#BookReview: Little Bones by Sam Blake (@samblakebooks) @BonnierZaffre

little bones.jpg“Attending what seems to be a routine break-in, troubled Detective Garda Cathy Connolly makes a grisly discovery: an old wedding dress – and, concealed in its hem, a baby’s bones.

And then the dress’s original owner, Lavinia Grant, is found dead in a Dublin suburb.

Searching for answers, Cathy is drawn deep into a complex web of secrets and lies spun by three generations of women.

Meanwhile, a fugitive killer has already left two dead in execution style killings across the Atlantic – and now he’s in Dublin with old scores to settle. Will the team track him down before he kills again?

Struggling with her own secrets, Cathy doesn’t know how dangerous – and personal – this case is about to become…”

That blurb!  I love that blurb.  When I was offered the chance to read Little Bones there was no way I was going to say no.  I also remembered a number of influential bloggers being totally smitten with this book when it was first published last year as an eBook.  So I just had to see for myself.

And the verdict?  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It has a good, strong story-line with believable and maybe more importantly, likeable characters.  The opening chapters with the discovery of the bones grab your attention and you’re not released from the story until the very end.  Probably muttering the words…’woah’ or ‘…seriously?…’ under your breath.

Cathy Connolly is a very likeable lead protagonist who is only made more human by the situation she finds herself in.  I instantly warmed to Cathy and was cheering her on from start to finish (for those who have read the book, particularly at the end….!).  When Cathy is called to what seems like a run-of-the-mill burglary, she is shocked to discover what appears to be small bones sewn into the hem of a wedding dress.  But it’s not the only case Cathy and her boss, DI Dawson O’Rourke are tasked with investigating.  They are also on the hunt for a cold blooded killer from overseas who has reportedly landed in County Dublin.  I really enjoyed the relationship between Cathy and O’Rourke.  There’s a deep understanding between these two characters which I found very appealing.  I’m keen to see where Sam Blake will take this particular relationship.

The author has managed to spin several seemingly unconnected threads throughout the story and I couldn’t work out how they were all going to tie together.  But they do, and the bringing together and the rounding up of the these sub-plots is done with great style.  I want more Cathy Connolly and I’m excited to see that book two in the series is due for release later in the Spring.

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would.  It’s a dark, chilling read and I really enjoyed it.  Cathy Connolly is instantly likeable and I can’t wait to read more from Sam Blake soon.  Definitely a debut writer to watch out for.

Four out of five stars.

Little Bones by Sam Blake was published in the UK by Twenty7 | Bonnier Zaffre on 23rd February 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

copy-of-copy-of-smith-sons-1

sam-blake-cropped-web-672x372.jpg

Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, who is originally from St. Albans in Hertfordshire but has lived at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland for (almost) more years than she lived in the UK. Married to a retired member of An Garda Siochana she has two children, three cats and a fish, and runs the world’s only national writing resources website, as well as a publishing consultancy – she is Ireland’s leading literary scout.

Author Links:Website | Twitter | Facebook |

 

Advertisements

#BookReview: My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor (@deboc77) @BonnierZaffre

6159lmdigml-_sx323_bo1204203200_You’d always recognise your own son. Wouldn’t you?

Heidi and Jason aren’t like other couples.

Six years ago, Heidi’s daughter was murdered. A year later, Jason’s son Barney disappeared. Their shared loss brought them together.

By chance, Heidi meets a boy she’s certain is Barney.

But Jason is equally convinced it’s not him.

Is Heidi mad? Or is Jason hiding something? And can their fragile marriage survive Heidi’s newfound quest for the truth . . “

Back in June 2016 I was thrilled to join the blog tour for this fabulous book.  At the time I was a little snowed under with reviews (erm…OK, I still am!) so featured an incredible guest post from author, Deborah O’Connor.  That guest post, to this day, is the most visited page on damppebbles.  If you would like a reminder of how brilliant it is, or if you missed it the first time round, please click here.

Heidi and Jason are a couple brought together by grief and by the loss of their children. Heidi’s daughter, Lauren was snatched from outside their holiday home and brutally murdered.  One year later, Jason’s son, Barney is taken whilst out with his mum.  Lauren’s body was discovered, Barney has never been found.  Five years later, Heidi sees a child who she is convinced is Barney.  She’s so sure that she takes Jason to the place where she saw him so he can see for himself.  But he’s not so sure.  Surely he would know his own son, get some sort of…’feeling’.  But he doesn’t.  The child is not Barney.  Heidi however is convinced, making it her mission to find out the truth.  But even with the best intentions, will she be able to cope with everything she discovers…?

