WWW Wednesday: 21st October 2020

The WWW Wednesday meme is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words and is a great way to do a weekly update on what you’ve been reading and what you have planned.

WWW Wednesday

To take part all you have to do is answer the following three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading

He Will Be Mine

I’m kind of between books yet again, as I finished one on Monday and decided to take a little break before starting my next read. I am fairly certain however that next up will be He Will be Mine by Kirsty Greenwood. This will be a pretty major diversion from my October TBR and I’m not sure could ever be described as a spooky read but I can’t resist. Greenwood is one of my favourite writers and this story about a regular everyday woman who decides a famous Hollywood actor is her soul mate and sets out to convince him of that sounds like so much fun.

Recently Finished


Two books finished this week with the first the Snow White retelling Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly. As a big fan of Donnelly’s previous book Stepsister and retellings in general I was really looking forward to this story but I’m afraid it didn’t quite work for me. It wasn’t a particularly bad read and I loved the feminist spin the author put on the original story and how she wove in a few characters from different myths. I did however find main character Sophie frustrating and a little too much. I also found my attention wandering at times, it may just have been the wrong book at the wrong time but I am a little disappointed by it.

The second book finished was not on last week’s reading next list but was on my October TBR so it’s all good. After finishing a YA fantasy I was in the mood for a more grown up ghost story/mystery and The Lost Ones by Anita Frank fit the bill perfectly. I actually received an advance copy of this about a year ago and have attempted to read it on a couple of occasions but could never really get into it. This time however I slipped into it with no problems at all and found myself completely absorbed in it from pretty much the first page. It’s a fairly slow paced read and it is on the predictable side but I absolutely loved it. It was so atmospheric full of intrigue and the writing is just wonderful.

Reading Next

Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked, #1)

Given my wandering off track last week there’s no change to my reading next list as I’m still hoping to pick up The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E Schwab once I finish my current read. It’s one of my most anticipated reads of this year and I’m a big fan of Schwab but I have to admit I’ve been putting it off a little due to the fear it won’t live up to expectations. I’m also hoping to pick up Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco soonish so I may try to get to that one too.

My next book club book is Found by Erin Kinsley so I should probably think about trying to pick it up soon. Not gonna lie, I’m not especially excited at the prospect.

Have you read any of the books on my list this week? Any others you’d recommend? As always please feel free to leave comments and links below.

Happy Reading 🙂

WWW Wednesday: 14th October 2020

The WWW Wednesday meme is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words and is a great way to do a weekly update on what you’ve been reading and what you have planned.

WWW Wednesday

To take part all you have to do is answer the following three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading


I’m technically between books at the moment as I just finished one and wanted a break before starting another. I’m fairly certain however that my next read will be Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly as I’ve just realised it’s publishing next week (I have seriously got to get on top of my ARCs). I absolutely loved Donnelly’s previous book Stepsister so I’ve been really looking forward to this one. Plus, it’s a retelling of the Snow White and I am a big fan of retellings. Fingers crossed it lives up to expectations.

Recently Finished

The Devil and the Dark Water

Two books finished this week, with the first The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton. This was one of my most anticipated reads this year and for the most part it did not disappoint. It’s not as complex as Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (no notebook was required) but it’s still a very twisty tale that really keeps you guessing.

If I had one criticism it’s that I wish it had leaned a little harder into the horror aspects of the story. There are some creepy moments in the story but I feel like Turton could have gone a little further. It is a great read with intriguing characters and a stunning ending but not quite the 5 star read I was hoping for.

The Ghost Tree

The second book finished was The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry. I received an advance copy of this a month or so ago via NetGalley but it was only available to read on the app which is not great so I decided to wait until I could buy a copy.

I’m a big fan of Henry’s writing and I think this ranks as one of my favourites. I more or less read the whole thing in one sitting, I just could not put it down. It’s an 80s set monster in the woods story that’s more gore fest than spooky tale. It’s maybe a little on the tropey side but it was a lot of fun to read.

Reading Next

Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked, #1)

If I manage to finish Poisoned I think I’ll probably switch back to my October TBR and The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E Schwab. It’s currently sitting on the arm of my sofa calling my name so I don’t think I’ll be able to resist for long. I’m also hoping to pick up Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco soonish so I may try to get to that one too. I also have my RL book club on Friday so there’s a possibility they’ll come up with a book I want to read. I think my days in book club are numbered as out of the 10 books so far I’ve only liked 1 (although to be fair I didn’t read 4 of them).

Have you read any of the books on my list this week? Any others you’d recommend? As always please feel free to leave comments and links below.

Happy Reading 🙂

Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Title: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Author: Abbi Waxman

Genre: Contemporary

Pages: 351

Source: Bought

My Rating: 3 stars

The Blurb

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.


Unpopular opinion time, I didn’t love this book. I mean, I wanted to and based on the synopsis and all of the glowing reviews I was pretty positive going in that I would but it just didn’t work for me. It may just be a case of poor timing, I was in a grumpy mood, but I found myself becoming increasingly irritated by it and the more I read the more irritated I got.

