Tag Archives: reviews

Getting to Know You: Judy Penz Sheluk

International Bestselling Author, Judy Penz Sheluk has kindly given us some of her time today. Judy’s debut mystery novel, ‘The Hanged Man’s Noose‘, the first in the ‘Glass Dolphin Mystery’ series, was published in July 2015. The sequel, ‘A Hole In One‘, was released on the 1st of March.

Skeletons in the Attic‘, Judy’s second novel, and the first in her ‘Marketville Mystery’ series, was first published in August 2016 and re-released in December 2017. ‘Past & Present’, the sequel, is scheduled for early 2019.

In her less mysterious pursuits, Judy works as a freelance writer and editor. In addition to all of that, Judy is also a member of a number of crime writing collectives and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Director and Regional Representative for Toronto/Southern Ontario.

As you can see, Judy is a very busy lady and I’m really grateful that she’s taken the time to chat with us. 

Vic x


Tell us about your books.
I write two amateur sleuth mystery series. The first is the Glass Dolphin Mysteries; the Glass Dolphin is an antiques shop on historic Main Street in the fictional town of Lount’s Landing. The main characters are Arabella Carpenter, owner of the shop, Emily Garland, a journalist, and Levon Larroquette, ex-husband (and occasionally more) to Arabella. Let’s just say they have a complicated relationship. The first book in the series is The Hanged Man’s Noose (which happens to be the name of a pub; Lount’s Landing is named after a real life Canadian politician, Samuel Lount, who was hanged for treason in the nineteenth century). It’s available in e-book, paperback, and audiobook. The sequel, A Hole in One, has just been released in e-book and trade paperback. Audio will follow later this year.


The other series is the Marketville Mysteries. The first book in the series is Skeletons in the Attic, told in first person by Calamity (Callie) Barnstable. Callie inherits a house from her late father on the condition she moves into the house (which she did not know existed) while investigating who murdered her mother thirty years before. It’s available in e-book, trade paperback and audiobook. The sequel, Past & Present, should be released in early 2019.

Both my series are published by Barking Rain Press.


What inspired them?
The premise behind Noose is that a greedy developer comes to a small town with plans to build a mega-box store, thereby threatening the livelihoods of the local indie shops. We see that sort of thing happen all the time. I merely took that premise and said, “What if someone was willing to kill to stop it?”

The premise behind Skeletons came to me when my husband and I were waiting in our lawyer’s office. He was delayed in court and we were there to redo our wills. In fact, opening scenes are directly culled from that experience. Let that be your takeaway: everything that happens to an author may well end up in one of their books.

Where do you get your ideas from?
Life. I keep a notebook in my purse, and I’m also jotting down things I’ve seen or overheard. But I also have this wicked imagination. For example, this past summer, I was golfing and the houses along the perimeter of the course were having their roofs done. And I heard the pop-pop of the pneumatic nailers, and I said to my golf buddies, “You know, someone could get shot and everyone would just think it was the roofer.” They did look at me as though I was a bit odd!

Do you have a favourite story / character / scene you’ve written?
I love Arabella Carpenter, the irascible owner of the Glass Dolphin. I even included her in a cameo role in Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in my Marketville series. Arabella’s motto is “authenticity matters” and she lives by that, even when it comes at a high personal cost. I admire that about her.

Are you a plotter or a pantster?
Definitely a pantser. I’ve tried plotting but it just doesn’t work for me. That said, I’m planning to write a non-fiction work, and that will have to be outlined in detail. With fiction, I just let the story go where it wants to go.

Can you read when you’re working on a piece of writing?
Absolutely. Reading is the best teacher. I try to read 30+ books a year. Most are mystery or suspense, but I’ll also read mainstream fiction and I enjoy short story collections. I’m a huge fan of a number of authors, most recently Fiona Barton, who I think is absolutely brilliant.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given and who it was from?
I always quote Agatha Christie when I’m asked this: “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”

What can readers expect from your books?
I refer to them as amateur sleuth with an edge. There is the requisite small town, no overt sex, violence or bad language, but there’s also no cats, crafts or cookie recipes. People tell me the plots are more complicated than a typical cozy, and I do have a lot of characters, but they all play a part. They’re not just there for window dressing.

