#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)

Author Interview with Cat Hogan #TheyAllFallDown

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing an interview with Cat Hogan to share with you today. Cat’s new novel They All Fall Down is out now!

 

Please tell my readers a little bit about yourself

My name is Cat and I love books! When I’m not writing them, my nose is constantly stuck in one. I’ve just released They All Fall Down- it’s my first novel and so far, so good. It has sprouted wings and has been spotted all over Europe lazing on beach towels.

When I’m not writing (content by day and madmen by night) I am Mam to two little mischief makers- Joey (11) and Baby Arthur (3).

We live in beautiful Wexford on the South East coast of Ireland.

 

How did you first come to be a writer?

I’ve always written- short stories, poetry, diaries, letters- you name it. My first serious dive into the world of writing was when I set up my own business as a content writer for businesses. I have an honours degree in Law, and a degree in Business Studies- so it made sense to me to do this. That kind of writing is very structured and very formal. I had They All Fall Down in my head for a while before I got down to actually writing it. Once I began in earnest, I couldn’t stop- I had the first draft written in about six months.

 

What is your book about?

They All Fall Down is a dark psychological thriller exploring the depths of flawed human nature, the thin line between love and obsession and the destructive nature of addiction. They story revolves around six characters- their lives, their motivations and the consequences of each of their own actions on each other. It’s set in Ireland in a fictional fishing village.

 

Where do you get your inspiration from? 

Music plays a huge role in my life. It always has done. My partner is a musician- originally from Newcastle Upon Tyne. He came to Ireland with his band to tour, I spotted him at his first gig and I guess the rest is history- he came for the music and stayed for love! We listen to a lot of music in our house and I find inspiration for lots of stories through lyrics.

Being close to the sea is a constant source of inspiration to me. We are blessed to live so close to the beach and the countryside. Just getting out for a walk to clear the noise out of my head is good- I carry a notebook everywhere and even write down snippets of conversations I eaves drop on!

I’m a people watcher. There’s nothing I love more than sitting outside my local coffee shop and just watching. (In a non-creepy way of course)

 

What is your writing routine?

The reality is, I’d love to have a writing routine but I don’t. I work from my kitchen table at home- we live in a small house and since Baby Art has gone into his own little room, my office is the kitchen table. I usually write at night when the boys have gone to bed. I have tried getting up at stupid o clock in the morning when they are all asleep- it doesn’t work for me. I’m a night owl, always have been. I would love a little space ( a she-shed would do) that’s just mine, with no distractions. That said, the library and the beach are good spots for writing- I do all my original drafts, ideas and notes long hand.

 

What has your journey to publication been like?

Swift! I was published less than a year after I first got my agent. I finished They All Fall Down in June 2015. In August, I signed with my agent, and by November, I had a two book deal with Poolbeg Press. They All Fall Down was published on July 1st and I was delighted to hit the Irish Times Best seller list a couple of weeks later. It’s been an absolute whirlwind and now the real pressure is on to promote the first book and get the second written to the September deadline- I love every minute of the madness!

 

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just finished reading ‘The Stranger’ by Albert Camus and I’m about to start ‘The Panda Theory’ by Pascal Garnier. Stephen King is never too far out of reach. My TBR pile is getting out of hand and I have a weakness for book shops- I just can’t stop buying them. I also have a habit of doing an Amazon blitz here and there.

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?

I’ve been thinking about this question for about an hour- it’s a good one! I have finally decided on Stephen King. He has a huge volume of work and all of his characters are so diverse- from possessed cars, to vampires. You would never be bored- you might be terrified out of your mind- but entertained. His book ‘On Writing’ is an absolute must read for any aspiring authors.

 

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

One question rarely asked in interviews is about how nerve wrecking it is to publish a book and put your baby on a shelf for all the world to see. The answer is: it’s absolutely petrifying.

 

How can people connect with you on social media?

I’m a Twitter and Facebook lass. I think I have Instagram and Snapchat accounts but I rarely use them. Come find me for the chats on Twitter @kittycathogan and over on Facebook @catherinahoganwordsmith.

I love both platforms and am always there ready to chat!

 


About the Author

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Cat Hogan was born into a home of bookworms and within spitting distance of the sea. Her father, Pat, a lightship man, instilled in her a love of the sea and the stars. Her mother, Mag, taught her how to read before she could walk.
Writing, storytelling and a wild imagination is part of her DNA.

The beautiful County Wexford, Ireland is home to Cat, her musician partner Dave, two beautiful sons Joey and Arthur, and her tomcat Jim Hawkins. There they live a life of storytelling, song and adventure. The other love of Cat’s life is food. A self-professed foodie, there is nothing she loves more than feeding a houseful of friends round her kitchen table.

When she is not conjuring up imaginary friends, she can be found supporting local musicians and writers of which there is an abundance in her home town. One of her first endorsements for her novel is also her favourite and comes from fellow Wexfordian of Artemis Fowl fame.

‘If the Gone Girl met the Girl on the Train, they would have come up with They All Fall Down’ -Eoin Colfer.

They All Fall Down is Cat’s debut novel and two weeks within publication, it powered it’s way onto the best seller list.


 

Cat has recently been featured in the Irish Times, which you can read here:
She has also featured on a radio podcast which can be listen to here:
Cat is also appearing on other blogs throughout August and you can follow those posts here:
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Book Review: All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker #NotForgotten

 

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You can erase the memory. But you cannot erase the crime.

Jenny’s wounds have healed.
An experimental treatment has removed the memory of a horrific and degrading attack.
She is moving on with her life.

That was the plan. Except it’s not working out.
Something has gone. The light in the eyes. And something was left behind. A scar. On her lower back. Which she can’t stop touching.
And she’s getting worse.
Not to mention the fact that her father is obsessed with finding her attacker and her mother is in toxic denial.

It may be that the only way to uncover what’s wrong is to help Jenny recover her memory. But even if it can be done, pulling at the threads of her suppressed experience will unravel much more than the truth about her attack.

I was beyond thrilled when I was offered the chance to read and review this novel. I had heard a few things about it on social media and was so keen to read it.

All is Not Forgotten is an unflinching look at a very traumatic attack on a teenage girl and the aftermath of that. Wendy Walker is a great writer and doesn’t shy away from anything in this novel and that makes it feel very real, I felt like I was in amongst the characters in this book and even though I finished reading it weeks ago, it is still very much with me.

My main reason for wanting to read this book was when I heard it was about erasing memories after trauma. The idea of a treatment to remove traumatic memories has always been fascinating to me. I’ve suffered with PTSD in the past and whilst I consider myself recovered after many years of counselling and CBT etc I do still remember what happened to me and I still have to be on my guard in certain situations in order to keep anxiety at bay. I do believe, based on my own experience, that people can move on from trauma and have perfectly normal, happy lives but it takes a lot of work. I love the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where people can have memories of failed relationships removed but All is Not Forgotten is even more interesting because it is focused on trauma. I liked how this treatment was groundbreaking and yet it had its flaws, the fact that Jenny is left with a ghost of a memory of what happened to her – like an itch that she can’t reach to scratch. It’s not a complete cure and she is then left in a horrible position of having to decide how she can put right the treatment that she had – it isn’t an easy thing to reverse as she will have to have intense therapy to help her remember what happened to her.

I was drawn into all aspects of this novel though, it is about so much more than a treatment to erase memories – it’s actually about the way people act to protect themselves and their families. The way that jumping to a conclusion about someone can lead to so many unforeseen consequences, the way that people don’t always try to help you for the right reasons and can sometimes have an agenda of their own. So many people end up caught up in the aftermath of the attack on Jenny and it’s horrifyingly fascinating to see it all unravel.

I loved how this novel was narrated; at first I wasn’t sure who was narrating and then as I realised and saw how the person narrating was also like a conductor in an orchestra and it was so brilliant to read. Sometimes the reader is ahead of the narrater and can work out what comes next so you think you’ve got it worked out but then it all moves in a different way and the rug is pulled from under you again.

I loved this book, it is an incredible read! It was edgy and twisty and just utterly fascinating to watch the unravelling and revealing of all the hidden memories – not just Jenny’s! I will be recommending to everyone I know and I’m sure it will be a huge bestseller.

All is Not Forgotten is out now and available from all good bookshops.

Thank you to Cara at Harlequin for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


 

I was recently very lucky to have the opportunity to interview Wendy Walker as part of the blog tour for All is Not Forgotten and you can read that here if you’d like to.

 


About the Author

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Wendy Walker is a practicing divorce attorney in Fairfield County, Connecticut who began writing while at home raising her three sons. She published two novels with St. Martin’s Press and edited multiple compilations for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series before writing her debut psychological thriller, All is Not Forgotten.

 

Crime series or Standalone novel? A guest post by Chris Curran #HerTurntoCry

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Chris Curran (author of Mindsight and brand new novel, Her Turn to Cry) to my blog! Chris has written this brilliant post for me all about crime series versus standalone, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!

 

When I first started writing crime the received wisdom from publishing professionals was that readers wanted series detectives. So that was what agents and editors were looking for. But as someone who preferred Ruth Rendell’s psychological suspense novels (often written as Barbara Vine) to her Inspector Wexford series and whose favourite Christie was the sinister standalone, Endless Night, it was this kind of book I wanted to write.

Although it was before the Gone Girl phenomenon, Gillian Flynn had already written her first brilliant psychological thriller, Sharp Objects, which went on to win two CWA daggers.  Other wonderful writers of standalone crime, like Laura Wilson, were also having success so I knew there must be a market. In the event I had just completed my first novel, Mindsight, when psychological crime, domestic noir, grip-lit or whatever you choose to call it, became big news.

Crime series are still attracting hordes of readers of course and I love many of them myself. There’s something enormously satisfying about following a detective, professional or amateur, through a series of books. In effect you get two stories for the price of one: the immediate crime the sleuth is tasked with solving and the ongoing saga of their own, usually complex and often troubled, life.

Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brody, CJ Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake, Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway and Sarah Hilary’s DI Marnie Rome all have fascinating back stories and personal lives that become more intriguing with each book. Who doesn’t want to know everything about Jackson Brody’s lost sister or to follow each new twist in Ruth Galloway’s on-off relationship with DCI Harry Nelson?

And then there are the side-kicks and the detective’s family and friends who often have their own enthralling and messy storylines. Marnie Rome’s sergeant, Noah Jakes, Shardlake’s assistant, Barak, and Ruth Galloway’s druid friend, Cathbad, as well as her gorgeous daughter, Kate.  In fact several of these characters seem complicated and vivid enough to head their own series.

Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad novels are interesting because they straddle the divide between series and standalone as a different detective takes centre stage with each new novel. It’s a clever ploy although, like many readers, I’m still dying to know the rest of Rob Ryan’s story, which was left tantalizingly open-ended in the first novel.

So what are the virtues of the standalone? One advantage is that readers can come to each book in any order with no previous knowledge required. This means that the author doesn’t have to hold up the narrative to reveal details of the ongoing saga. And, although one of the delights of the series is following the development of recurring characters, there is a danger that these can become so enthralling that they overwhelm the criminal case featured in this particular book. Alternatively the author may withhold too much and alienate readers by refusing ever to satisfy their curiosity.

In contrast all readers of a standalone start the book knowing nothing about any of the characters. No pattern has been established in previous novels so anything could happen. Since we are not looking at events through the perceptions of a trustworthy and familiar detective it can feel as if a safety net has been removed, which adds a delicious sense of menace. Anyone could die and anyone, including the narrator, could be deceiving us. Could even be the murderer.

There is a heightened intensity to many standalones because the characters are usually ordinary people intimately involved with the crime and are often blundering around feeling terrified and helpless. Or of course they might be hiding a guilty secret or even turn out to be a manipulative psychopath.

The standalone writer is not restricted by an established location or set of procedures and is at liberty to travel in time and space both between books and within a novel. My first book, Mindsight, was set in contemporary Hastings on the south coast of England, whereas my second, Her Turn To Cry,  moves from the variety theatres of the 1950s to the heart of swinging 60s London.

In fact writers of standalones do tend to follow certain themes in their work. Flynn is obsessed with dysfunctional families and manipulative women, Cathi Unsworth explores popular music culture, and the dark underbelly the 20th century, whilst Megan Abbott’s compelling and unsettling novels often deal with hyper-competitive teenage girls.

For the reader it’s a matter of choose your poison or, like me, have it both ways. Nor must it be either/or for the writer. Like Ruth Rendell and Agatha Christie, Laura Wilson began a detective series with Stratton’s War. And I have a police character in mind for my own next book – so who knows.

About Her Turn to Cry

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London, 1965. Top model Joycie Todd lives a glittering life with photographer Marcus Blake. But her childhood tells a different story…

When she was eleven, Joycie’s mother disappeared. Run away with another man, so everyone says. But Joycie can’t forget the thumps she heard in the night, or the bloodstained rug hidden under the bed. A rug that was gone the next day.

Twelve years later, Joycie has left her past behind. But when an old friend dies, Joycie is left a letter beseeching her to find out the truth. Unable to keep the door locked any longer, Joycie sets out to discover why her mother left her – if she ever really did.

As she travels to the shabby seaside towns of her childhood, Joycie soon finds that it’s not just her mother who vanished all those years ago. Joycie knows the disappearances are connected, she just doesn’t know how. But there’s someone out there who does – and they will do anything to keep it buried.

Her Turn to Cry is out now in ebook and is due to be published in print on 8th September 2016 in the UK. Available from Amazon

About the author

Chris Curran

I was born in London but now live in St Leonards-on-Sea near Hastings, on the south coast of England, in a house groaning with books. I left school at sixteen to work in the local library – my dream job then and now – and spent an idyllic few months reading my way around the shelves. Reluctantly returning to full-time education I gained my degree from Sussex University. Since then I have worked as an actress, script writer, copy editor and teacher, all the time looking forward to the day when I would see my own books gracing those library shelves.

 

 

You can find Chris on her blog: chriscurranauthor.com

Twitter: @Christi_Curran

Facebook: Chris Curran

 


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I’m linking this post up to Talk of the Town, please check out the other posts on there and share your own. #TalkoftheTown

 

Blog Tour | Q&A with Wendy Walker, author of All is Not Forgotten

 

Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker and I have a brilliant interview with the author to share today.

 

Please tell my readers a little bit about yourself.

My name is Wendy Walker and I live in Connecticut, which is just northeast of New York City. I went to college at Brown University and law school at Georgetown University. I spent one year at the London School of Economics and I got to travel all around Europe. I have had many jobs from waitressing to investment banking at Goldman Sachs, to commercial litigation and now family law. I have three teenage sons and a large extended family.

How did you first come to be a writer?

After I had my first son eighteen years ago, I decided to stay home to raise my children until they were all in school. I felt lucky to be able to do that and so I took the job very seriously! But after about a year, I started to feel unfulfilled so I started to write whenever I had free time (which was not very often!). I had two more children in five years and all the while I kept writing. I even wrote in the back of my minivan while waiting for them at pre-school! It was a long road and 17 years getting to the writing and publication of All Is Not Forgotten. During that time, I published other novels, edited, and eventually went back to work as a lawyer (after 14 years away from the field). The work I found was in the area of family law and it was a wonderful fit for my life experience. I practiced for five years, eventually opening up my own practice, which focuses on consulting. But I never gave up the dream of making a career as a writer. I used to tell my boys that it was important to always have a dream, but to also be responsible. I kept on writing whenever and wherever I could. I am so glad that my children may get to see my dream come true (fingers crossed) so that they will believe what I told them about having dreams and never giving up.
What is your book about?

All Is Not Forgotten is about a teenage girl whose memory of a violent assault is erased with a controversial drug. In the aftermath, her family and the small town where she lives struggle with the inability to find her attacker and also with the emotional memory that still rages inside her.
I’ve suffered with PTSD so I was fascinated by the treatment concept in your novel – where did your inspiration for this come from? 

I read an article years ago about the emerging theories in memory science and the treatment of PTSD with drugs that can lessen the emotional impact of a trauma memory. I thought at the time that this could lead to significant moral, ethical and legal questions if such techniques were offered to victims of crime. When I decided to write a psychological thriller in 2015, I thought this concept would offer readers a great deal of substance and a real world issue that would be a talking point beyond the plot of the book itself. I started to do research and discovered that this area of memory science had just exploded and that drugs were now being developed with the hope of mitigating, reconsolidating and even erasing trauma memories. I developed the characters and plot in a way that I hoped would explore this fascinating topic.

What is your writing routine?

When my kids are in school, I start writing as soon as they are out of the house and I try not to stop until I have to pick them up! Sometimes, life gets in the way, especially because I work from home. But I have learned to be very disciplined about my time and I can write for 6 hours straight before I start to go a little stir crazy! I do not entertain writers block, and will always try to get something onto the page even if it doesn’t feel great at the time. I like to keep moving the plot forward and then revise as needed to flesh things out or improve the narrative.

For All Is Not Forgotten, I wanted to create a totally unique structure for the narrative. I designed it to move in different directions, backwards and forwards and sideways, but in a fluid, conversational way. It was my goal to grab the reader, make him or her stop everything else, put away computers and phones and televisions, and focus on the characters and the story and emotions they contain. So I used coloured notecards for each of the characters and their plot lines and then layered them carefully into each chapter so they would move forward but at points in the story where they fit organically. All Is Not Forgotten attempts to create that feeling of total escape by telling the story in a way that is new, but that feels as seamless as an engrossing conversation with a friend.

What has your journey to publication been like?

It has been wonderful and busy and everything you can imagine after 17 years of writing! Certainly, there have been BIG moments, like signing a film option with Warner Brothers and speaking with Reese Witherspoon about producing the movie. But mostly, I am working as hard as I can to write another engaging thriller, and to connect with readers about All Is Not Forgotten.

What are you reading at the moment?

Nothing but the draft of my new novel which is in the revision stage! I find that I cannot read while I am writing because I get the tone and cadence of the other book in my head and it’s hard to get it out! But I have a pile of books waiting for a short vacation in August. Can’t wait!

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?

Right now, I am loving Mary Kubica’s work which is dark and suspenseful but also full of complex characters and family dynamics.

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 am rarely asked what it feels like to be a writer after spending most of my life in more traditional jobs. I have some amazing author friends who also came to this world later in life and who manage children and homes and a writing career. And we laugh about the reality of our lives compared to the perceptions we sometimes come across. It is not at all glamorous and at times can be incredibly stressful! The thing about writing is that you do need blocks of time and rest and some stillness in your mind, and these things are very hard to find when you have children and work at home. It is also a lonely occupation filled with tremendous self-doubt each and every day. To sit in a room, alone, pulling thoughts from your mind and then turning them into words on a blank page, hoping they will be of interest to other people, is a very strange process! Being an attorney, you develop a certain amount of confidence that you know what you’re doing and that you are doing a good job. Writing does not afford that luxury. I don’t think I will ever stop worrying about whether my story is good, whether it will resonate with readers, whether it will find its audience. And yet, I would not want to be doing anything else!

How can people connect with you on social media?

I have an email which can be found via my website: wendywalkerbooks.com

Twitter handle is @Wendy_Walker

Facebook is: Facebook.com/WendyWalkerAuthor

Instagram is: Instagram.com/wendygwalker

 


 

I’ve read All is Not Forgotten and it’s a brilliant novel – I highly recommend it! My review will be posted soon on my blog. The novel is out now and is available from all good book retailers.

You can find the rest of the stops on this blog tour on the poster below:

 

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Blog Tour | Book Review: The Museum of You by Carys Bray #MuseumOfYou

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Today is my stop on The Museum of You blog tour and I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of this wonderful book along with an excerpt from the the book.

About the Book

Clover Quinn was a surprise. She used to imagine she was the good kind, now she’s not sure. She’d like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story is difficult. She tries not to skate on the thin ice of his memories.

Darren has done his best. He’s studied his daughter like a seismologist on the lookout for waves and surrounded her with everything she might want – everything he can think of, at least – to be happy.

What Clover wants is answers. This summer, she thinks she can find them in the second bedroom, which is full of her mother’s belongings. Volume isn’t important, what she is looking for is essence; the undiluted bits: a collection of things that will tell the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be.

But what you find depends on what you’re searching for.

My Review

I’m a huge fan of Carys Bray – I adored her first novel A Song of Issy Bradley so was beyond excited when Carys offered me the chance to read and review The Museum of You.

