Thursday, 28 February 2019

The Girl Without Skin by Mads Peder Nordbo

The Girl Without Skin by Mads Peder Nordbo
First published in Danish as Pigen uden hud by Politikens Forlag in Denmark in 2017. English language translation by Charlotte Barslund published by Text Publishing on the 1st October 2018.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Blood and WorldReads: Denmark

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

They were near the edge of the glacier. The sea beneath the helicopter was dense with pack ice. In front of them, the endless whiteness stretched as far as the light could reach. It hurt his eyes. Millions of white crystals. Except in one place. One spot. Right where the mummified Norseman had been found and Aqqalu had kept watch. There, the ice was glossy red.

When a mummified Viking corpse is discovered in a crevasse out on the edge of an ice sheet, journalist Matthew Cave is sent to cover the story. The next day the mummy is gone, and the body of the policeman who was keeping watch is found naked and flayed—exactly like the victims in a gruesome series of murders that terrified the remote town of Nuuk in the 1970s.

As Matt investigates, he is shocked by the deprivation and brutal violence the locals take for granted. Unable to trust the police, he begins to suspect a cover-up. It’s only when he meets a young Inuit woman, Tupaarnaq, convicted of killing her parents and two small sisters, that Matt starts to realise how deep this story goes—and how much danger he is in.

I was excited to read a second novel set in Greenland, the previous one being Crimson by Niviaq Korneliussen, because I know very little about this isolated country. Nordbo brings its troubled communities vividly to life and manages to naturally include issues such as attitudes to Danish colonialism and the problems the Inuit people faced as a result of abrupt changes to their traditional lifestyles. At one point characters discuss people leaving apartment windows open regardless of the weather outside because they are used to plenty of fresh airflow. Modern-styled apartment blocks are designed to exclude draughts but the future inhabitants' preferences weren't taken into account when the housing was built for them so now derelict buildings seem to be an all too common feature of town landscapes. Throughout reading The Girl Without Skin I was reminded of Native American peoples forced onto reservations and there seem to me to be remarkable similarities between their original free nomadic lifestyles and the problems of alcoholism, depression and abuse experienced as a result of that freedom being harshly curtailed.

At its heart however The Girl Without Skin is an exciting crime thriller. Its blend of detection and social commentary reminded me of the classic Sjowall and Wahloo novels, but this one is far more grisly in its crimes and owes more than a nod to the Stieg Larsson trilogy! I enjoyed following the dual timeline mystery especially when Nordbo uses aspects such as the foul ever-changing weather to create a tense and foreboding atmosphere. Not mentioned in the synopsis is a potential trigger warning for child abuse. I thought this part of the storyline was handled quite sensitively although I was a little irritated that, despite the title and the frequent protestations about improving the lot of Greenlandic women and girls, this novel felt to be all about the men. Women are portrayed mostly as victims or their roles are overshadowed by men's actions. Aside from this, I appreciated the intricacies of Nordbo's plot and the resolution is satisfying. If you're a fan of Nordic Noir, The Girl Without Skin is a must-read!

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by Simply Danish in

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Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Above The Bridge by Deborah Garner

Above The Bridge by Deborah Garner
Published in the USA by Cranberry Cove Press in April 2012.

One of my 2019 Mount TBR Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Downloaded for free as part of a promotion

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Paige MacKenzie arrives in Jackson Hole, her only goal is to complete a simple newspaper assignment about the Old West. However, it's not long before her instincts tell her there's more than a basic story to be found in the popular, northwestern Wyoming mountain area. A chance encounter with attractive cowboy Jake Norris soon has Paige chasing a legend of buried treasure, passed down through generations.

From the torn edge of a water-damaged map to the mysterious glow of an antler arch, Paige will follow clues high into the mountainous terrain and deep into Jackson's history. Side-stepping a few shady characters who are also searching for the same hidden reward, she will have to decide who is trustworthy and who is not.

