#Blogtour - Say My Name by Allegra Huston - An Extract

 As part of the UK blog tour, I'm delighted to share an extract of Say My Name by Allegra Huston today...Enjoy! 


 "This is the time to run away", she thinks, "to call it a mistake, to race back to home and safety. If I don’t go home I will never feel safe again."

On meeting Micajah Burnett, the son of an old school friend, Eve Armanton is faced with a choice. Years of a miserable marriage means she’s as broken as the beautiful antique violin she’s just found, and Micajah offers a spark of life, an opportunity to reawaken her sense.

If Eve takes a leap into this new world, she’ll be leaving behind her old self for good. Her happiness depends on forging a new life, but at the end of her journey who will Eve have become? 

Published 27th July 2017 by HQ (UK)



 Extract


There, under a table heaped with china of the sort nobody uses anymore, she spots it, almost hidden behind random objects carrying price stickers faded by time. Daylight filters through grimy windows onto worn green velvet, golden wood. Strangely, the case is open—as if it’s hoping to be found. 

It’s bigger than a violin, much smaller than a cello. It’s fat, squarer than most instruments of its kind, with an elongated neck, and—this is what draws Eve in—encrusted with vines. The fragile carvings seem greener. They were once painted, maybe. 

Eve moves the piles of junk aside so that she can crawl under the table. Usually she wears jeans for these expeditions, but it’s a hot New York summer, so this morning she chose a thin dress, counting on the intricate print to disguise any smudges. It will rip easily, though, so she tucks up the sides into her underwear to keep it off the floor. 

As she crouches down, the bones of her knees crack. Though she’s fit and strong, her forty-eight-year-old body is starting to show age. Her brown hair has almost no gray in it—good genes, her mother would have said—but soon she’ll have to decide whether to color it. She’s never seen the point of lying about her age and, being married, she’s less concerned about looking young than she might be if she were single. Still, the ugly milestone looms. She’s tied her hair in a ponytail and covered her head with a scarf to protect against cobwebs. 

By profession, Eve is a garden designer. Her husband, Larry, makes enough as a product development manager for a pill-coating supplier to pharmaceutical companies to enable him to treat her little business as, basically, a hobby. This annoys her, but the truth is, she treats it that way too. Taking it more seriously would mean confronting Larry and claiming ownership of her time and priorities, which she is not prepared to do. The status quo feels fragile, although it also feels as lasting as mortal life allows. All that’s required is that she keep the delicate political balance, and doesn’t rock the boat or disturb the sleeping dogs. She’s gotten into the habit of not pushing any communication past the minimum required for practical matters and the appearance of enough closeness to assure her that their marriage is sound. 

On weekends, guiltless and free, she searches out treasures for her friend Deborah’s antique shop. Larry doesn’t com- plain; she suspects he’s glad to have the house to himself. For her part, she’s glad to be away from it. The strange objects she finds ignite her imagination, conjuring up lives more exciting, and more terrifying, than the low-intensity safety of her own. Today she’s exploring a northerly part of New York City that, like a tidal pool left by successive immigrant waves, houses people from nations that may or may not still exist: Assyrians, Armenians, Macedonians, Baluchistanis. The alphabets in which the signs are written change block by block. Neighborhoods like this are her favorite hunting grounds. 

On her hands and knees under the table, she tugs at the instrument in its case. It shifts with a jerk, leaving a hard outline of oily dust on the floor. Probably it hasn’t been moved in years. She lifts it up onto a tin chest, keeping her back to the storekeeper to disguise her interest. 

The vines twine over the body of the instrument and up its neck, stretching out into the air. Though the delicacy of the carving is almost elfin, it has the strength of vines: blindly reaching, defying gravity. The tendrils are dotted with small flowers: jasmine, so accurately rendered that Eve identifies them instantly. A flap of velvet in the lid conceals a bow, held in place by ribbons. It, too, is twined with curling vines. 

She wiggles her fingers into the gaps between the instrument and the velvet lining, prying it loose. A moth flies out into her face and disappears in the slanting shafts of light. 

Holding it by the neck, she senses another shape. With spit and the hem of her dress, she cleans away the dust. There’s a pudgy, babyish face, the vines tightening their weave across its eyes. Cupid, blinded by love. 