In theory it should have been the perfect read for me, quirky characters, a bookshop setting, lots of literary and pop culture references, a cat and a little bit of romance. And there was definitely a lot to like but there was something about the writing style and the tone of the story which rubbed me up the wrong way from the very start. Yes the characters are quirky and eccentric but it feels like it’s trying too hard. I think it’s supposed to be funny but it wasn’t really my sense of humour so I found it a bit dull and by the end was left wondering what the point of it was.

I guess it’s supposed to be about Nina’s development from anxious introvert to someone who puts themselves out there with other people but to be honest I never really bought the anxious introvert thing so it didn’t seem like there was much development. If I’m being brutally honest I didn’t even like Nina that much. Anxious and introverted just seemed to mean rude, inconsiderate and judgemental (there’s some serious book snobbery). Someone who has a wide circle of friends, is out every night of the week and seems to like being at the centre of things doesn’t sound very introverted or shy to me and she had no problem standing up for herself or speaking her mind. I expected much more of a loner, not a social butterfly.

The story itself did have promise. Nina discovers she has a whole family she didn’t know about and meets them while simultaneously getting to know quiz team rival Tom who is inexplicably (she’s nothing but horrible to him) interested in her. If there had been a little more depth or emotion I think it could have been a really good story but the tone remains upbeat and quirky throughout which I think sort of spoiled things.

The switches in perspective from one paragraph to the next also confused me. The majority of the story is from Nina’s pov but every so often it’d switch to Tom or one of the other characters, usually in the middle of a chapter with no indication. It’d take me a few seconds to figure out what’d happened by which time we’d be back to Nina.

I’m also not sure I saw the point of cat Phil other than to go all out on the stereotype of bookish spinster with cat. And having Nina imagining what he was saying just seemed silly, like pretty much most of the things she imagined.

As for the romance, it felt a little tacked on and lacklustre. There wasn’t any real chemistry between them and she was so rude to Tom I honestly couldn’t see why he bothered.

There were a few nice moments, I liked a couple of the secondary characters and I do love a book with lots of literary references but I’m afraid on the whole it was a bit of a disappointment.

WWW Wednesday: 7th October 2020

The WWW Wednesday meme is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words and is a great way to do a weekly update on what you’ve been reading and what you have planned.

WWW Wednesday

To take part all you have to do is answer the following three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading

The Devil and the Dark Water

At long last I’m finally reading one of my most anticipated books of the year, The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton. I started it on Saturday and despite some cat drama over the last couple of days am more than halfway through and absolutely loving it.

On audio, I’m listening to Jeaniene Frost’s Twice Tempted. This is actually a re- listen and I probably should have picked up one of the audio’s that’s been lurking unlistened to on my phone but I was in a paranormal romance kind of a mood and I just love these books.

Recently Finished

The Survivors

Only one book finished in the last week but it was a good one. Jane Harper is one of my favourite authors and is one of the few on my autobuy list and her latest book The Survivors did not disappoint. There’s something incredibly engaging about her writing and her descriptions of both place and characters are so vivid they draw you into the story.

I absolutely loved the Tasmanian setting (another part of Australia I’ve learned more about) and the story kept me guessing. Overall a great read and one I’d recommend.

Reading Next

I posted an October TBR last week so I’m going to stick with it and pick up either The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E Schwab on The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry. I’m a big fan of both authors so deciding which one of these to read first is going to be tough.

Have you read any of the books on my list this week? Any others you’d recommend? As always please feel free to leave comments and links below.

Happy Reading 🙂

Spooktober 2020 TBR

Hello lovely people, can you believe it’s October already? I can’t. This year has both dragged and flown by. I guess living through a global pandemic creates some kind of time distortion field. Anyway, in the grand honored tradition (started last year when I forgot to do a Fall TBR), October means it’s time for a Spooktober TBR (yeah I forgot again).

I’ve been struggling to read pretty much anything that’s not a romcom or contemporary recently but I’m feeling pretty excited about dipping into some creepy tales this month. There have been a lot of exciting new releases in the last couple of months and I’ve managed to get my hands on some advance copies too so by combining these with some of the backlist titles that have been lurking on my bookshelves for way too long I think I’ve managed to come up with a pretty good list. I’ve got ghosts, magic, monsters, murder, the devil and maybe even the odd zombie.

So without further ado…


Seriously, how good do these look? Narrowing it down to just 10 was not easy and there is a 50/50 chance I’ll make some substitutions but I’m hoping I can get to most of them. Have you read any of these books, if so what did you think? Any others you’d recommend? Leave comments and rec’s below.

Happy reading and don’t have nightmares.

Ali x

Extract: The Rhino Conspiracy by Peter Hain #BlogTour @MuswellPress @PeterHain @Brownlee_Donald

Today I’m excited to be taking part in the blog tour for The Rhino Conspiracy by Peter Hain. Described as “An epic tale of corruption, collusion, and courage set in contemporary South Africa“, Hain’s insider knowledge of politics and activism infuse this timely thriller.