I read a later book in this series, Hutchins Creek Cache, as part of a blog tour in 2016, promptly bought this first in the series as a result and then forgot all about reading it until now. Oops! To be honest, I think if I had read Above The Bridge first I probably would not have continued further into the series though. The aspects I appreciated in the later book - such as the small town community vibe - aren't particularly in evidence yet because our intrepid journalist, Paige, believes she is only passing through the town so the connections she makes are more to do with extracting information from the locals rather than making friends. The romance hinted at in the synopsis is very understated and such a slow burn that I did wonder if they would ever even speak to each other!

There's an odd time-slip idea which I wish had actually been explained. Garner obviously did a lot of historical research at Jackson Hole because this novel is peppered with facts and figures. It was interesting for me to learn about white settlement in Wyoming in the early 1900s and the device of Paige seeing the early town at first hand was fun, although I wanted to know how and why this happened. I especially wanted to see how she explained her resulting knowledge to Jake and I thought this was glossed over too easily. The involvement of other more nefarious characters is also left as a mystery and not in a 'to be continued' kind of way. It just felt to me as though this had been overlooked. On the whole, Above The Bridge is an engaging light mystery which I did enjoy reading, but I felt too many aspects were left hanging for it to be truly satisfying.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2019

The Winnowing by Jo Schaffer + #Giveaway + Excerpt

The Winnowing (Stanley & Hazel, #2) by Jo Schaffer
Published by Month9Books today, February 26th 2019.

Add The Winnowing to your Goodreads

Darkness descends over St. Louis, a city already rocked by the Great Depression. More and more people are disappearing, and some have turned up dead.  A sinister secret society is putting forward their plan known as “The Winnowing,” designed to wipe out those they consider “undesirable.”

After Stanley and Hazel foil the diabolical plans of Charles Chouteau, they become instant celebrities. Hazel is thrust into the role of debutante, and risks loses herself in it. Meanwhile, Stanley must deal with the horrific tragedy of his best friend’s death while being threatened by the unseen forces of the Veiled Prophet.

With things spiraling out of control, Stanley and Hazel’s relationship is tested, possibly beyond repair. As bodies pile up, people become more desperate. The divide between wealthy and poor grows ever wider, threatening to tear their worlds apart. Now, the two must find a way to work together if there is any hope at all of saving their relationship and their futures.


“Where do you go, Hazel Malloy?” Gabriel said in her ear.


“I can feel you thinking hard.” He chuckled.

Hazel smiled. “I like this song,” she said, embarrassed as though he could actually tell that he’d caught her thinking about him.

“I do too.” He pressed his cheek to hers, and she let him.

As the song ended, there was a slight disturbance from the far end of the room. Hazel glanced up, and her heart paused.


Stanley stood in the entrance of the conservatory, tall and suited up, a hard look on his face, one eye almost swollen shut. He was flanked by some of his Knights, looking rough and out of place in suits, smirks on their faces as they scanned the room. It was like Eliot Ness and his Untouchables about to raid.

The “good people” of St. Louis stared uneasily and made way as the boys stalked into the room. Hazel sometimes forgot what they must look like to everyone else. They were a tough looking lot, battle scarred, and imposing.

The song ended and in the pause before the next one began, Stanley took long strides across the room, toward where Hazel and Gabriel stood, still holding hands.

Stanley’s eye twitched. “Heya, Haze.” He tilted his head toward Gabriel. “If it isn’t soft slugger trying to get to first base.” His jaw flexed, and he breathed in through his nose, and Hazel knew he was counting to ten.

Gabriel released Hazel’s hand and calmly replied, “Good to see you, Fields. You clean up nice.”

Meet the Author 

Jo Schaffer was born and raised in the California Bay Area in a huge, creative family. She is a YA novelist, speaker, writer at, works in film production and is a Taekwondo black belt.

She's a founding member of Writers Cubed and co-founder of the Teen Author Boot Camp, one of the largest conferences in the nation for youth ages 13-19. She and a crew of local and international bestselling authors present writing workshops to hundreds of attendees at the Utah-based conference as well as hundreds of others worldwide who view the conference online.