The Museum of You is a quiet novel but it is so beautifully moving. It’s told in alternating chapters between Clover and her dad, Darren, and then between the chapter breaks there is a page about an item that Clover is planning to show in her museum. These pages, and her innocence, were some of the most stunning moments in the novel. Things like the way Clover envisages her mum collection holiday brochures because she must have loved holidays broke me because reading this through adult eyes, it seemed that really Clover’s mum probably was just desperate for escape. It’s a cleverly written novel because we don’t know at the beginning what happened to Clover’s mum but as the novel goes on we learn bits and pieces and a picture emerges but Clover, as a child, fits the pieces together in a much more naive way. It’s so beautiful and is a real tear jerker.

I adored Clover throughout this novel. She’s such a big-hearted and intelligent girl. She loves museums and finding out about things and so when she discovers that all of her mum’s things are still stashed in her bedroom Clover forms an idea to make a museum of her mum. It’s such a gorgeous idea and so heartbreaking at the same time. I cried so much as Clover carefully put on gloves and started to carefully, and strategically work through her mum’s belongings – all done when her dad was out so that he wouldn’t know about it and get upset. I know it’s a slightly different thing but I remember having to sort out my mum’s possessions after she died and having the longing to keep everything as it was left but knowing I had to let most of it go, and I was an adult at the time. For a child to not really know about her mum, or really understand what happened to her, to then approach her mum’s things on her own is really sad. I loved how pr0-active Clover was though, she knew that she couldn’t ask anyone about her mum as the best she got was a slow drip feed of information from her neighbour Mrs Mackerel and so she decided to become an archivist and figure it all out herself. I love how matter of fact Clover is – she’s a real thinker but she gets on with things. She doesn’t dwell on how her life has ended up, she just keeps moving forward. I think we all need a Clover in our lives!

I cried quite a few times whilst reading as there are sentences in this novel that just make your heart break for Clover. A line that got me, which is in the excerpt below was ‘When you grow up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story you’re forever skating on the thin ice of their memories.’ – I had to pause for a few minutes after reading that because it is just utterly heartbreaking. For a young child to know that their childhood is so linked in with the saddest part of her mum and dad’s life together is just so hard to think about, but also it made my heart break for her dad who has had to live with the happiest and saddest times in his life overlapping in such a tough way.

Darren is doing the absolute best he can to raise his daughter, it’s so evident that he loves her more than anything and is trying to give her a good life but it feels that as Clover is growing up, he is burying his head in the sand a little. It must be so hard for men to deal with raising a daughter alone, especially as they reach puberty and there is no female role model in their life. He knows there are things Clover will want to know beyond the basic lessons he can teach her and he’s really floundering as to how he will get her through the teenage years and beyond. He knows Clover needs her mum, and needs to know about her mum but you can feel his hesitation and his need to skate around it for his own wellbeing. He seems like such a lovely man who is simply left so lost after his partner died. I felt the longing that he had to not let his partner’s memory go but also his desire to form a stable home life for Clover. It is apparent very early on in the novel that Darren is something of a hoarder – it really felt like he was someone who was just desperately trying to cling on, to keep things right for Clover and to be a good dad. It felt to me like Clover was very much like her dad in wanting to keep things but Clover is much more organised, hence her museum idea. Reading about when Darren was younger and seeing how simple his life was, with two parents who were still together and who obviously loved him very much and did their best by him, it is obvious that he is badly wanting this for his daughter too – ‘life [back then] was ordinary, unremarkable and occasionally boring. It was, looking back, wonderful’.

This novel builds as it goes along – the more you read the more you put the pieces together and the more you get a sense of heartbreak for what this family have been through. I had such sympathy with just about all of the characters in this novel, they had all had tough times in their lives and were all muddling through as best they can. It is apparent that the thing that defined them all and kept them connected was their love for Clover, and as the novel headed towards the end, I was hoping there would be some sort of happy ending for them all. Life isn’t perfect and bad things happen to lovely people but this novel gives us such a great reminder that life goes on and things will get better with time and openness.

It’s such a wonderfully profound novel. I rated it 5 out of 5 and can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s one of those quiet novels that packs such a punch emotionally; it’s so beautiful and is one that will stay with me for a long time to come. Simply wonderful!

Excerpt of the novel

When she got home from the museum Dad was kneeling in the hall. He’d unscrewed the radiator and his thumb was pressed over an unfastened pipe as water gushed around it. The books and clothes and newspapers that used to line the hall had been arranged in small piles on the stairs. Beside him, on the damp carpet, was a metal scraper he’d been using to scuff the paper off the wall.

‘Just in time!’ he said. ‘Fetch a bowl. A small one, so it’ll fit.’

She fetched two and spent the next fifteen minutes running back and forth to the kitchen emptying one bowl as the other filled, Dad calling, ‘Faster! Faster! Keep it up, Speedy Gonzalez!’ His trousers were soaked and his knuckles grazed, but he wasn’t bothered. ‘Occupational hazard,’ he said, as if it wasn’t his day off and plumbing and stripping walls was his actual job.

Once the pipe had emptied he stood up and hopped about for a bit while the feeling came back into his feet. ‘I helped Colin out with something this morning,’ he said. ‘The people whose house we were at had this dado rail thing – it sounds posh, but it’s just a bit of wood, really – right about here.’ He brushed his hand against the wall beside his hip. ‘Underneath it they had stripy wallpaper, but above it they had a different, plain kind. It was dead nice and I thought, we could do that.’

Dad found a scraper for her. The paint came off in flakes, followed by tufts of the thick, textured wallpaper. Underneath, was a layer of soft, brown, backing-paper which Dad sprayed with water from a squirty bottle. When the water had soaked in, they made long scrapes down the wall, top to bottom, leaving the backing paper flopped over the skirting boards like ribbons of skin. It felt like they were undressing the house.

The bare walls weren’t smooth. They were gritty, crumbly in places. As they worked, a dusty smell wafted out of them. It took more than an hour to get from the front door to the wall beside the bottom stair. That’s where Dad uncovered the heart. It was about as big as Clover’s hand, etched on the wall in black, permanent marker, in Dad’s handwriting: Darren + Becky 4ever.

‘I’d forgotten,’ he murmured. And then he pulled his everything face. The face he pulls when Uncle Jim is drunk. The face he pulls when they go shopping in March and the person at the till tries to be helpful by reminding them about Mother’s Day. The face which reminds her that a lot of the time his expression is like a plate of leftovers.

She didn’t say anything, and although she wanted to, she didn’t trace the heart with her fingertips. Instead, she went up to the bathroom and sat on the boxed, pre-lit Christmas tree dad bought in the January sales. When you grow up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story you’re forever skating on the thin ice of their memories. That’s not to say it’s always sad – there are happy things, too. When she was a baby Dad had a tattoo of her name drawn on his arm in curly, blue writing, and underneath he had a green, four-leaf clover. She has such a brilliant name, chosen by her mother because it has the word LOVE in the middle. That’s not the sort of thing you go around telling people, but it is something you can remember if you need a little boost; an instant access, happiness top-up card – it even works when Luke Barton calls her Margey-rine. Clover thought of her name and counted to 300.

When she went downstairs Dad had recovered his empty face and she couldn’t help asking a question, just a small one.

‘Is there any more writing under the paper?’

‘I don’t think so.’

‘She didn’t do a heart as well?’

‘Help me with this, will you?’

They pulled the soggy ribbons of paper away from the skirting and put them in a bin bag. The house smelled different afterwards. As if some old sadness had leaked out of the walls.

About the Author

Author Carys Bray, photographed near her home in Southport, Lancashire.

Carys Bray’s debut collection Sweet Home won the Scott prize and selected stories were broadcast on BBC Radio Four Extra. Her first novel A Song for Issy Bradley was serialised on BBC Radio Four’s Book at Bedtime and was shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards, the Association of Mormon Letters Awards, the Waverton Good Read Award, the 15 Bytes Book Awards and the Desmond Elliott Prize. It won the Utah Book Award and the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and was selected for the 2015 Richard and Judy Summer Book Club.

Carys has a BA in Literature from The Open University and an MA and PhD in Creative Writing from Edge Hill University. Her second novel The Museum of You will be published in June 2016. She is working on a third novel.

 

You can follow the rest of The Museum of You blog tour at the dates and blogs below:

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Blog Tour | Review: My Girl by Jack Jordan

MY GIRL BOOK COVER

Paige Dawson: the mother of a murdered child and wife to a dead man. 

She has nothing left to live for… until she finds her husband’s handgun hidden in their house. 

Why did Ryan need a gun? What did he know about their daughter’s death? 

Desperate for the truth, Paige begins to unearth her husband’s secrets. 

But she has no idea who she is up against, or that her life isn’t hers to gamble – she belongs to me. 

I started reading My Girl without really knowing much about it but it immediately hooked me in. I read the whole novel in one sitting because I simply had to know what was going on!

This novel is about Paige Dawson whose daughter was murdered and her husband has recently committed suicide as he just couldn’t cope anymore. Paige is in a really bad way – she is drinking heavily and taken a lot of medication to try and numb her devastation but it’s not keeping the emotions at bay. She is desperate to get more pills and will do anything to get them. This part of the book was quite shocking at times as we read what lengths Paige goes to but it’s more shocking how she is treated by others. People take advantage of the mess she is in and use her in awful ways. It was really difficult to read at times but at the same time I wanted to know where the story was going. Paige does have people in her life who want to help her but no one seems able to pull her back from the brink. She is just a very broken woman who can’t get over the loss of her child. She clings on to the past because it’s all she feels she has left. It’s very well written because I my heart was breaking for her as if she were a real person.

This novel is chilling at times, for more than one reason, and even though it was a tough read, it is a novel that I couldn’t put down. If I’m to be completely honest the only slight criticism I have is that I wish the second half of the novel had been longer. The first half is paced really well and gives such a sense of Paige’s despair but the second half lacked just a little of the character development of the first half. I just wanted to know more and for it to be expanded a little but this is only a minor point. It still works very well though and it wouldn’t stop me recommending this book.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Jack Jordan but I’ll definitely be buying his other novel Anything for Her and will be looking out for whatever he writes next.

I rated this novel 4 out of 5.

My Girl is due to be published on 4th July worldwide and is available for pre-order now.

I received a copy of My Girl from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Here is the blog tour poster so you can visit the other blogs on the tour:

MY GIRL BLOG TOUR POSTER

Blog Tour | The #JoyceGirl and Mental Health by Annabel Abbs #GuestPost

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Today I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for The Joyce Girl. I have a brilliant guest post to share, which Annabel Abbs has written for me about mental health issues. It’s such an important and relevant piece so please read and share it.

Final front cover

The Joyce Girl tells the mostly-true story of Lucia Joyce, a talented dancer and the daughter of James Joyce.  Set in 1920s Paris, the novel explores Lucia’s affairs with a young Samuel Beckett and a young Alexander Calder, and her subsequent descent into what was then termed ‘madness’.

When I decided to write about Lucia, I knew she ended her days in a mental asylum, friendless and forgotten. But what I didn’t know was how many other women in 1920s Paris had followed suit.  As my research deepened, I came across more and more ‘bright young flappers’ who, like Lucia, were certified as insane and put into mental asylums.  In The Joyce Girl alone, three of the six female characters (all based on real people) went into asylums – all certified as schizophrenic. These included Lucia’s sister-in-law, and a fellow dancer -Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. One of the characters who inhabited earlier versions of the novel (the sister of Lucia’s first love interest and the French translator of Joyce’s Dubliners) also went into an asylum. Sadly she was lost from the novel when I cut the cast to a more manageable size.

In those days, any adult male family member could have a female family member certified. And once you were certified you lost all your legal rights.  Lucia was subjected to a catalogue of often bizarre and sometimes inhuman treatments.  She was regularly straitjacketed and locked up.  In an age when there was no specific medication for mental health disorders, and when mental asylums were full of drunks, drug addicts and syphilitics, her experience must have been terrifying.  And Lucia loathed being restrained.  After being a dancer who expressed herself through her body, being forced into a straitjacket was a particularly cruel and violent act.

This was also an era when ‘madness’ was often viewed as shameful.  Although Lucia’s father stood by her to the very end, her mother and brother were only too ready to cast her off, seeing her not only as a taint on the family’s reputation but as a drain on the family finances.  In my Historical Note, I quote from a letter in which they are united as saying Lucia should be ‘shut in and left to sink or swim there.’

Fortunately huge progress has been made in the area of mental health. But while I was writing The Joyce Girl, I became increasingly aware of a surge in mental health issues at the schools of my three daughters.  This was reflected in newspaper reports and professional surveys showing the surge went far beyond my daughters’ schools.  Take these facts, for instance (source: YoungMinds and Beat):

  • In the last ten years the number of young people admitted to hospital because of self harm has increased by 68% .
  • The number of children and young people who have presented to A&E with a psychiatric condition have more than doubled since 2009.
  • Since 2005-06, there has been a 34% increase in hospital admissions due to anorexia (predominantly female).

The more I researched jazz-age Paris, the more I saw parallels between the 1920s and the 2015s, as new generations (particularly, but not exclusively, female) struggled to adapt to new values, to new ways of behaving, to new ways of being viewed by others and by themselves.

The flappers of that era were ‘victims’ of the rapid change sweeping through the developed world. The 1920s were a time of huge change – cars, cameras, cinemas, telephones and radios were becoming ubiquitous and altering the lives of everyone. In Paris, hems were up and stockings were down as young women embraced change and all it promised. Suddenly cameras were everywhere, the paparazzi was born, and glossy magazines began to feature ‘celebrities’, making icons of the new Hollywood stars.  In Paris Josephine Baker made naked dancing acceptable – no longer something confined to brothels. But beneath the glamour and glitter lay a dark underbelly, as many of these women succumbed to depression and mental illness.  The mostly-male doctors were untrained in mental health. Psychoanalysis (the ‘talking cure’) was in its infancy and there was still a tendency to write off these women as neurotics or hysterics.

Today, technology and social media have revolutionised our world and yet beneath the glossy technicolour of Instagram and Facebook lurks a similarly dark underbelly, with soaring rates of anorexia, bulimia and self-harm among the young, and particularly (but by no means exclusively) young women and girls.

In memory of Lucia, I decided to give my first year profits to a charity called YoungMinds who work with those needing help. We’ve come a long way since the 1920s – but there’s still a long way to go. No one should ever be left to languish in an asylum as Lucia was.

 

About the Author

Annabel Abbs

 

Annabel grew up in Bristol, Wales, Herefordshire and East Sussex – the daughter of two writers. She studied English Literature and History at the University of East Anglia and then completed a Masters in Marketing and Statistics at Kingston University. She started her career as a copy writer in an advertising agency then co-founded a marketing agency which she left after fifteen years to spend time with her four young children and to write. She currently blogs at http://www.kaleandcocoa.com and writes short stories and novels.

 

About the Book

Final front cover

 

Paris 1928. Lucia, the talented and ambitious daughter of James Joyce, is making a name for herself as a dancer, training with many famous dancers of her day and moving in social circles which throw her into contact with Samuel Beckett. Convinced she has clairvoyant powers, she believes her destiny is to marry Beckett, but the overbearing shadow of her father threatens this vision. Caught between her own ambitions and desires, and her parents’ demands, Lucia faces both emotional and psychological struggles that attract the attention of pioneer psychoanalyst Dr Jung.


 

The Joyce Girl is due to be published tomorrow in the UK and can be pre-ordered now. I reviewed The Joyce Girl last week and you can read my review here.


 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

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Review: In the Light of What We See by Sarah Painter

In The Light Of What We See by Sarah Painter

Brighton, 1938: Grace Kemp is pushed away by the family she has shamed. Rejected and afraid, she begins a new life as a nurse. But danger stalks the hospital too, and she’ll need to be on her guard to avoid falling into familiar traps. And then there are the things she sees…Strange portents that have a way of becoming real.

Eighty years later, Mina Morgan is brought to the same hospital after a near-fatal car crash. She is in terrible pain but recalls nothing. She’s not even sure whom to trust. Mina too sees things that others cannot, but now, in hospital, her visions are clearer than ever…

Two women, separated by decades, are drawn together by a shared space and a common need to salvage their lives.

I was sent this book to review a couple of months ago but had other books I needed to read first but it’s felt quite serendipitous that I picked it up yesterday as it ended up being the perfect read for me and I just didn’t want to put it down. I read it in just two sittings as it drew me in and held me there from start to finish.

I loved the friendship between Grace and Evie. Grace had had a difficult time at home and was so nervous when she began her nursing career but Evie, who seemed so opposite brought out the lighter side of Grace and it was wonderful to read. It was lovely how as the novel went along we had small insights into Evie’s character too, and she ended up being such a great friend to Grace.

Mina was an interesting character from the start. She seemed very cold and distant from people but after her accident, when she was so vulnerable and had to rely on others, she found a softer side. I really liked how she didn’t change over night but it just gradually became apparent that she had always had this other side but she’d buried it under pain and guilt.

There are small elements of mystery running through the novel as Mina tries to piece together the tiny fragments of memory that are slowly coming back to her after the accident. I had such a feeling of dread about Geraint but was never quite sure what the story was with him until it is revealed.

I loved the connection through time between Grace and Mina, it was so fleeting and yet felt so important to the book. I was convinced all the way through the novel that there these two characters would turn out to be related to each other or that they would meet at some point – I’m not going to post any spoilers at all but the continuous connection between them throughout the novel and the way it ended was perfect and beautiful. It could so easily have become forced or even twee but it never, ever did.

The idea of ghost birds that have flitted in and out of Mina’s life is fascinating. The way they were there to protect her and to warn her about things that may be about to happen. This was another connection to Grace in a way in that Grace saw shadows on people that often foretold something bad about to happen. I think this was how the two characters became connected within the hospital – that ability to see something other, the openness to channels that most people are closed off to.

 

I rated this book 4.5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this book via the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza (audiobook)

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one. 

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation. 

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound, and dumped in water around London. 

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding? 

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika. 

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong…resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again? 

A pause-resisting thriller packed with suspense. If you like Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott, and Karin Slaughter, discover Rob Bryndza’s new series today.

I was thrilled to be offered the chance to review the audio version of this novel. I listen to a lot of audio books but I don’t usually review them, this is the first! I find it easy to follow audio books but have to admit that I’ve never listened to a crime/thriller novel before as I worried it would be harder to keep track of the characters.

I loved listening to this novel. The narrater, Jan Cramer, has done a brilliant job of bringing great characters to life. She does a different voice for each character and this made the novel so easy to follow, I soon knew which voice belonged to which character and could relax and enjoy listening to the novel.

The novel as a whole is great – it kept me engrossed and I found that when I stopped listening for the day I was couldn’t wait to get back to it. I found Erika Foster really interesting as a character and although she falls into the trope of troubled detective to a degree, it didn’t feel like a stereotype. Her character, and what she had been through, felt completely believable and the way she was coping felt very realistic and that was a refreshing change from a lot of crime/detective novels.

I found the whodunnit element very good too – I only worked out who the killer was shortly before it was revealed and I think that was the point the reader is supposed to realise. I loved that I hadn’t been able to work out who it was earlier – I had my suspicions at various points in the book but I wasn’t sure.

The novel itself is a brilliant start to a new series and I’ll absolutely by buying the next book. I’ll also definitely look out for audio books narrated by Jan Cramer in the future.

If anyone reading this review has never listened to an audio book before or, like me, was put off listening to a crime novel in case it’s harder to follow as an audio book then please consider this one. The characters are so well written that you can tell them apart plus Jan Cramer’s narration is such that all the voices sound different from each other so you very quickly know who’s speaking. It’s a brilliant audio book all round.

I rated this audio book 4.5 out of 5 and I’m very much looking forward to reading, or listening to, the next book in the series.

I received a complementary copy of this audiobook from Audible via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl in the Ice is published by Bookouture. It’s out now and available in ebook, paperback and audiobook formats.

Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook

With Malice by Eileen Cook

A teenage girl wakes up in a hospital bed and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend–only what if the accident wasn’t an accident?

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be. She comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy three days previous but was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

I saw this book mentioned in a blog post recently and I liked the sound of it so much that I immediately requested it on Net Galley! I’m so glad I did as it’s a really good read.

I was drawn into this novel very quickly – the opening lines are really gripping (see my Book Beginnings post for more about the first few lines) and it becomes impossible to just read a little bit of this book. The novel is narrated by Jill, who has no memory of the accident, which makes her very unreliable and I do love an unreliable narrator! I was curious about her from the start; she seemed like an ordinary, hard-working student who got caught up in a horrible accident through no fault of her own. As the novel progresses though a web begins to be woven and you find yourself  questioning things about Jill. Throughout the book there are snippets from social media and blogs, and transcripts from some of the police interviews, which really lead you to wonder how much Jill can be trusted – just as in real cases like this, we get swayed one way by one news report and then a different way entirely by another.

