Tuesday 29 May 2018

#BlogTour - The Street Orphans - Mary Wood

I'm the last stop on the blog tour for The Street Orphans by Mary Wood today and what a fabulous one it's been!

Despite frequently seeing Mary's books on Facebook I hadn't read any so I was delighted to be given the opportunity to read this one and I couldn't wait to get stuck in.

Ruth Dovecote is the oldest of five siblings. Born with a club foot, she is widely feared and ridiculed within the small village community, so when her father is killed and her family is evicted, she is  hopeful of a better life in a new area. Fate, however, has other ideas and on their way to the Blackburn cotton mills, the family is dealt another blow when they have a chance encounter with the Earl of Harrogate and it's one that could tear the family apart.

It's not just the poor that has their troubles though, the rich and aristocratic have problems of their own. They have their reputations to consider and when it comes to marriage it can be a potential minefield. Do they marry for love, position in society or wealth? These struggles are all too apparent for Katrina and her younger sister, Marica, who is jealous beyond belief of her older sibling.

I absolutely loved this book and I was sucked into the story right from the start. Following Ruth on her journey was at times heart-wrenching, whilst at others full of joy and hope and I'm not ashamed to admit that I did shed a few tears for her along the way. As much as I loved Ruth's character the manipulative Marcia, Katrina's sister had me seething. Only ever thinking of herself, she would go to any lengths to get what she wanted, regardless of the pain and suffering she caused others and I loathed her with a passion, desperate for her to get her comeuppance.

This is a book that is written with such passion I could imagine myself travelling across the Bowland Hills and the description of them was so vivid in my head. The research that Mary has done for this book is clearly evident and it adds to the realism of the book.

For me, The Street Orphans, is a master-class in the art of writing historical saga fiction and I can't wait to lose myself in many more of Mary's books in the future.

                                                          Author bio

Photo courtesy of Mary Wood

Born in Maidstone, Kent, in 1945, the thirteenth child of fifteen children, Mary's family settled in Leicestershire after the war ended.

Mary married young and now, after 54 years of happy marriage, four children, 12 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren, Mary and her husband live in Blackpool during the summer and Spain during the winter - a place that Mary calls, 'her writing retreat'.

After many jobs from cleaning to catering, all chosen to fit in with bringing up her family, and boost the family money-pot, Mary ended her 9 - 5 working days as a Probation Service Officer, a job that showed her another side to life, and which influences her writing, bringing a realism and grittiness to her novels.

Mary first put pen to paper, in 1989, but it wasn't until 2010 that she finally found some success by self-publishing on kindle.

Being spotted by an editor at Pan Macmillan in 2013, finally saw Mary reach her publishing dream.
When not writing, Mary enjoys family time, reading, eating out, and gardening.

One of her favourite pastimes is interacting with her readers on her Facebook page and on her website. She is also on Twitter.

Mary welcomes all contact with her readers and feedback on her work.

Although I'm the last stop on the blog tour that doesn't mean you can't go back and visit all the fabulous blogs that have taken part before me, in fact I would highly recommend that you do.

With kind thanks to the very lovely, and hugely talented author Mary Wood and also to Kate Green at Pan Macmillan for my gorgeous review copy.

Sunday 27 May 2018

The Crucifix (Newdon Killers Series) - Simon Farrant

Last month I handed over The Hippo to author Simon Farrant, which you can read here, and since then I've had the pleasure of reading his work.

The Crucifix may only be a novella, but it's a story that will grip you right from the outset!

Mason Grey is the leader of  a church group whose members are so devoted to him that they will do anything to keep him, and God happy. Eager to prove their devotion, it seems they are easily persuaded to carry out several gruesome murders. Armed with a list of names, weapons  and crucifixes, to leave as their calling cards, Mason's loyal followers are happy to carry out God's will and rid the world of these so-called,  unsavoury individuals.

Things take a surprising twist though when one of the group discovers some information that could potentially see Mason's empire come crashing down around him.

I really enjoyed reading this short novella and raced through it in a couple of hours. The premise of the story is totally believable, I mean, we've all heard of Charles Manson and David Koresh and I think Mason Grey would be happy to sit alongside them.

The Crucifix has been a really good introduction to Simon Farrant's work and I'm looking forward to seeing how his style develops when he writes a full length novel.

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

With kind thanks to author Simon Farrant for the review copy.

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Cover Reveal - An Artisan Lovestyle - Kiltie Jackson

I don't take part in cover reveal's very often but this was one that there was no question about me taking part in, as I feel like I've been a small part of this book's journey.

Back in November I was on the Blog Blitz for Kiltie's debut novel, A Rock 'n' Roll Lovestyle, and I absolutely loved it (you can read my review here but please note that the giveaway on that post is now closed!) so I was thrilled to hear that she was writing another book. I was lucky enough to have a sneaky, early read of An Artisan Lovestyle and. . . . . well, you'll have to wait until the upcoming blog tour to find out what I thought of it as that's a whole other blog post!

