Twerk by Isobel Blackthorn

Twerk – A dark psychological thriller laced with steamy romance

Twerk

“Twerk is a page-turning rollercoaster of a ride.”

“Addictive and thoroughly entertaining, Twerk sizzles on every page!”

Desire, a spark, a decision made too fast (in haste), and a Las Vegas stripper is plunged into the depraved world of a psychopath. But is she the only target of his twisted desires?

A regular Sunday night in a Las Vegas strip club is rocked when a local oddball dies mysteriously, during a private dance.

Amber falls immediately in lust with the hot paramedic who arrives, and follows him outside, anticipating sizzling romance. But, her casual encounter quickly descends into a terrifying, twisted nightmare from which she is unable to escape.

Five days later, and it’s Lana’s next shift at the club; she’s a fly-in-fly-out stripper paying her way through law school – she’s also Amber’s best friend.

Where is Amber? And what about the dead client? Was it an accident? Suicide? Or murder?

Finding neither the police, nor the club are taking much interest, Lana conducts her own inquiries, even though she finds herself the victim of a social-media hate campaign, and an ex-boyfriend who is sending her death threats. She’s desperate to uncover the truth about the death, but the person she most needs to speak to is Amber, who has failed to show up for her shift yet again…

Lana is thrust into a web of lies and deceptions she is determined to unravel, in which everyone is a suspect.

 

An addictively dark, psychological thriller laced with steamy romance, mystery, action and suspense; Twerk exposes the working lives of Las Vegas strippers behind the glamor – the challenges, the rewards, and the deadly risks.

Release: December 2018 – AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER – ORDER YOUR COPY NOW!

 

 

Advertisements

Book review: The Villagers by A.J. Griffiths-Jones

I’m delighted to share my review of A. J. Griffith-Jone’s The Villagers.

The Villagers A.J. Griffiths-Jones

About The Villagers

Olive & Geoffrey are happier than ever. After moving to the countryside to bring up their three young children, they are welcomed with open arms by the friendly and helpful residents of the chocolate box village.

But beyond the veil of rhododendrons and net curtains, there is something more. Just as Olive is settling in and starting to integrate with the community, she finds out that all is not as it first seemed.

As her discoveries become more and more sinister, Olive begins to fear for her own sanity. With her husband doubting her, Olive is faced with choices that will decide the fate of her family.

The Villagers paints an intriguing picture of a 1950s English country village, where not everyone is who they first appear to be.

My thoughts

What a treat it is to pick up a novel and be catapulted back to a time when fiction was fiction and didn’t have to bow to the dictates of genre. The Villagers is, as the title suggests, a portrait of a small village, or rather a series of portraits of the characters in it.

The novel opens on a feel-good scene as out-of-towners Olive and Geoff and their three young children settle into their new home in a quaint village in Shropshire. But there will be no doubt in the reader’s mind that all is not as it seems as Olive is introduced to all those smiling, welcoming faces. Everyone, she soon discovers, has a secret. What unfolds, chapter by chapter, are the true stories of a set of characters in 1950s rural England.

Initially The Villagers is highly descriptive with echoes of old-fashioned, almost childhood storytelling, but that should by no means put off those used to modern prose, for here we have something charming and intriguing, drawing us back to a bygone era both in the story and the manner in which it is told.

Each chapter is a character study and what colourful and quirky characters the villagers all turn out to be! The plotting and pacing are good. Griffiths-Jones peppers her prose with humour, yet she remains sympathetic to all of her creations.

Well-written with subtle and gentle irony, reminiscent of the very era she writes, Griffiths-Jones has penned a novel that will warm the hearts of her readers. The Villagers is based on true testimony, too, which makes it all the more delicious to read.

Book review: Mud and Glass by Laura E. Goodin

What a delight it is to share my review of Mud and Glass by Laura E. Goodin!