There are clear echoes in this novel of the murder of Meredith Kercher and the trial of Amanda Knox. In particular I could see how the author had taken the way the media presented that case and fictionalised it in this novel.

I think there are other novels about female friendship gone awry that are perhaps more deeply developed than this one but this is a real page turner – it’s a really enjoyable read and one that is very hard to put down. I rated it 4 out of 5 and would recommend it.

I received With Malice from HotKey Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

With Malice is due to be published on 9th June in the UK.

Review: The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs

 

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Paris 1928. Lucia, the talented and ambitious daughter of James Joyce, is making a name for herself as a dancer, training with many famous dancers of her day and moving in social circles which throw her into contact with Samuel Beckett. Convinced she has clairvoyant powers, she believes her destiny is to marry Beckett, but the overbearing shadow of her father threatens this vision. Caught between her own ambitions and desires, and her parents’ demands, Lucia faces both emotional and psychological struggles that attract the attention of pioneer psychoanalyst Dr Jung.

The Joyce Girl is an incredible novel about the daughter of James Joyce: a fictionalised exploration of the life of Lucia Joyce. She is a young woman obsessed with dance – she has an obvious talent and initially seems destined for great success. However, she is also her father’s muse and he likes her to dance for him in a particular way, thus keeping her trapped when she needs to spread her wings.

Lucia becomes quite fixated with the idea of marriage after hearing it said that marriage is how women become free. This leads to her to become easily infatuated with men who show even remote interest in her – Lucia would quickly begin fantasising about their wedding, her future life with her suitor, and it becomes so real to her that she sadly doesn’t really see the reality of what some of these men want from her. Samuel Beckett is a fascinating character in this novel but his attraction to Lucia causes him to lead her on somewhat when he isn’t certain of his intentions towards her.

Lucia is taken advantage of by men throughout her life – some men more so than others – but she never really has a normal, stable man in her life at any point. From the moment she was born she was her father’s muse and had to mould herself into whatever he wanted her to be; her brother is a vile man who does whatever he wants with Lucia to suit his own ends. Even as an adult Lucia identifies herself as the daughter of a genius, she never really sees herself in her own right.

The theme of identity runs throughout this novel; the idea that you’re not only who you feel yourself to be but can become moulded, or even forced, to be what the people around you want you to be, or what they already assume you to be. Lucia is pulled in numerous directions and it’s quite apparent that in the end something would have to give. Heartbreakingly for Lucia as her mental health begins to crack under the strain yet another man in her life is able to take full advantage and get rid of her so that he can then shine. 

It is obvious throughout this book that James Joyce loved his daughter, that he wanted what was best for her and he did stick by her. However, it’s also quite apparent that his obsession with writing and needing Lucia to dance for him in order to inspire him was unhealthy for her. It became a tragic situation.

This novel got under my skin far more than I expected it to. I found that once I started reading I didn’t want to put the book down. Lucia Joyce is such a fascinating person and it was great to learn more about her. It saddened me to see how she was never going to escape her father’s name and her brother’s control – between them they seemed to keep her trapped as a child, never to be allowed to be her own person and inevitably this drove her to a kind of madness. Her obsession with dance and wanting to be perfect led to some of her issues but her home life seemed to have a far greater impact. It’s heartbreaking to read of the way men just discarded her as if she were nothing, even though her more manic moments must have been difficult for a man to cope with at that time, it’s still really tough to read.

It shocked me how many women in this novel end up being locked away in asylums because they went mad, or were diagnosed schizophrenic. A poignant moment that I’ve already referred to when Zelda Fitzgerald tells Lucia about her freedom to dance as a married woman and then soon after we learn that Zelda has been committed. These women didn’t really have freedom at all. Their love of dance led to them being somewhat obsessed with it but the way that their husbands / fathers / brothers wanted to keep them on a tight rein led to the women being torn in two different directions. There is no wonder their mental health began to decline. I would imagine that being locked in an asylum and unable to dance would have been the final thing that broke their spirit in the end.

The Joyce Girl is a breathtakingly beautiful novel; it will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished reading.  I rated this novel 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

The Joyce Girl is due to be published on 16th June in the UK and can be pre-ordered now.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher, Impress Books, in exchange for an honest review.

 

I’m the blog tour for The Joyce Girl and have a brilliant guest post about mental health by Annabel Abbs to share with you on 15th June so please look out for that.

Blog Tour | Review: The Safe Word by Karen Long

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There are rules that every player of every game must abide by, no matter how dangerous the sport.

Toronto has become the backdrop to a macabre set of artistic installations: women kidnapped, tortured and horrifically displayed by a killer with a vision. 
Only someone capable of understanding the killer’s creative desire will be able to stop the murders and D I Eleanor Raven is uniquely qualified. Driven by a complex personality she pursues only the facts, only the things she can see, but never casts a judgement. 

But she also has a dark and dangerous secret – one that will threaten her very survival.

I’ve heard quite a lot about this book so when I got the chance to sign up for the blog tour I couldn’t type quick enough to say yes!

I really enjoyed this novel, it’s unusual for me to be engrossed in a crime novel from the first page but this one grabbed me straight away and I didn’t want to put it down.

I found it really refreshing to read a detective novel where the lead character doesn’t seem to have relationship or alcohol problems, as seems to be par for the course in many novels like this. I really liked Detective Eleanor Raven – she is who she is and she doesn’t apologise for it. She seemed like a strong female who doesn’t yield when she know she’s right, she also seems really interesting and I want to know more about her.

I enjoyed seeing how Eleanor interacted with a new partner after her long-standing colleague was off on sick leave. I get the feeling that she will warm to Laurence as time goes on but I loved the dynamic between them – she didn’t make things easy for him but at the same time it felt like deep down she was giving him a chance to prove himself.

The murder scenes in this book are sinister and gruesome but are so intriguing that I couldn’t stop reading as I wanted to find out who was killing these people and what their motivation was. It was a fascinating crime story.

I rated this novel 4 out of 5 and am happy to discover that this is the first book in a series and am now very much looking forward to reading the second book.

I received this book through Brook Cottage Blog Tours in exchange for an honest review.

The Safe Word is out now and available from:

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

B & N

About the Author

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Karen Long was born and raised in the English midlands, educated at Bangor University and taught English and Drama for fifteen years. During her teaching years she studied biology and neurology with the Open University and this interest in medicine, forensics and forensic psychology is reflected in her writing. She is an enthusiastic traveller and has spent time in Toronto, which became the backdrop and inspiration for The Safe Word.

She is a keen amateur naturalist with a deep and abiding love for the crow family. She has dedicated time, love and several fingers in an effort to rehabilitate crows, magpies, rooks and ravens.

Karen is happy to correspond with readers and can be contacted through her website KarenLongWriter.com, where she posts regular blogs.

The Safe Word is Karen’s first novel and was an Amazon bestseller, soon to be joined by the second in the Eleanor Raven series, The Vault. Karen is working on the third novel in the series.

AUTHOR LINKS

FACEBOOK

WEBSITE

BLOG

TWITTER

GOODREADS

All author or review enquires please contact Karen Long’s Personal Assistant J.B. Johnston – brookbooks@hotmail.co.uk

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Check out Book 2The Vaulthttp://amzn.to/1WSnlDn

 

Exorcising the Furniture by Virginia King #QuirkyGuestPostTour

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Today I’m delighted to welcome author Virginia King to my blog as part of the Quirky Guest Post Marathon. Virginia has written a brilliant guest post about exorcising the furniture, I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Exorcising the Furniture by Virginia King

A fiction writer can sometimes be pulled into strange territory. A character can say something unexpected or an event can turn up, making the dialogue or the book career off in a new direction. These serendipitous detours can generate bursts of research and create new layers in the story.

The Face in the Mirror

In the first chapter of my psychological mystery The First Lie, the main character Selkie Moon encounters the face of a strange woman in her bathroom mirror. She’s just moved to Hawaii, a place full of paranormal happenings. Seriously spooked, Selkie googles the sighting, after the strange event had sent me there ahead of her. She found accounts of other people’s encounters with the spirit world:

Someone describes levitating off her bed and almost being sucked into a mirror. She was just able to resist, and afterwards a team of ghost-busters rid her apartment of evil spirits hiding in the sculptures and statues.

Research like this is a gift to the mystery writer who enjoys a foray into the psychic and the surreal.  Was the face in the mirror trying to lure Selkie … to the other side? Or was it some kind of vision? But Selkie’s a stranger in town so what’s it got to do with her?

Suspect Ornaments

 

Selkie shares a flat with art student Wanda, and this snippet about sculptures and statues inspired me to fill the place with quirky ornaments. Selkie says …

My eyes scan the walls and dozens of eyes stare back. Wanda’s artworks, fashioned from dead fish. In garish colours with painted lips … A naked shop dummy sits on a chair at the end of Wanda’s bed, her plastic legs akimbo. Doris. For the first few weeks I kept jumping out of my skin every time I caught sight of her …

The room is a tribute to Wanda’s eye for other people’s trash, and my few belongings barely make an impression on the menagerie. A large Buddha head with four faces forever contemplating his split personality. Two fairies shadow-dancing on an art-deco tray. A parrot made from nuts and bolts poised on his own perch.

Soon Selkie is running for her life. After one shocking incident, she and I both remembered the woman with the statues. As Selkie wonders if one of Wanda’s ornaments might be harbouring something, deeper layers appeared in the mystery.

Back to the Bathroom Mirror

Spooky Mirror

After an hour on Google I’m on a feng shui site: Don’t put a mirror opposite the bed in case you get trapped in the in-between state between sleeping and waking.

This little gem gave me further permission to play with the mystical properties of mirrors. Hawaiian folklore has lots of stories: faces appearing in grandma’s mirror, causing doors to slam and cups to rattle; the ritual of turning the mirror to the wall before going to bed …

After Selkie sees the face, Wanda tells her the mirror belonged to her grandmother, Tutu:

“Tutu was a kahuna,” Wanda says. “That’s where I get my Hawaiian blood, from her. She saw things. In her mind. And in the mirror.”

“Things?”

“You know. The future. Predictions. Visions.” She stops. “Now you’ve seen one.”

“I saw a face, that’s all. A face that . . . stared at me.” But the hairs on my neck are standing up.

There’s talk about what to do with the mirror:

“What do you want me to do,” Wanda asks, “call in an exorcist?”

“Hell, no. Just move the bloody thing.” Into a dumpster on the other side of the island.

“You can move it. Turn the mirror to the wall and it loses its power.”

“No way,” I say. “And I’m stuck outside in my bathrobe. How am I going to get to work?”

Jewellery with Attitude

Cowry with Attitude

Google tells me that in Victorian times precious stones were thought to have ‘magical’ properties: for example rubies symbolised passion and seed pearls depicted tears. But Selkie is living in modern Hawaii, where I was once given a necklace made from … a cowry shell.

Hermit crabs live in empty shells, and a shell held to the ear whispers about the sea. A Google search discovers lots of mystical powers attributed to cowry shells around the world. How might a cowry contribute to Selkie’s journey? It’s another opportunity to ‘exorcise the furniture’.


A Free Ghost Story

Laying Ghosts

Get a taste for the Selkie Moon mystery series with Laying Ghosts, a modern 24-page haunted house story inspired by a Russian folktale and tangled up in a murder ballad dating back to the 1700s. It’s a standalone story but also a prequel to the series and explains the chilling reason for Selkie Moon leaving Sydney to start a new life in Hawaii. Download your free copy http://www.selkiemoon.com/#popup


The First Lie by Virginia King

The First Lie ebook 300 KB

Someone is trying to kill you.

When Selkie Moon flees Sydney to start over in Hawaii, it’s to live life on her own terms. But Life has other plans.

Though she tries to dismiss the warning as just another nightmare, it soon becomes apparent that someone, or something, is stalking her. Attacked by frightening visions and mysterious compulsions, she must piece together the fragmented clues before time runs out.

Virginia King effortlessly blends funky creativity and deep spirituality – with a dash of Celtic folklore – to craft a story of one woman’s fight for truth, and her discovery that the lies we tell ourselves are the most dangerous of all.

 

Special Sale Price: The First Lie for .99 GBP!

For a very short time you can buy The First Lie – winner of a BRAG Medallion – for the special discounted price of .99 GBP:

Amazon UK:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/First-Lie-Selkie-Moon-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01FY8AQYM/

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-first-lie/id1114891804

Other retail sites: http://www.selkiemoon.com/buy-the-books/

Links:

Website: http://www.selkiemoon.com/

Blog: http://www.selkiemoon.com/la-bloguette/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/selkiemoonmysteries

Twitter: https://twitter.com/selkiemoonbooks

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8186550.Virginia_King

 

Giveaway of The First Lie

The First Lie ebook 300 KB

 

You could be one of ten lucky winners who will choose either a signed paperback or an audio book of The First Lie plus a $15 Amazon gift code. One grand prize winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift code.

Enter here: http://www.selkiemoon.com/win-a-signed-copy/

 

 


 

About the Author

Virginia King Portrait by Amanda Thorson 200 KB

When a voice wakes you up in the middle of the night and tells you to write a mystery series what’s a writer to do? That’s how Virginia King came to create Selkie Moon, after a massage from a strange woman with gifted hands was followed by this nocturnal message. Virginia sat down at the keyboard until Selkie Moon turned up. All she had to do was jump, the first sentence said. Soon Virginia was hooked, exploring far-flung places full of secrets where Selkie delves into psychological clues tangled up in the local mythology.

Before Selkie Moon invaded her life, Virginia had been a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, the author of over 50 children’s books, an audio-book producer, a workshop presenter and a prize-winning publisher. These days she lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her husband, where she disappears each day into Selkie Moon’s latest mystery. Bliss.

 


 

You can follow the rest of the Quirky Guest Post Blog Tour at the following blogs…

 

Book Beginnings: With Malice by Eileen Cook

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Book beginnings is a meme set up by Rose City Reader. Every Friday post the first line of the book you’re reading along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Then add a link to your post on Rose City Reader’s blog.

My Book Beginning

With Malice by Eileen Cook

With Malice by Eileen Cook

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep

I’m not a morning person. Understatement. My hand couldn’t seem to muster the energy to turn off the alarm. It picked at the covers. The blanket felt wrong.

Scratchy. Thin.

This isn’t my bed.

I recently requested this book on NetGalley after reading a review that had me intrigued by it. I haven’t read the synopsis as I like the idea of reading novels without knowing too much about them in advance. I have to say that the opening lines of this novel have me wanting to read more immediately! This opening has a real sinister feel to it and it straight away feels like something bad has happened to the protagonist. There is also the possibility that the narrator has just crashed for the night somewhere and had momentarily forgotten so there is a lot of scope for what might happen next. I don’t think this book will be on my TBR for very much longer!

*Please note that this quote is taken from an ARC of the novel

What do you think of the opening? Does it make you want to read further?

Review: My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

Anna has had a miserable year. Everything feels wrong with her life. And rather than stay and face the mess, she steals a credit card and books herself a seat on the first flight out of town to Los Angeles, to crash with her sister. But soon after she lands, cold reality soon dawns on her: Hollywood isn’t the escape she needs. She is trapped in a town full of lost souls and wannabes, with no friends, no cash and no return ticket.

When she’s offered a job researching the murderous Manson girls for a dubious film, she reluctantly accepts – she needs the money. But soon enough, among the fake smiles and glitter-fuelled parties, things turn from strange, to dark, to dangerous . . .

This is not going to be the summer Anna had in mind. 

My Favourite Manson Girl is a chilling story about being young, lost and female. This is a story about how girls disappear.

Anna is a fifteen year old girl who is really struggling to deal with her family situation and so she stole $500 from her mum and got on a plane to LA to visit her older sister. She’s definitely at a point in life where she feels like an adult but doesn’t yet have any rights to do what she wants so she acts out. Her home life hasn’t been easy and once I got to know more about that I felt quite sorry for her – she is definitely someone who is lost and who needs someone to pay attention to her otherwise she may well go properly off the rails.

I have to be honest and say that some of the initial sections about Charles Manson felt like an information dump and I wish it had been better incorporated into the novel. Once I was passed this part though all the references to some of the Manson girls were better because they were written from the perspective of how Anna identified with them. The idea of a teenage girl being fascinated by the Manson girls and wondering how they ended up where they did was really interesting to me. I read my mum’s copy of Helter Skelter when I was 15 and it scared me so much, I still shiver when I think of that book, but the murder of Sharon Tate was the thing that particularly got to me. So Anna’s fixation with these girls and the murder of a movie star made some sense to me; I think I was far more horrified and much  less understanding of what they did than Anna but I could understand why she got so drawn into the lives of these women and how they ended up as murderers. It’s apparent that Anna can identify with how a couple to the girls were before they got involved with Manson,  which leads to a compulsion to learn more but also terrifies her to an even greater degree.

Anna doesn’t feel like she really fits in but she so badly wants to – it’s the age old struggle for teenagers. She makes silly choices and isn’t good at seeing the consequences of her actions but she’s not a bad person. Ultimately, she worries for her sister and tries to make sure that she is ok. The side story of Delia having a sort of stalker was interesting and fitted well with what Anna was learning about the Manson family. It seemed quite apparent to me why Delia wasn’t overly concerned about the stalker but I could see why Anna, paranoid from reading books on Charles Manson, was really worried that something sinister was going on.

I really liked Dex in this book, the way he took Anna under his wing and looked out for her a little. It felt like she really needed that from someone so it was good he was there over the summer. Roger was seriously weird, he was hard to get the measure of but I know that he gave me the creeps.

It was sweet that there is a small element of summer romance in this book too but it was very refreshing that it didn’t come to dominate the story. I think the romance, and who it was with, was the thing that showed that Anna grew up over the summer. I felt that she came to understand that nothing is forever and that she needs to make amends with some people on her life.

This was an interesting novel about the many ways in which girls can be lost. The Manson girls were lost in the most extreme way – drawn into a murderous cult that trapped them, whereas Anna was lost in the way that many of us were at that age – she wanted to be seen by the people around her but they were all so focused on their own lives that she felt she had to do something drastic in order to get attention. In reality, the adults in her life had a lot of problems and needed Anna to just be ok but the lack of proper communication and understanding led to her running away.

Los Angeles felt like a character in its own right in this book and I really enjoyed that aspect of the novel. There was a real sense of the heat and the claustrophobic world of celebrity, and wannabe celebrity. The feeling that once you put a foot wrong you’d be cast our forever, which Olivia was teetering on the brink of and desperate to cling on. There were points when it felt quite dream-like – as if the haze of smog and sun and heat  were so oppressive that it was as if the summer wasn’t real. I think Anna had a sense of this as she went through this summer, like it was almost as if she weren’t there either.

This novel wasn’t what I was expecting it to be – I thought it would be a darker novel but having said that it is aimed at a younger audience than me and so for its target market it is a dark read. It’s still a  good read for all ages though. I rated it 4 out of 5 and would recommend it.

My Favourite Manson Girl is due to be published on 7th June in the UK and can be pre-ordered now.

I received a copy of this book from Atom/Little Brown via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review: This Secret We’re Keeping by Rebecca Done

This Secret We're Keeping by Rebecca Done

A pupil and a teacher. Is it ever right to break the rules? Jessica Hart has never forgotten Matthew Landley. After all, he was her first love when she was fifteen years old. But he was also her school maths teacher, and their forbidden affair ended in scandal with his arrest and imprisonment. Now, seventeen years later, Matthew returns to Norfolk, with a new identity and a long-term girlfriend and a young daughter, who know nothing of what happened before. Yet when he runs into Jessica, neither of them can ignore the emotional ties that bind them together. With so many secrets to keep hidden, how long can Jessica and Matthew avoid the dark mistakes of their past imploding in the present? From debut author Rebecca Done, This Secret We’re Keeping is a powerful and provocative novel about the ties which can keep us together – or tear us apart.

This novel is told over two time frames, which gives it an interesting dynamic. We get to see Matthew, or Will as he’s now known, and Jess in the present day but we also get to read Matthew’s viewpoint of what happened when he and Jess has their affair.

This was an interesting novel. It’s a controversial subject anyway, the idea of a grown man dating a 15 year old girl but when he is her teacher it adds to the seriousness of the situation. It initially seems very clear in this novel that Jess does a lot of the running but Matthew doesn’t do much to resist her, and the issue is that even if she did pursue him she is a child in the eyes of the law and it is up to him to tell her no. It’s easy to forget this over the course of the novel and to feel like this is a grand love story, and then when you’re reminded that what he did was a crime it’s feels unfair and shocking.

