First Book Review for 2021

Forest in Scotland

It is rare I dedicate an entire post to a book review, but this deserves some recognition.

For the benefit of the unconverted, I’ll explain something about the series first. ‘Six Stories’ by Matt Wesolowski is unlike anything I have read. These novels do not follow a conventional story arc. They are unique. The what is going to happen has happened, but what lurks beneath the story? Six Stories is more of an aftermath, a series of podcasts, in which six people pick over the bones of what they think happened… it is up to you, the reader, to work it out.

DEITY (SIX STORIES #5)

Journalist, Scott King, reviews a case, interviews six different people over the death of an enigmatic pop star, Zach Crystal. Think ‘The Beatles,’ ‘The Bay City Rollers’ and it may call to mind thousands of hysterical fans – something akin to religion…

But with super stardom comes a sense of invincibility. Starting out with sister, Naomi, the ‘Crystal Twins’ hit fame in the 90s until eventually, Zach goes solo. Just before his death, darker rumours about the megastar begin to surface; chilling video footage of two girls trapped in a cave, sobbing and terrified. And in a case similar to Jimmy Savile’s, accusations of abuse come crawling out of the shadows.

Who is lying?
Who is telling the truth and at what price?

This fascinating medley of view points inspired me to make some comparisons of my own, thoughts I’d like to share.

DEITY (Six Stories #5) by Matt Wesolowski

Episode 1: Monster Busters

You’ve heard of online grooming, internet predators using fake portraits on social media to attract victims. This phenomenon appeared in Matt’s second series, Hydra: Monster Busters (or pedophile hunters), adults who pose as children to entrap the online groomers – and if they agree to meet – game’s up! Here, we meet Ian Julius who claims to have caught Crystal trying to arrange meetings with underage girls but as the ultimate iconoclast, is turned into a figure of hate. 

I had to ask myself why?

If someone is famous enough, they become almost untouchable, while genuine cases, where youngsters are abused sexually by their ‘heroes’ are not believed. The ‘accusers’ are threatened or compensated. Likewise, Ian the monster buster suffers trial by media, with sparse evidence to prove what he’s uncovered about the star. The upshot is Crystal turns the tide, suing the Monster Buster £millions after his claims go public. 

Think Jimmy Savile, a man who covered up vile abuse against victims for decades and got away with it. Could this be a similar story?

Episode 2: Zach Crystal Stan

The second character Scott interviews disputes such claims, YouTuber and super fan, Sasha Stewart. In the first part of her podcast, Sasha lashes out at Crystal’s accusers. Dismisses their claims as ‘bullshit,’ quick to demonise them for exploiting the megastar to make money. In Sasha’s eyes, Crystal can do no wrong, a benevolent star who invited vulnerable girls in care to stay in his amazing woodland fairyland. He donated masses to charity and she is 100% dedicated to defending him.

Think Michael Jackson, another megastar who built an ultimate fantasy attraction.

This episode put forward a different perspective, one I could easily be swayed by. I never believed the stories about MJ, a child like figure, if not a modern day ‘Peter Pan’ who lived in a surreal bubble. The similarities are unnerving, victims offered huge sums in compensation. It begs the question were these stars easy targets to exploit?

Yet in another way I was reminded of the Rochdale abuse scandal. These too were ‘vulnerable girls,’ groomed and raped by a gang of Muslim men but instead of arresting the perpetrators, police feared the right wing backlash. Worst was the way the victims (some as young as 12) were portrayed, as if they were to blame.

Episode 3: The Secrets of the Whispering Wood

With extracts from a live interview between podcasts, this episode is quite spooky, but I’ve started to notice a common theme. All ‘Six Stories’ books include some folklore or monster in the background; in the first it was the hideous Marsh Hag, Nanna Wrack, ‘Black Eyed Kids’ in ‘Hydra’, the ‘wood-knockers’ in ‘Changeling’ and a vampire in ‘Beast.’ Deity unmasks a terrifying creature, known as a Frithghast, some form of apparition that takes the form of a deer, half rotted, exposing glowing red eyes and antlers. 

