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.


Q&A

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

Ax

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 🙂

WWW Wednesday: 15th 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 ReadingEvery Sky A Grave (The Ascendance Series, Book 1)

I have to admit to making very little progress with Every Sky a Grave since last week but I am determined I’m going to read it. I am finding sci fi and fantasy really difficult to read at the moment. I’m drawn more to “real” than speculative fiction and have been looking for character driven stories so I’ve been struggling to get started. I do think though once I do get past my initial reluctance I’ll be fine.

On audio I’m still listening to Red Rising by Pierce Brown. I have been a little lazy over the last week, not much walking, so I’ve only listened to a couple of hours but I’m enjoying revisiting it in a different format.


Recently FinishedSuch a Fun Age

Due to some book avoidance and lots of netflix binge watches over the last week I’ve only managed to finish one book this week, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. I’d been seeing quite a bit of buzz around it so despite it not being especially excited by the blurb I thought I’d give it a go. I ended up really enjoying it and more or less read the whole thing over the weekend. I loved how character driven it was and in particular how female character driven. I wouldn’t say I especially liked any of the characters but there were elements to many of them I found very relateable. I also liked how it covered issues of racism and class and presented it from different perspectives. A very engaging read.


Reading Next

I have no idea what I’m going to read next, I’m doing that thing where I pick up a book read a few pages then put it down and pick up something else. I did start Idle Hands by Cassondra Windwalker this morning so I may continue with that or I may pick up the second book in the Jay Qasim series Homegrown Hero. Or I may just watch Frozen 2 a few more times and not read anything 😀

Idle HandsHomegrown Hero (Jay Qasim, Book 2)

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: Dark Waters by G.R. Halliday

Dark Waters (Monica Kennedy #2)

Dark Waters, the second book in the DI Monica Kennedy series by G.R. Halliday, is possibly even better than it’s predecessor. It’s darker, more gruesome and very atmospheric. The Scottish Highland setting was yet again the highlight of the story for me, with the sense of remoteness and isolation making for a truly chilling and tension filled read.

While this is the second book in a series it could easily be read as a standalone. There are some references to the events in From the Shadows and you’ll have missed a little of the character background but this is very much it’s own story.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

THREE MISTAKES. TWO MURDERS. ONE MORE VICTIM TO GO . . .

Annabelle loves to drive. It helps her escape her world, her past. Speeding on a mountain road in the Scottish Highlands, she sees a little girl step out in front of her. She swerves to avoid her. The next thing Annabelle remembers is waking up in a dark, damp room. A voice from the corner of the room says ‘The Doctor will see you now’.

Scott is camping in the woodlands in the Scottish Highlands – but in the middle of the night, he hears something outside his tent. When he goes out to have a look, a little girl is standing among the trees, staring right at him. Scott is never seen again.

When a dismembered body is discovered, DI Monica Kennedy gets called to the scene immediately. After six months away from the Serious Crimes team, they need her back on board.

As Monica searches for the murderer, another body is found. Monica knows the signs . . . She’s on the hunt for a serial killer.


MY THOUGHTS

I knew when I read the first book, From the Shadows, that this series had real promise so as soon as this the sequel appeared on NetGalley I couldn’t resist requesting immediately and I was not disappointed. Halliday has kept all that made From the Shadows such a great read and come up with something even better.

The story picks up a few months after the events of the first book with DI Monica Kennedy and the rest of the team still trying to come to terms with everything that happened. When a dismembered body is found however Monica is called to the scene and finds herself back on the hunt for another serial killer. At the same time it seems there may be something or someone hunting unsuspecting tourists who wander into remote areas alone.

It’s an incredibly dark and creepy read with a few moments which could easily come from a horror film, think Deliverance or Wrong Turn. I do love a creepy tale but even I found myself checking all of the doors and windows in my house to make sure no one could get in. I wouldn’t describe it as a fast paced or action packed read but there’s a real tension to the story that makes it very difficult to put down.

