Category Archives: Book blog

When Stars Will Shine compiled by Emma Mitchell @emmamitchelfpr #BookPromo #WhenStarsWillShine #HelpForHeroes

Today I’m sharing a promo post about When Stars Will Shine, I don’t normally do these kind of posts, but it’s for such a worthwhile cause, as all proceeds go to #HelpForHeroes.

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When Stars Will Shine is a collection of short stories from your favourite authors who have come together to deliver you a read with a twist.

With true war tales that will break your heart, gritty Christmas crimes that will shake you to your core, and heart-warming tales of love lost and found, this anthology has something for everyone. And, with every penny made being sent to support our troops, you can rest assured that you’re helping our heroes, one page at a time.

From authors such as Louise Jensen, Graham Smith, Malcolm Hollingdrake, Lucy Cameron, Val Portelli, and Alex Kane, you are in for one heck of a ride!

When Stars Will Shine is the perfect gift for the bookworms in your life!

A Note from Emma Mitchell:

Working closely with Kate Noble at Noble owl proof reading  and Amanda Ni Odhrain from Let’s get booked  I’ve been able to pick the best of the submissions to bring you a thrilling book which is perfect for dipping into at lunchtime or snuggling up with on a cold winter’s night. I have been completely blown away by the support we’ve received from the writing and blogging community, especially the authors who submitted stories and Shell Baker from Baker’s not so secret blog , who has organised the cover reveal and blog tour.

There isn’t a person in the country who hasn’t benefited from the sacrifices our troops, past and present, have made for us and they all deserve our thanks.

It has been an honour working on these stories, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have.

Full contents:

Fredrick Snellgrove, Private 23208 by Rob Ashman

Four Seasons by Robert Scragg

The Close Encounter by Gordon Bickerstaff

Believe by Mark Brownless

What Can Possibly Go Wrong? by Lucy Cameron

Mountain Dew by Paul T. Campbell

The Art of War and Peace by John Carson

A Gift for Christmas by Kris Egleton

Free Time by Stewart Giles

Died of Wounds by Malcolm Hollingdrake

The Christmas Killer by Louise Jensen

The Village Hotel by Alex Kane 

A Present of Presence by HR Kemp

The Invitation by Billy McLaughlin

Brothers Forever by Paul Moore

Girl in a Red Shirt by Owen Mullen

Pivotal Moments by Anna Franklin Osborne

Uncle Christmas by Val Portelli

Time for a Barbeque by Carmen Radtke

Christmas Present by Lexi Rees

Inside Out by KA Richardson

Penance by Jane Risdon

New Year’s Resolution by Robert Scragg

Family Time by Graham Smith 

When Stars Will Shine is available to in digital and paperback formats and on Kindle Unlimited.

Buying link: Amazon UK 🇬🇧

**please note I do not use affiliated links on my blog**

For more information, please contact Emma Mitchell: emmamitchellfpr@gmail.com

You can read my full review here…..When Stars Will Shine compiled by Emma Mitchell @emmamitchelfpr @BakerPromo #WhenStarsWillShine #HelpForHeroes

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The Home by Sarah Stovell @sarahlovescrime @OrendaBooks #BookShelfReads #BookHangoverAward

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my first review of 2020, it’s for The Home by Sarah Stovell, and what a fabulous, heartbreaking read it turned out to be. I’m not sure I have conveyed just how amazing this book is, but you can read on for my thoughts and apologies for my ramblings……

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One more little secret … one more little lie…

When the body of a pregnant fifteen-year-old is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For Hope lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away…

As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking and distressing revelations … and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.

A gritty, dark and devastating psychological thriller, The Home is also an emotive drama and a piercing look at the underbelly of society, where children learn what they live … if they are allowed to live at all.

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I’m not sure I can convey just how much this book affected me, The Home by Sarah Stovell is a book that will swallow you up, and then spit you out, your heart will break, you will live and breathe the tragic and horrifying story of three young girls Hope, Lara and Annie. These characters will burrow their way into your heart and mind leaving you bereft as this haunting tale reaches its final pages. The Home is part mystery, part thriller, and yet it’s so much more, it’s an emotive, deeply moving, and tragic tale of those who live amid abuse and poverty. 

Hope, Laura and Annie first meet in The Home, three damaged girls who find themselves bound together by their shared horrifying and imaginable pasts. The story begins with the shocking death of pregnant fifteen-year-old Hope, but Hope’s death is only the beginning of the story, what lies beneath is the heart-breaking story of three girls failed by a flawed system, failed by budget cuts and staff shortages.  Although this is a fictional story, for me it’s felt like the heartbreaking story of thousands of children who have been placed in care through no fault of their own. They have grown up where love and nurturing have been replaced with violence and abuse, their young life’s shaped by abusive parents, family and friends. 