Mud and Glass by Laura E Goodin

About Mud and Glass

Life is fairly workaday for Dr Celeste Carlucci, a professor at Krasnia’s finest university, until her best friend and colleague Pace involves Celeste in her research.

Before long, Celeste is being shot at from a hovering helicopter, attacked on a moonlit mountain path, and followed by shadowy minions – on the trail of the Littoral Codex, an ancient and indecipherable book.

The race is on to figure out its secrets. On one side are Celeste and her colleagues, armed with nothing but enthusiasm, brilliant minds, and the principles of geography. Against them are the repressive university governors and their jackbooted campus security guards; the rich and power-hungry Praxicopolis family; and a renegade group of researchers, the Littoral League.
Will this ragtag bunch outwit their foes before it’s too late?

My thoughts:

As the cover suggests, Mud and Glass is a quirky adventure story brimming with both action and comedy. Goodin takes her readers straight into the action as her protagonist, geography academic Celeste, helps her two colleagues recover a strange and awfully heavy box. From there, Celeste is thrust into a world of intrigue. She is not sure who she can trust as she encounters an array of characters and groups all with vested interests in the Littoral Codex. The plot pivots on the desire of these various disparate groups to lay their hands on the glass filters that will enable them to decipher this strange book. The race is most definitely on!

Mud and Glass is on one level a fantasy novel, in that the protagonist finds herself, somewhat reluctantly, on a quest in an imaginary world not quite but awfully similar to our own. Fantasy or fanciful – it really doesn’t matter, as ultimately Mud and Glass is a work of satire. Perhaps the novel belongs beside Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it is certainly reminiscent of both Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and AS Byatt’s Possession, in terms of the themes and ideas that motivate the plot. Yet Goodin’s novel is nothing like those two much heavier works of fiction. Mud and Glass is at once riveting and lighthearted, and at times a romantic read.

Goodin’s plotting is excellent, as is her characterisation, many of the minor characters vividly and convincingly portrayed. The pace is fast, the story enormously entertaining. I especially love the way Goodin portrays Celeste as an impoverished, half-starved and perpetually ravenous academic craving tenure. Mud and Glass is probably not a book to be read if you are feeling hungry, unless you have a ready supply of sustenance!

A light read Mud and Glass is, but it is not without depth. Quite the contrary, I found the novel insightful and thought-provoking. Through the lens of her protagonist, Goodin provides a powerful allegory for all the ‘have-nots’ the world over, pitting their wits against the corporate ‘haves’ who hold all the power. In Mud and Glass this latter group is represented by the university governors, but above all by the Praxicopolis dynasty. Now there is a word worth unpacking!

Unpretentious, punchy and upbeat, and filled with wit, Mud and Glass is an absorbing and compelling read, truly a novel to devour.

Purchase your copy of Mud and Glass on Amazon

Find Laura E. Goodin here

 

Book review: Grasping at Water by Carmel Bendon

I do enjoy reading novels with strong mystical content. Especially when, as is the case with Grasping at Water, the author has profound knowledge of her subject.

About Grasping at Water

When a young, unidentified woman is pulled alive and well from Sydney Harbour in 2013, the connections to another woman – found in similar circumstances forty years earlier – present psychiatrist Kathryn Brookley with a terrible decision as the events of the present and past begin to mirror each other and the gap between truth and illusion shrinks.

When the young woman goes further and declares that she has lived continuously since coming to ‘understanding’ in the 14th century, her vivid accounts of life, love, childbirth, and loss in the Middle Ages seem so authentic that they test Kathryn’s scientific objectivity to the limit. As Kathryn delves she discovers that she is not the only one whose habitual assumptions about life have been torn asunder by an apparent experience of the miraculous in connection with the mystery woman.

My thoughts

Grasping at Water is an unusual book, possibly one of its kind. Told in the form of a mystery, what unfolds is so much more, as Kathryn, a traditional psychiatrist with all of the typical objectivist trappings of her job, is called in to assess a mysterious woman dragged out of Sydney Harbour. What unfolds will intrigue and fascinate the receptive reader.

