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Blogger Blast: Degrees of Guilt by HS Chandler

Thursday, 16 May 2019
Degrees of Guilt by HS Chandler

Huge congratulations to HS Chandler for today's publication of her new courtroom drama, Degrees of Guilt, and thanks to Orion Books for providing me with an advanced copy of the book for review.

Title: Degrees of Guilt
Author: HS Chandler
Publication Date: 16 May 2019 (ebook), 5 September 2019 (paperback)
Publisher: Orion

Twitter: @HSCinkpen


When you read this book, you will think you know every twist in the tale.

Maria is on trial for attempted murder.

She has confessed to the crime and wanted her husband dead.

Lottie is on the jury, trying to decide her fate.

She embarks on an illicit affair with a stranger, and her husband can never find out.

You may think you know who is guilty and who is innocent.

You will be wrong.


Degrees of Guilt is a page-turning courtroom drama set predominantly in Bristol Crown Court and focusing on two people involved in the Bloxham trial.

Maria Bloxham is accused of the attempted murder of her celebrity husband of 18 years, Dr Edward Bloxham. Scratching under the surface reveals that their marriage may not have been quite as rosy as you might expect.

Charlotte 'Lottie' Hiraj is a juror assigned to the Bloxham trial. She feels immediate sympathy for Maria because her marriage is also on the rocks. Lottie feels that she is losing her sense of self since becoming a wife and a mother.

The book explores the darker unhealthier side of relationships, a particularly topical issue in light of the recent #MeToo movement.  It also explores some emotive issues such as marital abuse and self-harming in a thought-provoking way. It explains how women can find themselves unable to leave an abusive relationship but also considers whether the situation is as clear-cut as suggested.

Degrees of Guilt by HS Chandler

I love a good courtroom drama and one of the most fascinating parts of this story for me was the actions and group dynamics of the jury. The author has a background in law herself and she has cleverly not fallen into the trap of sensationalising the setting or the trial, bringing a real sense of authenticity to the book. Whilst we never really know what goes on in a jury room, it strikes me as somewhat illogical to allow such an important decision as someone's guilt or innocence to rest with a group of people who more often that not will have some preconceptions/bias and whom may be easily pressured to align their views with other members of the jury in order to bring their jury duty to an end. The criminal justice system really is shockingly vulnerable to human fallibilities and to those barristers who are happy to twist evidence in order to get the win. In Maria's case, the tension quickly ramps up as we wonder whether justice will prevail?

Chandler has produces a compulsive and shocking story, full of suspense and twists and turns. Just as you think you know where the story is heading, it will flip around and sprint off in another direction. 

Degrees of Guilt is a gripping and entertaining read. Thoroughly recommended for fans of courtroom dramas, legal thrillers and psychological thrillers.

Many thanks to Orion for providing me with an early copy of the book for review.

About the Author

HS Chandler
HS Chandler is the pen name of Helen Fields. As HS Chandler she writes psychological thrillers and legal thrillers. With a background as a criminal and family law barrister, she now runs a media company and writes the Callanach crime series.


Book Review: Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

Wednesday, 8 May 2019
Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

Title: Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel
Author: Ruth Hogan
Publisher: Two Roads
Publication Date: 7 February 2019
Genre: Women's Fiction


Tilly was a bright, outgoing little girl who liked playing with ghosts and matches. She loved fizzy drinks, swear words, fish fingers and Catholic churches, but most of all she loved living in Brighton in Queenie Malone's magnificent Paradise Hotel with its endearing and loving family of misfits - staff and guests alike. But Tilly's childhood was shattered when her mother sent her away from the only home she'd ever loved to boarding school with little explanation and no warning.

Many years later, Tilda has grown into an independent woman still damaged by her mother's unaccountable cruelty. Wary of people, her only friend is her dog, Eli. But when her mother dies Tilda goes back to Brighton and with the help of her beloved Queenie sets about unravelling the mystery of her exile from The Paradise Hotel, only to discover that her mother was not the woman she thought she knew at all.


My husband insists that the first line in a novel is the most important. It has to set the scene, introduce a character, provide context, generate intrigue AND, most importantly, it has to capture the reader’s attention. So, when I read the first line of Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel - “My mother killed my father when I was seven years old” – I knew I was on to a winner. That line ticks all of the criteria above and more. How could anyone not feel compelled to continue reading?!

Returning to Brighton following her mother’s death, Tilda finds herself at a metaphorical crossroad and decides to stay for an extended period whilst deciding in which direction her life should head next. Initially somewhat ambivalent about her mother’s death, the discovery of some old diaries gives Tilda the opportunity to get to know her mother better and to understand her childhood from an adult perspective.

The book is written in two parts and told in a split timeline with one narrative from the older Tilda’s perspective as she re-visits her childhood haunts and one from the younger Tilly who explains how Tilda’s childhood has shaped her present life. The two narratives come together at certain points, revealing important events from Tilda’s past.

As with Hogan’s earlier works, the characters are vibrant and appealing.  Tilda (formerly Tilly) is 46 years old single and wary of people. She is cautious, reserved and slow to trust people. This is a striking contrast to the bright, bubbly and adventurous little girl that she used to be. In part 2 of the book we meet Queenie Malone and her eccentric mother. They are simply marvellous supporting characters, adding a great sense of fun to the book from the moment they first appear within the pages. With the eclectic mix of staff and residents at the Paradise Hotel, it’s not difficult to see why Tilly so adored her time there. I should also mention the other supporting characters of Daniel, Joseph Geronimo and Miss Dane, all of whom help Tilda to understand her past and move forward with her life.

