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Friday, January 31, 2020

#ATBR2020 Review: The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler @jessmapreviews

The Look-Alike 
by Erica Spindler

Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for these copies.

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: January 28, 2020
Kindle Edition
320 Pages
Genres: Suspense, Psychological Thriller

Sienna Scott grew up in the dark shadow of her mother’s paranoid delusions. Now, she's returned home to confront her past and the unsolved murder that altered the course of her life.

In her mother’s shuttered house, an old fear that has haunted Sienna for years rears its ugly head—that it was she who had been the killer’s target that night. And now, with it, a new fear—that the killer not only intended to remedy his past mistake—he’s already begun. But are these fears any different from the ones that torment her mother?
As the walls close in, the line between truth and lie, reality and delusion disintegrate. Has Sienna’s worst nightmare come true? Or will she unmask a killer and finally prove she may be her mother’s look-alike, but she’s not her clone?
My Review:
Well... this hits all the marks of most lighter thrillers.  Old case unresolved.  Girl comes back to her hometown. Falls in love with stranger with a remarkable quickness. Cast of suspects. Delusional mom. Rushed ending.

The book started off pretty strong.  Flashbacks to Sienna the night she discovered the murder.  Her disruptive home life due to her mother's mental illness.  She arrives back to her hometown after a decade away for no reason other than wanting to be back with her family.  Look, this isn't a bad read - it's an easy read and on course with what I would consider a lighter thriller.  For someone like me who reads a ton of thrillers, I like mine a bit more dark, a little more complex and even though I don't mind predictability sometimes, this trope has been long done over and over.  While the first half kept me interested, that quickly faded in the last half and I found myself finishing just to finish.

Also, the epilogue wrapped things up into a nice pretty bow and sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn't.  If you like the lighter thriller or need something easy in between more darker, dare I say .. sophisticated.. reads, then this is a good one to go through.  I've read this author before and liked The Other Girl a lot so I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for another read by her.

Jessica's Review:

I'm really torn on this one - this was the perfect thriller for those that prefer the lighter side of the genre. It was a fast read, good pacing, enough to entice me, but it wasn't one that I would say completely wowed me. I definitely can agree with the glowing reviews for this one from Erica Spindler, but I can also agree with some points on the less than favorable reviews. 

THE LOOK-ALIKE has all of the elements you want and almost expect in a thriller. There aren't a ton of twists and turns, but the reader doesn't quite know what's going on as the investigation progresses. I liked the mystery and I thought Sienna was an intriguing character to follow. We do get to see some of Sienna's flashbacks to the murder scene she came across and now in the present day a decade later when she decides to return home. The case gets reopened and she thinks that the killer could still be keeping an eye on her now that she is back. 

The author ties everything up nicely at the end for the readers, so if you don't like ambiguous endings then this will be perfect. Like I said, this wasn't a bad read. I can definitely see people picking this one up and flying through it. While it's not my favorite thriller, I still enjoyed the story and would recommend this to those that want a lighter thriller. 

3 stars

#ATBR2020 Review: The Rabbit Hunter by Lars Kepler @aaknopf #TheRabbitHunter #LarsKepler @jessmapreviews @crimebythebook

The Rabbit Hunter 
by Lars Kepler 

Thanks so much to Knopf Publishing Group for these advanced copies.

Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Publish Date: January 14, 2020
528 Pages
Series: Joona Linna #6
Genres: Thriller, Crime, Mystery

Detective Joona Linna is finishing out a sentence at Kumla prison for assaulting an officer in the course of his last investigation when he is summoned to a meeting with the Swedish Prime Minister. The Foreign Minister has been brutally murdered. There's a chance more political figures could be targeted. The police need Linna to find the killer and neutralize the threat, so he's granted a temporary release from prison. But when another murder occurs, Linna realizes he's dealing with something far more complex, and far more terrifying, than anyone imagined. As the body count grows, Linna begins to understand that he can't do this alone and he reaches out to Saga Bauer, the young Security Police detective, for help. Now, together, the two race against time to unravel the killer's intricate plan before he can take his ultimate revenge.

My Review:

Quite possibly my favorite from them so far! I started the series a little bit late with Sandman and was instantly enthralled with this writing team.  The villains they bring are always astonishing, their writing is compulsive, the short chapters keep you turning every page.... AND the character builds we see of the mainstay characters.. Uff, give me more.  MORE. (*Jeannette, you little vixen, you!)

