Book review: Grass Shoots by Jane Bwye



Described as “a tender love story” Grass Shoots is the sequel to Breath of Africa, a family saga which portrayed Kenya as it emerged from colonial rule. I very much enjoyed it so was looking forward to this one. I absolutely loved it.

This book takes us up to modern times, showing a new set of challenges facing the next generation and the country. The descriptions are amazing – the chaotic capital, the colourful scenery and the exotic wildlife.

But the book also depicts the poverty, corruption and violence in the country and includes events such as the election violence of 2007-8 and the Westgate shopping centre terrorist attack. I love the way these historical details give context to the story. The author has lived in Kenya and obviously knows the country inside out.

The title refers to a charity set up to help a village but also captures the message of hope for the country. But there is also a love story and some intriguing family secrets which kept me turning the pages.

I read this book on a cold day in England but felt transported to Africa and was held by its spell. I have a feeling it will stay with me a long time.

Grass Shoots is published by Crooked Cat Books and is available in paperback £8.99 and ebook £1.99.

To buy from Amazon click here


Book review: The Cornish Retribution by Amanda James


I was pretty certain I’d love this book before I opened the cover – and I was right. A psychological thriller by Amanda James set in Cornwall – what’s not to like? 

Recently widowed Sam who lives in Cornwall is invited to a school reunion in Sheffield. She dreads seeing her old friends Dan and Penny there who betrayed her by going off with each other when they were 16. We know Sam did something she’s ashamed of in retaliation but don’t yet know what.

At the reunion Dan’s very enthusiastic to see her, Penny much less so. It’s obvious that although they appeared to have won all those years ago by ending up with each other, their marriage hasn’t been a success. And now Penny’s parents have died the couple are talking about buying somewhere in Cornwall close to Sam. This doesn’t bode well but things are about to get so much worse and someone will soon end up dead. 

As with many books in this genre, you have to be willing to suspend a certain amount of disbelief in places, and if you’re one of those people who feels it’s essential to like the characters they read about, this wouldn’t be an ideal choice. But if you love dark, twisty, domestic noir stories I’d highly recommend this book.

It certainly lives up to the description “gripping”. The setting is perfect and beautifully portrayed, and the writing is taut. Although I wondered what on earth Sam saw in certain characters, how she could allow herself to get involved and why she wasn’t able to see what was obvious to the reader, I couldn’t stop turning those pages to find out what would happen – and what an ending!

The Cornish Retribution is published by Bloodhound Books and is available in paperback £8.99 and ebook £1.99

To buy from Amazon click here

News from the Writing Cave

I’m sorry for the silence – I don’t mean my book but the shortage of posts recently while I’ve been hiding away in my writing cave.

But I have some news I’d like to share with  you.

The summer seems to have flown by but we have some great travel memories.

The Secret which came out in June has had some lovely reviews – but I’ve found that promoting existing books while writing the next one is a constant juggling act and there aren’t enough hours in the day.

Half-price Halloween Sale

But just to let you know – my 3 ebooks are discounted to half-price for Halloween – only 99p/99c – until Friday! You don’t need a Kindle to read these – you can read ebooks on a laptop, PC, phone or tablet, or in the Cloud.

So if you’re looking for something to read now the nights are drawing in, here are the links:


In September Crooked Cat authors were invited to a publishing event in Carcassonne – we had some brilliant workshops and plenty of time to look around the beautiful town. I took lots of useful ideas away with me and have now:



updated my pinterest boards – take a look at

Started on Instagram – follow me on

signed a contract with Audible for producing an audio version of The Silence!

I’m hopefully also about to sign a contract for the audiobook of Lies, Mistakes and Misunderstandings and am  currently listening to auditions for a narrator for The Secret.

And I’ve finished my next novel!

It’s currently with beta readers. The feedback I’ve had so far has been fantastic – everyone’s spotted different things but all useful.

Watch this space for more news on The Suspects – or sign up for my next newsletter for a sneaky preview and a giveaway (click this link):





Author visit – Joan Livingston, author of the Isabel Long Mystery series

rednecks and hc


Today’s coffee shop guest is Joan Livingston, author of the Isabel Long mystery series and I have an excerpt from her new book to share with you.

The first book in this series Chasing the Case has received stellar reviews and Rednecks Revenge looks set for the same success. It’s in my Kindle library and I can’t wait to read it.