Have you got any advice for aspiring writers?
Make time to write every day. You can’t edit a blank page. And write what you’d like to read, not what you think will sell. By the time you’ve written the next great vampire book, the vampire craze will be long over. Start your own craze.

What do you like and dislike about writing?
Of course I like it best when the words flow like maple syrup, but even when they don’t I’m reminded of Erica Jong, who wrote: “When I sit down at my writing desk, time seems to vanish. I think it’s a wonderful way to spend one’s life.”

Are you writing anything at the moment?
Always. I’m currently working on the third book of the Glass Dolphin series, and a standalone mystery/suspense. And I have a couple of short story ideas I’m mulling over. And the non-fiction work I’m researching. I try to write every day, even if I only have a few minutes, even if it’s Christmas, New Year’s Day or my birthday. It doesn’t always work out that way!

What’s your favourite writing-related moment?
The day I signed my first book contract for The Hanged Man’s Noose. I’d faced the usual rejection from agents and publishers, but I wasn’t giving up. The email came in on July 1, 2014, which happens to be Canada Day. My husband and I popped open a bottle of champagne and danced on our back deck. The book came out July 2015.

Where can we find you?
My website where I write about the writing life, interview other authors, write the occasional book review, and I also have a series called New Release Mondays where I include a brief summary of a new book. Most are mysteries or suspense, but not always, and most of the authors are not well known, but deserve to be better known.

I’m also part of two multi-author blogs: Pens, Paws and Claws and The Stiletto Gang

I’m also on Facebook, and Twitter and Pinterest. 


Don’t Quit the Day Job: Paul Bassett Davies

Lots of people don’t realise that although you may see work by a certain author on the bookshelves in your favourite shop, many writers still hold down a day job in addition to penning their next novel. In this series, we talk to writers about how their current – or previous – day jobs have inspired and informed their writing.

Today the writer we have with us is Paul Bassett Davies, author of ‘Utter Folly‘ and ‘Dead Writers in Rehab‘. His post is slightly different to the other writers we’ve had on the blog so far but it’s certainly one I can empathise with. I hope that Paul’s post brings comfort and hope to those of you in a similar position. 

Vic x

The job that had the greatest influence on my writing was Hospital Patient. If that seems like an unusual job description, let me explain.

Nearly twenty years ago I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. During the next ten years I underwent a series of surgical operations, and I spent a lot of time in hospital. Eventually it began to seem like a job to me. After all, I was spending about half my life in the role, it was hard work, I didn’t like it, and sometimes I thought it would kill me. So, just like a regular job.

But I flung myself  into my work, determined to be proactive. And, being a writer, I used everything that happened to me as potential material. In the process, I became a novelist.

You get a lot of time to think when you’re a hospital patient, and even more time in the long, slow weeks and months when you’re recuperating, or getting sick again. It’s not exactly free time, because it’s not free from pain, or fatigue or stress. That was why I started to write my first book – to escape all that. I came to writing novels late. I’d done a lot of writing before then, in the way of stage work, short stories, radio plays, movies, corporate films, music videos, short films, and a mountain of comedy for radio and television. But writing a book was something else, and in many ways I’m fortunate that I did it while I was unwell. It made me focus on why I was doing it. Which was, of course, to cheer myself up.

Writing my first novel was like telling myself a long, funny story. During the hours I spent telling it – the hours of writing – I was able to escape the dreary world of my illness, and enter the other world I was creating: a world in which I could, among other things, make other people suffer instead of me, and have a bloody good laugh about it. If that sounds callous or sadistic it probably is, and it’s just one of the many functions of telling stories.

But above all I wrote to give pleasure, firstly to myself and then, hopefully, to readers (although I continue to withhold it from my poor characters). Through all this I began to realise I wasn’t really interested in writing or reading things that didn’t take me out of myself, and change me in some way. I like to think I’m clever, but I’m not concerned with mere cleverness. I’m looking for something else, and the best word for it is delight. I want to delight, and to be delighted.

The work of other people which most often delights me also tends to be completely distinctive. That’s why I’ll always try to see anything the writer and director Robert Lepage does, because it’s not like anything else. The same goes for the music of Patti Smith, Tom Waits or Laurie Anderson. And I’ll always read a book by Magnus Mills or Nell Zink, or watch a Wes Anderson film.