The authors almost lyrical prose could seem at odds with this harrowing tale, but the two fit perfectly together creating one of the most emotive stories I have ever read. Sarah Stovell has created three living, breathing characters, you feel their every emotion, anger, despair, fear and frustration. A small part of me kept wishing for that ‘happy ever after ending’, but is there such a thing for children who have been so badly damaged? It’s a story that’s brutal, disquieting, and uncomfortable and yet there are tender moments filled with ‘hope’, love and friendships.  

There’s no getting away from it Sarah Stovall has written a multi layered story that left me broken, as I reached the final pages I openly cried for Hope, Annie and Laura, and that’s a testament to the author’s superb writing. The author has bravely tackled some uncomfortable subjects, but in doing so she has created a beautiful, compelling read that will haunt me for a long time to come. If you are looking for a ‘warm fuzzy’ read then this book definitely isn’t one for you, but if you are looking for a book that has depth, with unforgettable characters, a book that will cause you to feel a spectrum of emotions then you should make The Home your next read. Highly recommended.  

It will come as no surprise but I’m giving The Home my first shiny Book hangover award of 2020, It’s given to a book I feel is particularly outstanding, a book that covers every aspect of what I look for in a read, an original  plot, great characters and a storyline that draws me in from the first page and keeps me in its grips until I reach the very last page.

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Buying links:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧    Amazon USA 🇺🇸

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Orenda Books (22 Jan. 2020) kindle copy out now 

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**The book review Café top ten books of the year 2019**

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With a new year approaching it’s time to share my final post of the year, my top ten reads of 2019. I must admit I was hoping to read lots more books this year, but unfortunately life got in the way. Compared to some book bloggers my total read is abysmal, am I bothered? The answers believe it or not is ‘no’ I would rather read 103 fabulous books in a year, than hundreds of books that were unmemorable!     

I decided to choose my top ten reads from the books I choose to give my book hangover award to, 16 in total. It was a really hard choice but these are the books that I still think of months after reading them.

What criteria does a book need to meet to win my book hangover award?

It’s given to a book I feel is particularly outstanding, a book that covers every aspect of what I look for in a read, an original  plot, great characters and a storyline that draws me in from the first page and keeps me in its grips until I reach the very last page.

So without further ado here are my top reads of 2019 in no particular order…..

Changeling by Matt Wesolowski

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If you’re looking for a series with an ingenious plot, a book that’s tense, deliciously dark, a classic mystery with a horror feel then look no further than Changeling by Matt Wesolowski it has all these elements and so much more.

https://thebookreviewcafe.com/2019/01/21/changeling-sixstories-by-matt-wesolowski-bookreview-orendabooks-concretekraken-

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

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The Silent Patient is an assured debut from Alex Michaelides, he’s definitely an author to watch out for. Highly recommend if you enjoy a dark, shocking psychological thriller that will leave you speechless (excuse the pun!) 

https://thebookreviewcafe.com/2019/02/05/thesilentpatient-by-alex-michaelides-alexmichaelides-orionbooks-2019mustreads-benwillisuk-bookhangoveraward/

Breakers by Doug Johnstone

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Breakers is a searing and heartbreaking portrayal of modern day Britain, the author takes the reader on an emotional journey, one that at times feels uncomfortable, it packs a hell of a punch, you will find yourself questioning your own assumptions, it’s a book whose characters will remain with you long after you reach the last page

Breakers by Doug Johnstone #BookReview @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks #Breakers #BookHangoverAward

The Whisper Man by Alex North

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There is nothing more terrifying than a child being murdered, and the author expertly plays on these fears, creating a dark, creepy, and haunting read. Be prepared for a few sleepless nights, it takes a lot to unnerve me, but this book actually scared me silly in parts! (In the best possible way)

https://thebookreviewcafe.com/2019/06/05/the-whisper-man-by-alex-north-writer_north-michaeljbooks-bookreview-thewhisperman-mustreads-bookhangoveraward/

Black Summer by M W Craven

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I loved how the author brought all the threads together culminating in a jaw dropping, but very satisfying and clever conclusion. Black Summer isn’t as dark or gory as The Puppet Show, but OMG if anything I probably enjoyed this book more, there’s so many questions, intrigue, and mystery, my perfect kind of crime read.

https://thebookreviewcafe.com/2019/06/17/black-summer-by-m-w-craven-bookreview-mwcravenuk-littlebrownuk-thecrimevault-washingtonpoe-blacksummer-bookhangoveraward/

In The Absence Of Miracles by Michael J Malone

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Michael Malone is one of those rare author who appears to be able to write in any genre and turn what could be an interesting read, into something extra special, definitely a book that will stay with me for a long time to come.

https://thebookreviewcafe.com/2019/08/19/in-the-absence-of-miracles-by-michael-j-malone-michaeljmalone-orendabooks-bookreview-mustreads-bookhangoveraward/

Blood song by Johana Gustawsson

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The thing I admire about this author’s novels is the fact she can take a period in history, in this case Spain 1938 and the brutalities of Spain’s dictatorship, and incorporate them with crimes set in 2016, how can someone combine such distant periods into a credible story and intertwine them? and yet Gustawsson accomplishes both producing a story that’s harrowing, disturbing, but such a compelling and intensely heart wrenching read.    

