Interview with author Clare Morrall & #BookReview of #WhenTheFloodsCame

 

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Today I’m thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for When The Floods Came and was lucky enough to interview Clare Morrall! I also have my review of this wonderful book to share with you so please keep reading to the end of this post.

 

Please tell my readers a little bit about yourself, and also briefly what When The Floods Came is about.

I was born in Devon, but I’ve been living in Birmingham since I was 18, when I came up to study music at the University.  I teach violin, piano and music theory at a school for children between 5 and 11, and I also have a few older private pupils.  I have two grown up daughters.

When the Floods Came is my seventh published novel.  It is set about 50 years in the future, in an almost empty Britain, but rooted in the world as we know it now.  The majority of the population has died in a virus, and most survivors are infertile.  City centres have been sealed off and the country has been quarantined. The novel is about the Polanski family, who live in a deserted tower block on the edge of Birmingham.  There are Popi and Moth, Roza and Boris in their early twenties, Delphine in her teens and Lucia, who is eight.  They manage well, even though they’re so isolated, scavenging in the empty flats around them for spare parts.  They’re also supplied with essentials by drone drops from the Brighton-based government, the contents of which have become increasingly unpredictable. Then one day a stranger, Aashay, appears, who charms and alarms them in equal measure.  No one can decide whether to trust him or not, but they are all mesmerised by him.  He interrupts their organised life and leads them to a fair, cycling along motorways, through Spaghetti Junction, to an overgrown football stadium.  The book is about the strength of family relationships, their ability to survive once they discover that the most precious commodity in the country is children, and the precariousness of the life that we have created around us.

 

How did you first come to be a writer?

I have always preferred the world of fiction to the world of reality, so as soon as I was able to read, I was writing.  I was forever embarking on Enid Blyton adventures, Biggles stories, novels about boarding schools, all of them entirely unoriginal and none of them ever finished.  I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my thirties.  It was hard to find enough time, but once a week, for a couple of hours, I would go to a friend’s house and write.   It took another twenty years before I was published.  I still have four unpublished novels in a cupboard, and several folders full of encouraging letters from publishers and agents, none of which brought me any closer to publication.   My first published novel, Astonishing Splashes of Colour, was actually my fifth completed one and it took five years to complete.  It was published in 2003 by a tiny Birmingham publisher and then unexpectedly went on to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize.  It took me by surprise.  I didn’t even know the book had been entered.

 

What is your writing routine?

After the good fortune of the Booker Prize, I was able to cut down on some of my teaching hours and allow myself the luxury of time to write.  So now I don’t go into school until midday.  When I was squeezing small amounts of time out of an impossibly busy schedule, I had to be disciplined.  I couldn’t afford to waste the time – although I did occasionally go to sleep. So I’ve learnt how to get going without resorting to delaying tactics.  I now start work early and rarely struggle with lack of motivation.

 

I love how When The Floods Came is a dystopian novel but it feels so close to the world we’re living in now and is scarily believable. Was there a specific trigger that sparked your inspiration to write this novel? 

I’ve long had the desire to place people on bicycles, cycling along a motorway.  The idea has been at the back of my mind for ages, but I couldn’t decide on a way to make it happen.  Setting a novel in the future seemed to be the only reasonable way to achieve this.  Sadly, if the cars do eventually go, I’ll be far too old to attempt the actual cycling myself.

 

I think the thing I’m enjoying most about the book is that, whilst the dystopian landscape is terrifying and fascinating, it seems, at heart to be a novel about how people cope with what life throws at them. Do the characters come to you first or is it the general idea of a storyline?

I like unusual settings – I’ve written novels about a man in a lighthouse, a man who lives on a roundabout, a family who grow up in a crumbling country house.  So it’s often the atmosphere that inspires me and I then create characters to inhabit this world.  They grow and develop during the novel, as I never know where they’re going to go, so I usually have to go back to the beginning to check they are the same people I end up with.  I’m interested in strange people, the kind of people who are very isolated, on the outside looking in.  It was inevitable that I would eventually write a novel set in the future – in an empty landscape, a crumbling, decaying world.

 

I’ve been a fan of your writing ever since reading Astonishing Splashes of Colour when it was first released. What has your journey to publication been like and has it altered as each book has been published? 