The mystical theme is present early in the narrative through this mysterious un-drowned woman who eventually names herself Sophia (wisdom). The tales she tells at first mystify and puzzle, then reveal, slowly, fragment by fragment profound truths. Kathryn is at first reluctant and disbelieving, but her own prejudices are soon tested and she finds herself questioning her own rational understanding of the world. She notices coincidences, particularly of dates, the usual point of entry into the world of the unknown. From there Kathryn finds herself introduced to the anchoresses of medieval Europe immured in the walls of churches, and she is exposed to a feast of extraordinary knowledge as she grapples with her own life story.

Bendon deploys good pacing and plotting throughout, with believable and well-crafted characters. The protagonist, Kathryn, and the mystery woman, Sophia, are especially well-rounded. The style of prose is for the most part chatty and informative and easy to read. It is difficult to insert the theme of mysticism into the genre of a mystery and I commend the author for doing so.

The novel’s strength lies in the narrative control in the scenes exploring mysticism. The strange, mystical world Bendon portrays is utterly convincing, placing the reader right in amongst things. The insights into spirituality and mysticism contained in Grasping at Water are profound and important. Where else is the average reader to be presented with an engaging understanding of Julian of Norwich and anchoresses like her? I am reminded of L.J.M. Owen’s Dr Pimms’ series, in which the author draws on her extensive knowledge of archeology.

Grasping at Water is a story of loss, grief and acceptance, on one level a feel-good mystery to warm the heart. On a mystical level, here is a story of a rite of passage, one that will leave the reader questioning their everyday reality. A fascinating read.

 

You can purchase a copy of Grasping at Water on Amazon.

Find out more about Carmel Bendon here

Book review: Darkest Sunlight by Xtina Marie

What a novelty it is for me to review Darkest Sunlight, a poetic narrative by Xtina Marie.

“The heart was made to be broken.” – Oscar Wilde
To allow your heart to soar, you must risk the depths. Darkest Sunlight is the third poetic narrative from Xtina Marie. In this journey, readers will begin in the darkest of places yet revealed to us by this critically acclaimed poet, only to then find themselves thrust into the brightness of love before their eyes and minds can fully adjust. It is this shocking contrast which best conveys what it is to love, lose, and love again.
In Dark Musings, Xtina explored sadness. In Light Musings, she explored the intricacies of a loving heart. In Darkest Sunlight, Xtina Marie compares the opposite ends of the spectrum, and in doing so, she found a place darker than black.

My thoughts on Darkest Sunlight

Darkest Sunlight is a collection of poems exploring inner torment, lust, obsession, malice, revenge, rage and insanity, as well as heartfelt and erotic love. Marie delves into the underworld of dark intentions and their fulfilment, but also into the nature of love, of longing, of satisfaction and completion. Throughout are touches of dry humor and clever twists, as the reader is taken on an inner journey that is sure to evoke memories and reflections.

Among my favorites are ‘Junkie’ and ‘His Muse’, both demonstrating Marie’s incisive wit. In Darkest Sunlight Marie displays her profound understanding of what it is to be fully human, with all of our depravities and secret desires laid bare.

The entire collection employs the simple form of the classic nursery rhyme with its pairs of rhyming couplets. The meter varies, Marie employing various combinations of dimeter and trimeter lines, but always with that rhyme that harkens back to childhood. Using this poetic form to convey very adult themes is an ironic move, one that draws the reader into the verse almost like an enchantment. Further, Marie’s compositional style displays considerable prowess, for who can compose an entire book-length collection of prose and sustain such a rhyme with finesse? Poetic form constrains; the poet must function within it and create meaning whilst maintaining fluidity and flow; all this, Marie achieves with aplomb. Darkest Sunlight is a triumph and one that will appeal to lovers of this form of poetry.

 

Find your copy of Darkest Sunlight by Xtina Marie on Amazon

 

 

If this poetic narrative had to be summed up in one word it is ‘passion’.

