Saturday, 25 August 2018

TLC Book Tour Between The Lies by Cynthia A. Graham

Author: Cynthia A. Graham
Source: Digital ARC
Publisher: Blank Slate Press
Release Date: March 27, 2018
Paperback: 220 pages


Synopsis:
When the corrupt sheriff of Broken Creek, Arkansas detains a young black boy on charges of accidental homicide, his sister asks Hick Blackburn, Sheriff of Cherokee Crossing, to investigate. Hick is reluctant at first. Not only is Broken Creek out of his jurisdiction, but Hick and Sheriff Brewster have a history, and Hick knows Brewster won’t look kindly on his interference. But Hick quickly realizes the boy couldn’t have committed the crime. With the aid of a New York attorney trying to make a name for herself and a shy new deputy who knows the boy’s family, Hick uncovers a conspiracy that goes to the heart of local corruption, nepotism, and racism. But while Hick is working to free an innocent child in Broken Creek, his beloved Maggie, pregnant with their third child, faces challenges of her own back home. This time, will Hick’s dedication to justice extract too high a price?

Heartfelt and poignant, Between the Lies by Cynthia A. Graham handles the complexities of Southern culture and the depths of its racial past with grace and finesse. The character development and plot are deep and complex. This is a novel full of heartbreak, but a story of hope is at its true heart.”–Hunter S. Jones, author of Red Stilleto Strategy

My Thoughts:
‘Between The Lies’ is book three in a southern mystery series set in Arkansas during the 1950’s about small town sheriff Hickory Blackman. In this instalment we follow Hick over the course of four days in July, in an ongoing mental fight with an influential bully in the nearby county of Broken Creek.

Sheriff Brewster has brought into custody a local black child, Thaddeus for the killing of a white man even though, obvious to any ‘dumbass’, that physically Thad is incapable of committing the crime.  Such evidential facts, however, won’t get in the way of Brewster’s objective of obtaining a guilty conviction for such a convenient scapegoat.

A conversation between Hick and Father Grant, pastor of Broken Creek, brings to light the case of George Stinney a 14 year old black boy who was tried for murder, found guilty, and executed.  Now I was intrigued and ‘googled’ George Stinney who from the southern state of Carolina was (rightly or wrongly) found guilty of murder in similar circumstances. I was deeply affected, it was incredibly upsetting and heartbreaking to read about such cruelty, inhumane treatment of a minor and ultimately the horrific execution of a child. Was this a warning of what may be in store for young Thad. Not if Hick has anything to do with it. It’s going to be a fight, but with mental ingenuity to outsmart Brewster it’s not something that Hick will easily allow to happen.

Graham’s style of writing, much like our protagonist, is calm, intelligent and measured.  In contrast to the languid pace she also manages, without being preachy or altering style or pace of the novel, to manoeuvre into place a powerful, poignant nugget of historical fact for the reader to mull over.  Awareness of this event in history added another layer, dimension and understanding of the characters living within a community steeped in racial hatred, and run by a corrupt and bigoted sheriff.  I couldn’t help thinking, with the current worldwide political climate, that we appear to be coming full circle and learned very little if anything from the past.

Now that ending ! Wasn’t what I was expecting at all, and it knocked me for six. A very sad unsettling denouement.  Just another chapter in Hicks life to be overcome and I am keen to see how his character develops and moves on from it.

‘Beneath Still Waters’ is the first book in the series, and although there is a sense of growth in Hick’s character, ‘Beneath The Lies’ could easily be read out of sequence or as a stand-alone. I havn’t yet gotten around to reading ‘Behind Every Door’ but do intend on doing so before the next book.  I highly recommended this series.

Memorable Lines

“You white folks are something else. You like to pretend you know what’s best for us, that you got our interests at heart. But at the end of the day you get to go home and be safe and white. We don’t get to leave. We always black.”