Eve pinches up dust from the floor to dirty the face again. She has learned not to improve the appearance of things until after the bargaining is done and the money has changed hands. Then she turns the instrument over. 

The back is in splinters. 

Eve touches her finger to the ragged shards of wood, long- ing to make this beautiful thing whole again. The damage must have been deliberate: an accident would have broken off the vines. What drove that person over the brink? Musician’s frustration? Rage at fate? Heartbreak? She can almost feel remnants of the emotion stuck to the gash, like specks of dried blood. 

If she had it repaired, the cost would almost certainly be more than the instrument is worth. And even an expert might not be able to restore it completely. It could serve as a decorative item, but only if the gash stays hidden. Deborah won’t want it—she has a rule against broken things. Also, she feels more comfortable with things that have names, like bowls and vases and candlesticks. Passionless things that sit prettily in nice rooms. The history that this object bears on its back would freak her out. 

Eve moves to return the instrument to its exile, but she can’t bring herself to do it. Now that she has touched it, she cannot push it back into the shadows. 














#BlogTour - Not A Sound by Heather Gudenkauf - Character Background & #Review

I'm delighted to be taking part in the Not A Sound blog tour today - first with some back ground on main character Amelia, followed by a review of this tense and intriguing book!  

A shocking discovery and chilling secrets converge in this latest novel from bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf.

When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters – her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora.

Now, two years later, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?


Published July 13th by HQ (UK)


Amelia’s background 

Emergency room nurse, Amelia Winn, the main character from NOT A SOUND, is difficult to describe in just a few words. She, like most of us, is multi-faceted and complex. After a life-changing hit and run accident leaves her profoundly deaf, Amelia turns to alcohol to help her cope. As a result, she loses her marriage, her step-daughter, her friends and hope. It isn't until two years after the accident that Amelia begins to emerge from her alcohol-induced fog and she vows to regain the life she once had, including her determination to return to nursing one day.

When I started writing the character of Amelia I knew immediately that she would be a nurse. Nurses have had a huge impact on my life beginning with my own mom. Over the years my mother worked as surgical nurse, in clinics, in hospitals, in nursing homes and as a school nurse on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. She helped deliver babies, gathered cancer statistics for university research projects and sat with family members when a loved one took a final breath.

As the mother of six children, my mother's nursing expertise also extended to the home front. We had our share of sore throats, coughs, fevers, broken bones, and at times much more serious ailments. One of my brothers suffered a stroke at the age of six and had to learn how to walk and talk all over again and my mother was right there to nurse him back to health.  When my son was diagnosed with bone cancer, she was with us every step of the way – spending endless hours with us at the hospital, asking the questions we didn't think to ask, providing comfort. Eventually retiring from nursing, my mom still continued to share her gifts. She, along with my dad, worked as Hospice volunteers, an experience that my mom described as one of the most rewarding of her life. She loved talking to the patients about their childhoods and their memories, allowing them to forget where they were and their pain and suffering even for just a few moments. Today mom remains the consummate nurse – caring for my father and fielding phone calls from her children and grandchildren about all sorts of health woes ~ she continues to amaze me.

While Amelia and my mother are different in many ways, they do have a few things in common with nurses all over the world ~ their attention to detail, their efficiency and determination to get things done, their dedication to caring for others and their unyielding love for those they care about.  

About The Author 

Heather was born in Wagner, South Dakota, the youngest of six children. At the age of three, her family moved to Iowa, where she grew up. Having been born with a profound unilateral hearing impairment Heather tended to use books as a retreat. Heather became a voracious reader and the seed of becoming a writer was planted. 

Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages and is currently a Literacy Coach, an educator who provides curricular and professional development support to teachers. 

Heather lives in Dubuque, Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Maxine. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running. She is currently working on her third novel.

Heather’s first novel The Weight of Silence was a TV Book Club pick. 

My Review 

Not A Sound is an incredibly catchy book, hooking the reader in from the first page when Amelia makes her grisly discovery and keeping the atmosphere tense throughout. The plot is original, one I haven't come across before, and raises issues of abuse of power, greed, deception and ethics in the medical world. 

