May Story Chat: “Nailing It” by Anne Stormont

I was delighted to be invited by writer and blogger Marsha Ingrao to share one of my short stories as part of the story chat feature on her blog. Below is Marsha’s post where you can read my story. I hope you enjoy. And many thanks to Marsha.

Marsha Ingrao - Always Write

Welcome to Story Chat

Friends, I want to welcome both YOU and this month’s author,Anne Stormont, toStory Chat. This month’s Story Chat, a “family drama” that never seems to end between a mother and daughter.

When you’re done be sure to click on Anne’s links to read .

“Nailing It”

by Anne Stormont

“Stop it,” Evie begged. She looked at the pile of dirty dishes – her mother’s best china. Mother had insisted that everyone should come back to the house for tea, insisted on the good cups and saucers.

“Should have done them last night,” her mother repeated. “I said, didn’t I? But, oh no, too lazy for that––or too drunk.”

“Drunk?” Evie said. “You know I don’t drink.”

“Oh, really? I wasn’t cold in my grave yesterday and you were at it.”

“One whisky, Mother, at your wake – to warm me up. It…

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Reading, Writing & Blogging in 2021 PLUS January’s Books of the Month from @alison_morton @Beathhigh @PeterAlanRoss @CarrieElks #writing #reading #crimefiction #romanticfiction #nonfiction #motivation

Staying motivated in spite of everything

Welcome back to the blog and to my first post of 2021 – and I’d like to start by wishing all my readers A Happy and Healthy New Year.

So new year, new plans. But if 2020 taught us anything it’s probably that plans are just that. They are dreams, aims and intentions we set for the future. But they do not come with any form of guarantee of fulfilment.

However, that doesn’t mean we should stop dreaming, hoping and planning. After all, we humans are nothing if not adaptable. The last year has certainly taught us that. It has also shown that we can be amazingly resilient, self-reliant and compassionate. So, let’s keep all of that in mind as we set off into our still rather uncertain futures.

And most of all let’s try and remember that that compassion we know we’re capable of is extended first and foremost to ourselves. It’s like the oxygen mask principle – you have to ensure your own wellbeing before you can help others or indeed yourself.

So when making plans cut your self some slack. If life gets in the way of renovating the house, taking that course, seeking that promotion, losing that weight, – em, writing that novel 😊 – DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP! Adapt the aims, change the timescale, reset the focus and set off again.

Now, full disclosure, all of the above advice is something I’m not very good at taking on board. If beating yourself up was an Olympic sport I’d have a gold medal in it. But my takeaway from all of the past year’s challenges is I need to let go of the tablet of stone approach and embrace the sheet of paper that can be torn up and thrown away. Do you like that metaphor by the way? Can you guess I’m a writer? 😊

Yes, there was slippage in my writing schedule last year. I did get my fifth novel out but as far as getting down to the next one, my concentration was pathetic for several months. In the end I had to allow myself to step away from it all for a bit and to go back when I was ready. And that’s what I’ve done.

And now I’ve found a new and much more productive way of approaching my work. I’ve set myself publication targets that are completely flexible, with lots of possible timeout built in, and I’m prepared to re-set them if necessary. Instead of a daily word count I’ve set aside a time target – anything from three hours to half an hour. If it goes on beyond the time set, great, but if not I’ll still have achieved something – even if it was only turning up. This doesn’t mean I do nothing else the rest of the time. I might be planning a chapter or taking care of the business side of writing and publishing, or indeed writing a blog post.

And you know what? It’s working. Not only am I cracking on with the novel, I’m also writing a novellla, and in time away from the desk I’m getting my daily walk (ice and snow permitting), keeping in virtual touch with friends and family , and doing some childcare looking after one of my grandchildren while her parents work.

So, so far so good for 2021.

Another element of the ‘new writing me’ is that I’ve decided to reduce my blogging frequency to once a month rather than once a week – in order to free up some time for my other projects. So from now on I’ll post on the last Monday of every month and the post will include my favourite reads of that month.