 

Book Review: Ghosts Like Us by Inez Baranay

I’m delighted to share my review of Ghosts Like Us by Inez Baranay (originally published by The Newtown Review of Books, June 2016)

 

‘the air of the present moment here’ This puzzling opening line embodies the essence of a fine literary work: a little obscure for some, fresh air for others. Ghosts Like Us requires a literary reader, one with sensibilities for art, for feminism, for poetry, for magic realism; a reader who might enjoy Susan Sontag’s The Benefactor more than Philip Roth’s Indignation.

In Ghosts Like Us, Baranay deftly enters into the haphazard and self-justifying reasoning processes of her young protagonists. We meet 1980s post-punk singer Trudi, an East Berliner performing her final gig; sensitive visionary poet, Erika, reciting a poem dedicated to the woman she loved in a Berlin Salon in the late 19th century; and Australian performer Lottie, searching for ways to express her artistic impulses in Berlin. The three women, each in her 20s, are bound by a vow.

For Erika did not recite more than a few lines of her poem, and neither did Trudi, both women having fallen foul of different murderous Gustavs, the murderous Gustav – he might as well have the same name because he is in essence always the same – a man ‘whose fakery comes so easily to him it is his authenticity’. Through the Gustavs, Baranay explores the way history, his story, is made up of a dominant narrative, one that eclipses other, less prominent narratives — those uttered by softer voices, even or especially when those narratives are true. This past is also made in the present, out of all manner of falsities. Yet, ‘a true history would be as large as the world, take more time than all of time to tell’.

In part, Ghosts Like Us is a satisfying exploration of the nature of history and remembering. It is an introspective work, one that pulls the reader into the distinctly astute and observant voice of the narrator, who articulates the uncertain musings of each protagonist; like pebbles turned over and over in the palm, their every bump and crevice is considered.

Two of the women are ghosts. Trudi’s life is framed by the Berlin Wall, which went up the day of her birth and came down the day of her death. One wall came down, but not the other walls, especially that of sexism. Trudi, of the successful underground band the Trudi Zahn Trio, is on stage one moment, flat on the floor with her neck broken the next.

Erika looks on. Erika, who had lost her life a century ago. Erika watches from an upstairs window as the free thinkers of the day filed into her patron Frau Stern’s renowned salon. Erika, enamoured with the Traveller, Sibel Hanım, a radical thinker who would go on to influence generations. Erika, who all but went up in flames.

The two women meet in death and their preoccupations focus on another woman: Lottie.

Lottie’s concerns, anxieties and passions are for her performance art and the piece she unexpectedly and spontaneously volunteers to perform at a cabaret night to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall: ‘You have to do something, say something that demands to be said before you even know what it is.’

And she decides, with a sweeping palm landing flat on a pile of papers, to perform one of Trudi’s songs. Once the decision is made, the narrative explores the way Lottie absorbs and is absorbed by her art:

Can an actor be apart from their part? Does not acting, performing, make the self another self?

Does it?

Through Lottie, it is apparent that Ghosts Like Us is written by an author well travelled, and keen in her observations of Australia; how this nation is perceived and perceives itself – as a multicultural mosaic:

They chose, the country chose, a mosaic, Lottie came to learn, so that it would not have a melting pot. Anglos don’t want to melt.

The story is filled with such observations on culture, art, creativity, history and a curious realm of ghosts.

The present-tense narrative, with its propensity for intimacy and immediacy, makes the space between narrator and reader whisker-thin, smaller still when the reader is addressed directly, with a question striking at the gender bias of language itself: ‘Why is there no feminine form of the word avuncular in English?’

The prose is not only poetic but often ambiguous and subversive, with echoes of Jill Johnston or Jenny Brookes, the forgoing of strictures of punctuation allowing multiple impressions that draw forth a feminine as much as a feminist response in the reader. There are elements of punk pastiche, of disjointed prose commensurate with disjointed realities. The writing is atmospheric, stream-of-consciousness in places, the flowing sentences mirroring the hesitancy and fluidity of youthful thought, and the flow between this world and other ghostly worlds.