Main character, Monica Kennedy makes for an intriguing main character. I wouldn’t necessarily describe her as likeable or relatable but there’s something about her determination to get to the truth and her love for her daughter you can’t help but admire. In this outing we also get a little more of her backstory, her relationship with her parents and her father in particular seems to be on her mind a lot. It feels like there’s some real character development and I found myself wanting to know more about her.

I also very much enjoyed the sections from the point of view of kidnap victim Annabelle. Her fear at her captivity and the mystery around where she is and what is going to happen to her makes for compelling reading. I did have my doubts around whether I liked her at the start, she seems quite superficial, but I found myself really admiring her and rooting for her. She has such determination to escape and to survive no matter what.

The real highlight of this story was for me however the setting. The beauty and the wildness of the Scottish Highlands are used to full effect by Halliday. There’s a sense of isolation and remoteness that adds to the dark and chilling atmosphere. I loved the use of the small and insular communities who live by their own laws and don’t welcome strangers. There’s no technology, no internet or social media and barely any phone signal. In some ways it sounds like the perfect escape from the modern world but if you’re alone and need help it’s terrifying.

Similar to my thoughts on the first book though I do feel like Dark Waters would benefit from a few lighter moments to balance out the darkness. I can understand why the author decided to keep the tone the same throughout, there’s not really a lot to laugh about in kidnapping and murder, but it’s just so unrelentingly dark. Even when Monica is spending time with her family or when she’s in the car with Crawford there’s no lightness and I think it really needed it.

I also would have liked a little more background on Crawford, Fisher and the new member of the investigative team. We do find out a little more on Fisher this time around but it’s not quite enough to make him feel like a fully rounded character. I felt like we got to know more around victim Annabelle.

Despite these minor niggles though I thought this was a great read and one I’d recommend to anyone looking for a dark and atmospheric murder mystery.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. This has in no way influenced my review.

WWW Wednesday: 8th 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 ReadingEvery Sky A Grave (The Ascendance Series, Book 1)

I’ve been struggling to read anything sci fi or fantasy lately but when a publisher sent me a widget for Every Sky a Grave by Jay Posey I figured this may be the book to get me back into the genre. I started reading it on Monday and haven’t made much progress, but I’m still hoping that once I sit down and focus it’ll hook me. I do love the idea of words having a power and the start was pretty action packed.

On audio I’ve been listening to Red Rising by Pierce Brown. I keep meaning to get back into this series, I’ve read the original trilogy but no further, so thought it might be fun to do the audio to remind myself of everything that happened before starting Iron Gold.


Recently Finished

It’s been a few months since I last did a WWW Wednesday post but don’t worry I won’t list all of the books I’ve read in that time here (although I may do a post with my faves some point soon). These are the books I’ve read over the last week and a bit (I haven’t been tracking my reading and time is weird right now).

There's No Such Thing as an Easy JobEast of Hounslow (Jay Qasim #1)

Obsidio (The Illuminae Files, #3)Love the One You Hate

  • There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura – This was a book I picked based purely on the cover, there’s just something very relateable about it 😀 It’s also been a while since I’ve read any Japanese fiction and I’ve kind of missed it. If you do enjoy Japanese fiction this is a really enjoyable read. It’s quite quirky and different and while lacking a little in terms of emotion is very engaging.
  • East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman – The company I work for have relaunched the book club so this was last week’s read. I’m not generally a reader of spy thrillers and struggled to get started on this but once I got into it I found myself flying through it and the ending in particular was edge of the seat stuff. I’ve been tempted to keep going with this series
  • Obsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – I finished the Illuminae Files!!! I am both very happy and completely devastated. It’s an absolutely brilliant trilogy and works so well on audio despite the weird format of the book.
  • Love the One You Hate by R.S. Grey – I like Grey’s writing and this was another enjoyable read from her. There’s nothing especially stand out or memorable but there’s a real summer feel to it which makes it the perfect bit of escapism.

Reading Next

I posted a Summer TBR a couple of weeks ago so I’m going to try and knock a couple more books off that, maybe Take a Hint, Dani Brown or One to Watch (I’m in a contemporary romance kind of mood). I may however wander off a little with YA fantasy Fable.

Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters, #2)One to WatchFable (Fable, #1)

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 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR

Okay yes, I know it’s not Tuesday so I am super late with this but between a not so well cat and a busy time at work I’m considering it a win I’ve posted it at all. Things have definitely been slipping blog wise over the last few months. Anyway, for those who don’t know, Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme that was started by The Broke and Bookish and moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018.  It was born of a love of lists (something I share) and each week participants come up with a list of ten(ish) things based on a theme.

The theme for this weeks Top Ten Tuesday is books on my Summer TBR so as I’ve been planning on doing a Summer TBR post for a while I thought this would be a good step back into blogging. It’s pretty safe to say my reading has been a little all over the place for the last few months. Focus on anything for any length of time has been nigh on impossible. Sci fi and fantasy books have been particularly hard so my reading list has been around 90% rom coms, 8% crime/thriller and 2% other. It seems doubtful that’s going to change any time soon so my TBR is a little heavier on these genres but I’ve snuck a few fantasy and sci fi that I was really looking forward to (pre covid). As always the links take you to the Goodreads page.


Owned Physical

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games, #0)BurnThe Death of Mrs. Westaway

  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins – Curiosity got the better of me with this Hunger Games prequel. It’ll either be awful or brilliant but I do feel like I need to read it and find out. Plus I love a villain origin story.
  • Burn by Patrick Ness – A Patrick Ness book with dragons, this has been on my most anticipated list since I first heard about it. I’ve just been putting it off because of the whole lack of focus when reading thing.
  • The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware – I read my very first book by Ruth Ware, The Turn of the Key, a month or so ago and loved it so I feel I really should read more.

Audio

Obsidio (The Illuminae Files, #3)Britt-Marie Was HereNinth House (Alex Stern, #1)

  • Obsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – I’m most of the way through this one already so it’s a bit of a cheat but would be good to have one book on the list that I’ll definitely be finishing 🙂 Well… that’s if I do finish it. I don’t want it to be over.
  • Britt Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman – I love Backman’s writing and have been wanting to read this for a while so when it popped up on a 2 for 1 deal on audible I couldn’t resist.
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – This was another book that was 2 for 1 on audible. I do have a physical copy too but have never gotten around to it. Am hoping I find the audio a little easier to get into.

Library

The Cat and The CityThe Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying VampiresClap When You Land

  • The Cat and The City by Nick Bradley – I’m not sure if Japanese cat fiction is a real genre but if not it totally should be. This is a series of short stories set in Tokyo that are connected by a cat. I’ve already read the first story and loved the writing and the magical realism elements so can’t wait to read the rest.
  • The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – Not gonna lie I’m not entirely sure what this is about as the title was the main draw.
  • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo – Despite some reservations around whether I could actually read a book in verse form I ended up loving The Poet X so I’m going to give this one a try. Not sure how I’ll get on with two pov’s but fingers crossed it lives up to expectations.

Owned Ebooks

Very Nearly NormalLove the One You HateLittle Siberia

  • Very Nearly Normal by Hannah Sunderland – I read the first couple of chapters of this on ReadersFirst a few months ago and knew instantly it was a book I was going to want to read. There is just something about a socially awkward, overly hostile and grumpy protagonist that appeals to me.
  • Love the One You Hate by R.S. Grey – I generally love this authors books and I love the hate to love trope so this one is a no brainer. Plus romcom for the win.
  • Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen – Palm Beach Finland was one of my fave books last year so I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. I’m hoping for quirky characters and some dark comedy.

ARCs

Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters, #2)One to WatchAgain Again

  • Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert – I’ve pretty much been requesting and reading every romcom I can get my mitts on from Netgalley at the moment and this sounds like such a cute and fun story. Also good to have a bit more diversity in my reading.
  • One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London – I’m kind of missing my reality TV (it’s a guilty pleasure) so am hoping this will fill the Love Island shaped hole in my life. Also love that the main character is plus sized, yay for body positivity.
  • Again, Again by E. Lockhart – I’ve spied a few not so great reviews for this which are making me question whether I should be including on my TBR but I loved the other books I’ve read from this author so I shall give it a shot. It sounds quite unusual.

