Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Family Drama, Gangland Crime, Guest post, Thriller

Born Bad -Heather Burnside – 4* #Review #BlogTour @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @heatherbwriter #crime #thriller #paperback

Brother and sister Peter and Adele Robinson never stood a chance. Dragged up by an alcoholic, violent father, and a weak, beaten mother, their childhood in Manchester only prepared them for a life of crime and struggle. But Adele is determined to break the mould. She studies hard at school and, inspired by her beloved grandmother Joyce, she finally makes a successful life for herself on her own.

Peter is not so lucky. Getting more and more immersed in the murky world of crime and gangs, his close bonds with Adele gradually loosen until they look set to break altogether.

But old habits die hard, and one devastating night, Adele is forced to confront her violent past. Dragged back into her worst nightmares, there’s only one person she can turn to when her life is on the line – her brother Peter. After all, blood is thicker than water…

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


My Thoughts…

Born Bad’ is the first book in the ‘Manchester Trilogy’ series, a gritty gangland crime story set in Manchester. I have read this book after reading the other two later books, and so I knew what to expect. It was good to meet Adele and Peter in the early stages of their life, the abuse and lack of care they receive make the people they become in later life.

It’s interesting that different personalities react in diverse ways to their nurturing, or lack of it and the events in this book pave the way for the further books in the series with some surprising twists.

This is a harrowing story. Domestic abuse, neglect and violence are prominent, this is hard to read, but an essential component of this genre. The story is good and well-paced. The characters are complex, flawed and realistic.

If you are looking for a British based, organised crime series, focused on the family, this is a book and series worth reading.

Guest Post – Heather Burnside

One of the themes that feature in Born Bad is mental health. The topic of nature vs nurture interests me and I, therefore, decided to reflect this in the book. Currently, there is a lot of focus in the media on looking after our mental health so I thought it would be an opportune time to explore this issue in Born Bad.

My protagonist, Adele, is affected by mental health in many ways. To start with we hear Adele’s grandmother, Joyce, talking about Adele’s father, Tommy’s, side of the family and their mental health issues. She tells Adele’s mother that Tommy comes from bad blood (hence the title Born Bad) and that he had a mad great-uncle who was always fighting and who ended up in an asylum.

Joyce also worries that Adele’s brother, Peter, might take after Tommy’s side of the family. Joyce is quite insensitive when she refers to the issue of mental health but, when you bear in mind that this was the seventies, her view was typical at that time. Fortunately, the perception of mental health issues has changed a lot since then.

Adele and Peter have a very traumatic childhood and, as the novel progresses, they both behave in a way that wouldn’t be considered normal or rational. Peter’s odd behaviour is first displayed when he is lining up caterpillars and thrashing them with a whip, taking great delight in seeing their damaged bodies.

As he gets older Peter becomes involved in criminal activities in which he doesn’t appear to have a conscience where his victims are concerned. Is this because of his troubled upbringing, because of genetic mental health issues or perhaps a combination of the two?

Adele, on the other hand, does have a conscience and she tries to do the right thing but she is affected by forces that seem to be beyond her control. Again, she could have been driven by an inherent condition or she could be so severely affected by her troubled childhood that she reaches breaking point. Research has shown that both genetics and upbringing can affect a person’s mental health.

Adele’s mother, Shirley, also has her own problems and relies on a diet of pills to get her through each day. However, rather than being seen as a hereditary illness, her mental health issues stem from the stress of being married to a drunken, violent and unfeeling man. Adele sees her as weak but, like her grandmother, her point of view could be the result of poor awareness in the 1970s regarding mental health issues.

Mental health covers a wide spectrum of illnesses with varying levels of severity. The UK mental health charity, Mind, estimates that one in four people in the UK each year experiences a mental health problem. Anxiety and depression are amongst the most common mental health conditions, and while some of these conditions are manageable, they also vary in severity. There are some very serious and debilitating mental health conditions too which can greatly affect a person’s quality of life.

I think we have come a long way in highlighting mental health issues and breaking down the taboos which have previously surrounded the subject. However, we still have some way to go both in educating people about mental health and in providing greater levels of care to those affected.

Extract From Born Bad – Heather Burnside

Oblivious to Deborah’s agonised screams, Adele continued to kick as rage overtook her. It was only the sight of the dinner lady running towards her that brought her to her senses.

Now, as she thought about the incident, she felt remorseful. If only Debby hadn’t decided to do something so daft. If only she could have persuaded her to stop without losing her temper. But Debby hadn’t stopped. She shouted at her a few times, and she still didn’t stop. That’s what she would say in her defence. She had to pull her legs away; it was her only chance.

