Top bloggers choose a #crime summer read: Emma at damppebbles.com via @northernlass73

I am thrilled to be taking part in Christine’s ‘bloggers choose a Summer crime read’ feature today.

Want to know what summer read I recommend? Hint: it involves a kick ass protagonist and a trek across America!

My thanks to Christine for asking me to take part in her brilliant new feature. If you haven’t already discovered the fabulous http://www.northerncrime.wordpress.com then here’s your chance. You won’t regret it 😍😍.

Just click the link below 👇.

Source: Top bloggers choose a #crime summer read: Emma at damppebbles.com @damppebbles

#CoverReveal: Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza (@RobertBryndza) @bookouture #DetectiveErikaFoster

I am one happy little blogger today.  Why, you ask?  It’s because I am part of the cover reveal team for the fifth Detective Erika Foster novel written by crime fiction superstar, Robert Bryndza.  I adore Erika Foster.  So much so that I am not ashamed to admit to having a complete girl crush on her!

The fifth book in the series is called Cold Blood and will be published by the mighty Bookouture on 20th September 2017.  Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite (as if you need it to do that!):

The suitcase was badly rusted, and took Erika several attempts, but it yielded and sagged open as she unzipped it. Nothing could prepare her for what she would find inside…

When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. She’s worked on some terrifying cases but never seen anything like this before.

As Erika and her team set to work, she makes the link with another victim – the body of a young woman dumped in an identical suitcase two weeks ago.

Erika quickly realises she’s on the trail of a serial killer who’s already made their next move. Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the victim of a brutal attack.

But nothing will stop Erika. As the body count rises, the twin daughters of her colleague Commander Marsh are abducted, and the stakes are higher than ever before. Can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery…there’s more than one killer.

Brilliantly gripping, Cold Blood will have you hooked from the first page and holding your breath to the heart-stopping and shocking ending.

How good does that sound?  I can’t wait to read Cold Blood.  Roll on September when Erika’s latest adventure will be released.  Make sure you get your copy by pre-ordering now:

UK  http://amzn.to/2uP064T
US  http://amzn.to/2uOLceW

So, without further ado, here is the stunning cover of Cold Blood:

Cold-Blood-Kindle.jpeg

Oh wow!  I absolutely love that cover.  It’s definitely in line to be my cover of the year. What do you think?

about the author3

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Author info and image (c) Robert Bryndza

Robert Bryndza is the author of the international #1 bestseller The Girl in the Ice. The Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller is the first book in the Detective Erika Foster series. The Night Stalker, and Dark Water are the second and third books in the series, and the fourth book, Last Breath, has just been published. Robert’s books have sold over 2 million copies, and have been translated into 27 languages.

In addition to writing crime fiction, Robert has published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels. He is British and lives in Slovakia.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Dying to Live by Michael Stanley (@detectivekubu) @OrendaBooks

DYING TO LIVE cover.jpeg“The sixth mystery in the beloved and critically acclaimed Detective Kubu series. Kubu and his colleague Samantha Khama track a killer through the wilds of Botswana on their most dangerous case yet.

When the body of a Bushman is discovered near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the death is written off as an accident. But all is not as it seems. An autopsy reveals that, although he’s clearly very old, his internal organs are puzzlingly young. What’s more, an old bullet is lodged in one of his muscles… but where is the entry wound? When the body is stolen from the morgue and a local witch doctor is reported missing, Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu gets involved. But did the witch doctor take the body to use as part of a ritual? Or was it the American anthropologist who’d befriended the old Bushman? As Kubu and his brilliant young colleague, Detective Samantha Khama, follow the twisting trail through a confusion of rhino-horn smugglers, foreign gangsters and drugs manufacturers, the wider and more dangerous the case seems to grow. A fresh, new slice of ‘Sunshine Noir’, Dying to Live is a classic tale of greed, corruption and ruthless thuggery, set in one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, and featuring one of crime fiction’s most endearing and humane heroes.”

I am delighted to welcome you my stop on the Dying to Live blog tour.  My lovely blog tour buddy today is Sheila over at The Quiet Geordie.  This is the sixth book in the Detective Kubu series and it was a joy to read.  So far I have managed to devour two previous ‘Kubu’ novels; click here for my review of Deadly Harvest and here for my review of A Death in the Family.  Dying to Live was my third journey to glorious Botswana and my third experience of ‘sunshine noir’.  Dying to Live was published by Orenda Books on 12th July 2017.

