, yet no one appears to care.

The appeal of this story is its authenticity and topicality. There is no gratuitous description in this story, but the themes are dark and hard to read about. The story follows Oonagh’s investigation into the football coach’s death, and what lies behind it. It leads her into some dark places, with frightened victims, and powerful culprits, who will stop at nothing to save themselves.

Oonagh is a clever and tenacious investigator, who uses her contacts ruthlessly, and her personal experiences to get to the truth. Her flaws and overuse of alcohol, make her relatable, and real, Given what she sees and experiences in the course of her investigations, it isn’t surprising she needs to forget sometimes.

The language and behaviour give the novel’s setting authenticity and the plot is cleverly twisted and layered with menace and suspense. The ending ties up the investigation well and concludes this disturbingly poignant story convincingly.

Author Interview -Theresa Talbot – The Quiet Ones

Interview Questions – Theresa Talbot

What are the inspirations behind your Oonagh O’Neil series, and this story in particular?

All three of my Oonagh O’Neil books have been inspired by real-life events. As a journalist, I’m particularly interested in those crimes committed in plain sight – institutionalised crimes and injustices where often no-one will ever be convicted. The Lost Children was the first in the series and came about after research I was doing on the Magdalene Intuition – for those readers unfamiliar with the Magdalenes, there’s a wealth of information online. But they effectively were asylums to house so-called ‘fallen women’. I’d discovered there had been one in Glasgow and once I started digging, I was hooked and formed a crime novel around the circumstances surrounding its closure. Keeping Her Silent was inspired by the tainted blood scandal – again a google search will lead you down a wormhole which will shock you. I interviewed one of the victims and the story was the perfect backdrop for a crime novel. This latest, The Quiet Ones, came about after a chance meeting with a Glasgow Taxi driver who had been instrumental in the conviction of a football coach who had been abusing boys in his care. There’s nothing graphic in the novel – we all know how horrific such cases are – rather the story focuses on how a public figure can evade justice for so long. We only have to look at the likes of Jimmy Saville & Jeffrey Epstein to know that this is sadly a reality. 

How did you create your Oonagh O’ Neil, investigative journalist character? Is she based on someone you know, an imaginative creation, or a little of both?

I’ve grown so fond of Oonagh. Given my background (I’m a freelance journalist with BBC Scotland) it was easy for me to create the character. She’s not based on me, but some people recognise certain traits and characteristics. I wanted to make her a real, flesh and blood character. She’s flawed, she gets things wrong, she’s a bit of a mess at times – but she has integrity and always fights for the underdog. Professionally she’s top of her game – personally, she’s a train-wreck. Too often we shy away from flawed female characters – but they exist in real life, and should exist on the page too. I named her after Charlie Chaplin’s last wife – the love of his life. He’s a hero of mine, so I stole her name and changed the spelling. 

How do you make your characters believable?

I teach creative writing workshops and this is my favourite topic. Characters have to be allowed to have flaws and make mistakes. Also, they need to be on a journey, developing as the storyline progresses. How they deal with conflict is crucial – what’s their motivation? What’s the story BEHIND their motivation? And finally, give them a voice. Each character has to have a unique way of speaking. Read the dialogue aloud. Does it drive the story forward, does it fit with the character’s motivation? All of this will help shape your characters. I know some of the advice suggests know everything about your character – birthday, favourite colour, child-hood pet etc… I make it up as I go along.. but I know what drives Oonagh. I know what makes her tick. I know why she doesn’t suffer fools gladly, I know why she drinks too much and pushes the self-destruct button now and again. She has dark hair – I put that in the first novel, but other than that it doesn’t really matter what she looks like. The reader can decide that – that’s a personal thing between the reader and the character – it’s really none of my business.  

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

For my first book, the character and the plot became intertwined very quickly. Initially, I suppose it was the seed of an idea surrounding a riot that closed the Magdalene asylum in Glasgow – then I had a female journalist investigate the story behind it. But the end story is nothing like what I imagined it to be. Now it’s the character – Once I had Oonagh as a fully formed character I had to find stories for her to investigate.

What made you decide to become a writer, and why does this genre appeal to you?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since my late teens. I came from a family of storytellers, and I love listening to stories and reading of course. As a journalist, I’ve written every day of my professional life for the past 25 years so moving into fiction was the best stage for me. Crime genre was I suppose the obvious one – most journalists turn to crime eventually!