But did she have to kick her?

Adele was feeling desperate. Oh God, it’s no good, she thought, I’m gonna be in trouble no matter what.

She thought about what her father’s reaction would be if he found out. She dreaded that even more than she dreaded being summoned to see the head teacher.

The sound of the bell interrupted her thoughts. It was the end of the lunch period and Adele entered the school building in a state of trepidation, to the sound of taunting.

‘You’re gonna be in trouble, Adele Robinson, for what you did to Debby.’

‘Yeah,’ added another girl, ‘Miss Goody Two Shoes is gonna get done, haha.’

When Mr Parry announced that she and Debby were to see the head teacher straightaway, Adele felt her stomach sink.

Mr Parry led the two girls down the long corridor towards the head teacher’s office and told them to wait outside while he knocked on the door. After he had been inside for a few minutes, he came back out and asked Debby to go inside. He then lowered his eyes towards Adele and told her to wait there until she was called for. She noticed the look of disappointment on his face and felt ashamed. Then, with nothing further to say, he left her standing outside the head teacher’s office, trembling with fear.

After what seemed like an endless wait, Debby came out of the office and looked away from Adele as she walked past her.

‘Next!’ shouted Miss Marchant.

Adele was already in tears by the time she entered the office and presented herself at the other side of the head teacher’s large desk.

‘Now then, what have you been up to?’ asked Miss Marchant.

‘I… I… I didn’t mean it,’ muttered Adele.

‘Didn’t mean what? And for heaven’s sake, speak up, young lady.’

‘I didn’t mean to hurt Debby,’ Adele sobbed.

‘Well, from what I’ve been told, you’ve got a bit of a temper, haven’t you young lady?’

Adele, by now very tearful, nodded in response.

‘I can’t hear you!’ thundered Miss Marchant.

‘Yes,’ Adele replied.

‘Yes, what?’

‘Yes, Miss Marchant.’

Adele was so worked up that she thought she would vomit at any minute. To her surprise, just when she reached the point where she felt she might faint, the head teacher seemed to relent.

‘Well, Miss Robinson, although I don’t condone your behaviour in the playground, I have received glowing reports from your class teacher. So, I’m going to let the matter rest on this occasion. However, I would suggest that in future you keep that temper of yours well under wraps.’

‘Yes Miss,’ answered Adele.

‘You may go.’

Adele quickly made for the door, feeling a mixture of relief and shame, but before she could get to the other side, she was stopped by Miss Marchant’s stern tones.

‘And if I ever hear of any repeat of this behaviour, you will be punished severely!’

‘Yes Miss,’ Adele replied as she dashed from the office.

Anxious to be away from the head teacher’s office as soon as possible, Adele rushed down the corridor and into her classroom.

Mr Parry raised his eyes from the papers on his desk and abruptly ordered Adele to sit down in the vacant seat next to Tony Lord, who had a reputation for being the best fighter in the school.

As Adele felt everyone’s eyes on her, a tear escaped from her eye. She was greeted by a barrage of questions from the other children sitting at the table. Adele’s feelings of guilt and shame made her shy away from their questions, even though she could tell they were impressed that she’d beaten Debby up.

‘Why are you crying if you won the fight?’ asked Tony, puzzled.

‘Don’t know,’ muttered Adele, dipping her head.

Read my reviews of Blood Ties and Vendetta, the other books in the series.

Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children. Twitter Facebook

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Friday Read, Friendship, Romantic Comedy

Suddenly Single – Carol Wyer -4* #Review #BlogTour @canelo_co @carolewyer #RomCom #Extract #SocialAnxietyDisorder #MentalHealth #FridayReads #FridayFeeling

When bestselling romance author Chloe Piper’s marriage implodes a week before Christmas, she flees her cheating ex and the village gossips for the solitude of the newly built Sunny Meadow Farm and the company of her hapless dog, Ronnie.

But Chloe is soon pushed out of her comfort zone. Because with a lively development building crew – headed up by charming Alex – and a larger-than-life neighbour determined to make Chloe’s love life her pet project, Chloe finds herself in a whole new world of chaos…

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Extract From Suddenly Single – Carol Wyer

Faith drained her glass and released a lengthy contented sigh. The log burner was still glowing orange, and shadows danced across the floor where Ronnie now lay asleep.

‘You made the right decision to leave Appletree and start again,’ said Faith, holding onto the stem of her glass and eyeing it as if it might magically refill itself. ‘This house is much nicer than your old one and William’s a complete tosser.’