For those new to this series, the author, Michael Stanley is a writing team of two.  But you would never know.  Every time I pick up a Michael Stanley novel I’m expecting to see the divide between the two voices, to be able to ‘spot the difference’.  But I can’t.  The writing is seamless and wonderfully confident.

I am incredibly fond of Detective David Bengu who most of the characters refer to as ‘Kubu’, the Setswana word for hippopotamus.  He’s not my usual broken, addiction riddled detective –  the type I’m usually drawn to.  He’s a family man who lives by his principles.  I found the sub-plot of his adoptive daughter’s HIV suddenly deteriorating quite hard to read without becoming emotional, but welcomed this revealing insight into Kubu’s home life and his relationship with his wife, Joy.

Something I tend to find with Michael Stanley books is that you always get something different.  For example, the investigation in Dying to Live initially focused on the death of a Bushman.  Which leads us to the Kalahari and into the secretive world of witch doctors.   But the most important thing to note is that this is a GREAT mystery.  I was completely drawn in to the story and loved the different threads of the investigation and the connections made by Kubu and Detective Samantha Khama.  I couldn’t work out whodunit so was rather surprised by the reveal (always a bonus when you don’t see the twist coming!).

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  This is a great series which I will always come back to.  I feel a real warmth towards Kubu and his family, there’s something very reassuring about reading these books.  Saying that, please don’t be fooled into thinking they are fluffy reads because they are most definitely not.  I recommend that you also read Deadly Harvest and A Death in the Family.  Not because you need to as I think Dying to Live works perfectly well as a standalone, but because they are great books.  More Kubu please, Michael Stanley – the sooner, the better :).

Four stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Dying to Live.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Dying to Live by Michael Stanley was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 12th July 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Goodreads |

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about the author3

Michael Stanley photo.jpgMichael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #Extract: Guilty by Laura Elliot (@Elliot_Laura) @bookouture

cover.jpg“It begins with a phone call. It ends with a missing child.

On a warm summer’s morning, thirteen-year-old school girl Constance Lawson is reported missing. 

A few days later, Constance’s uncle, Karl Lawson, suddenly finds himself swept up in a media frenzy created by journalist Amanda Bowe implying that he is the prime suspect. 

Six years later …

Karl’s life is in ruins. His marriage is over, his family destroyed. But the woman who took everything away from him is thriving. With a successful career, husband and a gorgeous baby boy, Amanda’s world is complete. Until the day she receives a phone call and in a heartbeat, she is plunged into every mother’s worst nightmare. 

An utterly compelling psychological thriller that will keep you guessing to the very last page. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl and Sarah A. Denzil’s Silent Child.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Guilty blog tour which I share with the lovely Jen over at Jen Med’s Book Reviews.  Guilty is written by novelist, Laura Elliot and was published by Bookouture on 22nd June 2017.

Today I am thrilled to have the prologue of the book to share with you.  So without further ado, let’s crack on…

GUILTY by Laura Elliot
Prologue

 The night has laid claim to Cherrywood Terrace. Street lamps pool the pavements and burglar alarms wink from the walls of slumbering houses. A chink of light escapes between old Mr Shannon’s bedroom curtains. He never sleeps at night, or so he tells her, staying awake with crosswords and books of poetry in case death comes calling in the small hours to catch him unawares.

In the room next door her parents are sleeping. Her father’s faint, rhythmic snoring is the only sound to break the silence as she rummages through the clutter at the bottom of her wardrobe. From deep in the toe of a boot she has outgrown, she removes a phone and reads the last text she received. The one she has ignored until now. The challenge is clear. It’s dangerous, high-risk, reckless, unnecessary. She doesn’t have to take it on yet, even as she repeats these words to herself, she feels a coiling excitement, the giddy fever of knowing she can do it – will do it – and no one will ever call her a coward again.

She shoves cans of spray paint and a torch into her backpack, along with the phone. Better change her trainers for boots. Turnstone Marsh will be swampy in places. She pauses on the landing. Madness, she thinks. Why am I doing this? But anger has pushed her this far and it remains the barb that drives her down the stairs.

Out on the terrace she hesitates and looks towards a house on the far side. She was there earlier, silently entering and leaving the same way. She shrugs the memory aside and walks swiftly to the end of the terrace where a pedestrian lane provides a short-cut to Turnstone Marsh.

It’s darker here. Her footsteps sound too loud. The wind tosses her hair as it tunnels between the high walls on either side of her. She sees it flailing in the shadow cast before her and pauses, afraid she is being followed. All is silent when she looks back. No footsteps behind her, none coming towards her. She reaches the end of the lane and crosses the road to the marsh.

