Category Archives: Authors V to X

Reviews by author surname V to X

Review – Changeling by Matt Wesolowski

The Blurb

A missing child
A family in denial
Six witnesses
Six stories
Which one is true?

On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the dark Wentshire Forest Pass, when his father, Sorrel, stopped the car to investigate a mysterious knocking sound. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.

Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. Journeying through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there, he talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know what happened to the little boy…

Intensely dark, deeply chilling and searingly thought provoking, Changeling is an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller, taking you to places you will never, ever forget.

My Thoughts

If you go down to the woods today…

Changeling is the third in Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series and it is a series of books that just goes from strength to strength. I adored the first two – Six Stories and Hydra – and I adored this one too. Wesolowski manages to provide us with something different every time and there appears to be no limits to his imagination.

Again we follow Scott King and his Six Stories podcast as he investigates the disappearance of seven-year-old Alfie Marsden on Christmas Eve 1988. Alfie vanished along the Wentshire Forest Pass while travelling with his father. King speaks to six witnesses who may be able to shed light on what happened to Alfie that night.

Written with Wesolowski’s now trademark darkly beautiful writing, Changeling has all you would expect from this series. He explores the darkest and most topical of issues leaving you thinking about the book long after you have finished reading it and does it in a way that chills you to the bone. You are immediately dragged into the story and unable to turn away, although you may feel you want to in order to compose yourself. As he takes you through the inevitable folklore that surrounds Wentshire Forest, it becomes difficult to determine what is real and what is down to the power of suggestion and yet beyond this is something that is even darker.

Relationships and what makes a good parent are themes that are explored throughout Changeling and it will have you questioning your moral code and what you believe is right. With the most shocking of all the endings so far, Changeling left me reeling. While it can easily be read as a standalone, I would urge you to read the other tow books in the series first.

If you haven’t yet discovered this talented author make sure you do quickly. Changeling is another incredible book and has to be on your 2019 TBR list. Eerie and enthralling, Wesolowski continues to startle with his third book.

Published on eBook on 15 November 2018 and paperback on 24 January 2019 by Orenda Books, you can get your copy HERE.

2019 Reading Challenge – A book with a one-word title.

Blog Tour – The Old You by Louise Voss *Review*

I am delighted to be one of the stops on the blog tour for The Old You by Louise Voss today. This book is a bit of a cracker but before I share my thoughts let’s find out what it is about.

The Blurb

Nail-bitingly modern domestic noir
A tense, Hitchcockian psychological thriller
Louise Voss returns with her darkest, most chilling, novel yet…

Lynn Naismith gave up the job she loved when she married Ed, the love of her life, but it was worth it for the happy years they enjoyed together. Now, ten years on, Ed has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, and things start to happen; things more sinister than lost keys and missing words. As some memories are forgotten, others, long buried, begin to surface … and Lynn’s perfect world begins to crumble.
But is it Ed’s mind playing tricks, or hers…?

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, Louise Voss’s The Old You is a startling example of how to write the domestic noir! Why? Let me explain…

The plot centres around Lynn Naismith and her older husband Ed. Lynn gave up everything to be with Ed and she has been happy in their marriage. However, when Ed is diagnosed with Pick’s Disease, a form of early onset dementia, not only does Lynn have to contend with her husband losing his memory but also strange, inexplicable things that begin to happen.

Voss writes in such a way that the plot of The Old You kind of creeps up on you and there are numerous moments that knock you for six. It is unnerving in its depiction of what could actually happen as Lynn watches the dementia completely alter her husband’s personality. As the story unfolds, Voss ratchets up the tension and there is an overarching sense of unease and, in a strange way, it made feel a little claustrophobic. I guess this comes from the fact that the fear is centred around the confines of Lynn’s marriage and home.

Constantly keeping you on the back foot and looking for clues, Voss has crafted an intricate and clever plot. As revelation after revelation are revealed I was unsure of who I could trust in the telling of this story, and I had no idea which way the plot would go next. I have always been a fan of books and films in which you doubt the sanity and reliability of the main character/narrator and Voss pulls this off wonderfully.