Local groundskeeper, Craig, describes the legend; a man employed to manage Crystal’s estate, a vast area of forest in the Scottish Highlands, where the megastar created his famous treehouse lit with fairy lights. Craig has seen the fans Crystal invites here (12-15 year old girls from troubled home backgrounds, or in care). But whilst security is tight, there is something sinister in the atmosphere. Rumours of the Frithghast abound, alluding to the video footage at the start… and it’s a bit gruesome.

Nothing is conclusive, only that it ends when Scott discovers a note left on his windscreen, a lead to the next interview…

Episode 4: The Special Girls

Here we meet Marie Owen, mother of one of the girls who stayed at Crystal Forest. This I found a particularly sad episode, in so much as her daughter vanished to join a vigil of mourning fans. All I discovered in this episode was how obsessed and infatuated the girls became with their idol and it made me wonder if they were looking for an escape, or a crutch, in a similar way to religion.

This story is of a mother’s pain, someone who has tried everything possible to fulfil the her daughter’s dream, yet lost her in the process. Furthermore, she is vilified in the media – so I have to ask:

Why did the megastar choose to rehouse them, from a council estate to some exquisite mansion? Was this an act of kindness or a means of compensation to suppress something more sinister?

Episode 5: You Get to Go Home

Remember Skexxixx, from Hydra, a fictitious superstar in his own right? Describing the religious care home he was brought up in and manipulated into thinking he was evil, he tells of a secret alliance with the megastar, in so much as he was contracted to write his songs after the split from his sister. Conversely, he has also recognised a darkness in him. 

“Something evil lived inside that man. Something cold.”

There is an unusual thread to this story, one that intrigues me, that when Zach Crystal went solo, he and Skexxixx formed an almost symbiotic relationship and he dated his sister, Naomi. Throughout this podcast he reveals that Zach was no angel and no genius so how did he became almost God-like?

This naturally leads into a discussion about the victims – or ‘accusers’ as they are called with a very interesting play on words: “If I punched you in the face right at this moment and you called the cops, you’d be the victim of an assault by Skexxixx; you wouldn’t be ‘Scott King the Skexxixx accuser.’”

This once again highlights the power surrounding the megastar.

Episode 6: Being Nobody

There are many strings to this story; a disgraced star, the unaccountable death of his friend, James Cryer, in the forest, a terrifying legend, accusations of former fans, the enigma surrounding Crystal’s temporary disappearance, a live TV interview in which he announced a sudden come-back and finally his demise. 

Zach Crystal’s woodland mansion and tree house were destroyed in a fire, where it is believed that he too, perished. But the loose ends floating around in the ether are too numerous, to an extent that no one really has a clue what happened.

I am not going to say much about Episode 6 but it blew me away; the man behind the mask revealed, the truth of his death and that of his friend explained in a manner that ties up the entire mystery. After reading all episodes, this book concludes with such a brilliant twist, I cannot tell you how chilled I feel… 

You just have to read it.

Dark misty forest in Scotland used to Portray the book DEITY (Six Stories #5) by Matt Wesolowski

My 2019 Holiday #BookBlog

Holiday reading by the poolWith a weeks holiday ahead of us, a chance to unwind , I was very much looking forward to catching up on some essential reading time. So with three books on at the top of my TBR list, which one to read first? A twisty psychological thriller – a romantic comedy – or a dark dystopian tale. Sod it, I thought, I’ll start all three and see which takes my fancy.

About the Books

We landed at Nice Airport. With my husband stuck in a car hire queue for an hour and a half, I was sweltering in my leggings, socks and boots. (I don’t recommend Gold Cars!) So what better diversion from such stress than a gentle romance. By the time we finally left I was smiling, having ploughed through two chapters of ‘Maybe Baby’ by Carol Thomas. Settling down in the evening with a glass of wine, I knew I’d be doing some writing of my own soon, so to get into the zone I opened ‘We Were Sisters’ by Wendy Clarke (psychological thrillers are my genre at the moment.) Come morning, I was thinking about my current WIP (which has been off the boil of late) and before the crack of dawn, I was re-shuffling the whole script in my head. A good start. But it was only a little later by the pool side , I couldn’t resist dipping into the dystopian novel.