Chloe didn’t respond. She was mellow thanks to the champagne and reality was replacing the excitement of moving. It felt strange being in a house without the memorabilia she’d been used to having around her – the funny animal sculptures she and William had bought together from a local artist, the teapot collection she’d started, the paintings and photographs on their walls she’d looked at every day for the last ten years. It was gone. The smell of the old place, the familiar creaks she’d become accustomed to: the birds that nested every year under their guttering, the crackle of the fire in their large open fireplace and the way she’d sink into the cushions on their old settee were now memories and she had yet to make new ones to replace them. It would take time. William was also memory now – a bittersweet memory.

‘It won’t last,’ Faith continued, referring to William’s relationship with Lilly, the Swedish bombshell who was now part of her soon-to-be ex-husband’s life. Chloe knew her friend was trying to be supportive but she didn’t want to discuss William’s latest girlfriend. Whether it lasted or not was irrelevant – the fact was he’d cheated on her and not just the once. Before Lilly, there’d been others and poor dumb Chloe had been too stupid to realise. She threw Faith a smile and pushed herself into a standing position.

‘Wine?’ she said.

Faith waved her glass in response.

Chloe caught sight of her reflection in the large windows as she walked through to the kitchen. She ought to draw the curtains but there was no one to overlook the house, and by the door, she halted. There was no light pollution at all. The sky was never as inky black as this in Appletree. There’d always been pavements illuminated by street lights or light from people’s homes leaking into the manicured front gardens, or car headlights strobing up and down the road. This was darkness like she’d never experienced before and yet it wasn’t dark. As her eyes grew accustomed to it, she saw the sky was dotted with thousands… no, millions of pinpricks of lights from stars, and the sudden realisation took her breath away. This was magnificent. Faith shouted out. ‘Oy, where’s that wine? You haven’t gone in search of the sexy carpenter, have you?’ She followed her comment with a hearty chuckle.

‘Coming.’

She turned from the door, catching again a glimpse of her face – pale, heart-shaped and framed with long dark brown hair – a face that had aged ten years in the last ten months. She’d never been what anyone would call pretty but she’d looked well and now-now she just looked drained. William had sucked all the joy from her, little by little at first and then towards the end, in huge amounts. If it hadn’t been for the success of her novel and Faith’s friendship, she’d have gone under. She turned away and grabbed the chilled wine from the fridge door, reached for a corkscrew in the top drawer and smiled: she’d gone to the drawer automatically, instinctively as if she’d lived here far longer than a few hours. She took it as a sign that she’d be fine and yanking the cork from the bottle she raised it victoriously towards the lounge.

‘You want a fresh glass?’

‘Damn right I do… fetch those ones that look like fish bowls.’

Chloe grinned. Faith was already semi-drunk and would soon be demanding they opened the karaoke app on her mobile and had a sing-along. And why not? The house would probably enjoy it.

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

My Thoughts…

A charming romantic comedy, with a sensitive and serious look at social anxiety disorder and its disabling effects. Christmas looms dark and dangerous for Chloe, whose husband has recently left her. A successful debut author, who suffers from anxiety, Chloe is horrified when she is identified as the author CJ Knight, and can no longer find the anonymity she needs in her village. Moving to a new development in rural Staffordshire appeals but is it too remote? Will she master her writer’s block? Can she survive Christmas with only Ronnie the dog for company?

The characters in the new development and those she meets in the singles club are complex, with their own emotional baggage but believable, there are no stereotypes here, only reflections of the people you may encounter in your daily life. The story charts Chloe’s battle against her anxiety, her courage as she learns to trust others and her emotional journey to rebuild her self-esteem through writing her second book.

There are lots of conflicts, as the genre demands, both internal and external, and many hilarious moments, especially involving Ronnie the dog. The story is gently paced and as Chloe is a likeable character you want her to find true happiness, and learn to live her life fully. There are elements in this story that many readers will relate to, which make this more than just a lighthearted love story.

A clever balance of romance, laughs and poignancy make this an enjoyable read.

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As a child, Carol Wyer was always moving and relied on humour to fit in at new schools. A funny short story won her popularity, planting the seed of becoming a writer. Her career spans dry cleaning, running a language teaching company, and boxercise coaching. Now writing full-time, Carol has several books published and journalism in many magazines.

Carol won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015), and can sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Revenge Fiction, Family Drama

Knowing You – 5*#Review – Samantha Tonge @canelo_co @SamTongeWriter

An abrupt change; a new friendship; a dark secret…

Kind-hearted Violet has never fitted in, but despite being bullied at school is now content. She is dating ambitious Lenny, has her dream job in publishing and runs a book club at the local retirement home.