Voss’s writing is fantastic throughout with beautifully phrased lines that resonate with you and make you think. It opened up my mind to how it must feel living with someone whose mind is being affected by disease and the sense of loss of both your loved one and your old life. It has clearly been meticulously researched to make it authentic.

We get glimpses into Lynn and Ed’s life prior to his diagnosis. Despite these switches in time throughout the storyline, Voss manages to ensure that the atmosphere of the current storyline is not lost or diminished in any way.

I loved The Old You, and I would go as far as saying if you only read one domestic noir this year make it this one as you will be hard pushed to find better. Tense, chilling and cleverly plotted.

Published on eBook on 28 February 2018 and paperback on 15 May 2018 by Orenda Books. You can get a copy HERE.


About the Author

Over her eighteen-year writing career, Louise Voss has had eleven
novels published – five solo and six co-written with Mark Edwards: a
combination of psychological thrillers, police procedurals and
contemporary fiction – and sold over 350,000 books. Louise has an
MA (Dist) in Creative Writing and also works as a literary consultant
and mentor for writers at She lives in
South-West London and is a proud member of two female crimewriting
collectives, The Slice Girls and Killer Women.

My thanks go to Louise Voss, Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for the copy of The Old You and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Catch the rest of the tour…

Review – All The Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker

The Blurb

Everyone loves Summer Ryan. A model student and musical prodigy, she’s a ray of light in the struggling small town of Grace, Alabama – especially compared to her troubled sister, Raine. Then Summer vanishes.

Raine throws herself into the investigation, aided by a most unlikely ally, but the closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous her search becomes.

And perhaps there was always more to Summer than met the eye . . .

My Thoughts

‘“God’s darkened Grace, Chief Black … The clouds pour down their moisture, and abundant showers fall on mankind”’

I adored Chris Whitaker’s debut novel Tall Oaks and had heard so many great things about All The Wicked Girls, his second novel that I was dying to get my hands on it. As is often the case when you have heard nothing but praise for a book, I went in to All The Wicked Girls with a sense of excitement and trepidation.

Set in the small town of Grace in Alabama’s bible belt, All The Wicked Girls centres around a spate of girls going missing in the local area. When much-loved Summer Ryan goes missing her twin sister, Raine, along with two local boys carries out her own investigation as to what has happened to her.

I always have to remind myself that Chris Whitaker is a British author when reading his books as he writes so convincingly as an American. The sense of place and the character’s voices all come across as authentic. From the outset I found myself reading All The Wicked Girls with a southern American drawl. Whitaker tells the story through the perspective of Summer, leading up to the point in which she goes missing, and through the perspective of Raine, the police officers investigating and Noah and Purv, the two boys assisting Raine.

I have to confess that initially I struggled to get into this book partly, I think, due to the amount of characters I had to get my head around and also because I had, perhaps, gone into it expecting it to be a certain way. It therefore took me a little while to settle into it and fully appreciate it. All The Wicked Girls is a slow burner and the characters, imagery and setting are all of as equal importance as the central storyline. If I had to, I’m not sure what genre I would put this book in.

In fitting with the setting, sin and religion play a huge part in this book. Grace is a small town that has had the industry and life sucked out of it. While the various inhabitants of Grace struggle to build a life and survive via a variety of methods that include prostitution, alcohol misuse, and abuse, they continue to attend church and hope for redemption via confessing their sins. As someone who doesn’t subscribe to any religious beliefs and often struggles with, what seems to me, the hypocrisy of it all and yet is fascinated by it, I really enjoyed this aspect of the book.

All The Wicked Girls is a very dark book and the overall feeling of oppression consumes you as you read it. In keeping with the religious angle of the book, Whitaker effectively uses the contrast of light and dark to evoke atmosphere and get across the extreme religious views of original sin and what constitutes as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Dealing with some difficult topics, there were a couple of times in the book when I felt my heart break.

As Whitaker carefully plots the story with cleverly placed red herrings, I did not manage to guess what had happened to Summer Ryan. The actual outcome surprised me, but not in the usual way. I initially felt a bit deflated, however, as the book came to a close I found myself appreciating it. There is so much more to this book than the central storyline and, on reflection, it fitted perfectly. A little cryptic, I know, but you will have to read it yourself to find out what I am talking about!

