Review of The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings

I’m still haunted by the final scenes of this atmospheric novel. I can hear the pool Unknown-1 (1)water ripple at The Cliff House and smell the salty air, as the oppressive heat of the day bends to the will of grief with each step into the darkness. Continue reading “Review of The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings”


#Interview: Changing Lives… with author Tara Lyons

Today I am welcoming author Tara Lyons to the blog. Changes beyond Tara’s control gave her the motivation to take risks and try for a life she never knew she wanted or ever thought she could have. Here’s Tara to tell you more…

Welcome to the blog, Tara. Please tell the readers a little about yourself…

I’m from London, a mother to one son and, since 2015, a published author. I studied English Literature at Brunel university and after graduating, I worked for a retail company on their in-house magazine; assistant and then assistant editor for eight years.

From a young age, it had been my dream to write a book, but I always batted the idea away… for one reason or another. But, two years ago, I took the leap and self-published my first crime/thriller novel, In The Shadows. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to co-write with the amazing M.A. Comley and signed a two-book deal with the formidable Bloodhound Books. My debut novel became the first in the DI Hamilton series, with book two, No Safe Home, published in January of this year.

What’s the most significant change you’ve experienced to date?
This is difficult, I can’t choose one significant change because from 2012 there seemed to be a domino effect that transformed my life. I became a mother, after being told I’d have difficultly conceiving, if it was even at all possible, and I’d never been the maternal type.

Within twelve months of my son being born, I accepted voluntary redundancy from my job as assistant editor; after having worked since the age of fourteen, so at thirty, it was a frightening uncertainty to face. And by the following year my grandad was diagnosed with cancer and lost his battle in 2015. I’m sure for some, death might not be considered in this theme of change as it happens every day to someone, but my grandad was a very important man in my life – and was the first close family member I’d lost.

What were your initial feelings as you processed what these changes in your life would mean for you?

The thought of becoming a mother was the most nerve-wracking I’ve ever felt. To never have felt that tugging maternal instinct, or think it was something that could happen, and then have a life growing inside of you, it’s amazing how quickly you begin to doubt every single decision you make.

Voluntary redundancy is a funny one, because the term itself must mean it’s something I wanted, right? That couldn’t be further from the truth. The thought of not working, not having a regular income and the prospect of searching job adverts and having interviews in one the toughest times, was the scariest thing I’ve ever faced.

How did you approach managing change?

I spoke about it. Namely to my family and friends. When you’re facing something you fear, it’s best not to do it on your own. My mum was a young mum, so she shared with me the worries and anxieties and hopes she’d faced. And how, yes, having a baby – me! – changed her life, it was also the biggest blessing she’d received. I talked to people who had faced redundancy, without the voluntary aspect, and realised I was actually in a lucky position because I was deciding my future. As BT told us for years, it’s good to talk!

What did you learn from the experience?

That amazing things can happen if you embrace change. My son completely changed my world, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it wasn’t for him. You see, if I hadn’t become a mother, I wouldn’t have accepted the redundancy. And if I hadn’t accepted the redundancy, I wouldn’t have been able to help nurse my grandad in his last months; it was the pain I felt after his death that sparked the story for In The Shadows.

How do you feel about change now after that experience?

I’m thankful for it. I’d always considered myself as someone who didn’t like change and before 2012, I bobbed along with my life, doing the “norm” every day and not taking any risks, or making any waves. But I couldn’t be happier about where my life has lead. I think they’ll always been an element of feeling scared when change comes knocking again, but look how exciting it can be too – you could end up fulfilling your dream, like I did.

Do you have a tip for anyone who may be going through a similar experience?

Despite your fears, embrace the change. Use what you’re going through to propel yourself forward in life and grab hold of something you’ve always wanted. If you’re scared at the prospect of becoming a parent, don’t be – there will never be a ‘right time’ to have a child, so enjoy everything about it and make those special memories. If redundancy is rocking your world and you feel ready to fall apart, think about what it is you’ve always wanted to do – travel, open your own business, work in a different sector? Do it now! Take the change and make it work for you.

If you could change one thing, what would it be?

I’d be typing this from my cottage by the coast, because another dream of mine is to live by the sea, one day. Who knows, maybe another domino effect of change will come again.

I hope you achieve your dream of living by the sea, Tara, and thank you for taking part in the ‘changing lives’ series.

Tara’s latest novel is No Safe Home

Detective Inspector Denis Hamilton is haunted when the suspicious death of a teenage girl triggers suppressed memories. With a stalker targeting vulnerable women in Central London, and his team rapidly diminishing, Hamilton must conquer his emotions before another family is destroyed.

In a sleepy town in Hertfordshire, Katy has worked hard to rebuild her life after leaving behind everything she knew. But when her past catches up with her, and her young son’s life is threatened, Katy must admit her true identity if she has any hope of surviving.

A home should be a safe place, shouldn’t it?

But sometimes it is hard to know who you can trust…

London’s murder investigations team returns in the second novel from the bestselling author of In the Shadows. Read a free sample and buy the book.