https://thebookreviewcafe.com/2019/08/23/blood-song-by-johana-gustawsson-bookreview-jogustawsson-orendabooks-mustreads/

Nine Elms by Robert Bryndza

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Dark Elms takes the authors writing to a whole new level of amazing. Dark Elms ticks all the boxes for me it’s dark, gory (I grimaced at more than a couple of the authors descriptive crime scenes) and features a serial killer who will send shivers down your spine, if Hannibal Lecter gave you nightmares, be prepared for a few disturbed nights! 

https://thebookreviewcafe.com/2019/11/01/nine-elms-by-robertbryndza-littlebrownuk-bookssphere-nineelms-mustreads-bookhangoveraward/

Dead Memories by Angela Marsons

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As a huge crime thriller reader I can sometimes find a long-running series has lost its lustre, they can feel repetitive and lacking the suspense I look forward too, but “hell” no Angela Marsons makes sure each book has a unique plot, that are packed to the brim with suspense, with characters whom you genuinely care about. 

https://thebookreviewcafe.com/2019/02/21/deadmemories-by-angela-marsons-mustreads-writeangie-bookouture-bookhangoveraward/

Non Fiction read of the year 

Four Feet Under by Tamsen Courtenay

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Four Feet Under is a powerful and moving insight into the day-to-day lives of some the unfortunate people who through tragedy, misfortune and bad decisions have found themselves living on the streets of Britain, displaced, dispossessed and destitute.

#FourFeetUnder By Tamsen Courtenay @TamsenC_writer @unbounders #Recommended #TrueStory #Homeless

Highly recommended reads for a book hangover

Turn The Other Way by Stuart James

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For me horror is all about my emotional reaction, that feeling of fear and dread as you turn each page, the constant feeling you should be reading a book from behind a cushion (not practical but you get my drift), a book that makes the heart pound and every little noise makes you jump. This is exactly how Turn The Other Way by Stuart James made me feel, it’s a shocker of a horror thriller novel.  

https://thebookreviewcafe.com/2019/02/18/turn-the-other-way-by-stuart-james-stuartjames73-mustreads-horror-thriller-crime-mustreads/

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

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My Lovely Wife is a deliciously dark tale of relationships and secrets, not original themes by any means, but it’s so different to any other novel I’ve read, it’s wickedly entertaining, full of black humour, and as for the characters their deeply flawed but fascinating never the less.

https://thebookreviewcafe.com/2019/04/30/my-lovely-wife-by-samantha-downing-smariedowning-penguinrandom-mylovelywife-bookhangoveraward-bookreview/

The Passenger by John Marrs

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The Passenger a futuristic novel set in the not to distance future blew me away its original, taut and brilliantly written.  I read this book at every opportunity, irritated by the slightest disturbance, which for me is always a sign of a fantastic read.  

The Passenger by John Marrs @JohnMarrs1 @EdburyPublication #MustReads #SciFi #BookHangoverAward

Night by Jack Jordan

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If there’s one thing I can be sure of it’s that Jack Jordan never fails to amaze me, each book he’s written has been very different in tone, content and plot. But still Night By Night the latest offering from the author took even me by surprise, I wasn’t expecting to have my heart shattered, or to find myself sobbing uncontrollably, at this point I realised I had only read the first four chapters of the novel! Such a brilliant and haunting start to what I consider to be Jack Jordan’s best book yet. 

https://thebookreviewcafe.com/2019/05/15/night-by-night-by-jack-jordan-bookreview-jackjordanbooks-corvusbooks-blogtour-jacksback-nightbynight-bookhangoveraward/

The July Girls by Phoebe Locke

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If from the book description you thought this was a run of the mill ‘serial killer thriller’ you couldn’t be more wrong. This book has so much more to offer the crime thriller lover, it’s a book that’s superbly written, an extraordinary and highly original tale, told through the eyes of a brilliantly drawn character, ten-year-old Addie.

https://thebookreviewcafe.com/2019/08/06/the-july-girls-by-phoebe-locke-phoebe_locke-wildfirebks-review-thejulygirls-summermustreads/

Violet by SJI Holliday

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Oh, how I loved Violet by SJI Holliday, what an intense, psychological thriller this novel turned out to be. Exquisitely written, Violet makes for an all-consuming read, one that begs to be read in one hugely satisfying sitting.

Violet by SJI Holliday #BookReview @SJIHolliday @OrendaBooks #Violet #BookHangoverAward

Books I read in 2019

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And that’s it for another year folks. Here’s wishing my followers old and new, fellow book bloggers, authors and publishers a happy new year, and here’s hoping it’s a good one for you all, and happy reading.

Lorraine x

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**Christmas with Orenda Books** featuring Johana Gustawsson @OrendaBooks @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks #Giveaway

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Todays Christmas post is going to melt your heart, it features  Johana Gustawsson and her beautiful family. It’s hard to imagine this author writes such gory, gritty crime thrillers 😂.

