Mid-year thoughts…..

So it’s now the middle of June and almost halfway through the year and time, I feel, to take stock.

Many of the ideas I had on my 2018/19 post are still around, they’ve not worked quite as I’d hoped but that’s ok. One thing that did happen was my US trip and I did bring back a couple of books and lots of fabulous memories. I never imagined I would be comfortable this high off the ground or able to see this skyline with my own eyes but it happened and I will never forget it. The other skyline below was pretty impressive too…..

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New York skyline with Empire State Building.
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Manhattan at night from the Staten Island Ferry

It’s a bit tricky to take pictures on a ferry when it’s breezy but I’m happy with how this one came out.

I also had a random, impulse trip to Newcastle Noir for a day on the Saturday. It was great fun and I even found time to sneak off to the coast for an hour or so which was amazing and definitely blew the cobwebs away.

I’m typing this sitting in a cottage near Loch Lomond having a weekend to myself and enjoying a break from everything. I’ve been finding out more about myself recently. I always knew I was an introvert but now I know more about the type of introvert I am I’m hoping a few other things in my life will make more sense, for instance the fact that I work in a noisy place with almost 200 other people and can cope with that everyday.  I’ve realise however, particularly with so many changes having happened in the past year, that I need to be careful that I have proper time for myself, like this weekend for instance. There is no one here but me, a laptop and a pile of books, the nearest neighbours are birds, cows and sheep. I know this isn’t for everyone and some people won’t understand how I can be happy spending over 48 hours not physically talking to anyone but I can and I am sometimes.  Thankfully I also have an amazingly supportive partner who may not understand my need to do this but realises that I do need it and supports my decisions as he always has. Makes a huge change from my ex who would have had a completely different reaction to me doing this.

Anyway, back to the blog. I’m still sticking with one of my plans from earlier this year, I want to take part in fewer blog tours so I can focus on reading some of the books I’ve had sitting at home for too long. It’s been harder than I thought to do this but I think I’m improving. I’ve also decided to not take part in any tours in August bar the two I have already signed up for. For August I am going to read what I want and review that and see how that goes. I do have some tours in September onwards already booked but they will be getting kept to a minimum.

I’m hoping the blog will keep growing, I joined The Write Reads earlier this year and recently they shared a post of mine about why I blog. The responses I got to that post being shared were huge and lead to me getting about 4 times as many blog views one one day as I normally do so that was an amazing response. I’m going to focus on reading and reviewing and seeing if I can get my NetGalley percentage to a figure it’s never reached before. I’ve requested and been sent so many books from them that I really do need to make a dent in the big pile that I now have. So the second half of my year is going to be about reading, reviewing and trying to keep everything balanced. I’ve learned that stressing about things is a complete waste of time and uses way too much energy so I’m going to try and worry less about things.

Here’s to an interesting few months, lets see what the rest of 2019 brings, and if you’re heading to Bloody Scotland in September I’ll see you there. Can’t wait!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#Review : Eighteen Below by Stefan Ahnhem @StefanAhnhem @HoZ_Books

I’m supposed to be trying to resist emails from NetGalley offering books and usually I manage but when this book popped up on Sunday I couldn’t resist, it was just far too tempting. I’ve reviewed it below and hopefully can convey why this book was worth giving into temptation for…….

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Blurb:

ON A HOT SUMMER’S DAY. 
A car speeds through the streets of Helsingborg. When it reaches the harbour, the driver keeps going, straight into the cold, dark sea.

A BODY IN THE WATER. 
But it is not a suicide. The autopsy reveals that this man has been dead for some time. He was murdered two months ago, and his body has been deep frozen.

TURNS EVERTHING COLDER. 
As more bodies are discovered, Fabian Risk must hunt a killer with a mission: to preserve his victims, and create the perfect death…

 

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My Review:  As I’ve already said, this book was too tempting to turn down so I downloaded it and spent most of Sunday reading it. It’s part of a series but don’t let that put you off, this is the first book in the series that I’ve read and I followed it just fine. There was enough information about character history to fill in any blanks and the majority of the book is the police investigations which are specific to this book.