I really liked Amelia. She's strong without being overbearing and forceful, indeed it's her flaws, weaknesses and vulnerabilities which give her a strength of spirit which makes a character relatable and admirable. While there is a mystery to discover, I quite liked the tentative relationship brimming in the background of this book and by the end really hoped that all would be well for Amelia and her future. 

The book is quite short, and a quick read. A couple of times it felt that quite big jumps and assumptions were made by characters to move the plot along and think it could have afforded extra pages to really add depth and complexity, however it is enjoyable, engaging, intriguing and with a heroine you will absolutely be cheering on, well worth a few hours of your time. 
  



 


#BlogTour - An Almond For A Parrot by Wray Delaney - An Extract & Review

 It's my stop on the incredibly racy and fascinating An Almond For A Parrot blog Tour today! First I have an extract, followed by a mini review - enjoy!


London, 1756: In Newgate prison, Tully Truegood awaits trial. Her fate hanging in the balance, she tells her life-story. It's a tale that takes her from skivvy in the back streets of London, to conjuror's assistant, to celebrated courtesan at her stepmother's Fairy House, the notorious house of ill-repute where decadent excess is a must...Tully was once the talk of the town. Now, with the best seats at Newgate already sold in anticipation of her execution, her only chance of survival is to get her story to the one person who can help her avoid the gallows. She is Tully Truegood. Orphan, whore, magician's apprentice. Murderer? 

Published July 27th 2017 by HQ (UK)






Fleet Marriages  

One of the most disgraceful customs observed in the Fleet Prison in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was the performance of the marriage ceremony by disreputable and dissolute clergymen. These functionaries, mostly prisoners for debt, insulted the dignity of their holy profession by marrying in the precincts of the Fleet Prison at a minute’s notice, any persons who might present themselves for that purpose. No questions were asked, no stipulations made, except as to the amount of the fee for the service, or the quantity of liquor to be drunk on the occasion. It not unfrequently happened, indeed, that the clergyman, the clerk, the bridegroom and the bride were drunk at the very time the ceremony was performed. 


Chapter One  

Newgate Prison, London 
I lie on this hard bed counting the bricks in the ceiling of this miserable cell. I have been sick every morning for a week and thought I might have jail fever. If it had killed me it would at 
least have saved me the inconvenience of a trial and a public hanging. Already the best seats at Newgate Prison have been sold in anticipation of my being found guilty – and I have yet to be sent to trial. Murder, attempted murder – either way the great metropolis seems to know the verdict before the judge has placed the black square on his grey wig. This whore is gallows-bound.  

‘Is he dead?’ I asked.  

My jailer wouldn’t say. 

 I pass my days remembering recipes and reciting them to the damp walls. They don’t remind me of food; they are bookmarks from this short life of mine. They remain tasteless. I prefer them that way.  
A doctor was called for. Who sent for or paid for him I don’t know, and uncharacteristically I do not care. He was very matter of fact and said the reason for my malady was simple: I was with child. I haven’t laughed for a long time but forgive me, the thought struck me as ridiculous. In all that has happened I have never once found myself in this predicament. I can hardly believe it is true. The doctor looked relieved – he had at least found a reason for my life to be extended – pregnant women are not hanged. Even if I’m found guilty of murder, the gallows will wait until the child is born. What a comforting thought. 

Hope came shortly afterwards. Dear Hope. She looked worried, thinner. 

‘How is Mercy?’ I asked.  

She avoided answering me and busied herself about my cell.  

‘What does this mean?’ she asked, running her fingers over the words scratched on a small table, the only piece of furniture this stinking cell has to offer. I had spent some time etching them into its worm-eaten surface. An Almond for a Parrot. 

‘It’s a title for a memoir, the unanswered love song of a soon to- be dead bird. Except I have no paper, no pen and without ink the thing won’t write at all.’ 

‘Just as well, Tully.’ 

‘I want to tell the truth of my life.’ 

‘Better to leave it,’ she said. 

‘It’s for Avery – not that he will ever read it.’ I felt myself on the brink of tears but I refused to give in to them. ‘I will write it for myself. Afterwards, it can be your bedtime entertainment, the novelty of my days in recipes and tittle-tattle.’ 