This is my last post for Christmas With Orenda books, I’m feeling a bit sad, I loved reading theses posts and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them too.

What is your favourite Christmas memory?

It was the first Christmas I spent with my husband in France, back in 2011. He finally joined my family celebration in Aubagne, south of France. It was a very simple Christmas, just my parents, my sister, her soon-to-husband and their puppy, but it was a Christmas full of love, celebrating new beginnings.

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Where will you be spending Christmas?

In Vikingland, Stockholm, at my sister-in-law’s place. My eldest and his cousin still believe in Santa so we will make it magical for them. I’m not sure the twins will grasp the concept at only two years old, but I think we will be in for a good laugh!

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Do you have any Christmas traditions?

It depends on where we celebrate Christmas: if it’s Sweden, we follow the Swedish tradition where the big event is on Christmas’ eve lunch, with the famous smörgåsbord, a buffet with Swedish delicacies like herring, pork sausages and beetroot and cream salad, followed by the opening of the gifts which Santa delivers right when the boys are going to look for him in the neighbourhood!

If we are celebrating it in France, the big celebration takes place on Christmas’ eve dinner with foie gras, oysters, turkey and bûche de Noël, the traditional French Christmas cake. Santa then comes during the night and we open gifts on the 25th the morning. And if we are in London, we are doing a mix of it all!

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What was your best ever Christmas present?

It was not a present made to me, but it was the arrival of the first dog in the family: in 2011, my sister and her future husband got a miniature pinscher, Honey. She was just 2 months old at the time and she was such a cute puppy! She is the only one who appears on the Christmas movies and photos!

What was your worst ever Christmas present?

I cannot think of anything! I can tell you though that we have a silly tradition in my husband’s family: my husband’s cousin and his wife got some very ugly wedding presents back in 2005, and one of those is a small flower pot in the shape of a very weird dragon/squirrel that they try to offer back to us every Christmas and that we of course give back the next Christmas. So you have to be very inventive in wrapping it, so that the person opening has no clue about the content of the box. We have had so many laughs with it! They are the ones having it now, so let’s see what they come up with this year!

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Favourite Christmas tipple?

Glögg, the Swedish version of mulled wine, sweeter and with almonds flakes and raisins. Perfect with some gingerbread biscuits topped with blue cheese (stilton is the perfect match!).

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What are you hoping for this Christmas?

To have my first holidays where the twins sleep! 

Have you got a Christmas message you would like to share with readers and bloggers?

Thank you all for your unconditional support which makes my writing experience and path all so emotional and joyful. Wishing you all a wonderful celebration with your family and your friends, the family we choose. 

About Johana Gustawsson

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Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series, including Block 46, Keeper and, soon to be published, Blood Song, has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons.

Books published by Orenda Books

My thanks to Johana Gustawsson for writing this post and for allowing me to share photos from her personal collection. A huge thank you to Karen Sullivan for all her help with the feature, for the fab giveaway and to all the authors who took part.

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I’m signing off now to the new year so I would just like to wish all my fellow bloggers, followers, publishers and authors ‘a very merry Christmas, and best wishes for the new year, and let’s hope it’s a good one for us all’

**Christmas with Orenda Books** featuring Michael J Malone #ExclusiveShortStory @OrendaBooks @michaeljmalone1

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Today is the last day of Christmas with Orenda Books, and I have two special posts to end the series. Check back for the second one in a couple of hours, but first of all, I’m so excited I have been wanting to share this extra special post for ages. Are you ready? The one and only, super talented, (and one of my favourite authors) Michael J Malone has only gone a wrote an exclusive short story for this feature, how amazing is that? 

So Snuggle up in front of a roaring fire with a hot chocolate, and forget your stresses and read this exclusive Christmas story.

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The Xmas Tree and the Queen of Chaos

It’s that time of year, when, with a sigh, I think about having to drag down my Xmas tree from the attic. And while I consider what a struggle that’s going to be, I think about the evening I “acquired” the bloody thing. 

The phone rang one late November evening. It was my twin sister, aka the Queen of Chaos (QC). She’s a lovely lady; four feet eleven inches, a size six, and thinks tact is something you stick your posters on the wall with.

‘I’ve been offered a Xmas tree for nothing,’ she said breathlessly. ‘Second hand. It’s quite tall and cost £190 new just 2 years ago. It’s bound to be a cracker. Only thing is I don’t have a car …’ like this is news. ‘How am I going to get the tree home to my flat? In Troon?’ Like I’ve forgotten where she stays.

My son is with me that night so I bundle him in the car and drive over to hers. She has a piece of paper in her hand with directions to the home of the tree which is fairly near where I live. The directions to the home of said tree were lousy – we got lost in a housing estate with one road in and one road out. 

Several phone calls later, with instructions from my backseat sister, me snapping at her and the wee fella giving me a row for being “bossy with my twin”, we make it.