There is nothing conventional about this story, even from the beginning it throws information at you and expects you to keep up. It’s a fast-paced thrill of a ride and doesn’t let up, even the slower scenes have their own tension which means the story doesn’t slow down for a second. I was gripped by the first few pages and when I wasn’t able to read the book, I was thinking about it, wondering what would happen next. It doesn’t baby you or give you too much information but gives just enough that you have to join the dots yourself or be left floundering and confused. It’s a cleverly executed story which kept me guessing all the way through.

As I’ve said there are others in the series and those are now high on my to-read list because this storytelling is a level of skill I have rarely seen elsewhere.  While there is not a great amount of time spent on characters back stories there is enough that you care what happens to them and get a good sense of them, even of the more minor characters that are only in for a few pages.  There are a few different threads running through the book and they are skilfully woven around the main one, in the blurb, so that you can see how the threads interconnect and form into a gripping story which will have you questioning what you’re reading.

If you like crime fiction, whether you read a lot of Scandinavian crime or not, then you definitely have to check out this series. This book doesn’t hold back, there’s a lot of death but don’t let that put you off, it’s a fabulous read and definitely worth a try.  I certainly do not regret for one second clicking on that email on Sunday morning and discovering this stunning book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019

I’m not really into celebrating the new year but during that odd time between Christmas and New Year I was reflecting on how much has changed for me over the past 12 months. I stopped studying and changed jobs and while, on the surface, that doesn’t sound like a lot there was a lot of upheaval surrounding both of those changes. I went from doing 6/7 days a week at 50+ hours per week to 2-4 days and 14+ hours to 5/6 days and an average of 35 hours. The plan I started the year with went completely out the window and I never envisioned ending up where I am now. Don’t misunderstand, I like my new job, the pay and benefits are good and it gives me a good amount of free time (perfect for reading!) but I never expected to end up working in the industry I’m now in.

These changes have been huge for me on a personal level, my goals have vanished because they no longer apply and I have no plan or idea for my future. I know I’m incredibly lucky to have found a job I enjoy with a short commute and good pay but getting used to the rest of the changes in my life is going to take a bit of time.

Unfortunately this huge upheaval has impacted my blog. I had plans to have numerous authors on this year and while some of that was successful much of it wasn’t and I’m disappointed by that. I have managed to keep up with blog tours for the most part, if I hadn’t done any I would have read very little and as reading helps my stress levels and overall health, clearly this is something I want to ensure I keep doing. I am hoping to still have some authors on the blog in the coming year, I need more than an hour or two to properly sort things out but I’m hopeful it will happen soon. I’m also making some changes, some are minor and cosmetic and others less so. After a discussion with the lovely Kelly from LoveBooksGroup I am considering having a special feature for myself and blog tour guest posts, this is still in the pipeline at the moment. I’m changing my profile picture for twitter, Facebook and Instagram and having a general overhaul of the blog. I am also hoping to have a guest reviewer join me but this is in the early stages at the moment so we’ll see how it goes.

Because of last year’s changes I’ve also decided to take on less blog tour reviews this year. I will still do other tour posts but not as many reviews as I want to have a proper go at reducing my ever increasing to-read list and be able to read what I fancy more often than I have been able to of late.

I enjoy doing blog tours and they are important but as I get older I’m realising that I need to find a balance in my life that works for me and getting my to-read list and Netgalley percentage under control is going to go a long way to achieving that.

I haven’t made many plans for 2019 but my biggest one at the moment is my first ever trip to the US in April. I’m visiting Boston and New York and making sure I a) visit some book shops and b) have space in my luggage to bring a few books home. I’m so excited about this holiday, I’ve had to renew my passport because it’s been so long since I’ve been abroad.

