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Saturday, 10 June 2017

#Blog Tour Exquisite - Sarah Stovell






When I first saw this cover I knew I had to find out more about the book. Then after I read the blurb I knew I had to read it so today I'm delighted to be one of two stops on the blog tour for Exquisite by Sarah Stovell.


Bo Luxton is a successful author, seemingly living the dream with her husband and two young daughters  in a beautiful house in the Lake District. When she is reading through applications for a writing retreat that she's planning one piece of writing stands out for her and she instantly knows that the writer is someone that she wants to meet.

Alice Dark lives in Brighton, flitting between her own bedsit and that of her idle artist boyfriend Jake. The two women couldn't be more different but when they meet they immediately hit it off and a friendship develops but things soon begin to turn ugly.

Told from the points of view of both Alice and Bo, both characters are unreliable and damaged in their own ways by their past and I found it difficult to like either of them. This would normally put me off but Sarah Stovell has written them both in such a way that while I didn't fully warm to either of them I could understand what drove them to their actions.

You might be thinking that I didn't like this book but you couldn't be more wrong. I absolutely loved it. It's disturbingly dark, full of tension, extremely compelling and so beautifully written and unique. I'm not going to say anything else for fear of spoiling anything for anyone but what I will say is that I think that Exquisite is an absolute must read book for fans of psychological thrillers and I can't recommend it highly enough!

You can follow the rest of the blog tour on these fabulous blogs.



With kind thanks to Orenda Books for the review copy and to Anne Cater for the blog tour invitation.


Friday, 9 June 2017

Exclusive Cover reveal - Long Shot by Jack Steele

Today I'm absolutely delighted and very honoured to be exclusively revealing the cover of Jack Steele's upcoming novel, Long Shot.

I read Jack's first novel Loose Cannon last year (you can read my review here) and I've been waiting very patiently to find out what happens next for Detective Joe Stone ever since. 




Long Shot picks up the story two weeks after Loose Cannon and here's the blurb:




Detective Joe Stone and his team investigate a major terrorist attack on one of London’s most iconic buildings. They soon draw up a list of suspects who are highly respected members of the community and government. When most of his team is attacked, it soon develops into a war of nerves and a race against time before a deadly weapon is unleashed with horrific consequences.



I'll let you in on a little secret, well two actually, I read Long Shot over the weekend and I can tell you that it's a fantastic read but you'll have to wait until I kick off the blog tour on the 24th July to find out more!

Long Shot will be published on 29th July and is available to pre-order now here so if you haven't read Loose Cannon (it's not a necessity but it would help with regards to character background) you've still got time to read it and unlike me you won't have to wait a year to get your hands on the next one!


Sunday, 4 June 2017

The Hippo Hands Over . . . . to Robert Biggs





Today I'm delighted to be handing over to Robert Biggs, author of Song of the Robin. I first became aware of Robert's book when he was asking for feedback on the cover of his book in Book Connectors, a Facebook group that's full of authors, bloggers and other amazing bookish people. It was lovely to see everyone offering thoughts and ideas based on what they saw and what the book was about. After seeing all of this I decided to invite Robert to The Hippo and I was thrilled when he accepted.


So lovely readers it gives me great pleasure to hand over to Robert, who is going to start by telling you a little about himself and then share with us the inspiration behind his book as well as an excerpt.

Photo courtesy of Rob Biggs


Robert’s biography
I’m a ‘Midlander’ through and through, though as a copper top (before the grey) I’ve often felt there may be some Scottish genes somewhere.

I was born, schooled, raised and married in the West midlands and apart from a year spent living in Ayrshire, west Scotland, have spent my whole life within or on the borders of the Black Country. With a wife, four children and five grandchildren (plus Mags the black Lab… named after the fictitious dog in Song of the Robin), life can be very busy.

I worked in Telecommunications for thirty-five years and was a part of introducing the huge changes we have all undergone in the area of communication, namely the broadband service that underpins all that we love about multimedia.

Eventually though I’d had enough and changed paths completely when I landed a job working for the Mental Health service supporting Children and Young people at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

After first hand experience some years ago of the power of Reiki, a form of energy healing, I took a Level 1 Reiki course and it is more than a coincidence that my understanding of Reiki has shaped my writing.

Song of the Robin, originally titled Awakening, was my first novel, and a sequel, Re-Union, is soon to be re-released. A third novel, which is in its infancy, will continue the story.