‘Oh, my sweet ninny-not. You must be brave, Tully. This is a dreadful place and…’ 

‘And it is not my first prison. My life has come full circle. You haven’t answered my question.’ 
‘Mercy is still very ill. Mofty is with her.’ 

‘Will she live?’ 

‘I don’t know.’ 

‘And is he alive?’ 

 ‘Tully, he is dead. You are to be tried for murder.’ 

‘My, oh my. At least my aim was true.’ 

I sank back on the bed, too tired to ask more. Even if Hope was in the mood for answering questions, I didn’t think I would want to know the answers. 

‘You are a celebrity in London. Everyone wants to know what you do, what you wear. The papers are full of it.’ 

There seemed nothing to say to that. Hope sat quietly on the edge of the bed, holding my hand. 
Finally, I found the courage to ask the question I’d wanted to ask since Hope arrived. 

‘Is there any news of Avery?’ 

‘No, Tully, there’s not.’ 

I shook my head. Regret. I am full of it. A stone to worry one’s soul with. 

‘You have done nothing wrong, Tully.’ 

‘Forgive me for laughing.’ 

‘You will have the very best solicitor.’ 

‘Who will pay for him?’ 

‘Queenie.’ 

‘No, no. I don’t want her to. I have some jewels…’ 

I felt sick. 

‘Concentrate on staying well,’ said Hope. 

If this life was a dress rehearsal, I would now have a chance to play my part again but with a more favourable outcome. Alas, we players are unaware that the curtain goes up the minute we take our first gulps of air; the screams of rage our only hopeless comments on being born onto such a barren stage.  

So here I am with ink, pen and a box of writing paper, courtesy of a well-wisher. Still I wait to know the date of my trial. What to do until then? Write, Tully, write. 

With a hey ho the wind and the rain. And words are my only escape. For the rain it raineth every day. 



My Review 

An Almond For A Parrot is like no other book I've read before! The closest I can get is to say that if you take The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (One of my most favourite books ever by the way!) and mash it up with Moll Flanders, then you'll be somewhere near this utterly addictive book. 

I'd read it was a bit of a saucy bodice ripper- but woah! I wasn't expecting it it to be quite so racy! Gosh, it had me blushing at times! But it is great fun, and though erotica isn't really my thing, I'm going to let it go this time, because despite it all I did enjoy An Almond For A Parrot. Plus, there's something so funny about Eighteenth Century Sexual Language, it's difficult to take an offence.  

I was sold on this book originally by the simply beautiful cover and the promise of some magic realism. I LOVE a bit of magic realism - there's just not enough about, and it did add a nice touch into this story of Tully and her ups and downs through a neglected and poverty stricken childhood to the riches and decadence of a high class prostitute.  

This is utterly addictive reading, I couldn't tear my eyes away! Wray Delaney has beautifully evocative writing style which catches the atmosphere and attitudes of the time perfectly. Fun, frivolous and exciting, this was a scandalously good read! 


Blog Tour: Last Seen by Lucy Clarke - Extract and Review

I'm thrilled to share with you an extract from Lucy Clarke's latest book, Last Seen, today followed by my review!

In a small seaside community, there’s always somebody watching…

Twisty, pacy, and superbly plotted, Last Seen is the perfect psychological page-turner for fans of Clare Mackintosh and Sabine Durrant.

Seven years ago, two boys went missing at sea – and only one was brought to shore. The Sandbank, a remote stretch of coast dotted with beach huts, was scarred forever.

Sarah’s son survived, but on the anniversary of the accident, he disappears without trace. As new secrets begin to surface, The Sandbank hums with tension and unanswered questions. Sarah’s search grows more desperate and she starts to mistrust everyone she knows – and she’s right to.

Someone saw everything on that fateful day seven years ago. And they’ll do anything to keep the truth buried. 

Published 29th June 2017 by Harpercollins UK 

Extract

1. SARAH

DAY ONE, 6.15 A.M.