We finally arrive to see an old lady standing by the door of her flat on the third floor wearing a look of relief. The look of someone who has just been told; yes it piles but we have a cream for that. She directed us to a cupboard in the communal hall and opened a large door. The only thing I saw was a huge white box. You know those containers you see on the back of ships? Roughly the size of one of those.

‘That’s your tree,’ says nice lady and runs back indoors before we can say anything else.

I couldn’t lift the box off the ground, never mind lifting it out to the car, but with the wee fella pushing and me dragging and QC carrying a free box of 30,000 lights the tree owner no longer needed, we made it. By which time my shirt was sticking to my back, my jacket was torn in three places, and I was wishing I only had brothers.

Outside, in the dimly lit car-park I looked at the box. I looked at the boot. Not going to happen. I open up the boot. Look at the box. Not a chance. 

Taking a breather from the tree struggle I noticed QC was standing to the side wearing an expression of mild panic. ‘It’s going to be too big,’ she says. ‘I don’t have big enough corners in my wee flat,’ she says. ‘You have it and I’ll take yours. It’ll be lovely for you and the wee man to have a nice big tree,’ She squeezes out a smile trying to sell me the idea.

‘Can we get it in the feckin’ car first,’ says I.

‘Dad!’ the wee fella gives me a look.

Eventually I worked out that if I moved the front seats forward and declined the backseats that there might be enough room. With more sweat, more pushing and some muttered curses, we made it. And we even managed to close the car doors.

Of course, we now didn’t have enough room for three people. So the wee fella (who’s nearly as tall as his aunt) sits on her lap and I drive to my house – but I have to go the long way as the short way goes past the police station. 

We get home safely – no blue flashing lights – and I realise that I can’t possibly drive to QC’s like this. I can’t leave the wee man at home on his own while I take the tree to hers. Besides, I can’t face the thought of lifting this humongous box up another three flights of stairs to QC’s flat. I face the realisation that I’m going to have to accept this bloody tree.

The next trick is to get the box out of my car. We all adopt the same activities as before – the wee fella pushes, I pull and QC stands wearing an expression of alarm. Eventually – presumably in the same time it takes a crane to lift a container from the ship on to the wharf, something gives – the car door handle- and the box is out of the car and with more pushing, pulling, and sweat, is in my front room.

While my son and I catch our breath, QC tears the industrial tape from the box – you know the silver duct tape kind that serial killers use in all the movies – just to see how big this tree is.

Think Norway’s annual gift to the British nation.

‘It’ll be lovely with lights on it,’ says QC with more than a hint of desperation, prompted by the fact that the room is so dark because the tree is blocking out all the light from the window. The expression of alarm on her face has deepened. 

She paused, ‘Where are the lights? Did you leave the lights behind,’ she asks me?

‘I was kinda busy with a big feckin’ box, sis,’ says I.

‘Dad!’ says the wee man.

QC’s last memory of the lights was while standing watching me wrestle the tree container into the car. She must have put them down somewhere, she surmises. On the pavement? So we all jump back in the car and go back to the tree lady’s building …and there in a dark corner of the car park was our box of 30,000 lights. Hurrah. Nobody had stolen them. No doubt any prospective thief had been put off by the thought of the increase to their electricity bill once they were switched on.

An old guy was walking his dog past the scene as we screeched to a halt. QC jumped out of the car before I could pull on the handbrake.

‘Forgot my lights,’ she explained to the man as if it made perfect sense, as she swooped for the box. 

By this time we had all worked up an appetite so we decided to go to Pizza Hut. Relieved the worst of it was over, we had a wee laugh about our adventures on the way to the restaurant. But, dear reader, it was to be an illusory moment of calm, for when we eventually got a seat, and put in an order QC realised she didn’t have her handbag. I reasoned that it must be in my house and besides I was NOT driving another inch without throwing something down my throat. 

But of course, by the time our food arrived, QC had worked herself into a frenzy of worry. Her house keys. Her mobile phone. Her purse.

‘Oh my fucking god,’ she screeched so loud a waiter walking past at that moment got such a fright he dropped the tray of drinks he was carrying. ‘My handbag can’t be in the house,’ QC asserted, face white. ‘It was on the backseat of the car while I was pushing the tree-box in. It must have got pushed out the other end? Either its in the same car park as the box of lights. Or maybe …’ her mouth fell open. ‘…the tree lady found it on her landing and maybe she’s emptied my purse, gone shopping on-line with MY credit cards and is now phoning a porn phone line in Chile using MY phone.’

While QC borrowed my mobile and phoned all of her friends to try and find out the tree lady’s number, the wee fella gave me another row.

‘You’re different with your sister,’ he said. ‘Way more bossy.’

Nobody had tree lady’s number. Cue more worry and more doomsday scenarios.