I can, however, share the blurb as well as the cover so let's start with what it's all about.

Are you ‘living’ your life or just living your life?

Elsa Clairmont was widowed barely five years after marrying her childhood sweetheart. She has struggled to come to terms with the loss and, six years later, has almost ceased to live herself. She does just enough to get by.

Danny Delaney is the ultimate ‘Mr Nice Guy’. He’s kind, caring and sweet. A talented artist in his teens, his abusive mother ruined his career in art and he turned his back on his exceptional gift. Now, he does just enough to get by.

On New Year’s Eve, both Danny and Elsa die in unrelated accidents.

Thanks to some poker playing shenanigans, Elsa’s husband Harry, and Danny’s old Art teacher, William, manage to orchestrate a deal with Death that allows Danny and Elsa to live for one more year on the condition they both agree
to complete three tasks.

They have until the last chime of Big Ben on the 31st December
to fulfil their quests.

If they succeed, they stay in the world of the living.

If they should fail however…

‘An Artisan Lovestyle’ is a story of personal growth and self-discovery as two people find themselves forced to make overdue changes in their lives, changes in other people’s lives, and all with the added challenge of
finding true love before their time runs out.

Will they do it?

Can they do it?
After all, it’s a matter of Life or Death…

It sound's great, don't you think? Well if you agree then I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear that it's available for pre-order right now here and it will appear on your Kindle as if by magic on the 28th of June!

Ok, so now I can tell that you're all itching to see the cover so I won't keep you in suspense any longer lovely readers! Here it is in all its glory!

It's definitely eye-catching isn't it? Just the kind of thing I'd see on the shelf and reach out to pick up to find out more about it. . . .oh and it's purple which just happens to be my favourite colour so that's  a big thumbs up from me!

                                                 Author Bio

Photo courtesy of Kiltie Jackson

Kiltie grew up in Glasgow in Scotland. This is a very unique city with a very unique way of looking at life.

When she was old enough to do so, she moved to London and then, after several years of obtaining interesting experiences -which are finding their way into her writing - she moved up to the Midlands.
Kiltie currently lives in Staffordshire with five cats and one grumpy husband. Her little home is known as Moggy Towers, even though despite having plenty of moggies, there are no towers! The cats kindly allow her and Mr Mogs to share their house on the condition they keep paying the mortgage! 

She loves reading, watching movies, and visiting old castles.
She really dislikes going to the gym!
Her biggest desire is that one day she can give up the day job and write her stories for a living.
Kiltie's debut novel, 'A Rock 'n' Roll Lovestyle', was released in September 2017 and won a "Chill With A Book - Reader Award" in December 2017.

She first began writing her debut novel eleven years before it was released but shelved it as she didn't think it was very good.

In November 2016 when, having read more on a best-selling author who had begun her own career as a self-published author, she was inspired to revisit the unfinished manuscript and finally finish what she had started.

Since beginning to write again, the ideas have not stopped flowing.
'An Artisan Lovestyle' is the second book in the Lovestyle Series.
Work is due to begin on book three (not yet titled but also part of the Lovestyle Series) in the Summer of 2018.

She currently has a further ten plots and ideas stored in her file (it's costing a fortune in USB drives as each story has its own memory stick!) and the ideas still keep on coming. 

Kiltie now lives her life around the following three quotes:
"I love having weird dreams; they're great fodder for book plots!"
"Why wait for your ship to come in when you can swim out to meet it?"
"Old enough to know better, young enough not to care!"

With kind thanks to Rachel at Rachel's Random Resources and author Kiltie Jackson for asking me to take part with this cover reveal.

Saturday 19 May 2018

The Hippo Hangs Out . . . . with Mark Tilbury

Today I’m hanging out with one of my favourite authors who has been affectionately tagged #TwistedTilbury by me and #SickoAuthor by the lovely blogger Sharon over on Chapter in My Life. Have you guessed who I’m talking about yet? I’ll give you another clue, his books will mess with your head and take you to places that you don’t want to go but can’t resist being intrigued by. I’m sure you all know by now that I’m referring to the very talented (and humble) Mark Tilbury.
I’ve been looking forward to hanging out with Mark, but after having read several of his books, I’m also a little bit scared to find out what goes on in his head!

I’m delighted to welcome Mark to The Hippo and for those of you that haven’t had the pleasure (why on earth not?) allow me to introduce you to him.

Photo courtesy of Mark Tilbury

Mark lives in a small village in the lovely county of Cumbria, although his books are set in Oxfordshire where he was born and raised.