In the distance I can hear the light wash of waves folding on to shore. I lie still, eyes closed, but I can sense the dawn light filtering into the beach hut, slipping beneath the blinds ready to pull me into the new day. But I’m not ready. An uneasy feeling slides through my stomach.

I reach out to find Nick’s side of the bed empty, the sheet cool. He’s in Bristol, I remember. He has his pitch this morning. He left last night with a slice of birthday cake pressed into his hand. At that point Jacob was still smiling about the presents he’d been given for his seventeenth birthday. Nick has no idea what happened later.

A low flutter of panic beats in my chest: Will Jacob tell him?

I push myself upright in bed, my thoughts snapping and firing now. I can still feel the vibrations of Jacob’s footsteps storming across the beach hut, then the gust of air as the door slammed behind him, his birthday cards gliding to the ground like falling birds. I’d picked them up, carefully replacing each of them, until I reached the last – a homemade card with a photo glued to the front. I’d gripped its edges, imagining the satisfying tear of paper beneath my fingertips. I had made myself return it to the shelf, rearranging the cards so it was placed at the back.

I listen for the sound of Jacob’s breathing, waiting to catch the light hum of a snore – but all I can hear are the waves at the door. I straighten, fully alert now. Did I hear him come in last night? It’s impossible to sneak into the beach hut quietly. The door has to be yanked open where the wooden frame has swollen with rain; the sofa bed has to be skirted around in the dark; the wooden ladder to the mezzanine, where Jacob sleeps, creaks as it is climbed; and then there’s the slide and shuffle of his knees when he crawls to the mattress in the eaves.

Pulling back the covers, I clamber from the bed. In the dim haze I scan the tidy square of the beach hut for clues of my son: there are no trainers kicked off by the door; no jumper tossed on the sofa; no empty glasses or plates left on the kitchen counter, nor dusting of crumbs. The hut is immaculate, neat, just as I left it.

I ignore the faint pulse of pain in my head as I cross the beach hut in three steps, climbing the base of the ladder. It’s dark in the mezzanine – I’d pulled the blind over the porthole window and made Jacob’s bed before going to sleep myself. Usually the distinctive fug of a teenage boy lingers
up here, but this morning the heaped body of my son is absent, the duvet smooth.

I squeeze my eyes shut and swear under my breath. What did I expect?

I don’t know why I let it happen, not on his birthday. I shouldn’t have risen to his challenge. I went too far. We both did. Diffuse, not antagonise, Nick is fond of telling me. (Thank you, Nick. I’d never have thought of that myself.)

When Jacob was little, Nick would always ask my opinion on what Jacob needed, how best to dress a cut on his knee, or whether he could do with a nap, or what he might prefer to eat. But, in the last few years, my confidence in knowing what my son needs has slipped away. In his company, I often find myself at an utter loss as to what to say – asking too many questions, or not the right ones. On the odd occasion that Jacob does confide in me, I feel like a desert-walker who has come across a freshwater lake, thirsting for closeness.

Last night, as Jacob swung round to face me, I couldn’t think what to say, what to do. Maybe it was because seventeen is like a line in the sand; he’d just stepped over it into adulthood – but I wasn’t ready. Maybe that’s why I said the things I did, trying to pull him back to me.

I descend the ladder now, feeling the full weight of my headache kicking in. I’m sure Jacob will have stayed out with his friends – he’ll probably roll in at mid-morning, a hangover worsening his mood.

Yet still, I feel the tentacles of panic reaching, feeling their way through my chest.

Coffee. That’s what I need. I pump water into the kettle, then light the hob, listening to the rush of gas. As I wait for the water to boil, I have a strange, uncomfortable sensation.
That this is going to be my life one day: just me, alone, making coffee for one. It makes sweat prickle underarm, dread loosening my insides.

I reach out and snap on the battery-powered radio. A song blares into the hut – Jacob and I are always having radio wars, he switching it from Radio 4 to a station he likes, knowing I’ve still not learnt how to use the Memory button, so I must manually retune it to find my station again. But this morning, I like the noise and the thrash of guitars. I’ll leave it on. That way, when he comes back it’ll be playing.