January’s Books of the Month

I’ve set an intention to read more widely this year, to get out of my romantic comfort zone more often and read more thrillers, crime novels and non-fiction. I’m also hoping to reread some old faithfuls.

I think I’ve got of to a good start and January has included a variety of reading genres. Here are my favourites for this month:

THRILLER

West Wind by Ian Rankin

It always starts with a small lie. That’s how you stop noticing the bigger ones.

After his friend suspects something strange going on at the launch facility where they both work – and then goes missing – Martin Hepton doesn’t believe the official line of “long-term sick leave”…

Refusing to stop asking questions, he leaves his old life behind, aware that someone is shadowing his every move.

The only hope he has is his ex-girlfriend Jill Watson – the only journalist who will believe his story.

But neither of them can believe the puzzle they’re piecing together – or just how shocking the secret is that everybody wants to stay hidden…

A gripping, page-turning suspense masterclass – available in print for the first time in nearly thirty years.

NON-FICTION

A Tomb With a View by Peter Ross

Enter a grave new world of fascination and delight as award-winning writer Peter Ross uncovers the stories and glories of graveyards. Who are London’s outcast dead and why is David Bowie their guardian angel? What is the remarkable truth about Phoebe Hessel, who disguised herself as a man to fight alongside her sweetheart, and went on to live in the reigns of five monarchs? Why is a Bristol cemetery the perfect wedding venue for goths?

All of these sorrowful mysteries – and many more – are answered in A Tomb With A View, a book for anyone who has ever wandered through a field of crooked headstones and wondered about the lives and deaths of those who lie beneath.

So push open the rusting gate, push back the ivy, and take a look inside…

CRIME

Double Identity by Alison Morton

Deeply in love, a chic Parisian lifestyle before her. Now she’s facing prison for murder.

It’s three days since Mel des Pittones threw in her job as an intelligence analyst with the French special forces to marry financial trader Gérard Rohlbert. But her dream turns to nightmare when she wakes to find him dead in bed beside her.

Her horror deepens when she’s accused of his murder. Met Police detective Jeff McCracken wants to pin Gérard’s death on her. Mel must track down the real killer, even if that means being forced to work with the obnoxious McCracken.

But as she unpicks her fiancé’s past, she discovers his shocking secret life. To get to the truth, she has to go undercover—and finds almost everybody around her is hiding a second self.

Mel can trust nobody. Can she uncover the real killer before they stop her?

ROMANCE

Baby I’m Yours by Carrie Elks

Two tiny lines will change everything…

Doctor James Tanner is gorgeous, successful and decisively single.
He’s also a widower with a broken heart.
So when he meets a beautiful woman on a fateful night out, their chemistry shocks him to the core.

Harper Hayes is irresistible.
With her pink-tipped hair and tantalizing smile, she makes him forget all his pain.

One night together won’t hurt, will it?
One night to get her out of his system.
Then he’ll leave in the morning without a backward glance.

But actions have consequences, and this one will change both their lives forever.
And when Harper sees those two little lines she knows exactly what that means.
Now she just needs to find the man who left her alone in bed after their one night together.

What a shame she doesn’t even know his name…

And that’s it for January. What have been your favourite reads this month? How are you finding 2021 so far? Have you made any plans? If so what? Are you managing to stay motivated?

Please do share any comments/responses below.

Till next time, stay safe, stay sane and stay in touch.

Staying Safe and Staying Sane – the 2020 Way: Walk, Write, Read, Repeat #health #writing #reading #Covid

Look away now if you don’t want to read a post with the ‘c’ word in it – and by ‘c’ word I mean Covid-19.

Staying Safe

It’s probably safe to stay, wherever you are in the world, that life during much of 2020 has been difficult, with us all having to get used to a new sort of normal due to the Covid pandemic. But I should say right at the start that I’m grateful that I – and my nearest and dearest – have remained healthy throughout. And I’m doing my bit to keep it that way – for everyone I encounter as well as myself – by washing my hands, wearing a mask and doing the social-distancing thing. It’s really not that hard.

