Review: The Devil’s Feast by M.J. Carter


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I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.



The Devil’s Feast by M.J. Carter Series: The Blake and Avery Mystery Series Published by: Penguin on 27th October 2016 Genres: Fiction; Historical Fiction; Mystery; Thriller  Pages: 368 Format: Hardback Source: Publisher Rating: ***

About: For lovers of Sherlock, Shardlake and Ripper Street. A hugely enjoyable heart-pounding Victorian thriller- murder, a celebrity chef and a great detective double-act.

‘Richly detailed and smartly plotted’ S J Parris, Observer on The Printer’s Coffin

London, 1842. There has been a mysterious and horrible death at the Reform, London’s newest and grandest gentleman’s club. A death the club is desperate to hush up.

Captain William Avery is persuaded to investigate, and soon discovers a web of rivalries and hatreds, both personal and political, simmering behind the club’s handsome façade-and in particular concerning its resident genius, Alexis Soyer, ‘the Napoleon of food’, a chef whose culinary brilliance is matched only by his talent for self-publicity.

But Avery is distracted, for where his mentor and partner-in-crime Jeremiah Blake? And what if this first death was only a dress rehearsal for something far more sinister?

Review:  For me the best thing about this novel was how real historical figures are interwoven into the story. It make the story seem so much more real and believable. And the descriptions of Victorian life was so vivid.

Despite being the third book in the series, I thought that this worked well as a standalone (having never read the first two books!). M.J. Carter did not assume that the reader had read the previous books, instead giving information as required and necessary.

The relationship between Avery and Blake was enjoyable and fun to witness. Avery is the narrator of the story and he struggles to work out what is happening. It is not till Blake arrives that the pieces slowly start to join together.

This was a great Victorian adventure, that will keep any mystery fan on their toes.

Guest Post: ‘Blood, sweat and tears – how I moved from fact to fiction’ by MJ Carter, author of The Devil’s Feast


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Today I am delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for The Devil’s Feast by MJ Carter.

Below MJ Carter talks about how she came to write thrillers and it just proves no matter what you never have to stick to one genre!


It was some time in 2010 that I actually thought I was ready to start writing fiction. My second book had come out, a massive tome about the First World War, which took me over six years and nearly finished me off. I wasn’t ready to submerge myself again, I wanted to write something which didn’t involve me fact-checking every half-sentence.

I’d been toying with the idea of a detective, a lone working-class, self-educated sceptic for years. I knew exactly where I wanted to put him: in the 1840s, the first years of Queen Victoria’s reign, a fascinating, tumultuous decade of massive change, from horses to railways, from letters to telegraph and lot more besides. I had a whole series of stories for him in my head.

The idea for my first book came to me when I was reading about colonial India and the Thugs, the bandit gangs who befriended, then strangled, unwitting travellers on the roads of India. I read about the British officer who succeeded in crushing them, and the fact that there’s still a fierce debate among historians about whether the Thugs ever really existed, or were a convenient British fabrication. Ah! I had the plot of my first thriller: The Strangler Vine.

So I had a set-up. Then came the writing. I felt reasonably confident about being able to construct a backdrop to my story: one of the things I like about good detective fiction is that it often gives you a world:  Rebus’s Edinburgh; Shardlake’s Tudor Court. As a writer of non-fiction I already tried to conjure places and times as vividly as possible. I even felt I had a handle on character: biography is all about trying to tease out the nuances and subtext of a personality and get it on the page.

The killer was the plotting and how actually to write it. I had a start and an end of sorts and vast great holes all the way through. I went to my husband, who is a novelist, for help. He gave me two excellent pieces of advice. One was to write as compete a plan as possible: easier said that done. I didn’t do as well as I’d have liked—I didn’t really know what I was doing and it cost me a lot in time and perspiration. I think having now written three novels, that I’m the sort of person for whom the plot turns and develops as I write, and I’ll probably never manage to entirely plot out a book in advance. (I’m in good company, Lee Child says he never knows what’s going to happen in his books.) The second piece of advice was to write a first person narrative — if you’re starting out writing fiction it’s more straightforward to create one point of view and one coherent voice, and it’s easier to work out what the character does and doesn’t know, and therefore what the reader can know.