My Review 

Seriously, do not start this book unless you can spare the next few hours. I started Last Seen one afternoon and didn't stop until I'd turned the last page. I'm not generally the quickest of readers, but at little under four hours later I'd sped my way through the 430 odd pages of this addictive and suspenseful book. Lucy Clarke's writing is so readable, page after page turned effortlessly and I was almost surprised when I realised I'd almost got to the end. 

The book's told in alternating chapters from best friends Sarah and Isla, hinting at secrets, betrayal and fracturing relationships right from the very start. I wasn't sure who I should trust, and this suspense is kept up right to the very end, when several twists and turns are revealed one after the other.  

Sarah is an interesting character. At first appearances she's the frantic parent of a missing teenager. Bewildered and frustrated at the declining relationship before her son's disappearance, she's appears naive and a little bit fragile. But scratch the surfaces and some chilling traits begin to show themselves. Isla on the other hand remains more of an enigma for much of the book, although she obviously holds a grudge against Sarah, the reader has no idea why until later in the book. 

I did guess some of the twists in Last Seen, but that's not to say it was any the less enjoyable. I found it gripping, absorbing and unputdownable, and while I didn't particularly like any of the characters, thought the atmosphere of dysfunctional relationships, manipulation, secrets and resentment was delivered very well and kept my interest piqued until the very last page. This would make the perfect holiday read, and if you enjoy a thriller then make sure Last Seen is in your suitcase this summer! 




Blog Tour: The Little Kiosk by the Seah by Jennifer Bohnet - An Extract

Time’s running out to save the little kiosk by the sea…

Sabine knows that if she doesn’t come up with a plan to save her little kiosk soon, it might be too late. If only her best friend Owen would stop distracting her with marriage proposals!

Harriet is returning to Dartmouth for the first time in thirty years, haunted by the scandal that drove her away and shocked by an inheritance that could change everything.

Rachel never expected to find love again after her world was shattered a year ago. But it seems as if the sleepy seaside town has different ideas…

One thing’s for sure, it’s a summer they will never forget! 



Extract 

For as long as anyone could remember, the kiosk on the quay had been part of the town’s summer street furniture. A focal point for the locals as much as the holidaymakers. Every 1st March, the wooden hexagonal hut reappeared without fuss or fanfare on its designated place on the embankment between the taxi rank and the yacht club, its wooden struts and panels gleaming with freshly applied paint. Red, white, blue and yellow – all bright summer colours which, come October, would have been bleached and faded away by the summer weather. The jet-black orb on the top of the domed roof was a favourite with the gulls, who perched there serenely surveying the scene before swooping down and stealing ice creams and pasties from unwary holidaymakers. 

As well as its annual paint make-over, the kiosk had occasionally been refurbished inside. These days it boasted an electric connection for the necessary computer, a kettle, mugs, a round tin that was never empty of biscuits and a small electric heater to keep the occupant warm in early and late season when the wind off the river blew straight in through the half-open stable door. 

There was a small shelf unit for holding tickets and the cash box, a cupboard for locking things in, space to the left of the door for the outside advertising boards to come in overnight and three foldaway canvas director chairs for sitting outside in the sun with friends when business was slow. 
The whole atmosphere of the town changed as the locals welcomed the reappearance of the hut which signalled the imminent arrival of the holidaymakers, the second home owners and the day-trippers. Maybe this would be the year fortunes would be made. If not fortunes, at least enough money to see the families through winter without getting deep into overdrafts. The last thing anyone wanted – or needed – was another wet season. 

This summer though, 1st March came and went with no sign of the kiosk. All winter, rumours had rumbled around town about its demise and locals feared the worst: the council had never liked it and wanted it gone – not true, the mayor said; Health and Safety had condemned it as an unfit workplace – but nobody would give details of the problem; the rent for the summer season had doubled and Owen Hutchinson, owner of the pleasure boats he operated through the kiosk, had refused to pay. A fact he denied. 

Then, two weeks before Easter, without any warning, the re-painted kiosk appeared in its usual place. Collectively, the town heaved a sigh of relief. Panic over. 
Time to enjoy the summer. 


The Little Kiosk by the Sea by Jennifer Bohnet is out 6th July (HQ, £7.99) Find out more about Jennifer’s writing at www.jenniferbohnet.com 
  

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