                                                           Blurb


It wasn't the whispered voices, or the unsettling dreams that had begun to trouble Sarah Richards so much as the visions... visions of a man more ghostly than real.

In the space of a single day, her visitor appears several times, but is the spectre harmless or are his intentions malevolent.

Seeking the support of a friend, Sarah endeavours to solve the mystery... to identify her unknown stalker. But with each visitation she becomes ever more bewildered... and as her orderly life begins to unravel, she questions the reality of all that she knows, and with mounting horror, even her own sanity.
 


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                       The inspiration and motivation behind my book series

When people find out I’ve written a book, the first question is always “what’s it about” followed by “where did you get your inspiration”. The simplest answer to question one is non give away ‘Psychological Drama’ and for question two, the words “Don’t give up… It’s just the hurt that you hide, when you’re lost inside, I’ll be there to find you” describe it perfectly.
These words are from a song by Josh Groban, which must have been running through my head because they came to me as I was dropping off to sleep one night. It was that simple. From those few words, I developed a simple basis for a plot about a married couple facing the ultimate loss. I may be overplaying it, but what followed I can only describe as astounding.

I’d never had any desire or notion to write a novel, never imagined that I could put a coherent plot together (of course the reader is ultimately the judge) but once I was on the roller-coaster it was impossible to get off again. That was motivation enough to keep going. I had to find out what would happen in the end. All I knew was that I had a concept and an end game… I didn’t know how my characters were going to get there. Everything grew as I typed. Of course, I’d developed the outline but not much detail. I had no master plan nor a timeline (not initially), to the point that there were occasions when I was typing, it felt as if I was reading a story written by someone else, almost as if I really didn’t know what was going to come out of my head until it appeared before me. This is the main aspect of my journey I found astounding… irrespective of whether people find the story enjoyable.

On the subject of journey, I understood a long time ago, even as a novice author, that my characters needed to have a journey… a starting point and an end. A path filled with challenge and jeopardy. A route that would take the protagonist, and the reader, on an emotional rollercoaster. I hope that both Song of the Robin and its sequel Re-Union achieve this. 

As for my own journey, I often shake my head and wonder how, from a few words, I could conceive a story, nurture it, feed it, change it, learn from it and ultimately gave it life. Sounds dramatic but that’s how it feels.

It took around 3 months to draft part 1 and then I stalled due to other commitments. This of course all happened in between jobs when I had time and space to dream. But I was constantly thinking of how to move the plot along… always developing subplots. Should I reveal the twist at the end, should I give the game away half way through, what title should I have? 

The title I initially came up with was Bird Song, which my wife pointed out was probably unwise. This was before I’d read that excellent novel, so after much thought I chose Awakening, which was a very good fit. However, since there are many novels with the word Awakening in their titles, I reverted to my original theme and chose something unique.

Completing the first draft took a further twelve months, though in reality it was only 4 weeks of intense writing… two holidays in a remote cottage in Scotland… each for two weeks. By the time my wife and I went on these holidays, I’d worked through most of the elements I needed in my head while walking Sadie, our now departed black lab cross. Without Sadie to walk, the journey would have taken a lot longer.

So what is Song of the Robin about? Without giving too much away, it follows the trials of a young woman suffering from visions and unexpected dreams and how, as a self-reliant and analytical character, she stubbornly endeavours to figure out her troubles. 

I wanted an element of mystery in the story though it had to involve real people in the 21st century, but people for whom extraordinary things happen. I did not want to create fantasy.

The story has three parts… Descent… Fight… and finally, Song of the Robin.

I categorise Song of the Robin as psychological drama but it is ultimately a love story with fate and destiny underpinning the plot. I tried to portray the strength of family and, as the story moves on, include spiritual themes that the sequel develops and explains fully.


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I will be reviewing Song of the Robin here on The Hippo hopefully very soon but until then Robert has very kindly agreed to share an excerpt to whet your appetite.




Sarah scanned the area and found a bench to sit on. She tugged her collar up and settled down to wait. 

The sounds of popular Christmas music emanated from loudspeakers somewhere nearby and mingled with the loud hum of voices and general background noise. While she sat and waited, she busied herself with people watching, a pastime she often enjoyed. Some people bought coffee and mince pies or assorted cakes from a coffee shop in front of her. Others queued for baked potatoes from a vendor who offered a variety of fillings from an old-fashioned oven on wheels. There was a boutique and a shoe shop close by, packed with younger women looking for pre-Christmas bargains or party dresses. 