Matthew did end up going to prison for the relationship he had with Jess and she appears to have moved on with her life. The novel begins in the present day when Jess spots Matthew and runs after him and he ends up accidentally knocking her down with his car whilst his wife and child are with him. This leads to them seemingly irresistibly being drawn back to each other.

I actually felt really uncomfortable about their relationship most of the way through the novel, but weirdly, and I’m not sure if it’s just because we got a more rounded view of the present day, it bothered me more in the present day. There were little things that Matthew said or implied and it would bring me up short, it felt to me that he was obsessed with Jess and always had been, which then leads to me questioning whether he was intentionally grooming her when she was a schoolgirl. The fact that we only see their illegal relationship through his eyes means we never really know the truth about it, because he is only going to tell it in a way that makes him seem as innocent of a crime as possible. Jess’s side of the story, that we learn in retrospect is almost irrelevant because if he had been grooming her, it would make sense that she did believe she was in love with him – she wouldn’t have known any difference at the time and it would have blinkered her judgment as she got older.

I liked the way the novel ended, it fitted the way the book had been up until that point. I’m not going to give any spoilers but I know a lot of readers may well find the ending a little open and dissatisfying but I did feel it worked with the way the novel had been throughout.

I rated it 4 out of 5 and would recommend it. I found it be a novel that really made me think and yet managed to remain an enjoyable read – there is a great balance between treating this issue seriously but without making readers feel bogged down at any point. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Rebecca Done writes next!

I received this book from Michael Joseph/Penguin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This Secret We’re Keeping is out now and available from all good bookshops.

Q&A with Sylvia Ashby, author of The Treachery of Trains

The Treachery of Trains by Sylvia Ashby

Today, I’m delighted to share an interview I did with Sylvia Ashby a little while ago. I recently read The Treachery of Trains, and reviewed it on my blog last week (you can read my review here if you’d like to) so it’s lovely to get to know more about Sylvia.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m a mum, a wife, a thirsty traveller (for wine, mainly) and a very reluctant sailor. I’m bilingual, but I don’t live in the countries I speak the languages of. So I’m learning a couple of more languages. C’est la vie.

How did you first come to be a writer?

When I was fifteen, I wanted to become a journalist, but my father opposed to the idea. He would sit me down in front of the television every evening to watch the news. When a bunch of reporters surrounded a politician or a government official for questioning, he’d point at them and demand to know: “Is that what you want to do for the rest of your life?”

At the time, I had no idea there was a difference between a reporter and a journalist, so I gave up on my dream. I became a graphic designer instead for a number of years; then I owned four shops selling and designing women’s clothing. That went on for a decade and I loved it, but when the economy crashed in 2008 I needed to get out.

I looked at what I wanted to do next and writing was, literary, the first thought that went through my mind. So I became a journalist (not a reporter!) and a writer at the ripe age of thirty-five. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

What is your book about?

The Treachery of Trains is about a girl that’s lost. To begin with, she’s only lost metaphorically – Sky’s mum has died three years ago and her best friend has left London without as much as a backward glance. Sky feels abandoned by everyone dear to her heart. Then she gets lost literally. That’s when the fun really starts.

I can’t say more because I’d spoil the plot, but I could tell you that on her first day in a new city Sky rings the doorbell of a stranger who gets the door dripping wet and in a skimpy towel. Then both of them get locked out of their respective flats.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

People, ideas, observation, imagination.

I was standing at a busy bus stop once (by Selfridge’s on Oxford Street) observing a beautiful Japanese woman struggling to get her child’s pram off the bus. She managed to get to the pavement safely only for the bus to close its doors preventing her husband from getting out. The woman panicked. She had gotten separated from her partner and was terrified. A well-meaning stranger told her that the bus would take the corner of the crossroad and stop again. She could meet her husband there.

The woman vanished in the crowd. As soon as I lost her from my sight I thought: what if they never meet again?

What if twenty years later there is this diminutive, aging Japanese man standing alone at a busy bus stop in London, hoping to find out what happened to his wife and child?

That’s a whole crime novel right there.

What is your writing routine?

I never got the hang of procrastination (the guilt is killing me!) so I have a fairly regular routine. I get children and husband out of the door in the morning, make myself a pot of tea and I start writing. I keep it up (with various success) until 4 pm when the kids get home. Then I cook. We have dinner. We do family stuff. That’s pretty much every weekday.

I don’t go out of the house much, which has knocked back my social skills by decades. I feel like a teenager again, awkward and terribly self-conscious around strangers.

What’s your favourite book that you’ve read this year?

I started the year chuckling and shaking my head at Very British Problems and I can’t seem to stop. They are so keenly observed I see them all around. It’s hilarious.

What are you reading at the moment? 

I’m plotting my next novel, so I’m reading Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them by John Yorke. It’s written about the structure of drama on television, but I’m amazed how helpful it is for plotting books as well. It’s given me heaps of insight into what works in a story and how to master cliff-hangers and punchlines.

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

Question: What talent would you like to possess?

Answer: To be able to slow down time.

If you were to be stranded on a desert island, which three things would you want to have with you and why?

A goat, so I can have milk and cheese. A book about making cheese. My husband, so we can discuss at length the merits of having your own goat and making your own cheese.

How can people connect with you on social media?

I use Twitter excessively (according to my husband; I think I’m totally fine). Talk to me on @bysylvia_a

I also have a writer’s platform where I write book reviews, recipes, and other random stuff. Visit me at seawriting.wordpress.com

About the Author

Sylvia Ashby
Sylvia Ashby‘s first book, Pot Love, is about food and love.
Her second, The Treachery of Trains, is about finding love in unlikely places.
She lives in Belgium with her family.

About the Book

The Treachery of Trains by Sylvia Ashby

Sky has made an abominable mistake at work. Something so awful she doesn’t dare stay in the HR office of XIM Technics for fear of being lynched by her colleagues. 
So she gets on a train… 

What happens when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year?

Sky Candy is about to find out.

Review: The Boy with the Board by Katey Lovell

The Boy with the Board (Meet Cute) by Katey Lovell

When her beloved mum dies suddenly, Helena escapes to sunny California. Determined to live for the moment, she puts aside her fears and signs up for the surfing lessons she’s always dreamed of – with the added distraction of hunky instructor Ashton.

As regular readers of my blog will all know, I have adored all of the Meet Cute series of stories to date and I have to say it’s no exception with this new one! In fact, this might even be my new favourite out of all of them!

Helena has recently lost her mum and is feeling lost. Her mum had always told her that she must live her life well so when she gets her share of the inherence from the sale of her mum’s house Helena decides to have an adventure.

I could really identify with Helena, I remember the way I felt when my mum died – I suddenly didn’t want the life I’d had before. I had a heightened awareness of just how short life could be and I wanted to find what made me happy. I didn’t travel the world but I did start saying yes to more things and it led to me meeting the man who is now my husband and moving right across the country to start a new life with him. Helena seemed to react in a similar way, she wanted to see what life had to offer and to discover who she really was.

I love that she decided to learn to surf and found the confidence to wear a wetsuit even though it exposed her body that she was self-conscious about. It seemed that once Helena was in the water and having fun, all her cares seemed to float away for a while. I loved the way she and Aston met while surfing and I really felt like he could make such a difference to the break that Helena was having. I so hope they got a happy ever after!

This story was so summery and so full of hopes and dreams that it’s impossible not to fall in love with it.

I rated it  5 out of 5 and highly recommend it to everyone, but especially to anyone who is in real need of a mood boost because this story cannot fail to make you smile and feel better for a little while.

The Boy with the Board is out now and available from Amazon.

I received a review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Beginnings: The Trap by Melanie Raabe

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Book beginnings is a meme set up by Rose City Reader. Every Friday post the first line of the book you’re reading along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Then add a link to your post on Rose City Reader’s blog.

My Book Beginning

The Trap by Melanie Raabe

The Trap by Melanie Raabe

I am not of this world.

At least, that’s what people say. As if there were only on world.

I am standing in the big, empty dining room I never eat in, looking out the large window. It’s on the ground floor. You look onto the meadow behind the house, and the edge of the woods. Sometimes you see deer or foxes.

It is autumn, and as I stand here gazing out, I have the feeling I’m looking in a mirror.

I am really intrigued by the opening paragraph of this book and already I want to just keep reading to find out more. There isn’t a lot of information given in the opener – we don’t know if this character is male or female or why they feel so out of place – but at the same time I feel like we’re being given a real insight into their state of mind. It seems to be someone who feels very outside of their own life. They describe looking out but then tell us what *you* see and not what *I* see, which is very interesting.

I treated myself to this book yesterday and I don’t think it’ll be on my TBR for long!

 


 

What do you think of this opening paragraph? What do you think is happening? Does it make you want to read on?

 

The Girl Who Lied Blog Tour | Guest Post by Sue Fortin

The Girl Who Lied Blog Tour Copy

Today I’m thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for The Girl Who Lied by Sue Fortin. The novel is published today so I’d like to take the opportunity to wish Sue a very happy publication day and every success with this book!

Sue has written a lovely guest post for my blog all about making something happen in your novel and I’m happy to share that with you all now.

 


 

Make Something Happen in Your Novel

Probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received concerning my writing was to ‘make something happen’.

I was first given this advice by Margaret James, author and tutor at the London School of Journalism where I was completing an on-line Writing Romance course. The process went that I would submit the opening to my romance novel on a monthly chapter by chapter basis. Margaret would read the assignment/chapter and return it each month with her thoughts and observations. I think all in all, we covered about 30k words over the length of the course.

It was at this point when Margaret was summarizing what I had done so far, she said that it was all very nice and the tension was building but not much had actually happened. Margaret is very polite but I’m sure that really translated to, it’s a bit boring. And she was right. When I looked at it objectively, nothing much had happened. So, my challenge was to make something happen.

Well, it took four years and the writing of two full length novels in between before I could actually work out what to do. I did go back to the manuscript several times, but I was at a bit of a brick wall as to what to do with it. Maybe, leaving it and gaining more experience was the key to solving this ‘make something happen’ issue. Last year, when I had another look at those 30k words, something suddenly clicked. I had a literary epiphany and knew what I needed to do.

The end result was quite a different story to the one I started with, yet the essence remained. There’s romance in The Girl Who Lied but it also looks at the family unit, secrets and how we might not always do the right thing, but what we do is driven by love.

About the Book

The Girl Who Lied by Sue Fortin

The truth hurts…

Erin and Roisin were once friends until a fatal accident ruined both their lives. Now, Roisin has discovered a secret—one Erin has kept for over a decade—and she’s determined to make Erin pay for her lies.

Erin wants nothing to do with Roisin. She has a new life in London and no intention of going back home. Yet when her father is mysteriously and critically injured, Erin has no choice but to return and face Roisin—and her past. Erin knows if the secret of what she gave up got out, the consequences could be devastating.

When Roisin suddenly disappears, suspicion soon lands on Erin. She would do anything to protect her family, but just how far is she willing to go when time is running out…?

A must read for fans of CL Taylor and BA Paris.

About the Author

Sue Fortin

Published by Harper Collins’ imprint Harper Impulse, Sue Fortin writes romance, mystery and suspense.

Her originally self-published debut novel was awarded the INDIE Brag Medallion and later when published by HarperImpulse was short-listed for the Joan Hessayon Award (2014). Sue was also short-listed for the Festival of Romance, New Talent Award (2013). Her second novel, Closing In, reached number one in the Romantic Suspense Kobo chart at the end of 2014. Sue blogs regularly with the on-line writing group The Romaniacs (www.theromaniacs.co.uk).

Lover of cake, Dragonflies and France. Hater of calories, maths and snakes. Sue was born in Hertfordshire but had a nomadic childhood, moving often with her family, before eventually settling in West Sussex.

Sue is married with four children, all of whom patiently give her time to write but, when not behind the keyboard, she likes to spend her time with them, enjoying both the coast and the South Downs, between which they are nestled.

Sue is represented by Kate Nash Literary Agency.

You can catch up with Sue at

Facebook Sue Fortin Author

Twitter @suefortin1

Website & Blog www.suefortin.com

HarperImpulse Author Page

Amazon Author Page

Blog Tour | Review: The Treachery of Trains by Sylvia Ashby

 

trachery of trains tour

Today I’m on the blog tour for Sylvia Ashby’s brilliant novel, The Treachery of Trains and am sharing my review.

Sky has made an abominable mistake at work. Something so awful she doesn’t dare stay in the HR office of XIM Technics for fear of being lynched by her colleagues.

So she gets on a train…

What happens when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year?

Sky Candy is about to find out.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a little while so when I was offered a place on the blog tour I jumped at the chance!

Sky is an ordinary young woman trying to get on as best as she can but life hasn’t been easy. Sky was very close to her mum so when she died Sky’s life began to unravel. Instead of making rational decisions to deal with her mum’s affairs she tries to keep everything as it was. To compound the loss, her best friend who is also her flatmate and work colleague decides to leave all of a sudden and Sky doesn’t really know where she’s gone or why. Sky is left feeling completely alone and lost.

I really liked Sky, I have to admit that I did find some of the things she did a bit over the top but it was all in keeping with her character. She is quick to react to situations but doesn’t always react in a rational way. She seems to be someone who always wants to do her best though and that made her easy for me to identify with. I also felt sorry for her that she was in such a sad place after losing her mum and I was rooting for her to get a happy ending.

The mystery of what happened to Vanessa became quite central to the plot and that kept me turning the pages as I wanted to know what had made her leave so suddenly. I was never sure of her character from the way she was described in the early part of the novel, it felt like Sky was seeing her through rose-tinted glasses because she was lonely after her mum died. I couldn’t wait to find out whether my judgment was correct and the novel then became quite the page turner.

There was some funny and light-hearted moments in the novel. I loved when Sky and Diederik were searching for Mouse in the cellar, it made me laugh. The potential romance element with Diederik was gorgeous too, I so wanted things to work out for them.

The title of this book added to my intrigue about where things were going to end up for Sky as I couldn’t see what this book had to do with trains being treacherous (or how trains can even be treacherous), but when I got to the part of the book with the photo of Sky’s mum it all began to make sense. I’d never head of the treachery of an image before but I loved the way it was used and described in this novel. It all then began to make some sense of the title too – the way Sky got the wrong train, a train that wasn’t what it appeared to be, and ended up in a place that she hadn’t mean to go to, that also wasn’t what it seemed to be and yet it ultimately led her to end up where she was destined to be.

I really enjoyed this novel, it was light-hearted but with a real warmth and depth to it – a mix of women’s fiction and mystery, which worked very well together and kept me hooked. I would definitely recommend it. It’s something a bit different and is very easy to get completely engrossed in. I rated it 5 out of 5.

The Treachery of Trains is out now and available to buy from Amazon.

About the Author

Sylvia Ashby

 

Sylvia Ashby‘s first book, Pot Love, is about food and love.
Her second, The Treachery of Trains, is about finding love in unlikely places.
She lives in Belgium with her family.

You can connect with Sylvia via twitter at: @bysylvia_a

 


 

The Treachery of Trains by Sylvia Ashby

3 Quotes Challenge & a Bookish Memory | Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This is my second day of the 3 Quotes Challenge, I was nominated for this challenge by A House of Books blog. As with yesterday’s post, I’m also using this as a chance to continue my Bookish Memories series that I started when I first began blogging.

Today my quote comes from another favourite book of mine – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

 

Fahrenheit 451 © 2016 Paul Carlyle

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

Many years ago I was a member of Bookcrossing and as part of a UK email group people used to lend each other books. One day I saw a book being talked about called Fahrenheit 451 and initially it didn’t interest me as it’s classed as sci-fi and it’s not one of my most favourite genres. A fellow bookcrosser persuaded me to give it a go when she explained it’s about a dystopian society where books are banned! I’m so glad I gave it a go as after one reading I knew it was going to become a real favourite of mine.

The Government of the day has banned books, and fire fighters exist to burn any books that are found – hence the title as paper burns at 451 degrees fahrenheit. Montag is a firefighter who one day cannot resist the lure of books and he ends up in serious trouble. He goes on the run and ends up in a place where books are being saved, perhaps not in their current form but still saved nonetheless.

Even though this book was originally published in 1953, it relates so well to the modern world. The thought that big brother is always watching and monitoring us through TVs or computers, the fear that ebooks will kill print books when really it’s the words in the books that matter not the medium in which they’re read. I would encourage all book lovers to grab a copy of this book and read it as soon as possible!

The quote I picked stands out to me in this book because it’s so beautiful and true. It’s a quote I often think about because it’s both a comfort when you’ve lost loved ones but also a reminder that if you do anything with a passion then you are making a difference. There are many other wonderful quotes that I could have picked from the book but this one is my favourite.

I bought a battered second-hand copy of Fahrenheit 451 soon after I sent the borrowed copy back to its owner. I’ve read it so many times that it was falling to pieces and being held together with tape! For my birthday a few years ago my husband bought me this beautiful clothbound hardback copy which I love! I think I would go as far as to say it’s my favourite edition of all of my books.

I have to give credit to my husband for taking the fab photo of my copy of the books used in this post, I love the way ha got the effect of flame around the book – it’s so fitting to that the novel is about. Please note that no flames were actually used and the book is safe! 🙂

Please feel free to join in with the 3 Quotes Challenge. The challenge is just to post one quote every day for three days – the rest of this post is just what I chose to add.

3 Quotes Challenge & a Bookish Memory | After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell

To take part in the 3 Quotes Challenge all you have to do is thank the person who nominated you and link back to their post. Post a quote on your blog every day for three days. Nominate three other bloggers each day.

I was nominated to join in with this a really long time ago by the lovely ahouseofbooks and I just never got around to doing it. I keep seeing the tag around and really want to join in so thought I’d do it now.


I want to link my 3 Quotes Challenge to a series I started called Bookish Memories that I started when I first began my blog but have neglected for ages.

My first quote is from After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell

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“What are you supposed to do with all the love you have for somebody if that person is no longer there? What happens to all that leftover love? Do you suppress it? Do you ignore it? Are you supposed to give it to someone else?” 

I lost my best friend in 2000 and I was heartbroken. I had gone through bereavement before but it was nothing like how this felt. We were only a few months apart in age and the idea of someone my own age and so full of life dying at the age of 20 was beyond my comprehension. I couldn’t focus on anything, I couldn’t read and I was in a really bad place.

One day I was flicking through a magazine my mum had given me and I saw a tiny review for a book called After You’d Gone. I’d never heard of the novel or the author but in the review was the above quote and it just made me want this book like I’d never wanted to get hold of a book before! I just felt that this book would help me, the quote just got to me so much because those were the questions I needed answers to.

I immediately rang my local book shop to ask if they had it in stock but they told me it wasn’t released for another few days. So, I pre-ordered a copy and on release day I waited outside the shop for it to open. The very second I got the book I started reading – I literally walked to the bus stop while reading, I carried on reading on the bus journey home (even though reading on moving vehicles makes me feel very sick). I finished the book in three hours and in that time I cried and cried but by the end I felt soothed. Even though the loss in After You’d Gone is a different loss to the one I was going through, the emotions and reactions were so similar and I connected with this book so strongly.

I started reading After You’d Gone again that night but this time around I read it slowly, I savoured it and I had a pack of post-it notes next to me so I could mark all my favourite paragraphs (there were a lot!). It’s honestly not overstating to say that After You’d Gone saved me.

I’ve treasured my copy of this book for all these years since and it’s one of very few books that I re-read every couple of years. It’s my go-to book when I need to be consoled and comforted.

I’ve pre-ordered every single Maggie O’Farrell book since then, I never need to read the synopsis because I trust her – I know that her writing will never let me down and it never, ever has. Just last week I read her latest book, and it’s a masterpiece (my review is here if you’d like to read it. I love all of her books – particularly The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox and her new one, This Must Be The Place – Maggie O’Farrell started off her career as a novellist with an incredible book and then somehow has got better with every book that follows but I will always say that After You’d Gone is my favourite book by her because of my strong emotional attachment to it.

About the Book

The groundbreaking debut novel from Maggie O’Farrell, After You’d Goneis a stunning, best-selling story of wrenching love and grief.

A distraught young woman boards a train at King’s Cross to return to her family in Scotland. Six hours later, she catches sight of something so terrible in a mirror at Waverley Station that she gets on the next train back to London.