Read on for more details of the book and an extract to whet your appetite…

About the Book

The Rhino Conspiracy

In the last decade more than 6,000 rhinos have been killed in South Africa. Relentless poaching for their horns has led to a catastrophic fall in black rhino numbers. Meanwhile, a corrupt South African government turns a blind eye to the international trade in rhino horn. This is the background to Peter Hain’s brilliantly pacey and timely thriller. Battling to defend the dwindling rhino population, a veteran freedom fighter is forced to break his lifetime loyalty to the ANC as he confronts corruption at the very highest level. The stakes are high. Can the country’s ancient rhino herd be saved from extinction by state-sponsored poaching? Has Mandela’s “rainbow nation” been irretrievably betrayed by political corruption and cronyism?



The butt of the high- powered rifle had the old familiar feel, nestling against his shoulder as he crouched in the safari park.

In recent years his shooting had been mainly rabbits. Also guinea fowl – they were terribly difficult to get a clear shot at. But he was by far the best of all his friends. When they all went out for a weekend’s shooting, if anyone was going to get a guinea fowl it would be him.

His eye was still in.

Amongst his circle these days, he was something of a legend. Over a cold Castle or Windhoek beer after a shoot, his friends would pull his leg about his ‘mysterious’ past. But he would never let on, never say what he used to do.

But, now into his forties, he was fretting about his accuracy – whether he could stay rock steady during those vital seconds when the target came into view, exactly as was required.

It was one thing downing a bird, quite another a person.

He hadn’t done anything like this for nearly a quarter of a century.

That seemed a lifetime ago. And then of course, at the very pinnacle of his military career, he hadn’t needed to squeeze the trigger. Mercifully his had been a quite different duty on the momentous day when Madiba took the first steps of his long walk to freedom.

Then the Sniper had been holed up from dawn in the Cape winelands overlooking the secure Victor Verster compound in which Madiba had been incarcerated for the last few of his twenty- seven years in prison.

The Sniper, tall, muscled, especially around his shoulders and arms, had been a young man in the South African Army, renowned as one of its most proficient, when his commandant had suddenly summoned him one day in early February 1990 on direct instructions from the office of President de Klerk.

The mission was a special one, not the usual offensive attack, but one of defensive protection for the old gentleman who held the future of the nation in his hands. The newly revered one, transformed from the terrorist ogre his parents had always spoken darkly about. ‘If they ever let him out, his people will push all us whites into the sea,’ he remembered his dad repeating in his thick Afrikaans accent.

But that was then. On this special day, nothing must go wrong, could go wrong. The walk to freedom had to occur. His orders were very specific and very humbling: spot any potential assassin or assassins and shoot them, or otherwise the nation, which had been so perilously poised on the brink of civil war and financial meltdown, might be dragged back to the cliff edge – then to tumble over into murder and mayhem.

The Sniper had found a good spot amidst all the fynbos and aloe in a large clump of boulders. From there he had both a clear view of Madiba’s prison compound, the gates through which he would walk and, more importantly, any vantage points from which a shot could be fired at the great man.

From early light when he had scrambled into position – having scouted the spot late the previous evening, returned to base, eaten and grabbed some sleep – he had his binoculars trained on the surrounding landscape.

In the hills by the roadside he looked continuously for anywhere an assassin could be. There were certainly enough of them out there. Extremists, neo- Nazis, white fundamentalists, nutty ideologues: all sorts amongst whom there could be danger on the big day.

The Sniper knew exactly where to look – because he knew exactly the sort of place someone trained like him would choose, camouflaged in the stony scrub, dried out by the searing heat of the summer now just at its peak.

But the problem was the nutter might not have been trained like him. Might not be a professional. Might be a wild card, an opportunist, in some ways much more difficult to anticipate. Perhaps even a martyr, not too bothered about escaping, just doing the horrendous deed, come what may.

That was the real nightmare.

Which was why he had an African spotter, down below, much closer to the prison gate, binoculars searching intently, scrutinising everyone, everywhere, without revealing his true purpose, a permanent smile diverting attention from laser eyes and the concealed microphone under his shirt front through which he could mutter to the Sniper above.

The Sniper scoured the terrain, watching, waiting. First a few arrived, then more, then a swelling crowd, boisterous, starting to toi toi, to sing, expectantly, ecstatically.

It was joyously chaotic. And that was the problem. It was almost anarchic. TV outside- broadcast vans had rolled up by the dozen for live coverage. Reporters were talking to camera or interviewing anybody remotely authoritative, or even mildly interesting, just to fill programme space. More and more people were arriving. Cars and vans were parked up anywhere, everywhere they could find space.

And then the allotted time came and went. Through his earpiece the dreaded news that there was a delay – a long one. Madiba was ready, but his wife Winnie had self- indulgently been delayed at the hairdresser’s. Keeping her man, keeping the nation, keeping the whole world waiting for hours.

Typical, the Sniper thought. The woman was trouble, had been a real menace with her incitement of the young comrades into ‘necklacing’ and thuggery.

The Sniper knew nothing of the decades- long ordeal she had been through: the banning, beating, banishing by the old Special Branch. He had no comprehension of how she had had to bring up their two girls from toddlers to women amidst all the brutal attempts at humiliation. No understanding of the burden she carried as the wife of the globally heroic freedom fighter. He had no sympathy for her. She was just spoiling things for the man he was charged with protecting – protecting at all costs.

He sipped at his water bottle, the liquid now as hot as the sweat running all over him, as he lay prone among the rocks, seeing everything.