“We all had the same orders. Plant fear in the hearts of the townsfolk regarding colored people, because fear will always turn to hate. After the hate starts to grow, point out things like desegregation will cause inter-marriage and inter-marriage will create a mongrel race of half-breeds. Tell them their women are in danger and that a black man touching a white woman is an abomination.”

“...and Uncle Earl told me to never mention that man’s name again. He said for me to shut my trap and let him run the town as he sees fit. Told me I ain’t nothing but a dumbass anyway and that he only hired me ’cause my mama begged him to.”

Thank you to TLC Book Tours, and Blank Slate Press who provided me with a digital copy in order to take part in this tour.

Cynthia A. Graham’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, August 6th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Monday, August 13th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, August 15th: Broken Teepee
Friday, August 17th: Write Read Life
Monday, August 20th: Prose and Palate and @prose_and_palate
Wednesday, August 22nd: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, August 23rd: SJ2B House of Books
Friday, August 24th: From the TBR Pile


Monday, 18 June 2018

HF Virtual Book Tours: NINE BIRDS SINGING BY EDYTHE ANSTEY HANEN

NINE BIRDS SINGING
BY EDYTHE ANSTEY HANEN

New Arcadia Publishing (5 December, 2017)
Paperback; 276 Pages
Genre: Literary Fiction

Rating:
Synopsis:
Maddie is a writer of local history but wants to use her words to unlock the hidden truths that lay just below the surface of her life. But it’s magnetic words on a refrigerator door – Have dreams. Must travel – that push Maddie into the journey she must take: the search for what she has yearned for all her life: independence and freedom from the abusive fanaticism of her parents’ religious beliefs. From Vancouver in the sixties to present day Mexico and a small island on the Canadian west coast, Nine Birds Singing is a love affair with words. It weaves through past glories and youthful hubris in a search for understanding and acceptance. Profound friendship, skewed love and loss all play a role in Maddie’s search for redemption

My Thoughts:
“Where will you spend eternity?”
“The preacher begins his sermon with subdued entreaties for the lost sheep to return to the fold. There is still time, he tells them. But it’s his table-pounding diatribes on hell’s fury that send rivers of fear coursing through Maddie’s veins. There will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Even the water trembles in the glass when he slams his fist against the dais...Maddie sits in heart-stopping silence, her cheeks aflame with guilt. She is more afraid of the preacher than she is of God.”

Maddie, as a child is terrified of the coming Rapture, she knows that due to her sinful ways she will be left behind to suffer for all eternity. Her father’s ferocious religious preaching compounds these fears. She, too, knows that she is different from other children at school, and that her family home life is very strange.  She feels isolated and uncomfortable around others feeling that she does not fit in.

“There’s no use pretending this isn’t about Joey too. The leaky boat that’s kept their life together afloat has been sinking for a long time and Maddie sees now that she’s been the only one rowing anyway. She can’t stay here and wait for the other oar to drop but she doesn’t want to chase Joey down like prey either.”

When, in later years her long-term partner walks out on her, Maddie takes off to visit her friend of many years in Mexico.  Thus begins Maddie’s painful, but enlightening journey for truth and of self-discovery.

Returning to heartfelt memories of her childhood, Maddie looks back at her father’s religious doctrine, her grandfather’s abuse, and her mother’s passivity and uncaring demeanour, all of which have left her feeling a powerlessness and unquestioning acceptance of how badly others have treated her over the years.

“Maddie looks out into the chilly early morning light. She imagines what it would be like to be in Mexico now. Salmon pink and scarlet bougainvillea blossoms, purple jacaranda blooms that drift from the trees like confetti in the time of the winds, the white-faced ibis arcing across the sky at sunset, winging its way toward the lake.”

Set predominantly in present day Mexico, the reader is transported to a Vancouver of the 1960’s, and back again to a small island off the Pacific west coast. Nine Birds Singing takes us on a poignant and highly perceptive journey of exploration and of self-discovery of a woman in her later years.