Chasing the Case is a clever whodunit but what I loved most about it was the characters, especially Isabel’s mother. Joan’s here to talk about the relationship between her main character, journalist-turned-sleuth Isabel Long, and her fabulous sidekick.

Over to you Joan!

Joan Livingston

Isabel Long’s Watson – her mother

Many sleuths have a sidekick. When I chose one for Isabel Long, the protagonist in my mystery series, I went for someone unusual — her 92-year-old mother, Maria Ferreira. Yeah, she’s Isabel’s Watson. And she’s an important character in the series’ second book, Redneck’s Revenge.

Maria Ferreira, or Ma, as Isabel calls her, is a smart and spunky mystery-loving woman. So is the person who inspired her — my own mother, Algerina Medeiros although she is now 94. Being a big reader and a fan of my books, my mother gave her approval. Yes, my mother is indeed a character in my Isabel Long mystery series.

Both Isabel and her mother, Maria Ferreira are widows. Maria came to live with her in the tiny town of Conwell in Western Massachusetts because both were tired of living alone. Also, Isabel has the most space of her siblings.

It’s been a bit of an adjustment for Maria moving to the sticks, as she calls it. But the town has a library that supplies her with those mysteries and smutty romances she likes. And she’s found a whole different culture in country living.

Maria likes to stay up late reading and watching TV. Being Portuguese, she makes family favorites like kale soup.

She’s also got a lead foot when she’s driving, or as Isabel says, it’s like her mother is driving the getaway car in a bank robbery.

And when Isabel takes on her first case, her mother not only gives her wholehearted support, she goes with her on interviews and shares he insight on leads. She comes up with nicknames for the people she meets like the Tough Cookie and the Floozy.

And she encourages Isabel to continue being a private investigator. Actually, she is just as excited as Isabel when a woman hires her to find out what happened to her father. The official story is that he was drunk and passed out when his house caught fire at his junkyard. His daughter is convinced he was murdered. Suspects include a rival junkyard owner, drug-dealing brothers, and an ex-husband.

I like Maria. She’s got a quick sense of humor. Isabel says she inherited her nosy gene, which came in handy when she was a journalist. Now, it will help her as a P.I.

Rednecks Revenge hi res cover



Redneck’s Revenge, which officially launched Sept. 26, is available in Kindle for £1.99 ($2.99) and paperback £6.99 ($10.99). Here’s the link to Amazon:

The blurb

Her next case. She’s in it for good.

Isabel Long is in a funk months after solving her first case. Her relationship with the Rooster Bar’s owner is over. Then cops say she must work for a licensed P.I. before working solo.

Encouraged by her Watson — her 92-year-old mother  — Isabel snaps out of it by hooking up with a P.I. and finding a new case.

The official ruling is Chet Waters, an ornery so-and-so, was passed out when his house caught fire. His daughter, who inherited the junkyard, believes he was murdered. Topping the list of suspects are dangerous drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, and an ex-husband.

Could the man’s death simply be a case of redneck’s revenge? Isabel is about to find out.

An excerpt

Here’s an excerpt from Redneck’s Revenge. Isabel and her mother are coming back from a visit to a licensed private investigator in the town of Jefferson. Isabel found out from the cops she needs to work for one for three years before she can go solo. Her interview with Lin Pierce, a P.I. whose best days are behind him, was a success.

Ma and I don’t stay in Jefferson once my business is done. She informed me this morning another snowstorm is on its way. My mother is the official weather watcher in our household. It’s part of her late-night routine. She plays solitaire on a tablet one of my sisters gave her while the TV is on. She has her shows. I’m in bed long before her, but then again, I’m up at the crack of dawn, a habit I acquired when I worked at the newspaper and just can’t seem to shake even though it’s been nine months since I got the heave-ho. You might’ve heard the story. After a corporation bought the Daily Star, we were supposed to reapply for our jobs. Like hell, I told the publisher, who ended up getting canned later even though he did what the new owners asked.

Besides, I like the quiet that time of day. The dog, Maggie, and cat, Roxanne, hang out with me like we could be best friends, as if that were true. They love Ma better, but, honestly, that’s okay.

“What did you think of Lin Pierce?” I ask her.

“He did what you asked him for.”

“That’s not really an answer, Ma.”

She pauses.

“I was expecting somebody a little more hard-boiled.”