All three books were very different but seemed to balance each other perfectly, affording a much pleasurable reading experience. ‘We Were Sisters’ was indeed gripping and packed with psychological suspense; ‘Maybe Baby’ had great characters, a lovely tale of friendship; and ‘Hope’ had a bit of both, a suspenseful storyline that had me hooked as well as characters I could fall in love with.

My Reviews

A full length review of each book can be viewed on Goodreads. But I would like to share an extract (and hope the authors don’t mind me pinching their Twitter graphics.)

Maybe Baby by Carol Thomas

Maybe Baby by Carol Thomas

Maybe Baby (Lisa Blake #2)Maybe Baby by Carol Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading the Purrfect Petsitter on holiday last year, I was looking forward to the sequel. With engaging characters, light romance, enduring friendships and lots of humorous animal shenanigans (loved the one about the kitten stuck up a tree – been there!), I got straight back into the world of Lisa Blake. And I couldn’t wait to catch up with the next instalment of her life.

Newly re-discovered love, Nathan, is so adorable and every woman’s hero. But when Lisa discovers a half naked woman (who has not long taken a shower in his flat) you wonder what secrets lurk in his past, especially the way she winds her up about it. This is a story about coming clean and facing up to life’s ups and downs, past present and future. It has after all, been many years since their school days and even with the flush of a new romance on the horizon, how much do they really know about each other? | Read More |

We Were Sisters by Wendy Clarke

We Were Sisters by Wendy Clarke

We Were SistersWe Were Sisters by Wendy Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I do like psychological thrillers. Kelly comes across as a much troubled woman, struggling with a new baby, getting her twin girls to school on their first day (one confident, one shy) but from the moment Noah’s pram is moved and she finds a locket engraved with the word ‘sister’ you just know from her very reaction she is scared stiff. Such fear, such anxiety, coupled with an obvious OCD (the constant counting). I sense something is haunting her and then the truth of her childhood begins to unravel…

Kelly has suffered a lack of love from her parents, the only excitement in her life the arrival of a new sibling. With so many foster kids coming and going, you start to wonder why her mum and dad can’t find a little more room in their hearts for her… that is until a mysterious girl called Freya arrives. Pale skinned and mute, she is an enigma, a girl you desperately want to know more about. | Read More |

Hope by Terry Tyler

Hope by Terry Tyler

HopeHope by Terry Tyler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I rarely read dystopian books because I find them a bit scary. Yet from the blurb (and reviews I caught on Twitter), I became evermore intrigued and wow! What a story! I struggled through the first chapters with a frown on my face, thinking ‘Hell, this depicts just about everything in Britain I fear; automated machines replacing humans, giant corporations swallowing up the smaller companies, more and more people put out of work, food banks, spiralling rents, cuts in social provision, less affordable housing and an ultimate increase in homelessness. By the fourth chapter, I found myself nodding in places, reciting parts to my husband… this is happening now! ‘Hope’ is a wake up call, a chilling depiction of where this country could be heading if we allow it.

I loved the main characters. Dystopian or not, it is the people at the heart of this book that captivated me; from the cheerful camaraderie to a fight for survival. |Read More |

Thanks go out to these talented authors for giving me so much entertainment. This was binge reading at its best! Now back to the challenge of creating something brilliant myself… (one can dream!)

Let’s Talk about #Books

It’s been a busy year for authors and I am no exception.