So compelling with more than one ‘Me Too’ moment along the way, I felt a real connection to this wonderfully inspiring woman. As a result of coming to terms with a difficult past she acquires a new found freedom from the chains of abusive relationships.  Nine Birds Singing is sure to have a recognition and poignancy with readers at a particular stage in their lives, just as I did.

One message or interpretation I took from the book was that as a child the responsibility of others’ abuse or neglectfulness is not yours, and that it’s never too late to take control of your life, to choose your own path and not accept whatever fate throws at you. That, even with the passing of time, it is still possible to throw off the shackles which have bound you for far too long.

An uplifting literary novel of a woman’s coming of age in her older years, Nine Birds Singing is a highly recommend read.

A complementary digital copy of Nine Birds Singing was provided in exchange for an unbiased review and to take part in this TLC Book Tours.

About the Author
Edythe Anstey Hanen has published prize-winning short stories and poetry in literary magazines including Room Magazine and anthologies across Canada, in addition to articles in the Globe & Mail, National Post and the Hamilton Bay Observer and is a regular contributor to Mexconnect, an online travel magazine. She lives on Bowen Island in British Columbia, Canada, where for many years she was the editor of the Bowen Island Undercurrent.


Wednesday, 6 June 2018

TEASER TUESDAY GRINGA by Joe Thomas


It is very easy to play along:
Grab your current read and open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page being careful not to include any spoilers!  Share the title and author, so that other participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here are my teasers this week:
“What you say your name was again? …What, you his cão de guarda or little bitch?  I’m kidding, caralho, relaxa.”
GRINGA by Joe Thomas
Genre: Grit-lit, crime-noir, 
Pages: 280
Publisher: Arcadia Books Ltd (Feb 2018)

São Paulo, 2013: a city at an extraordinary moment in its history.

Gringa, with shades of Don Winslow and James Ellroy, is a portrait of São Paulo in all its harshness and dysfunction, its corruption and social divisions, its kaleidoscopic dynamism, its undercurrent of derangement, and its febrile, sensual instability, executed with a deep knowledge of the city’s anatomy.

My Thoughts:
I requested a copy of Gringa from NUDGE-New Books for reviewing as the description, depicting a dark gritty storyline, and dangerous encounters with mean gringoes, certainly appealed to my darker reading side whereby I could experience it all-be-it from the safety of my sunny summer house and comfort of my sofa. Having just finished my previous ‘teaser’ read, I’ll be starting Gringa sometime this afternoon and can’t wait to get started.


Wednesday, 30 May 2018

TLC BOOK TOURS: The Garden of Blue Roses by Michael Barsa

The Garden of Blue Roses by Michael Barsa
Genre: Literary, Fiction, Gothic, Suspense, Psychological
Publisher: Underland Press (April 2018)
Pages: 244

Ratting
Disclaimer: A digital review copy was supplied by the author to participate in the tour

Perfect for fans of horror, psychological and suspense thrillers

Description:
“Ominous, fantastic, and wonderfully malevolent…. I felt the spirits of Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Albert Camus’ Meursault, whispering to join the fun.”— Alice Sebold, best-selling and award-winning author of The Lovely Bones
A car lies at the bottom of an icy ravine. Slumped over the steering wheel, dead, is the most critically acclaimed horror writer of his time. Was it an accident? His son Milo doesn’t care. For the first time in his life, he’s free. No more nightmarish readings, spooky animal rites, or moonlit visions of his father in the woods with a notebook and vampire make-up.
Or so he thinks.

Milo settles into a quiet routine—constructing model Greek warships and at last building a relationship with his sister Klara, who’s home after a failed marriage and brief career as an English teacher. Then Klara hires a gardener to breathe new life into their overgrown estate. There’s something odd about him—something eerily reminiscent of their father’s most violent villain. Or is Milo imagining things? He’s not sure. That all changes the day the gardener discovers something startling in the woods. Suddenly Milo is fighting for his life, forced to confront the power of fictional identity as he uncovers the shocking truth about his own dysfunctional family—and the supposed accident that claimed his parents’ lives.