As usual, they bookend their story with crazy openers and *give*me*more* endings.  I continue to love Joona and Saga's camaraderie.  Saga's characters just grows more and more on me with each read.  Apparently so much I used her name instead of mine at the coffee shop yesterday (don't mind me, another story, another day).  And within this particular series story, I really enjoyed reading about Rex and how completely awful, yet human, he is.  Total love/hate relationship I had with his character.  

The villain is extra creepy for me this time around.  Honestly y'all, between the movie US, reading Bunny late last year and now *THIS*... I think I'm just done with that species for a while. They're cute and all but enough is enough! Haha... ha....*ahem*.  

What I really love is being surprised at who the villain turned out to be.  For whatever reason, it wasn't obvious to me and I am always so thankful to be surprised.  For 528 pages, I never felt like this was too long.  It seemed every page held information that was necessary.  There were some parts where I was like... wait, what? And to be honest, I'm still a little bamboozled by these and had to flip pages back to reread parts to see what I missed... if anything.  Sometimes things felt a teeny bit choppy - Saga with the guard, Jeannette's small but impactful showing... however, I'm remiss to not give this the full stars because I just loved it so much.

Thriller lovers - if you haven't gotten into this series yet, get on it!


Jessica's Review:

I am convinced that this writing duo can do no wrong. This is my third outing with Lars Kepler and I was reminded why I loved their other two books. Dark, gripping, twisted – just everything you want in a thriller! THE RABBIT HUNTER is part of the Joona Linna series (book six) and I would recommend starting with earlier books if you can. I started late in the series with THE SANDMAN but I still plan on going back to the beginning!
What I’ve come to expect from Kepler is that it’s going to be dark, gritty, brutal, and shocking. I love every page of it. We get the signature short chapters – which just fuels the fire in the “just one more chapter, the next one is really short!”. A new violent serial killer is on the loose, dubbed The Rabbit Hunter, and is leaving victims and gruesome crime scenes in their wake. I don’t want to spoil the investigation or the reading experience, but I will say that I wasn’t expecting that reveal!
If you like the more brutal serial killer thrillers, then I think you should pick up the Joona Linna series. Whether you start with THE HYPNOTIST (at the beginning) or part way through with THE SANDMAN (like I did), I think it’s better to go into THE RABBIT HUNTER with some background information. I can’t wait to see where the series continues and 2020 is the year for grabbing backlist books, so books 1-3 are on the TBR as well!
5 stars

Thursday, January 30, 2020

BLOG TOUR & REVIEW: The Other You by J.S. Monroe @HoZ_Books

The Other You 
by J.S. Monroe

Thank you to Head of Zeus for this copy and stop on the blog tour.

Kate used to be good at recognising people. So good, she worked for the police, identifying criminals in crowds of thousands. But six months ago, a devastating car accident led to a brain injury. Now the woman who never forgot a face can barely recognise herself in the mirror.
At least she has Rob. Young, rich, handsome and successful, Rob runs a tech company on the idyllic Cornish coast. Kate met him just after her accident, and he nursed her back to health. When she's with him, in his luxury modernist house, the nightmares of the accident fade, and she feels safe and loved.
Until, one day, she looks at Rob anew. And knows, with absolute certainty, that the man before her has been replaced by an impostor.
Is Rob who he says he is? Or is it all in Kate's damaged mind?

J.S. Monroe read English at Cambridge, worked as a foreign correspondent in Delhi, and was 
Weekend editor of the Daily Telegraph in London before becoming a full-time writer. Monroe is the author of six novels, including the international bestseller, Find Me.

My Review:

"Scientists found that there's about a one in 135 chance that a pair of complete doppelgängers exist somewhere in the world. But the likelihood of someone walking around looking identical to you, specifically, in all eight facial features is only one in 1 trillion. Creepy, but not very likely." - Science Alert

In college, friends told me there was a girl that looked exactly like me running around.  That they would go up to her and say hi and then realize she wasn't me after the fact.  Even when I got my hair cut or changed, it seemed she would too.  I never ran into her but I heard it from several people and yes, it was creepy! So yes, I found the premise of this book VERY intriguing.  And I've always found the thought of a doppelganger very interesting.  Don't you? 

While this book is fast paced, it did seem to be a bit long winded towards the end.  However, it was all so interesting to see how Kate was questioning everything around her.  Is Rob Rob, or is he someone else?  Or is it something stemming from the car crash that she had?  There are definitely times where you'll need to suspend some reality.  I still have questions about how some things could have possibly happened.  But I also think that's part of the charm of this read.  You just never really know because it's just so far out of what could be... but it COULD be.  Get me? Haha.  