All these people have a unique voice, and I like to think I’m developing mine. My first novel, Utter Folly, was long and sprawling, but my second, Dead Writers in Rehab, published last year, is more contained. And among the good reviews it’s received, those that please me most are the ones that say it’s unclassifiable: that it can’t be categorised, and that it occupies a niche of its own.

My job as a hospital patient allowed me to discover what it is I really want to do with my time, and it changed my ideas about sickness and health. I began to focus less on recovery, and more on discovery. The road to recovery is long and arduous, and its goal is ultimately unattainable: in the end none of us recover from life. But the road to discovery can be enjoyed for itself. It’s all about the journey, and finding delight in every step of the way.


Review of 2017: Ragnar Jónasson

Earlier this year, I took part in the blog tour for Ragnar Jónasson‘s latest book ‘Whiteout‘. I really enjoyed reading the book and I’m delighted to have Ragnar on the blog today to review his 2017. 

Vic x


Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
2017 was a very eventful year for me, travelling all around the world for my books: Hawaii, Toronto, New York, London, Scotland, Bristol and Paris, Lyon and Caen in France. My books were published in Iceland, UK, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Armenia, Japan, Korea, Australia and Portugal. It was great to host a group of journalists from France who came to Iceland to interview me this spring. Hitting sales of 150,000 books in France this year was also truly remarkable, as well as getting my first reviews in major US newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. And just recently when The Times picked by book as one of the crime books of the year. Also, it was a really great moment when I was sitting by the pool at a hotel in Boston this summer, and noticed that the stranger sitting next to me was actually reading a book I had written, in French. Such an amazing coincidence.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Visiting Hawaii was really amazing, as well as going to Boston, one of my favorite cities, for my birthday. Also seeing some great musicians perform live, such as The Killers and Phil Collins in London, and my friend Vikingur Olafsson, Iceland’s greatest pianist, at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, one of the most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world. And some great memories from Iceland, such as the day this winter when we had the greatest snowfall in years, and then sitting on a cliff outside Siglufjordur in the summer watching the midnight sun go down at 3am.

Favourite book in 2017?
There are a few. One of them is only available in Icelandic and French, Handbók um minni og gleymsku by Ragnar Helgi Olafsson (French title: La Réunion du Conseil national de l’audiovisuel). Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson is a great crime novel. And I’d also like to mention Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends, and Johan Norberg’s Progress.

Favourite film in 2017?
For the first time in too many years I was able to see a new Agatha Christie movie at the cinema. The latest movie adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express starring Kenneth Branagh was a special treat for an Agatha Christie enthusiast like me. The film was really well done, and with great actors in every role, this was a true delight. Another favourite film from 2017 was Baby Driver, really great.

Favourite song of the year?
So many songs. Some of the artists that I really like at the moment, in addition to excellent Icelandic musicians, are Mura Masa and Kendrick Lamar. Also, I love classical music, and recommend Vikingur Olafsson’s recordings of Philip Glass for Deutsche Grammophon, released in 2017.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
My memory serves me well and erases everything that does not live up to my expectations.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I never make formal resolutions but I hope to read more than last year, travel and enjoy life.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Apart from the health and happiness, I hope the Icelandic football team win World Cup in Russia. In any case, my flights are already booked to see them play in Moscow, Volgograd and Rostov-on-Don.

Review of 2017: Suzie Tullett

Suzie Tullett is someone I’ve “known” online for several years but never met in real life. I know the internet – and social media – can be used for nefarious things but the thing I do love about it is that it connects people with similar interests. 

It sounds like Suzie has had a great year, here she is to tell us more about it – thanks Suzie!

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
2017 has been a wonderful year for me professionally. I’ve set up an ‘Essentials of Novel Writing’ course, which is doing very well, I was invited to become a mentor for Salford University on their Industry Advice Scheme, and I also became a contributor for a monthly journal based here in Brittany, France. I’ve also set up an RNA chapter for novelists based in Brittany. However, the one thing that I cherish the most from this year, is the offer of a three book deal with Bombshell Books. The elation I felt when I heard that they didn’t just want one title, but three! I’m working with a fantastic team and six months on I’m still smiling.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
That has to be the birth of my first granddaughter. She’s such a beautiful and happy little poppet, with the most stunning, big blue eyes.

Favourite book in 2017?
Losing Leah by Sue Welfare.

