#Review 4* Hag-Seed by @MargaretAtwood @PenguinRHUK #LiteraryFiction #HogarthShakespeare

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Selected as a Book of the Year – Observer, Sunday Times, Times, Guardian, i magazine

Felix is at the top of his game as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival. His productions have amazed and confounded. Now he’s staging a Tempest like no other. It will boost his reputation. It will heal emotional wounds.

Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. Also brewing revenge.

After twelve years, revenge finally arrives in the shape of a theatre course at a nearby prison. Here, Felix and his inmate actors will put on his Tempest and snare the traitors who destroyed him. It’s magic! But will it remake Felix as his enemies fall?

My review:

Before I write this review, I have a little confession to make. Well actually two confessions. Firstly, this is my first book read, by Margaret Atwood. I know, I am ashamed of myself! But to be fair, I didn’t discover Steven King until my 20s! Secondly, I have not read The Tempest by William Shakespeare, of which the novel is largely based. The only Shakespeare, I have read is Romeo And Juliet & Macbeth. These being from my school days! There we go, Abby leaves confessional!

The novel opens with Felix, the artistic director of the Makeshiweg festival, being betrayed and uprooted from his position. I would like to say this is the only emotional pain in Felix’s life, but sadly it is not. Having lost his wife in childbirth and daughter 3 years later to meningitis. Felix is in deep emotional pain.
He vows revenge upon Tony, whom has betrayed him!

“Tony and Sal must suffer”

Felix packs up his belongings and retreats to a shanty cottage in the woods. Where he remains in exile for quite sometime…. Whilst in exile he begins to have delusions of his daughter. They empower him to seek vengeance and Felix becomes an internet stalker, of the men who have wronged him. On year nine of exile, he applies for a job at the Fletcher Correctional facility. Under the secret identity of Mr Duke, he applies for the role of running the literacy program delivered to the inmates.

Felix is accepted for the position and his role involved assignments and producing a play. Of which he chooses The Tempest, guiding and aiding the inmates to fully understand the play. I found Felix to be charismatic yet troubled and charming and likable. I began to root for Felix on his journey towards revenge. By running the program Felix meets new people, who improve his life and help him heal.
But not before he has, had his revenge……

I really enjoyed this novel and can see the huge appeal of the book to book groups. There is room for the debate of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and also the character is Felix and what guides his vendetta. I really enjoyed how cleverly written the novel is and I look forward to The Handmaids tale, which is also on my book shelves! 4*

Margaret Atwood
Authors Links:
Twitter: @MargaretAtwood
Website: http://margaretatwood.ca/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3472.Margaret_Atwood
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MargaretAtwoodAuthor/


#BlogTour #Review 4.5* #TheWintersChild by @cassandrajaneuk Cassandra Parkin @Legend_Press #NewRelease

*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*
The Winter’s Child by Cassandra Parkin

Five years ago, Susannah Harper’s son Joel went missing without trace. Bereft of her son and then of her husband, Susannah tries to accept that she may never know for certain what has happened to her lost loved ones. She has rebuilt her life around a simple selfless mission: to help others who, like her, must learn to live without hope.

But then, on the last night of Hull Fair, a fortune-teller makes an eerie prediction. She tells her that this Christmas Eve, Joel will finally come back to her.

As her carefully-constructed life begins to unravel, Susannah is drawn into a world of psychics and charlatans, half-truths and hauntings, friendships and betrayals, forcing her to confront the buried truths of her family’s past, where nothing and no one are quite as they seem.

A ghostly winter read with a modern gothic flavour. A tale of twisted love, family secrets and hauntings.

My review:

I knew reading this novel would be eerie for me, as my youngest son is also called Joel. However, even I could not be prepared for how eerie. The novel jumps between the respective years and so we see Joel at various stages of his childhood. The descriptions of Joel at 5yrs old, matched my son to a tee. All of a sudden I felt a huge feeling of unease. So much so that I decided to finish the novel that day and only did so, in the same room as my son!

Susannah Harper is the protagonist, she is a broken and damaged soul after the disappearance of her teenage son Joel. The disappearance occurred 5yrs ago, since then Susannah has started a blog about the dangers of psychics and how they target vulnerable individuals. The novel details her own accounts of incidents with psychics, including the one that finally pushed her husband to leave her.