My Thoughts
Milo is pleased that his sister Klara has returned home after the failure of her marriage and attempted escape from their parents hold. There is a real sense of creepiness and unease which seeps from within the claustrophobic familial walls, and of an unnerving comprehension of impending doom.  Shortly after Klara’s homecoming their parent’s are killed in a car accident on their way to a book reading.

‘The bodies were in the basement, on slabs of steel—Mother with shards of her sunglasses still nestled in her platinum bob and Father in his tweedy, seedy best. "I think I see Father breathing," I whispered to Klara. She gave me a stern look and told me to hush. I would not. Instead I began poking him in the face to wake him up. Even when his head flopped to one side and his jaw hung open crookedly, I laughed and said: "What an actor!" I didn't trust his death. Father was an author. He was words. You can't kill words—can't lock them up and drive them off a cliff.’

Full of foreboding benevolence ‘The Garden Of Blue Roses’ is interspersed with a playfulness and dark humour displayed through the odd behaviour and interaction of its socially inept narrator. Milo is naive and unable to function ‘normally’ outside of his family environment. He just doesn’t understand the rules of social engagement and its certainly apparent, almost immediately, that there’s something just not right about him. Is he a creation of his father’s twisted nurturing? Or, perhaps his mother’s distant and neglectful aloofness? Maybe both have played a part.

“Beauty without context. I saw how Klara hung on his every word, how her breath fluttered like an excited bird’s.”

I simply adored the stylishly beautiful writing and above is an example of just one sentence which froze me in motion as I too felt the heart flutter and breath trembling of Klara and her idolatry emotions.

Klara becomes fixated with Henri a gardener she’s hired to transform ‘the grounds’ into something spectacular in remembrance of their parents.  Milo doesn’t like Henri. He doesn’t trust him. He knows he’s an evil character who has climbed out from the pages of his father’s infamous novel about a psychotic murderer.

Barsa has created a haunting, ambiguous tale that kept me second guessing right the way through with such a highly dysfunctional family and unreliable characters. It was impossible to know who or what to believe. This is an exceptionally well written ‘literary’ debut comparable to such titles in the modern gothic genre as, Andrew Michel Hurley’s ‘The Loney’, and the chilling ‘A Headful Of Ghosts’ by Paul Tremblay.

‘The Garden of Blue Roses’ is a gothic novel with a difference.  The subtle fun element lifts the mood in parts. It worked brilliantly and I absolutely loved its uniqueness.

Michael Barsa’s TLC Book Tours Stops:


Tuesday, May 29th: SJ2B House of Books

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

TEASER TUESDAY Nine Birds Singing by Edythe Anstey Hanen

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by
It is very easy to play along:
Grab your current read and open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page being careful not to include any spoilers!  Share the title and author, so that other participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here are my teasers this month:
“Maddie sits in heart-stopping silence, her cheeks aflame with guilt. She is more afraid of the preacher than she is of God.”
Nine Birds Singing by Edythe Anstey Hanen
Genre: Literary, Historical Fiction
Pages: 278
Publisher: New Arcadia Publishing (Dec 2017)

Praise for Nine Birds Singing
“In Nine Birds Singing, Edythe Anstey Hanen’s appealing narrator Maddie recalls and examines her own search for independence from her parents’ restrictive values. The writer and Maddie, together, gather the reader in to share an intimate, wise, and moving tale.” -Jack Hodgins, Author of Spit Delaney’s Island

“Nine Birds Singing is a finely written book, lovingly crafted, poignant and perceptive. A tale of gradual self-understanding, awakening and ultimate release.” -Nick Bantock, Author of the The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy

“If, like me, you despair for the collapse of the English language take comfort. In Nine Birds Singing you will discover a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of delights. Edythe Anstey Hanen not only uses the basic blocks of language, words, to propel her characters and her story, each word has been selected with meticulous care with attention to its meaning and its ability to resonate. The work is a symphony for the logophile. Don’t miss it.” -Patrick Taylor. USA Today, New York Times and Globe and Mail best-selling author of the Irish Country Doctor series

“Readers will enjoy the unique views and poetic pacing of Nine Birds Singing by Edythe Anstey Hanen. She savours and survives landscapes and relationships in teasing but tasty quick episodes. Her novel takes readers via circular time travelling through decades of Maddie’s life in Canada and Mexico. Enjoy this new voice!” -Bernice Lever, Small Acts, Black Moss Press, 2016

My Thoughts:
My thoughts will be posted as part of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours on 8th June, 2018.
http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/ninebirdssingingblogtour/

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

TEASER TUESDAY: The Garden of Blue Roses by Michael Barsa

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by
It is very easy to play along:
Grab your current read and open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page being careful not to include any spoilers!  Share the title and author, so that other participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Here are my teasers this month:
“Did the officers sense anything amiss, anything strange about the scene? No, they were dull and provincial—they just wanted to get things over with. One of them silently drove Klara and me to the station.”
The Garden of Blue Roses by Michael Barsa
Genre: Literary, Fiction, Gothic, Suspense, Psychological
Publisher: Underland Press (April 2018)
Pages: 244
Description:
“Ominous, fantastic, and wonderfully malevolent…. I felt the spirits of Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allan Poe, and Albert Camus’ Meursault, whispering to join the fun.”— Alice Sebold, best-selling and award-winning author of The Lovely Bones

A car lies at the bottom of an icy ravine. Slumped over the steering wheel, dead, is the most critically acclaimed horror writer of his time. Was it an accident? His son Milo doesn’t care. For the first time in his life, he’s free. No more nightmarish readings, spooky animal rites, or moonlit visions of his father in the woods with a notebook and vampire make-up.

My Thoughts:
A very creepy and foreboding atmospheric tale which I’m totally absorbed in, when I get the chance to read what with my job change right now rendering me mentally exhausted by the end of the day.

My review will be kicking off the TLC Book Tour on 23rd May, 2018.
See here for my review See here for the tour schedule.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

WHAT’S ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND - May 2018

My book blog and reviewing has been pretty erratic of late due to rather a lot happening in my personal life. For quite some time I had been very unhappy at work. I spent a lot of time soul searching and looking at what the problem areas were in my life in order for me to take control and do something about it. Surprisingly quickly I managed to change my working environment and am now looking forward to an exciting new venture. Oh, and get back to enjoying what I love, reading and sharing my thoughts on the fabulous and not so fabulous books I’ve been reading.

So, with no further ado, here are my updates for this edition of ‘What’s on your Nightstand’.