‘My house keys were in my handbag. You’ll have to kick in my front door. No, don’t. My neighbours are mental and while I’m sleeping tonight they’ll ransack the flat. And, I’ll have to stay awake all night. I’m a monster if I don’t get my sleep. Can you even get a locksmith on a Saturday night? Shame I fell out with my other neighbour – the witch – cos she used to keep a spare key for me.’

‘Let’s check my house first,’ I said. ‘Bet it’s there.’ If it wasn’t I’d need to change into my boots to help out in the door-kicking-in moment.

The food arrived and was eaten in Guinness Book of Records time, and there was a collective holding of breath all the way from Pizza Hut to my house. The wee fella worried that QC was going to have a rubbish Xmas. I worried that I was going to have a mad woman on my couch for the rest of the weekend and QC just worried. I pulled up in front of my house and we all took a deep breath and paused in prayer before we get out of the car.

I unlocked the front door to my house and QC almost knocked me into next door’s garden in her rush to get past. The wee man and I looked at each other and waited at the door, afraid to look.

We heard a squeal. 

She’d found it. Care to guess where?

Under the tree.

About Michael Malone

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Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

Books published by Orenda Books

My thanks to Michael J Malone for writing this fabulous story for the book review café.

Author interview with Edgar Swamp #AmberHollow #Horror #Mystery

Today it’s a pleasure to share an interview with Edgar Swamp, the authors book Amber Hollow definitely sounds like my kind of read. It’s described as
new mystery blends horror and fantasy in white-hot thriller centered on cursed Wisconsin village
SAN DIEGO, California. 

Edgar Swamp’s new novel turns the classic detective mystery on its head by mixing elements of horror and fantasy into an epic page-turner. The isolated village, fiery tragedy, and ancient curse of “AmberHollow” will keep even the most seasoned mystery reader guessing. Before I share the interview here’s the book description…

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Detective Jeremy LeFevre and his partner Detective Sadie Conrad find themselves baffled as they step into a homicide case with 595 victims — and no evidence. The scene of the crime, Amber Hollow, is known by neighboring towns to be a reclusivisitic, colloquial community with a history of unverified mysterious occurrences, when a fire rages through the small Wisconsin village, killing everyone but five people.

The partially intact bodies of the few victims
recovered suggest violent deaths prior to being incinerated, but the lack of forensic evidence has the detectives and pathologists stymied. Making matters worse, the five survivors contradict each other with wild stories and accusations. Only one detail connects their testimonies –– that the mayor, Anthony Guntram, is to blame.

With a dead suspect and nothing else to go on, the two detectives must learn the secrets of Amber Hollow before anyone else becomes victim to its curse.

Amazon Uk 🇬🇧

Amazon US 🇺🇸

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“Amber Hollow” is your fourth book but your first foray into mysteries. What drew you to the genre? 

I wanted to create a story enshrouded in mystique, one that would keep readers guessing as I gradually doled out misinformation, capping it off with a wildly unpredictable ending. “Amber Hollow” is centered around two detectives investigating a seemingly impossible case, so for what I wanted, the format appeared to be the best choice. It was intended to be a horror novel, but it reads like a mystery. Hopefully, the combination of genres resulted in a truly special piece of fiction.

How has your writing process evolved since your first book?

With each new novel, I endeavour to be more efficient with my character development and pacing, always keeping the story moving. I try to grow and learn with each book, seeing what worked for readers and (most importantly) what didn’t. Know who your target audience is, and give them what they want. Reading books by great writers helps, so it’s best to keep up with your reading, no matter how much you want to write. And re-writes are essential; that’s a constant for me. A novel is never finished until I’m at least 95 percent certain that it’s done (there is no 100 percent for me, unfortunately, I feel I could always do something better).

Besides cheese curds and football, Wisconsin is known for its serial killers. How did growing up there influence your decision to write a horror novel?

Wisconsin has a climate that is geared for indoor activities if you don’t especially favour the cold, so I have to thank the West DePere Library for introducing me to a plethora of writers who specialise in scaring readers silly. Curling up with a good book in front of a blazing fire was a favourite pastime of mine growing up, when I wasn’t outside shovelling mountains of snow! Also, my father worked in law enforcement, and he always had some really cool stories. For instance, he once had the chance to meet Ed Gein (Painesville, Wisconsin, serial killer circa 1953-54, who inspired the movies “Silence of the Lambs,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and half a dozen others). Ed was serving multiple life sentences at the Mendota State Psychiatric Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and a guard who knew my father made the offer. My dad took a hard pass on that one; because of his occupation, he saw enough blood and guts on a regular basis owing to hunting accidents and vehicular manslaughter cases, so the last thing he needed was to meet a cannibal who robbed graves and made flesh-suits that he wore while eating stew out of bowls made of human skulls! I also knew several people who were approached by Jeffery Dahmer (Milwaukee, Wisconsin, serial killer circa 1991 who drugged, raped, killed, dismembered, and ate almost 20 men). They all made the smart decision not to take him up on his invitation to go to his place for a drink. Inspiration indeed!