The novel opens at Hull fair, where a Roma fortune teller informs her that on Christmas eve she will see her son’s face again. Susannah is at the fair with her sister Melanie and her niece and nephew. Joel disappeared one day, after leaving school at lunchtime and has never been seen since. The pain, grief and anguish of the mother is evident on every page. It feels so real and I began to be absorbed by her story.
But that is exactly what she had intended………..

“This will be the last Christmas eve you’ll see his face again” Psychic

Susanah’s blog entries are scattered throughout the novel. The make for fascinating reading. There are taunting and malicious comments from the ghouls and trolls of the internet world. Also details of her relationship with her son. They offer an insight into her most inner thoughts and show how she is barely coping under the strain. Through her blog she meets local mum Jackie whose son Ryan has also gone missing. A friendship forms and it is as bizarre as it is intense. The blog details the way psychics fool people and provides points for readers to take note of.

“They thrive off our belief, we’re what keep their profession alive” Susannah

As the plot unravel we learn more about Susannah’s marriage to John, Joel’s father. We also learn there was a strange family dynamic throughout Joel’s childhood. One of competitive loving and control. We learn that Joel was an unhappy and depressed teenager, struggling with life at every turn. The novel details the day of the disappearance. The police officers who worked the case DI Armstrong (Nick) and DC Wood.

“John always loved me the best, but the one I loved the best was Joel” Susannah

When Susannah begins to have visions of Joel, everywhere she goes. Her sister Melanie fears for her sanity and urges her to seek help. Instead Susannah finds comfort in the arms of married police officer Nick. The friendship with Jackie, is intensified when Susannah tricks her into visiting psychic James O’Brien. James offers cryptic clues and misinformation, then finally he has an announcement that left me gobsmacked………..

The visions increase as Christmas approaches and I really feared for Susannah, she is a vulnerable woman, with so many untrustworthy people surrounding her.
Susannah is desperate for the truth and she wants it at any cost……..

The novel moving around Joel’s lifetime really adds to the plots depth. The confusion and mystery is on overload and this novel has ending that will rip your heart out!
*You have been warned! 4.5*

Cassandra Parkin
Authors Links:
Twitter: @cassandrajaneuk
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5419377.Cassandra_Parkin
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cassandra.parkin


#Review #EvilGames by @WriteAngie Angela Marsons @bookouture 5* #CrimeFiction #Series

Evil Games by Angela Marsons

The greater the Evil, the more deadly the game…

When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time – it’s personal.

My review:

I have heard lots about this series, from my blogger friend Sarah Hardy over at By The Letter Book Reviews. But sometimes it takes me awhile, to get round to reading a book recommendation. I am so glad I finally got round to reading the DI Kim Stone series. I now plan on buying ALL the others in the series. I must acknowledge for fairness, I started with this one, not at the start of the series. I often do this, if a specific synopsis appeals to me. Having worked in adult mental health previously for ten years, this was the perfect novel for me.
There are some amazingly on point, examples of mental health. So to my review…

I would describe this as police procedural and also very realistic. As DI Kim Stone and her team battle to solve multiple cases. I really liked Stone, as broken as she is inside, it only made me admire her more! She is savvy, feisty and ruthless in her pursuit of justice. The novel opens with her raiding a paedophiles property and taking his two young daughters into protective custody. You can feel Stone’s anger at the dire situation the young girls were placed in and she completely empathises with the victims.
She is determined to uncover everything about what took place, in Leonard Dunn’s cellar of depravity.

Across town Dr Alexander Thorne is attempting to help rape victim Ruth, heal after her brutal attack. The knowledge that her attacker has been released from prison, has caused a recent suicide attempt. Ruth is not well and desperately needs some support. Alex asks her to visualise stabbing her victim and obtaining ‘her light back’ and so the manipulation begins……..

Stone is called out to a crime scene where a convicted rapist has been found murdered. Viciously murdered in a stabbing. The reader is obviously aware of the two overlapping victims. But Stone is not, what comes next will pit these damaged women against each other. The developing mind games between Stone and Alex plays out, almost reminiscent of Batman and the joker. Both determined to break the others will.