Jo loves being involved in anything that promotes literacy and family. She is passionate about community, travel, books, music, healthy eating, classic films and martial arts. Her brain is always spinning new ideas for books and sometimes she even gets around to blogging.

Jo is mom to three strapping sons and lives in the beautiful mountains of Utah.

Author links:
WebsiteFacebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is a Month9Books ebook of the winner's choice.
Open Internationally until the 7th March.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Monday, 25 February 2019

The Chef's Secret by Crystal King + #Giveaway

The Chef's Secret by Crystal King

Category: Adult fiction, 352 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Atria/Simon & Schuster
Release date: Feb 12, 2019
Tour dates: Feb 11 to 28, 2019
Content Rating: R (for a couple of explicit, but loving, sex scenes (no abuse or rape) and minor curse words)

Add The Chef's Secret to your Goodreads

A captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle’s secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died.

When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.

As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.

With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion.

To follow the tour, please visit Crystal King's page on Italy Book Tours.

Meet the Author:

Crystal King is an author, culinary enthusiast, and marketing expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language, and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University, as well as at GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US.

A Pushcart Prize–nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in critical and creative thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston but considers Italy her next great love after her husband, Joe, and their two cats, Nero and Merlin. She is the author of Feast of Sorrow.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

Enter the Giveaway!
Win a grand prize package of 2 paperback books by Crystal King (Feast of Sorrow and The Chef's Secret) and a $25 Amazon GC (1 winner) or you could win a paperback copy of The Chef's Secret (5 winners)

Giveaway open to USA and Canada
(ends March 7, 2019)

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Sunday, 24 February 2019

The Scent Of Blue Ink by Cristina-Monica Moldoveanu #FreeBook

The Scent Of Blue Ink by Cristina-Monica Moldoveanu
Self published in November 2015.

How I got this book:
Downloaded the ebook from Smashwords

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A collection of poems, eclectic, written in the years 2013-2015 and translated into English by the author. You can find here sadness and melancholia with a dash of hope and a feeling of amazement in front of life's beauty or ugliness and disappointments. The poems are scattered with literary, religious and other cultural allusions.

I chose to download The Scent Of Blue Ink from Smashwords because of its Romanian authorship, and especially because Moldoveanu has translated her own poems so I was confident the English would reflect her original Romanian meaning. I tried to get into the book twice, but unfortunately struggled so much to understand most of the poems that I gave up. The English itself is good so I think the problem is that Moldoveanu alludes to many varied traditions and stories but without each poem identifying its subject or theme. It's a shame because there are stunning flashes of imagery, but I too frequently failed to understand what they related to.

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Saturday, 23 February 2019

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
Published in the UK by Fourth Estate on the 12th February 2019.

2019 New Release Challenge read, featured in 5Books1Theme: Road Trip, and one of my WorldReads from Mexico

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Suppose you and Pa were gone, and we were lost. What would happen then?

A family in New York packs the car and sets out on a road trip. A mother, a father, a boy and a girl, they head south west, to the Apacheria, the regions of the US which used to be Mexico. They drive for hours through desert and mountains. They stop at diners when they’re hungry and sleep in motels when it gets dark. The little girl tells surreal knock knock jokes and makes them all laugh. The little boy educates them all and corrects them when they’re wrong. The mother and the father are barely speaking to each other.

Meanwhile, thousands of children are journeying north, travelling to the US border from Central America and Mexico. A grandmother or aunt has packed a backpack for them, putting in a bible, one toy, some clean underwear. They have been met by a coyote: a man who speaks to them roughly and frightens them. They cross a river on rubber tubing and walk for days, saving whatever food and water they can. Then they climb to the top of a train and travel precariously in the open container on top. Not all of them will make it to the border.