Thankfully, Baranay’s magic realism is not dressed with paranormal fancies.  There is nothing mystical or otherworldly about Erika and Trudi. Rather, the ghosts are a device, one that allows a fresh approach to a narration that, for all its fluidity, remains controlled and in control throughout — evidence of an assured author.

Ghosts Like Us is a sharply intellectual work, poised, and as avant-garde in its construction as the worlds it depicts. The avant-garde is there for what it attempts to shatter breaks and, ironically, even when the Herr Gustavs of the world seek to destroy the creative soul through jealousy and hatred, Baranay shows that the creative soul will persist, if only as a ghost like us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Columbine’s Tale by Rachel Nightingale

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Harlequin’s Riddle, the first in the Tales of Tayra series by debut author, Rachel Nightingale, it was with much anticipation that I opened the second, Columbine’s Tale.

“For three hundred years the travelling actors of Litonya roamed the land entertaining crowds, but secretly leaving devastation in their wake. Is Mina the only person with the power to stop them?

In the ethereal otherworld of Tarya, Mina begins to master the rare, inexplicable powers  attached to her gift for storytelling. She discovers she can touch dreams, influence the real world, and perhaps find out who is manipulating Tarya for dark purposes. In the waking world Mina is on the run, beset by divided loyalties between the travellers, and caught between two men she could love and a brother who desperately needs her help.”

My thoughts:

As with all series, the reader should have read the first Harlequin’s Riddle. In Columbine’s Tale a short prologue provides a concise and engaging summary for the purposes of catch up, with many useful reminders of the story so far. Columbine’s Tale opens with Mina on the run, determined to find her brother, Paolo, and this time, she believes she knows where he is. She’s being pursued, too. Thinking she knows who by, she’s in terror for her life as she tries to escape the clutches of the Gazini players who are determined to keep her. Then Mina encounters Sofia, a master story teller, and together with their team, the two travel the countryside and, through the power of telling stories, hand back dreams stolen by the players. Mina is determined as ever to undo the wrongs of others, and her quest leads her into increasing danger. Mina’s quest is thwarted by menace and betrayals and as the story unfolds, petal by petal, old betrayals are healed and new secrets revealed.

Through Mina and Sofia’s eyes, Nightingale portrays story telling as a gift, one that gives something to the listener, which she juxtaposes with the approach of the players who steal peoples’ dreams and hand them back to audiences as entertainment. But that is only the tip of this complex, intriguing and beautifully told novel.

Columbine’s Tale is told from multiple points of view and the main plot lines are carefully interwoven. The use of jump cuts works well as does the building of suspense, culminating in a dramatic edge-of-seat flourish and a denouement that leaves the reader wanting the third and last in the series.

Nightingale’s characterisation is impeccable, and with the fewest words she conjures a convincing three-dimensional cast. Descriptions are detailed and evocative, providing the reader with a powerful sense of place. Nightingale makes not only her imaginary Italy alive in the mind of the reader, but also her etheric realm, Tarya, in all of its layers and complexity. The prose is gentle, soft and acts on the psyche like balm. Tales of Tarya is a series to sink into and savour.

Nightingale plays with the fourth wall as Mina learns to tell stories from master story teller, Sofia, and here the reader is introduced to the craft of story telling and finding the heart of a tale from a special and mythic perspective. The metafictional element works and invites the reader to consider the true value of the narrative form.

Ultimately, Columbine’s Tale is about creativity and healing, of good versus evil, of the use and misuse of magical powers – the power to create and to destroy – and the all-important moral message underpinning the series, that creativity should be life-giving, not life-taking. In all a delightful and insightful read.

Here’s my review of Harlequin’s Riddle

Find the author, Rachel Nightingale here

Purchase your copy here