Then a cavalcade swept down towards and through the gate. ‘She’s arrived – about bloody time,’ a guttural clipped message came through his earpiece. ‘Copy that,’ he acknowledged.

Stretching a little to ease the aches not even his ultra-fitness could stem, he focused hard, scanning constantly.

The chanting was reaching a crescendo. This was impossible: how could he possibly do his job in the swirl of figures down below?

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, his spotter croaked excitedly in the earpiece, ‘I can see Madiba now, boss. He’s walking to freedom, boss. But I can’t see through my binocs any more, boss. They’ve misted up. Sorry, boss, can’t stop crying, boss. Never, ever thought I would see this day.’

The Sniper recalled that amazing moment. His mission then was to target the assassin. Now it was to be the assassin. How ironic.

Yet, just as his duty then was to protect Madiba, now he passionately believed he was protecting the legacy of Madiba.

The first text stated shortly, the second imminent. Minutes later his phone flashed and buzzed again.

Although he knew it was coming, the meeting had been too important to drag himself away, the information to which he had been confidentially exposed too alarming, the task that followed too serious.

Now he had just eight minutes as he jumped up, said his goodbyes and hastily headed for the exit across the bare wooden floorboards, passing the real- ale handles on the bar top to the Clarence pub, to begin hurtling down Whitehall, not sure he would make it.

He had to get there on time. It was crucial. If he failed there would be all manner of repercussions. And he didn’t want that. Although noted for his independence of spirit, he prided himself for being conscientious, and didn’t take liberties with his obligations to vote when required.

Bob Richards kept himself reasonably fit in his late fifties. A regular gym goer, he didn’t do fitness heroics but ate carefully and was in much better shape than most of his colleagues, male or female. He had observed them – almost all of them – fill flabbily out, not just from age but from fast food and caffeine grabbed between incessant meetings or media interviews or events. And from stress: stress and pressure, all the time on a treadmill of commitments.

But he wasn’t used to running a distance and was soon out of puff. He kept glancing at his watch, worrying. The minutes ticked by, beads of sweat surfacing on his brow in the cool evening as he darted between startled pedestrians on their way home from surrounding government offices.

Past Gwydyr House – the Wales Office, and around two hundred years before, the venue for dispensing compensation to slave owners after the abolition of slavery. That always tickled him. Compensation for the owners? What about the slaves?

And all the time his mind was pulsating at the haunting briefing he’d
been given – and the responsibility he must discharge to honour the values, the traditions for which he had once campaigned.

Even if he could keep up this pace, he wasn’t sure he would make the deadline. He was slowing visibly as he lurched past the grey, gaunt Ministry of Defence building, with its tunnel under Whitehall. Four minutes to go.

He ducked left into 1 Parliament Street to avoid traffic- light delays across the road to the Palace of Westminster, and dodged left past the security officers, who immediately recognised a familiar face, pressing a button and waving him through the normal visitor barrier.

Now he could hear the rasping bell ringing, summoning him insistently. Down the stairs. Around the corner. Doors opening automatically. Across the courtyard. Panting up more stairs. Pushing through another set of doors.

Past the Despatch Box coffee shop and across the Portcullis House atrium. Nobody paying a blind bit of interest – sprinting adults, mostly well out of shape, normal for these voting moments. Sweating like mad, down the escalator. Spotting a few others desperately running as well.

Quickly. Don’t even think you are knackered. Just keep going.

Through a corridor joining the modern building and the old palace. Left under an arch into the open courtyard where the smokers congregated. Then right, pressing open the door, his pass not needed because a vote was on, clambering up winding stairs, pushing past gossiping colleagues coming the other way, having completed their duty.

Muttering to himself: ‘Out of my bloody way!’

On his left, the Leader of the Opposition’s office. On his right, first the Foreign Secretary’s, then the Prime Minister’s office.

Seconds to go, back of the Speaker’s Chair just ahead, figures pouring out of the Noes Lobby to his left. On the right a doorkeeper poised, ready for the summons.

‘Lock the doors!’ The doorkeeper, catching sight of him but determined nevertheless to carry out her duty on time, began to wrench the doors closed.

He burst through the narrowing opening, catching his shoe and tumbling to the carpet of the Ayes Lobby.

He had made it. Only just. Utter relief. His vote might be vital, for his party whips weren’t sure how many defectors might be in the other lobby.

But what a way to run a bloody country.

Want to read more…



About the Author

Peter Hain is a politician who as a teenager, newly moved to the UK from South Africa, was a leading activist in the Anti-Apartheid Movement. A documentary about the central role he played in the Stop the Tour campaign 1970 was released by BT Sport in December last year. He then went into politics becoming a cabinet minister for Labour under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Since standing down as an MP in 2015, he has sat in the House of Lords and still lives in his former constituency of Neath in Wales. He has written numerous works of non-fiction but this is his first thriller

Follow the tour

Bloody Scotland: 2020 McIlvanney Prize Finalist Blog Tour Q&A with Ambrose Parry #blogtour @BloodyScotland @Brownlee_Donald @ambroseparry

Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the Bloody Scotland blog tour with a Q&A with Ambrose Parry, author of one of the four books shortlisted for this year’s McIlvanney Prize.