I’M VERY CONCERNED THAT THE REST OF THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS SO I’M GOING TO LEAVE THIS HERE, JUST IN CASE IT DOES!

I’ve been so busy reading for blog tours over the last few months that I’m afraid this book, despite my strong desire to read it, was put to one side.  Everytime I opened my Kindle, there it was, begging me to read it.  So by the time I found a spare 10 hours (I’m a slow reader) to read My Husband’s Son my expectations were unusually high.  But I wasn’t the slightest bit disappointed.  It’s a brilliantly written, eerie psychological thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Jason and Heidi have a strange relationship which made me feel a little uncomfortable.  It felt at times more of a marriage of convenience than one built on love.  A case of ‘Oh, this person understands what I’m going through, they’ll do!’.  I found it hard to warm to both characters, although I will say that I loved Heidi’s determination towards her cause.  Despite being told countless times that she was wrong there was no way she was going to stop looking for Barney.

The other predominant relationship in the book was the one between Tommy and Heidi and boy, did it made my skin crawl!  I was repulsed by Tommy and the invisible hold he seemed to have over Heidi.  I wanted her to run as far away from him as possible and his revolting lecherous ways.  Brilliant writing from Ms O’Connor, it’s not often that this level of disgust is raised within me by one character!

You may have read other reviews that mention a big twist as you approach the end of the book.  You may have also seen reviewers say that they had to go back and read the final chapters a second time.  Well, I can tell you, it’s a corker of a twist and testament once again to the incredible writing and storytelling prowess of Deborah O’Connor.  I was struggling to see how the book was going to end so the reveal knocked my socks off!

Would I recommend this book?  If you’re in the mood for an eerie, heart pounding psychological thriller then make a beeline for My Husband’s Son.  I really enjoyed it and would read more from Ms O’Connor in a heartbeat.  And can you really bear to miss out on THAT twist…?

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of My Husband’s Son.

My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor was published in the UK by Twenty7 on 6th October 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Twenty7Books |

Smith & Sons (11)

deborah-oconnor

Deborah O’Connor is a writer and TV producer. Born and bred in the North-East of England, in 2010 she completed the Faber Academy novel writing course. She lives in London with her husband and daughter.

Author Links:Twitter | Website | Goodreads | Facebook |

 

*Blog Tour: Guest Post* My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor

51bEoktfT3L“Heidi and Jason aren’t like other couples.

Six years ago, Heidi’s daughter was murdered. A year later, Jason’s son Barney disappeared. Their shared loss brought them together.

By chance, Heidi meets a boy she’s certain is Barney.

But Jason is equally convinced it’s not him.

Is Heidi mad? Or is Jason hiding something? And can their fragile marriage survive Heidi’s newfound quest for the truth . . .”

 

Today it’s my turn on the My Husband’s Son blog tour and I am beyond thrilled to share a superb guest post with you.  Deborah O’Connor had a few ideas for guest posts, things she wanted to write about.  As soon as I saw the title I had to have this post on damppebbles.  It’s amazing and the thing I love the most, it’s completely honest.  Over to you Deborah…

THE BUGABOO IN THE HALL: DOES HAVING KIDS MAKE IT HARDER TO BE A WRITER?

Halfway through my novel-writing course at the Faber Academy I asked our teacher, Louise Doughty, what she thought about Cyril Connolly’s infamous phrase: ‘There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall’.  At the time I had yet to have a baby but I was thinking about it and I was worried that, once it happened, I might struggle to ever find the time to write again.  Louise was her usual brilliant self and told us that she actually felt like she became a better writer after having her children, because her work was no longer just about her anymore.  As she saw it, the stakes were raised.  And the stakes being raised gave her even more impetus.  Now when she set pen to paper she wasn’t just doing it for herself she was doing it for her family, for all of them.

I finished the Faber course and continued with my first draft of My Husband’s Son, then I fell pregnant.  Suddenly I found myself holding down a busy full-time job, delirious with morning sickness and exhaustion, at the same time as trying to finish my book.  I was terrified.  I knew how hard I’d found it to carve out time while working.  How on earth would I manage once my baby arrived?  And so, even though all I wanted to do when I got home from work every night was, eat pasta lie down and go to sleep, I’d get home around 7.30pm, shove some food in my gob, then get out my laptop, arrange myself on the sofa and try to summon the energy to write.  I felt like I was in a race against time with my burgeoning bump.  I was convinced that if I didn’t manage to finish it before my contractions started it would be game over and the manuscript would be forever consigned to a dusty drawer, forgotten about, while I tried to contend with a baby and a job and a life.