Whilst busily writing a compilation of new stories, I can proudly boast that I have probably read more books than ever before in 2018. It’s good to discover new authors and all the while I’ve been devouring books, I’ve been developing my own writing skills along the way.

books.jpg.pagespeed.ce.0q-g1HhA8d

Before I list my favourites though, I’ll make one announcement. My debut novel, Beginnings is now permafree on all ebook platforms. Not a time limited promotion. It really is FREE. After a thrilling blog tour in January I read enough positive reviews to realise Beginnings had potential, so for anyone who fancies a dark thriller set in London’s criminal underworld of the 1970s, go download a free copy now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble (Nook), Kobo, Apple i-Books, Playster, Scribd or 24 symbols.

But without further ado, I will now list the books I most enjoyed throughout the year; let’s just say that these are the stories that stayed with me long after I finished them.

Six StoriesSix Stories by Matt Wesolowski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Most books I read build up to a momentous storyline. In this book however, that ‘event’ has already happened. The beauty in the story telling is in the unravelling to discover what actually DID happen. A mystery retold through the interview podcasts of an investigative journalist.

I will add that this book was so good, with such amazing insights into the human psyche and teenage dynamics, I listened it on audio book too!

See more of this review

The Towers: DS Connolly - Book One (East End Noir Series)The Towers: DS Connolly – Book One by Natalie Hames
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the moment I started reading this I got straight into it the plot. It was fast, gripping with some really compelling characters. The main storyline involves two brothers, one who is easily led, the other more feisty and determined to stand up against bullies. This novel depicts the true predator and prey environment of people forced to live in high rise tower blocks; a story of conflict, organised crime and fighting for the underdog.

I really enjoyed this so much, I read the whole series back to back.

See review

Billie JoBillie Jo by Kimberley Chambers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve heard lots about this author and this book was great. The characters felt so real they almost leapt off the page and combined with an amusing East End dialect throughout, it was a pleasure to read. I would describe it not as a gangland thriller, but a deeply moving story in a gangland setting. The central character, Billie Jo is one I really came to care about, with scenes that stirred my emotions.

See more of this review

Silent VictimSilent Victim by Caroline Mitchell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last year I read ‘Witness’ which blew me away. Once again, Caroline’s writing skill comes beaming out of the pages with every chapter. It shook me to the core with its intense plot and intricately woven characters.
The concept of grooming can be a harrowing topic but it is handled sensitively, intelligently from the perspectives of both victim and sexual predator.

See more of this review

I See YouI See You by Clare Mackintosh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Clare’s first book ‘I Let You Go’ immensely though the domestic abuse left me chilled. This book on the other hand, ticked so many boxes. For a start, I love the setting of the London Underground (having researched it myself for scenes of suspense) so I felt right at home. For me, this was a suspenseful thriller that reeled me in and had me gripped to the end.

See More

The Purrfect Pet Sitter: A heartwarming romantic comedy, filled with friendship and loveThe Purrfect Pet Sitter: A heartwarming romantic comedy, filled with friendship and love by Carol Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was saving this for my holiday and so pleased I did. It turned out to be a great choice, filled with romance, laugh out loud humour, lots of amusing animal/pet sitter anecdotes, and a heartwarming friendship.

I am so pleased I saved this for my holiday, a perfect companion to enjoy whilst lazing by the pool in the sun and sipping cocktails!

See more of this review

Some others I would recommend:

Ranter's WharfRanter’s Wharf by Rosemary Noble
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This stirring tale of ordinary folk set in 17th C Lincolnshire is passionate, inspiring and a joy to read. It tells of the struggles of a rural community and the various reforms which control their lives.

This book portrays many human emotions from jealousy, love, anger, fear and compassion, it is well researched and beautifully told and I learned an interesting piece of history as well.

Connectedness (Identity Detective Book 2)Connectedness by Sandra Danby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An intriguing story on many levels. This is the story of an artist, whose past is filled with trauma. In between the modern day setting is an underlying story set in Malaga, with beautiful descriptions that capture the essence of Spain.

Another YouAnother You by Jane Cable
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mystery suspense interwoven with interesting war-time history in an atmospheric Dorset setting. The emotions of love, hate and passion weave their way around this cleverly written novel, a very good book overall with spooky undertones.