After You’d Gone follows Alice’s mental journey through her own past, after a traffic accident has left her in a coma. A love story that is also a story of absence, and of how our choices can reverberate through the generations, it slowly draws us closer to a dark secret at a family’s heart.

 


Do you have a strong emotional attachment to a book? Please tell me your story in the comments, I’d love to hear.


 

I nominate any who’d like to take part in this challenge. Please note that the challenge it just to share a favourite quote every day for three days, everything else in this post was just what I chose to add.

 

 

Review: Tapestry by Elle Turner

Tapestry

In hope, in pain,
we lose, we gain,
but always and forever
the human heart braves life
in light and in shade.

A collection of twelve short stories exploring the complexities of life and love.

I’ve had Tapestry on my Kindle for a while and have been very much looking forward to reading it.

This collection of short stories is excellent. I’m not someone who reads a lot of short stories, as I’ve always preferred a longer read but I’m starting to really enjoy and appreciate collections like this one that are a bit more interlinked.

I enjoyed all the stories in the collection but if I had to pick a favourite it would be the first story, Never-Ending. It just really got to me and it’s stayed in my head after I’ve finished reading.

The thing I loved most about this collection was the way each story ended. They all end with a sentence or two that really sums up the story and gives you something to think about. Elle Turner really makes you think about what words mean and what other words that are similar could have been used but the one she picked is subtly implying something else. The idea that something isn’t ‘forever, it’s just never-ending’ really got to me. The subtly of the words and the massive difference between wanting to be somewhere and feeling trapped and suffocated there. It made the stories quite poetic and added that something extra to them.

The title of the collection really gives a sense of cohesion – these stories are individual but they interweave. Some of the stories are happy, some are sad and some are somewhere in between but they all come together. Some characters re-appear in other stories, others only appear in the the one story but there is a sense of how life would go on for each person.

I very much enjoyed this collection and highly recommend it, even if, like me, you think short stories aren’t really for you, give this book a go because it might surprise you. I rated this book 4.5 out of 5.

Tapestry is out now and available from Amazon.

I featured Elle Turner on my blog a while ago, she wrote a brilliant guest post all about the books that have influenced her and you can read that here if you’d like to.

Review: The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne

 

The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity—that she, in fact, is Lydia—their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past—what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

I have avoided buying The Ice Twins for so long because I was convinced it was going to be too scary for me (I openly admit that I’m a complete and utter wimp!) but I’ve continued to be intrigued by it so when I saw it in a recent Kindle book sale I decided to buy it.

I started reading it straight away just to see what it was like and I literally didn’t put it down again until I’d finished reading! This book is so fast-paced and has so many twists and turns that there really isn’t a good place to stop, and to be honest nor did I really want a stopping place as I was desperate to know the truth about which twin had died!

I found this book intriguing from the start; the idea of giving birth to two completely identical twins and there being no way at all to tell them apart is such a great basis for this novel. Sarah was encouraged by a nurse to have one of the twins subtly tattooed with a small dot just so they would always know which one was which but Sarah and Angus, understandably, didn’t want to mark either of their perfect daughters in any way. So, they decided to always dress them in at least one item of clothing of a particular colour – so one twin always had a yellow item and the other always had a blue item. The sense of foreboding from this early point on in the book was great though because it is quite obvious that as soon as the twins were old enough they would love playing tricks on people and swapping clothes etc, which is what they had begun to do during the summer in the year that Lydia died.

This book does require the reader to suspend disbelief a little because when you have two young children who have enjoyed swapping identities and one of them dies, it seems very odd to me that you would take the word of the surviving twin about who had died. Children are unable to fully comprehend death or the idea of forever so cannot be trusted in a situation like this because to them it could all be a game. I was happy to suspend disbelief though as I wanted to see where the novel went from here.

The family decide to move to a very remote island that Angus has recently inherited. It’s a very bleak, atmospheric place that needs a lot of work doing to it, and works perfectly for this novel. The sense of isolation and despair mirrors perfectly the grief and conflicted emotions that Angus and Sarah, and Kirstie were feeling at this point in time.

It’s hard to review this book without giving any spoilers but what I loved was the way all the characters played their part in the confusion about which twin died so as the layers of the story were gradually pulled back I was never sure who to believe. It seemed plausible that these parents had actually buried the wrong child but it seem equally likely that Kirstie was just continuing on with her childhood game and didn’t understand the terror she was causing in her parents.

I loved the psychological elements of this book, the idea of identity and how it isn’t necessarily a fixed thing. It was great how the family were being haunted by Lydia, or Kirstie, whichever one of them was  actually dead, but it was written in such a way that this could have been a ghost story, or it could have been sheer hysteria that they got swept up in, or it could have been a mix of the two. At times it was a little like a modern day Turn of the Screw – the way that someone could be being haunted, or they could be mad or, and this is perhaps the most scary idea, they could be experiencing both. Just because someone is paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not right about the strange, seemingly unexplained things that are happening around them.

It was brilliant how, as the novel began building towards the climax, I began to question absolutely everything, I was so wrapped up in it that I felt I was right there with the characters and unsure what was real and what was not. The interchanging personality of the surviving twin, be it Kirstie or Lydia, just heightened it. The ending of the novel was brilliant, it’s one of those endings that will stay with me for a really long time.

The Ice Twins is a very creepy, unnerving novel and once it has you in its clasps it won’t let go until long after you’ve finished reading! I rated this novel 4.5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

The Ice Twins is available to buy from all good book shops.

Review: The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

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As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that the Titanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. Eight rockets were fired during the dark hours of the midnight watch, and eight rockets were ignored. The next morning, the Titanic was at the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. When they learned of the extent of the tragedy, Lord and Stone did everything they could to hide their role in the disaster, but pursued by newspapermen, lawyers, and political leaders in America and England, their terrible secret was eventually revealed. The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction.

Told not only from the perspective of the SS Californian crew, but also through the eyes of a family of third-class passengers who perished in the disaster, the narrative is drawn together by Steadman, a tenacious Boston journalist who does not rest until the truth is found. The Midnight Watch is a powerful and dramatic debut novel–the result of many years of research in Liverpool, London, New York, and Boston, and informed by the author’s own experiences as a ship’s officer and a lawyer.

I’ve been interested by stories of the Titanic ever since I was a young child. I think my fascination grew from an afternoon spent with my Great-Grandad, who was a young boy when the Titanic sank and he remembered it happening. Not only that but he had kept a couple of newspaper cuttings from the time and he showed them to me. My interest in the Titanic has never gone away – I’ve read a lot of books about it, both fiction and non-fiction, and have seen the movies and quite a few documentaries over the years.

I first read about David Dyer’s new novel on Carrie’s Book Reviews blog a few weeks ago and immediately pre-ordered it. Dyer has taken a look at the Titanic story from a different angle; the focus of this novel is on the actions of the nearest ship to Titanic when she hit the iceberg, the Californian. I’d heard about this before reading the novel but Dyer’s meticulous research mixed with his educated interpretations of what might have taken place that nice, add an extra dimension for me. It put a much more human face on the men who were working the midnight watch that fateful night. I was surprised to find I had some sympathy for the Second Officer, as he panicked and was scared to disturb the Captain but then when he eventually did, he was sent away.

A fictional journalist, Steadman, who has made a name for himself chasing bodies at disaster sites, misses out on the first bodies being brought back from the sight of the Titanic but he realises there is a much bigger story to be uncovered. He then refuses to let go in his quest to discover what happened on the Californian. He shows such tenacity and drive to get to the truth.

The journalist also gets to hear about some of the third class passengers who perished on the Titanic and is determined to not let these victims be forgotten. The novel covers the events on the Californian, the resulting investigation and inquest, and finally we get to read the story Steadman wrote. It is focused on a large family, who really did perish on the Titanic and he writes the story of what he thought may have happened to them that night, based on stories their neighbours had told him about them all. It’s an incredibly moving story, and one that made me shed a few tears on finishing the book.

There is so much detail in this book but it never becomes too much; Dyer has struck a perfect balance of fact and fiction. It felt like a really fresh look at the Titanic narrative  too, the way it was done from another angle that hasn’t been covered in any of the fiction I’ve read to date. The way Dyer fictionalised real people and a real event but blended it so seamlessly meant it really gave the book such an authentic voice, which made it all the more powerful and all the more devastating. The idea that a human being could ignore the distress signals of a ship at sea leaves me speechless, it’s such a shocking dereliction of duty. Dyer doesn’t make a quick judgement in his novel though, it is left for the reader to interpret Lord’s behaviour as Steadman tries to put the strands of the story together from the accounts he’s heard. I was astounded at the arrogance of Captain Lord and there is no excusing what he did; the bit that I found hardest to grasp was how blasé he appeared to be about what happened that night. The Midnight Watch deftly explores the fallibility of witness testimony and memory, particularly memories of a traumatic night – a night that led to the death of 1500 people. It certainly felt that some people may genuinely have mis-remembered but others were complicit in keeping to the story they knew they should tell, even though it was at the expense of the truth.

It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel, it’s such an accomplished book.  It had me utterly enthralled from the first page until long after I read the final page; I know it’ll be a novel that stays with me for a long time to come. I rated it 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

The Midnight Watch is out now and available from all good bookshops.

Blog Tour | Review: The Wacky Man by Lyn G. Farrell

The Wacky Man by Lynn G. Farrell

My new shrink asks me, ‘What things do you remember about being very young?’
It’s like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone…
Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised.

As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?

I’ve seen The Wacky Man reviewed on a couple of my favourite blogs and I immediately added it to my wishlist. I was therefore thrilled when the publisher got in touch to offer me the chance to review this book for the blog tour.

The Wacky Man is a very powerful and moving novel. It’s an unflinching look at how childhood abuse, and abuse within a marriage, causes such damage – not just physical damage but the emotional impact. It shows how even once the bruises have healed and the perpetrator of the violence is no longer in the home, that the devastation remains for such a long time. It causes breakdowns between the victims because although each person lived through it, they all got broken in a different way and it can become impossible to put things back together.

I found some aspects of this book very difficult to read, some parts because there are small echoes of experiences in my own life and some parts because it was just so harrowing to read. At no point did I want to stop reading though as the novel just pulls you right in and doesn’t let you go. I wanted to know if Amanda was going to be ok, and was desperately hoping she would be. I have such a vivid image of her in my mind, she feels like a real person to me as she was so well written and this makes the novel feel all the more devastating.

Lyn G. Farrell’s writing style is incredible – to write about such harrowing things and yet make it so compelling, and at times, really quite beautiful is a rare talent.  I can absolutely say that this is a book that will stay with me for a very long time to come, and I feel sure it will be in my top books of this year.

I rated this book 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this book from Legend Press in exchange for an honest review.

The Wacky Man is out now and available Amazon.

About the Author

lyn-farrell

Lyn G. Farrell is the winner of the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary and The Wacky Man is her debut novel.
Lyn grew up in Lancashire where she would have gone to school if life had been different. She spent most of her teenage years reading anything she could get her hands on.
She studied Psychology at the University of Leeds and now works in the School of Education at Leeds Beckett University.

Follow Lyn Farrell on Twitter @FarrellWrites

 

The Lad Lit Blog Tour | Guest post by Steven Scaffardi

 

Blog Tour Update v5

Today is my turn on Steven Scaffardi’s Lad Lit blog tour and I have a fab guest post by Steven to share with you. I was really happy when Steven suggested writing about how Mike Gayle’s My Legendary Girlfriend changed his life, as I remember reading that book soon after it was published and I loved it. It was something different that I hadn’t read before, so it’s very interesting to read how this book inspired Steven.

 

How My Legendary Girlfriend changed my life (…the book by Mike Gayle, not an actual girlfriend!)

Travelling up and down the country in the #LadLitBlogTour bus has given me plenty of time to research other great articles on lad lit, hidden in and around that big world wide web called the internet.

Earlier this week, I found this great piece on lad lit author Matt Dunn with Novelicious.com titled The Book That Changed My Life. Matt explains that it was Nick Hornby’s masterpiece High Fidelity that inspired him to write his first novel Best Man, which led to securing him a publishing deal.

It got me thinking – what was the book that inspired me to write lad lit? A lot of people have asked me on this blog tour why I write lad lit, and often my response has been because I was inspired by my own experiences and those stories told to me by friends. But the more I think about it, the more I start to realise how important My Legendary Girlfriend by Mike Gayle was to me writing The Drought.

In the summer of 2005 I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own flat in south London with a good friend of mine. After a game of paper, scissors, rock, to determine who got the bigger room, I found myself cramped into the box room wondering where the hell I was going to put all of my stuff.

I wandered into my flatmates bedroom to see if he had any space he could afford to lend me (he didn’t of course, I’d have to make do with shoving stuff under my bed), but I was drawn to his bookcase. I was looking for a new book to read, and after flicking through a couple of books that didn’t really take my interest, I picked up My Legendary Girlfriend.

It was one of four or five Mike Gayle books he had on his shelf. After reading the blurb, my flatmate told me what a great book it was, but being a man who had mainly read crime novels and other macho books like that, I turned my nose up at the thought of reading a book about relationships. “That was for girls,” I told him.

Still, it had secretly piqued my interest, and later on that night I found myself sneaking into my flatmates room to steal the copy off his bookshelf. Granted it was a bit awkward when he woke up at 2am and saw me in my boxer shorts hovering around his bed, but after time we got over the incident. Actually, we just don’t bring it up anymore…

But..! The next morning I found myself engrossed in Mike’s words as he articulated the male mind on the pages of a book like I’d never seen (or read) before. I was hooked – Will Kelly was a real bloke, who viewed the world, women, dating and love like a guy did. Not like one of those perfect specimens who appeared in the chick lit novels my then-girlfriend would read; the type of guy who made it virtually impossible for all other men to stand up against in the real world.

Instead Mike captured all of the quirks and insecurities that the everyday man goes through in matters of the heart. And you know what – it was funny too. Hilarious even! The best comedy is always the type of comedy you can relate to, and before you knew it I was sneaking into a flatmates room on a regular basis to pick up another Mike Gayle book. Looking back, it probably would have been better if I had just asked him if I could borrow the books. The least I could do is wear something other than just my boxer shorts every time I paid him an impromptu late night visit.

And years later, I’m still a fan of Mike Gayle, and like Matt Dunn admits to doing with High Fidelity, I often find myself referring back to one of Mike’s books when I get stuck or I am looking for inspiration. It has served me well, and one of the biggest compliments I got after publishing The Drought was TV presenter Ortis Deley saying: “A pleasantly darker alternative to the offerings of Mike Gayle. All hail the arrival of Steven Scaffardi.”

It was high praise indeed, and if I can be half as good a writer as Mike Gayle, then I’ll be a very happy man!


Characters

Steven Scaffardi is the author of the Sex, Love and Dating Disaster series. His first novel, The Drought, is the laugh-out-loud tale of one man’s quest to overcome the throes of a sexual drought. After the stormy break-up with his girlfriend of three years, Dan Hilles is faced with the daunting task of throwing himself back into the life of a single man. With the help of his three best pals, Dan is desperate and determined to get his leg-over with hilarious consequences!

The Drought and his new novel The Flood – a comedy about one man trying to juggle four women at the same time – are both available for just 99p on the Kindle at Amazon.

Follow all of the fun on his blog tour by following him on Twitter @SteveScaffardi or by using the hashtag #LadLitBlogTour. More information about Steven and his books can be found on his blog.

Blog Tour Update v3

 

Review: This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell

 

The dazzling new novel from Sunday Times bestselling, Costa Novel Award-winning author Maggie O’Farrell, THIS MUST BE THE PLACE crosses time zones and continents to reveal an extraordinary portrait of a marriage.

Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life.

A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex-film star given to shooting at anyone who ventures up their driveway.

He is also about to find out something about a woman he lost touch with twenty years ago, and this discovery will send him off-course, far away from wife and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE crosses continents and time zones, giving voice to a diverse and complex cast of characters. At its heart, it is an extraordinary portrait of a marriage, the forces that hold it together and the pressures that drive it apart. 

It’s no secret that I’m a massive Maggie O’Farrell fan so I was beside myself with excitement a few weeks ago when a proof copy arrived in the post!

This Must Be The Place is a novel set across different time frames and continents featuring many different characters but it’s predominantly about the marriage of Claudette and Daniel – two people who have both been trying to run away from their respective pasts but the problem with running away is that things usually catch up with you eventually. Claudette settles in to a new life to a degree but is never able to be herself when outside of her home, and Daniel is just a damaged soul who wants to do the right thing but finds himself compelled to fix previous wrongs, leading to cracks in his current life. It is also a novel about how seemingly tiny decisions can alter the course of someone’s life in such a dramatic way; how a miscommunication or a seemingly small misunderstanding can set people on a course that there is no way back from. It’s about how history can almost repeat itself through the generations but if small things are done differently the outcome can be different.

Daniel has made a lot of mistakes in his life. He has an ex-wife who has prevented him seeing his two children grow up. He’s remarried and has two children with his new wife but one day he discovers something from his past and it sets him off on a tangent that can potentially destroy his marriage and ruin his life. He seems doomed to end up on his own and unhappy. Daniel is a good man at heart, but he’s also a man who made one mistake many years ago and this seems destined to be his undoing in his present. It’s quite apparent that he really should just leave well alone but, it proved impossible for him to resist the lure of what could have been.

Maggie O’Farrell has used speech, words and sounds to great effect in this novel. There are repeated references throughout the novel to the use of language and the way words sound. At times it’s done in a playful way, like when Rosalind ‘trumpety trumped’ off on her adventure just like Nelly the elephant, and at other times it’s done to draw attention to people’s inability to say what they mean and to show the heartache it can then cause throughout the years. It was a great irony in this novel that Daniel, who has failed so often to say the right thing at the right time; or has said the right thing but too late; or he’s just said completely the wrong thing, is a linguistic professor. Daniel spends his days working with language and thinking about words, and yet he seems incapable of communicating openly with the people closest to him. He cuts all contact with his best friend, he takes too long to write a letter to a girlfriend and the consequences are devastating, he tries to communicate with his first two children but his ex- wife seemingly has prevented it.

It is mentioned a couple of times that Daniel’s mother had taught him about the importance of a genuine apology to resolve any situation. Daniel uses this to almost manipulate his best friend in order to get information that he feels entitled to about the past. It was uncomfortable to see Daniel being so callous, but he was on the beginning of his path to self-destruction at this point and can’t make his way back from it. Daniel does grow as a person as the novel progresses. He learns from his children that he has to grow up, his eldest son Niall, in particular, becomes a parent figure to him and gets him through the darkest moments and Daniel does actually learn from this. There is an apology near the end of the novel that is completely spontaneous where Daniel says what he feels from his heart in the moment, with no aim to gain anything or to manipulate, it is just him stating what he sees as a fact and it is a beautiful thing to read.

There are numerous voices that are heard in this novel, and each new perspective adds depth to what has gone before, even when initially you are wondering how this can possibly be connected. The back and forth of the timeframe adds new layers to Daniel’s story and we get to understand him more and more. There are moments that foretell what is yet to come for the characters and it leaves you with such a sense of dread wondering when the rug will be pulled from under the character concerned. The little cliffhangers that occur at the end of some chapters are soon returned to and you get the answer you were wondering about but nothing is ever straightforward. It is how real life is, and Maggie O’Farrell is the master of capturing this – no one does it better than her.

Maggie O’Farrell’s writing is sublime; she writes in such a way that all of her characters feel like real people and there were many times when the conversation between characters was so realistic that I felt like I was listening in behind a door. This Must Be The Place is an incredible novel. There are multiple characters and multiple timelines and it’s all pulled together in a way that is just sheer perfection. There is so much heart in this book: it has humour and wit, heartache and healing, and it’s all just so real and believable. There is such beauty in the way Maggie O’Farrell writes – the way she uses language, the way she constructs each sentence. It’s stunningly beautiful.

I always feel bereft when I get to the end of one of Maggie O’Farrell’s novels and I always feel like I want to immediately go back to the beginning and read it all again and I was no different with this book. It’s an absolute joy to read, I read it in just two sittings as once I started it I just couldn’t bear to put it down. There are not enough superlatives to describe this book; it is quite simply a masterpiece!

I rate this novel five out of five, but I would score it much higher if it was actually possible to do so. I know right now that This Must Be The Place will be in my top 10 books of this year, it was quite simply outstanding.

This Must Be The Place is due to be published on 17 May and is available for preorder now.

I received a copy of this novel from Tinder Press via BookBridgr in exchange for an honest review.