Bells of white bindweed flutter like spectres in the roadside hedges and she hesitates, torn between the desire to return home and burrow under her duvet and the need to continue on and complete the challenge. She climbs an embankment and jumps down on to the spongy grass. The humps and hollows of the marsh are familiar to her. This is where she used to ride her mountain bike when she was younger, but her surroundings look different now, eerie and threatening. She takes the torch from her backpack and sweeps it over the jagged outline of Toblerone Range. She remembers the struggle to cycle to the top peak, then the exhilarating ride across the humps. The thrill of descending without stopping or falling off. Now, she is facing an even bigger challenge and she is anxious to complete it before her parents awaken and discover she is missing.

She follows the path by the river. The ground is firmer here, safer than walking along the grassy trails. At the end of the marsh, she crosses Orchard Road and stops outside the haunted house. The gate is padlocked. She shines her torch along the boundary wall and finds a gap where the bricks that have broken away provide her with a foothold to climb over.

The outside walls of the house are covered in graffiti. Last year, the front door was removed and used for a Hallowe’en bonfire. At the entrance, the smell of mildew forces her to a standstill. She asks herself once again why she has taken on such a senseless dare. It’s white-knuckle, crazy stuff. A man died in this house. Seven days dead before he was discovered by the postman. His ghost could be waiting inside, ready to wail at her when she steps over the threshold. Even if ghosts don’t exist, there will be rats watching her, waiting to bite.

She turns to leave, then changes her mind. She must go forward if she is to reclaim her position with The Fearless. She climbs down the steps into the basement. In the beam from her torch, she sees old, mouldering furniture, rusting pots and pans. She almost trips over a horse’s saddle. Slashed open, its fleece, scraggy as a crow’s nest, spills from the interior. She takes the cans of paint from her backpack. The walls are already covered in graffiti, stupid swirls and squiggles and angles and curses. That’s just vandalism. She believes graffiti should have a purpose. It should make a statement. A protest against authority, particularly parents who’ve forgotten what it’s like to be young. She positions her torch on the floor and sets to work.

It’s done. She videos her art with the Fearless phone. The cover loosens and flaps against her hand. Impatiently, she pulls the phone free and films the junk strewn across the basement. This will add atmosphere to her video. Paws skitter across the floor. She sprints towards the stairs.

At last, she’s out in the open. The fresh air feels damp on her skin and she can breathe freely again. The anger that gave her the courage to complete the challenge turns to relief but she feels regret, also. She has broken a promise she made to someone special. She pushes this stab of guilt aside and argues with herself that friends are more important. Belonging matters. And she will be back in the circle again – right in its centre – after tonight.

A briar snags her jeans. In the darkness, it feels as if a hand has gripped her ankle to prevent her escaping. She bends and pulls at the material, swears softly as the phone slips from her hand into the long grass. By the light of the torch she finds it. The cover has fallen into a patch of thistles. Prickly leaves sting her fingers as she tries to pluck it free. She leaves it there, anxious to be gone from this spooky, derelict site.

She clambers through the gap in the boundary wall and jumps down on to Orchard Road. Once outside, she videos the gate and the exterior of the bleak house where the ghost of Isaac Cronin roams through the mouldy rooms.

She presses record on her phone and shouts, ‘A message to The Fearless. It’s done. No one can ever call me chicken again.’ She spins across the road, giddy with triumph and a story she is longing to tell. The moon pearls the sky, shining coldly and mercilessly down on the last exhilarating moments of Constance Lawson’s young life.

Doesn’t that sound good?  I can’t wait to read Guilty.  I hope having a peek at the prologue has drawn you in and you’re eager to read more!

Guilty by Laura Elliot was published in the UK by Bookouture on 22nd June 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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about the author2

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Laura Elliot is an Irish novelist and lives in the coastal town of Malahide, Co. Dublin. She loves travelling. The beautiful South Island of New Zealand was the inspiration for her setting in The Prodigal Sister. The Burren in County Clare became the mysterious setting for Stolen Child and the Broadmeadow Estuary behind her home provides the background for The Betrayal. She has worked as a journalist and magazine editor
Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

damppebbles.com nominated for the @BloggersBash #ServicestoBloggers award!

Hello my booky friends. We’ve known each other for a while now and I hope, by now, you’ve picked up on how much I love to #sharethebooklove. Part of my daily routine is sharing as many fabulous book reviews and booky posts from fellow bloggers over on Twitter as I can. 