There is a wealth of characters in the novel and many struck at my heart strings. The character of Shane, a childhood sexual abuse survivor, was heart-breaking. I began to despise Alex myself and every manipulative stunt she pulled angered me more and more. I would possibly go as far as saying she is one of the vilest characters I have ever read!

When the team discover evidence that another person was present in Leonard’s cellar, they rush to find out who. Attempting to gather information from the young victims Daisy and Louisa, proves fruitless. But then DNA evidence is uncovered, now the team just need to find a credible suspect. As Alex begins to dig into Stone’s past, Stone is returning the favour. One thing is clear, when these two finally come head to head. It is going to be, one epic showdown! The novel had me hooked from beginning to end and the author even saved an epic twist, for right at the very end. I am now off to buy the rest in this series and devour them as and when I can!
Highly recommended.
A huge bright and shiny 5*

Angela Marsons
Authors links:
Website: http://angelamarsons-books.com/
Twitter: @WriteAngie
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7942666.Angela_Marsons
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AngelaMarsonsAuthor/

#BlogTour #Review and Q&A #DeadLands by @LloydOtisWriter 5* Genius @urbanebooks #DebutNovel @urbanepub

*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*

Dead Lands by Lloyd Otis

Dead Lands is a thrilling crime story set in the 1970s. When a woman’s body is found a special team is called in to investigate and prime suspect Alexander Troy is arrested for the murder. Desperate to remain a free man, Troy protests his innocence, but refuses to use his alibi. Trying to protect the woman he loves becomes a dangerous game – questions are asked and suspicions deepen. When the prime suspect completes a daring escape from custody, DI Breck and DS Kearns begin the hunt. Breck wants out of the force while Kearns has her own agenda and seeks revenge. Breck has his suspicions and she wants to keep it from him, and a right-wing march provides an explosive backdrop to their hunt for Troy. Dead Lands is the thrilling debut of award winning short story writer Lloyd Otis, and intelligently covers issues of race, discrimination and violence in a changing 70s landscape.

*Release date 12th October 2017.

My review:

Very few novels do I contact the publisher directly and ask to read a ‘coming soon’ title as soon as physically possible. This was one of those times! Dead Lands has an eye-catching cover and an intriguing synopsis. I was left dying to know more, little did I know I was in for one hell of a read………..

The location is London and the year is 1977, which makes for atmospheric reading but also an entirely different pace to a contemporary crime novel. Policing in the 1970s isn’t what it is today! A different era with its own approaches to racial profiling. Cransham, Lewisham and New Cross areas still left reeling from the ‘Rivers Of Blood’ speech of 1968 and its impact on London communities.
The backdrop of a right wing march in this novel offers a staggering reminder of that 1970s era.

The novel opens with violently brutal scene, it drew me in from the very first page! Police officers Detective Inspector Arlo Breck and Detective Sargent Patricia Kearns arrive on the scene. They are from the Sensitive Crimes Unit (SCU), basically dealing with cases that involve wealthy and influential people.
Money Talks!

The victim Janet Maskell has suffered a violent death. The scene offers little in the form of evidence except a name written on a magazine and a credit card both stating Alexander Troy. Who is Alex Troy? How does he fit in with the victim? Janet was a dedicated career woman and held a prestigious job with an investment firm. She had a routine life and no time for friends outside of work.
Who would want Janet dead and why?

The papers cite of the upcoming ‘war on our streets’ fuelling the far-right march. The area’s deprivation and hopelessness adds to the racial tension and mistrust. With all this happening Detective Superintendent Anil Bashir wants to override his detectives and run Janet’s case his way. Leaving Breck disillusioned with police work altogether.

Breck is dealing with a distressed girlfriend, who appears to be suffering with mental health issues from the flashbacks of a recent attack. He also faces verbal abuse from fellow copper Riley. Kearns is divorced, lonely and has virtually no interaction with her only child. The role of a female police officer in the 1970s is fully explored. The police officer’s backgrounds adds to the complexity of this novel.
There are revelations, secrets and lies. They read brilliantly as a police duo.

The police finally trace Alex Troy and bring him in for questioning. He works at the same investment firm and was facing a disciplinary hearing that day, which Janet had run against him. Is this his motive? He is completely baffled with their accusations. He pleads his innocence but refuses to give an alibi.
There is confusion, when another Alex Troy is linked to the case.
Then Troy escapes……….