The plot is complex and the author does do a good job taking it in a different direction than expected.  However, I do think it could've been tightened up just a bit. Some things didn't quite add up and the police procedural aspect of it seemed to lack.  For all the build up, the ending felt a bit rushed. Besides these points, I did enjoy the read.  I found the subject matter fascinating and was intrigued in the other direction it decided to take.  My third book by this author and I would definitely read more.


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

#ATBR2020 Review: First Cut by Julie Melinek & T.J. Mitchell @drjudymelinek @TJMitchellWS @Hanover_Square @jessmapreviews

First Cut 
by Julie Melinek & T.J. Mitchell

Thank you to Hanover Square Press for these copies.

Publisher: Hanover Square Press
Publish Date: January 7, 2020
369 Pages
Standalone (Potential Series)
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

A hard-nosed medical examiner. A suspicious case. An underworld plot only she saw coming.

San Francisco’s newest medical examiner, Dr. Jessie Teska, has made a chilling discovery. A suspected overdose case contains hints of something more sinister: a drug lord’s attempt at a murderous cover-up. But as Jessie digs deeper, she faces unexpected pushback from her superiors—and pressure to stay in her lane, close the case and move on.

For Jessie, San Francisco was supposed to be a fresh start, a chance to escape her troublesome past in Los Angeles. Instead she finds herself overworked and underpaid, working in a dingy morgue and living under the fog in a cramped converted cable car. Now, despite warnings from her colleagues and threats from her boss, she is determined to find the truth.

As more bodies land on her autopsy table, Jessie uncovers a constellation of deaths that point to a plot involving opioid traffickers and San Francisco’s shifting terrain of tech start-ups. Autopsy means “see for yourself,” and Jessie Teska won’t stop until she has seen it all—even if it means the next corpse on the slab could be her own.

My Review:

YES YES YES! I absolutely LOVED this book! Co-written by Judy (a forensic pathologist) and her husband (a screenplay consultant), we see their professions SHINE throughout this read.  As a debut novel in a medical examiner detective-fiction series, you best believe I'll be continuing on and keeping an eye out for the next one.

I will say though, that there is a lot of medical terminology and intimate details about the job of a medical examiner and if these things aren't your cup of tea, then this might not be the read for you.  However, if you enjoy the intricacies of this type of work, I highly recommend you read this.  While some readers might find it a bit bogged down with the every day detail, I was truly fascinated (and this makes me want to go back and read Working Stiff, Melenik's memoir).  

Now, if we're looking at the pure fiction story, I do wish there was a just a bit more depth with our main character, Jessie.  I was missing just a bit of that feeling of connecting fully with her character as she became a one woman crusader with a case that seemed a bit fishy.  But hey, as Jessi would say, "not my circus... not my monkeys".  I certainly had fun with watching the whole process unfold.  Did things get a little convoluted? Maybe.  Did I love her Beagle named Beagle? Absolutely!

Regardless of the minor things I may have had issue with, I'm still rating this a full 5 stars because I just couldn't put this book down (thank god for a long day at work that consisted mostly of emails and waiting for answers) and when I turned that last page, I was smiling.  That for me, folks, is a winner. 


Jessica's Review:

I had heard great things about WORKING STIFFS and even have it sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. After reading FIRST CUT, I’ll be picking it up sooner than I anticipated! Going into this one, it’s good knowing that it is very detailed and technical when it comes to the autopsy portions of the book. Having been written by a former Medical Examiner we get the expertise we might not normally get in fiction. The author’s experience and knowledge shines through in this book but I can see it slowing the pacing for some readers. I found it fascinating!
Dr. Jessie Teska has accepted a new job as the Medical Examiner in San Francisco and she is immediately plunged into the chilling world of drug lords and their criminal network. A series of deaths and all seem to be linked and all are made to appear as overdoses – but is there more than meets the eye? The deeper she gets and the more autopsies she performs she knows she’s getting closer and closer to something big, but could she be risking her own life?
Plenty of suspense and I felt it had a good pacing. Again, I think how technical some parts are when it comes to the autopsies could slow the pacing for some readers. If this topic and profession fascinates you, then I think it will move quickly and keep your attention! Overall, I loved Jessie and learning more about her job and what it all entails. I will be picking up WORKING STIFF soon and hope to see more from this writing duo.
4 stars

Monday, January 27, 2020

Review: The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths #BuddyReadToDieFor #bravethebacklist

The Stranger Diaries 
by Elly Griffiths

The #BuddyReadsToDieFor January choice and also a #BraveTheBacklist for me as I've had this on my shelf for ages!