Those who follow this blog will know that Bloody Scotland is one of my favourite bookish events of the year and even though it can’t go ahead in its usual format this year I’m very excited that they’ve organised a whole raft of online events that are available for free (details of all events and tickets can be found here). I’ve volunteered at the event for the last two years so I’m really going to miss the Friday night torchlight procession through the streets of Stirling, getting to see some of my favourite authors and the wonderful atmosphere but I guess going virtual means I’ll finally make it to Crime at the Coo (tickets usually sell out in minutes).

One of the first events as always is the award of the McIlvanney Prize to the Scottish Crime Book of the year. This year’s finalists are Whirligig by Andrew James Greig, A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone, Pine by Francine Toon and The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry aka Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman.

I’m a pretty big fan of Ambrose Parry and the Raven, Fisher and Simpson series so I was thrilled to be asked to do a Q&A with them as part of the McIlvanney Finalist blog tour. Before I get to the questions however I should probably tell you a little about the book.

About the Book

The Art of Dying (Raven, Fisher, and Simpson, #2)

Edinburgh, 1850. Despite being at the forefront of modern medicine, hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. But it is not just the deaths that dismay the esteemed Dr James Simpson – a whispering campaign seeks to blame him for the death of a patient in suspicious circumstances.

Simpson’s protégé Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher are determined to clear their patron’s name. But with Raven battling against the dark side of his own nature, and Sarah endeavouring to expand her own medical knowledge beyond what society deems acceptable for a woman, the pair struggle to understand the cause of the deaths.

Will and Sarah must unite and plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets to clear Simpson’s name. But soon they discover that the true cause of these deaths has evaded suspicion purely because it is so unthinkable.


The Art of Dying has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize at this year’s Bloody Scotland. Can you tell us a little about it and the inspiration behind it?

The inspiration for the series was the scientific discoveries of the mid nineteenth century, focusing on the life of James Young Simpson and the discovery of the anaesthetic properties of chloroform in Edinburgh. The Art of Dying takes place in 1849, two years after the discovery of chloroform and is based on a real historical character, Jane Toppan, a serial poisoner who killed huge numbers of people without arousing suspicion. This was mainly because she was a woman and women were considered to be too meek and intellectually defective to be killers; less often suspected and therefore escaped detection.

This is the second book in the series and the second you’ve written together. Did you find that your writing process changed this time around? Was it easier or did it present different challenges? 

It would be fair to say that we are getting better at it but there are still moments when we disagree. We generally defer to each other with respect to our areas of particular expertise. Marisa rarely argues with Chris regarding matters of plot and Chris rarely argues about medical history.

There are some wonderful characters in the series with a number of them based on real (and somewhat well-known) people. How do you balance the fictional with the real and do you feel a pressure to get those based on real people “right”? 

The interplay between the real and the fictional is challenging. Historical fact is important, but this is also a work of fiction where the story has to be exciting, gripping, something that you want to read. History without the boring bits. Our fictional characters are often people mentioned in the biographies written about Simpson but little else is known about them. For example, one of our main protagonists, Will Raven, initially works as an apprentice to Dr Simpson, which was a role that existed at the time. Where details are in short supply, we fill the gap.

We do however feel a huge responsibility to accurately reflect the real historical characters and events that are depicted in the books. What is really fascinating is that some of the most outlandish scenes in the books are the ones that are true.

I absolutely love the detail of Edinburgh at that time and find the medicine both fascinating and terrifying. You must have done a lot of research. How do you decide what events and details to include? Is there anything you wish you’d included but didn’t? Any particularly strange or surprising discoveries? 

When we first start discussing a book, we look at what was actually happening at a certain time and decide to build a story around that. In the Art of Dying, our starting point was an accusation of negligence levelled at Dr Simpson by his colleagues (true, although the accusation was unfounded). Our protagonists attempt to clear his name and, in the process, uncover a number of suspicious deaths that lack a satisfactory explanation.

We usually manage to fold in a number of true stories and events along the way but unfortunately, they don’t always fit in. Hans Christian Andersen once attended a dinner party at Simpson’s house where inhaling ether was part of the after-dinner entertainment. Andersen was appalled, he thought it “distasteful, especially to see ladies in this dreamy intoxication, they laughed with lifeless eyes…it was a wonderful and blessed invention to use in painful operations but not to play with.” This occurred before the events in the first book so we couldn’t use it. Because Simpson was so renowned, he crossed paths with many interesting people which makes him such a great subject to write about.  

What was surprising was that the two most important scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century (anaesthesia and anti-sepsis) had close links to Edinburgh. Simpson discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform in his dining room at Queen Street, and Joseph Lister began his anti-septic experiments while working for Simpson’s nemesis James Syme (Lister went on to become Syme’s son-in-law).

When you started writing The Way of All Flesh, did you know it would be the first in a series? If so did you have a definite idea of how long it would run and the direction it would go or do you take it a book at a time? 

Chris always thought that The Way of All Flesh would be part of a series. There are just so many stories to tell, so much material to work with. Simpson lived until 1870 and we are currently writing about the early 1850’s so we have a way to go.