In a bid to be better organised and make the most of my non-work time this year I’ve decided to try bullet journalling instead of keeping a normal diary. It’s off to an interesting start so we’ll see how it works out.

I’ve got some cracking books lined up for the beginning of the year, both tour reviews and ARC’s and also some reviews of books I read last year but haven’t yet reviewed. I’m thrilled and hugely grateful to all the publishers, blog tour organisers and everyone else who emails and sends me books. I never thought this would happen when I started my blog and while it may still not be the biggest blog out there but it’s mine, something I started from scratch and grew myself and that is what makes it special.

Despite the upheaval and changes in 2018 it still had a lot of good points and I’m hoping that now things are starting to settle down, there will be even more good things awaiting me in 2019. Time will tell.

#Review : Winter at West Sands Guest House by Maggie Conway @conwaymd910 @HQDigitalUK @NetGalley

Today I have a review of the lovely Winter at West Sands Guest House for you.  I initially heard about this book through seeing the cover on twitter, it is a gorgeous cover, and given that it is set in St Andrews, Scotland, somewhere not a million miles from me, I was intrigued and decided to give it a go.

Many thanks to HQ Digital UK and Netgalley for letting me have a copy of this book to review and thanks to Maggie Conway for writing such a lovely story.

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Blurb:   Eva Harris has her hands full juggling a young son, a disobedient dog and running her thriving seaside guesthouse, so really the last thing she needs is to be distracted by her new neighbour, ridiculously handsome but arrogant Ben Matthews.

For one thing, she’s got nothing in common with the man, Ben’s a high flying lecturer at the town’s university while she barely scraped through high school, for another he’s fresh out of a relationship while Eva hasn’t been on one single date since the death of her husband, seven years ago!

She’s determined to keep her distance, but in a small town like St Andrews that’s easier said than done, and it doesn’t help that everyone, including her son Jamie, think Ben is wonderful! Breaking out of her sad but safe little bubble might be the hardest thing she’s ever had to do, but Ben might just be worth the risk…

Buy link:   Amazon UK

 

Winter at West Sands Guest House: A debut feel-good heart-warming romance perfect for 2018 by [Conway, Maggie]

 

Review:  As I said above I spotted this book because of the cover on twitter, just shows that covers are so important in getting people interested in the book itself.  I think it’s fair to say that from reading what I’ve written above you’ve probably guessed that I enjoyed this book and you’d be right.  This is a lovely winter’s tale of love, misunderstandings and the infamous Scottish weather.

While the writing on the book says it’s a Christmas romance I would say you can read it anytime, Christmas does happen in the story but as the book starts in August and covers from then till January Christmas isn’t central to the story.   As long as you want a cosy, light read this will be perfect at any time of year.

We meet Eva, her son and their dog right at the beginning of the book and are introduced to them and their situation before their new neighbour, Ben arrives.  Initially the two homes and occupants couldn’t be more different, Eva’s house is warm and welcoming just like her whereas Ben’s is cold and uninviting.  Ben has moved north for a fresh start somewhere new but having just come up from London is unused to the friendliness that he encounters in Scotland.

As you would expect things soon start to change but to say more would be giving away too much.  Over the rest of the book we learn more about Eva and why she hasn’t dated since her husband died, why Ben moved so far from London and whether they will become more than just friends.

This is a light and lovely novel, perfect for a cosy read when the weather is miserable or when you just want to be enveloped in a warm hug.  That’s essentially what this book is, a warm hug so if that’s what you’re looking for, regardless of the time of year, this is definitely worth checking out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I became a book blogger.

There have been quite a few posts and comments on facebook and twitter recently regarding book blogging, “free” books and payment for reviews.  I know there are other bloggers who have written about these issues and because of that I’m not going to do the same.  What I am going to do, however, is talk about why I blog, what got me to this point and why I’m still doing it despite the stress and upheaval I’ve experienced in the past few months.