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: March 5, 2019
338 Pages
Genres: Mystery, Gothic, Thriller, Suspense

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. A high school English teacher specializing in the Gothic writer R. M. Holland, she teaches a course on it every year. But when one of Clare’s colleagues and closest friends is found dead, with a line from R. M. Holland’s most famous story, “The Stranger,” left by her body, Clare is horrified to see her life collide with the storylines of her favourite literature.

To make matters worse, the police suspect the killer is someone Clare knows. Unsure whom to trust, she turns to her closest confidant, her diary, the only outlet she has for her darkest suspicions and fears about the case. Then one day she notices something odd. Writing that isn't hers, left on the page of an old diary: "Hallo, Clare. You don’t know me."

Clare becomes more certain than ever: “The Stranger” has come to terrifying life. But can the ending be rewritten in time?

My Review:

I wasn't sure what to expect when going into The Stranger Diaries.  What I got was a suspenseful, gothicly atmospheric read of a mystery surrounding a few key characters.  Sometimes a book within a book works for me and other times it doesn't.  While the book within a book does play an integral part in this novel, it doesn't overwhelm the reader and was a perfect addition.

I had guessed the culprit early on in the read so wasn't surprised at the reveal and was a tiny bit let down in the reasoning behind the murders.  However, it was the characters that drew me into the story.  I was a little taken back at Georgie's relationship and the age difference considering.... but Georgie ended up being one of my favorite characters.  I will say though that Harbinger ended up being my favorite.  I had a great time being inside her sarcastic head and how she viewed the world... and this case.

While this is a bit slower paced than I typically like in a read, Griffiths manages to evoke this suspensefulness while keeping the reader engaged.  For me there were no big AHA moments and I never felt a huge ebb and flow with the story line.  This was a straight across the board mystery that was solved in a timely manner and while it didn't completely wow me, I did enjoy the atmosphere.


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Review: Nocturnal Farm by Villimey Mist @VillimeyS

Nocturnal Farm 
by Villimey Mist

Thank you so much to the author for this copy. 
The second book in the Nocturnal Series - see my review for Nocturnal Blood HERE.

Publish Date: January 27, 2020
Kindle Edition
292 Pages
Series: Nocturnal #2
Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Vampires

Leia Walker has been training to protect her family from vampires ever since her best friend died six months ago. That humans are disappearing all over Europe is a distant worry—

Until her little brother goes to Amsterdam, meets a Sangue—a vampire familiar—and disappears.

Leia knows she can’t save him alone. To bring him home, she must take up arms with the Owls, a group of vampire hunters, without her vampire protectors or the Owls becoming aware of each other.

Under Amsterdam’s streets, she discovers dark secrets, a vampire who is immune to sunlight, and a threat that turns humankind and vampires alike into feral killers.

Can Leia hold on to her belief that everybody can be saved while she fights to bring her brother home—

Or will she end up as a human blood bag on the farms? 

My Review:

It's been a little over a year since I read Nocturnal Blood that, to be honest, I forgot that this was book two in the Nocturnal series.  *face palm*  But when the author offered me the book for review, I remembered the first book and was excited to read more from her.  As I'm reading, I'm like "hey hey - these characters seem SO familiar.... OMG THIS IS BOOK TWO - YESSSS!"  (Listen y'all, it's been a rough beginning of the year, ok?)

It seems that the author has found her voice! We are back with Leia Walker (still LOVE her name) dealing with the aftermath of some loss from book one.  Still ever the loner with her OCD and anxiety issues, she's trying to better herself as best as she can.  But then her brother goes missing in Amsterdam, and it's off to the Netherlands we go go... where the vampires are a little bit more liberal in their "activities".  

I really had such a fun time with this read.  The introduction to new characters, new pieces laid down for upcoming books... and I do love me a good hunter. *wink*  I will say that while this was mostly predictable, I am impressed with the improvement from book one to two in the story telling.  I am eager to see where this will go!  Especially now that.... well, you'll just have to read these to find out.  If you like vampire books at all, you'll love following Leia on her journey.  While Nocturnal Blood laid down a foundation, Nocturnal Farm gets us into the juicy insides.  Come feed.
Seven claps. Bring on Nocturnal Salvation - I'm READY. 