Coming Soon

The Midnight LibraryMexican GothicBookish and the Beast (Once Upon a Con, #3)

  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig – I really love Haig’s writing no matter the genre so as soon as I heard about this I had it pre ordered. It will, like a lot of Haig’s books, no doubt make me cry but that’s why I love them.
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia – I hadn’t heard of this till someone on Twitter suggested it as a good choice for a slightly different book club read but having investigated it sounds right up my street.
  • Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston – I was a little grumpy about the first book in the Once Upon a Con series (it was too similar to one of my all time fave reads) but book 2 totally made up for any niggles so I have high hopes for book 3 particularly with the Beauty and the Beast theme.

So that’s my TBR for the summer months. Hopefully I’ll manage to find my focus and read most of them. Are any of these on your TBR or are there any books you think I’m missing?

Feel free to leave comments below and links to your top tens or Summer TBRs.

Happy Reading ❤

Review: The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

The Happy Ever After Playlist
The Happy Ever After Playlist
by Abby Jimenez turned out to be the feel good read I really needed. Laugh out loud funny, a little sad but completely adorable I sat down and read the whole thing in one go, smiling the whole time.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can’t seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a “take me home” look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker’s owner reaches out. He’s a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: He wants Tucker back.

Well, Sloan’s not about to give up her dog without a fight. But what if this Jason guy really loves Tucker? As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can’t deny a connection. Jason is hot and nice and funny. There’s no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: With his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?


MY THOUGHTS

This was very possibly a case of right book at the right time but I don’t care. I loved it and read the whole thing in one Saturday morning with the biggest smile on my face.

I had no idea when I started it that it was a sequel to The Friend Zone but while the author does recommend you read them in order the fact that I hadn’t made absolutely no difference to my enjoyment of this story. Would I have gotten more depth from knowing more of the characters’ backstory? Maybe, but it works perfectly well as a standalone.

From the very start when main character Sloan rescues dog Tucker this story is just ridiculously adorable. I loved each and every character and I adored the relationships between them. Sloan and Jason are so cute together. I loved the banter between them, especially before they meet in person. There’s a lot of teasing and flirting and sooo much chemistry. They seem to have an instant connection but unlike a lot of insta loves this one feels believable and real.

I liked Sloan a lot as a character, she’s kind, funny and tough, but Jason is swoon-worthy book boyfriend material. You could maybe argue that he’s a little too perfect or too good to be true (he’s sensitive, patient, generous, charming, funny and gorgeous) but I was more than happy to just go with it.

There was a lot to like in the secondary characters as well. I really want Kristen and Josh as my best friends, they were absolutely hilarious and sound like they’d be a lot of fun but I loved how they were always there for Sloan. They tease her, embarrass and push her but it’s clear they would do anything to protect her and want her to be happy.  The highlight of the story for me though was dog Tucker. He was a real character, stealing more or less every scene he was in.

The writing is wonderful, witty, fun and packed full of emotion. It made me stupidly happy reading it and I found myself smiling a lot. There are a few sad moments, Sloan is grieving and the new relationship is not all smooth sailing, but while I did shed a couple of tears it is an upbeat and positive story.

I also loved the song titles at the start of each chapter and yes I did listen to the play list as I was reading. Music seems to have become a much bigger part of my life during lockdown, it’s picked me up, calmed me, kept me motivated and helped me let off steam so listening to the tracks while reading really added to the whole experience (and I’ve fallen in love with a few of the tracks).

As you have probably guessed I loved pretty much everything about this story and I highly recommend to anyone looking for a bit of light relief.

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review.

Review: Family for Beginners by Sarah Morgan

Family For BeginnersIf you’re looking for some gentle escapism this summer I don’t think you can go too far wrong with Sarah Morgan’s Family For Beginners. With a story about love, blended families and grief it’s a bit of an emotional read but has the usual warmth I’ve come to expect. It may not be my favourite book from the author but I do think a lot of people will love it.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

New York florist Flora Donovan is living the dream, but her bubbly optimism hides a secret. She’s lonely. Orphaned as a child, she’s never felt like she’s belonged anywhere…until she meets Jack Parker. He’s the first man to ever really see her, and it’s life changing.