Due (I think) to this love of sharing posts, I’ve been nominated for an award! Whoop whoop 🎉.  I am absolutely thrilled to have been nominated for a 2017 Annual Bloggers Bash Award!

damppebbles.com is nominated in the Services to Bloggers category and I would be so incredibly grateful if you could spare a moment and vote for me.

The criteria is: Who’s the kindest blogger of them all? Which blogger goes out of their way to help others? Maybe someone helped you kick start your blog with tutorials or maybe they continually reblogs your posts. Perhaps someone consistently provides useful posts on how to boost your own blog. Or maybe you want to nominate someone who provides a platform for others.

Who do you want to thank for their dedication to other bloggers?

So please, if you haven’t already done so please vote for damppebbles.com (and anyone else you fancy whilst you’re there!). Just click on the Bloggers Bash logo above to vote. Best of luck everyone. Results will be revealed in a glittery ceremony in London on 10th June. Fingers crossed (and THANK YOU!!). Voting closes at 12pm on FRIDAY 2nd JUNE, please make your vote count ❤.

#CaseClosed: March 2017 #amreading #amreviewing #bookblogger #damppebbles

We may be one fifth of the way through April already but that’s not going to stop me from posting my monthly summary post, oh no!  Rules. Ha! They’re made to be broken, right?  That or I’m just a disaster at the moment and can’t get myself organised enough to publish my #CaseClosed posts on the first of the month.  I should probably add it to my extensive list of goals I shared with you last month…now there’s a thought!

Happy April everyone!  I’m delighted to report that the weather here in the UK has become more ‘Spring-like’ and I have finally managed to defrost after a long, cold Winter.  My kids have finished for the Easter break (I know, how early?!!) which means the amount of reading and blogging I’ll be doing over the next week and a half will be significantly reduced, boo!  But I get to spend time with the children, yay!

During March I managed to read the grand total of 11 books!  For those that have a vague memory of the ‘goals’ I set myself last month…goal one – tick.  I also managed to read Dark Houses by Helen H Durrant which is the book I’ve had on my NetGalley shelf the longest (goal two – tick) as well as one of the books my husband gave me as part of my Christmas present, The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore (goal three – tick).  As for goal four….well, let’s not even go though (hehehehe).

So, what happened on the blog last month?  I was absolutely thrilled to welcome some incredibly talented guest reviewers to damppebbles.  I featured reviews of Nowhere Girl by Ruth Dugdall and Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan from the lovely Tracie Delaney at Passionate About BooksMadam Tulip by David Ahern from Nicki over at Nicki’s Book BlogSplintered by Kelly Miller from the gorgeous Dee over at Novel DeelightsThe One by John Marrs which could end up being Sam over at Clues and Reviews top read of the year! And The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti from Helen Claire over at baattyaboutbooks.  Thank you to all my guest reviewers for volunteering to help reduce the #terrifyingTBR.  I am eternally grateful.

I took part in 10 blog tours during March:

Of these six were reviews:

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski | The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman | The Place That Never Existed by Jim Ody | Mystery at Maplemead Castle by Kitty French | The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney | After She’s Gone by Maggie James |

And four were either guest posts or extracts:

Dead Embers by Matt Brolly | The Abattoir of Dreams by Mark Tilbury | Deadly Game by Matt Johnson | Boundary by Andree A. Michaud |

I also hosted a series spotlight for the lovely Sheryl Browne and her new crime thriller series featuring DI Matthew Adams.

And on top of all of that, I actually managed to read and review some non-blog tour books…WOAH!

You can find links to my review of Dark Houses and The Poison Artist above.  Here are my thoughts on Little Bones by Sam Blake and Scared to Death by Rachel Amphlett.

In other news I made my 200th post to the blog.  I’m sure many of my fellow bloggers achieved this a very long time ago but as a slow reader I was rather proud.

I plan to set myself the same goals this month as last so keep an eye out for a review of The Rule of Fear by Luke Delaney as that’s the oldest resident on the NetGalley shelf at the moment.  I haven’t decided which of my Christmas present books I’ll read but I can share my April book with you:

51UlDLJK0OL._SY346_.jpg“This was meant to be the perfect trip. The Northern Lights. A luxury press launch on a boutique cruise ship.

A chance for travel journalist Lo Blacklock to recover from a traumatic break-in that has left her on the verge of collapse.

Except things don’t go as planned.

Woken in the night by screams, Lo rushes to her window to see a body thrown overboard from the next door cabin. But the records show that no-one ever checked into that cabin, and no passengers are missing from the boat.