#ATBR2020 Review: The Tenant by Katrine Engberg @jessmapreviews

The Tenant 
by Katrine Engberg

Thank you Scout Press for these copies.

Publisher: Scout Press / Gallery
Publish Date: January 14, 2020
368 Pages
Genres: Suspense, Mystery, Thriller

When a young woman is discovered brutally murdered in her own apartment, with an intricate pattern of lines carved into her face, Copenhagen police detectives Jeppe Korner and Anette Werner are assigned to the case. In short order, they establish a link between the victim, Julie Stender, and her landlady, Esther de Laurenti, who’s a bit too fond of drink and the host of raucous dinner parties with her artist friends. Esther also turns out to be a budding novelist—and when Julie turns up as a murder victim in the still-unfinished mystery she’s writing, the link between fiction and real life grows both more urgent and more dangerous.

But Esther’s role in this twisted scenario is not quite as clear as it first seems. Is she the culprit—or just another victim, trapped in a twisted game of vengeance? Anette and Jeppe must dig more deeply into the two women’s pasts to discover the identity of the brutal puppet-master pulling the strings in this electrifying literary thriller. 

My Review:

With being so unbelievably busy with work this week, I read this book sporadically and I wonder if that made any difference in how I felt about this than if I had read it in one sitting (which is the way I prefer to read honestly).  I liked this read but I didn't love it.  Here's why.  

The plot is nothing too unique.  Girl found dead.  Let's find out who did it.  Jeppe and Anette are on the case.  I did like their relationship and banter but am curious why more was spent on Jeppe and his personal life and none on Anette.  (Though I was legitimately happy when Jeppe finally got an erection. *shrug*)  The characters are probably the highlight compared to the plot in this read.

It's a fun, moderately paced read - where I was expecting something slower and more suspenseful for some reason.  The whole case coming together, along with the bits of personal we get from the characters felt choppy at times but I was still intrigued with the who, what and why... though I did leave just going "ah, ok, cool".  


Jessica's Review:

Fans of the Nordic Noir books will absolutely love what Katrine Engberg has in store with THE TENANT. If you're a Jo Nesbo fan, then this is definitely an author to watch. This one ended up locking me until the end, it did take a while for me to really get into the book and the characters. I think going into this I was anticipating more of a thriller than a slower building Nordic Noir type of crime fiction read. So I think that's definitely helpful to know when starting.

A new duo of detectives for the crime fiction world and I'm anxious to see where the next books will take us. I know there are already a couple other books in the series, but we just have to wait for the translations to the US! While I did enjoy the read, I didn't really connect with the characters. I'm hoping that will change as the series progresses - I think this one did a great job laying the ground work for the readers. We get a good picture of the main characters and the detectives, but I have a feeling they'll start to get more developed in books two and three.

I would still recommend this to anyone that loves these types of crime fiction series. I will be keeping an eye out for book two so I can see how things progress and the characters grow!

3 stars

Friday, January 24, 2020



Shortlist Announcement – 7th April
British Library Event with shortlisted authors, London– 13th May
Winner Announcement and award ceremony, Swansea – 14th May

From left: Jay Bernard, Mary Jean Chan, Meena Kandasamy, Kirsty Logan, Helen Mort, Yelena Moskovich, Téa Obreht, Yara Rodrigues Fowler, Stephen Sexton, Madhuri Vijay, Ocean Vuong and Bryan Washington    @dylanthomprize    #SUDTP20
From Brazil to Hong Kong, India, and Ukraine via Vietnam, this year’s powerful Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist combines a rich, international collection of young , experimental writers who are offering platforms for under-represented voices and exploring pressing social and world themes across identity, culture and power.

Celebrating the Prize’s 15th anniversary, we are thrilled to announce acclaimed Indian feminist writer and novelist, Meena Kandasamy, Hong Kong born LGBTQ+ poet Mary Jean Chan, Ukrainian-born artist and writer Yelena Moskovich, Brazilian-British debut novelist Yara Rodrigues FowlerVietnamese-American novelist Ocean Vuong, and Belgrade-born Orange Prize winner Téa Obreht are among the 12 authors on the longlist for the £30,000 Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize.

The 12 longlisted titles will be judged by a bumper guest panel chaired by Swansea University’s Professor Dai Smith CBE, including annual judge Professor Kurt Heinzelman, the award-winning writer and founder of Jaipur Literature Festival Namita Gokhale, acclaimed writer and 2011 winner of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize  Lucy Caldwell, the British-Ghanaian writer, poet and critic Bridget Minamore, celebrated writer and presenter of BBC Radio 3: The Verb Ian McMillan and national arts and culture journalist Max Liu.