Brilliantly constructed, wonderfully written and yet heavily oppressive, All The Wicked Girls is a book that weighed heavy on my mind and that I came to appreciate more as I progressed through the book. A totally unique take on ‘the missing girl’ scenario.

Published on 24 August 2017 by Bonnier Zaffre you can buy a copy HERE.

My thanks go to Chris Whitaker and Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for my copy in exchange for my review.

Blog Tour – Hydra by Matt Wesolowski *Review*

I am so pleased it is finally my turn on the Hydra blog tour as I have been dying to shout about this book for what feels like an eternity. The much anticipated follow up to Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski is finally published this month and it’s fair to say that I liked it just a tad! So, here is what Hydra is about and my thoughts on it.


The Blurb

One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the northwest of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will
speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.
King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five key witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was as diminished as her legal team made out.
As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess…

Dark, chilling and gripping, Hydra is both a classic murder mystery and an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller that shines light in places you may never, ever want to see again.

My Thoughts

Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories was my book of 2017 and if I thought it was difficult to write a review to do Six Stories justice I once again have my work cut out reviewing Hydra. Quite simply, Hydra is to die for!

In 2014 Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and sister to death with a hammer and following her trial she has been incarcerated in a medium-secure mental health hospital. Once again, we find ourselves in the safe hands of Scott King, the creator of the Six Stories podcasts, as he sets out to explore if the diminished responsibility ruling that Arla’s defence team argued holds up. Through the interviewing of five witnesses and Arla herself, King attempts to unravel the events that resulted in the ‘Macleod Massacre’. I was instantly attracted to the premise of Hydra as it sparked off childhood memories of me reading about Lizzie Borden, the ’40 whacks’ poem about her and the kind of morbid fascination I had about the case. Wesolowski taps into the consciousness of the majority of people who seek to understand why some people go on to commit such horrific acts, making his books immediately interesting and compelling.

Demonstrating that he has his finger firmly on the button of what is happening in today’s society, Wesolowski draws on mental health, social media and the media to ensure that Hydra is a bang up to date thriller. It has a considered intelligence about it as he draws on such as issues as media sensationalism, the search for ‘blame’ in order to rationalise and explain the unexplainable – often in the wrong areas, think Marilyn Manson in Columbine and Child’s Play in the Bulger case – and the pervading nature of the internet in our lives. With social media Wesolowski immediately draws on one of my fears and coupled with the black-eyed children that play a part in the book, he had me looking over my shoulder as I read. Hydra is creepy as hell … and I’m not one who gets scared easily!

In terms of the prose, Wesolowski again skilfully ensures that the unique character of each voice shines through. Hydra is every inch as beautifully written as its predecessor, Six Stories, demonstrating that Wesolwski is no one trick pony but, indeed, a formidable talent. Hydra is every inch as fresh and current as his debut which will delight all those readers who have eagerly anticipated this book. Hydra literally pulses with atmosphere as you wind your way through the stories to its startling conclusion. Could I have possibly already found my favourite book of 2018?

Intelligent, thoughtful and damn scary, read Hydra with the big light on and not before bedtime! Absolutely bloody brilliant!

Published on 15 January 2018 by Orenda Books you can grab your copy HERE.

A huge thank you to Matt Wesolowski, Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for my advance copy of Hydra and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

About the Author

Matt Wesolowski is from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature Feature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio…

Follow the rest of the tour…


Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski *Review and Author Q&A*

Today is the second stop on my Countdown To Hull Noir feature and I’m delighted to welcome Matt Wesolowski to the Bloomin’ Brilliant Books for an interview. Matt is taking part in the Getting Away With Murder: Golden Age Vs Digital Age talk on Sunday 19th November. I unfortunately missed Matt at Newcastle Noir so I’m pleased to be seeing him this time round.

Before my interview with Matt I’m sharing my thoughts on his debut novel Six Stories.

The Blurb

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who took that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

My Thoughts

Six Stories, the debut novel by Matt Wesolowski, has been on my radar for a while having received rave reviews by other book bloggers. It was a book I knew I wanted to get round to reading sooner rather than later partly because I loved the sound of it and partly to see what all the fuss is about. Is it worthy of the fuss and the rave reviews? Damn bloody right it is! I loved this book!