You’ve written detective Sadie Conrad as an African-American woman. Why did you choose this representation for the character?

In all of my novels I try and represent a healthy balance of racially diverse people because I want to appeal to a wider audience, even in this case in which it isn’t truly authentic. I made a conscious decision to make Sadie’s character African-American because when I grew up in Green Bay in the ’70s-’90s it wasn’t a very racially diverse area, so it really shows that she’s an exceptionally skilled detective to break through the barrier of being a woman and being African-American. In other words, she’d truly have to know her stuff to work for a mostly male police station (there were very few female police officers who worked for the Brown County Sheriff’s Department during that time) in a predominantly white community. I felt that specific environment would make her stronger as both a detective and a woman, to prove she could tackle the job just as well as any man, of any race. And when crunch time comes, she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. The novel embraces themes of female empowerment, and I thought, “Who would best represent a strong female than one who is cast in this situation?” 

Why do you think people seek out media that scares them?

In a controlled environment, having the crap scared out of you is fun! Psychologically, horror stories can take you through a fiendishly nightmarish landscape, so by proxy, your own problems seem insignificant in comparison. And fear is a very motivating feeling, so it’s best to embrace it by confronting your demons. By delving into this darkness, one inevitably becomes stronger in the process. 

How do modern-day political and social climates affect your writing?

All of my ideas are inspired by the modern-day social and political climates in which I am writing them; I simply can’t help it. I consider myself a humanitarian, and even though I put my characters through torturous situations in which the majority of them are killed, I’d like to think of these novels as social experiments, possibly character studies by which to live (or die) by. Who doesn’t enjoy reading/watching the bloated, sleazy politician falling into a bed of hypodermic syringes before being eaten alive by mutants? In fiction, we get to shape how we want to see the world, maybe try and make it a better place by giving the average person the satisfaction they most likely won’t get in real life. And by writing about these themes, at least they are being talked about. We shouldn’t cringe from the reality in which we are thrust; we should try to think of ways in which we can change the world for the better.

You dropped out of college to pursue your passion for music. How did that decision ultimately affect your life and your writing career?

One of the worst decisions I ever made was dropping out of college; my headspace at the time was that of a young man deluded by his musical obsession with absolutely no foresight of the future. If I could go back in time, I’d go back to 1990 and stay in school to at least earn a bachelor’s degree in English versus having nothing. I had some fun, saw a lot of this fine country, and made acquaintances with many charming ladies, but ultimately, I gave myself nothing to fall back on when the bottom dropped out and I couldn’t sleep in/on cars, floors, warehouses, abandoned lumber yards, or seedy motels anymore. Actually, though, the decision may have been a good thing for my creative writing. I’d been writing my whole life (first thing I ever wrote was a play in second grade where I cast myself as Santa and the girl I liked as Mrs. Clause) but I never took it very seriously, so failing at being a professional musician really inspired me to try and succeed as a professional writer, a goal I have yet to achieve. For this reason, music is always rooted in my writing; I can’t get it out of there. There are song lyrics in the beginning of “Amber Hollow,” and if you Google the bands you won’t find them, because they don’t exist. They are my songs. You know how hard it is to get an artist to allow you the rights to use their songs?!? It was easier to write my own!

What are you working on now?

Being a self-published writer brings about the task of trying to get your work in front of as many people as possible within the constraints of a shoestring budget and the limitations that come without being traditionally published (i.e. larger media snubs because you aren’t “legit”). With that said, I am presently working on getting “Amber Hollow” in as many hands as possible while I revisit my earlier works and decide which one I’ll choose to rewrite, re-edit, and re-publish. I self-published a novel in 2012 called “The Gyre Mission,” about an island of garbage on which I stranded a group of disposable rejects who had to battle mutant animals and humans in a quest for survival. To this day, readers of my books cite this as their favorite novel of mine, but they complain that it was too long and that most of the characters weren’t very likeable. So, to answer the question: I’m going to rewrite “The Gyre Mission,” shorten it up (it was a monstrosity at 280,000 words…think telephone book!), make some of the characters more likeable, and possibly allow someone to live in the end. A total-loss death count seems to bum people out…I don’t know why!

About the author

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EDGAR SWAMP​ is the author of the “Gyre Mission,” “Glitch in the Machine,” and “Blackout.” His short stories have appeared in Alienskin, Macabre Cadaver, and Urban Reinventors. When he isn’t holed up in his office playing online poker, he likes to dig up the recently deceased and make furniture out of their skin. He lives and works in San Diego, California. For more information, visit his website at www.edgarswamp.com​.
My thanks to the author for this interview.

**Christmas with Orenda books** Featuring Will Carver @Will_Carver @OrendaBooks

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Here we are another day closer to Christmas and I have a fantastic post for you today from author Will Carver. I must admit I thought I had got my posts muddled when I put this one together, I even went back to the original email to check 😂.  I’m not sure what I expected, probably something grim and dark, but I’m pleased to report he sounds like a real softie at heart. I hope you enjoy reading this post…..