The case of the two Alex Troy’s is fascinating reading. Identify theft in the 1970s, easily done and impossible to unravel. With one a person of interest (POI) and the other, the prime suspect. The prime suspect is desperate and on the run!

Nosey neighbour Wynda Brodie, informs the police that Janet did have one frequent visitor. Her gardener and lover Benjamin Genta. Stating her dislike at the thought of ‘half-caste kids’ running up and down the street! It would appear Wynda, is uncomfortable with the colour of Benjamin’s skin.
But who is Benjamin Genta and how does he tie into the case?

The investigation continues, there are searches for the two Alex Troys, interviews with people connecting to the victim and searches of property. But they throw up more dead ends than leads. Breck decides to approach Benjamin and discover more about the victim Janet. Benjamin has a clean record and a serious distrust of the police. His brother was an innocent victim in a stabbing and he recites cases of police harassment and brutality from an officer named Riley. But he was in love with Janet and they held the same political beliefs with regards to the anti-fascist movement against the far-right march. Was Janet’s death politically motivated? How involved was she?

“We’re in the dead lands, a place where you’re judged solely by the word of others. No one ever gets out. They stay trapped forever” Benjamin Genta
*Still poignant 40 years later.

There are chapters written from ‘the messengers’ perspective that make for harrowing reading. But they add thrills, fear and mystery. Who is the messenger? With a fellow officer proving there is a fine line between police work and police corruption. With his potential involvement in the march. Then one of the Alex Troy’s dead body is discovered the case is blown wide-open. Breck and Kearns must solve this case and fast! Before more dead bodies pile up.

A multifaceted complex novel, with themes of violence, past secrets, lies, police corruption, betrayals, racial tension and civil unrest. 5* Genius


Q) As a duo DI Arlo Breck and DS Patricia Kearns, come alive on the page. They are an unlikely pair and I often thought to myself they are chalk and cheese. But when you dig a little deeper into their pasts, the reader discovers they are both just trying to survive their own personal secrets. Was this intentional, to have two police officers so different but yet so alike?

A)It was, because as we know, opposites attract but when you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find that they are both desperate to make amends. It’s the common denominator that secretly binds them together as individuals. Having them be different characters allowed me to provide a few interesting moments between them.

Q) I was very surprised to discover that DS Kearns was a female, due to the era. What made you decide to cast the role of Kearns as a female?

A) I wanted to create a more equal playing field in the story. Career opportunities for women across many industries were sadly extremely limited during the 70s, which is one of the reasons why I put Kearns in a specialist unit. A place where the skillset of an individual surpasses gender. There, the fact she is a woman, wouldn’t be such an obstacle as in other areas. I also felt that Breck and Kearns would bounce off each other better if one was male and the other female.

Q) Breck faces a dominating and bullying relationship with fellow police officer Riley. Which made me utterly despise Riley. Was this also part of the writing process to give an honest portrayal of the police in the 1970s?

A) To some extent, yes. The 70s had a lot of controversies, so there are some things that I just couldn’t underplay when setting its core in London. The stories about people being wrongly arrested, being discriminated against on a regular basis back then, and corruption, have already been well documented. To not have a character like Riley around wouldn’t be true to the decade. Having said that, not all officers were bad and that’s where Breck comes in. He’s Riley’s opposite in a sense.

Q) With themes of corruption and coercion, sometimes it was difficult to take the individual characters at face value. This added to the mystery and suspense feel of the novel and I was desperately trying to figure it out, before I got to the end. Is this sort of layered writing difficult to write, do you have to remind yourself who’s who? Does the direction of a character every change during the writing process?

A) Yes, this sort of layered writing is difficult to write because if there are multiple layers to a story, it can’t be rushed. Those layers have to understood by the author inside out. Once the author has that understanding, then the ultimate direction of the characters won’t change, their responses to situations may fluctuate, but their true direction will remain intact and the author won’t get confused with who’s who.

Q) Writing a novel set in 1977, is very different to the novels that flood the market. what was the inspiration behind this era? What was the research process for understanding policing in 1977?