“You mean pickled?”

“No, no, more like Philip Marlowe or Mike Hammer.”

I laugh.

“I think you’re dating yourself there, Ma.”

“I am ninety-two.”

“Almost ninety-three.”

“Don’t remind me.” She’s laughing. “I think he’ll be all right. You just need to be a part of his business and not take any of his cases unless he really needs you. From what you say that doesn’t seem to be a possibility anyways.”

“That’s right.”

“Now that it’s official, how are you going to get the word out besides telling those Old Farts in the back room.”

I grin hearing Ma call them that name.

“Actually, I believe that will be sufficient to get the ball rolling. I’m not looking to do this full time. As I told Lin, this is more like a paying hobby than a business. I gotta do something to keep me out of trouble.”

My mother snorts.

About the author

An award-winning journalist, Joan Livingston started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and most recently the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure.

After eleven years in Northern New Mexico, she returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long series.

Connect with Joan here:



Twitter: @joanlivingston




You can buy Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge here:





Crime file: Hunter’s Revenge by Val Penny

Hunter's Revenge Banner

Exciting news for fans of police procedural crime thrillers – publication day for Hunter’s Revenge, the second book in the Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series, is coming up in a few days on 9th September and today I have an extract to share with you.

Val Penny’s debut novel Hunter’s Chase has received rave reviews from some top authors including Erin Kelly of He Said She Said and Broadchurch fame.

I was delighted to receive a copy of the follow-up. To be honest, the cover alone would be enough to entice me to buy this book:

Hunter's Revenge Cover

But can you judge a book by its cover? In this case you certainly can!

Here’s the blurb:

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until his friend’s death is revenged.

DI Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. He is shocked to find the victim is his friend and colleague, George Reinbold. Who would want to harm the quiet, old man? Why was a book worth £23,000 delivered to him that morning? Why is the security in George’s home so intense? Hunter must investigate his friend’s past as well as the present to identify the killer and identify George’s killer. Hunter also finds a new supply of cocaine from Peru flooding HMP Edinburgh and the city. The courier leads Hunter to the criminal gang but Hunter requires the help of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable, Sir Peter Myerscough and local gangster Ian Thomson to make his case. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taut crime thriller.

My review

The opening scene set in East Germany in 1968 where a desperate young man has no choice but to flee his home after a Stasi police officer is killed pulled me in straight away. I wanted to find out what would happen to him. I didn’t have long to wait but the first chapter raised a lot of other questions – mostly who, why and how?

It was good to be reacquainted with some of the characters from the first book, and to get to know DI Hunter Wilson a little better. He’s quite an irascible character but he cares and once he’s on the case you know he won’t give up until he’s solved it.

“Okay, let me tell you about the other people I care about. I care about the young woman who was found dead in the boot of the Volvo you were driving. And I care about the old man who was shot after he helped me jail Arjun Mansoor last year for drug trafficking. I care about those two innocent, murdered people – and I am going to get my revenge. If you won’t help me, I’ll take my revenge on you.”

Although I’d recommend reading Hunter’s Chase first so that you get to know the characters and see how they connect with each other this book works fine as a standalone.

I found the scenes easy to visualise and could imagine it as a television series. I found it a riveting read. looking forward to the next book in this series.



DS Jane Renwick and DC Rachael Anderson make an interesting discovery when they go to pay the hotel where they are holding the blessing of their civil partnership.

 Rachael couldn’t think of a time when she and Jane had had so many days off together. It was lovely. Today, they were going to stop by the hotel in Belford Road, where they had chosen to have their blessing.

There were plenty of fancier venues than the three-star Bruce Hotel, in Belford Road, on the banks of the Water of Leith. But this hotel was within easy walking distance of one of Jane’s favourite attractions in the city: The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Rachael had agreed to the choice because she knew Jane would like guests to be able to visit the gallery if they wanted to.

“Janey, did you notice the hotel has been sold to a different chain?” she asked.

“Yes. I don’t think it will really affect us, but I want to visit and see for myself.”

“May be not, but the chain’s name is totally unpronounceable.”

“The hotel is still called The Bruce Hotel; it’s just the company that owns it which has changed. The hotel still has the same rooms for our guests who are staying over, and the function suite for us. It will be fine!”

“As long as the honeymoon suite is still as nice, that’s all I care about,” Rachael said.