Everybody's SomebodyEverybody’s Somebody by Beryl Kingston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Atmospheric, beautifully written with characters who feel like real people. From the day Rosie starts work in domestic service aged twelve her eyes are opened to the harshness of life. A moving tale of love, loss and heartache, coupled with the horrors of World War I. Very thought provoking read so far and I have yet to finish it.

*************

So those are my top ten for now. I chose them as much for the author’s skilful writing, as well as the characters and plot and have much to learn from these fine authors.

Next year I hope to bring out a new book of my own. Currently titled Rosebrook Chronicles (The Hidden Stories), these are very character driven stories and quite different from my thriller series. Next month I hope to publish a synopsis and perhaps a cover reveal but there is much work to be done yet!

Book 2 #BlogTour and #Giveaway

After a successful Blog Tour in January for ‘Beginnings‘ I thought it would be nice to follow this up with another tour and relaunch ‘Visions’ the second book of the series, ‘Same Face Different Place.

Visions Blog Tour Banner

As before, I asked Rachel of Rachel’s Rare Resources if she could arrange a similar tour for my book. The nice thing is, I have already attracted a few new ‘fans’ from the last tour, some of whom were eager to jump on board.

This Blog Tour was great for reviews; some from bloggers who had read the first book in the series and a few who hadn’t. For the latter, obviously they were not familiar with the opening story but it didn’t seem to be a problem. Visions can be read as a standalone psychological thriller and with enough background infused into the story to get a gist of the story. But one thing that did emerge is that some bloggers really want to read the first book now. This has been really encouraging.

As before, there is a competition attached to the tour where you can win a signed paperback of VISIONS. Each post has a rafflecopter link where you can enter.

So without further ado, here are some of the best comments, picked from all those wonderful reviews:

“The synopsis is intriguing, but I was surprised by  this story, it was totally captivating, addictive and I thoroughly enjoyed it.” Says Yvonne from Me and My Books

“There are moments of shock, surprises and stand out jolts, some quite extreme violence and psychological warfare, yet as well there is love and tenderness. The term emotional rollercoaster is often used, I have to say that in the case of this story, it applies perfectly.” Says Richard from Welcome to my Worlds

“I thoroughly appreciated how all the stories weaved together perfectly. Giving the reader little insider peaks at what was going on behind the scenes. Building up the suspense.” Says Dash Fan Book Reviews

“Helen has a great ability to create powerful and rememberable characters.” Says Wrong Side of Forty Book Magic

“It is a great series with some brilliant characters and excellent story-telling.” Says Donna’s Book Blog

” I love a good psychological thriller, where I question everyone and everything.” Says Ashley’s Got Book Excitement

“It is called a Psychological Thriller, and it most definitely is that, but it’s much more. For me it was a time travel, love story, emotional thriller, as well as psychological thriller.” Says Sassy Redhead Book Reviews

“The second book in the Same Face Different Place series is as suspenseful as the first.  Ms. Christmas effectively creates cunning and sinister antagonists that give the reader a high level of intense foreboding.” Says The Eclectic Review

Video Trailer for Visions

And last but not least here is a list of all the book bloggers who took part in the tour and a big thanks to Rachel for organising it all:

Stephs Book Blog
https://stephsbookblog.com/2018/04/08/visions-same-face-different-place-book-two-by-helen-j-christmas-blog-tour-review/

Bound 2 Escape
http://bound2escape.com/giveaway/blog-tour-giveaway-visions-by-helen-j-christmas/

Just Books
https://rainnes.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/visions-by-helen-j-christmas.html

Me and My Books
https://vonnibee.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/blogtour-same-face-different-place-visions-by-helen-j-christmas/

Welcome to my Worlds
https://richarddeescifi.co.uk/in-association-with-rachels-random-resources/

Dash Fan Book Reviews
https://dashfan81.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/blog-tour-visions-9418.html