This year’s longlist comprises seven novels, three poetry collections and two short story collections:

·       Flèche - Mary Jean Chan (Faber & Faber)
·       Exquisite Cadavers - Meena Kandasamy (Atlantic Books)
·       Things we say in the Dark - Kirsty Logan (Harvell Secker, Vintage)
·       Black Car Burning - Helen Mort (Chatto & Windus)
·       Virtuoso- Yelena Moskovich (Serpent’s Tail)
·       Inland - Téa Obreht (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
·       Stubborn Archivist - Yara Rodrigues Fowler (Fleet)
·       If All the World and Love were Young - Stephen Sexton (Penguin Random House)
·       The Far Field - Madhuri Vijay (Atlantic Books)
·       On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous - Ocean Vuong (Jonathan Cape, Vintage)
·       Lot - Bryan Washington (Atlantic Books)

Worth £30,000, it is one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes as well as the world’s largest literary prize for young writers. Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the Prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama.

On receiving the 2019 award for his debut novel In Our Mad and Furious CityGuy Gunaratne said: “Dylan Thomas has always meant a lot to me, he’s a writer I’ve always turned to for inspiration. And after winning this prize, my mind just goes to all the other writers, or aspiring writers, who are writing from a place like where I began. A place like Neasden, somewhere I always thought was a nowhere place. But to make art out of the world, the language, the voices I grew up around I always felt was important…”

The shortlist will be announced on the 7th April, followed by a British Library Event, London on the 13th May and Winner’s Ceremony held in Swansea on International Dylan Thomas Day, 14th May.

Key Dates for the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize

·       Shortlist will be announced 00:00 GMT 7th April 2020
·       British Library London Event Wednesday 13th May 2020
·       Winner will be announced evening of Thursday 14th May 2020  

About the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize: Launched in 2006, the annual Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the most prestigious awards for young writers, aimed at encouraging raw creative talent worldwide. It celebrates and nurtures international literary excellence. Worth £30,000, it is one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes as well as the world’s largest literary prize for young writers. Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the Prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama. The prize is named after the Swansea-born writer, Dylan Thomas, and celebrates his 39 years of creativity and productivity. One of the most influential, internationally-renowned writers of the mid-twentieth century, the prize invokes his memory to support the writers of today and nurture the talents of tomorrow.


Jay BernardSurge (Chatto & Windus)
Jay Bernard is the author of the pamphlets Your Sign is Cuckoo, Girl (Tall Lighthouse, 2008), English Breakfast (Math Paper Press, 2013) and The Red and Yellow Nothing (Ink Sweat & Tears Press, 2016), which was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award 2017. A film programmer at BFI Flare and an archivist at Statewatch, they also participated in ‘The Complete Works II’ project in 2014 and in which they were mentored by Kei Miller. Jay was a Foyle Young Poet of the Year in 2005 and a winner of SLAMbassadors UK spoken word championship. In 2019 Jay was selected by Jackie Kay as one of Britain's ten best BAME writers for the British Council and National Centre for Writing's International Literature Showcase. Their poems have been collected in Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century (Bloodaxe, 2009), The Salt Book of Younger Poets (Salt, 2011), Ten: The New Wave (Bloodaxe, 2014) and Out of Bounds: British Black & Asian Poets (Bloodaxe, 2014).

Mary Jean Chan, Flèche (Faber & Faber)
Mary Jean Chan is a London-based poet, lecturer and editor from Hong Kong. Her debut poetry collection, Flèche (Faber & Faber), is the winner of the 2019 Costa Book Award for Poetry. Chan has twice been shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem and is the recipient of a 2019 Eric Gregory Award and the 2018 Poetry Society Geoffrey Dearmer Prize. Chan currently lectures in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes University. Follow her on Twitter @maryjean_chan

Meena Kandasamy, Exquisite Cadavers (Atlantic Books)
Meena Kandasamy is a poet, fiction writer, translator and activist who was born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. She has published two collections of poetry, Touch (2006) and Ms. Militancy (2010), and the critically acclaimed novel, Gypsy Goddess. Her second novel, When I Hit You, was shortlisted for the Women's Prize for fiction 2018. She currently lives in East London. Follow her on Twitter @meenakandasamy