In a breath-taking feat of literary virtuosity, Lost Children Archive intertwines these two journeys to create a masterful novel full of echoes and reflections – a moving, powerful, urgent story about what it is to be human in an inhuman world.

After almost completely immersing myself in Lost Children Archive over three days and loving every single minute of Luiselli's atmospheric novel, I went online to update my Goodreads and was curious to see how many other reviewers weren't breathlessly fangirling. Did I not read the same book as everyone else? I was so completely drawn in to this story that I often felt as though I was right there in the car, in the midst of this fractured family. Luiselli doesn't name any of the central four characters so, while we come to know them as distinct individuals, there is also a sense that they could represent any and every family. What they have is each other which is more than can be said for the Lost Children of the title - two South American sisters making their torturous way north alongside thousands of other desperate children. In Luiselli's novel, these children are allowed to shout their names while our road-tripping family do not, reversing the real-life situation where the Americans would be named and the Latina travellers anonymous.

I know I missed most of Luiselli's myriad literary references as I don't have her encyclopedic knowledge, but I don't think this was actually a problem. To the contrary, in fact. I might have been led to appreciate more layers within this onion of a novel, but by perpetually book-spotting, I would have missed out on the carefully constructed atmosphere which amazed me. Parallel narrative threads explore historical migrations through Pa's interest in now-lost free Apache culture, while Ma concentrates her focus on present day child migrants. Unusually for a novel, much of the description relates to soundscapes and noise, or the lack of it. Both parents obsessively document their journey by way of sound recordings so we get to 'hear' the vast, empty land they pass through. I am more used to written descriptions exploring visual scenery so this aural approach appealed to me.

Aspects of Lost Children Archive that I especially loved were diversions into stream of consciousness narration, stories within stories that mirrored and developed each other, circular themes and revisiting scenes from different points of view, and a constant unsettling sense of foreboding which isn't openly discussed by the characters, but came from outside the novel by way of my awareness of what is actually happening to these children's real life counterparts in America right now. I became strongly emotionally invested in this book resulting in quite an emptiness when I came to the final page. I can understand why other readers might not be as enthusiastic about Lost Children Archive, but it was a perfect read for me.

Etsy Find!
by Ink And Scribbles Kids in
Cardiff, Wales

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Friday, 22 February 2019

The Virgin And The Bull by Erato + Excerpt

The Virgin And The Bull by Erato
Self published in America in May 2018.

Literary Flits Spotlight Giveaway Winner

Add The Virgin And The Bull to your Goodreads

Suicide, rape, murder — Love is a serpent more subtle than any of the field.

Twenty-three year old Charles Macgregor had everything going for him, so why did he choose to take his own life? As the Sheriff-Depute of Edinburgh reads through his collected letters, he uncovers a breathtaking story of femmes fatales, jealous rivals, and love gone violently awry.

An artful and intellectual thriller told with a noir style, The Virgin and the Bull shocks and startles with tense plot, lurid sex and vivid characters amidst a seductive and scary vision of Old England and Scotland. The frisson is out of this world when the fiery anatomist Macgregor risks life and limb to fulfill his desperate desire for the dangerously beautiful Constance Fawkes, pitted against her mad father and the more-than-meets-the-eye “virgin” priest, Francis Exenchester.


From Charles Macgregor to Henry Macgregor, Tuesday, September 24th.

Dear brother, 
It has been decided: we shall hasten to Gretna Green. It is as you say — the town is the nearest in Scotland to our present location, and to marry there will provide fewer chances that we may be stopped on bye. Perhaps we will proceed to Edinburgh from thence, or perhaps we shall return to the home of Mr. Fawkes to endure whatever punishment he wishes to inflict: but whatever the case, we shall be married, and no person will prevent it.