Journalist Scott King is attempting to unravel the death of teenager Tom Jeffries that occurred in 1996 in Scarclaw Fell, Northumberland. Through his podcast he interviews those who were present at the time to try and get to the bottom of who or what caused his death. Told through the podcasts and punctuated by the son of the owner of Scarclaw Fell, Six Stories offers something totally unique and I got completely drawn into this book immediately.

Orenda have this knack of finding really talented authors and Wesolowski is one of those talented authors. Telling a tale through six different voices is not an easy task but Wesolowski pulls it off flawlessly, ensuring that the unique personality of each character comes through in the narration. None of the characters are particularly likeable, something that I love in a book, and it has you second guessing as to who is telling the truth about Tom Jeffries’s death throughout.

Six Stories is beautifully written and I fell in love with a folksong that one of the characters recites. I Googled it to see who had written it and discovered it was written by Wesolowski. Six Stories is brimming with atmosphere as Wesolowski describes the rugged and hostile terrain of Northumberland with its marshes and disused mineshafts. It literally bristles with tension and unease.

As Scott King unpicks what happened on that fateful night, we discover a tale of bullying and pack mentality amongst a group of teenagers known as the Rangers who spent time at Scarclaw Fell. This brought back memories of Lord of the Flies to me as each of the, now grown-up, teenagers talk of their place within the group, the pressure to fit in, the social dynamics and tussle for dominance. This gives Six Stories a depth and added layer that I wasn’t expecting. Alongside this, Wesolowski makes you think about the role of the media in reporting crimes and the impact that trial by media can have on those targeted.

I absolutely adored the way old and new folklore meld together throughout Six Stories giving it a creepy, ethereal feel. The hairs on my arms regularly stood on end while reading this book and yet the creepiness also has an enchantment to it due to the prose.

Wesolowski has managed to thread the story together in a complex way and has pulled it off brilliantly. Six Stories deserves the praise it has received and Wesolowski is an author to keep your eyes on. Current, unique and startling Six Stories is a must-read!

Published on 15 March 2017 by Orenda Books.

Q&A With Matt Wesolowski


Six Stories has a very current format in that it is told through the use of podcasts. What was the inspiration behind this?
I’ve always been fascinated by true crime. From being a teenager, I read a great many books about real murders and serial killers before I ever read any crime fiction. I always wanted to write about a fictional true crime but never had enough skill to do so convincingly. When someone recommended me the Serial podcast, I was instantly hooked on its unique way of storytelling and it was like I had finally found the medium to write my fictional true crime.

Social Media now has a huge presence in our lives. How so you feel about it? Is it a force for good or a necessary evil?
There are good and bad things about social media. I’m not a big fan. It makes me sad that so many people, from young people to adults feel that they their only validation can come from ‘likes’ on photos of themselves. To me, that’s baffling.
However, it is a great tool for sharing book recommendations, jokes and strange things – a double-edged sword perhaps? It’s not going anywhere, so I think we have to be careful about how we use it. You see people utterly consumed by it which is pretty depressing.

Six Stories is told via six different people and interspersed by Scott King. How did you go about ensuring each character had their own unique voice?
That was really hard to do. I had to hear their voice, the character had to arrive in my head pretty much formed before I could do their voices justice. This was for sure the hardest aspect of writing the book.

Six Stories has a complex plot in that it takes six different point of view. Did you have to meticulously plot it or did you see where your writing took you?
I never plan, I’ve tried a few times and it’s killed the story dead before it’s started. With Six Stories, I didn’t know who killed Tom Jeffries until I was about half way through episode five! It was only after I’d completed the first draft that I had to go back and snip off all the frayed edges of the story.

How important has social media being in the promotion of your debut novel?
For all my fear and resistance of it, it’s actually been really important. Karen, my publisher had to tell me to unlock my Twitter account so people could interact with me when Six Stories came out. I still find it amazing when people tweet me to tell me they liked it, that’s really special as I’ve done that with so many authors I like!
Social media can be a wonderful tool; for things like book promotion, I just find being accessible to anyone on there a bit scary!

