Blog Tour: Sticks and Stones by Jo Jakeman

How far would you go for revenge on your ex? Welcome to the blog tour for Jo Jakeman’s debut thriller, Sticks and Stones.

About the book: 

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Imogen’s husband is a bad man. His ex-wife and his new mistress might have different perspectives but Imogen thinks she knows the truth. And now he’s given her an ultimatum: get out of the family home in the next fortnight or I’ll fight you for custody of our son.

In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable: she locks her husband in the cellar. Now she’s in control. But how far will she go to protect her son and punish her husband? And what will happen when his ex and his girlfriend get tangled up in her plans?

 

  • Published by: Harvill Secker
  • Published: 12th July 2018
  • 368 Pages

My thoughts:

Sticks and Stones is a sharp, dark and engrossing read full of twists and turns. It’s a solid debut novel and perfect if you want to get stuck in to a good domestic thriller. The book is fast paced and full of complex characters – as the plot unfolds, it switches time periods between the past and present, which keeps you intrigued and interested in the action throughout. At times it is a little over the top and farfetched, however I was still gripped throughout and couldn’t get through it quick enough – particularly the second half of the book. I’m looking forward to seeing what Jo Jakeman does next. If you’re keen to read an original thriller, then I highly recommend Sticks and Stones.

About the author:

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Jo was the winner of the Friday Night Live 2016 competition at the York Festival of Writing. Born in Cyprus, she worked for many years in the City of London before moving to Derbyshire with her husband and twin boys. Sticks and Stones is her debut thriller. Find out more at http://www.jojakeman.com

You can read the other posts on the blog tour here:

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Wellcome Book Prize: To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell [Blog Tour]

Following on from my blog post on The Wellcome Book Prize shortlist, I’m here today as part of the blog tour, showcasing the wonderful To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell, which is published by Granta Books.

The prize celebrates the many ways in which literature can illuminate the breadth and depth of our relationship with health, medicine and illness. If you’re not too familiar with the Wellcome Collection, then I highly recommend you check the museum out – it’s a great destination for the curious and often has intelligent, engaging and thought-provoking exhibitions on. The museum was originally established under Sir Henry’s will in 1936, and is now a global charitable foundation, which aims to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive.

Here’s a quick reminder of the other shortlisted books:

Wellcome Book Prize 2018 shortlist

The winner is set to be announced at a ceremony on Monday 30th April 2018, which is being held at The Wellcome Collection, and the prize is being judged by:

  • Hannah Critchlow, Neuroscientist, author and presenter
  • Bryony Gordon, Journalist, author and mental health campaigner
  • Edmund de Waal, Writer and Artist
  • Sumit Paul-Choudhury, Journalist
  • Sophie Ratcliffe, Writer, critic and academic 

A little more about To Be a Machine: 

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Transhumanism is a movement pushing the limits of our bodies–our capabilities, intelligence, and lifespans–in the hopes that, through technology, we can become something better than ourselves. It has found support among Silicon Valley billionaires and some of the world’s biggest businesses. In To Be a Machine, journalist Mark O’Connell explores the staggering possibilities and moral quandaries that present themselves when you of think of your body as a device. He visits the world’s foremost cryonics facility to witness how some have chosen to forestall death. He discovers an underground collective of biohackers, implanting electronics under their skin to enhance their senses. He meets a team of scientists urgently investigating how to protect mankind from artificial superintelligence.

Where is our obsession with technology leading us? What does the rise of AI mean not just for our offices and homes, but for our humanity? Could the technologies we create to help us eventually bring us to harm? Addressing these questions, O’Connell presents a profound, provocative, often laugh-out-loud-funny look at an influential movement. In investigating what it means to be a machine, he offers a surprising meditation on what it means to be human.

Author: Mark O’ Connell
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Granta Books

My initial thoughts: 

One thing that really draws me to To Be a Machine is that it looks at the influence technological innovations have on humanity and humanity’s future – ever since I was a young age, technology has fascinated and scared me in equal measure, so this a topic that really intrigues me. Also, in my career to date I’ve worked with a number of huge technology brands and it often astounds me that there’s no end to the use cases of new science and innovations – particularly when looking at new developments within hacking and robotics, I often end up thinking what next?

Whilst I’m yet to finish reading To Be a Machine, I’ve found it to be really thought-provoking, clever and engrossing so far. It manages to explores a really complex, and at times dark, subject matter in a chatty, candid and digestible way. I’m looking forward to finishing it off to see what the rest of the book holds.