Teenager Izzy Parker is holding it together by her fingertips. Since her mother passed away a year ago, looking after her dad and little sister is the only thing that makes Izzy feel safe. Discovering her father has a new girlfriend is her worst nightmare – she is not in the market for a replacement mom. Then, her father invites Flora on their summer vacation….

Flora’s heart aches for Izzy, but she badly wants her relationship with Jack to work. As the summer unfolds, Flora must push her own boundaries to discover parts of herself she never knew existed – and to find the family she’s always wanted.


MY THOUGHTS

I’m a big fan of Sarah Morgan’s writing and always enjoy her books but I’m afraid this one didn’t quite hit the mark for me. It has the same wonderful and warm writing I’ve come to expect from the author, well rounded characters and a real sense of place but I just didn’t get on with the story or main character Flora. It may simply be a case of the wrong book at the wrong time but I didn’t fly through this in the way I usually do with Morgan’s books.

Over her last few books, the author has been gradually moving away from the romance and into much more relationship and family type stories and Family for Beginners takes us further along that route. There’s very little in the way of romance in this story with the focus on florist Flora who so desperately wants to find a place where she belongs, a family who will accept her. After her mother died when she was young, Flora was raised by a cold and distant aunt who made it perfectly clear she wasn’t wanted and was an inconvenience. When she meets Jack Parker, recently widowed and father to two girls, she thinks she’s found somewhere she could belong.

Unfortunately Jack’s eldest daughter Izzy is not so keen on Flora coming into their lives and trying to fix everything. She’s barely keeping it together as it is so is determined to see the back of Flora. When Jack invites Flora to come with the family on a trip to the Lake District, Izzy is not happy and neither is Claire, the family friend they will be staying with. Secrets come to light and Flora discovers more about Jack (and herself) but will there be a happily ever after?

There is a lot to like in this story, I loved the lake district setting, I loved how well rounded and real the characters felt, the relationships between them and the way they developed over the course of the story. Morgan’s writing is as always wonderful and there’s a lot of emotion in those pages. I suspect if you love reading stories about families and family relationships you’ll really enjoy this book.

Unfortunately however I found myself becoming frustrated and annoyed with it and I’m afraid it was mostly down to Flora. She is exactly the kind of character I hate reading and I just found it so difficult to relate to her. I could understand the why behind how she is and I could empathize with her but I just found her endless positivity and optimism annoying. She’s a people pleaser who tries to fix everything which is pretty much the antithesis of me. She does develop over the story but I spent a lot of my time reading this book wanting to shake her and tell her to stop trying so damn hard all of the time.

It probably didn’t help that I couldn’t see the attraction in Jack as there wasn’t a lot of time spent in developing the relationship between them. Their first dates happen off the page and they’re never really alone together. As a result there’s no spark or chemistry between them making it hard to see why Flora was so desperate for the relationship to work. Flora seems to feel sorry for him and seems more attracted to the idea of rescuing him and finding a ready made family. As for Jack, he never feels fully present in the story and I had no real sense of who he is. He’s closed off, distant and completely oblivious to the feelings of those around him. Flora keeps saying how much he sees her but I didn’t feel like he showed it in the story. Maybe though it’s just because we never get his pov.

Izzy, whose pov we do get was actually the most likeable of the characters to me. She’s an absolute mess of emotions, anger, guilt, sadness, but she felt believable and relateable. She’s grieving her mother, dealing with a lot of changes in her life and hiding a huge secret. I really felt for her throughout the story, even when she was being kind of horrible.

I did think the author did a brilliant job throughout the story of portraying the different ways people deal with loss and how the loss of her mother still affects Flora many years later. This does make it a little bit darker than some of Morgan’s other books but there are moments of light in there too to balance it out nicely. I may have shed one or two tears but I did find myself smiling in places too and I very much enjoyed the conclusion.

Overall I think a lot of people will love this story but there were a few too many things that I found annoying or frustrating for it to be a favourite.

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review