Where you active on social media prior to the release of your novel?
I’m quite a solitary and private person so I find being ‘available’ on social media quite stressful. I appreciate, though, that you have to be so I use Twitter and there’s a Facebook page I use for author promotion stuff. I’m not one for arguing about politics etc online though; to me, that’s just an exercise in futility.
One of the themes in Hydra, the follow-up to Six Stories explores the detrimental effect social media can have; I think I was exploring my own fears!

You were at Newcastle Noir and are taking part in Hull Noir in November. Does talking at literary events come easily or do you get nervous?
I do get really nervous because I know how important these things are; people have paid money to come and hear you and you don’t want to let them down! I remember being an audience member at these sorts of events and buying books because of how the authors came across. I do my best to not appear nervous!

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Always. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life; chef, teacher, shop assistant, but I always wrote, that was always the ultimate goal.

What has been the best part of your journey to published author?
I think it’s when you see your work in an actual shop. There was a wonderful moment when my son was five and we saw Six Stories in Waterstone’s. He pointed it out to me and gave me a massive hug and said he was proud of me. A few tears may or may not have leaked out!

If you weren’t writing what other job would you love to do?
Like I say, I’ve done a lot of jobs but I’ve not really loved any of them like I do writing. I love animals though, so perhaps working with them in some sort of rescue centre?

Thank you for taking part Matt. I have really enjoyed reading your responses.

For full details of Hull Noir 2017 including programme and ticket details click HERE. Hope to see you there!


Book Review – Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker

The Blurb

Tall Oaks is an idyllic small town, until the disappearance of a young child throws the tight-knit community into crisis.

Jess Monroe, the boy’s distraught mother, is simultaneously leading the search and battling her own grief and self-destructive behaviour. Her neighbours watch on, their sympathy masking a string of dark secrets.

This is a small town where nothing is as it seems, and everyone has something to hide. And as the investigation draws towards a climax, prepare for a devastating final twist…

Dark but laugh-out-loud funny, full of suspense and packed with twists, this brilliant new thriller is like nothing you’ve read before.

My Thoughts

‘’’We’re all fucked-up in one way or another.’’’

I have had Tall Oaks sitting on my Kindle for a while and have been dying to get around to reading it, but never seemed to find the time. Fellow reviewers and bloggers have raved about it, and I had to see if it lived up to the hype.

Whitaker’s debut novel centres around the small American town of Tall Oaks. A close-knit, well-heeled neighbourhood with a small crime rate, Tall Oaks has been rocked by the disappearance of three-year old Harry Monroe. This is not, however, your run-of-the-mill crime novel. Tall Oaks is a novel about community, facades and never really knowing what goes on behind closed doors.

I was impressed by Whitaker’s writing. Despite being British he pulls off the American setting perfectly, and I never once felt I was anywhere other than the USA. For the duration it takes to read Tall Oaks you are fully immersed in this very American town and living and breathing amongst its inhabitants.

With a large cast of characters, it would be easy for some to have more of a peripheral feel, but each one has been carefully thought out and developed to the point that they all leave their mark on you. Incredibly well plotted, the intertwining nature of their lives works perfectly with Whitaker skilfully holding back enough information to add intrigue and then weaving it all together flawlessly at the end. It is hard to believe that this is Whitaker’s debut novel.

Tall Oaks is dark and emotional yet very funny. It relies on the individual stories of each town member to bring it to fruition and I adored this aspect. It made me laugh and at the same time moved me. The gradual unfurling of secrets helps you identify with each and every character while simultaneously throwing you off the scent of the story at its core, resulting in an ending that took me completely off-guard and yet made perfect sense.

Quite unlike anything I have read before, Tall Oaks is quirky, refreshing and compelling. It is one of those books that leaves you feeling upset that you won’t ever experience it for the first time again, but you know you will find yourself re-reading it to look for clues you may have missed the first time around. A work of pure brilliance!

Published on eBook on 7 April 2016 and paperback on 8 September 2016 by Twenty7 (Bonnier Zaffre).