However, when her relationship with Lenny begins to falter, Violet, hurt and alone, seeks the advice of her new flatmate, Bella. She changes her image and with her head held high aims to show that she doesn’t need Lenny in her life to be happy and successful.

Her long-term friends Kath and Farah worry about Bella’s influence and slowly Violet starts to distance herself from them. When she was a child, her closest confidant and companion was a boy called Flint. Her mother didn’t approve of their closeness and he suffered a terrible end. She won’t let the same thing happen to Bella, no matter what anyone says…

Knowing You is about friendship and knowing who to trust with your deepest secrets; it’s about taking control of your life and not being afraid to stand out.

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

My Thoughts…

Violet has a career she loves, and a relationship that she is happy with, the first part of this story follows her life as a children’s book editor, which is interesting, she has lots of friends mostly older than her, but they value her friendship as she does theirs.

The present-day narrative is broken up with stories from Violet’s childhood, and a particularly momentous event that takes place and effects the young girl deeply.

It’s impossible not to feel empathy for Violet as a child, and to admire what she achieves as an adult. Then something happens to change her outlook on life and the secrets of her past resurface in a dangerous adult version.

This story is beautifully written. Violet is a lovely character and you want her to realise that beauty comes from within and that she doesn’t need the opinion of others to validate her. I loved the sincerity and the easy flow of this book, it’s easy to read but it makes you think. The characters are believable, as are their motivations and actions.

Even though you may guess what is happening, you are never sure until the end. The full impact of Violet’s story resonates, and it’s a poignant and powerful message.

A curious mix of revenge fiction and family drama, this story will hold your interest until the last page.

Posted in Book Review

Mine – J.L.Butler – 4*Review

My CLIENT
My LOVER

Francine Day is a high flying lawyer about to apply for silk, ambitious and brilliant. She just needs one headline-grabbing client to seal her place as queen’s counsel … Martin Joy. The attraction is instant. Obsessive.

They embark on a secret affair, and Francine thinks she can hold it together. But then Martin’s wife goes missing. And Martin is the prime suspect. Francine is now his lawyer, lover and the last person to see Donna Joy alive.

As the case unravels so does Francine.

Her HUSBAND
My OBSESSION

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My Thoughts…

‘Mine’ is an enjoyable read. The legal setting is interesting. The professional trust between a lawyer and client broken by the protagonist pushes her into the unreliable protagonist territory. Her mental health issues may also make her observations and perceptions questionable from the reader’s point of view.

A well written psychological thriller, regarding mystery, menace, pacing and suspense. The themes are well tried in this type of novel as are the characters; the mentally unstable obsessive mistress, the ruthless businessman for whom reputation and money is everything, but if you enjoy psychological thrillers the polished presentation of this one will please.

The mental disintegration of the Fran, the main protagonist, is realistic as are her actions, many of the choices she makes are bad, but they are understandable and therefore believable. The final chapters are atmospheric and suspenseful, aided by a wonderfully gothic setting and inclement weather.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins- Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: More Than Us- Dawn Barker – Guest Post – 4* Review

When parents disagree on how to care for their child, is it justifiable to take extreme measures?

Emily and Paul have a glorious home, money in the bank and two beautiful children. Since leaving Scotland for Paul to play football for an Australian team they have been blessed. But sadness lies behind the picture-perfect family – sixteen-year-old Cameron has battled with health troubles his entire life. There’s no name for what he has, but his disruptive behaviour, OCD, and difficulty in social situations is a constant source of worry. 

When Paul’s career comes to a shuddering halt, he descends into a spiral of addiction, gambling away the family’s future. By the time he seeks help, it’s his new boss Damien who recommends and pays for a rehab facility.

While Paul is away, Emily has to make a tough decision about their son. She keeps it from Paul knowing he’ll disapprove. And when a terrible accident reveals the truth, Paul takes his son and goes on the run, leaving Emily to care for fourteen-year-old Tilly, who unbeknown to her parents is fighting battles of her own.

Can the family join together for the sake of their loved ones, or will their troubles tear them apart?

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Guest Post – Dawn Barker

The writing process for More Than Us 

First of all, thank you for having me on your blog today. I’m very excited that More Than Us is out now!

More Than Us is my third novel, so I’d hoped I’d be a more efficient writer this time around, but it took me longer to write than either my first book, Fractured or my second, Let Her Go!