Exhausted and emotional, Lo has to face the fact that she may have made a mistake – either that, or she is now trapped on a boat with a murderer…”

I’ve been hankering after this book for some time so it was good that I never mentioned it to the hubby (otherwise he wouldn’t have bought it for me, ha!).  Have you read it?  What did you think?

On a slightly more grumpy note, I have decided to reduce the number of blog tours I feature on.  I think I’m starting to suffer from the dreaded blogger burnout as I’ve found it hard going writing reviews and sharing the book love of late.  Hopefully this is just a temporary thing but I think I need to take a break (particularly from social media for a while). I know I’m not the only one who feels like this as several of my blogger friends have said they feel exactly the same.  I will try to do as much as I’ve always done, but you may notice a dip in the number of posts I share.  I’m sorry.  I really do want to spread the #booklove and support my fabulous fellow bloggers but I’m running out of time each day and the kids sulk when I make any kind of move towards my phone.  Grump over, normal(ish) service to resume (kind of!).

Well, that’s it my lovelies for another #CaseClosed.  Have a fabulous April, one and all.

 

#BookReview: Dark Houses by Helen H. Durrant (@hhdurrant) @JoffeBooks

dark houses.jpg“A young woman is found brutally murdered in an empty house.  Detective Stephen Greco and his team must piece together her life as quickly as possible. Within twenty-four hours there is another horrific murder using the same method. The detectives realise that the victims are random but the locations are not. The killer is more concerned with finding the right house – somewhere he won’t be disturbed as he pursues his evil plan.

When a man walks into the station and confesses, it looks like the case is closed. But Greco’s not convinced and soon he’ll be fighting to save the woman who’s most important to him in a stunningly tense and emotional conclusion.

Can Greco keep himself and his team under control as the criminal gets personal?”

Way back at the beginning of the month I published my #CaseClosed post for February 2017.  In that post I set myself some (slightly un)realistic goals.  The first was to read at least nine books a month.  The next was to read the book which has been sat languishing on my NetGalley shelf the longest.  The third goal was to read at least one of the books my husband has given me as part of my Christmas present.  The fourth, well, we won’t mention the fourth!  You may wonder why I’m telling you this.  The reason being, I have read the book that has been sat on my NetGalley shelf the longest and that book my booky friends, is Dark Houses by Helen H Durrant.

In all honesty I am absolutely kicking myself.  The reason for my self flagellation is that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’m disappointed that I haven’t read it sooner.  This is a good, solid police procedural which drew me in from start to finish.  I haven’t read a novel by Helen H Durrant before but I can guarantee I will be more from this author in the future.

I loved Detective Stephen Greco.  He’s my sort of protagonist.  He suffers from OCD and although this didn’t play a particularly big part in the story-line, it did make me like him even more (I like my detectives to be grumpy and damaged, in other words I like them to be human).  I also enjoyed the relationship between Greco and DC Grace Harper.  DC Harper is rather taken with our hero but he only has eyes for his very recent ex-wife.  The other characters in the novel were all interesting, particularly DS Jed Quickenden known to friends and colleagues as ‘Speedy’.  His growing despair towards the job really pulled me into the story.

Now I like my murder scenes to be a little on the gory side and Helen H Durrant has done me proud in Dark Houses.  This is the first book in a while where I’ve winced at the description of the scene.  And as there are several victims, there are several gory descriptions which, of course, I loved.

The plot really pulls you in and before long you’ve read half of the book without realising it.  There is one particularly big twist which I didn’t see coming and had to re-read several times to make sure it had sunk in.  I loved the way it completely changed how I felt about the characters.  Brilliant, suspenseful writing.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  I think it can be read as a standalone but I would have preferred to read the first in the series (this is book two) before Dark Houses.  That’s how I always feel though, always best to start at the beginning.  I loved the characters in this book and I hope to catch up with them again soon.  A great police procedural which kept me coming back for more.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Dark Houses.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Dark Houses by Helen H Durrant was published in the UK by Joffe Books on 8th April 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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I’m one of the ‘baby boomer’ generation. I was born in Edinburgh to an English father and Scottish mother. My father was from the North West of England and this was where the family settled.

I know the area well, both the good and the bad, and so I set my books here. Sitting between two counties, Lancashire and Yorkshire, and between the city and the hills, it offers a rich mix of the industrial and the countryside and all the character therein. I always planned to write crime novels — to create the characters in my books. Since my retirement from a busy teaching job in FE, this is what I’ve done — almost to exclusion of anything else!