Thank you to Chris Whitaker, Bonnier Zaffre and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Blog Tour – Bad Little Girl by Frances Vick *Book Review*

I’m thrilled to be one of two hosts on the Bad Little Girl blog tour today, finally getting to share my review of this cracking psychological thriller by Frances Vick. Be sure to also check out Sarah’s review on By The Letter Book Reviews today.

The Blurb

 ‘I’m not safe – you have to help me…’

Little Lorna Bell is from a notorious family on a rundown estate. Everyone thinks she’s a nasty piece of work. The schoolchildren call her a thief. But Lorna’s hair is matted, her shoes pinch her feet and school teacher Claire Penny can’t help herself; some kids just need a bit more support, a bit more love, than the rest.

As the bond between teacher and pupil grows stronger, Claire sees Lorna’s bruises, and digs to uncover the disturbing tale behind them. Heartbroken, Claire knows she has to act. She must make Lorna safe.

Just when Claire thinks she has protected Lorna, a chance encounter brings enigmatic stranger Marianne Cairns into their lives. Marianne seems generous and kind but there is something about her story that doesn’t quite add up. Why does she feel so at home, and why is Lorna suddenly so unsettled?

Claire has risked everything to save Lorna. But what can save Claire from the shocking truth?

An utterly unputdownable and darkly compelling read that will have fans of The Girl on the Train, The Sister, and Gone Girl absolutely hooked.

My Thoughts

Bad Little Girl is the story of Claire Penny, a teacher, and her pupil Lorna Bell. When Claire suspects that Lorna is being abused by her family she feels she has to take action to make the little girl safe. With that action comes consequences she never imagined…

Vick completely pulls you into the novel from the very first page. The prologue starts with a bang and then chapter one teases you with just enough information to compel you to keep reading to find out more. Written in third person narrative, Vick writes really well with vivid descriptions and I loved her use of smells and scents, especially in relation to Lorna, to describe people and the contradictions within them mixing sweetness with something altogether less pleasant. Bad Little Girl is not a fast-paced story, it is one of those insidious, creeping novels that gets under your skin and sets your nerves on edge although you are often left wondering why. It has that ‘something’s wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on’ quality to it.

The characters within Bad Little Girl are key to the whole book and they are strongly portrayed. Vick has cleverly written them so that they often leave that seed of niggling doubt in your mind as to whether or not you can trust them or believe them. Claire is a character you warm to immediately, but she also drove me mad! She clearly cares deeply about her job and the well-being of her pupils, to the detriment of her personal life. While her actions are not right they come from a good place and are well-intentioned, but every one of my ex-social worker senses was screaming out at her to make different choices. She finds it hard to go against people despite believing they are wrong. Claire is a woman who has missed out on her life and those opportunities to start a family of her own and I really felt for her. Lorna fulfils something within her that she hasn’t been able to achieve on her own.

Lorna is the child who is tarred by the reputation of her family, who is unlikely to succeed due to the unfortunate hand that fate has dealt her by making her a member of the Bell family. Switching between empathy and distrust, the character of Lorna kept me on my toes and messed with my head.

And then there is Marianne. Unfortunate enough to bump into Marianne in Cornwall, Claire finds she cannot get rid of her. Blatantly unstable from the start, the consequence of meeting another unsettled mind is devastating. Is Marianne manipulator or manipulated? Marianne is a highly unlikable character who I found particularly intriguing.

Underneath the layer of psychological thriller Vick raises some serious themes. This is also a novel about manipulation, the impact the history of your family has on you and if you can ever escape it and whether children grow up to quickly and are too knowing. Bad Little Girl would work really well within a reading group as it raises lots of issues that are ripe for discussion.

Bad Little Girl is an unsettling novel that it has you doubting what you are reading and who you can trust. It centres around some disturbing ideas that are thought-provoking and uncomfortable and you are left feeling uneasy. A great psychological thriller, highly recommended.

A huge thank you to Frances Vick and Kim Nash at Bookouture for my copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Published on 22 February 2017 by Bookouture.

Purchase Links

UK 🇬🇧
US 🇺🇸

About Frances Vick

The only child of parents who worked at a top security psychiatric hospital, Frances grew up receiving disquieting notes and presents from the patients. Expelled from school, she spent the next few years on the dole, augmenting her income by providing security and crewing for gigs, and being a guinea pig for medical trials. Later jobs included working in a theatre in Manhattan, teaching English in Japanese Junior High Schools, and being a life model in Italy, before coming back to London and working with homeless teenagers and refugees.