Staying Sane

But with all the restrictions on social life and travel – I’ve certainly found staying sane by looking after my mental and emotional health to be harder than staying physically well and virus free.  Not being able to see my grandchildren has been one of the hardest things, but I’ve also missed the lack of simple day-to-day variety. And just as with grief, there have been stages along the way – denial and disbelief at first, followed by anger, followed by a grudging sort of acceptance.

However, I’m aware I’m not alone in struggling with being stuck inside my own head. I’ve made a conscious effort to keep in touch with friends and family throughout lockdown, lockdown easing and back to lockdown.

And, just as it’s become customary to sign off emails, texts and phone calls by telling the person you’re communicating with to ‘stay safe’, I now add the just as important phrase ‘stay sane’.

What Works for Me

Walking the Walk

Going out for a daily 60-90 minute walk was something I did before Covid struck, but it has become even more important during the restrictions on just about everything else. Quite apart from the physical benefits of exercise, moving around outdoors is beneficial in all sorts of ways. Seeing aspects of nature – the trees, the hills and the river – that I’m blessed to have nearby – along with the associated wildlife such as squirrels, herons and otters really does do wonders for raising my spirits. But so does seeing and greeting other folks also out and about – whether they’re also out for exercise, or walking their dogs, or simply getting a bit of local shopping.

It’s also a chance for my mind to go off on a wander of its own. And this can mean that the brain fog lifts and some clear and productive thinking can take place – thereby soothing anxieties or solving problems. And there’s the added bonus for me as a writer that walking gives my imagination space to also go for a stroll – and it’s often while I’m out and about that inspiration strikes.

Getting Creative

The second vital aspect required for me staying sane is to have a purpose – to have a creative, enjoyable and satisfying job to do. This, like walking, was important to me BC (Before Covid) but it’s even more so now. And for me creative, enjoyable and satisfying means writing. Now, more than ever, escaping into my own imaginary world where I’m in charge and there’s no pandemic in sight is bliss. Hours can pass when I’m at my desk, steeped in my made up stories, and no viral thoughts occur.

Escaping into a Book

When the walk has been taken and the day’s writing wordcount has been accomplished – what then to keep the anxiety, gloom and boredom at bay? Yes, a bit of TV is good – especially now that Strictly Come Dancing is back on UK screens. But even better is escaping into someone else’s imaginary world – i.e. by reading. And, yes – as with the walking and the writing – reading was always a favourite pastime of mine but, oh boy, in these last few months it has been essential. I’ve read far more books than I would normally and, as with the other two sanity savers, reading has been an enormous source of comfort and an aid to my overall wellbeing.

And there you have it – three solitary activities that have saved me on a daily basis in 2020.

Over to you

I hope all of you are keeping well physically and mentally too during our trying times. If so, please do share what has worked for you in the comments below.

And stay safe – and sane – everyone!

PS – Related Question I mentioned last week about contemporary fiction that includes the Covid pandemic in the storyline and asked for your opinions. Thank you so much to those who replied. I’d still love to hear what others think about both writing and reading such fiction. Should the virus be included or ignored? Is it too soon to have it feature in a story? Would ignoring it in a novel set in 2020 be like ignoring World War Two in a story set in the 1940s? Or would you prefer to get around the issue as a writer or reader by not having the year specified in the story?

A Life in a Day of a Writer: Author Heidi Swain @Heidi_Swain shares a typical writing day #writing #books #reading

Heidi Swain – author

Today it’s the turn of feel good romantic fiction writer Heidi Swain to give us a glimpse into the sort of days that make up her life as a writer.

Heidi’s latest book is The Winter Garden which I recently read and absolutely loved – more about that later. But now over to Heidi.

Heidi’s writing space

Heidi Swain’s Writing Life in a Day

How my writing day is organised depends on which part of the process I happen to be working on. Planning and plotting days are fairly free and easy, reading page proof days have lots of breaks littered throughout to keep the mind (allegedly) fresh, but writing the first draft and editing is much more structured and it is one of those days which I’m going to describe for you today.