We contrive to escape by these means: on Tuesday, the Fawkes family will be attending a ball at a neighbor’s house. I have made arrangements for post-horses at the coaching inns along the way — expensive, but I think it shall be worth the price. After the family Fawkes has departed for the ball, I shall load up the first two horses with whatever meager supplies we need, and I from there shall have the horses wait in a hidden spot near unto the ball. Constance will find some opportunity to exit the house and meet with me, and we will ride away together, across the Putney bridge, through London, towards St. Albans where we will rest and refresh ourselves. We will continue, changing horses along the route by an arranged relay, for about five days journey. I pray that this plan will give us an adequate head start above those who would pursue us: the mail coaches might travel faster and more conveniently, but they will not set out from Richmond by night as we require, as well that they could render our route too predictable and easy to intercept.

Pray for me, brother, and for my wife-to-be too, that we shall come to no harm. I will send you word again, before the time we reach Gretna Green. 

Your own devoted brother, 

Meet The Author

Erato is a Hispanic American author of historical fiction. The name Erato belonged to one of the nine muses of Greek mythology: that who ruled love stories. The author's own given name being that of a different muse, the name Erato was chosen as the nomme de plume that seemed especially fit for writing stories with a romantic theme. She also writes non-romance historical fiction, often with subversive undertones, and her work has been described as the literary equivalent of a John Wayne Gacy clown painting.

Connect with Erato online at:
Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Amazon

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Thursday, 21 February 2019

And Death Came Too by Richard Hull

And Death Came Too by Richard Hull
First published in the UK by Collins Crime Club in 1939. Republished by Agora Books on the 17th January 2019.

Featured in Cover Characteristics: Blood, one of my Classics Club Challenge reads and a 2019 New Release Challenge read

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After three nights of celebration in the humid heat of August, four friends weigh up a very particular request to visit Y Bryn House. Tired and restless, they begrudgingly accept the invitation…

But upon their arrival, their host is no where to be seen. A man plays an odd game of solitaire, a strange woman wafts in and out of the room before fleeing out of the back door. Becoming all the more concerned for their host’s welfare, their worst suspicions are confirmed when a police constable saunters in, has a drink, and announces that Mr Yeldham has been found stabbed next to a lit fireplace.

Who had the motive and means to kill Yeldham? With the odd woman missing, the clock is ticking to solve this case before the four friends are accused of murder.

And Death Came Too is another golden age mystery from the sardonic and sly Richard Hull. Master of the inverted mystery, here he weaves a true-to-style, classic whodunnit.

I requested And Death Came Too as a Decade Challenge read because of its original 1930s publication date. However, by the time I got around to starting it, I had already read Salt Of The Earth so this is now only a two-challenge book! Hull's writing feels very much of its time and I can easily imagine Agatha Christie fans enjoying getting their teeth into And Death Came Too. I loved the first chapters which set up a quirky scenario peopled with some refreshingly odd characters. Unfortunately this style isn't maintained and the narrative settles down into a more traditional crime story.

Hull keeps up a good pace throughout and I appreciated his diversions into genuine clues and clever red herrings. The settings are good too, but I wasn't overly enamoured with any of the characters. The central quartet of louche young things mostly irritated me and I would have preferred to have spent more time with the bickering policemen! And Death Came Too is set at a time when forensic investigation methods are new to this provincial town. Two police officers have been trained in the modern art of Fingerprinting and take their new skills very seriously!

Although I enjoyed the read, this novel wasn't ideal for me because I wanted more depth to the characters and greater exploration of their motives and actions. I did guess the murderer, but then talked myself out of my conclusion so I probably can't make any claims about having solved this whodunnit before it was revealed.

Etsy Find!
by Gifted Tales in
Missouri, USA

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Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Consuming Fire by Catherine Fearns + #Giveaway + Excerpt

Consuming Fire by Catherine Fearns
Published by Crooked Cat Books on the 6th February 2019.

Add Consuming Fire to your Goodreads

What Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen…

Liverpool is in the grip of an intense heatwave, and strange things are happening. 

A woman dies in an apparent case of Spontaneous Human Combustion; a truck explodes on the dock road; the charred corpses of pets litter the city; forest fires ravage the pinewoods…and there are birds everywhere, silent flocks drawing in ominously.