Follow the author on twitter: @taralyonsauthor

If you enjoyed the interview and would like to take part in the ‘changing lives’ series, please use the contact me form on the blog to get in touch.

Despite your fears, embrace the change. Use what you’re going through to propel yourself forward in life and grab hold of something you’ve always wanted.

Review of Lying In Wait by Liz Nugent

Oh my word the tension in Nugent’s second novel is so high that if I did bite my nails I’d have had none left by the end of the book.

I do love a writer that takes risks and who is not afraid to make you squirm in your seat and Nugent is one such writer. This is the kind of read where you’ll watch events unfold with a sense of horrified fascination. The story is told in the first person from the perspectives of Lydia, Laurence and Karen in alternating chapters.

Lydia is married to Andrew Fitzsimmons and they live in Avalon with their son, Laurence. Lydia’s voice is cold, detached and calculating right from the start as she delivers the attention grabbing opening line…

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Nugent is rapidly becoming the queen of killer opening lines. This is all about the voice. Just look how clean and simple that line is. There’s no waffle, no fluff instead you’re pulled straight into the story. Genius, GENIUS I’m telling you. This is what makes a thriller writer stand out from the crowd.

I’ll bet you’re curious after reading that line. You’re dying to know who Annie Doyle is and why Andrew murdered her aren’t you? But I’ll bet you’re even more fascinated by the cold sense of superiority in Lydia’s voice. The sense of entitlement in her tone is one of the scariest things I’ve read in a while. She’s at her most terrifying when she’s trying to protect her innocent son, Laurence, and preserve her social standing as her husband Andrew begins to fall apart under the pressure of keeping their secret. But Laurence may not be as naive as Lydia thinks…

This is tale of obsessive love, possession and the dangers of forming the wrong attachments. It’s one stomach churning read that will have you compulsively whipping through the pages to find out what happens next. I have to say that Lying in Wait is an incredibly apt title on so many levels in this mind-bendingly dark psychological thriller. The last page is the stuff of nightmares and best read with all the lights on!

Follow the author on Twitter: @lizzienugent

With thanks to Penguin for sending me a copy of the novel to review.

If you like the review above you may also be interested in my review of Nugent’s first novel – Unravelling Oliver.

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent will be published 14 July.

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Author Steven Dunne reads from his new novel and shares his publishing journey

Today I’m delighted to be on the blog tour for author Steven Dunne whose new psychological thriller Death Do Us Part is published on Thursday 5 May. I attended Steven’s book launch at Waterstones Nottingham on Saturday 30 April to obtain something a little special for you. 

I made two videos during the event. The first features Steven being introduced by Dan, a specialist bookseller at Waterstones Nottingham, followed by Steven reading the first chapter from Death Do Us Part, which features a young woman called Reardon reacting to the aftermath of a brutal and horrifying murder…

As the chilling scene with Reardon ends in the novel, the reader is introduced to DI Damen Brook who is on leave and trying to repair the difficult relationship he has with his daughter, Terri, who is drinking more than he would like. He knows this is because Terri has lost her way in life due to the terrible things that have happened to her recently and that he needs to be patient, but there’s only so much he can do and work has always been a source of respite.

When his colleague, DS John Noble, phones to tell Brook about the double murder of an old couple who’ve been shot through the heart with a single bullet, saying that it’s similar to the double murder of a gay couple a monDeathDoUsPart_finalth earlier, Brook decides to go back to work.

Steven explores the psychological impact of severe trauma through multiple character perspectives, both in the characters themselves and those they come into contact with. This is one of DI Brook’s most challenging cases as the mounting evidence sends him in unexpected directions.

The banter between Brook and Noble provides much needed levity but even Noble’s patience is tried at times by Brook’s determination to to catch the killer at any cost.  The ending is inspired, my emotions swung from elation to devastation as the full consequences of Brook’s actions played out. I’m already looking forward to book seven to see how Steven develops this complex and emotionally explosive set up.

As Steven originally self-published his first psychological thriller – The Reaper – the second video features the conversation between Dan and Steven about the journey to publication that Steven has been on.

Steven decided to self-publish The Reaper in 2006 when he had zero contacts in the publishing industry. The video below highlights how he found a way to have his self-published novel stocked by bookshops and featured in the local press, to the unexpected moment when he was offered his first two-book deal from Harper Collins.

In the video Steven also shares the thinking process behind the creation of the serial killer The Reaper. As you’ll see Dan is a BIG fan of The Reaper and if you would like to read it after watching the video below you can buy it here, and if you would like to buy Death Do Us Part,  the sixth book in the series, you can pre-order it here. Each novel can be read as a standalone, but you may feel inclined to invest in them all after you’ve read one novel from the series!

You can follow Steven on Twitter at @ReaperSteven and follow the rest of the blog tour to find out more about his work, please see the poster below. Death Do Us Part is published by Headline.