I write Monday to Friday and the day is broken into well-defined chunks. I have tried a variety of schedules, but find this the most productive. In a good week, working like this and with no domestic dramas and minimal interruptions, I can manage to write just shy of 20,000 words over the five days.

The day starts at between 5.30 and 5.45. Between getting up and sitting down at the laptop – which is on a desk in my bedroom – at 7am, I’ll either take a walk around the village or do a few laps in the garden, then sort any laundry, open curtains and windows, make tea and mentally prepare myself by thinking through or reading over the notes I will have written at the end of the last writing session the day before.

Between 7am and 9am I’ll write. Sometimes I spend a while working through the last chapter, otherwise I’ll crack straight on with the next, often making notes on things to add, change or amend on scrap paper as I go.

9am to 10am is time for breakfast, cat cuddles and writing reflection.

10am to 12 is a repeat of the first writing session of the day, although this is probably when the most words go down and I’m properly ‘in the zone’. By this point the scene is firmly set in my head and I’m eager to get it typed.

12 – 1pm is lunch, washing dishes and more reflection. Quite often at this point I’m feeling a little dazed!

1pm – 3pm is another session at the laptop. However, if I feel the writing is coming to a natural close – such as when I reach the end of a chapter – I will finish early. This afternoon spot always ends with me writing up a precis of what I’ve just written in the notebook assigned for that novel, and then I’ll make notes in another book about what comes next.

I find this note taking invaluable and will often also write the opening paragraph of the next chapter on screen ready for the next day. By writing down what happens next, I have a clear idea of what I’m going to write and throughout the rest of the day I can visualise it, often writing more notes covering the finer details along with scraps of dialogue.

Having a well-defined idea of what comes next ensures I don’t sit down and stare at a blank screen. The scene is already there, in my head and I can translate it straight to the screen without wasting time or getting in a flap – which I undoubtedly would!

At the end of the day comes the admin – catching up with emails, posting on social media and any other business. This all happens right up until bedtime. Weekends are when I write guest posts like this, update my blog, spend a bit longer on social media and generally collapse in a befuddled heap for a while.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I tend not to finish before 3pm as I have morning Pilates classes via Zoom – invaluable to counter all of those hours hunched over the keyboard – so they have to be factored into the schedule.

And that’s it. A typical day in my writing – a first draft – life!

I know it probably all comes across as pretty prescriptive, but it’s a routine that works for me and with two books being published a year, I need to stick to it in order to hit my deadlines. A strict routine like this wouldn’t work for everyone of course and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you’re getting the words down. As long as the word count is rising, you can do it how you like, when you like and where you like. Not everyone thrives on the same set up but I feel comfortable and safe in my well-structured day. It took me a while to figure it out, but now I’ve found it, I’m sticking to it!

Anne: Thank you to Heidi for this informative and entertaining insight into her writing life.

You can read more about Heidi and about her latest book below. It’s called The Winter Garden and, as I said above, I thoroughly enjoyed this satisfying and so romantic story and the main characters, Freya and Finn are perfectly flawed and so likeable. It’s a perfect autumn/winter read.

From the back cover:

Freya Fuller is estranged from her parents and has been following her dream of becoming a gardener ever since. When an opportunity to design a winter garden opens up at a Victorian property in Nightingale Square, Freya jumps at the chance to make a fresh start.

But while the majority of the residents are welcoming, local artist Finn seems determined to shut her out, and when Freya’s family make a surprise appearance, it seems that her new life is about to come crashing down . . .

Buy Link:

You can buy The Winter Garden HERE

More about Heidi:

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in Literature, flirted briefly with a newspaper career, married and had two children before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes feel good fiction with heart for Simon and Schuster.

Her debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café was published in July 2015 and since then she has had a further nine books published, becoming a Sunday Times Bestseller in 2017. She is currently looking forward to the release of her 2020 Christmas title, The Winter Garden.

Heidi is represented by Amanda Preston and lives in Norfolk with her family and a mischievous cat called Storm.