Today I’ve also got an extract of To Be a Machine – read on and enjoy:

A broad definition: transhumanism is a liberation movement advocating nothing less than a total emancipation from biology itself. There is another way of seeing this, an equal and opposite interpretation, which is that this apparent liberation would in reality be nothing less than a final and total enslavement to technology. We will be bearing both sides of this dichotomy in mind as we proceed. For all the extremity of transhumanism’s aims—the convergence of technology and flesh, for instance, or the uploading of minds into machines—the above dichotomy seemed to me to express something fundamental about the particular time in which we find ourselves, in which we are regularly called upon to consider how technology is changing everything for the better, to acknowledge the extent to which a particular app or platform or device is making the world a better place.

If we have hope for the future—if we think of ourselves as having such a thing as a future—it is predicated in large part on what we might accomplish through our machines. In this sense, transhumanism is an intensification of a tendency already inherent in much of what we think of as mainstream culture, in what we may as well go ahead and call capitalism. And yet the inescapable fact of this aforementioned moment in history is that we, and these machines of ours, are presiding over a vast project of annihilation, an unprecedented destruction of the world we have come to think of as ours. The planet is, we are told, entering a sixth mass extinction: another Fall, another expulsion. It seems very late in the day, in this dismembered world, to be talking about a future. One of the things that drew me to this movement, therefore, was the paradoxical force of its anachronism. For all that transhumanism presented itself as resolutely oriented toward a vision of a world to come, it felt to me almost nostalgically evocative of a human past in which radical optimism seemed a viable position to take with respect to the future. In the way it looked forward, transhumanism seemed, somehow, always to be facing backward. The more I learned about transhumanism, the more I came to see that, for all its apparent extremity and strangeness, it was nonetheless exerting certain formative pressures on the culture of Silicon Valley, and thereby the broader cultural imagination of technology. Transhumanism’s influence seemed perceptible in the fanatical dedication of many tech entrepreneurs to the ideal of radical life extension—in the PayPal cofounder and Facebook investor Peter Thiel’s funding of various life extension projects, for instance, and in Google’s establishment of its biotech subsidiary Calico, aimed at generating solutions to the problem of human aging. And the movement’s influence was perceptible, too, in Elon Musk’s and Bill Gates’s and Stephen Hawking’s increasingly vehement warnings about the prospect of our species’ annihilation by an artificial superintelligence, not to mention in Google’s instatement of Ray Kurzweil, the high priest of the Technological Singularity, as its director of engineering.

I saw the imprint of transhumanism in claims like that of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who suggested that “Eventually, you’ll have an implant, where if you just think about a fact, it will tell you the answer.” These men—they were men, after all, almost to a man—all spoke of a future in which humans would merge with machines. They spoke, in their various ways, of a posthuman future—a future in which techno-capitalism would survive its own inventors, finding new forms in which to perpetuate itself, fulfill its promise.

Have you read any books on the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist? Which one do you think will win this year? 

You can catch the other blog posts on the tour, here:

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Blog Tour: A Breath After Drowning by Alice Blanchard

Today, I’m on the blog tour for A Breath After Drowning by Alice Blanchard, published by Titan Books.

About the book:

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Child psychiatrist Kate Wolfe’s world comes crashing down when one of her young patients commits suicide, so when a troubled girl is left at the hospital ward, she doubts her ability to help. But the girl knows things about Kate’s past, things she shouldn’t know, forcing Kate to face the murky evidence surrounding her own sister s murder sixteen years before. A murder for which a man is about to be executed.

Unearthing secrets about her own family, and forced to face both her difficult relationship with her distant father and the possibility that her mother might also have met a violent end, the shocking final twist brings Kate face to face with her deepest fear.

Paperback: 400 pages
Published by: Titan Books
Author: Alice Blanchard

My review:

A Breath After Drowning is a tense, page-turner of a book – a psychological thriller that really packs a punch.

Kate, the central character, is complex – full of guilt, mental health struggles and intelligence. At times, she is dark, brooding and intense, so it was refreshing to see other light-hearted relationships alongside this – her boyfriend’s character added depth and a little humour to the book. This juxtaposition was very much needed amongst the grief and darkness that plagued the rest of the novel. Whilst ABAD is character-led, the author has done a great job ensuring you’re invested in the plot, making sure you want to know how every element of the story unfolds.