Blog Tour – Jacques by Tanya Ravenswater *Author Guest Post and Review*


I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Jacques, the beautiful novel by Tanya Ravenswater, I am sharing my review and am excited to have the lady herself here talking about the five things she can’t write without.  So, I will hand you over to Tanya…

Tanya Ravenswater[156483]

Five Things I Can’t Write Without

My Laptop
When I first started writing, I used to always make notes and write first drafts on paper (in black gel pens), then type them up and continue to revise on the computer. I now tend to write most of the time directly onto my laptop. I find that the act of sitting in front of it can put me into a more focused frame of mind and even when I’m not feeling so inspired, I can usually write something which might be the seed for something else. The ease of deleting gives permission to freely experiment and also appeals to my obsessive attachment to a tidy page! When writing on paper, I honestly don’t like the visual ‘clutter’ of a lot of scoring out. Call it writing hygiene, housekeeping, whatever. Or perhaps it’s got something to do with the fact that I had my hand smacked on my first ever school day for day-dreaming and enjoying drawing in my Writing Book? I genuinely thought my teacher would be proud of my lovely work, but she wasn’t. Still, we live and learn, sometimes by growing our own shells and neuroses.

Quietness and Space
While I enjoy listening to music and it can put me in a creative mood, when actually writing I need a quiet background. Ideally, I prefer to be alone, though working at home with family around, I’ve got used to getting into the zone and blinkering myself from everything else going on in the circus arena. Even if the ring-master sometimes has to call me in.

Table and Chair
I’ve recently started working in a shed down the garden, which I love. It’s a quiet place apart, with minimal distractions, a simple desk, power-point, high-backed office type chair and a simple white table for spreading out books and papers. Otherwise I move to wherever’s quiet in the house, often to the kitchen table by the window. Sometimes, more at weekends, I’ll write in bed as soon as I wake up or last thing. I do think the relaxing feel of staying under the duvet in such a personal space can help loosen up ideas. The odd cigar and bottle of champagne works wonders as well. Churchill, Twain and Proust, among others, apparently did the same.

I want plenty of natural light and a view – somewhere to look and take regular screen breaks. I think I could make myself write in a room without a window, but I’d always be much happier with one.

Food and Drink
I write better these days with plenty of Yorkshire Tea and Colombian coffee. Home-made iced coffees more recently. My husband’s a Yorkshire man, iced coffee is my agent’s favourite drink, so there could be a rationale there? If totally absorbed, particularly at first draft stage, I can go for a long time without thinking about food, but during redrafting and editing I tend to graze a lot. Chocolate, bread and salted peanuts are often on my mind, though I try to go for celery, apples and oranges instead. And iced green grapes can do the trick. Even if it hasn’t been a productive writing session, there’s still something to feel good and virtuous about!

About Jacques

‘It’s only when we matter, when we are seen and truly loved, that we know what it means to fully live.’

This is the story of Jacques Lafitte, a young French boy who is orphaned and torn away from everything he knows.  Forced to move to England to live with his guardian – the proud and distant Oliver Clark – Jacques finds himself alone in a strange country, and a strange world.

As years go by, Jacques becomes part of the Clark family and learns to love life again.

But then his feelings for Rebecca – Oliver’s daughter – become stronger.

And this development has the power to bring them together or tear the whole family apart…

For fans of Boyhood, Jacques is a moving and unique coming-of-age story about one boy’s struggle to find his place in the world.

My Review

‘…sometimes in a confined space, within limitations of the present, we can have everything.’

Jacques is a beautiful coming of age novel in which loss, grief and love intertwine to make an enthralling read and it’s beauty comes from it’s depth and simplicity.

Jacques’ world is turned upside down when his parents die and he has to move from France to England to be cared for by his legal guardian. I was not surprised to learn that Tanya worked in bereavement support as she captures the feelings of grief and loss perfectly and writes about them with empathy and acute sensitivity.