A) For my debut I wanted create a story that you could say was under represented in the crime fiction market. Readers don’t want all books to be the same and we authors are creative, so we can try new things. I think there needs to be individualism in writing that continues to offer readers as much choice as possible. In terms of research, I underwent a lot for the period. From sifting through newspapers of the time, to speaking to someone who was present at ‘the march’ which serves as the backdrop to the story, and I was able to get on-the-job insights from a retired police sergeant that served during the decade.

Q) Breck identifies with Benjamin in the novel, almost as if he can imagine life thorough his eyes. We the reader also then witness Benjamin appear to let down his guard around Breck. How do you plan how various characters will interact with each another?

A) Good question. I think the keyword here is backgrounds. The background of a character leads me to decide how best that particular character would interact with others, especially in one-to-one scenes.

Q) If I had to sum up your novel in 5 words, I would say it is edgy, tense, unique, intelligent and thought-provoking. What 5 words would you use?

A) Thank you, Abby, that’s very kind. I honestly don’t think I could choose any different, or better, words than those.

Q) Finally, the question I am dying to know the answer to, is this debut novel the start of a Breck & Kearns series? If so are you working on ideas/themes for the next novel?

A) Breck & Kearns deserve their moment. I spent a lot of time considering who they were and what they were supposed to represent. Dead Lands is their story, from the beginning to the end, alongside a piece of real history. Will they return? Never say never.

Lloyd Otis
Author Bio:
Lloyd was born in London and attained a BA (Hons) in Media and Communication. After gaining several years of valuable experience within the finance and digital sectors, he completed a course in journalism. Lloyd has interviewed a host of bestselling authors, such as Mark Billingham, Hugh Howey, Kerry Hudson, and Lawrence Block. Two of his short stories were selected for publication in the ‘Out of My Window’ anthology, and he currently works as an Editor.
Authors Links:
Web: http://www.lloydotis.com/
Via Urbane: http://urbanepublications.com/book_author/lloyd-otis/
Twitter: @LloydOtisWriter
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LloydOtisWriter





#BlogTour #Review #TheWatcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas 4* #NewRelease @gilbster1000 #ww2Fiction

*My Blog tour review is slightly delayed due to an unscheduled hospital stay*

TheWatcher_BannerThe Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas
It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. Now, if family life isn’t tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.

My review:

I am a huge ww2 fiction fan! When I read the synopsis of this novel, I was immediately intrigued. I found the theme of a soldier overcoming the horror he has witnessed, fascinating. I also like the unique theme of the protagonist being a German POW, held by the Russians. A theme slightly neglected, in my opinion. This novel does debate the theory of the German guilt, post-ww2. Either by German civilians or soldiers themselves. It is very cleverly constructed so that you see the topic from various angles.

The novel opens with Max having recently returned from 4yrs hard labour in a Siberian camp. He appears physically and emotionally broken. We are aware he is having trouble battling the mental torment and processing the physical torture he has both witnessed and been a victim of. Max returns to his wife Erika, who has kept herself rather busy with another man. Her guilt for this affair and pain at watching Max struggle fuel her narrative within the novel. But Max and Erika, also have a young daughter named Netta. Netta is just as confused as all the adults in her life and is desperate her life returns to normal. Meanwhile you are aware that somewhere out there is the watcher……….

“If I were a little bird and had wings, I would fly to you…”

Max and Erika are both trained and qualified Doctors. Max was working in a field hospital when he was captured. Throughout the novel, it is scattered with Max’s memories of what he has been forced to endure, it does not make for easy reading. But fully explores how much ww2 POWs were subjected to. “Six of our boys nailed to the table by their tongues, ten hung up from meat hooks in the slaughterhouse and another fifteen thrown down the well and stoned to death. Bloody barbarians those Bolshevists” Obviously as the reader you are aware of the irony, that Max feels so abused and brutalised. When you are aware Nazi ideology, was much the same. But then that fact suddenly dawns on Max.

“God is punishing us for what we did to the rest of the world” Max

Max’s daily struggle, seems almost to be reaching breaking point. Then their maid Karin, is found murdered! Did Max’s mental health finally snap? Was it Erika’s jealousy? Or does an allied soldier lurk to prey on young women? Was it Karin’s disgruntled lover? At the end, all is revealed and the characters are forced to come to terms with who they really are and the impact the war has had upon them.
A thoroughly emotive ww2 fiction novel. 4*