Below is a picture of me on one of those nights.  My bump peeking out below my laptop.  At the time my husband posted this on Facebook with the caption #deadlines.

Deborah 3

And this is a picture of me in my actual hall with my actual Bugaboo we’d purchased from Mothercare (and dear reader, if you think my boobs look massive in this photo then you should have seen them when my milk came in.  Each breast was the same size as my head.  My actual head.  Remember that line from the kid in Jerry Maguire about the human head weighing 8 pounds.  I’ll leave that thought with you).

Deborah 2

Anyways, I managed to finish the first draft a week or so before my daughter arrived and then I entered the crazy all-consuming worm-hole that it the lot of any new mother.  We knew it would be hard but we hadn’t accounted for the horror that is colic.  For three months after Every Single Feed our daughter would scream in agony and then every night from about 5pm she would scream continuously for five or six hours, no matter what we tried to do to soothe her.  Nevermind reworking my novel, now I found myself struggling to find the time or energy to have a shower and a sandwich let alone puzzle over the bits of my plot that didn’t quite sing true.

When she reached four months our lives started to stabilise I little and I tried to go back to my writing.  But the baby would only nap for 40 minutes at once and the fact that I was getting only four or so hours sleep every night meant I couldn’t think straight.  Terrified my dream of becoming a writer was slipping away, I had another conversation with Louise.  This time on the phone.  She must have heard the fear and desperation in my voice because unprompted, she offered more sage advice.  ‘Don’t worry, you will get to write again.  It gets easier, the baby will get easier, I promise.’  I wanted to believe her I really did, but at that moment I couldn’t see how I’d ever have enough sleep, energy or time to ever write again.  Cyril Connolly’s words rattled around my brain.  Was he right?  Was it all over?

Then, when my daughter reached six months, everything changed.  Now she was napping for two, continuous gold-dust like hours every day.  Plus, I was getting a little more unbroken sleep at night.  For the first time in half year I read back through my first draft.  The distance had given me a much needed perspective.  Now I could see what was wrong with the manuscript and how to fix it.  My life took on a new rhythm.  Mornings were spent with my daughter, at baby yoga, in the park, at playgroups, then come midday, I’d put her down for her nap and race to my desk.  I guarded this time jealously.  People might suggest coming by for lunch and I’d politely put them off until later in the day.  These hours were everything.  I found I had a new focus, a new determination, a new efficiency that I didn’t have before I became a mother.  Now, whenever Cyril Connolly popped up in my head I gave him the finger.

The rewrite took time.  My maternity leave came to an end and I still had yet to finish redrafting the book.  I went back to work and my nap-writing times were curtailed to weekends.  It took another year but I finished my novel.  And I truly believe it was so much better than it would have been had I not had that forced six month hiatus.

Now my daughter is a little older and these days she prefers her scooter or bike over the Bugaboo, but this stage brings with it a whole new set of challenges on how to combine my job and my family life and my writing.  My husband gives me the time to write every Saturday and Sunday morning from 7am 12.30 but even though he’s busy entertaining her with jigsaws or building a den in the kitchen she knows I’m upstairs and every now and again she decides she wants to be with me and do what I’m doing.  That’s when I end up in a situation like this.  Writing fairly dark prose while a four year old with a purple laptop lies opposite me, also ‘writing’.

Deborah 1

I know now that having kids makes everything harder: being able to go out to a kettle-bell class, sleeping past the hour of 6.30am, hangovers.  But these are practicalities.  If you’re clever you can find ways around them: the soft play is your friend (at least one hour of writing time right there), Netflix is your friend (yeah I let my kid watch a movie sometimes while I knock out another 300 words. Bite me), anyone who offers you free childcare for a few hours is your friend.

Ultimately, Louise was right.  So if you’re currently in the middle of those dark, delirious sleep-deprived days, up to your elbows in sudocrem and shitty nappies then have faith.  You will go back to your writing.  You will write your book.  It is entirely possible.  It does get easier.  The bugaboo in the hall is bullshit.  I promise.

***

Totally amazing and so honest, I love it.  Thanks Deborah for taking the time to write this piece for me and for including your beautiful photos too.  My review of My Husband’s Son will be up on the blog soon.

My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor was published in the UK by Bonnier Zaffre on 16th June 2016 and is available in eBook format (paperback to follow later this year) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com |

Smith & Sons (11)

deborah-oconnorDeborah O’Connor is a writer and TV producer. Born and bred in the North-East of England.  In 2010 she completed the Faber Academy novel writing course. She lives in London with her husband and daughter.  Connect with Deborah on Twitter via @deboc77