Heidi ONLINE:

You can connect with Heidi at the links below:

Website: HERE

Twitter: @Heidi_Swain

Facebook: Writer Heidi Jo Swain

Amazon: HERE

Publisher: https://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/

http://booksandthecity.co.uk/

Five on Friday with Anne Stormont @writeanne #FiveOnFriday #ContemporaryRomanticFiction

Hello everyone, I hope your Friday is going well. I just wanted to share a guest spot I have today over at Jill’s Book Cafe as part of her Five on Friday series. It was good fun taking part and coming up with answers to all the interesting questions and categories. So thank you to Jill for having me over at her place and I hope you enjoy the post. Have a good weekend and stay safe.

Jill's Book Cafe

Today I’m delighted to feature author Anne Stormont. Anne writes contemporary romantic fiction where the main characters are older but not necessarily wiser. She hopes the stories she tells will entertain, but she also hopes they will move, challenge and inspire her readers.  She has written three novels so far – Change of Life, was her first. This was followed by the Skye series of three novels Displacement, Settlement and the newly published Fulfilment.

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Out and about – author on the loose again! #authors #bookbloggers #books

But it’s still all about the books!

I know! It’s happening again. A couple of weeks ago I posted about my visit to the Isle of Skye to do an author talk and deliver a writing workshop. And I mentioned in that post how good it is to get away from the desk from time to time.

So good that I escaped again a couple of days ago and will do so again before the end of November – in both cases to do more authorly stuff.

Authors and Book Bloggers in Scotland Christmas Lunch

This took place in Edinburgh on Saturday and was the latest real-world meet up of this wonderful online Facebook group which (as the name suggests) is for authors and book bloggers who are based in Scotland, or who write/review books set in Scotland. In the group members can share information about books they’ve written or reviewed or publicise book related events taking place in Scotland.

I’ve attended a few of the group’s get-together lunches and it’s always lovely to meet folks you’ve only previously known online or to catch up with folks you’ve met before. And the talk of course is mainly about books but includes lots of real life chat too.

And Saturday’s Christmas lunch meeting was no exception. It was organised by the amazing Joanne of Portobello Book Blog and Kelly who runs Love Books Group and was held at Wildwood in the capital’s Lothian Road. The food was great – that’s my yummy main course in the picture above – and the company was superb. It was so good to connect with some enthusiastic readers of my books and also with those who’ve posted such great reviews on their blogs. And it was interesting, too, to hear what other writers are currently working on and to share writer-type concerns and tips.

It was especially nice to have a good catch-up with author Linda Gillard to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude for encouraging me to get started writing books in the first place. Linda has a new book out in February and you can find more details about that below. She was also a guest author at my virtual book festival here on the blog a few months ago and you can find her event here. I’ve read and loved all her books.

We also had a Secret Santa gift exchange. We all contributed a book to the lucky-dip and I struck very lucky. I only went and picked the latest novel by a favourite author of mine – a book I was going to be buying, but now don’t have to. Yes, I was delighted to get the fabulous Michael J Malone’s new novel – In the Absence of Miracles. So THANK YOU to whoever was my secret gift-giver – and you have excellent taste.

So all-in-all a fab awayday.

Village Christmas Gifts & Craft Fair

And this coming Saturday I have the above Christmas Fair here in the village where I live. I will be attending as a stallholder where I’ll be selling my books. I always enjoy events like this where, regardless of how many books I sell, it’s good to talk to all the folks who stop by the table. But, of course I’m hoping quite a few people will see my books as an ideal gift for someone om their list – or maybe even for themselves.

Back to Work

But after the fun times away from the office, it will be back down to some serious hard work – both in the run up to and after the festive season. After all, the new book’s not going to get itself ready for its 2020 publication …

And in case you want to know more about the book I won:

In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone

From the back cover:

A young man discovers a family secret that turns his world upside down in this dark, emotive, shocking psychological thriller by number-one bestselling author Michael J. Malone

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit and revise his childhood.

For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.