Despite the colourful array of human characters, my favourite and the most endearing character has to be Eli the dog. Hogan always adds a hint of the supernatural into her books and, in this case, Eli is one of those hints (I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to reveal that). I was reading a book earlier today in which the author said that when a person dies they don’t leave us but instead leave an imprint or a negative of themselves that stays with us, in a similar way that an amputee still experiences an itch in a missing limb. I suppose this is what we mean when we say that someone’s spirit stays with us. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do like the thought that a person or animal’s imprint can remain with you after they’re gone. It’s a comforting thought.

The story is ultimately a beautifully written, tender exploration of the mother-daughter relationship, the complexities of families and the power of friendship. The book also explores some darker issues of mental health, depression and loss.  If that all sounds a bit deep for you, don’t worry! Those issues are dealt with gently and sensitively, focusing more on acceptance, forgiveness and hope. It is a warm, poignant and thought-provoking tale. Ultimately, Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel proves to be a charming and uplifting read, like a burst of sunshine on a drizzly day.

Thanks to Two Roads and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of the book for review.

About the Author (in her own words)

Ruth Hogan
I was born in the house where my parents still live in Bedford: my sister was so pleased to have a sibling that she threw a thrupenny bit at me. as a child I read everything I could lay my hands on: The Moomintrolls, A Hundred Million Francs, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the back of cereal packets and gravestones. I was may about dogs and horses, but didn't like daddy-long-legs or sugar in my tea.

I studied English and Drama at Goldsmiths College which was brilliant, but then I came home and got a 'proper' job. I worked for ten years in a senior local government position (I was definitely a square peg in a round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage) before a car accident left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously. It was going well, but then in 2012 I got cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing and the eventual result was The Keeper of Lost Things.

I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering partner (who has very recently become my husband - so I can't be that bad!). I am a magpie, always collecting treasures, and a huge John Betjeman fan. My favourite word is 'antimacassar' and I still like reading gravestones.



Book Review: I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney [Audiobook]

Saturday, 4 May 2019
I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

Title: I Know Who You Are
Author: Alice Feeney
Publisher: HQ (HarperCollins)
Publication Date: 16 May 2019
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller

Twitter: @alicewriterland
Instagram: @alicewriterland
Facebook: @AliceFeeneyAuthor


The highly anticipated new novel from the international bestselling author of Sometimes I Lie, Alice Feeney's new novel is her most twisted and nerve-wracking thriller yet.

Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can't remember where from. But I know exactly who you are. I know what you've done. And I am watching you.

When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn't seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she's hiding something and they're right, she is - but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she's never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

I Know Who You Are will leave your heart pounding and your pulse racing.this is the most twisted thriller you'll read all year.


I Know Who You Are is the story of Aimee Sinclair. She is that actress that you recognise, but cannot quite remember where from. On the verge of fame, things seem to be going pretty well for her until she arrives home one day to find her husband, Ben Bailey, gone and her bank account emptied. The police suspect Aimee of some nefarious deed, yet whilst it is true that Aimee is hiding something, it is so much more than the police (or the reader) could have anticipated!

The book then takes us to 1987 Ireland to meet six year old Ciara, a motherless child being raised by an unloving and abusive father. Ciara's desperate wish for a pair of red shoes brings her into contact with Maggie, a meeting that will turn her life upside down.

The story continues via a mix of present day account and flashbacks, as the two narrative threads gradually intertwine.  The author cleverly and deftly weaves a twisty, complex yet plausible plot which is utterly gripping and ultimately jaw-dropping. There are so many twists and turns that you will not want to put this book down!

It is the characters that truly make this story. They are all unreliable, unpredictable and utterly fascinating. Aimee comes across as quiet, sweet and reserved; crippled with shyness and self-doubt despite choosing a career in the spotlight. Whilst it would be difficult not to sympathise with someone who has been through so much, is so alone and who has had to struggle so hard, it is oddly difficult to warm to Aimee as a character. This may be because she holds back so much from the reader. This made me feel as though I didn't really know Aimee or understand her motivations. She is used to playing a part for her job, and yet it feels as though she continues to play a part in everyday life too. Just who is the real Aimee?  Despite Aimee being the main protagonist, I found myself drawn to Maggie. Menacing and unbalanced, her character delves into a particular level of darkness that left me intrigued as to what (if indeed there were any precipitating factors) caused her to be like she is.

If you want to escape into a twisty thriller, then I Know Who You Are is the perfect book for you. It is dark, disturbing and hugely addictive. This is a story that will make your blood run cold and make you question how well you really know your nearest and dearest. With some very clever plotting, I was a good way through the book before I thought I had guessed the ending and even then I wasn't quite there - I do love a book that can take me by surprise!

I listened to the audio version of the book, read by Stephanie Racine, and I absolutely loved that version - great choice of narrator! The seamless switch between accents really helped me to be absorbed into the story and particularly helped bring the character of Maggie to life.

Thanks to HQ and Joe Thomas for providing an advanced copy of the audio book for review.

About the Author

Alice Feeney
Alice Feeney's is a writer and journalist. She spent 15 years at the BBC where she worked as a Reporter, News Editor, Arts and Entertainment Poducer and One O'clock News Producer.

Alice has lived in London and Sydney and has now settled in the Surrey countryside, where she lives with her husband and dog.

Her debut, Sometimes I Lie, was a New York Times and international bestseller. It has been translated into over twenty languages, and is being made into a TV series by Ellen DeGeneres and Warner Bros. starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. 

Her second novel, I Know Who You Are, will be published in Spring 2019.