The prose is gorgeous – poetically philosophical – and I found myself re-reading paragraphs just to take in the words again. Tanya is a very talented writer and she evoked such emotion within me while I was reading Jacques. Despite this, the book has a peaceful feel about it and is a book you want to read slowly in order to take it in and appreciate it.

‘Some experiences bring us awareness we can’t ignore. They become touchstones, deeply embedded in the valleys of our psyche. Whether we want to or not, we can’t help measuring everything else in our subsequent life against them. Such knowledge has the potential to lead us to despair, as well as to the path of authenticity.’

Jacques is a wonderful character, he is sensitive, intelligent and emotionally intuitive. You cannot help but adore him and feel every nuance of his thoughts and feelings. Anna also stood out for me, initially a character that is difficult to warm to, Tanya demonstrates through her how experiences can affect a person’s character. As the story progressed, I began to feel a great affection for her. In contrast, Jacques’ guardian, Oliver, is a self-centred, arrogant man who has little empathy for those around him and seeks to gain sympathy from others to justify his own bad behaviour. I loved the different character’s within Jacques who Tanya has brought to life wonderfully.

Jacques is a remarkably uplifting book, despite the themes of loss and grief it never comes across as melancholy. Jacques’ views on life and his resilience in the face of adversity make you think and contemplate those things you maybe take for granted.

An intelligent, thought-provoking, moving, beautifully written book I cannot recommend Jacques highly enough. You need to add it to your to be read list!

Thank you to Tanya Ravenwater and Carmen at Bonnier Zaffre for the copy in exchange for my thoughts.

About Tanya Ravenswater

Tanya Ravenswater was born in County Down, Northern Ireland.  she graduated in modern languages from St Andrews University.  She has worked as a nurse, in bereavement support and counselling education.  With a love of words since childhood, inspired by nature and fascinated by the diversity of our inner worlds and relationships, Tanya writes fiction and poetry for adults and children.  She has published a collection of short stories for women, and has also been short-listed and published in the Cheshire Prize anthologies.  Her children’s poem, Badger, was the winner of the 2015-15 Prize for Literature.

Connect with Tanya via Twitter at @starlingbird

A huge thank you to Tanya for taking part with a great post and to Carmen at Bonnier Zaffre for including Bloomin’ Brilliant Books on the blog tour.  Catch Tanya’s other guest posts on the rest of the Jacques blog tour…

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#10 Books of Summer – Book #4 The Things We Never Said by Susan Elliot Wright

Things We Never Said

The Blurb

In 1964 Maggie wakes to find herself in a psychiatric ward, not knowing who she is or why she has been committed.  She slowly begins to have memories of a storm and a man called Jack and slowly the pieces of the past begin to come together…

In 2008 Jonathan is struggling to put his differences with his parents aside to tell them he and his wife are expecting a baby, when a detective arrives to question him about crimes committed long ago…

And as these two tales interweave, the secrets of the past, long kept hidden, start to come to light in unexpected and sometimes startling ways.

The Things We Never Said is a powerful novel about fatherhood and motherhood; nature and nurture; cruelty and kindness; and mental breakdown.  Written in beautiful, compelling prose, it is by turns revealing, witty and moving.


My Thoughts

Told during two different times, we follow the main characters, Maggie from 1964 and Jonathan from 2008. The prologue drew me in immediately with enough unanswered questions to keep me intrigued.

Maggie’s story is really moving. The reader first meets her in 1964 when she is a patient in a psychiatric hospital. Susan has written these parts of the book wonderfully, horrifying yet with glimpses of humour, it has the perfect balance. I really liked Maggie, she has an inner strength and courage that I admired greatly.

Jonathan is having a difficult time as events seem to conspire against him. Expecting his first child with his wife, he is finding it difficult to tell his parents due to the difficult relationship he has with them. I was rooting for him throughout the book, desperately hoping things would work out for him.

Without giving the plot away, the two stories come together perfectly. Mental health and parenting feature in this book and Susan has written sensitively and beautifully about difficult issues. The book is not depressing, however, and I felt uplifted by the ending.

A compelling read that is written beautifully, I would definitely recommend this book. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it as part of my 10 books of summer.

Published 23 May 2013 by Simon and Schuster UK.