“We’ll check! I want to take another look at the bar and the restaurant and make sure our cake is organised.”

“One fruit tier for you and one chocolate tier for me.”

“Yes, my little peasant.” Jane laughed and pushed open the door to the hotel reception.

“What cheek! But I’m glad we have time off and can do this together, Janey.”

“And guests should get parked easily on the big day.”


Jane and Rachael went to reception to ask for the Events Manager. They were both relieved when the same woman they had made all their arrangements with came out to greet them.

“Hello, ladies. Jane and Rachael, isn’t it? Not long to wait now! Are you getting excited?”

“Ooh yes,” Rachael said.

“Your wedding planner has been in touch to finalise access and arrangements, but would you like to see the function suite again? It has been redecorated since our takeover by Gemuetliche Erholung.”

“So that’s how you say it. I’m glad they haven’t changed the name of the hotel,” Rachael smiled.

“That may change, but not yet. Hang on and I’ll just get the rest of my keys.” The lady disappeared into a room behind the reception desk.

“What are you doing, Janey?” Rachael asked.

“Reading the guest forms on the desk,” Jane replied quietly.


“Because I’m a cop and I’m nosey. Look, it seems Lenny The Lizard Pratt is staying here.”

“He must be feeling the cold today, it’s a bit brisk. Doesn’t he live in Malaga with Jamie Thomson’s mum now?”

“Yes, that must be expensive. From comments the boss has made, I believe Janice is a bit high-maintenance. But it looks like he’s here today. Lucky us.”

“Look at that notice-board, Janey.”

“Goodness, the General Manager is a Heinrich Reinbold. I wonder if that is a coincidence?”

“The boss doesn’t like coincidences.”

“Neither do I, Rache.”

After looking around the function area and having another look at the luxurious honeymoon suite where they would spend their wedding night, Jane and Rachael joined the Events Manager for coffee in the bar and paid the balance of their bill.

“We are going to have such a fun day, aren’t we, Rache?” Jane said, as the Events Manager went to get their receipt. “And it is forever?”

“Of course!” Rachael reached out for Jane’s hand, but noticed she was looking towards the far side of the bar. Two men were sitting with their heads close together, whispering.

“You might pay attention to me when I’m being romantic, Janey. Oh, is that Lenny The Lizard you’re looking at?” Rachael asked.

“Ssssh.” Jane moved seats to sit opposite Rachael. “Make it look as if you are taking my picture, but get those men in the shot,” she whispered.

“Well, at least smile.” Rachael took a couple of photos. She could tell that the men in the background never noticed.

Buy Hunter’s Revenge here

About the author

author's photographVal Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The third book in the series, Hunter’s Force, follows shortly.


Connect with Val:


Books by Val Penny:

Last chance to buy!

Just a little heads-up that my publisher will be putting its books back up to full price this evening after the Crooked Cat Summer Sale so there’s still time to get a bargain if you’re quick.

There are lots of ebooks in different genres including romance, crime and historical, all reduced to half-price 99p/99c. Here are just a few I’ll be reading soon:

You can find them by putting Crooked Cat into the search box in Amazon.

Or search by their title and author.

And if you’re one of the lovely people who’ve downloaded Lies, Mistakes and Misunderstandings, The Silence or The Secret thank you so very much – I hope you enjoy reading them.


Half-price summer reads

I’m very happy to share a secret with you today:

My publisher Crooked Cat has just announced a summer sale! For the next two days (24-26 July) dozens of ebooks are reduced to half-price – that’s 99p/99c.

A great opportunity to stock up on summer reading!


In case you haven’t bought ebooks before and are wondering, you don’t need a Kindle in order to read them – you can download them to your iPad, phone, laptop or PC using the free kindle reading app.

I’m driving across Europe at the moment so although I’m a big fan of traditional books, I really appreciate the convenience of being able to load dozens of ebooks onto my iPad.

I also love the way I can start reading immediately rather than having to wait for delivery.

And as they cost a fraction of the price of paperbacks I can afford more of them.

My books are all included in the sale this time and can be found on these links:

The Secret

The Silence 

and Lies, Mistakes and Misunderstandings

Or by searching on Amazon.

I’ve enjoyed so many Crooked Cat books in the last year and wish there was room to recommend them all but here are a few fabulous ones I’ve read most recently:


I’ll have some more suggestions tomorrow.

Happy reading!