Detective Inspector Darren Swift thinks there are connections, and his investigation delves into the worlds of football, nightclubs and organised crime. But is he imagining things?

Dr. Helen Hope doesn’t think so. And she believes the key lies in a mysterious seventeenth-century occult book which has gone missing from Liverpool Library.

In the blistering sequel to Reprobation, DI Swift is forced to confront some inconvenient ghosts from his past, as a terrifying shadow lies over his city’s reality…. 

Consuming Fire: exclusive extract for Literary Flits

Detective Inspector Darren Swift and Dr. Helen Hope have gone on a fact-finding trip to the Jura mountains in Switzerland. Helen is a lecturer in theology, an expert in religion and death, and Darren asked for her help with his investigation into a deadly fire which he suspects might have been a self-immolation. Helen has a theory so bizarre, and yet so irresistible, that Darren has travelled to Switzerland to investigate without telling either his team or his fiancé. On their journey home, he and Helen discuss their shared knowledge of another case. 

As they walked back to the car, Helen continued to talk about paganism and how it blended with more modern religions in liminal places like this. Confronted by this landscape so gnarled by the passage of times, where the shapes of glaciers had left behind deep valley crevices that now formed human settlements, Darren felt acutely aware of the insignificance of his place in the universe. Far more so than in Liverpool, which seemed to be rewriting history, reinventing itself at a rapid rate of knots, and reshaping the landscape in the image of man. 
‘I don’t know,’ he said finally. ‘This can’t have anything to do with the case. Unless someone is messing with us. And that is a definite possibility.’
He was filled with regret and an inexplicable terror and wondering what on earth he had been thinking. Even the Devil believes he is doing what is right. People can convince themselves of anything, thought Darren, just as I convinced myself it was reasonable to come here. The heat must have got to me. Perhaps he would tell Matt and they would laugh about it. 
They felt eyes, baleful eyes, boring into their backs as they left the village. Every one of the drab female peacocks in that burnt field stopped pecking and looked up.
As they drove back towards Geneva they were both lost in thought for a long time. The road wound its way through the forested hills in a caricature of hairpin bends, and Helen took the corners so slowly and carefully that Darren couldn’t help wishing he was driving. She also had an annoying tendency to position the car just over the central reservation, so that they were frequently honked at by irritated Swiss drivers in both directions. Finally Darren spoke.
‘You still drive like a nun.’
‘Sorry. I’m not used to this side of the road. I’m a bit distracted too, I suppose.’
By the time they emerged onto the motorway, the sun was setting over the Alps that now ranged out behind the lake like cardboard cut-outs on a background of washed purple. 
‘Darren. Do you ever think about that baby?’
‘Yes,’ Darren said, looking straight ahead.
‘Me too.’
There was another silence, before Helen asked:
‘Will you ask Andrew Shepherd about the baby? If he is deemed fit for trial and your paths cross again?’
‘I imagine he would ask me first. After all, it’s his biological daughter, and according to Shepherd she’s the Second Coming, or whatever. So I’m sure he has more than a passing interest. He probably thinks about it all the time, stuck in that psychiatric unit.’
‘I wonder what will happen to him. It’s not long until the trial now.’
‘Yeah. Autumn. They’re both pleading insanity you know. Clancy and Sister Mary.’
‘I thought of trying to contact Shepherd myself, you know. Many times. But I… I suppose I’m afraid.’
‘Me too.’
‘Yes. I don’t know why. But when I think about it, I feel like I’m going mad. I mean, we know what happened. Three nutters thought they’d found the genetic marker for sin; one tried to save people from damnation by genetically modifying them, the other two tried to stop him by murdering his patients. Nutters, the lot of them. It’s all explained. But…’
‘But… there’s another explanation though, isn’t there. That Shepherd was right.’ 
They were silent for a while longer, and Darren tried to think about Matt and not about Thomas Kuper, or about the baby. And then again, in that annoying way she had of reading his mind, Helen said, ‘You know Darren, feelings don’t just disappear. They take time to fade. And it’s the feelings we don’t act on, those we keep buried under the surface, those are the ones that take the longest to disappear. But they do, eventually.’ 