You can get the book in bookshops or online. The Amazon UK link is here

 

And Linda Gillard’s Book is called Hidden

From the back cover:

A birth. A death. Hidden for a hundred years.

1918

“Lady, fiancé killed, will gladly marry officer totally blinded or otherwise incapacitated by the war.”

A sense of duty and a desire for a child lead celebrated artist Esme Howard to share her life and her home – 16th-century Myddleton Mote – with Captain Guy Carlyle, an officer whose face and body have been ravaged by war. But Esme knows nothing of the ugliness that lurks within Guy’s tortured mind, as he re-lives, night after night, the horrors of the trenches.

As a child grows within her, Esme fears Guy’s wrath will be turned on them both. A prisoner in her own home, she paints like one possessed, trusting that one day someone will hear her silent cries for help.

2018

When Miranda Norton inherits Myddleton Mote and its art collection from a father she never knew, she decides to move on after the end of an unhappy marriage. Inviting her extended family to join her, Miranda sets about restoring the house and turning it into a thriving business.

When the moat is drained for repairs, a skeleton emerges with a bullet hole in its skull. Someone from Miranda’s past returns to torment her and an appalling act of vandalism reveals dark secrets, hidden for a hundred years.

You can preorder the book here It will be published in February 2020

Smash All the Windows by Jane Davis @janedavisauthor #bookreview #MondayBlogs #amreading

Smash All the Windows

This novel is contemporary literary fiction at its best. It has humanity, emotion and a great story at its heart.

From the back cover:  
It has taken conviction to right the wrongs.

It will take courage to learn how to live again.

For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.

Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.

If only it were that simple.

Tapping into the issues of the day, Davis delivers a highly charged work of fiction, a compelling testament to the human condition and the healing power of art. Written with immediacy, style and an overwhelming sense of empathy, Smash all the Windows will be enjoyed by readers of How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall and How to be Both by Ali Smith.

My Review:

This is a wonderful book. It has resonances with real life disasters and what happens afterwards. It’s a tribute to the human capacity to survive and heal and to the power of love that endures after death.

The story deals with the aftermath of an accident on an escalator on the London Underground. It tells of the traumatic effects on some of the victims and their loved ones. The author gradually draws you into each character’s story and she does it with such sympathy, empathy and insight that it makes for a gripping and emotional read. I liked how the grieving process was so honestly portrayed as messy and unpredictable and, at times, all-consuming. The characters couldn’t move on while they waited years for the revised official ruling into what caused the accident. But then even after that happens, comes the realisation that grief doesn’t conveniently stop. And this is portrayed quite beautifully.

A thought-provoking, poignant and uplifting read.

Smash All the Windows is available as a paperback and as an ebook.

Staying in with Anne Stormont

I was delighted to be invited to spend a virtual evening in with Linda over at her Linda’s Book Bag blog. We chatted about my novel Displacement and a bit about its sequel Settlement due out later this year. We also enjoyed a wee dram and some tasty snacks – appropriate to the setting of the book. You can read all about it in Linda’s post which I’ve reblogged here.

Linda's Book Bag

Displacement Cover MEDIUM WEB

I’m so thrilled to be staying in with Anne Stormont today because I feel as if I’ve ‘known’ Anne forever. She has been such a wonderful supporter of Linda’s Book Bag that I’m delighted to welcome her here today.

If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.

Staying in with Anne Stormont

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Anne. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me as I feel I’ve known you for ever.

Which of your books have you brought along to share with me and why have you chosen it?

I’ve chosen Displacement. I chose it as I still feel very close to it and its characters. This could be because I’m currently writing its sequel, Settlement. And I’d like to introduce readers of this blog to…

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Bad Apples by JJ Marsh @JJMarsh1 #bookreview #MondayBlogs #amreading

Bad Apples

A satisfying, delightful, engaging read

Regular readers of my book reviews will know I’m a big fan of crime writer JJ Marsh. So my expectations were high when I came to read Bad Apples, the sixth and final book in the DI Beatrice Stubbs series. My high expectations were more than met but I was also gutted that this was to be Beatrice’s last case. However this meant I savoured it all the more.