I have a grown-up family and five grandchildren. They see me as something of an eccentric — always on my laptop writing away. Writing is something of a second career and, despite having a bus pass, keeps me busy, young and tuned in the world as it currently is.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Website |

 

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Sealskin by Su Bristow (@SuBristow) @OrendaBooks #Sealskin

Sealskin cover.jpg“What happens when magic collides with reality? Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous … and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives – not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence? Based on the legend of the selkies – seals who can transform into people – Sealskin is a magical story, evoking the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Exeter Novel Prize-winner Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set. And it is, quite simply, unforgettable.”

I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off the Sealskin blog tour today alongside the lovely Steph over at Stephs Book Blog.  Sealskin was the winner of the Exeter Novel Prize in 2013 and is the work of author and Consultant Medical Herbalist, Su Bristow.  What an amazing achievement!  Sealskin will be published in paperback by the wonderful Orenda Books on 15th February 2017 so make sure you pre-order your copy NOW!

Today I have a fascinating guest post from author, Su Bristow.  Seeing as it’s day one of the blog tour, Su and I thought it best to start at the very beginning with a few words explaining the Selkie legend, which the book is based upon.  So without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Su…

The Foundations of Sealskin
Su Bristow

First of  all, here is the version of the story that was the starting point for Sealskin:

THE LEGEND

Once, there was a fisherman who spent many nights fishing alone. One night at full moon, he witnessed a marvel: nine seals came ashore, put off their skins and became beautiful young women, dancing on the beach. The fisherman hid himself, and as he watched, he began to fall in love with one of them. Secretly, he hid her sealskin, so that when the others returned to the sea, she was left behind.

The fisherman took her home to be his wife, and he hid the skin at the bottom of a chest. They lived together for some years, and she bore him children. She seemed to be happy, but from time to time she would look out to sea and weep.

One day while he was out at sea, one of the children found the skin and showed it to his mother. When the fisherman returned at the end of the day, she was gone, and he never saw her again.

Stories about Selkies, or seals who can turn into people, are found along the coasts of Ireland, Scotland, Orkney and Shetland, and across the sea in Iceland and Scandinavia too. In fact, the word ‘selkie’ is just the Orcadian word for ‘seal’, but it’s come to be used particularly for these shape-shifting beings. And the stories vary from place to place, although they generally don’t end happily. It seems that selkie men and women are irresistible to the humans who encounter them, and they always fall in love. Male selkies are very willing to ‘mate’ with humans, but they won’t stay long, and always go back to the sea. Females, on the other hand, have to be tricked into it by hiding their sealskins; given the chance, they too will return to their natural element.

It’s interesting that whereas most mythological creatures are dangerous to us humans, selkies are usually gentle. Perhaps I strayed a little from tradition when I gave Mairhi some magic of her own; although she never uses it to attack anybody, she can certainly defend herself if need be. But the stories don’t go into much detail about how the marriage between the fisherman and the selkie woman actually worked, and that was what interested me. You wouldn’t expect any relationship to be possible after such a horrible start! So I added a few twists, which I won’t go into now because I don’t want to spoil the story for people who haven’t read it yet, except to say that almost immediately, Donald knows that what he did was wrong. And really, the whole story is about how he tries to make amends, and how that changes him and everyone else around him.

Going back to the legend, on a more general level it’s about how humans want to ‘own’ the wildness of nature. All over the world, people tell stories about interactions with animals and birds. Whether they really believe it on the practical level or not, they certainly portray animals as having minds and feelings of their own. Is it just us projecting ourselves onto the natural world, or is there a deeper truth there? The more we learn about animals, the more like us they turn out to be.

Maybe the selkies tell stories about us, too.

***

An absolutely enchanting post, thank you Su.  And congratulations on the wonderful praise you have received so far.  I’ve seen many bloggers say that Sealskin is one of their books of 2017.  What a fantastic way to start the year.