I believe the next book in the series, A Corruption of Blood, is due to be published next year, can you give us any hints about the story and what’s next for Will and Sarah?

Will and Sarah are both trying to sort their lives out (professional and personal). Sarah is beginning to doubt that she’s got what it takes to pursue a career in medicine and Will is trying to forward his career by making profitable allegiances. The decisions they take are forcing them apart, but they have to work together while investigating the disappearance of a child and the death of one of Edinburgh’s most prominent citizens.  

COVID-19 is having an impact on all of our lives right now. Are you finding it’s affecting your writing? 

In many ways writing is what got us through lockdown, and we are grateful for that. Having something to get on with has been enormously valuable. But trying to be creative in the midst of a global pandemic has been challenging and we also miss the other aspects of the job – book shop events and festivals. The fun stuff.

Bloody Scotland like many book festivals has moved online this year. Are there any events that you’re particularly looking forward to? 

All of them. It’s going to be so much easier to see them all this year, particularly Crime at the Coo which is usually sold out in about 5 minutes. Chris is usually participating, Marisa never gets in. Also looking forward to the never-ending panel on Sunday 20th September at 11am – rolling discussion with huge number of participants. What could go wrong?

It’s a tough market for debut authors at the moment. Do you have any advice for those starting out? 

Just do it. And when you’re happy with your manuscript take advantage of events like Pitch Perfect at Bloody Scotland where you get access to agents and commissioning editors in the flesh.

Finally, can you tell me what you’re reading right now or is there something you’ve read recently you’d recommend? 

Reading has been curtailed of late as we have been finishing the new Ambrose Parry novel but there have been some fabulous books read in the earlier part of the year: Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee, A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone and Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller. All fantastic and highly recommended.

About the Author

Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym for a collaboration between Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. The couple are married and live in Scotland. Chris Brookmyre is the international bestselling and multi-award-winning author of over twenty novels. Dr Marisa Haetzman is a consultant anaesthetist of twenty years’ experience, whose research for her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine uncovered the material upon which their first collaboration, The Way of All Flesh, was based.

The tour continues…

TTT: Top Ten Books That Should be Adapted

Hello lovely people,

I know I’m a little late with this week’s Top Ten Tuesday post but I wasn’t actually planning on participating and then changed my mind when I saw the topic was Top Ten Books That Should Be Adapted into a Netflix Show/Movie. So here I am on a Wednesday scrabbling around to create a post, you can probable expect my WWW Wednesday post next Monday 😉

I’ve been on many a Netflix binge recently and there are loads of books I think would adapt really well for the small screen. As it is small screen I haven’t included any of the big sci fi or fantasy series I’d love to see adapted but think need the big screen or a big budget for special effects to do them justice.

  • Beartown by Fredrik Backman – I think this was originally intended as a TV show and with it’s unique and often quirky characters who all have their own stories I would definitely watch it if it was. I’d also really love to see the ice hockey games and the setting on screen.
  • My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing – I could see this story about a couple who spice up their marriage with a bit of murder as a series. There’s a little bit of a Dexter feel to it but much darker and twistier. It was a binge read for me so would no doubt be a binge watch.
  • Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen – There was a lot about this book that really reminded me of Fargo. It has the same dark humour and eccentric characters that would be really entertaining. I guess this would be best as a film but you could probably build it into a series.
  • The Six by Luca Veste – This book about a group of friends who accidentally kill someone then cover it up had a very I Know What You Did Last Summer feel to it so would work as either a movie or a series I think. Lots of 90s music in the soundtrack, a lot of twists and turns and a few scares to keep us all hooked
  • The Secret of Cold Hill by Peter James – I do love a creepy horror film and with the Haunting of Hill House doing so well as a show I think this modern take on the classic haunted house story would be great. It has all of the classic haunted house tropes, strange noises, faces at windows but mixes in some modern tech to keep it current.
  • The Charley Davidson Series by Darynda Jones – A PI who sees dead people, yep I guess this has been done before but I just love the combination of mystery, witty one liners and romance. They would really need to get the casting of a certain character spot on though.
  • Big Sexy Love by Kirsty Greenwood – I know I try to sneak this into pretty much every TTT post but I genuinely think this would be wonderful as a movie. It’s billed as a romance but it’s more about friendship and the journey the main character goes on as she travels around New York trying to deliver a letter on behalf of her dying best friend. There are a lot of laughs, a few tears and yes some romance.
  • Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin – I can visualize this as a Cruel Intentions / Revenge / Heathers kind of a show as rich girl Elle and her three best friends try to get revenge the group of prep boys who assaulted her. It’s over the top, dark and so dramatic. I’m pretty sure I’d be hooked.
  • Sweetpea by CJ Skuse – OK yes I already have a Dexter type book on the list but this series about your average every day office worker who happens to kill people in her spare time is on the lighter side (well kind of) and I think would be so funny as a show.
  • Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn – No Netflix listing would be complete without a good Christmas movie and I think Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares would make a fantastic Christmas movie. I’m actually surprised it isn’t already a film (unless it is and I haven’t spotted it). It’s just such a feel good story and there are a lot of funny scenes that I think would translate really well to screen.