IMG_4245

 

Review: Shtum by Jem Lester

shtum by jem lester

Ben Jewell has hit breaking point.

His ten-year-old son, Jonah, has never spoken. So when Ben and Jonah are forced to move in with Ben’s elderly father, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.

As Ben battles single fatherhood, a string of well-meaning social workers and his own demons, he learns some difficult home truths.

Jonah, blissful in his ignorance, becomes the prism through which all the complicated strands of personal identity, family history and misunderstanding are finally untangled.

Funny and heart-breaking in equal measure, Shtum is a story about families, forgiveness and finding a light in the darkest days.

 

I was pleased to receive a review copy of Shtum a few months ago as there had been a lot of hype around the book and I was really keen to see what it was all about. I have to be honest and admit that for the first few chapters of this book I really wasn’t sure whether I wanted to keep reading, it just wasn’t holding my attention at all. I’m glad that I persevered though because once I reached the halfway point I did find this book a lot more engrossing.

I don’t really feel qualified to talk about the representation of autism in this book because it’s not something that I have any direct experience of, however I do have friends who have children that are autistic but are affected to a much lesser degree than Jonah, and I also have a family member who is profoundly mentally and physically disabled, albeit not from autism, so I do have a little understanding. Jonah was a great character to read about, it’s not often that autism, or any profound disability, is portrayed in novels so I commend the author for writing this book.

Throughout the novel I wanted to feel sorry for Ben and Emma at the situation they were in with their son but they weren’t particularly likeable characters, which made it harder to care. For most of the book Ben was so self-pitying that it was very hard to even tolerate him, and I didn’t feel that I ever got to know enough about Emma to form much of an opinion. I can imagine that having a profoundly disabled child would be a strain on most, if not all, relationships so the breakdown between Emma and Ben was understandable. It was very strange how Emma went about the break up but then perhaps it was done in this way to highlight just how impossible it was for her to deal with Ben anymore, given how wrapped up he was in his own thoughts and feelings.
The biggest issue that I had with this book is the way certain issues were written about; it wasn’t so much the obsession with bodily functions but the way they were written about. So many of these particular paragraphs should have elicited sympathy for the characters going through it, and the person who has to deal with it, but the way it was written made me really quite angry. It felt like these characters, who did not have control over their own bodies anymore, were being treated with absolute contempt by the person who should have loved and cared for them the most. I know how difficult it is to be a carer and I know how difficult it is to have to be responsible for another person’s bodily functions and yet it did not bring out any empathy in me, and I feel like it really should have done. So much of it just left me cold. Perhaps this is what the author intended but it made me want to stop reading rather than making me want to understand Ben’s point of view.

On a much more positive note, I adored the relationship between Jonah and his grandfather, Georg. There were some wonderful and tender moments between them that did melt my heart, it was quite clear that they had a strong bond and that they really understood each other. It was this relationship that kept me reading the book.

This novel is very focused on what it is like to have an autistic child but actually at its heart it is much more about people’s inability to communicate. Emma couldn’t even directly tell her husband that she was leaving him; Georg and Ben had never had a conversation about what it was like for Georg growing up, and Ben only found out snippets when he was listening in to conversations that Georg was having with Jonah. There was also Ben’s problems with alcohol, which was masking the issues he had facing up to Jonah’s problems. So it became apparent to me that Jonah’s inability to speak was actually representative of the entire family’s inability to communicate with each other, they were all stifled and closed off and actually although Jonah couldn’t speak he was probably the most expressive of all the characters in this book; he may not always have expressed himself in a way that society would deem appropriate but he did always make himself heard when he needed or wanted something, and that is more than can be said for the other main characters in this book, and for me, this was the most interesting part of this story. The idea that the boy who could not speak actually expressed himself more than those that could speak is incredibly powerful and is a lesson to us all about how we need to learn to communicate better and, more importantly, that we must learn to pay attention to people and to not always focus on the words people use but to really see what they’re communicating to us.

I struggled with rating this book because it wasn’t really a book that I could say I  enjoyed as such but it did become a book that I found interesting and it did give me a lot to think about when I’d finished it. I think overall I am going to rate this book 3.5 out of 5.

I received this book from the Orion via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Shtum is out now and available from all good bookshops.

Review: Wonder Cruise by Ursula Bloom

Wonder Cruise by Ursula Bloom

A witty, heartwarming read with great romantic and comic characters. This warm, feel-good tale will make you smile, and you’ll be rooting for Ann to find lasting love and happiness. A moving portrait of an unforgettable 1930’s woman; Ann Clements will stay with you long after the last page. 

Ann Clements is thirty-five and single, and believes nothing exciting will ever happen to her. Then, she wins a large sum of money in a sweepstake and suddenly can dare to dream of a more adventurous life. She buys a ticket for a Mediterranean cruise, against the wishes of her stern brother, the Rev. Cuthbert, who has other ideas about how she should spend her windfall. Ann steps out of the shadows of her mundane life into the heat of the Mediterranean sun. Travelling to Gibraltar, Marseilles, Naples, Malta and Venice, Ann’s eyes are opened to people and experiences far removed from her sheltered existence in the offices at Henrietta Street, and Mrs. Puddock’s lodging house. As Ann blossoms, discovering love and passion for the very first time, the biggest question is, can there be any going back? 

I jumped at the chance to read this book when I was offered it for review, I’ll be honest that as soon as I saw the gorgeous cover I felt sure I would enjoy this novel, and I was absolutely right!

Wonder Cruise was written and set in the early 1930s and is a wonderful insight into the way life was for unmarried women in that era. Ann Clements is a 35 year old spinster who has a dull job as a typist, and is very much influenced by her brother, Cuthbert, who is a vicar. He keeps Ann on a tight rein and she never goes against what he says. Then one day her co-worker tells her that she has won some money in a sweepstake and Ann is left feeling very discombobulated. She agonises over what Cuthbert will say but then in a moment of spontaneity she books a mediterranean cruise – her boss encourages her to go and she does it on a whim. Despite Cuthbert’s thoughts on the matter Ann defies him and goes anyway!

This is a novel about one woman’s awakening to what is out there in the wider world. Ann has led a very sheltered, very dull life and suddenly her eyes are opened to new countries, new people and she begins to see what could be if she just lets go. Ann soon goes from feeling incredibly uncomfortable on the cruise and wondering if she’d made a huge mistake to gradually changing aspects of her look and beginning to fit in. Initially, she changes her hair because she is far too hot with her long hair pinned up on her head, but then she invests in a new wardrobe when it becomes obvious that her new wool tweed suit is not going to be practical in the mediterranean heat. Ann doesn’t just choose practical clothes though, she gets swept up in the shopping experience and for the first time in her life she buys pretty clothes.

Ann begins to attract the attention of some of the men on the cruise and gets swept up in the romance – she dances with one man, and she goes ashore with another man. It’s delightful to see how Ann changes as the novel goes on. She begins to dread the end of the cruise, almost wishing she’d never gone on it because now she has to go back to her drab life knowing what’s out there in the world. I found myself feeling quite sad at the thought of her going back to her miserable spinsterhood life and living under her brother’s control for the rest of her life. I couldn’t see how it would be any different but I was so hoping that it could be. I’m not going to give any spoilers but I loved the climax to this novel, for a while it went in a slightly different direction than I was expecting for a novel written in the 30s which was wonderful.

This novel is of its time in the sense that some of the opinions are a little outdated, and I’ll be very honest and admit that in the opening chapter I did wonder if this was going to be a very quaint and staid book and perhaps not my kind of thing, but from the moment Ann wins the money in the sweepstake I just got completely swept up in her adventure. Ann’s story does have a relevance to modern life in the sense that we should all follow our dreams, that it’s important to get out of our comfort zones and see what is out there in the wider world. There was so much more wit and humour than I was expecting throughout, and the book does have surprises in store. I enjoyed every page and didn’t want the book to end.

I rated Wonder Cruise 4.5 out of 5, it’s a delightfully charming novel, which I adored. I highly recommended it I can’t wait to read more of Ursula Bloom’s novels.

I received this book from Corazon Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Wonder Cruise is out now and available on Amazon.

I recently wrote a blog post to showcase this novel so if you’d like to know more about it, and the author Ursula Bloom please read my post here.

Q&A with Cara Sue Achterberg (author of Girls’ Weekend)

Today I’m delighted to welcome Cara Sue Achterberg to my blog. I’d like to take the time to wish Cara Sue a very happy publication day as her novel Girls’ Weekend is published today!

Please tell my readers a little bit about yourself.

I’m a mom with two teens at home itching to get out and one in college who is always happy to come home. I’m also a foster mom for rescue dogs. Last year we helped save over 25 dogs! My husband says I’m using dogs to fill my almost empty nest. When I’m not writing, I love to grow things – veggies, fruit trees, chickens, and even a few flowers. Running, blogging, cooking, and trying not to fall off my horse, True, are a few of my other hobbies.

How did you first come to be a writer?

I morphed into being a full-time writer quietly, while no one was looking. I didn’t study writing in school because I was pretty certain I could never be a “writer” even though I filled journal after journal, wrote angsty poetry, and worked on the school paper. I finally embraced writing when I was forced to stay home to take care of three kids and run our little farm. But even then, I freelanced, and didn’t tell anybody about the novels I was writing during naptime.

What is your book about?

Girls’ Weekend is about three moms who go away for a girls’ weekend and decide they can’t return to their lives that don’t seem to fit any more.

Where do you get your inspiration from? 

Ha. My life. I wrote this book while my kids were napping because I wanted to run away from my underfunded, overcrowded life, but could only do that on paper.

What is your writing routine?

I spend my mornings doing research, blogging, promoting, and writing articles – I think of this as my nonfiction time. The afternoons are for fiction. I usually have 3 solid hours for this. I never thought I’d be able to write in the afternoons, but as it was my only uninterrupted time for so many years while kids’ napped, it’s become my preferred writing time, so I save it for fiction.

What has your journey to publication been like?

Long and winding. Because I didn’t study writing in college, I had to learn how to do everything (storytelling, editing, querying, promoting) the hard way. I now teach creative writing and I do think having had to figure it all out myself has made me a better teacher. I got my agent the hard way – hundreds of rejection letters later. But I got my fiction deal through a writing contest. I didn’t win, but one of the judges was a publisher who signed me to a three book deal.

What’s your favourite book that you’ve read this year?

At the Water’s Edge by Sarah Gruen. I just loved this book. The characters were so well drawn and it was such a different story. Plus Sarah Gruen is crazy talented. It also didn’t hurt that I read it on a beach while on holiday on Grand Cayman Island.

What are you reading at the moment?

The Known World by Edward P. Jones

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

Question: What’s it like to be a New York Times’ Bestseller?

Answer: I’ll get back to you on that.

If you were to be stranded on a desert island, which three things would you want to have with you and why?

Okay, assuming I can’t take any people or animals, I’d want a case of red wine, a journal and pen. I know I wouldn’t survive long, so I’d like to spend that time writing my magnum opus and letters to loved ones. While I was doing that, I’d drink the wine and fill the empty bottles with messages to send out to sea.

How can people connect with you on social media?

Ooooooh – I love to connect on twitter (@CaraAchterberg) or Facebook (Facebook.com/carasueachterberg). I have Linked In, Pinterest, and even Tumblr accounts, but I struggle to keep up with those, so I’m a little slower to react through those sites. And I have to mention my “dog blog” (AnotherGoodDog.wordpress.com) because I meet a lot of great people through that blog.


About the Book

Girls' Weekend cover

Dani, Meg, and Charlotte have bonded over babies, barbeques, and backyards, but when they escape for a girls weekend away, they can’t bring themselves to return to lives that don’t seem to fit anymore.

Harried Dani can’t explain why she feels so discontented until she meets a young gallery owner who inspires her to rediscover the art that once made her happy.

Dependable Meg faces up to a grief that threatens to swallow her whole and confronts a marriage built on expectations.

Flamboyant Charlotte, frustrated with her stagnated life and marriage, pursues a playboy Irish singer and beachside business opportunities.

All three of these women thought they would be different. None of them thought they’d be facing down forty and still wondering when life starts. What they do when they realize where they’re headed is both inspiring and wildly entertaining.

GIRLS’ WEEKEND is a fun, yet poignant romp through the universal search for who we are, why we love, and what makes us happy.

 


 

About the Author

Cara Sue Achterberg

Cara Sue Achterberg is a writer and blogger who lives in New Freedom, PA with her family and an embarrassing number of animals. Her first novel, I’m Not Her, was a Nook and ibooks bestseller. Cara’s nonfiction book, Live Intentionally, is a guide to the organic life filled with ideas, recipes, and inspiration for living a more intentional life. Cara is a prolific blogger, occasional cowgirl, and busy mom whose essays and articles have been published in numerous anthologies, magazines, and websites. Links to her blogs, news about upcoming publications, and pictures of her foster dogs can be found at CaraWrites.com.

Q&A with Deborah Rogers (author of The Devil’s Wire)

Today I’m delighted to welcome Deborah Rogers, author of The Devil’s Wire, to my blog.

Please tell my readers a little bit about yourself.

Hi Hayley, Thanks for having me on RatherTooFondofBooks. I’m a New Zealand based writer of contemporary crime fiction. Over the years, I’ve had a wide variety of jobs including working as a motel cleaner, door-to-door pizza salesperson, carer for the elderly, waitress, and a senior government investigator. But no matter the day job, writing has always been my one constant. I have a strange fascination for the darker side of life, and this tends to make its way into my work in various guises. My big news is that I have just been made redundant, so while I may not know where my next meal is coming from, I’m pretty excited about all the writing time I’m going to get!

How did you first come to be a writer?

I can thank my parents for my love of stories. They read to me when I was small, and the house was always full of books. I especially remember trips to the local bookshop with my Dad where he’d browse the shelves for the latest John le Carre or Wilbur Smith. Best of all, he’d let me pick out one for myself.

I think I began writing because I want to be part of that storytelling world. I believed it would give me the same wonderful sensation I got from reading. To begin with I don’t think writing did that for me – it was more like hard work and my stories never quite measured up. However, over the last few years writing has become more and more like the reading experience. I love this and hope it continues.

What is your book about?

The Devil’s Wire is a psychological suspense thriller about how Jennifer Blake’s life is turned upside down when a mysterious new neighbour, Lenise Jameson, moves in next door. Everything Jennifer ever thought she knew about her husband, Hank, is destroyed when Lenise tells Jennifer she has witnessed a disturbing incident involving Hank. Once the secret is out, the two women form a strange friendship that leads to obsession, betrayal and an untimely death.

Where do you get your inspiration from? 

I have a very long list of ideas that just keeps growing. I’m certain I will never be short on a plot idea for a book. I get my inspiration from all around – it could be from a snippet of an overheard phone conversation, a story in the newspaper, or something I observe when I’m out and about. For example, the other day when I was driving to work I saw a school girl sitting at a bus stop, crying. She was holding a skateboard and had a bloody knee. An old man walking his dog stopped and said something to her (I suspect he was asking if she was okay), and I immediately think, Oh, that would make a good story – what if the old man seems like a good guy and offers to take her home to call her Mum but he ends up holding her captive instead? Yes, that is how my mind works.

What is your writing routine?

I am a stickler for structure and routine.  During weekdays I get up at 5am, have a coffee in bed until 5.30am, then get up and go to my writing room and write until 7.00am. After that it’s the dreaded day job. I also write for half a day on Sunday and when I’m on leave from my job. Unlike some writers, I don’t focus on word count, I focus on time spent writing – that critical 1.5 hours each day  when my thinking is clearest and the house is quiet. Over time, it builds up, and before I know it I’ve got a book!

What has your journey to publication been like?

My journey to publication has been a process of constantly up-skilling, writing, reading and developing a critical eye for my own work. I started out writing short stories, then moved on to novel length work. Over the years, I’ve done a couple of creating writing courses and even dabbled in scriptwriting. Also important is that I made the most of opportunities like getting published in small, local journals and taking part in competitions. This helped build my author profile, as well as give me confidence. The Devil’s Wire is actually my third psychological suspense novel, but the first to be published. The other two unpublished manuscripts are in the bottom drawer (literally). I have the best intentions of one day dusting them off to take another look to see what needs fixing. But there are just so many new and interesting ideas to work on!

What’s your favourite book of all-time?

We Need to Talk about Kevin is the best book I’ve ever read. I didn’t know much about it when I picked it up and was totally engrossed from the first page. I ended taking two days off work to read it. I think what captured my imagination was how this woman, the mother, kept on trying to love her son but just couldn’t because he was so completely unlikable (perhaps even evil). I was total sucked in and lost in the world of the story. I just love it when that happens!

What are you reading at the moment?

I am currently reading Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin. It’s a suspense novel set in Texas. It’s about a lone survivor of a serial killer, an incident that took place when the lead character was a teenager. Now an adult, she’s faced with the prospect of the killer coming back to finish her off. It’s a slow-burn but intriguing and well-written. So far so good.

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

Great question! I have never been asked – what’s the best piece of advice you ever received? My answer would be – We all have an end date so don’t take life too seriously.

If you were to be stranded on a desert island, which three things would you want to have with you and why?

If I was stranded on a desert island, the three things I would take are:

  • My dog – because he loves adventure, and he would give me something to cuddle should I get lonely.
  • A box of notebooks and a box of pens – sorry, pretty obvious. But, hey, I like to write.

How can people connect with you on social media?

Contact me: www.deborahrogersauthor.com

Follow me: www.goodreads.com/DeborahRogers

Connect with me www.facebook.com/deborahrogersauthor

If people sign up to the Deborah Rogers Reader’s Club from my website I will send them my next book as a wee thank you (I’m hoping for a July release date).

About the Author:

D.Rogers author photo

 

Deborah Rogers is a fan of all good suspense, mystery and true crime books. She has a Graduate Diploma in Scriptwriting, and graduated cum laude from the Hagley Writers’ Institute. When she’s not writing American psychological thrillers, she likes to take her chocolate Labrador for walks on the beach and make decadent desserts.

About the Book:

E-cover THE DEVIL'S WIRE

Jennifer’s new neighbour, Lenise Jameson, is a liar. Lenise claims to have witnessed a disturbing incident involving Jennifer’s husband, Hank, but as far as Jennifer is concerned, the forty-something single mother is a vindictive backstabber out to make trouble.

But Jennifer soon discovers this is no sick joke. Hank has a dark side she knew nothing about.

As Jennifer’s life spirals out of control she has no one to turn to, apart from Lenise, who appears only too willing to help. But who is Lenise? What does she want from Jennifer? And just how far is she willing to go to get it?

A tale about secrets and obsession, and what can happen when you forget to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Buy Links

Amazon

 

Review: Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan

out of the darkness

 

 

Out of the Darkness is genuinely one of the best books I’ve read in years and will absolutely be in my top 10 books of this year!

It is an incredibly moving, and very beautiful novel about three women who are each dealing with a loss; it’s a really honest look at the ways people grieve and how it affects everyone around them, but it’s also about the way people heal after loss and the novel is ultimately a very uplifting read that brings real solace with it.

Jessica is heartbroken over the death of her mum, they were best friends and life just doesn’t feel worth anything to her anymore. She sleepwalks through the things she has to do but nothing is enjoyable to her, she just can’t see a way through life without her mum. Then one evening she meets Finn and the two of them just really connect. Finn is the first person to make Jess feel like there might be something to be happy about again and she hopes he will be in touch again after they go their separate ways the following morning.

Hannah attends the same bereavement group as Jess but she is completely closed down about her loss. She is grief-stricken and it’s affecting every aspect of her life, she is consumed with guilt but just can’t bring herself to share what has happened.

Alex has just moved to Brighton, and is now living in the house next to where the bereavement group is held. Soon after moving in strange things begin happening in her home and she starts to think the place is haunted.

One day, after the bereavement group, Jess faints outside and Alex and Hannah rush to help her and make sure she is okay. From this point the three women become friends and offer a much-needed support to each other. Their lives begin to become intwined and the psychic medium they later go and see together plays a huge part in the bond they form.

This novel is an exploration of how people deal with grief. Jess and Hannah both grieve differently for their losses loved ones but ultimately they relate to each other because they have both experienced loss. The three women have such different expectations when they begin to explore mediums and experts in the paranormal. Hannah wants to know her loved one is okay, Alex wants to know if her house is haunted and what she can do to be rid of the ghosts, and Jessica doesn’t really believe in any of it. Yet they all ultimately find comfort from what they learn. I found it fascinating how the idea of ghosts and the spirits that come through for psychic mediums were explored as one and the same thing in this novel. I think most of us think of ghosts as being a spooky or malevolent entity, and yet when we think of the possibly of an afterlife for lost loved ones, it is seen as a comforting concept. Katy Hogan has brought the two together as one thing, considering the idea that perhaps ghosts can be lost loved ones trying to contact or help those left behind. It gave me a lot to ponder over.