Being Anne
http://beinganne.com/2018/04/blogtour-visions-by-helen-j-christmas-sfdpbeginnings-rararesources-giveaway/

Wrong side of Forty
https://wrongsideoffortyuk.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/visions-by-helen-j-christmas-blogtour-review/

A Booking Good Read
https://www.bookinggoodread.com/2018/04/visions-blog-tour_9.html?m=1

Donna’s Book Blog
https://donnasbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/11/blogtour-review-of-visions-by-helen-christmas-rararesources/

Book Reviews by Jasmine
http://bookreviewsbyjasmine.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/visions-by-helen-j-christmas-book-tour.html

Ashley’s Got Book Excitement
http://ashleysgotbookcitement.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/blog-tour-visions-by-helen-j-christmas.html?spref=tw

Reflections of a Reader
https://reflectionsofareader.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/blogtour-visions-by-helen-j-christmas.html

A Magical World of Books
https://amagicalworldofwords.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/blog-tour-book-blitz-giveaway-visions.html

Nesie’s Place
https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com/2018/04/12/blogtour-visions/

Chelle’s Book Reviews
http://chellesbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/visions-by-helen-christmas-blogtour.html?spref=tw

Portable Magic
http://portablemagic.net/blog-tours/helen-christmas-visions

Birdie’s Bibliotheca
https://birdiesbibliotheca.com/2018/04/13/visions-a-review/

Sassy Redhead Reviews
https://sassyredheadbookreviews.blog/2018/04/14/blog-tour-of-visions-by-helen-j-christmas-rararesources-sfdpbeginnings/

The Eclectic Review
https://eclecticreview.wordpress.com/2018/04/12/booktour-bookreview-visions-same-face-different-place-book-2-by-helen-christmas-sfdpbeginnings-rararesources/

Book Babble
http://memesandfiction.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/book-tour-and-giveaway-visions-same.html

What next for ‘Same Face Different Place?’

The whole series is finished but I cannot resist going back and editing the books from time to time. Right now I’m enjoying ‘Retribution – Phase 1’ having picked it up for the first time in a year and tweaking a few things. Next I was to give Book 3 Pleasures another look, since out of all the books in the series, this is the one I enjoyed writing most.

At the same time, I am putting together an anthology of stories based on the lesser known characters of the series and hope to have the new book out this year…

My Brilliant #BookBlitz across the Blogscape

A big shout went out this month for ‘Beginnings,’ first novel of my thriller series ‘Same Face Different Place.’

Beginnings - Book Blitz Banner

Thanks to professional book blogger, Rachel, I took her up on her offer of a 1 Day Blitz on December 2nd.

This is in celebration of a new version of ‘Beginnings’ which included some professional editing and proof-reading. To re-launch this edition on the market, I decided to give it a final push before Christmas and this is what happened…

On December 2nd, 20 Book Bloggers Nationwide, ran a feature on ‘Beginnings’, including a synopsis and author bio. Best of all, many of the blogs included extracts from the book, to give readers a taste of what to expect… Part romance and part thriller, these extracts range from the opening chapter where the danger begins to unfold, to the development of romance between the two main protagonists. A couple of gripping chase scenes introduced the thriller elements of the story.

Beginnings graphic used on Twitter

One by one, the bloggers began sharing these posts across social media.

Twitter was the most prominent network with the added bonus of reaching out to thousands of readers. There were a fair few shares on Facebook too. Being a Saturday, I couldn’t be at home all day, but believe me, my phone seemed to be bleeping up new Twitter notifications every second! All in all, I was pretty thrilled with the buzz Rachel created for my book and I would recommend her services. I even received a review!

Listed below are all the bloggers who took part in the initiative and a link to my review in an embedded tweet from the campaign.