It took a long, long time to get published in the first place.  Each time I completed a novel, I would send it off and forget it while I got on with the next one.  There were always so many interesting new ideas.  When the novels were returned, I would just send them out again, working my way down the lists in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.  Life has become much easier since then, as all my other novels have been published by Sceptre, who have always been very supportive.  I send the completed novel to them, my editor goes through it, we discuss any plot uncertainties or character inconsistencies, then I rework it, which usually takes a few months.  Then it gets read by a copy editor, who picks out more details.  It’s a long and satisfying process, and in between the rewriting, I start my next novel.  The entire process takes about two years in total.

 

What are you reading at the moment?

His Bloody Project  by Graeme Macrae Burnet, shortlisted for this year’s Booker. It’s very skilful, although a bit – er – bloody, I fear.

 

If you were to be stranded on a desert island and could choose just one author’s books to read, who would you pick and why?

John le Carre, I think.  His books are so much more than spy stories – although I do like the shadowy world of spying.  He is a wonderful writer – very clever, literary, and perceptive about human nature.  He penetrates so deeply, understands the complexity of character and the nature of love,  and still manages to produce plots that take your breath away.

 

Is there a question that you wish an interviewer would ask that you’ve never been asked? What’s your answer to that question?

I’ve struggled with this one.  I’m afraid nothing springs to mind.  I usually tell people what I want to tell them anyway.  Nobody notices if you don’t answer the question correctly.  Or if they do, they never mention it.

 

 How can people connect with you on social media?

Another failure.  I don’t use social media.  I don’t have enough spare time – I struggle to keep up with my friends – and when I do have spare time I prefer to read or write rather than communicate.  I like space and silence  – I live on my own now and I love it.  I would be perfectly comfortable in an isolated tower block in an empty world.

 


 

My Review

I was thrilled when I received a surprise copy of When the Floods Came in the post as I’m a big fan of Clare Morrall’s novels. Her first novel Astonishing Splashes of Colour is one I still remember reading now and I read that when it was first published. This latest novel is just as brilliant.

When I first started reading this I was immediately drawn by what had happened to Britain. The descriptions of this dystopian future were quite chilling at times because the virus that wiped out the majority of the population in Britain, and the floods that followed seem absolutely believable given all that is happening in the world. I don’t know Birmingham very well but I could easily picture all that Morrall described.

Soon though I was drawn in to the Polanski family that have survived all that has happened and who are living in a high rise apartment block. They are obviously a very close family but they’re very insular and have never explored the possibility of meeting others who have also survived. Then one day an interloper appears and they are immediately fearful but also very drawn to him. Aashay is an enigmatic character, he’s exciting to the children of the family but the parents are wary. It’s impossible to put the genie back in the bottle though and once Aashay tells of the fairs where other survivors gather together it’s something the children simply cannot resist. What happens at the fair and afterwards makes this novel one that was very hard for me to put down!

I felt there was a bit of mystery in the novel too. The Polinski’s eldest daughter Roza’s fiance, Hector, who she met online through work, is a bit of an enigma. He appears to be quite perfect and is planning to visit soon so that they can get married. I was unsure whether he was real for a while, and I was also suspicious of whether he had any connection to Aastay – it added another dimension to the novel that kept me hooked as I wanted to know if there was a link.

This novel is a brilliant mix of a dystopian future and a study of the dynamics within a close-knit family.  I was utterly enthralled throughout and would highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 


About the Book

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A taut, gripping novel set in the future, when the lives of a family existing on the margins of a dramatically changed society are upset by a mysterious stranger.

In a world prone to violent flooding, Britain, ravaged 20 years earlier by a deadly virus, has been largely cut off from the rest of the world. Survivors are few and far between, most of them infertile. Children, the only hope for the future, are a rare commodity.

For 22-year-old Roza Polanski, life with her family in their isolated tower block is relatively comfortable. She’s safe, happy enough. But when a stranger called Aashay Kent arrives, everything changes. At first he’s a welcome addition, his magnetism drawing the Polanskis out of their shells, promising an alternative to a lonely existence. But Roza can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to Aashay than he’s letting on. Is there more to life beyond their isolated bubble? Is it true that children are being kidnapped? And what will it cost to find out?

Clare Morrall, author of the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted Astonishing Splashes of Colour, creates a startling vision of the future in a world not so very far from our own, and a thrilling story of suspense.