This is also a novel that really celebrates how wonderful and strong female friendship can be. Jess and Hannah meet at a bereavement group at the lowest points of their lives, and they meet Alex right after one of these meetings. They begin to let each other in to their respective lives and they form such a close bond very quickly, and the bond is never broken. To see women support each other was really lovely. There was never a moment of jealousy or cattiness between these women, it’s quite a rare thing in a novel. It was refreshing to see how their relationship to each other is bonded by how they support and look out for each other.

I deliberately took my time with this book and I read it slowly over quite a few days as I wanted to savour it and take it all in, I’m so glad I did as it gave me chance to really absorb what I was reading each day. This novel has so much depth to it and works on so many levels, it is such brilliant writing. The friendship between Jess, Alex and Hannah is a wonderful story in itself and gives the novel a grounding in reality that then makes the exploration of mediums and the afterlife much more intense and real. I think the biggest theme in this book though is the exploration of fate and destiny. From the very start of this book it felt like these women were destined to meet, like they were being brought together for a reason. I had no idea why but it just felt that way. Even Jess meeting Finn and him making her feel like she might be able to be happy again just seemed like either fate or like something was pushing them towards each other. This again gave me so much to think about because fate can be considered as just a series of coincidences that when we look back and see how things came together it seems like it was engineered that way, or it can be seen as our lost loved ones finding ways to point us in the direction we need to go in to find happiness again.

This novel can also be read on a very metaphorical and at times allegorical way, I loved the part of the book where Alex goes out on a boat called Guiding Light. It seemed like she was almost out of her own body and seeing the world from a different angle, and at the same time like she was receiving a message about the direction of her own life. I don’t want to post any spoilers for this novel so I’m being careful in what I write but I highly recommend taking your time with this novel so you can fully appreciate how much meaning and depth there is in it.

Out of the Darkness broke my heart in the first few chapters; I could feel Jess’s devastation at the loss of her mum. I wanted to reach through the pages of the book and tell her that in time she would feel better, that she would be able to deal with it once the rawness of her initial grief began to pass. I understood her feelings about visiting The Beacon to see a paranormal expert for the first time with Alex. I’m very like Jessica in that I’ve never really believed in an afterlife but then I still have moments where I can smell my mum’s perfume all of a sudden and it’s like she’s right there in the room, and just for that moment I stop and wonder. Perhaps it’s just a memory popping up but you can’t help but feel comforted when it happens, just like how Jess does.

Katy Hogan explores grief in such a beautiful and gentle way. She has written a book that will more than likely make you cry but it will ultimately leave you feeling healed. I wish I could put into words exactly how this book made me feel when I got to the end but I can’t seem to express it, it’s just the most amazing and brilliant novel and it made me feel better. I read this as an ebook but now so badly wish I had a paper copy so I could just hold it for a little while and then put it down where I can see it. I think I need a physical reminder in my home of all that this book stands for. It doesn’t shy away from death, it doesn’t take an easy road. At times the story turns in a way you don’t expect and it leaves you quite breathless. But ultimately this book makes death feel a lot less scary, and it makes the weight of grief feel that little bit easier to bear.

Out of the Darkness is absolutely going to be my book of the year. It’s both broken my heart and healed it; it was moving and beautiful and perfect. I’d rate it a hundred out of ten if I could, but as I can’t it’s a huge ten out of ten and it’s getting a very rare place on my favourites book shelf.

Out of the Darkness: A Tale of Love, Loss and Life After Death is out now and available from Amazon.

For more information about Katy and Out of the Darkness, check out her website here: http://www.outofthedarknessnovel.com


**This post is a re-blog of a review I originally posted on 4th November 2015**

Review: Twisted River by Siobhan MacDonald

Twisted River by Siobhan MacDonald

“She would never have fit as neatly into the trunk of his own car.” Limerick, Ireland: the O’Brien family’s driveway. American Oscar Harvey opens the trunk of his hosts’ car and finds the body of a woman, beaten and bloody. But let’s start at the beginning. 

Kate and Mannix O’Brien live by Curragower Falls in Limerick, in a lovely house they can barely afford. Their son Fergus is bullied at school, and their daughter Izzy blames herself, wishing she could protect him. Kate decides that her family needs a vacation, and is convinced her luck’s about to change when she spots a gorgeous Manhattan apartment on a home-exchange website.

Hazel and Oscar Harvey and their two children live on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Though they seem successful and happy, Hazel has mysterious bruises, and Oscar is hiding things about his dental practice. They, too, need a change of pace. Hazel has always wanted her children to see her native Limerick, and the house swap offers a perfect chance to soothe two troubled marriages. But this will be anything but a perfect vacation. And the body in the trunk is just the beginning.

I hadn’t heard of this book before I was offered it to review but as soon as I saw the cover and read the synopsis I knew I had to read this as soon as possible!

I found Twisted River to be one of those books that once you start it, it’s nearly impossible to put down. I was hooked from the opening pages right to the very end. This is one twisty book – just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the rug gets pulled from under you all over again. I found this a refreshing read as I read a lot of psychological thrillers but this one was different to any that I’ve read recently.

The novel is narrated by the four main characters: Kate and Mannix O’Brien, and Oscar and Hazel Harvey, and each time the point of view changes the story gets moved on a bit further and another layer is added on top of the section read previously. I found that I was reading one character’s viewpoint thinking I had things all worked out and then I’d read the next chapter with another character’s viewpoint and I was left unsure what to think all over again. I loved this aspect of the book, it worked brilliantly well.

I was convinced fairly early on in the book that I knew who had killed the woman Oscar found in the trunk of his car at the very start of the novel, but once the killer was revealed I was completely stunned. I was sure that there was going to be another twist and this had me on the edge of my seat for the rest of the book wondering if I was right and whether justice would be done. I’m not saying anymore about this as I don’t want to give spoilers.

There are little mysteries linked to most of the characters in this novel and some become part of the bigger mystery and some don’t. This meant that I never felt that I completely knew which characters were trustworthy, and I was never quite sure whether I even liked any of these people. I could never get a grip of who the good guys and who the bad guys were but it all added to the unsettling nature of the novel and worked very well for me.

This is a gripping, nerve-jangling thriller of a novel and I loved it. I rated this novel 4.5 out of 5 and recommend it.

Twisted River is out now and available from Amazon.

I recently interviewed Siobhan MacDonald as part of the blog tour for Twisted River, you can read that Q&A here.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Guest post by Sandra Nikolai (author of Fatal Whispers)

So you know whodunit. Now prove it.

When it comes to solving murder mysteries, dedicated fans of the genre have developed an innate sleuthing ability that seems to improve with every additional book they read. True to their passion, they join groups of like-minded readers where they exchange comments about the books they’ve enjoyed—or not. They contribute to the community by posting book reviews, ratings and recommendations on Goodreads and online retailer sites.

In other words, the perception of whodunit readers presents a formidable challenge to mystery writers like me.

As any author of the genre will tell you, writing a mystery novel is not an easy task. It demands the creation of a complex plotline and a logical unfolding of events so that all things come together at the end. It entails choosing a cast of characters, including potential suspects, and ensuring that the real perpetrator isn’t too obvious.

A writer is well aware that readers expect nothing less than a genuine challenge when it comes to solving murder mysteries, but what happens if a reader guesses who the real culprit is before the end of the story? Should a writer feel less competent? Not really. The true test in trying to solve a mystery is not only in guessing who did it but also in proving how and why the crime was committed.

Let’s look at a real-life murder investigation as an example. Crime investigators might interview several suspects and have a gut feeling about one of them, but unless they can prove guilt, their assumptions are useless. Without viable witnesses or valid clues to help bring the perpetrators to justice, these offenders will continue to roam free. The pile of unsolved cases in law enforcement offices supports the fact that the how and why aspects are fundamental criteria in solving murders.

Part of a mystery writer’s task is to present the clues in a way that makes each potential suspect in the story look guilty. Attention to specifics regarding motive, means and opportunity is essential. A writer needs to be fair and open in planting the information, offering it in doses here and there, and in a manner that can’t be construed as hiding the facts from readers. A writer can use red herrings, but these false clues should be details pertinent to the story—details that can be open to misinterpretation and that readers will need to figure out. Connecting the dots to get to the truth is an important part of the reader’s journey and one that a mystery writer needs to test run beforehand to ensure it works.

Yes, readers are a clever bunch. To stay a step ahead, a writer needs to devise a plot that will outwit fans of the genre and leave them wanting more. If a writer has done a good job of it, readers will be scratching their heads, wondering how and why the crime could have been carried out, until the story’s resolution is presented in the last few pages.

And that is a reader’s true challenge in solving a murder mystery.


About the Author:

SandraNikolai_blog2

SANDRA NIKOLAI graduated from McGill University in Montreal and worked in sales, finance and high tech before devoting her days to writing. She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and has published a string of short stories, garnering awards along the way.

False Impressions, Fatal Whispers and Icy Silence are the first three novels in a mystery series featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott. When not plotting mysteries, Sandra shares her thoughts and experiences about the writing world on her blog and has been a frequent guest writer on other websites. She lives with her husband near Ottawa and is currently at work on her next mystery novel in the series.

Social Media Links:

Website and blog: www.sandranikolai.com (Sign up for Sandra’s exclusive newsletter!)

Email: Sandra@sandranikolai.com

Twitter: @SandraNikolai

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6282913.Sandra_Nikolai


About the Book:

Fatal Whispers July 15

A millionaire’s beautiful young wife.

A homeless woman.

A parish priest.

Three baffling deaths within days. No sign of foul play. No police leads. Even medical authorities can’t explain the cause of death. An unprecedented occurrence in Portland, Maine.

Ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott look for answers when their trip to this alluring New England town coincides with the mysterious deaths. As they probe deeper, they discover ominous secrets buried decades ago and ruthless killers who won’t let anyone get in the way of revenge.

Buy Links:

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Nikolai/e/B0087RR4XY/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B0087RR4XY/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Sandra+Nikolai&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Sandra+Nikolai&sort=relevancerank

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/search?query=Sandra%20Nikolai&fcsearchfield=Author

Apple iBooks UK: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/false-impressions/id957443950?mt=11

 

The winners of my Rose’s Vintage giveaway are…

Rose's Vintage (online)-2

Thank you to all of you who entered my giveaway for one of three e-copies of Rose’s Vintage by Kayte Nunn. I have just picked the three winner on Rafflecopter and the lucky winners are:

Karl Borowy

Rhonda Lomazow

Suzanne Smith

Thank you again to Black Inc Books for offering the prizes and congratulations to all three winners!

Review: The Second Love of My Life by Victoria Walters

the second love of my life

In the small Cornish town of Talting, everyone is known for something.

Up to the age of twenty-four, artist Rose Walker was known for lots of things: her infectious positivity; her unique artistic talent; her second-to-none cookery skills; and, of course, her devotion to childhood sweetheart and husband Lucas.

But, two years ago, all of that changed in one, unthinkable moment. Now, Rose is known for being a young woman who became a widow aged just twenty-four.

Rose knows that life must – should – go on. But the prospect of trying to carve out a future for herself is one she can still barely entertain. Until a newcomer, Robert Green, arrives in Talting for the summer…

Can Rose allow herself the chance to love again?

I knew from the second I started reading this book that I was going to love it, and I was proved to be absolutely right. This is such a beautiful novel about love, grief and second chances.

I loved Rose from the start of this novel, she just felt like a real person to me. I could feel her pain, her  sadness and her desire to honour Lucas, but also her will to live life. I think a lot of people will identify quite strongly with her. She has been through a lot in her life and even if you haven’t been through the same things, the way she feels and approaches things is so believable and true to life.

I loved how this book is in large part also about the families that we create for ourselves, how you may have lost your family, or you may not have a good relationship with them but so often other people come into your life who become your family. Rose’s relationship with Lucas’s parents, particularly his mother, seemed so spot-on, and I was willing them to be able to remain family to each other as Rose’s life began to change. Rose’s relationship with Emma’s mother was also lovely, we don’t see much of them together in the book but the closeness is referred to quite a few times.

I really liked how the town of Talting enveloped the characters in this book, and that in a way it became a character in its own right. I could picture the place so vividly that I began to feel like I’d actually been there. The warmth of the people and place was just wonderful.

I cried so many times reading this book. All the sections where Rose talks about losing her mum just broke my heart because I’ve been there too and Victoria Walters just got those feelings exactly right. I’ve always felt that since losing my mum all the difficult times in my life have been more difficult because I didn’t have my mum to turn to and that’s how it was for Rose, it’s sadly how it is for everyone who has had a good relationship with their parent.

I really enjoyed reading Emma and John’s story too. I’d previously read the short story prequel to this novel called The Summer I Met You and fell in love with this couple then so I was really pleased to find that they feature quite a lot through The Second Love of My Life. It was lovely to see how close Emma and Rose were, and how they remained such good friends throughout everything they each go through.

It’s beautiful how Lucas’ presence is felt throughout this whole novel even though he’d actually died before the point where the book began. We really get to understand how Rose and Lucas’ relationship worked and just how happy they had been together. Rose’s grief for him felt so real and so believable, and I so often wanted to give her a hug, but the book is never maudlin. We feel Rose’s pain but we fall in love with her character so much that we want her to move on we want her to find love and true happiness again. Victoria Walters has spanned this novel over a few years and it allows us to see the progression of Rose’s healing process in such a way that you cant help but feel joy when she starts to feel like she can move on.

There is sadness and grief in this novel but there are also so many moments that made me smile and some moments that made me properly laugh out loud. I think I went through the whole range of emotions while reading this novel, it is just completely and utterly wonderful. I think this novel will become my new comfort read, the book that I turn to when I need a pick me up!

I rated this novel 5 out of 5 and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a gorgeous novel that will make you laugh and cry, but it will ultimately leave you feeling warm and fuzzy and very, very happy! I can’t wait to see what Victoria Walters writes next.

The Second Love of My Life is out now and available from all good bookshops.

I received this book from Net Galley via Headline in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Between You and Me by Lisa Hall

Between You and Me by Lisa Hall

They say every marriage has its secrets.

But no one sees what happens behind closed doors.

And sometimes those doors should never be opened…

Sal and Charlie are married. They love each other. But they aren’t happy. Sal cannot leave, no matter what Charlie does – no matter how much it hurts.

I was really pleased when my request for Between You and Me was approved on Net Galley as this was a book I was very keen to read. I found it to be an engrossing novel – it was one of those books that I kept thinking about when I wasn’t reading it and I wanted to get back to it to find out what would happen next.

I absolutely applaud the author for tackling domestic violence in the way that she did – there are no holds barred in this novel, leading to some of the scenes being quite difficult to read because of the intensity of the abuse and the way it takes place. The descriptions are so realistic at times, but it’s obviously been well researched and is very sensitively handled. I think issues like this being handled in this way in fiction is important as it really helps to give an understanding of how people end up in abusive relationships and why they stay in them.

I did have a few niggles with the first person narration in this novel as there are occasions when a character tells us that they don’t see another character doing something, and this was jarring because if you don’t see someone doing something, how do you know they were doing it? You need an omniscient narrator for that. It jolted me out of the story when I wanted to be kept engrossed. It bothered me enough that I felt a need to mention it but it wasn’t so bad that it spoiled the book.

I didn’t see this novel as having a twist as I happened to read the book in the ‘twisted’ way from the start. I have to say that I still enjoyed the book despite this because the issues in it are handled very well. Even though the twist wasn’t there for me, it’s still a novel that gave me real pause for thought. I think for readers who don’t see the twist until it happens, it will really cause you to catch your breath! On the whole though, I commend the author for writing the novel in the way that she has, it must have been tough at times and for the most part it’s done well.

Between You and Me was a really good read; for the most part it kept me hooked, and the tension gradually builds throughout the novel and it left me almost holding my breath with nerves at times! It’s a gripping, page-turner of a novel and I look forward to seeing what Lisa Hall writes next!

Between You and Me is out now and available from Amazon.

I received a copy of this book from Carina via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour: Q&A with Siobhan MacDonald (author of Twisted River)

 

Today I’m delighted to be on the blog tour for Siobhan MacDonald’s Twisted River. I’m pleased to be able to share my interview with Siobhan.

Please tell my readers a little bit about yourself.

I’m the eldest in my family and was raised in a busy home. Growing up in a large family, there was a premium attached to being able to tell a good story. My mother taught speech and drama and was a proficient story-teller. She spent many childhood nights in air-raid shelters in the north of England during the Second World-War and she could make a mundane trip for groceries sound like a scene from ‘The Bourne Identity’.

As a child, I recall dark winter’s nights driving home through the Knockmealdown mountains from visits to my grandmother. Instead of playing “I Spy,” we kids would sit in the back and would each have to tell a story. My Irish grandmother was a good storyteller too, often telling me tales of the ghosts she had seen.

When I graduated from university I left an Ireland in the throes of recession to write for the technology industry in Scotland. I worked for a variety of companies in Scotland and also France before settling back in Ireland where I now live with my husband and two sons.

In between injuries I enjoy social tennis, am a lapsed Bridge player, and like to have a handle on current affairs.

 

How did you first come to be a writer?

The process of becoming a writer happened over time.  I can’t recall when telling stories and committing stories to paper wasn’t part of my life. In my teenage years I wrote poetry and scripted one-act plays that I and a friend performed in competitions. When I graduated I looked for a job that would allow me to write. I used to take annual leave to write short stories. This provided an antidote to the constraints imposed by technical and business writing,

 

What is Twisted River about?

Twisted River is a chilling tale of ‘domestic noir’ that describes what happens when a seemingly ideal house-swap goes horrendously wrong.  In this thriller two families come to an arrangement about swapping homes on either side of the Atlantic, one – a quirky house at Curragower Falls in Limerick, Ireland, and the other – a smart Manhattan apartment at Riverside Drive, New York. They have never met in person, only on the Internet.

On the face of it, both families are alike. The Harveys and the O’Briens are both professional couples with two children. Both families need a break from their problems. Seeing each other as ideal house-swap partners, Hazel Harvey and Kate O’Brien strike up a conversation on a home exchange website. The two families make the fateful decision to exchange homes over the Halloween school holidays, each wife hoping a vacation will help her troubled family.

However, rather than ditching their woes, each family unwittingly walks into the dark spaces their exchange partners have left behind. And when American Oscar Harvey opens the trunk of his hosts’ car to find the body of a woman, beaten and bloody, the secrets holding each family together start to come to light.

 

Where do you get your inspiration from? 

My inspiration comes mainly from the world at large. Real-life everyday unsolved mysteries fascinate me. I tend to extrapolate from the snippets of stories I hear around about me.

 

What is your writing routine?

I like to write in daylight hours, in natural light, so that when I look up from the screen I’m able to see the sky and the trees and birds outside. At the moment I’m writing in the afternoons. But I hit the keyboard first thing in the morning if an idea has occurred during the night. I’m afraid that it may disappear if I don’t commit it to paper straightaway.

 

What has your journey to publication been like? 

The traditional route, which unfortunately still takes rather a long time.  I firstly secured the support of a very well-respected agent in a long established London agency who fell in love with and believed in my work. My agent set to work to secure good homes for my writing and I am now in the fortunate position of having Twisted River placed with a number of publishing houses – some long-established and others innovative and new on the scene.

 

What are you reading at the moment?

Kimberley McCreight’s ‘Reconstructing Amelia’ which is a super read.

 

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?

Assuming I’m stranded on a desert island due to nothing more sinister than striking air-traffic controllers, covered in factor 50, sporting a panama hat, and drinking a skinny latté on a sun-lounger, then I’d like to read a range of books also set in the sun. Robert Harris’ ‘Pompeii’ comes to mind. Another choice would be the exploits of Mma Ramotzwe in Alexander McCall’s ‘No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency’ or Sally Andrew’s ‘Recipes for Love and Murder’ which I haven’t yet read but I’ve marked for the perfect beach read.

 

Is there a question that you wish an interviewer would ask that you’ve never been asked? 

Now that we’ve finished chatting, can I get you a Mojito or a Margarita?

What’s your answer to that question?

Both.

 

How can people connect with you on social media?