Generally, when I write, I start with a vague idea of a particular character or issue that I find intriguing and complicated. For More Than Us, this was the idea of a family disagreeing about the mental health treatment of their child. This is not unusual, and as a child psychiatrist, it’s something that I see quite often in my practice. I also see strong views in the wider society about both the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues on children, both from the point of view of overdiagnosis and treatment (that I believe does sometimes happen), and the other extreme, people who do not believe that there is any place for psychiatrists in the treatment of children. I believe that the reality is somewhere between these opposing views, and wanted to explore that in fiction.

I began writing the first draft of More Than Us many years ago; I remember talking about it while I was living in Cape Town, over four years ago. At the time, I had just finished editing my second novel, and my mind was starting to look for new ideas.

Generally, when I write the first draft, I set myself a daily target of 500 words per day. I don’t plan what I’m going to write, or outline chapters or the plot, I just write scenes and characters and let them develop along the way. I’m not sure this is the most efficient way of writing, but it’s the way I’ve always done it! With More Than Us, knowing that I now had three young children, and was going back to work, I aimed for 1000 words a day just to get to the end of the first draft. I believe that getting all the ideas on to the page without worrying about how good or bad they are, is essential.

I then put the draft away. I had released my second book, Let Her Go, in Australia, and so was touring around promoting that, and I had gone back to work as all three of my daughters had started school. After spending a couple of years working hard on writing and promoting my first two books, I needed a break from it for a while.

In 2017, Canelo published Let Her Go, and I was thrilled when they said they would also like to publish my third novel…a year later! I panicked a little, as by now I was working essentially full-time, and busy with my family, but I know I work better with a deadline and agreed. I then opened up the draft of More Than Us on my computer…and panicked some more!

For the next six months, I wrote a second draft. I found it frustrating not to be able to work on it every day, as I had with my first two books, but also had to accept that I needed to work, and ultimately, family time was more important than writing when my children weren’t at school. I then wrote a third draft, this time having turned down some work and taken some time off my day job to fit it in, and then a fourth and a fifth… Finally, after many 4 am starts, I submitted More Than Us to my agent, and then to Canelo, at the end of 2017. The early part of this year was taken up by edits, and I’m so pleased that it has finally been published!

It’s been a lesson for me to accept that it’s not always easy to find the balance between writing and real life, but the satisfaction and excitement of finishing a 100000-word project is worth it!

Thanks again for having me on your blog and I hope you enjoy reading More Than Us.

My Thoughts…

Mental health issues are discussed more openly in the 21st-century, and this story examines the two extremes of ignoring mental health problems or labelling every behavioural difference as a mental health issue for a fictional family in Austrailia.

The scenarios portrayed are believable, and the differing parental reactions to their children’s behaviour are well-researched both regarding mental health facts and differing viewpoints on mental health. The family experiences addiction, depression, obsessive behaviour and low self-esteem issues and the circumstances surrounding them are authentic, and the strain on family relations is convincing.

Written from the two parents points of view, they view the same issues differently, which makes for discord, fear and finally understanding. There is no jargon overload, despite the book’s detailed content. What comes across is the human reactions to the problems they face and their differing ways of solving them.

A sensitively written story that examines mental health issues in children and parents and how they are perceived and resolved.

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

Dawn Barker is a psychiatrist and author. She grew up in Scotland, then in 2001 she moved to Australia, completed her psychiatric training and began writing. Her first novel, Fractured, was selected for the 2010 Hachette/Queensland Writers Centre manuscript development programme, was one of Australia’s bestselling debut fiction titles for 2013, and was shortlisted for the 2014 WA Premier’s Book Awards. Her second novel is Let Her Go. Dawn lives in Perth with her husband and three young children.

Twitter: @drdawnbarker

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

The Taste of Blue Light Lydia Ruffles 2* Review

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An incandescent, soul-searching story about a broken young woman’s search for a truth buried so deep it threatens to consume her, body and mind.

These are the things Lux knows:
She is an artist. 
She is lucky. 
She is broken.

These are the things she doesn’t know:
What happened over the summer.
Why she ended up in hospital.
Why her memories are etched in red. 

Desperate to uncover the truth, Lux’s time is running out. If she cannot piece together the events of the summer and regain control of her fractured mind, she will be taken away from everything and everyone she holds dear.

If her dreams don’t swallow her first.

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My Thoughts…

An intense, original story but it is so dark and specific. One person’s vision of mental illness, if you don’t share this viewpoint then connecting with the main character and the plot is hard work and probably not worth the effort. The pacing is too slow.
I am not the intended age group, but I have read a lot of YA literature and usually enjoy it, so I guess it’s just this story that’s not for me.
I received a copy of this book from Hodder Children’s Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.