My narrator, William Avery, actually emerged therefore from structural necessity. I needed a clueless newcomer, who knew as little about what he was seeing as me. But amazingly (to me at least), he very quickly became vivid flesh and blood to me: naive, stupidly brave, good-natured, full of the prejudices of the day.

The next obstacles were actually how to write it and make it interesting. In the early drafts I felt a bit like those early sailors frightened of going out of sight of land. I clung to my history, stuffing great wedges of reassuring dull fact into my prose. I had to keep going back and cutting out a bit more fact my comfort zone, and putting in a bit more plot. Other things I found extraordinarily difficult: getting my characters from one bit of the story to another. Occasionally I’d go and see my husband, ‘They’re here,’ I’d say plaintively, ‘how do I get them to there?

The other thing I noticed was that everyone seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time standing up and sitting down, and walking in and out of rooms. They were always turning around. This does not come up a lot in non-fiction. Apparently it’s a common novice fiction-writer’s mistake — feeling you have describe everything that happens including the boring bits, in the interests of continuity. Actually you don’t. That’s the great thing about fiction: you’re really in charge.

Therein lies the great pleasure I discovered in novels. It was a bit terrifying, but also wonderfully liberating — after years of having to check every half-sentence — simply to be able to make stuff up.



Review: Christmas Under a Starlit Sky by Holly Martin


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I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Christmas Under a Starlit Sky by Holly Martin Series: A Town Called Christmas #2 Published by: Bookouture on 19th October 2016 Genres: Chick-lit; Christmas; Contemporary; Fiction Pages: 252 Format: E-arc Source: Netgalley Rating: *****

About: Step inside a beautiful winter wonderland where love, laughter and cosy nights by the fire will make this Christmas one to remember.

Neve Whitaker loves managing the Stardust Lake hotel. She gets to work alongside her wonderful family and she’s spending Christmas on the most enchanting, snow-covered island in Scotland. So why is her heart so heavy this festive season?

It might have something to do with the gorgeous actor Oakley Rey, the man she finished with before he left for California and the man she loves more than anything. With Oakley’s career in Hollywood soaring, Neve is convinced she’d only hold him back. She had to end it with him – at least that’s what she keeps telling herself.

But now she has a secret she’s struggling to keep, and when Oakley arrives on Juniper Island determined to win her back, Neve is thrown off balance. Will Neve’s fear of having her heart broken again push Oakley away for good, or is it time for her to take a leap of faith?

Get swept away by this deliciously sweet and heartwarming tale, and spend an unforgettable Christmas on Juniper Island.

Review: So I am definitely in the Christmas Spirit now and may or may not have wore my Christmas jumper... But ssh, don’t tell anyone.

There is something so delightfully warm and comforting in reading a Holly Martin book. There is something so satisfying in snuggling up on the sofa with a hot chocolate in one hand and a really good book.

 I loved that Christmas Under a Starlit Sky focused on two couples – Neve and Oakley, Adam and Ivy, while still getting glimpse of old faves – Pip and Gabe , and getting a glimpse of future loves (and story!) Luke and Audrey (pretty please!).

This is a book that will have you swooning over the gorgeous couples, the Christmas twinkliness and the magicalness of what Christmas means.  I fell completely and utterly in love with this book and could not put it down.

Holly Martin has managed to capture the essence of what Christmas means in all its gorgeous cute self and should be able to turn any Scrooge into a believer.

This is a warm, endearing, romantic and funny read that will have you hooked from page one. This was a delight to read and will be a pleasure to reread in the future.

Guest Post: ‘The Inspiration for The Disciple’ by Stephen Lloyd Jones, author of The Disciple


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Today I am delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones. I loved reading The Disciple (see my review) and I recommend it to those who love fantasy and horror.

Don’t forget to visit other blog stops along the tour for other great content.