So that’s the ten books I’d really like to see Netflix adapt, there’s probably a whole lot more I’ve missed. Would you watch any of these or do you have a better idea for a book that could be adapted? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Reading


Most Anticipated Reads

Hello lovely people, I hope you’re having a great day. I’ve been meaning to do a most anticipated reads post for a while but despite starting to write it ages ago narrowing down all of the upcoming releases (and actually finding time to write the post and figuring out the new block editor wotsit on WordPress) took me a lot longer than it should have. This list could easily be double the length it is, there are sooo many good books coming, but I’ve whittled it down to ten almost all of which I have pre ordered from the book store. I’ve included links to the Goodreads page for each book and the synopsis from there too in case you’re curious.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I’m a big fan of Matt Haig’s books, he seems to be able to write any genre, but I’m especially excited about The Midnight Library because it’s the first adult fiction book from him a while. Also, gotta love any book set in a library.

The Midnight Library

Between life and death there is a library.

When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library, she has a chance to make things right. Up until now, her life has been full of misery and regret. She feels she has let everyone down, including herself. But things are about to change.

The books in the Midnight Library enable Nora to live as if she had done things differently. With the help of an old friend, she can now undo every one of her regrets as she tries to work out her perfect life. But things aren’t always what she imagined they’d be, and soon her choices place the library and herself in extreme danger.

Before time runs out, she must answer the ultimate question: what is the best way to live?

The Devil & the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

No pressure on the author but I think this may be my most anticipated book possibly ever. Turton’s debut, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, was one of the most original and complex stories I think I’ve ever read so I’ve been both excited and nervous of what he would do next. I’ve read the sampler for The Devil and the Dark Water and am already a little in love with it.

The Devil and the Dark Water

A murder on the high seas. A detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist.

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent.

But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered.

And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel.

Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?

With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger onboard. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

I was fortunate enough to see Richard Osman talking about his debut novel, The Thursday Murder Club, at Bloody Scotland last year and he totally sold me on it. The synopsis makes it sound like a cozy murder mystery (a genre I hate) but I get the feeling this will be a much sharper and funnier read.

The Thursday Murder Club

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings.

But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

The Searcher by Tana French

Not sure I need to say anything on this… it’s a new Tana French… I love Tana French.

The Searcher

Retired detective Cal Hooper moves to a remote village in rural Ireland. His plans are to fix up the dilapidated cottage he’s bought, to walk the mountains, to put his old police instincts to bed forever.

Then a local boy appeals to him for help. His brother is missing, and no one in the village, least of all the police, seems to care. And once again, Cal feels that restless itch.

Something is wrong in this community, and he must find out what, even if it brings trouble to his door.

Our greatest living mystery writer weaves a masterful tale of breath-taking beauty and suspense, asking what we sacrifice in our search for truth and justice, and what we risk if we don’t.

The Survivors by Jane Harper

And talking about autobuy authors, Jane Harper also has a new book coming out in January 2021. I find her writing very similar to Tana French’s in that the focus is on character development and setting. Not necessarily a fast paced read but no less gripping.

The Survivors

The compelling new novel from Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry.

Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal town he once called home.

Kieran’s parents are struggling in a community which is bound, for better or worse, to the sea, that is both a lifeline and a threat. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away…

The Invisible Life Of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

I am pretty sure this is on most people’s most anticipated lists. Schwab knows how to tell a great story and I just love the sound of this one.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

Oooh this sounds so good, there’s a bit of a Harry Potter/Hogwards feel to it but with all of the danger and none of the nice/fun bits. Novik is a fabulous writer so I’m expecting rich and vivid descriptions and a story that’ll entrance me.

A Deadly Education (Scholomance, #1)

Lesson One of the Scholomance

Learning has never been this deadly

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.

The Betrayals by Bridget Collins

Bridget Collins’ previous book The Binding was very different to what I was expecting, it’s more of a romance than a fantasy, but there was something about it that really drew me in. I’ve therefore been looking out for what she would do next and just look at that cover. It’s sooo pretty. I know this isn’t a valid reason for picking a book but…

The Betrayals

If everything in your life was based on a lie
Would you risk it all to tell the truth?

At Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains, the best and brightest are trained for excellence in the grand jeu: an arcane and mysterious contest. Léo Martin was once a student there, but lost his passion for the grand jeu following a violent tragedy. Now he returns in disgrace, exiled to his old place of learning with his political career in tatters.

Montverre has changed since he studied there, even allowing a woman, Claire Dryden, to serve in the grand jeu’s highest office of Magister Ludi. When Léo first sees Claire he senses an odd connection with her, though he’s sure they have never met before.

Both Léo and Claire have built their lives on lies. And as the legendary Midsummer Game, the climax of the year, draws closer, secrets are whispering in the walls…

A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore

This is the second novel in the League of Extraordinary Women series and I have been seriously looking forward to this. I guess it falls into the category of historical romance but if it’s anything like the first book it will be so much more. The time of the suffragettes is not one I know well and while I’m sure the author has taken a bit of creative licence I did find the first book very authentic.