 


About the Author

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c. Howard Walker

Clare Morrall was born in 1952 and grew up in Exeter.

She moved to Birmingham to study music and still lives there, working in the Blue Coat school as a piano and violin teacher. Her first published novel, Astonishing Splashes of Colour (2003), tells the story of a childless woman who kidnaps a baby.  It reflects her interest in synaesthesia – a condition in which emotions are seen as colours.  The Daily Mail describe it as “An extremely good first novel: deceptively simple, subtly observed, with a plot that drags you forward like a strong current.” It was shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

(Bio taken from https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/clare-morrall)

 


 

You can follow the rest of this fabulous blog tour at the following blogs:

 

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#BookReview: The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

About the Book:

On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows, covered in ash, and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a NYC detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? The Memory of Things tells a stunning story of friendship and first love and of carrying on with our day-to-day living in the midst of world-changing tragedy and unforgettable pain—it tells a story of hope.

My Thoughts:

This book is so beautiful and moving; it really is a gorgeous story of hope. I was intrigued to know how a young adult novel about such an atrocity would work but Gae Polisner gets it just right. She never shies away from the terror and the fear of that day but the focus on Kyle and his family allows feelings to be explored whilst still leaving the reader with a sense of hope.

I love the way this novel was told in normal prose from Kyle’s perspective and then this is interspersed with poetry that represents the confused thoughts of the ash-covered girl Kyle brings home from the bridge. It gives a rounded sense to the story but it never becomes cliched.

Gae Polisner explores so many angles of 9/11 – the way it affected people who witnessed the horror, the way the emergency services responded, the way it felt for people who couldn’t get through to family members, and also how it felt for the people, like Kyle’s uncle, who desperately wanted to respond and help but couldn’t due to medical problems.

I would recommend this book to everyone, it’s not just for teenagers – it’s a beautiful book that will explore the horror but leave you with hope for the future.

I received this book from St. Martin’s Griffin/St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#BookReview: Who We Were Before by Leah Mercer

who-we-were-before-by-leah-mercer

About the Book:

Zoe knows that it wasn’t really her fault. Of course it wasn’t. But if she’d just grasped harder, run faster, lunged quicker, she might have saved him. And Edward doesn’t really blame her, though his bitter words at the time still haunt her, and he can no more take them back than she can halt the car that killed their son.

Two years on, every day is a tragedy. Edward knows they should take healing steps together, but he’s tired of being shut out. For Zoe, it just seems easier to let grief lead the way.

A weekend in Paris might be their last hope for reconciliation, but mischance sees them separated before they’ve even left Gare du Nord. Lost and alone, Edward and Zoe must try to find their way back to each other—and find their way back to the people they were before. But is that even possible?

My Thoughts:

I found this novel to be a really quick read and I read it in one afternoon. The story was a mixed bag for me though, some parts I thought were really well done and other parts just weren’t for me.

I’ll start by saying that I found the descriptions of grief after losing a child were done well and these parts of the book got to me and made me feel quite emotional at times. Unfortunately, I did find the other elements of the relationship between Zoe and Edward a bit too cliche for my taste. The way they grieved in different ways seemed very true to life and I can understand how losing a child can pull even the strongest relationship apart but there were things that each of them did that just didn’t feel believable to me.

I knew this was a contemporary novel going into it but I’d expected, from the synopsis and cover design, that there might be more psychological elements to it and I didn’t expect it to be so much of a romance novel, so it’s very possible that the fault lies with my not realising what the novel was rather than with the novel per se.

I would still recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys romance novels that have serious themes running through them.

I received this book from Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#BookReview: Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

About the Book:

Famous killers have fan clubs.

Hamish Wolfe is no different. Locked up for the rest of his life for the abduction and murder of three young women, he gets countless adoring letters every day. He’s handsome, charismatic and very persuasive. His admirers are convinced he’s innocent, and that he’s the man of their dreams.

Who would join such a club?

Maggie Rose is different. Reclusive and enigmatic; a successful lawyer and bestselling true-crime writer, she only takes on cases that she can win.

Hamish wants her as his lawyer, he wants her to change his fate. She thinks she’s immune to the charms of a man like this. But maybe not this time . . .

Would you?