In The Disciple, published by Headline this month, Edward Schwinn, a barely-functioning recluse, is returning home one winter evening when he happens across a five-vehicle pile-up. Investigating the wreckage, he discovers the sole survivor: a woman, heavily pregnant, blindfolded and bound.

            It’s over a year since I wrote that opening scene, but I remember the experience very clearly. One moment I was walking near my home, and the next I was sitting beside Edward in his Land Rover as he navigated the mountain road on which he travelled. I could smell the wet odour of his dog in the back, and could just about see around the corner to the carnage that awaited him.

            At this point, I had no idea where the scene would take Edward, or the identity of the woman he rescued. I knew he was a damaged man, and that a darkness in his past had all but destroyed him. I knew, also, that the woman would lead him into dangers he could never have possibly foreseen, and at the same time offer him a startling opportunity for redemption.

I began to write, and as the scene and those that followed took shape, I glimpsed more of the story: more of Edward’s character, and more of the journey on which he’d embarked. It was a fascinating process, one that sustained me through many hundreds of pages of writing.

Looking back, I have no idea why The Disciple’s opening scene popped into my head the way it did, but the same thing happened with my debut novel, The String Diaries. One moment I was without a story, the next I was watching its first scene unfold. Receiving inspiration that way is electrifying – exciting and terrifying in equal measure. I know that the only way I’ll find out what happens is to write the story out, but until I do I won’t know if I have something worth reading, or something utterly worthless.

With The Disciple, that journey of discovery consumed a year and a half of my life. The more I wrote, the more immersed I became. As I reached the end, I could think of little else. And, once it was done, and the journey was at an end, I felt a very real sense of loss.

Fortunately, of course, it wasn’t long before I found myself inside another opening scene, simultaneously excited and terrified to see how it would play out. This month, I’ll probably complete that book. As I write this, I feel it calling me.

Review: The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones


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I received this book for free from the publisher / Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


The Disciple by Stephen Lloyd Jones Series: Standalone Published by: Headline on 6th October 2016 Genres: Fantasy; Fiction; Historical Fiction; Mystery; Thriller  Pages: 544 Format: Paperback / E-Arc Source: Publisher / Netgalley Rating: ***

About: Stephen Lloyd Jones – acclaimed author of THE STRING DIARIES – returns with a richly-imagined thrill ride for fans of Stephen King, Lauren Beukes and THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.

“Ferocious and masterful… Don’t miss.” Starburst magazine

They are coming…

On a storm-battered road at the edge of the Devil’s Kitchen, a woman survives a fatal accident and gives birth to a girl who should never have lived.

The child’s protection lies in the hands of Edward Schwinn – a loner who must draw himself out of darkness to keep her safe – and her arrival will trigger a chain of terrifying events that no one can explain.

She is a child like no other, being hunted by an evil beyond measure.

For if the potential within her is realised, nothing will be the same. Not for Edward. Not for any who live to see it.

Review: I was excited to get my hands on this book ever since I saw that Stephen Lloyd Jones had written a new novel. This is completely different from The String Diaries that in some ways it is hard to see that each book is from the same author.

If I am being truthful I preferred the subtle horror and mythical element of The String Diaries to the violent depictions here. But that is because I am terrible at horror and falter at the idea, let alone the sight, of blood.

 This is a violent, bloody read, and is not for the faint-hearted. For me it was a bit much. The details of the gore, the deaths and weapons overwhelming. For me the story lost its’ magic, the excitement of discovering something new, and believing that this could exist in our world.

Throughout we follow the story of Piper, a girl who is clearly special. What is uncertain is whether she is good as some believe or inherently evil. There is no clearly define ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ and the book poses some moments that makes the reader check and recheck their evaluation of who is in the right.

This book is twisted in more ways that one and addictive as the story of Piper’s birth and the truth behind the events is slowly revealed. This is a book filled with strong character who are multi-layered as each have different motives and reasons for joining in the fay.

This is an intriguing and original read and one that I will be interested to see if it has a sequel.