A Rogue of One's Own (A League of Extraordinary Women, #2)

A lady must have money and an army of her own if she is to win a revolution – but first, she must pit her wits against the wiles of an irresistible rogue bent on wrecking her plans…and her heart.

Lady Lucie is fuming. She and her band of Oxford suffragists have finally scraped together enough capital to control one of London’s major publishing houses, with one purpose: to use it in a coup against Parliament. But who could have predicted that the one person standing between her and success is her old nemesis, Lord Ballentine? Or that he would be willing to hand over the reins for an outrageous price—a night in her bed.

Lucie tempts Tristan like no other woman, burning him up with her fierceness and determination every time they clash. But as their battle of wills and words fans the flames of long-smouldering devotion, the silver-tongued seducer runs the risk of becoming caught in his own snare.

As Lucie tries to out-manoeuvre Tristan in the boardroom and the bedchamber, she soon discovers there’s truth in what the poets say: all is fair in love and war…

Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

Another romance sequel. Again, I loved the earlier books in the series so have been waiting on the next one. As an added bonus this has a cat cafe (and a cat on the cover) so I’m expecting lots of furry trouble makers.

Crazy Stupid Bromance (Bromance Book Club, #3)

A hacktivist and a cat café owner decode the friend zone in this romantic comedy from the author of Undercover Bromance.

Alexis Carlisle and her cat café, ToeBeans, have shot to fame after she came forward as a victim of a celebrity chef’s sexual harassment. When a new customer approaches to confide in her, the last thing Alexis expects is for the woman to claim they’re sisters. Unsure what to do, Alexis turns to the only man she trusts—her best friend, Noah Logan.

Computer genius Noah left his rebellious teenage hacker past behind to become a computer security expert. Now he only uses his old skills for the right cause. But Noah’s got a secret: He’s madly in love with Alexis. When she asks for his help, he wonders if the timing will ever be right to confess his crush.

Noah’s pals in The Bromance Book Club are more than willing to share their beloved “manuals” to help him go from bud to boyfriend. But he must decide if telling the truth is worth risking the best friendship he’s ever had.

So that’s my ten most anticipated, are you looking forward to any of these or have you been lucky enough to get your hands on a proof? If so what did you think? Are there any books I’m missing? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Reading x

WWW Wednesday: 22 July 2020

The WWW Wednesday meme is hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words and is a great way to do a weekly update on what you’ve been reading and what you have planned.

WWW Wednesday

To take part all you have to do is answer the following three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently ReadingOur Little Cruelties

I’ve decided to put Every Sky a Grave on hold for the moment as I’m just not in the right mood for it and it was getting to the stage where I was avoiding all reading. I will go back to it but for now I’m going to read what I want in hopes of regaining my reading mojo. At the moment, what I want is Our Little Cruelties by Liz Nugent. I love Liz Nugent’s book, they’re always so dark and twisty. I’m only a couple of chapters in but so far so good.

I had to return the audio of Red Rising to the library before I managed to finish it but I’m not too fussed as I have a few other audio’s lined up. I also managed to get a copy of The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee from the library so am currently listening to it. It’s only around 2 hours long so I’ve made very good progress with it already.

Recently Finished

It’s been a pretty good reading week for me as I finished three books and loved every single one of them. I also managed to read a sci fi and a YA fantasy (well kind of), two genres I haven’t really picked up in months (I don’t count Illuminae files as listened to it on audio so felt more like watching a movie than reading a book).

Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters, #2)All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)Fable (Fable, #1)

  • Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert – As soon as I saw the cover and read the synopsis I had a good feeling about this story and I was so right. Danika Brown is absolutely fabulous as a character, romantic interest Zafar Ansari is the sweetest guy ever and who doesn’t love a fake dating story. There are a few more serious moments but this was just such a fun read and there was so much heat in that romance I’m surprised my e-reader didn’t go up in flames.
  • All Systems Red by Martha Wells – Everyone has been raving about the murderbot diaries and now that I’ve read the first novella in the series I know what all the fuss was about. I mean, it’s too bloomin short and I want more but what there was I loved. I probably related a bit too much to murderbot who tries to avoid those pesky humans and has a general couldn’t care less attitude to anything other than entertainment shows but I did love how it/they (?) developed over the course of the story. I loved the writing and the story and yep I can’t wait to read the next adventure.
  • Fable by Adrienne Young – I actually kind of regret reading this now. Not because it was bad but because it was really good and it’s the first in a series so now I have a bit of a wait for book two. Yes, it’s predictable and has a lot of the usual tropes but the writing was wonderful, there’s plenty of pirate style action and adventure, a smidge of romance and likeable characters.

Reading Next

I made the mistake of placing quite a few holds on library books and needless to say they all came in at the same time (why does this always happen). Anyways, given I now have around 16 days to read around 10 books *eek* I figure they are moving to the top of my reading list. First up I think will probably be The Shelf by Holly Acton or Watch Him Die by Craig Robertson, although I’ve just realised that’s book 8 in a series so maybe not. I also have a new book club book The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce that I should probably make a start on.

The ShelfWatch Him Die (Narey & Winter, #8)The Music Shop: From the bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Have you read any of the books on my list this week? Any others you’d recommend? As always please feel free to leave comments and links below.

Happy Reading 🙂