The book is a little slow in places, but that by no means detracts from the plot, as the pace later increases, with tension firing up on all cylinders.

I’m also a huge fan of books set over multiple time periods – Blanchard creates a rich puzzle of past and present events, overlapping wonderfully. I love discovering new authors and this has definitely intrigued me, leaving me wanting to read more by Alice Blanchard. I highly recommend ABAD – engrossing from the first page, to the last.

You can catch the other blog posts on the tour, here:

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Thank you to Philippa, from Titan Books, for sending me an advanced copy of the book – this is an honest and unbiased review. 

Blog Tour: The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl

Another day, another blog tour – today, I’m here with The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl, published by the wonderful Orenda Books.

About the book

The Ice Swimmer AW.indd

The Oslo Detectives are back in another slice of gripping, dark Nordic Noir, and their new colleague has more at stake than she’s prepared to reveal…When a dead man is lifted from the freezing waters of Oslo Harbour just before Christmas, Detective Lena Stigersand’s stressful life suddenly becomes even more complicated. Not only is she dealing with a cancer scare, a stalker and an untrustworthy boyfriend, but it seems both a politician and Norway’s security services might be involved in the murder.

With her trusted colleagues, Gunnarstranda and Frølich, at her side, Lena digs deep into the case and finds that it not only goes to the heart of the Norwegian establishment, but it might be rather to close to her personal life for comfort. Dark, complex and nail-bitingly tense, The Ice Swimmeris the latest and most unforgettable instalment in the critically acclaimed Oslo Detective series, by the godfather of Nordic Noir.

Publisher: Orenda Books
Paperback: 276 Pages
Translated by: Don Bartlett

A brief overview of my thoughts…

The Ice Swimmer is a wonderfully written Police Procedural, fronted by Lena who is a whip smart and strong female detective. Gripping from the start, it works wonderfully as a stand alone novel – this was the first book I’d read in The Oslo Detective series and I didn’t feel lost, or like I was missing any information.

Full of plot, twists and tales this kept me intrigued from the first to last page – I wanted to keep going until I found out what had happened. If you’re into your Nordic Noir, I’d recommend this clever, twisty tale.

About the author

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One of the godfathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjovik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frolich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

You can keep up with the other posts on the blog tour, here:

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As ever, a HUGE thank you to the wonderful Anne for organising another wonderful A Random Things Tour.  

Blog Tour: The Confession by Jo Spain (Quercus Books)

#BlogTour #TheConfession #BookReview

Welcome to my stop on The Confession blog tour.

About the Book:

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Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear. It looks like Harry’s many sins – corruption, greed, betrayal – have finally caught up with him.

An hour later the intruder, JP Carney, hands himself in, confessing to the assault. The police have a victim, a suspect in custody and an eye-witness account, but Julie remains troubled.

Has Carney’s surrender really been driven by a guilty conscience or is this confession the first calculated move in a deadly game?

Published in hardback: 25th January 2018 / EBook: 11th January 2018
Author: Jo Spain
Publisher: Quercus Books

My thoughts:

This is an explosive psychological thriller; a real cat and mouse read that leaves you flitting between perspectives, characters and storylines. I started reading this late one night and was completely addicted, I had to force myself to put it down so I could get some sleep.

From the first page, we know who the killer is, but it isn’t until the last that we find out why. I loved this concept, as it flipped the usual murder mystery on it’s head – Jo Spain delved into the back-stories and lives of the characters, unravelling their pasts to help us understand what really happened. It provided the book with a dark storyline that reels you in.

At the heart of this novel is Harry McNamara, his wife Julie and their dysfunctional marriage. It highlights that often it is not all as it seems on the surface; we shouldn’t be too quick to judge. Throughout, the characters are well-developed, wonderfully dark, complex and so dislikable. With many twists and turns, I found myself second guessing what had happened, realising at the end I was completely wrong – when I reached the last page I had to take some time to absorb it all.

The Confession is such a great read; it grips you from the get-go and pulls you in. I promise, if you like thrillers you’ll be up all night wanting to read just a little bit more…

About the Author:

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Jo Spain’s first novel, top ten bestseller With our Blessing, was one of seven finalists in the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition 2015. It was named as an Irish Times crime fiction book of the year by Declan Burke. Beneath the Surface (2016) and Sleeping Beauties (2017), the second and third in the DI Tom Reynolds series followed, to further critical acclaim. Her standalone thriller, The Confession, will be released January 2018.