After serving in the Royal Navy and raising his two daughters after being widowed, Mark finally took the plunge and self-published two books on Amazon, The Revelation Room and The Eyes of the Accused.

He's always had a keen interest in writing, and is extremely proud to have his fifth novel, The Key to Death's Door published along with The Liar's Promise, The Abattoir of Dreams, and The Ben Whittle Investigations relaunched, by Bloodhound Books.

When he's not writing, Mark can be found trying and failing to master blues guitar, and taking walks around the beautiful county of Cumbria.

Mark’s latest book The Key To Death’s Door was published by Bloodhound books last month and it gave me palpitations!

If you could discover the murderous truth of a past life and seek justice in this one, would you?

Teenager Lee Hunter doesn’t have a choice when he nearly drowns after spending the night at a derelict boathouse with his best friend, Charlie Finch. After leaving his body and meeting a mysterious light that lets him to go back to the past, Lee finds himself reliving the final days of another life. A life that ended tragically.

After recovering from his near death experience, Lee begins to realise that he is part of two lives linked by the despicable actions of one man.

Struggling against impossible odds, Lee and Charlie set out to bring this man to justice.
Will Lee be able to unlock the past and bring justice to the future?

The Key to Death’s Door is a story of sacrifice, friendship, loyalty and murder.

                                         *    *    *    *

What other authors are you friends with and how do they help you become a better writer?
Maggie James has been fantastic. She’s helped me in so many ways. Beta reading all my books. Helping with plots. Encouraging me from day one. Lots of great advice. Mark Wilson has also been extremely helpful, and he gave me some useful feedback for The Key to Death’s Door. Invaluable.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing etc. come from?
It was a very early form of escapism. The fictional world seemed so much more interesting than the real world. I loved The Famous Five and all the adventures they had along with their dog, Timmy. It all seemed so magical. Somewhere I wanted to be, and I could just go there at the turn of a page. 


What did you edit out of your last book?
Nothing major from the plot of The Key to Death’s Door, but I lost about 20,000 words from the first draft which was mostly due to my tendency to just let go with the first draft and see what happens. A method I usually curse when it comes to the editing stage!

What do you think is more important: characters or plot?
For me it’s always characters who drive the plot forward. I try to go really deep into my characters’ minds and see what motivates them. I also tend to hear my characters speak before I’ve even got a story to put them in. Sometimes it’s something completely random. Edward Ebb who eventually became the antagonist in the Revelation Room said, “Down the rabbit hole where all the burnt bunnies go.” I had no idea who he was or what it meant, but it was certainly interesting enough for me to want to work it out.

 Wow I think I'd totally freak out if I heard a voice in my head talking about burnt bunnies down rabbit holes. How do you sleep at night?

If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be and why? What would you get up to?
Liam out of The Abattoir of Dreams. He was just so gutsy and stood up for what he believed in. I loved his hope and the naivety within that hope. Because Liam’s life was so tragic in Woodside Children’s Home, if I had the chance to spend time with him it would be to help him escape. I would love to have had a friend like Liam when I was a kid.   

What character in your books are you least likely to get along with and why?
All the antagonists, but for me it has to be John Carver from The Abattoir of Dreams. Not only was he a DI, but he was also covering up the abuse and murder of children at a children’s home. The most despicable human being imaginable.

Nope, I don't want to talk about him thank you very much. Just the thought of him makes my skin crawl Mark!

 If you were an animal in the zoo what would you be and why?
One that wanted to escape! So I’d have to be an orangutan. Then I could slowly and methodically figure out how to get out. I visited Monkey World once, and the keeper told us that one of the females worked out that if she threw her blanket over the electric fence, she could climb over it without getting a shock. Brilliant.

 My mum loves these funny little orange creatures Mark, and I have to admit seeing them recently on the Secret Life of the Zoo, they certainly are extremely intelligent.

You get a brilliant idea/thought/phrase at an inappropriate moment (e.g. in the shower or driving) what do you do?
Write it down. My memory is hopeless, and I will literally forget it within half an hour. Sometimes it comes back to me, but the harder I try, the more elusive it becomes. I was just drifting off to sleep when this voice said, ‘What doesn’t kill you will make you wish it had.’ I didn’t know at the time it was the voice of Peter King for my novel The Liar’s Promise, but it was certainly interesting enough to write down.

Describe yourself in five words
Impulsive, self-critical, polite, reasonable, determined.

Do you have any bad habits?
Well, I gave up smoking and drinking a long time ago, so that just leaves swearing and a tendency to be over critical of myself.

 You can find out more about Mark, his books and connect with him using the links below and if you sign up for his newsletter, you'll receive a free kindle copy of The Abattoir of Dreams once your subscription is confirmed 😉

I'd like to say a big thank you to Mark for taking the time to chat with me today and I'm looking forward to your next book with twisted anticipation!