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I love crime books, especially Scottish crime fiction – but they have to have well-developed characters and gripping storylines and be devoid of sexualised violence. I know sexual violence exists, but I abhor when violence is sexualised.   I also love black humour, slice of life and uplit. Anne Tyler is an old favourite that I need to revisit. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is simply wonderful, and anything by George Orwell. I recently read Anne Griffin ‘When All Is Said.’ It’s her debut novel and beautifully written. I think my taste can be described as eclectic.  

 What are you currently writing?

I’m mortified to say I started three new books in one month – despite advice from other author friends not to!  I still embarked on this utter madness until I realised I had to narrow it down. The other 2 have been put on ice for now, and I’m working on a standalone about a woman who was involved in a terrible accident and suffers from the most horrific survivor’s guilt. By the time you read this, I may have ditched that idea and resurrected the other 2 from the drawer!

Theresa Talbot is a freelance writer, journalist and radio presenter, perhaps best known as the voice of Traffic and Travel on BBC Radio Scotland and as the host of The Beechgrove Potting Shed. Prior to working with the BBC, she was with Radio Clyde and the AA Roadwatch team. Theresa worked in various roles before entering the media as an assistant in children’s homes, a Pepsi Challenge girl and a library assistant. She ended up at the BBC because of an eavesdropped conversation on a no.66 bus in Glasgow. Her passions include rescuing chickens, gardening, music and yoga. Twitter Facebook

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Crime, Noir, Psychological Thriller, Thriller

Love’s Long Road G.D.Harper 4*#Review @harper_author @rararesources #Thriller #PsychologicalThriller #noir #crime #Glasgow #1970s #Guilt

Glasgow, 1975. How do you cope when your boyfriend kills himself because of you?

WhenBobbie Sinclair’s boyfriend commits suicide and blames her, she vows never to love again. Instead, she chooses to lead a double existence, kind-hearted by day and promiscuous by night. She increasingly struggles to maintain the balance between light and dark and soon finds herself sucked into the world of a controlling and ruthless crime lord from which she must escape.

Set against a vibrant but seedy 1970s Glasgow backdrop, Love’s Long Road plots Bobbie’s desperate plight. Starting a new life but constantly afraid of her past catching up with her, she battles danger, adversity and drug addiction on the long and perilous road back to love.

Love’s Long Road is about dealing with the guilt of terrible events in your past and the risk of being corrupted by the world around you; it is a story that captures to perfection what it was like to be young and single in the 1970s. 

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Whilst this type of story is not new, it is given a unique interpretation by the author, told from Bobbie’s point of view in the first person. The reader sees the world, and the decisions she makes, through her eyes. This gives this story undeniable originality.

Bobbie is a young, naive woman, riddled with guilt when her boyfriend who she recently broke up with kills himself. She attends his funeral out of respect but feels so responsible for his death that she feels she shouldn’t be there.

What follows, is a painful journey of self-recrimination and ultimately, self-awareness. Her indiscriminate one-night stands, lead her a dangerous path, where she meets Michael, he is dangerous, but she is too naive to appreciate this until her life is irrecoverably altered.

The pacing is fast, and the story follows Bobbie’s experiences as she tries to build a new life, there are sacrifices and victories, but constant running, until a final twist, means running is not an option. At this moral crossroads, Bobbie has to decide what to do, and it here the reader witnesses her character’s maturity and you want her life to be something worthwhile.

The setting is Glasgow and London in the mid to late 1970s, the culture and ethos of the period are faithfully recreated, and gives the story its authenticity and depth.

Overall this is a well-paced journey of self-discovery, with many intense and suspenseful moments and a believable, yet hopeful conclusion,

#LovesLongRoad

I was placed third in the 2015 Lightship Prize for first-time authors, won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red Ribbon, been shortlisted at the UK Festival of Writing for Best First Chapter, longlisted in the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition.

In 2017, I was one of twelve authors selected for Authors in the Spotlight at the Bloody Scotland book festival in Stirling, showcasing who they considered to be the best emerging talent in crime fiction, and was the only self-published author to be chosen. I have spoken at numerous other book events, including Blackwells’ Writers at the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; a stand-alone slot at the Byres Road Book Festival in Glasgow, and the Aye Write! Book Festival, also in Glasgow.

I went to Glasgow University in 1975 and lived in the city’s West End, the time and place for the setting of the majority of Love’s Long Road.


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