Dash Fan’s Book Reviews – Extract

Ali – The Dragon Slayer – Promo

Literary Flits – Extract

Steph’s Book Blog – Extract

Shyla’s Uncensored Opinions 

Short Book and Scribes -Extract

Wrong Side of Forty – Promo

Donna’s Book Blog – Extract

Bound2Escape – Promo

Duvet Dwellers Books – Promo

Chelle’s Book Reviews – Q&A

MiniMac Reviews – Promo

Celtic Lady’s Reviews – Extract

My Eclectic Reads

Between The Lines – Extract

Read Along With Sue

Book Babble – Promo

Hair Past A Freckle – Extract

The Pen and Muse Book Reviews – Promo

Carole’s Book Corner – Extract

Book Junkiez – Extract

Reviews With Room By Books – Promo

Birdie’s Bibliotheca – Review

In January 2018, I will be celebrating the New Year with a 7 Day Blog Tour for Beginnings. This is another initiative from ‘Rachel’s Random Reviews’ vault which I am really looking forward to.

Blog Tour Same Face Different Place Book 1 Beginnings by Helen J Christmas

Retribution to the End – May 26th 2017

What a month it’s been this May. As if it wasn’t exciting enough getting my latest book out, I enjoyed some unexpected promotion.

The quest to finish my British decade-spanning series, ‘Same Face Different Place’ began in August 2015 and with the final edits complete, the first part of the book ‘Retribution’ was published on Amazon for pre-order.

At the beginning of May, fellow CHINDI author, Michael Parker very kindly offered to do a cross promotion. He suggested I brought out a special offer on my boxed set (books 1 -3 ) and devised a campaign to plug the series to his 1200 newsletter subscribers. It certainly brought some sales and I am delighted to have some new readers. Michael writes gripping global thrillers and you can read more about his work via his blog.

In following weeks, I did some extra promotions of my own, offering ‘Visions’ and finally ‘Pleasures’ for 99p with the hope I would attract some more new followers. Retribution (Phase 1) was launched on May 19th and I’ve had a lovely 5 star review already; a delightful testimony which advocates my books as being “up there with Kimberley Chambers and Martina Cole…”

WOW, can you imagine how thrilled I was? Little unheard of ME, being compared to best selling world famous authors! I feel quite humbled.

But May is almost over and I’m just about to embark on another trip to London with my husband, Peter. He’s playing in the London Open Backgammon Tournament in Golders Green, leaving me to explore some of my favourite haunts in the Capital. I am excited but at the same time, anxious…

No one can ignore the atrocities in Manchester this week; a terrorist attack which stole the lives of 22 innocent people, many of whom were in their youth. This suicide bomb attack resulted in devastation and heartbreak. It makes me realise that nowhere in the world is safe. But none of us should live in fear. These are random attacks and whilst they are horrific, we have to get on with our lives.

So I’m off to London. The chances are, I’ll have a wonderful time and get home safe but what if…

Morbid thoughts and for this reason alone, the final book has been published on Amazon for pre-order in August. Regrettably it’s not the final edited, proof read version (which may not matter to people who have loved my series from the start), but at least it’s finished. Having invested 7 years of my life in writing a series, I can’t relax until the final part of Retribution is available. Some days, I feel as if you have to live every day as it is your last, as you never know what’s round the corner thus I would hate to exit this world without completing it.

This long running thriller mystery which started in the 70s has been a most satisfying diversion. But in ‘Retribution End Game’ will the mystery is finally solved? Will all the wrongs of the 70s, 80s and 90s be put right, every loose end tied up before the story reaches its shattering conclusion?

Given the more likely scenario, I’ll be back at my desk on Bank Holiday Monday, I will continue with the editing process. I have loved writing this series. It captures everything I’ve lived through, good and bad, and chronicles the decades as I remember them. Whilst writing Same Face Different Place, I’ve realised, times might have changed but people never do.

Thanks to those who supported me and don’t dwell – have a lovely bank holiday and we can only pray for more peaceful times.