Sitting on her own, she shivered and pushed her hands into her pockets. She began to feel that someone was watching her again, and she scanned the faces, looking for anyone she knew. 

This was annoying, she thought. 

Where was this notion coming from? She was not in the habit of suffering from unwanted emotions and little happened to her that was unexpected. Nor had she experienced anything out of the ordinary that robbed her of choice or self-control, and so she stood up and walked to the balustrade that ran around the whole of the balcony. 

Sarah stopped at the rail and looked downwards onto the ground floor searching for any familiar face, though the futility of doing so didn’t escape her. It was simply impossible to be seen by someone who stood on the ground floor, but still she inspected every face. 

Recognising no-one, Sarah lifted her gaze and shifted her attention to the level where she stood. Amongst the hundreds of people milling around she could see no familiar face, and in frustration began to turn to walk back to the bench. As she did so, she spotted a stationary figure looking in her direction.
Through the gap between two enclosed glass elevators, she saw a man standing perfectly still amidst the shifting sea of people.

He was looking straight towards her.

Sarah recognised him instantly as the man who had waved to her earlier, but this time he wore a worried expression and he began to walk around the balcony heading in her direction.

To her consternation and increasing fear, a second figure appeared behind the man, but this figure was featureless, pure white in colour and did not move. A halo hovered around the shape, a radiance that itself was white but threaded through with shades of purple. The aura spread out by several yards and wafted back and forth as if moved by a gentle breeze. Even as she heard her name whispered, recognition furrowed her brow. Here was the same figure that she had dreamt of, the figure that made her think of an angel. But that was a within a dream. How could she possibly see such a spectacle with her waking eyes? Her whole body shivered as icy fingers played under her skin. Dragging her eyes back towards the man as he moved closer, she could hear him speaking her name as if he were whispering in her ear, though he was still at least fifty yards away. Rooted to the spot, Sarah stared at him, and with mounting horror noticed that he was still visible even when other people walked in front of him. Her whole sense of logic and reality began to crumble as he then appeared to walk through a group of shoppers who stood chatting, and all the while a brilliant white corona hovered in the background.

Suddenly a light touch brushed Sarah’s arm and made her jump so much that she let out a sudden squeal. 

She whirled around to a shocked Rachel.

‘Christ, where were you then!!!’ she hissed, looking around in embarrassment. They were both aware of inquisitive eyes staring at them but the shopping frenzy soon returned to the masses and no-one paid any more attention.

Rachel grabbed her friend by the arm and began walking.

‘C’mon. You need coffee and I need an explanation.’ 

In her urgency, Rachel pulled her friend back the way they had come and then taking the quickest way out to the street, steered Sarah down an escalator and out into the open air.

Sarah was hardly aware of her movements; barely noticed that she stumbled several times as Rachel hurried to get her to Cafe Nero. Instead, her mind focused on one thought and a thought that confounded her. 

Just as Sarah turned away when Rachel touched her arm, and in despite of the puzzling white figure, she half fancied that the image of the man had shrunk to the size of a small child. A child?

As they emerged from the shopping centre, the weather had taken a turn for the worse and they walked in silence. Stinging raindrops hit them in the face as they ran across Victoria Street and around the corner to the Coffee shop. Once inside, Rachel spotted a recently vacated table in a quiet corner by the window and made Sarah sit before she wandered off to get them something to eat. 

Still wracked with confusion at what had just occurred, Sarah took off her hat and coat and sat still, hands on her lap, staring wide-eyed but unseeing out of the window.

After a few moments her vision drifted back into focus, and to her dismay, she saw the man now standing across the street by a newsagent. This time he was alone and stayed where he was, simply looking in her direction.

Sarah dragged her eyes away and looked downwards, fixing her sight on the table in front. Feeling disconnected again as if observing from a distance, she saw herself lean forward and fold her arms as if for protection, and for the first time, felt a faint flutter of panic.


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Song of the Robin is available now for only 99p (correct at the time of writing) so hopefully after reading the excerpt you want to read the whole book and what better time to buy it? If you've already read it please share your thoughts as I'd love to hear what you think.



You can find out more about Robert and connect with him using the links below:

Facebook
Amazon
Twitter

I'd like to thank Robert for writing such an interesting guest post and for allowing me to share an excerpt of his novel, Song of the Robin.