My Thoughts:

I have to start by saying that I love Sharon Bolton’s novels – the Lacey Flint series is one of my favourites so I was very keen to read another standalone by her.

I loved this novel! Once I started reading I found that I didn’t want to put it down – it’s one of those books where I begrudged real life interfering in my reading time! I found both of the main characters utterly compelling. I wasn’t sure what to make of either of them. I could never decide whether Hamish was a psychopath or if he was an innocent man – the writing is so clever because it really leaves you with an understanding of the conflict people must have in real life cases. I was fascinated by Maggie Rose, the true-crime writer who has cleared other people of heinous crimes whether she believes they are innocent or not. She was a such complex character because she felt like an enigma to me through a lot of the novel while always remaining believable as if she were a real person.

I had no idea where this novel was going to take me and I ended up stunned by the end. It gave me a book hangover for a few days because I couldn’t stop thinking about it, which is always the sign of a great read!

I actually loved this novel so much that I bought a copy for my Mum-in-law who also loves psychological thrillers/crime novels and once she’d read it we had a chat about it and she agreed with me that it was impossible to work out where this was going until it was just about to happen.

I’d recommend this novel to anyone who loves crime thrillers, especially ones set in brilliant locations and that leave you feeling a bit unsettled once you’ve finished reading. I can’t wait to see what’s next from Sharon Bolton!

I received this book from Random House/Transworld via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

sharon-bolton

Sharon (formerly SJ) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer.

Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.

 

(Bio taken from the author’s website: www.sharonbolton.com)

#BookReview: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

About the Book:

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora, but one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents, but the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family, a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

My Thoughts:

The Couple Next Door was one of those books that I had on my pre-order list and was practically counting the days until it was released so when I got a chance to read a review copy ahead of release I couldn’t say no! This book is worth all of the hype – it grabs you from the opening chapter and it doesn’t let you go until the very end.

The premise of the book just hooks you right in – the idea of a couple who are prepared to leave a young baby home along whilst they go to a dinner party at their neighbour’s house is shocking. Yes they took a baby monitor with them and they planned to check on the baby every half an hour but that doesn’t make it okay in any way, shape or form. So from the beginning I didn’t particularly like the two main characters and I wasn’t sure whether I could trust either of them, they both felt unreliable to me and I love that in a novel.

The Couple Next Door has twist after twist, shock after shock and you won’t be able to put the book down until you get to the end and finally discover what is going on.

I definitely recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a twisty psychological thriller that really will keep you on the edge of your seat and feeling like you have no idea who to trust. I now can’t wait to read whatever Shari Lapena writes next!

I received a copy of this novel from Random House/Transworld via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

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Shari Lapena is a Canadian author, born in 1960. She previously worked as a lawyer and an English teacher. Her novels include Things Go Flying (2008), Happiness Economics (2011), and The Couple Next Door (2016).

#BookReview: The Sister by Louise Jensen @Bookouture

The Sister by Louise Jensen

About the Book:

Grace hasn’t been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie. She is haunted by Charlie’s words, the last time she saw her, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie’s. It soon becomes clear there was a lot she didn’t know about her best friend.

When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie’s father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie’s sister steps forward. For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family, and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan’s home.

But something isn’t right. Things disappear, Dan’s acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her. Is it all in Grace’s mind? Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie and Anna, is Grace in terrible danger?

There was nothing she could have done to save Charlie …or was there?

My Thoughts:

This is a book that is quite difficult to review as I’m wary of accidentally giving away any spoilers so for that reason I’m going to keep this review quite short.

I very much enjoyed this novel and it’s one of those books that once started is very difficult to put down. I read it in a couple of sittings and in the time I wasn’t reading I was very keen to get back to it as soon as I could.

I loved reading about the close friendship between Grace and Charlie. It was obvious how much Grace loved her but also clear that something was gnawing at Grace and I was so keen to keep reading to find out what had happened.

I did feel that Grace was too trusting and forgiving, and it was a little hard sometimes to not want to have a way to push her into dealing with the people and situations that she wasn’t comfortable with. Having said that, the fact that she was grieving for Charlie adds the dimension of believability as grief can, and does, make people far less able to make decisions and to deal with things and this is what drew me to feel for Grace.