Meet the author

Catherine Fearns is from Liverpool, UK. In previous incarnations she was a financial analyst, a cocktail pianist and a breastfeeding counsellor, but nowadays she likes to write. Her first novel, Reprobation, was published by Crooked Cat Books in October 2018 and quickly became an Amazon bestseller in several categories. The follow-up, Consuming Fire, is currently on pre-order and will be available in early 2019.

Catherine writes for music website Pure Grain Audio, and her music journalism has also appeared in Broken Amp and Noisey. Her short fiction and non-fiction pieces have been published in Here Comes Everyone, Toasted Cheese, Offshoots & Metal Music Studies. She holds a degree in History from Oxford University, a Masters from the London School of Economics, and is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association.

When Catherine is not writing, she plays guitar in a heavy metal band, mainly to annoy her four children.

Author links: 

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Win a signed copy of Consuming Fire, Consuming Fire stationery, and a cuddly peacock!
(Open Internationally until the 11th March 2019)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel's Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel's Random Resources will delete the data. Rachel's Random Resources is not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Losing Normal by Francis Moss + #Giveaway + Excerpt

Losing Normal by Francis Moss
Published by Encelia Press on the 5th November 2018.

Add Losing Normal to your Goodreads

Everyone we love, everything we know, is going away - and only an autistic boy can stop it. Alex knows exactly how many steps it takes to get from his home to Mason Middle School. This is normal. Alex knows the answers in AP math before his teacher does, which is also normal. Alex knows that something bad is coming out of the big screen in his special needs class. It's pushing images into his head, hurting him, making him forget. Alex pushes back, the screen explodes, and nothing is normal any more. Giant screen televisions appear all over the city. The programming is addictive. People have to watch, but Alex cannot. Sophie, the sentient machine behind all this, sees the millions and millions of eyeballs glued to her and calls it love. To Sophie, kids like Alex are defective. Defectives are to be fixed - or eliminated.