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Early Praise for Sealskin…

Sealskin is an accomplished and intelligent novel, a fine piece of craftsmanship and a pleasure to read’ Allan Massie

‘Bristow has taken a known myth, and created an enthralling, human love story.  A profound achievement, and a stunning debut’ Richard Bean

‘An extraordinary book: original, vivid, tender and atmospheric. Su Bristow’s writing is fluid and flawless, and this is a story so deeply immersive that you emerge at the end, gasping for air’ Iona Grey

‘I love books in which magic takes on a gritty reality, and Sealskin is just such a book. Dark and brooding and half-familiar, the tale steals over you till you’re half-in, half-out of a dream’ Jane Johnson

‘An evocative story, told with skill and beauty, that held me spellbound until the very last page’ Amanda Jennings

‘On the face of it, Sealskin is a gentle tale, a lovely reworking of the selkie legend many of us have known and loved since childhood. Do not be fooled, dear reader; beneath this simple re-imagining lies a story as deep as the ocean the selkie comes from. I was captivated from the first page to the poignant last one, by the sympathetically drawn characters and a mesmerising sense of place. In between are moments of tragedy, moments of grace and redemption; the whole wrapped in Su Bristow’s charismatic writing. This is a story that catches on the edge of your heart, leaving tiny scars; reminders of a journey into a beloved legend, the human lives caught up in it and the consequences of the choices they make. It is, quite simply, exceptional’ Carole Lovekin

‘In this achingly beautiful retelling of the classic Scottish folk tale, Su Bristow brings psychological depth and great warmth to the characters, making the ending all the more heart-breaking. It’s a story about the tensions of life in a tiny fishing community, about bullying and violence as well as the healing magic of nature. It’s written smoothly and skilfully with not a word too many or a word too few. I absolutely loved it and can’t recommend it highly enough’ Gill Paul

‘A beautiful and bewitching read that haunted my thoughts for days. The sense of the sea, of this small community, of guilt is palpable. This is one of those books you place reverentially on your bookcase and envy those who are yet to dive in’ Michael J. Malone

Sealskin is the most exquisite tale of love, forgiveness and magic. Inspired by the legends of the selkies, this gorgeous novel is a dark fairy tale, an ode to traditional storytelling, a tribute to the stories we loved hearing as children. But be warned – this is no happy-ever-after tale. The language is just glorious, poetic and rich but precise. And her characters – oh, they will remain in your heart long after you’ve closed the last page. Mairhi – especially since she never really “speaks” – is a beautiful mystery, but one who haunted me when I was between chapters. If this is her first, then I can’t wait to read whatever Su Bristow bestows upon the literary world next’ Louise Beech

‘Ms Bristow’s skill in weaving a centuries-old tale into a current-day fiction novel and binding the two together is simply superbly done. Sealskin is boldly written, brilliantly told and a tale of legendary proportions’ JM Hewitt

Sealskin is a magical and moral tale woven with a deft hand’ Sara MacDonald

‘With its beautiful language and magical storytelling, Sealskin is a clear winner for me’ Sophie Duffy

Sealskin is exquisitely written with haunting prose and evocative descriptions of the Scottish landscape. It’s filled with beauty, surprises and subtle twists and turns. There’s a mesmerising love story at its heart.  I really didn’t want the story to end, and felt bereft when it did, surrounded by boxes of tissues. I’m sure I’ll be reading this book several times to feel that magic again and again. It’s no surprise that Su Bristow is an Exeter Novel Prize winner. Her writing is beautiful and this book is stunning. Sealskin is destined to go far’ Off-the-Shelf Books

Sealskin really is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read … a flowing tale of love, friendship, acceptance and coming of age for the varying characters.  Set against the ruggedly beautiful Scottish backdrop, the vivid descriptions draw us in, detail oozing from the pages and giving the reader a chance to feel the coastal winds whipping at their faces, taste the salt in the air, feel the uneven terrain underfoot as they clamber through the heather and over rocks. There’s a magic in these pages … poetic and hauntingly beautiful’ The Quiet Knitter

‘A compelling and beautifully written book. At one level Sealskin is a delightful re-working of the selkie myth. But it is also a great deal more than that … The fishing village is a close knit community wary of incomers, the suspicion with which they greet Maihri is typical of how they behave. Strangers, especially ones who are a little out of the ordinary, are not made entirely welcome. It is a story of how relationships develop and grow. Sealskin is a quite delightful and extraordinarily well-written book. Highly recommended’ Trip Fiction

‘A sensuous and beautifully written retelling of the Selkie legend which captivated me’ Margaret James, Creative Writing Matters

’I knew this was special, right from the first paragraph. A beautiful book written with a deceptive simplicity. But Su Bristow does not shy away from asking some very big questions. How can a man atone for violence? Will he ever be forgiven? Will he ever forgive himself? Utterly spellbinding’ Cathie Hartigan

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Su Photo.jpegSu Bristow is a consultant medical herbalist by day. She’s the author of two books on herbal medicine: The Herbal Medicine Chest and The Herb Handbook; and two on relationship skills: The Courage to Love and Falling in Love, Staying in Love, co-written with psychotherapist, Malcolm Stern. Her published fiction includes ‘Troll Steps’ (in the anthology, Barcelona to Bihar), and ‘Changes’ which came second in the 2010 CreativeWritingMatters flash fiction competition. Her forthcoming novel, Sealskin, is set in the Hebrides, and it’s a reworking of the Scottish legend of the selkies, or seals who can turn into people. It won the Exeter Novel Prize 2013. Her writing has been described as ‘magical realism; Angela Carter meets Eowyn Ivey’.