Read:
SNAP, Belinda Bauer (crime/thriller with spades of humour…loved it!) 4.5 stars. This was an entertaining and fun infused read from a crime author I’ve followed since her debut novel ‘Blacklands’ back in 2010. SNAP is a fast paced, creepy tale set in Cornwall, England about a young boy trying to do his best to look after his siblings since his mother was killed. There are doses of implausibly in the plot, but as I already said, it’s such a great read.  Review forthcoming
Paper Ghosts, Julia Heaberlin (crime, thriller…loved it!) 5 starts
Not quite as dark as ‘The Black Eyed Susans’, which I loved, but still tackles a difficult subject matter with a wry sense of humour and two highly unreliable main characters. ‘Paper Ghosts’ demonstrates adaptability and versatility in Heaberlin’s genre writing skills and I enjoyed every moment and looking forward to what she comes out with next.  Review forthcoming
The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebald (Audio) 4 stars
Why I took so long to read/listen to this I do not know, well I do…too many books. So glad I finally got around to reading this compelling magical ghost story written in the voice of a murdered young girl.
The Invisible Guardian, Delores Redondo (thriller) 3.5 stars
A good entertaining story set in Spain’s Basque region, incorporating the folk lore and superstitions of the community as well as fraught family dynamics  in this well written and translated murder mystery thriller. Part of a trilogy that I’ll probably read at some point in time as it left some unanswered questions I want answering.
The History of Bees, Maja Lunde (dystopian fiction) 3 stars
A beautifully (but rather dull in my opinion) written tale about three character’s whose lives revolve or have been affected by bees. Told over three different timeframes in three indistinct narratives which unfortunately is why I didn’t feel as wowed by it as others have been. Review forthcoming.
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Holly Ringland (literary fiction) 4.5 stars
With gorgeous prose this is a mesmerising heart breaking tale about loss, guilt, love, sacrifice and redemption. Simply stunning story. Review forthcoming.
I Stop Somewhere, T C Carter (YA, ) 5 stars
Raw, brutal, emotive but also infused with a caltenderness at the denouement of the story. This book is easily one of the best I’ve read this year in the YA/teen genre. Review forthcoming.
Dear Martin, Nic Stone (YA, current US political climate) 4 stars
Another awesome young adult novel with fabulous writing and intense character development. Timely and extremely thought provoking. One to read after Angie Thomas’ THUG (The Hate U Give). Review forthcoming.

DNF:
Drift, Stumble, Fall, M Jonathan Lee
Unfortunately it wasn’t one I could get into and I didn’t manage to finish it.
Need to mull over this one before making further comment.

Reading Now:
VOX, Christina Dalcher
Oh I’m loving this fabulous cautionary dystopian tale about men and their disturbing control of power over women in every area of their lives. One to definitely read if you enjoyed Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaids Tale’. Review to follow.

Next in Line:
The Garden of Blue Roses, Michael Barsa
Nine Birds Singing, Edythe Anstey Hanen

Update 2018: The Martian by Andy Weir

UPDATE: May 2018

Oh boy did I get this one wrong by saying I would recommend it for hard core sci-fi readers.
At the time of it’s publication back in 2014, I was surprised at how well it was selling...(as a bookseller I should really have known better and believe me I did learn from this oversight).

Then, then... after the successful film adaptation, sales of the book were phenomenal and I started to realise how badly wrong I’d gotten this one.  Due to the rave reviews, and partly because ‘ I LOVE MATT DAMON’ (purely on his acting skills I’ll have you know),  I went along with my husband to watch ‘The Martian’ and was pleasantly surprised...I loved it, so did he.  This, I think was due to just the right amount of focus being placed on the mathematical calculations the incredibly intelligent, resourceful Mat..sorry Mark makes desperately to remain alive for as long as possible. The humour and unrelenting optimism of our hero who finds himself in such a perilous predicament made for a far greater tense, thrilling and entertaining experience.

In conclusion, The Martian by Andy Weir is one I would now, without reservation, recommend to anyone wanting an exciting, intelligent and informative read, but to maybe skip the intensive ‘science bits’ if , like me, you're not a mathematician.

Artemis, Weir’s second novel is on my to be read list.

The Martian by Andy Weir
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: (digital) Publisher via NetGalley
Pub Date:  (H/B) Feb 11 2014
Synopsis:
"Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. 
Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?"

My Thoughts: (original posting Nov 2013)
What do I say about this one apart from I could not finish it !
Loved the idea of Robinson Crusoe on Mars but just couldn't get into it.

Obviously in the minority with my opinion because of many other reviewers giving a rating of 4 or 5 stars.

Too techie/nerdie, geeky for me. Full on successive problems and solutions with math calculations about how the guy could survive 430 something days before possible rescue.  I felt that I should have a degree in chemistry or physics to get it.  In the end I just didn't care enough to find out if he survived or not.

Would recommend to hard core sci fi fans.

I would like to thank the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this title.