Review of The Missing by C.L. Taylor

UnknownThe Missing begins with an intriguing text conversation which takes a dangerously emotionally manipulative turn, before diving straight into the mind of Claire whose 15 year old son Billy has been missing for months.

The sense of loss in Claire’s thought processes is intense. As she compares the past to the present you know that this is a fragile family, a brittle one, where each individual is wrapped up in their own interpretation of the events leading up to Billy going missing and beyond.

Everyone within the family is acting out of character due to the emotional stress they are under as the communication channels between them break down.

There are many well considered scenes, like the moment Billy’s father, Mark, decides to fiddle with the lawnmower while wearing his best suit for the court appearance. Claire can’t believe it as Mark’s behaviour is thoughtless in her eyes, his actions bring out her control freak tendencies which revolve around how her family is perceived, but for Mark it’s a natural coping mechanism. The couple operates at cross purposes all the time because they’ve lost the ability to communicate with each other in their sorrow.

Their other son, Jake, feels the weight of of his parents miscommunication and the loss of his brother keenly, leading him to drink and lose his temper. Jake’s girlfriend, Kira, also lives with the family bringing another layer of tension as she tries to appease everyone while coming to terms with emotional challenges from her own family background.

Claire instinctively senses that the truth of the event lies at the heart of her family, but her mind will not let her access the knowledge she seeks at first. The whole novel is an intriguing exploration of perception from every character’s perspective, it asks how well does anyone know anyone else and what have you chosen not see in order to retain an illusion of control.

Taylor’s strength lies depicting of the minutiae of ordinary family life in extraordinary circumstances, which makes the scene setting and dialogue feel authentic. I enjoyed reading this perceptive psychological thriller, the story moves at a cracking pace as Taylor explores people’s prejudices and fears before revealing the truth behind Billy’s disappearance.

The Missing by C.L. Taylor is published by Harper Collins

With thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.

Follow the author on Twitter: @callytaylor

Review of In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

In Her Wake is a profoundly moving story of loss, grief, depression, acceptance, In-Her-Wake-Vis-4-2.jpgforgiveness and renewal that is beautifully written and deeply humane. Jennings dives beneath the surface of her characters to reveal heart-breaking and tragic moments of self-awareness that lead to the decisions they make, characters who have no concept of the waves of physical and emotional devastation that they will leave in their wake at the time. It’s one of the most subtle and immersive psychological thrillers I’ve read in long time.

After Bella’s father dies she finds herself in possession of a terrible secret, one that has had repercussions throughout her life. Compelled to leave everything she thought she knew behind, including her controlling husband, Bella embarks on a search for the truth and arrives in St.Ives in Cornwall full of fear and hope.

There is a dreamlike quality to the writing as the story of Bella is woven through the myths of St.Ives. Jennings draws you into a sea of complex emotions as Bella goes in search of half-forgotten truths and a sense of identity. This is also a multi-sensory tale as the stunning expanse of the Cornish coastline is evocatively evoked and contrasted with the cosseted, suffocating and claustrophobic environment that is all that Bella has known before she embarks on her journey, albeit in the name of love.

Storms of anger and misunderstandings roll in and explode with the ferocity of a Cornish thunderstorm, then recede with the tide leaving a clear path formed from the light of new understanding. Bella is not the only character who has lived in the shadows of what might have been, letting in the light is a key them in the novel as the darkness of the past is gradually washed away. Stunning and unforgettable, Jennings has truly found her voice.

Published by Orenda Books

Follow the author on Twitter: @MandaJJennings

Find out more about the author: Amanda Jennings

The novel will be published as an ebook on 10 February and in paperback on 1 April. Limited, first edition, signed hardbacks are available from Goldsborough Books from 29 February but you can pre-order now.

Review of The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle

The minute Roy tells Betty that the one thing he hates is lies on their Unknown (5)first date you know he’s a massive liar.

As a retired conman, Roy trawls the internet looking for likely victims. He’s the kind of man whose internal monologue contains a creepy degree of malevolence and a sense of superiority as he ruthlessly evaluates and then dismisses women’s profiles. Roy exhibits all the classic traits of a manipulator.

Betty, meanwhile, appears to have the tolerance levels of a saint for Roy’s rather more unsavoury habits and soon has him installed in her home, much to her family’s disgust. It seems she would rather put up with Roy for the companionship than be alone.

Roy gradually reveals his intriguing past as he sets in motion each stage of the scam he’s about to pull on Betty, revealing his connection to major events throughout the last few decades. Including a brief mention of football legend Brian Clough, which Nottingham based readers will appreciate.

Meanwhile, Betty observes Roy quietly and calmly as the trap is set, gradually revealing her true feelings about the man as tensions in the house begin to rise. Both have secrets and both lie, and Roy isn’t as sharp as he thinks.

This is a cracking psychological thriller with a clever, thought-provoking twist which highlights where the true power lies in this game of deception and misdirection. I could not put it down and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

With thanks to Penguin for the NetGalley copy for review.

Follow the author on Twitter: @searlegoodliar