Author Links: Blog | Twitter |

 

My Top Reads of 2016 #bookblogger #amreading #amreviewing

I’ve been umming and ahhing about this post for sometime.  I was lucky enough to be involved in the #TBConFB 20/20 Blogger event in November which allowed me to share my top 20 all time favourite crime reads with members of THE Book Club on Facebook as well as with you lovely people.  I’ve also been honoured to feature on several other brilliant blogs this year and have been asked on several of these occasions to name five top reads.  Have I already made too many ‘Top Reads’ lists this year?  Well, probably but I’m not going to let that stop me! No siree!  There’s always room for one more, and anyway, this is my list of top reads from 2016 so it’s completely different to the others, honest…!

So, in no particular order here are my books of the year:

I haven’t been shy in telling the blogosphere about my very favourite book this year. I think I decided back in early October that no other book would/could come close to A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone (published by Orenda Books).

If you haven’t read it, you are truly missing out.  Staggeringly good, spine tingling and stomach churning, you’ll fall in love and be repulsed in equal measures.  At times you’ll want to put it down and walk away for a breath of fresh air but find it impossible to do so.  Quite possibly the most perfect piece of writing I have ever read!

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And then we have this incredible selection of fabulous reads.  All with something extra special about them and all highly recommended.

The Killing Game by J.S. Carol (published by Bookouture)
Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin (published by Killer Reads)
What Remains of Me by A.L. Gaylin (published by Arrow Publishing)
HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt translated by Nancy Forest-Flier (published by Hodderscape)
Love You to Death by Caroline Mitchell (published by Bookouture)

Inside the Whispers by A.J. Waines
Dancers in the Wind by Anne Coates (published by Urbane Publications)
PsychoAnalysis by V.R. Stone
The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards (published by Thomas & Mercer)
Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French (published by Bookouture)

The Sister by Louise Jensen (published by Bookouture)
Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus (published by Orenda Books)
Valentina by S.E. Lynes (published by Blackbird Books)
The Optician’s Wife by Betsy Reavley (published by Bloodhound Books)
Where Roses Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen translated by Don Bartlett (published by Orenda Books)

City of Shadows by M.J. Lee (published by Carina UK)
Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin (published by Penguin)
Flowers for the Dead by Barbara Copperthwaite
A Tapping at my Door by David Jackson (published by Bonnier Zaffre)
In The Shadows by Tara Lyons

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada (published by Pushkin Press)
Dust and Desire by Conrad Williams (published by Titan Press)
The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza (published by Bookouture)
Syndrome E by Franck Thilliez (published by Penguin Books)

OK, so there are a lot! But I’ve had such a good booky year this year that I just couldn’t whittle it down any further.  Next year I will endeavour to have a smaller list…but that’s a whole year away.

I am extremely grateful for all of the wonderful support I have received this year.  From fellow bloggers (there are some astonishingly good blogs out there with extremely talented bloggers holding the reigns), the brilliant publishers (one in particular springs to mind) and most important of all, the incredibly talented authors who pour their hearts and souls into their latest book so us bibliophiles can get our fix.  Thank you each and every one of you.  Thank you to everyone who has liked my Facebook page, to everyone who has followed me on twitter and to those that have tweeted, retweeted or just mentioned my blog in some way. To those who like and follow my blog, a heartfelt thank you. It’s made my first year as a blogger a humbling and thoroughly enjoyable experience.  THANK YOU!  I celebrate my first blogiversary on 14th January 2017 which I am so excited about.  It feels like I’ve been doing this a lot longer than year but in the best way possible.  I may, in a moment of pure generosity, organise a little giveaway to celebrate…

One last thing before I wish you a very happy New Year: I’ll be on the lookout for a guest reviewer to feature on the blog and help me reduce the #terrifyingTBR in 2017 so if you know someone who may be interested, please ask them to drop me an email at damppebbles@gmail.com.

Once again, wishing you all a sparkly New Year…here’s to making 2017 fantastic and full of books ♥

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