A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and their four young children. Jo previously worked as a policy advisor in the Irish parliament and as vice-chair of the business body InterTrade Ireland.

Jo’s debut novel is set against a background of the infamous Irish Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby homes. The author’s own father was born in one such home in Dublin and the novel’s backdrop was constructed based on the in-depth research she undertook while attempting to trace her family roots.

Her favourite writers include Pierre LeMaitre, Fred Vargas, Louise Penny, Jo Nesbo, Ann Cleeves, B.A. Paris, Elizabeth Haynes and Agatha Christie.

You can read the other posts on the blog tour here:

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Blog Tour: Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir (Orenda Books)

Hello and welcome to another blog tour! Today I’m taking part in the tour for Snare by Icelandic author Lilja Sigurdardóttir (translated by Quentin Bates). Thank you to Orenda Books for sending me an advanced copy and to Anne Cater for setting up the tour.

About the book:

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After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonia is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies. Things become even more complicated when Sonia embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial crash. Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Orenda Books

My thoughts:

I love Iceland as a location for crime novels, so I was already excited about this one before I picked it up. The novel focuses on the drug trade in the country, as Sonia is caught up in smuggling drugs to make end meets as a single Mother. Told in short chapters the story has multiple narrators, changing perspective frequently, which is something I absolutely love – it keeps me hooked, interested and invested in a story.

I really enjoyed the different characters in Snare, from Sonia’s strength and straightforward thinking, to Bragi, the Customs Officer’s, warmth. For such a short book it certainly packs a punch – it’s fast-paced, concise and engaging from the first page. Full of tension and threat – particularly when Sonia travels through customs with a stash of drugs on her – Sigurdardóttir’s writing makes us look at what sacrifices we would make for family as well as questioning if we ever truly know the people we love. It shows us how ordinary people act differently when thrown into extraordinary circumstances in life.

The film rights have been bought for it and I can’t wait to see the creative treatment it receives. If you’re looking for a quick but compelling crime read, full of complex characters then check this one out (and read it before the movie comes out). I can’t wait to see what’s next in the series.

Verdict: 4/5

About Lilja:

Lilja Sigurðard.

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, the first in a new series, hitting bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. Lilja has a background in education and has worked in evaluation and quality control for preschools in recent years. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

You can catch the other posts on the blog tour here:

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I was very kindly sent an advanced copy of Snare in exchange for an honest, fair and unbiased review. Thank you Orenda Books. 

Blog Tour: The House by Simon Lelic (Penguin UK/ Viking)

Hello, welcome to my stop on The House blog tour – I’m very excited today to be able to share what I thought of the book with you today!

About the book:

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What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake. Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.

And now the police are watching them…  

Author: Simon Lelic
Paperback: 340 pages, Penguin UK (Viking) – published 3rd November 2017, available to pre-order here.
E-Book: Published 17th August, available here

My thoughts:

For some reason I was expecting The House to be full of supernatural mystery, with a ghost story linked to it. Spoiler: It isn’t. Looking back at the blurb I’ve got absolutely no idea where I got that from as it definitely sounds like a thriller, which is exactly what it is!

First of all, I love the way The House is narrated – I tend to gravitate toward books that are told through multiple perspectives and The House unfolds from both Jack and Syd’s points of view, so this immediately got a big tick from me. They recount the story to us, the reader, through their written account of what had happened at The House; the way they’ve documented the weird goings on is used cleverly as a plot device later in the book as we find out why they wanted to write everything down.

There are moments of extreme tension in The House; at times I had to read a couple of chapters more to a) find out what was happening because I was hooked and b) it creeped me out and I didn’t want to switch my light off! There was one section in particular that had me listening out for every sound in my house. The themes running through The House are dark and brooding, touching on family, love, trust and revenge.

Simon Lelic’s writing is great, every chapter reels you in inch by inch. As each layer peels away, we learn the truth – or deceit – behind The House, however every time I thought I had it sussed, I was wrong. I hadn’t heard of Simon before, but I’ve now added some of his other books to my TBR and I’m excited to see what he does next.

I massively enjoyed The House and raced through it in a couple of evenings – I highly recommend giving it a read if you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller full of suspense.

About the author:

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Simon Lelic was born in 1976 and has worked as a journalist in the UK and currently runs his own business in Brighton, England, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

You can read the other posts on the blog tour here:

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