On a cold dark February morning. Chris and Leah Hills stop for coffee at an isolated service station a stone’s throw from the Welsh Borders. While Leah heads inside, Chris locks the car and goes in to order them a drink. She shouldn’t be long, after all they’ve only stopped to stretch their legs. Minutes pass. Chris waits and waits, but Leah doesn’t come back.

I don’t usually read thrillers, but having glanced at the cover blurb I immediately wanted to know what had happened to poor Leah. I read it in one sitting, that’s how much Leah’s story grabbed me. It’s a book I’ve been recommending since.

Favourite film in 2017?
Kingsman: The Secret ServiceI watched this for the first time a couple of months ago and loved it. It’s funny, has a great cast, and some fabulous action scenes. I’m really looking forward to the sequel, although not being a cinema goer, I shall probably wait for the DVD.

Favourite song of the year?
That would be Rockabye by Clean Bandit, featuring Sean Paul & Anne-Marie although there isn’t a Clean Bandit song I don’t like. I love the range of instruments they use, especially the cello, and their lyrics are beautiful. They tell a story.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Thankfully not. 2017 has been a fabulous year for me both professionally and personally.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Just to keep doing what I’m doing. Writing books, reading, teaching, and, just as importantly, enjoying life and all it has to offer.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
I’m hoping to have my fourth novel finished by the end of 2017, ready for publication in 2018. Although any actual release date is for Bombshell Books to decide. And I already have an idea for Book number five which I can’t wait to get stuck in to.

You can connect with Suzie on Facebook and Twitter.

Review of 2017: Matt Wesolowski

One of my standout books of this year was ‘Six Stories‘ by Matt Wesolowski. Now, having met Matt on several occasions this year, I can also say he’s one of the nicest people I have ever met! 

Matt read at Noir at the Bar Newcastle in February this year and his reading went down a storm. I went home and read ‘Six Stories‘ straight away! And I’m not the only one who loved it – but I’ll let Matt tell you all about that…

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
Seeing reviews of Six Stories in the national press was hugely astounding and humbling. When I got the email from Fox Searchlight about making it into a film, I thought someone was winding me up!

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
I loved every single one of the literary festivals I was privileged enough to attend. Meeting fellow writers and readers alike was such a pleasure.

Favourite book in 2017?
So many to mention! But some real stand outs were Girls on Fire by Rabin Wasserman, Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant and These Darkening Days by Benjamin Myers.

Favourite film in 2017?
I really enjoyed Hounds of Love, a really gritty and brutal drama based on Australia’s most notorious serial killer couple David and Catherine Birnie. I like a film that can make you walk out of the cinema coated in a sheen of dirt.

Favourite song of the year?
I got really into a band called Batushka who combine Gregorian chanting and Eastern Orthodox imagery with the most amazing black metal.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
My little boy broke his femur in September and is only just back on his feet now. That was so hard for him as he’s such an active kid. When he went under the anaesthetic, that was the only time I cried in 2017.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
No, resolutions only end up in disappointment when you don’t keep them. I’m disappointing enough without that!

That is absolutely not true! What are you hoping for from 2018?
More books and more time to read them.

Getting to Know You: Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group Blog

When I went to read at Edinburgh Noir at the Bar at the end of last month, I went for a meal with all the participants prior to the event. I sat beside the lovely Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group blog. I’d never met Kelly before but we chatted for a while and found that we had loads in common. 

Kelly and I have become fast friends and I am pleased to welcome her to the blog today. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Kelly – I know how busy you are! 

Vic x

Tell us about your blog, Kelly.
My blog is in its sixth month, we review books, festivals and theatre productions. We review mostly works of fiction. I have two guest bloggers who help me and it means our readers get a varied voice on the daily posts. We are also always on social media.

What inspired it?
My blog was born after my mother had been quite ill and I was spending a tremendous amount of time at the doctors or in hospital waiting rooms. To fill my time and escape from the noise and fear around me, I would dive head first into books. I may have been sat in a cold and sterile environment but my mind was off on exciting and addictive adventures. When I finished the books, I wanted to talk to people about them and say how they made me feel.  That’s when I started the tiny few clicks to find out about blogging. I did not know it would be life changing for me.