What is your favourite Christmas memory? 

I was eight (I think). It was Christmas Eve. I was as excited as any kid is, thinking that Father Christmas was going to magically appear in my house while I was asleep and fill my stocking with goodies. I’d left a mince pie on a plate with a glass of whisky and I climbed up to the top of my cabin bed and shut my eyes, hoping that the next time I opened them, he would have been. 

At that age, I was on the cusp of no longer believing in that aspect of the festive period. I fell asleep but woke up a few hours later to hear somebody in my room, putting things into my stocking and eating the food I had left out. 

It was a strangely magical moment for me. I wanted to open my eyes so much. I wanted to sit up and take a look. But something stopped me. Maybe I was trying to hold on to it for another year, maybe some part of me knew what I would see if I decided to look. It was a really defining Christmas experience. Neither joyful or sad. Nor was it bittersweet. I remember it fondly now as a time somewhere between being a child and growing up. 

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Where will you be spending Christmas?

Things are a little up in the air on this. When you’re separated and have kids, and you’re with someone new, who is separated and has kids, the logistics can be a little challenging. All I can say at this time is that I will be spending some of Christmas with whisky, watching Die Hard, and some with the people I love, assembling Lego and playing novelty board games while eating my body weight in food drenched in MSG. Pretty much the same as everyone else.

Do you have any Christmas traditions?

Loads. It’s the best time of the year. The tree always goes up on 1st December. I make a picnic for the kids and boil up some mulled wine for myself. We watch The Polar Express while we decorate the tree. When we’re finished I have to pick both kids up – one in each arm – so they can put the star on top at the same time. 

I started a thing last year where I put together a box of things for the kids to have on Christmas Eve. Nothing extravagant, just some Christmas pyjamas and socks and sweets and a teddy and some bedding and a game and a light… Christmas Eve is the best. All that anticipation. I thought it would be something fun but they loved it, so that will be a new tradition. 

Also, the Michael Bublé Christmas CD goes into the car for the school run. I’m not ashamed. 

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What was your best ever Christmas present?

I can’t think of a better present I have received at Christmas than my daughter, Phoebe. She squeezed her way into my life the day before that big, bearded man was supposed to shuffle himself down the chimney and it changed everything – especially Christmases. I don’t, actually remember much about her first Christmas as I’d been awake for about three days and was in some hallucinatory haze but it was a better gift than even my noise-cancelling headphones. 

This isn’t to say that she is any more special than my son, of course. He is the best New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had. 

It’s a very expensive time of year. 

What was your worst ever Christmas present?

It was either ’89 or ’90. The Gameboy came out. And I got one. Now, I know that sounds like it should be on my list of best ever presents, and it is, but what happened that Christmas sullied Nintendo’s wonderful innovation. 

I have a younger brother. When he was very little, he would cry. About everything. He’s 31 now and much better. He received lots of toys and games that year and I opted to have a smaller pile of presents and invest the money into something more significant. In this case, the Gameboy. 

I loved the beep it made when you switched it on and the Tetris music kicked in. Amazing. 

I had a few goes. It was brilliant. I was hooked on that tiny green screen. But my little brother wanted a go. So he cried. And my parents made me give it to him. 

Then, when I wanted it back, he cried again. And he didn’t stop. So he got to sit with my Gameboy all Christmas. It sucked. Still, I had some new pyjamas and a book and some Lego…

The next day, my parents went out and bought my brother a Gameboy, so that I could have mine back. They said it would have to be his birthday present – obviously it wasn’t because he couldn’t get nothing on his birthday. 

Look, the Gameboy was great, but it made that Christmas shit. 

On the plus side, I get to remind my mother and brother about it every year, so it’s not all bad. 

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Favourite Christmas tipple?

I used to like a Snowball but had to stop that a few years back when I went vegan. My favourite is mulled wine/Gluwein. I used to live in Germany as a child and the Christmas markets over there are better than anywhere else. The smell of Gluwein is the scent of Christmas, to me. It brings back those wonderful childhood memories of living in a different country where we always had snow in December and ate mushrooms dipped in garlic mayo while we walked around the stalls and rides at the market. 

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What are you hoping for this Christmas?

I’m hoping that my latest book, Nothing Important Happened Today, will be at number one on the Sunday Times Bestseller list. I’m hoping that it will snow at some point. 

When it comes to gifts, I like getting books (obviously) and clothes that I can work out in. I’m a real gadget fan, I’m sure there will be something new that I don’t really need but would be fun to have. I tend not to want things, though. It’s great when somebody really puts thought into a gift, you know? It doesn’t have to be huge, just thoughtful. 

Have you got a Christmas message you would like to share with readers and bloggers?

Be nice. Reach out. Give something back. Take more pleasure in giving. And buy my book.

About Will Carver

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Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company.

He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraphand Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts

Books published by Orenda Books

My thanks to Will Carver for writing this post and taking part in this feature.