Kirsty Logan, Things we say in the Dark (Harvell Secker, Vintage)
Kirsty Logan is the author of the novels The Gracekeepers and The Gloaming, the short story collections A Portable Shelter and The Rental Heart & Other Fairytales, the flash fiction chapbook The Psychology of Animals Swallowed Alive, and the short memoir The Old Asylum in the Woods at the Edge of the Town Where I Grew Up. Her books have won the LAMBDA Literary Award, the Polari First Book Prize, the Saboteur Award, the Scott Prize and the Gavin Wallace Fellowship, and been selected for the Radio 2 Book Club and the Waterstones Book Club. In 2019 she was selected as one of the ten most outstanding LGBTQ British writers for the International Literature Showcase. Her short fiction and poetry have been translated into Japanese and Spanish, recorded for radio and podcasts, exhibited in galleries and distributed from a vintage Wurlitzer cigarette machine. She lives in Glasgow with her wife and their rescue dog. Follow her on Twitter @kirstylogan

Helen Mort, Black Car Burning (Chatto & Windus)
Helen Mort was born in Sheffield in 1985 and grew up in nearby Chesterfield. Five times winner of the Foyle Young Poets Award, she received an Eric Gregory Award in 2007 and won the Manchester Young Writer Prize in 2008. Her first collection, Division Street (2013), was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and Costa Poetry Award and won the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. In 2014, she was named as a ‘Next Generation Poet’, the prestigious accolade announced only once every ten years, recognising the 20 most exciting new poets from the UK and Ireland. No Map Could Show Them (2016), her second collection, about women and mountaineering, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Helen has been the Wordsworth Trust Poet in Residence and the Derbyshire Poet Laureate and was named one of the RSL’s 40 under 40 Fellows in 2018. She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and lives in Sheffield. Black Car Burning is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter @HelenMort

Yelena Moskovich, Virtuoso (Serpent’s Tail)
Yelena Moskovich was born in the former USSR and emigrated to Wisconsin with her family as Jewish refugees in 1991. She studied theatre at Emerson College, Boston, and in France at the Lecoq School of Physical Theatre and Université Paris 8. Her plays and performances have been produced in the US, Canada, France, and Sweden. Her first novel The Natashas was published by Serpent's Tail in 2016. She has also written for New StatesmanParis Review and 3:AM Magazine, and in French for Mixt(e) Magazine, won the 2017 Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize in 2017 and was a curator for the 2018 Los Angeles Queer Biennial. She lives in Paris. Follow her on Twitter @yelenamoskovich

Téa ObrehtInland  (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Téa Obreht is the author of The Tiger’s Wife, winner of the Orange Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award, and Inland. She was born in Belgrade, in the former Yugoslavia, in 1985 and has lived in the United States since the age of twelve. She currently lives in New York City. Follow her on Instagram @teaobreht

Yara Rodrigues FowlerStubborn Archivist  (Fleet)
Yara Rodrigues Fowler is a novelist from South London. She is also a trustee of Latin American Women’s Aid, an organisation that runs the only two refuges in Europe for and by Latin American women. Stubborn Archivist is Yara’s first novel; she is currently writing her second. Follow her on Twitter @yazzarf

Stephen Sexton, If All the World and Love were Young  (Penguin Random House)
Stephen Sexton lives in Belfast where he teaches at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry. His first book, If All the World and Love Were Young, is forthcoming from Penguin. Follow him on Twitter @ssexton02

Madhuri Vijay, The Far Field (Atlantic Books)
Madhuri Vijay was born and raised in Bangalore. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, and her writing has appeared in Best American Non-Required Reading, Narrative Magazine, and Elle India, among other publications. The Far Field is her first book. She currently lives in Hawaii.

Ocean Vuong, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous (Jonathan Cape, Vintage)
Ocean Vuong is the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds, winner of the Whiting Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize. His writings have also been featured in The AtlanticHarper'sThe NationNew RepublicThe New Yorker, and The New York Times. In 2019 he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he serves as an Assistant Professor of English at UMass-Amherst. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is his first novel. Follow him on Twitter @OceanVuong

Bryan Washington, Lot (Atlantic Books)
Bryan Washington has written for the New York Times, the New York Times MagazineNew York MagazineBuzzFeedThe Paris Review, Boston Review, Tin House, One Story, GQ, FADER, The Awl, and Catapult. He lives in Houston, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @BryWashing

Belfast-born Lucy Caldwell was shortlisted for the inaugural Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006 for her debut novel, Where They Were Missed, and won the award in 2011 for her second novel, The Meeting Point.  She has since written a third novel, several stage plays and radio dramas and, most recently, two collections of short stories, Multitudes (2016) and Intimacies, forthcoming with Faber in June, as well as editing the critically-acclaimed anthology Being Various: New Irish Short Stories (2019).  She was recently elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  She tweets at @beingvarious.