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I read a lot when I was younger.  I come from a family of readers and this picture (while not mine) gives an accurate representation of my library borrowing till I was about 15 and reduced it so I could concentrate on my exams.  I easily had 10 books at home at any one time and this continued for years so basically I’ve always loved reading and, always loved crime and mysteries which is why my blog is mainly crime books.  This love of books continued for a long time until, one day I lost my dad.  And then I stopped reading.  We had had similar tastes in books, even reading different series by the same author (yep, more crime!) but I lost all interest after that.  It wasn’t until about 6 years later that I started reading properly again and by properly I mean more than 2/3 books a year.  I missed my love of reading the entire time but anyone who has lost their motivation or reading mojo, even temporarily, knows you can’t force it to come back.  Although I had started reading again it wasn’t back to the amounts I had been reading before, things had moved on, new authors had appeared and I felt out of the loop on so many levels.

Cue more life upheaval a few years ago and after a bit of time for that to settle down I registered with my local library.  I spent time just looking at books, borrowing piles (half of which went unread!)  and simply enjoying the fact that I wanted to visit the library, could enjoy and concentrate on books and was re-discovering reading properly again for the first time in years.  After that I joined a book group and realised I had missed talking to people about books.  It was around this time that I got the opportunity to start reviewing.  The book group was, and still is great, but at one meeting a month it wasn’t enough for me.  I had been leaving reviews on Goodreads but nothing more than that and to be honest I was unaware of book blogging at that time.  However, when the opportunity to review for more than just my own records appeared I jumped at the chance.  Finally I could do something where I could talk books to people and share the books that I loved with others.

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As with many things my book reviewing grew.  I discovered Netgalley and began getting books from there to review.  I started my twitter account to get my reviews out to more people and to connect with authors and publishers and share my love of books with anyone who would listen.  During this time I discovered blog tours which I wanted to take part in but I had no blog and so this was created.  It’s been around 18 months since I started this blog and I have learned so much since then.  I’ve taken on too much (something I need to work on!!), I’ve learned about scheduling blog posts, I’ve met, both in real life and online, some amazing authors, publishers and bloggers.  I’ve panicked when I’ve realised a review for a blog tour is due in days and I haven’t read the book yet. I’ve been excited every time I get a large, thick envelope in the post because that means book post and that is never, ever boring! I have an Instagram account now that I never had before and I’m still developing the blog which, to be fair, is an ongoing process.

One thing  I have never, ever done is take this for granted.  I don’t expect anything from anyone and certainly not “free” books or payment for my reviews.  I get annoyed when the comments about reviewing for “free” books appear because these books are not free and reviewing and blogging are not things that people do just because.  Take it from me, blogging takes time.  There are so many different parts to it like creating posts, reading and reviewing books, sharing posts, establishing relationships with other bloggers, authors and publishers and more.  This is not something that can be done in a few minutes or an hour a day.

If you’ve read this far in the post you’ll notice that I have always read books.  Admittedly there were a few years when I didn’t and for good reason, but even then I thought about them and wondered when I would start reading again.  I do this because I enjoy it, I love the excitement of discovering new authors and new books.  I’ve complained to one author about having to wait for the next book in the series because of the suspenseful ending of the last one.  Books are my thing, they always have been and despite the fact that I have blogged and read less this year due to study and work commitments that have seen me working up to 55 hours a week for 4 months and studying on top of that, I still wanted to read.  Books excite me, they always have.  Through easy times and life challenges books are the one constant I have had and when I didn’t have them they remained in my thoughts.

I blog, not because of status, “free” books, money or anything else like that; I do it because I love reading and that is the only reason anyone should ever have for being a book blogger.

 

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January……..