 

Back Cover Blurb: Acting DCI Beatrice Stubbs is representing Scotland Yard at a police conference in Portugal. Her task is to investigate a rumour – a ghostwritten exposé of European intelligence agencies – and discover who is behind such a book.

Hardly a dangerous assignment, so she invites family and friends for a holiday. Days at the conference and evenings at the villa should be the perfect work-life balance.

Until one of her colleagues is murdered.

An eclectic alliance of international detectives forms to find the assassin. But are they really on the same side?

Meanwhile, tensions rise at the holiday villa. A clash of egos sours the atmosphere and when a five-year-old child disappears, their idyll turns hellish.

From Lisbon streets to the quays of Porto, Parisian cafés to the green mountains of Gerês, Beatrice realises trust can be a fatal mistake.

 

My Review: As in the previous books, Bad Apples has Scotland Yard detective, Beatrice Stubbs, working alongside police colleagues in Europe. This time the setting is Portugal and as always, JJ Marsh’s writing style ensures the reader really feels they’re there. The cities of Porto and Lisbon along with the Portugal’s mountains are all vividly brought to life with small details capturing so much.

There are two plotlines – one domestic and personal, and one criminal. The supporting cast are wonderful as always including old and loved characters as well as some new ones. And Beatrice is at her lovable and quirky best and still uttering those mixed metaphors of hers such as ‘ears to the grindstone’, ‘long in the hoof’, and ‘a dustman’s holiday’.

The action begins quietly enough with Beatrice, close to retirement and having been promoted to Acting Chief Inspector, preparing to attend a European police conference in Portugal. And for this final working trip, she has decided to combine work with pleasure. So whenever she’s free she intends to join her partner, the wonderful Matthew, and other family and friends at a villa they’ve rented in the Portuguese hills. But it’s not long before there’s a murder and some other sinister events which not only require Beatrice and her colleagues to investigate crime rather than attend seminars, but also threaten the safety of Beatrice and those close to her. Yes, all the usual ingredients of a DI Stubbs plot are there and the story is told with all JJ Marsh’s usual flair. The writing is clever, original, witty and warm and the twists and turns are far from obvious. And the end if both fitting and satisfying.

And so it’s farewell to Beatrice, and here’s hoping she enjoys a long and happy retirement. I’ll miss her. *

 

All the books in this series including Bad Apples are available in paperback and ebook formats and are published by Prewett Publishing. They are also available as two e-book box sets of three.

*PS: adding this to original post. JJ Marsh has been in touch and assured me that although Beatrice has retired, her adventures will continue and three more books are planned. Hurrah!

It’s Who We Are by Christine Webber @1chriswebber #bookreview #MondayBlogs #amreading

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An entertaining, interesting and satisfying read

As promised in my previous post where I interviewed author, Christine Webber, here is my review of her new novel It’s Who We Are.

From the back cover: Five friends in their fifties find themselves dealing with unforeseen upheaval as they uncover long-hidden and devastating family secrets. Meanwhile, the world around them seems to be spinning out of control. This is a novel about friendship, kindness and identity – and about how vital it is to reach for what enhances rather than depletes you.

My Review: As in her previous novel, Who’d Have Thought It, Christine Webber has produced a perfectly judged contemporary tale. The protagonists are in their fifties and linked to one another through friendship. All five of them are facing challenges some of which are age-related and some of which are simply related to what it means to be human regardless of age or stage.

The various challenges which drive the plot include supporting adult children, coping with ageing parents, facing up to divorce, beginning new relationships, managing the demands of work and facing up to getting older. Bu the overriding theme is the one of relationships, of the ties that bind – familial, romantic and friendship and how they inform a person’s identity.

The five main characters are a great mix. They are realistically drawn and they’re a diverse group but the reader cares about all of them.

This is a story that deals with all of life – its joys, sorrows and imperfections.

All in all it’s a lovely satisfying read.