I started a very basic blog and wrote my reviews and I got excellent feedback, I then took more time to research the various types of blogs that there were. I contacted Joanne from Portobello Book Blog and I really gained a lot of knowledge about WordPress and blogging. Joanne was very positive and supportive. I will always be very grateful for all her help and for keeping me right with names!

Then I realised I really had to follow up my blog with social media. So that took off too and now I am posting from the blog everyday.

There is a Disney song from the movie Aladdin, it’s called ‘A Whole New World’ and it really captures what my blog has done to me life. Shining, shimmering and splendid, is right.

What’s been your favourite blog assignment and why?
I was honoured to be one of CoastWords Chosen Bloggers for 2017. It was an eye-opening experience.  It meant a lot of travelling and time. But it was totally worth it. I really learnt a lot and it was lovely to meet an array of varied people.

How do you choose what to feature on your blog?
I really have an issue saying no to authors and publishers. Hence the need for me to have two guest reviewers.  We are slowly working through our TBR pile and interviews, all of which will get on the blog at some point.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given and who it was from?
In relation to my blog, my father always says to make sure I stay true to myself. Not to be influenced by other people and to remember that my light is just as bright as everyone else’s. Most days as he’s leaving for work he shouts upstairs ‘Remember to sparkle’. 

What can readers expect from your blog?
They can expect reviews with a soul.

Have you got any advice for aspiring bloggers?
Do your research on the various blogs and find your perfect fit.

What do you like and dislike about blogging?
I love blogging, I wake up and I am excited about it. The day I don’t, well, I guess that will be the day I dislike it.

What’s your favourite blogging-related moment?
Coming 2nd in the ABBA Awards 2017 for Newcomer, I didn’t even expect to place. It really meant the world to me.

How can people get in touch with you?
If you would like to feature on the blog with an interview, review or #Favfive then please read our review policy and use the contact form on the blog

You can also find us on: Twitter, Instagram,  Facebook.

What’s next?
We have lots of reviews and interviews coming up on the blog. In the near future we have The Edinburgh Book Festival, Berwick Lit Festival and Bloody Scotland.

Thanks so much for having me on the blog today Victoria, I am honoured and delighted.

Sparkles and smiles,

Kelly xoxo

Review of 2016: Bernie Steadman

Today we have Bernie Steadman on the blog to review her year. By all accounts, it’s been a corker but you don’t need to hear that from me – allow Bernie to sum up her 2016 for you!

Vic x


Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
My first novel, Death and Deception came out right at the end of 2015, so it was in January 2016 that I first read reviews from people I didn’t know, about a book I had created. It was a special moment and the fulfilment of a dream. The second in the series, Death and The Good Son, came out on the 9th December this year, and my favourite part of that process was having a launch with so many friends, a glass or two of prosecco, some signings, some sales… it was a great afternoon!


And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
I’m an Iyengar Yoga devotee, and in May I went to Crete for a week long retreat with a brilliant teacher. The venue: 30 yards from the beach. The yoga: challenging, and in every way, stretching! The food: delicious home-made Cretan delights; yogurt, fruit and vegetables from the garden. The weather: warming nicely by the end of the week to 30 degrees. The sea: warm enough to swim. Reader, I wept like a baby when I had to come home…


Favourite book in 2016?
So tough. I’ve read so many. I loved ‘The Rosie Project‘ by Graeme Simsion, and the first in the ‘Brilliance‘ sci-fi series by Marcus Sakey. Debut authors; I have to recommend Angela Corner’s ‘The Hidden Island‘. Heleyne Hammersley’s ‘Fracture‘ was good, and I mustn’t forget the magical, wonderful, ‘Ghostbird‘ by Carol Lovekin.

Favourite film in 2016?
Dr Strange‘, with the delectable Benedict Cumberbatch. Love a bit of Sci-fi, and will see ‘Rogue 1‘ before the end of the year, no doubt.

Favourite song of the year?
Emilie Sande, ‘Hurts‘. She’s a fabulous singer; you can hear her soul in her voice.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
Personally it’s been a fantastic year, but so many of our icons have died this year that I think it is tinged with a little sadness for everybody.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
Well, I have a new novel to write, starting January 1st

What are you hoping for from 2017?
A safe world, in which difference doesn’t spark xenophobia. I’m going for spontaneous acts of kindness, and smiling at strangers!