Well it’s January again, my hoped for white Christmas never happened, in fact I have yet to see any snow (bar that on the hills in the distance) this winter so far which is a bit disappointing.  As I mentioned in my end of year round up post I am only doing a few blog tours this month and one in February and have no plans to do any more until at least June.  This is because I have a placement between February and June as part of my university course and between that being full time plus the fact that I’m working weekends, I simply won’t commit to a blog tour because it would be unfair on the tour host, publisher and author if I did.  (Having said that I may bend this rule IF there is a book out by an author I already know and love.) So, this is how my next few weeks are looking at the moment:

6th – Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent.

10th – Brake Failure by Alison Brodie.

15th –  Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb.

17th – Rupture by Ragnar Jonasson.

24th – Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie.

30th – Echoes in Death by J.D. Robb.

6th Feb – Meet Me at Willoughby Close by Kate Hewitt.

These are all reviews and on top of that I’m also going to be reviewing a couple of Christmas novellas that I read over the holiday but otherwise that’s me for January.  What I’m hoping to do in February onwards in work through the books I have received from publishers and authors, some of which I’ve had for longer than I’d like to admit, and those I have on Netgalley so maybe I can bring my tbr down a bit.  How much reading I’ll have time for I’m not sure but hopefully I can manage at least one or two.

So, with all lined up that I’d better get on with reading, although I do have an essay due soon so I should maybe do that first though those books are looking quite appealling, hmmmm…………..

 

 

 

Review of Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb

Apprentice in Death (In Death, #43)

Blurb:  Nature versus nurture…
 
The shots came quickly, silently, and with deadly accuracy. Within seconds, three people were dead at Central Park’s ice skating rink. The victims: a talented young skater, a doctor, and a teacher. As random as random can be.

Eve Dallas has seen a lot of killers during her time with the NYPSD, but never one like this. After reviewing security videos, it becomes clear that the victims were killed by a sniper firing a tactical laser rifle, who could have been miles away when the trigger was pulled. And though the locations where the shooter could have set up seem endless, the list of people with that particular skill set is finite: police, military, professional killer.

Eve’s husband, Roarke, has unlimited resources—and genius—at his disposal. And when his computer program leads Eve to the location of the sniper, she learns a shocking fact: There were two—one older, one younger. Someone is being trained by an expert in the science of killing, and they have an agenda. Central Park was just a warm-up. And as another sniper attack shakes the city to its core, Eve realizes that though we’re all shaped by the people around us, there are those who are just born evil…

My Rating: 4.5/5

Review: This is the latest in the long running In Death series featuring Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her  husband Roarke.  I started reading this series years ago but only got as far as book 4 and then stopped although I can’t remember why. I recently jumped back into them around book 39 and am absolutely loving them.

This story focuses on a sniper in New York who is killing people in an apparently random fashion but one which Eve believes is not as it seems.  It starts with 3 people murdered at an ice rink but why, was there an intended target and if so, which one or more of the victims was it? These questions puzzle Eve and the brilliant Detective Peabody until there is another shooting and things start to become a lot clearer. While the story starts off at a fair pace it quickly gathers speed until you are racing along with Dallas and Peabody and having to put the book down occasionally so that you can have time to breathe!

I zipped through this book in just over a day and what a day it was. All of the usual characters were there and all were as well written as always. The only disappointment in the story was that we see less of the supporting characters than usual. However the speed at which the murders were carried out means that they don’t have the same involvement as they normally would so while disappointing, it is understandable.

I love this series and this book is an excellent addition to it. Despite my comments above the character interaction in the detective’s office and at Dallas’ home remains; as does the wonderful relationship between Dallas and Peabody who are easily my favourite detective partnership.  These interactions and relationships are part of what makes these books brilliant and I’m enjoying watching them develop as the series progresses.

If you’re already a fan of the series you won’t be disappointed in this book. If you haven’t read them before this is not a bad place to start with, you won’t know the history of the characters but it will still be an enjoyable read and a good introduction to the series.

I received an advanced copy of this from Netgalley and this is my honest review.