The further I got into the book and the more Grace began to question herself, the more I started to get swept up in her mindset and found myself feeling as if I was right there with her in the story. It became hard to figure out who could and couldn’t be trusted as I was absolutely seeing things through Grace’s eyes. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good thriller which will sweep you up in the story and will hold you right to the end! This is a great debut novel and I can’t wait to read Louise Jensen’s next book!

I received this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Sister is out now!

About the Author:

louise-jensen

Louise Jensen is a best selling author of psychological thrillers.  Her debut novel ‘The Sister,’ reached No. 1 in the UK and Canadian Amazon chart within 3 weeks of release, No.1 in Apple’s iBooks and is listed as a USA Today Bestseller.

‘The Sister’ is a book about a grieving girl who thought there was nothing as frightening as being alone – she was wrong.

‘The Gift’ is Louise’s second book, due for publication on the 16th December 2016.

Louise also writes flash fiction, and features and articles for both magazines and online publications. Louise specialises in writing about mindfulness, chronic pain and mental health.

(Author bio taken from her website: LouiseJensen.co.uk)

#BookReview: Last Light by CJ Lyons @cjlyonswriter @canelo_co

Last Light by C. J. Lyons

About the book:

A brutally murdered family… a wronged man in prison 

1987: Lily Martin is horrifically murdered along with her young child in Texas.

Today: Life should be easy after leaving the FBI –  but not if you’re detective Lucy Guardino. Lucy has always seen herself as a normal mum who happened to have a job chasing the worst of the worst. But after a violent predator targets her family and she’s injured, Lucy sacrifices her career at the Bureau.

She joins the Beacon Group, a firm that specializes in cold cases. Lucy fears she’s traded the elite for shepherding a team of amateurs.

She is sent to rural Texas to investigate a case that’s already been closed with the killers behind bars for twenty-nine years.

But who really killed Lily Martin and her infant daughter? Why was an entire family targeted for annihilation? What price will Lucy pay when she fights to expose a truth people will kill to keep buried?

My thoughts:

I very much enjoyed reading this novel. I especially loved that there were two really strong female characters in this novel and both were interesting. Lucy has a warm personality but is a very steely investigator. On a personal note, it was interesting to read about her AFO – I wear a similar leg brace (although my disability is very different) so I had real sympathy when she had no nice shoes to wear with her new work outfit. I have to wear men’s velcro trainers two sizes too big with mine as nothing else will go over it! TK is also a character that I’m looking forward to learning more about as this series progresses – she’s a former marine that has obviously had a very traumatic time whilst serving but her record is classified so not much is known. She’s fascinating though as she’s very good at aspects of her new job but is also slightly hot-headed at times so is far from being perfect.

I did find this to be a novel of two halves in a way – the first half was really interesting as we learn about the team of investigators, and find out more about the crime and the man who was convicted of the murders. It almost felt like it could be a real life murder case. I felt that in the second half I had to suspend my disbelief a little bit as it did feel like some things were ramped up in a way that was great to read and it was still well written and so fast-paced. I couldn’t put the book down and read this half of the book in a couple of hours, I was so keen to find out if the suspect was really the killer and if they would be caught and punished.

This is the first in a new series – the Beacon Falls series – but I believe Lucy’s career in the FBI was another series in its own right so I’m tempted to go back and read all of those now too as I enjoyed this novel so much. Last Light had me engrossed from the prologue all the way through to the end. It’s a fast-paced and tense read that you’ll find very hard to put down once you’ve started reading!

This is a brilliant start to a new crime thriller series and I can’t wait to read the next book!

I received a copy of Last Light from Canelo via Ed PR in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author:

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CJ Lyons has lived most of her life on the edge. New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.

CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday).

She has assisted police and prosecutors with cases involving child abuse, rape, homicide and Munchausen by Proxy. She has worked in numerous trauma centers, on the Navajo reservation, as a crisis counselor, victim advocate, as well as a flight physician for Life Flight and Stat Medevac.

A story-teller all her life, CJ has always created stories about people discovering the courage to make a difference. This led her to coin the term: Thrillers with Heart.

Her novels have won the International Thriller Writers prestigious Thriller Award, the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Golden Gateway, Readers’ Choice Award, the RT Seal of Excellence, and Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.

(Biography details and photo taken from CJ Lyons’ website)