Namita Gokhale is an award-winning writer, publisher and festival director. She is the author of eighteen books, including ten works of fiction. Her latest novel, Jaipur Journals, will be released in January 2020. Gokhale is a founder and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival and of Mountain Echoes, the Bhutan Literature Festival. She is also one of the founder directors of Yatra Books, a publishing house specialised in translation. Follow her on Twitter @NamitaGokhale_

Bridget Minamore is a British-Ghanaian writer, poet, critic, and dramaturg from south-east London. As a journalist, she is a contributor to The Guardian. She was chosen as one of Speaking Volumes’ 40 Stars of Black British Literature, has read her work internationally, and is the co-lead tutor for the Roundhouse Poetry Collective. Titanic (Out-Spoken Press), Bridget’s debut pamphlet of poems on modern love and loss, was published in May 2016. She is currently working on her first novel, an extract of which was published in anthology New Daughters of Africa (Myriad) in 2019. She tweets @bridgetminamore

Ian McMillan is a writer and broadcaster who presents The Verb on BBC Radio 3 every Friday night. He's written poems, plays, a verse autobiography Talking Myself Home and a voyage round Yorkshire in Neither Nowt Nor Summat. He watches Darfield and Yorkshire Cricket Clubs and the only time he played cricket, at Low Valley Juniors in 1963, Mrs Hudson told him to take his balaclava off or she'd make him wear his mother's Rainmate. Ian’s latest collection is To Fold The Evening Star - New and Selected Poems (Carcanet). Ian was recently awarded The Freedom of Barnsley .

Ian is poet-in-residence for The Academy of Urbanism, Barnsley FC and now Barnsley Poet Laureate. As well as presenting The Verb every week, he’s a regular on BBC Breakfast, Coast, CountryfilePointless Celebrities, Pick of the Week, Last Word and BBC Proms Plus. He’s been a castaway on Desert Island Discs. Previously, he was resident poet for English National Opera, UK Trade & InvestmentYorkshire TV’s Investigative Poet and Humberside Police’s Beat Poet. He also narrates the stories of The Yorkshire Dales and The Lakes (More4).

Now, he’s writing a libretto, The Tin Soldier, with Jonathan Dove for Leeds Festival Chorus, then a new show for Mikron Theatre’s 50th anniversary year of touring in 2021 and a libretto for a Yorkshire Barber of Seville with Freedom Studios. Cats make him sneeze. @IMcMillan

Max Liu grew up in Cornwall in a community of artists and writers. He's written about arts, culture and society for the i, the Financial Times and the Guardian. He reviews books and interviews authors for newspapers and has been a guest on Radio Four’s Open Book. In 2019, he interviewed, among others, Elif Shafak, Isabel Allende, Jhumpa Lahiri and wrote elsewhere about subjects including men’s responses to the #MeToo movement and the gendered nature of housework. His essay about losing friends in his thirties went viral and sparked debates about the nature of male friendship. He lives in London where he regularly chairs literary events. Follow him on Twitter @maxjliu

Professor Dai Smith CBE is a distinguished historian and writer on Welsh arts and culture. As a Broadcaster he has won numerous awards for arts and historical documentaries and from 1992 to 2000 was Head of Programmes at BBC Wales. He was Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Glamorgan from 2001 until 2005 and is currently the Emeritus Raymond Williams Research Chair in the Cultural History of Wales at Swansea University. He was Chair of the Arts Council of Wales from 2006 until 2016. In 2013, he published a novel Dream On and in 2014 edited definitive anthologies of Welsh short stories, Story I & II, for the Library of Wales. In 2020 he published the novel, The Crossing, as the final part of his projected fictional trilogy of work. Professor Smith is Chair of the Judging Panel. 

Professor Kurt Heinzelman is a poet, translator, and scholar. His most recent book of poems is Whatever You May Say and he has translated Demarcations, a collection of poems by Jean Follain. He has been the Executive Curator at the Harry Ransom Centre and the Director of Education at the Blanton Museum of Art. A Professor of English at the University of Texas-Austin specializing in Poetry and Poetics and a teacher in the Michener Centre for Writers, he is also the former Editor-in-Chief of Texas Studies in Literature and Language (TSLL), and the co-founder and long-time Advisory Editor of Bat City Review