Helen J. Christmas

First Review of an e-book – 19th June 2012

Now I have started feeling my way around this fascinating world of e-book publishing, I have realised the importance of supporting the works of other independent authors like myself. Having dipped my toes into the ocean of networking sites such as Twitter, Good Reads and Book Promo Group I have come across many interesting sounding authors and books – and one which caught my eye was ‘Slick Deals’ by Helen Carey. First of all, because it was a thriller – and secondly, because it had an environmental theme which intrigued me.

I took a glance at the sample on Amazon, read the prologue and I was instantly drawn in by both the story as well as the writing style. So I thought I’d give it a try. It should be worth noting that this is the first time I have bought an e-book for my kindle from an unknown author. Here goes…

My Review of ‘Slick Deals’ by Helen Carey

So on to my review: this was a great story with a really well thought out plot. I must confess I don’t know much about oil trading, but the author came across as being extremely knowledgeable, injecting enough information into the story to give the reader a good overview, but without bogging them down with too much detail. The book moved along at a nice pace and kept my interest all the way through. In fact there were certain points in the story, where I couldn’t wait to pick it up again! It was a real page turner.

Some of the descriptions really shone through too – in particular, the boat trip scene along the Welsh coast, when they went out spotting dolphins which was beautifully written and really put me in the picture (I could almost smell the sea!). There was plenty of edge of the seat action too, which all added to my enjoyment of the book. I also liked the way a number of global issues were raised, such as the illegal trade in endangered species, as well as the need to protect the planet, but without preaching green politics. A real eye-opener. Very well done and I shall definitely be buying more books by this author as well as more kindle books in general.

I highly recommend this book so here is the link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Slick-Deals-ebook/dp/B006GDO30S

I’ll be adding this review to Amazon and also Goodreads soon. But first of all I would just like to say a little more about e-publishing, in support of the authors who choose this route.

My Views on Self-Published Independent Authors

I won’t deny I have picked up a little snobbery in the world of publishing of late. There are a few ‘published’ authors out there who seem intent on moaning that ‘anyone can publish a book on Amazon now’ and therefore assume such novels are inferior, full of grammatical errors and who an earth would buy a book from a self published author no-one has ever heard of?

I take these comments with a huge pinch of salt. Books are subjective. I am not ashamed to say I have read a number of ‘published’ books, some of which I have been unable to finish and thought to be complete tosh (and that’s being kind). Whereas here is a self-published Kindle book which I personally enjoyed as much as anything I would buy from a book store, if not more!

The truth is, that publishers receive 100s of manuscripts every week from hopeful authors and probably reject over 95% of them. Even best selling author JK Rowling’s first novel was rejected 12 times which just about says it all!

Yet, there are many very talented authors out there, whose works would never see the light of day, if it was not for the mechanism of self-publishing on Amazon. And we as readers, would otherwise never get an opportunity to enjoy their great books, if the entire industry was governed by conventional publishing houses. So judge for yourselves. Reading is all about entertainment – and that’s what really matters.

My First Review – 27th February 2012

With that strange feeling that ‘all this is behind me now and it’s just a case of letting things happen’, I was somewhat chuffed when I received my first review. I never expected quite such a glowing testimonial but this has all come as a lovely surprise – especially considering this is only my first week of becoming an ‘aspiring author’ with a ‘live’ title now on Amazon Kindle.

Since then, 2 others have purchased my book, one of who has informed me that they are ‘Thoroughly enjoying it so far – the sense of impending doom is brilliant.’

Another fellow writer who took the time and trouble to help me with some of the content, asked if she could see how her input had been translated into the context of this book – so of course I sent her a PDF. I was deeply moved when I received this reply:
“Oh my goodness…I just read it and…I cried! That is so beautiful! You are a truly gifted writer, Helen. It’s impressive how easily the reader can pick up the characters, even without beginning at their introduction in the book. You really captured all the conflicting emotions of a new mother (even though, obviously, this mother has more to worry about than I did!). You should be very proud! I loved it and I’m sure your readers will too! You have really put a lot into it and it shows.”

I think I nearly cried too!

This has given me great confidence. It is nice to know that people out there are enjoying my work and I could not ask for more. Thanks everyone!