Chapter One: Alex 
It was four hundred sixty-two steps from the corner of Overland to the front entrance of Mason Middle School, then forty-four steps to the entrance. Across Woodbine Street, a five-meter by three-meter Calliope big screen television hung on a pole. It had been there for ten days, so I had made it normal, but I had to cross the street, which added seventy-six steps. Two women, two men and a little boy were watching. A dark-haired man with glasses, wearing shorts, suspenders, flip-flops and a T-shirt with the words ‘Will code for beer’ printed on it, was on the screen. 
“…Today, the CEO of Calliope, William Locke, announced a breakthrough in his company’s efforts to revolutionize our educational system.” 
When I closed my eyes, I saw a swarm of tiny glowing things flying out of the screen, like the fruit flies that always find the bananas in our kitchen, even if we keep the doors and windows closed. 
The dark-haired man stood on a stage, speaking to an audience, and a woman’s voice was saying: 
“In the past few months, under the visionary leadership of William Locke, Calliope has transformed the entertainment industry. The world’s most powerful super-computer, which we’ve named Sophie, can create major motion pictures in less than an hour, and an entire season of a television series in hours. A symphony in minutes. A popular song in milliseconds. Don’t like what you’re watching or hearing? Sophie will respond to create brand-new entertainment that’s just what YOU want! 
“Now, we are about to transform the way our children learn. With the introduction of the Calliope Education Initiative…”the introduction of the Calliope Education Initiative…” 
I walked toward Mason Middle School. 
As I opened the glass doors with yellow wood frames, the noise of kids walking, talking, and yelling in the brown vinyl floored entrance drowned out the voice from the screen. This was normal, but it makes me feel all squished up inside. 
As I stood in the entryway, I heard someone behind me. I turned around. It was Emilio. “Hey, Alex,” he said. “Hey.” Emilio reached into his red backpack and took out a box, waving it at me. “My mom got me Undead . I’ll bring it over if you wanna play after.” 
“Sure. You know I’m gonna own you again.” 
Emilio laughed. “Not this time. I’ve been practicing.” He has brown curly hair and brown eyes and brown skin, and he smiles a lot. Emilio is my friend. He lives two and one-half blocks away from me, which is one thousand, twenty-four steps. We’re both in Mr. Bates’ first period Special Needs class in the Resource Room. Emilio calls us the Weks, which means weird kids. 
The bell rang at 8:13 AM, and kids began running down the hall to their classes. I started walking to the main hall when Emilio touched my shoulder. I stopped. “Let’s wait,” he said. 
A minute and ten seconds later, the hallway emptied and grew quiet. Emilio went ahead and looked around the corner. He waved his hand, which means “come on.” 
We walked down the white hallway, staying close to the wall of lockers. We had almost gotten to the door of the Resource Room when Chuck Schwartz, who is my enemy, stepped out of the stairwell. Emilio moved behind me. Chuck Schwartz smiled, but I have seen that smile before. He has a gap between his front teeth. He wore a black T-shirt with no sleeves. 
“Hey, Ass-burger!” he said. He walked down the hall toward us, his black boots thumping on the floor. Chuck Schwartz rammed his shoulder into me and smashed me sideways into the lockers. “Watch where you’re going, Ass-burger.” This was normal. 
“I always watch where I’m going,” I said, which was stupid. Chuck Schwartz put his hand on my chest and shoved me against the lockers. Emilio backed away, but Chuck Schwartz reached out with his left arm and grabbed him by his shirt. “No, no. You’re next.” 
We stood there for seven seconds. Chuck Schwartz stared at me, and I looked down at the floor, which is what I usually do. Then I heard a deep voice: “What are you doing?” 
I looked up to see Mr. Crumley, an older man who volunteers in the library, behind Chuck Schwartz. He has a little white beard and always wears a green tweed jacket and a white shirt buttoned up to his neck. He put his hand on Chuck Schwartz’s shoulder, and Chuck Schwartz let go of us fast. 
“Just having a conversation, dude.” 
“Go. Now. Dude,” Mr. Crumley said. Chuck Schwartz headed down the hallway. He turned back and did that thing with his index and middle finger, pointing at his eyes, then at me and Emilio. 

Meet the Author 

Francis Moss has written and story-edited hundreds of hours of scripts on many of the top animated shows of the 90s and 00s. Beginning his television work in live-action with Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, he soon started writing cartoons ("a lot more jobs, and also more fun"), staff writing and freelancing on She-Ra, Princess of Power, Iron Man, Ducktales, and a four-year stint on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, writing and story-editing more episodes than you can swing a nuchaku at. One of his TMNT scripts, "The Fifth Turtle," was the top-rated script among all the 193 episodes in a fan poll on IGN.COM. A list of his television credits is at IMDB.COM.

Francis, in partnership with Ted Pedersen, also wrote three middle-grade non-fiction books: Internet For Kids, Make Your Own Web Page, and How To Find (Almost) Anything On The Internet. Internet For Kids was a big success, with three revised editions and twelve foreign language versions. He's the sole author of The Rosenberg Espionage Case.

After high school where he grew up in Los Angeles, Francis had one dismal semester at a junior college, and then enlisted in the Army. He became a military policeman and served in Poitiers, France, falling in love with the country, taking his discharge there and traveling around Europe (including running with the bulls in Pamplona) until his money ran out. He attended the University of California, Berkeley and became active in the civil rights and anti-war movements, still managing to earn a BA and an MA in English lit ("the major of choice for wannabe writers"). Francis is married to Phyllis, a former music teacher and active viola player. They have a son, a daughter and one grandson. They live in Joshua Tree, California.

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