Twitter: siobhanmmacd

Website: siobhanmacdonald.com


About the Author:

siobhan macdonald

Siobhán studied in Galway and pursued a successful career as a writer in the technology industry, working in Scotland, France & Ireland.

Siobhán has published her first novel TWISTED RIVER in the US & Canada with Viking Penguin, and in the UK with Canelo.

Siobhan lives in Ireland with her husband and two sons.

 


About the Book:

Twisted River by Siobhan MacDonald

“She would never have fit as neatly into the trunk of his own car.” Limerick, Ireland: the O’Brien family’s driveway. American Oscar Harvey opens the trunk of his hosts’ car and finds the body of a woman, beaten and bloody. But let’s start at the beginning.

Kate and Mannix O’Brien live by Curragower Falls in Limerick, in a lovely house they can barely afford. Kate decides that her family needs a vacation, and is convinced her luck’s about to change when she spots a gorgeous Manhattan apartment on a home-exchange website. Hazel and Oscar Harvey and their two children live on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Though they seem successful and happy, they too need a change of pace, and the house swap offers a perfect chance to soothe two troubled marriages.

But this will be anything but a perfect vacation. And the body in the trunk is just the beginning. … A riveting page-turner for fans of Paula Hawkins.

Twisted River by Siobhán MacDonald is published on 18th April by Canelo, price £1.99 in eBook.


 

Guest post by Heidi Perks on Marketing her Debut Novel Beneath the Surface

It’s a real pleasure to welcome Heidi Perks to my blog today.

Marketing your book without the big budget

I am a marketeer. In fact I spent fifteen years in marketing before turning my hand to writing four years ago, so the thought of marketing my own book didn’t bother me one bit. In fact I thought I would love it. To an extent I have but I quickly realised that when you’re effectively marketing ‘yourself’ it’s a whole lot harder than marketing a product.

For a start marketing yourself and your own book is a very personal thing to do. You’re basically putting yourself out there and telling everyone you know (and plenty you don’t) to buy your book, the words you have spent years pulling together, everything you have poured your heart into. You battle with all the what if’s (or at least I did): What if no one buys it? What if none of my friends like it? How can I say ‘you absolutely have to read my book – you’ll love it’ when they might not? But somehow I had to get over this because if I wasn’t fully bought into the package I was selling then how I could I expect anyone else to be?

A few months back my stock answer to ‘Are you a stay at home mum or do you work?’ was always ‘I don’t work – well actually I am doing some writing at the moment.’ This would always lead on the next question – ‘What are you writing?’ and I soon realised that many people were incredibly interested in what I was doing. The more I told the story the easier it became to portray the enthusiasm and love for my writing that until that point had been a very private thing.

So my first point is that when you’re marketing yourself you need to be confident. You might not always feel it – I certainly don’t – especially when things don’t go to plan. But what inspires us more than someone who really believes in what they are talking about?

By the time I was ready to put my book out there I was happy with it and knew that I’d made it as good as I hoped and so I had to take a deep breath and tell myself (and other people) that yes, I had actually done something great – I had written a whole book whilst bringing up two small children and I was proud of it.

So, you’re now confident (or at the very least pretending to be.) What next? There are many clever authors out there who are marketing themselves brilliantly and I certainly don’t profess to be one of them. However, there are a few key things I have learnt that I can share with you from my personal experience.

1. Carefully choose which publisher you’d like to work with. I was lucky enough to be taken on by Red Door and love working with them. Personal relationships should never be underestimated and with Red Door they have great people who know a lot about the industry and who have helped me promote my book a lot.

2. Get reviews. There are plenty of ways to do this, some you can pay for, others you don’t. Personally I recommend approaching the wonderful people who are book bloggers. I cannot recommend them enough, and found them all (bar none) to be highly professional, friendly and a pleasure to talk to. Three months prior to my release date I wrote a long list of book bloggers I wanted to approach – those who liked the kind of book I had written, were open to requests and whose reviews I enjoyed. I had a hugely positive experience and when the reviews started coming in I was delighted and also given another surge of needed confidence. Getting reviews in the lead up to or on release day are crucial.

3. Approach local magazines, newspapers and books stores. People love a local interest story and you’d be surprised how many want to help either by writing an article or having you in for a book signing.

4. Hold a book launch. You can do this in many ways – I opted to host an evening in a local restaurant and invited family and friends. You can do it cheaply or throw money at it; invite local press; local authors or keep it personal – but my aim (as well as celebratory) was to spread the word about my book, sell it to friends and ask them to help by giving me an honest review.

5. Be present on social media. I chose Twitter and Facebook as my main routes to communicate but they are all powerful tools to interact with readers, other authors and bloggers. I have also seen authors successfully promote themselves via Instagram but I chose not to use this for fear of spending all my time on social media.

6. Follow other authors who promote themselves well and see what they do. There are always new ideas and ways of doing things or reaching people so learn from them. I’ve taken a lot from the authors who make sure they reply to every single person who messages them or who are gracious enough to ‘like’ even the most awful of reviews and it’s easy to pick up hints about reaching readers from people who have been in the business for a while!

This is the first step of my publishing journey but I’m glad I invested the time to spread the word about my book prior to and around launch, and if anyone wants to share their experiences I’d love to hear from you.


About the Book:

Beneath the Surface by Heidi Perks

I donʼt know where you are…
I donʼt know what Iʼve done…
Teenager Abigail Ryder is devastated when she gets home from school to find her family gone.
Nothing makes sense. Things are missing from the house and her stepsistersʼ room is completely empty. But the police think sheʼs trouble, and when grandmother Eleanor tells her to forget them all and move on, thereʼs no choice other than face the future – alone.
Fourteen years on, Abi and Adam are a happy couple on the verge of parenthood. But when the past comes back to haunt Abi, the only way forward is to go back and uncover the truth – and reveal the dreadful secrets a mother has been hiding all these years.


 

About the Author:

Heidi Perks

Heidi Perks was born in 1973. She lives by the sea in Bournemouth with her husband and two children.
Heidi graduated from Bournemouth University in 1997 with a BA (Hons) in Retail Management, and then enjoyed a career in Marketing before leaving in 2012 to focus on both bringing up her family and writing.
Heidi successfully applied for a place on the inaugural Curtis Brown Creative online Novel Writing Course and after that dedicated her time to completing her first novel, Beneath The Surface.
She has a huge interest in what makes people tick and loves to write about family relationships, especially where some of the characters are slightly dysfunctional.
Heidi is now writing her second novel.

You can buy Beneath the Surface here.

You can find Heidi’s website here.

 

Review: The Boy on the Bus by Katey Lovell

The Boy on the Bus (Meet Cute) by Katey Lovell

I had another bad day earlier this week when I couldn’t concentrate to read but I needed something to cheer me up and then I remembered that I had a new Meet Cute story on my Kindle and I knew this would be the perfect time to read it. This series has never failed to put a smile on my face so I had high hopes that this would at least give me a distraction and might brighten my day a little. It actually brightened my day quite a lot because I loved this story so much!

This story is told over several days, and I loved how we got little snippets of Lucy’s bus journey over the course of this particular week. Each day we get a snippet of Lucy being on the same bus that she gets every day, and we see her watching the gorgeous boy who also get this bus every day. She is desperate to find out more about him as she doesn’t even know his name but she can’t seem to pluck up the courage to speak to him.

I adored this story from the very first paragraph. I could feel the chemistry that was building for Lucy over this boy as she daydreams about him each day. It reminded me of being back at school when you have a crush on a boy and would so badly want to speak to him but you just can’t, and on the days when he didn’t turn up at school it felt like the end of the world. I felt like I was right there with Lucy, I could feel her heart sink on the day he didn’t get on the bus and could feel how her heart would leap into her mouth on the days when he did. Katey has captured these emotions so well and gave it an intensity that I could feel it emanating from the page, I was willing Lucy on to speak to this boy.

This story properly left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, I completely fell in love with it and have to say that I think it has become my joint favourite of this series along with The Boy at the Beach. I’ve loved all the stories in the Meet Cute series but these two are my favourites because I could so identify with them, and the stories build so perfectly!

I rated this story five out of five and can’t recommend it highly enough.  This story will not fail to make you feel better, it’s like a giant hug in story form it will put a great big grin on your face. Go download The Boy on the Bus right now, I promise you won’t regret it!

I have previously reviewed four others of the make use stories on my blog you can find them on the following links:

The Boy in the Bookshop

The Boy at the Beach

The Boy Under the Mistletoe

The Boy with the Boxes

Review: The Boy with the Boxes by Katey Lovell

The boy with the boxes by katey lovell

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while will know already how much I adore the Meet Cute series of stories. I was so excited last week when not one but two more of these stories were published on the very same day and there was no way that I was going to be able to hold off reading them for long!

Rosie is moving into a new flat having recently moved out of the place she shared with her friend Carmen during three years at university. Carmen has now moved to Australia and Roses feel a little bit uncertain about life as she moves into this new flat on her own. Unbeknown to her she is about to meet a gorgeous new man who may be just what she needs to give her life a bit of excitement again!

The very first paragraph in this story had me laughing to myself in a wry sort of way. Reading about Rosie moving into her new flat and realising she had more wineglasses than friends really struck a chord with me. Then reading about her wishing she’d decluttered more and also packed her stuff in smaller boxes so they weighted less – it just reminded me so much of when I first moved in with my now husband. I did get rid of half of my books before I moved in with him but I still had literally thousands that I couldn’t part with and I packed them into whatever boxes I could find and most were quite big. His apartment was on the second floor and there was no lift so I knew right there and then how much he loved me when he carried box after box after box of these books up all those stairs without complaining and he isn’t even a reader!

The love interest in this story, Connor,  seems to ooze sex appeal from his accent to the clothes that he is wearing so I can see how he immediately caught Rosie’s eye! There isn’t such a build up of chemistry between Rosie and Connor as they don’t meet until halfway through the story but when they first catch sight of each other there is an instant, sizzling sort of chemistry, which is fab. You just know these two are going to have lots of fun together.

I rated this short story 4.5 out of 5 and highly recommend it. All of the books in the meet cute series are fab five-ten minute reads and are the perfect pick-me-ups for those times when you just need a bit of escapism or your day needs brightening up.

The Boy with the Boxes is out now and available from Amazon.

I have previously reviewed three other Meet Cute stories on my blog and you can find them on the following links:

The Boy in the Bookshop

The Boy at the Beach

The Boy Under the Mistletoe

Review: In Too Deep by Samantha Hayes

In Too Deep by Samantha Hayes

Your husband goes out to buy a newspaper. He never comes back. 

Months later, an unexpected phone call puts you and your daughter in unimaginable danger. 

Even if he were still alive, your husband can’t save you now. 

He told you way too many lies for that.

I was thrilled to receive a copy of In Too Deep via The Book Club. I have read a couple of Samantha Hayes books in the past and really enjoyed them so I was very much looking forward to starting this one.

From the first pages of this novel I was completely hooked. In the opening chapter a man and a woman argue, one pushes the other and it appears that the one who fell is dead. From this point on this book is near impossible to put down!

The premise of In Too Deep is great, the idea of someone’s husband going out for a newspaper one morning and never coming back is immediately intriguing. I was suspicious about most of the characters in this book at one point or another as none of them seem to be completely honest and you don’t know who is keeping the biggest secrets. I wondered how much I could trust Gina and what she was saying about her relationship with her husband because as the book goes on we find out snippets about their relationship that don’t quite tally with what she says. Their daughter Hannah has secrets of her own that she seems determined not to share with anyone, and because her mum is so wrapped up in her dad’s disappearance she doesn’t really notice what’s going on in Hannah’s life. Susan was an intriguing character too but because we don’t know anything about her to begin with it wasn’t easy to weigh her up for a good while. 

Rick’s disappearance was the second trauma to befall this family. A few years earlier their son Jacob had been killed in a hit and run, and the driver was never found. This increases the mystery of this novel as it adds another level of intrigue to the twists and turns within the story.

I read a lot of psychological thrillers, and I’m finding it increasingly easy to work out what is going on but I have to say that with this book even as I reached the halfway point I still hadn’t worked it out and I loved that! Any thriller that can keep me in the dark for that long is a winner in my opinion. Once I passed the halfway point I did start being able to piece things together and my suspicions about certain characters, and what might really be going on began to grow. I couldn’t read this book fast enough to find out if my suspicions were correct. 

I thought the ending of this book was brilliant; it fitted the story perfectly and allowed the characters to remain true to who they had been throughout the whole book and I appreciated that.

In Too Deep is fast-paced, unpredictable and utterly thrilling! I rated this book 4.5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this book from Net Galley via THE Book Club in exchange for an honest review.

In Too Deep is due to be published by Random House on 5th May.

Guest post by Rosy Stewart (author of Hope: Stories from a Women’s Refuge)

 

Today I’m pleased to welcome Rosie and Stuart Larner, who wrote Hope: Stories from a Women’s Refuge under the pseudonym Rosy Stewart, to my blog. They have written a guest post/interview about how they write together and what books they like to read. 

How did we come to be writers?

We have always composed poetry, and written for radio and the stage. During our working hours most of our time was taken up with academic writing, and compiling professional reports and articles.

Lately, we have expanded our artistic and creative writing and we are particularly interested in fiction that mirrors truth.

We incorporate this into our scripts and the latest novella.

What is our latest book about?

For our latest work, the novella “Hope”, we were inspired by our experiences of people who have suffered abuse. Although our book is fictional, we wanted to build in the feeling that survivors did not always want to be viewed as victims. Therefore, it had elements of empowerment and revenge in the stories.

Three women work together as a vigilante team to help victims by investigating and tracking down their abusers. However, they must also face their own inner dilemmas. The book consists of the cases of twelve people and has both elements of a thriller and a crime novella.

We note how widespread abuse is. It is not just about male-female relationships, but it also pervades all facets of society.

In our clinical work, we met people who were labelled as patients, or victims, who came to us with a history of lifelong trauma and hopelessness. We wanted to show, in fictional form, that people who have suffered horrible abuse can be empowered and are able to change.

If we could write inspiring stories about what people could have done before they became labelled as victims, then we might be able to influence some of the negative thinking that comes with their role in society.

Hopefully it could inspire those who are in an abusive relationship to recognise their situation and seek help. Real people might be influenced by seeing how our fictional characters deal with their challenges and how their stories can have favourable outcomes.

Information and advice about abuse and treatment approaches can be found on our website.

How do we write together?

Writing as a duo poses challenges.

Discipline and time management is important; we must respect each other’s time and domestic duties. We write in short bursts so that we can fit our other activities into the day.

How we write is that we generally have a discussion in the first instance about what the book and each chapter will be roughly about.

During these meetings, there is much lively discussion about the general direction and the characters. This takes place in a fluid, recorded format, and changes from session to session.

Initially we try to set up the characters and create files with the back-story of each character.

Only after we have agreed on what the chapter will be about do we each go away and attempt to write our separate versions of the same story from the same angle in the same voice.

One week later, we meet and bring these two versions of the same chapter together. Often they are nothing like each other. However, there are usually some commonalities that we can build on in a first draft session.

We discuss this first document, which contains all parts of the two versions, and then mull it over separately for another week. When we come back together, we can see that we can make the chapter coherent by each of us agreeing to cut great chunks of paragraphs so that the pieces can be dovetailed into a new version.

We have selected a penname that illustrates this fluid transformative process. It contains changed parts of our names to create a third character, Rosy Stewart. It is almost as if she had written it. She is not a ghost writer, but a writing ghost.

What books do we read?

The books that we admire and have just finished reading include ‘Dombey and Son’ by Charles Dickens, because of its richness, characterisation, and because it reflects life and is a social commentary.

In the same way, we admire the realistic writing of Fred D’Aguiar about the Jonestown tragedy in ‘Children of Paradise’.

For light human modern English relief we enjoyed ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce, because of its heart-warming tale of a personal epic journey.


 

About the Authors:

Rosy Stewart

Rosie Larner and Stuart Larner are a husband and wife writing partnership who live  in Yorkshire, UK.

Rosie is a retired social worker and lecturer in Health and Social Care. She was co-leader of a Drama Workshop that welcomed participants of all ages and abilities. She has directed and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe. Rosie writes prose, poetry and plays.

 

You can find Rosie on Facebook

Stuart  is a chartered psychologist, who worked in the UK Health Service for over thirty years, and was mental health expert in XL for Men magazine. He writes plays (“The Dilemma Advice Show,” Beach Hut Theatre 2012, “What Matters is What Floats,” Beach Hut Theatre 2013), poems, and stories. His previous book is the cricket novel “Guile and Spin”.

 

You can find Stuart on his blog


 

Hope- Stories from a women's refuge

 

 

 

 

 Hope: Stories from a Women’s Refuge by Rosy Stewart is out now and available on Amazon.

Wonder Cruise by Ursula Bloom

Wonder Cruise by Ursula Bloom

Today is publication day for Wonder Cruise by Ursula Bloom and I wanted to take the time to tell you about this wonderful book. I’m currently reading it and am very much enjoying it, my review will be up once I’ve finished it. In the meantime, please read on to find out more about Wonder Cruise.


About the book:

Wonder Cruise by Ursula Bloom

A witty, heartwarming read with great romantic and comic characters. This warm, feel-good tale will make you smile, and you’ll be rooting for Ann to find lasting love and happiness. A moving portrait of an unforgettable 1930’s woman; Ann Clements will stay with you long after the last page.

Ann Clements is thirty-five and single, and believes nothing exciting will ever happen to her. Then, she wins a large sum of money in a sweepstake and suddenly can dare to dream of a more adventurous life. She buys a ticket for a Mediterranean cruise, against the wishes of her stern brother, the Rev. Cuthbert, who has other ideas about how she should spend her windfall. Ann steps out of the shadows of her mundane life into the heat of the Mediterranean sun. Travelling to Gibraltar, Marseilles, Naples, Malta and Venice, Ann’s eyes are opened to people and experiences far removed from her sheltered existence in the offices at Henrietta Street, and Mrs. Puddock’s lodging house. As Ann blossoms, discovering love and passion for the very first time, the biggest question is, can there be any going back?


About the Author:

Ursula-Bloom-by-Baron-1-222x300

Ursula Bloom was one of the most popular bestselling authors of the twentieth century. She wrote over 560 books, a feat which earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for many years, as the world’s most prolific female writer. She also wrote short stories, radio and stage plays, and worked as a Fleet Street journalist.

During her long career, as well as writing books under her own name, Ursula used the pen names Sheila Burns, Rachel Harvey, Lozania Prole, Mary Essex and Deborah Mann.

Ursula Bloom died, aged 91, on 29th October, 1984, in Winton Nursing Home, Nether Wallop, Hampshire.

You can find out more about Ursula Bloom here.


More of Ursula Bloom’s works are to be re-issued by Corazon Books, you can find out more about them here.

Wonder Cruise is out today and available to buy from Amazon on the following links:

Buy Wonder Cruise on Amazon UK

Buy Wonder Cruise on Amazon.com

Buy Wonder Cruise on Amazon AUS

Review: When She was Bad by Tammy Cohen

when she was bad tammy

You see the people you work with every day.

But what can’t you see?

Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan and Charlie have worked together for years – they know how each one likes their coffee, whose love life is a mess, whose children keep them up at night. But their comfortable routine life is suddenly shattered when an aggressive new boss walks in ….

Now, there’s something chilling in the air.

Who secretly hates everyone?

Who is tortured by their past?

Who is capable of murder?

 

I love Tammy Cohen’s writing and was so pleased to receive an early copy of this through Net Galley. I started reading it one night thinking I’d just read a couple of chapters and I ended up being awake half the night reading – it’s one of those novels that’s near impossible to put down once you’ve started it.

I was intrigued from the start of this book as I’d avoided reading the synopsis, I’d requested it based on how much I’d loved Tammy Cohen’s previous novels, so I had no idea what was coming. It’s such a well thought out novel because it focuses on a number of people and it felt like I got to know all of them – there wasn’t more of a focus of any one person in the office. The multiple points of view all helped with this and added to the rapidly building tension.

There are two timelines to this novel and they slowly come together. The novel starts off in the present day with psychologist, Anne Cater, who switches on a UK news channel and is horrified at what she sees. At this point we don’t know what’s happened, just that is something terrible and shocking. This strand of the novel then goes back in time and follows a young Anne Cater as she gets her first big case working with two siblings who have come from a very damaged home life. Anne works with the girl, who demonstrates behaviours that concern Anne. 

Most of the book is focused on the present day in an office setting in the UK with a number of characters who are all, on the surface, nice, ordinary people, but over the course of the novel it becomes apparent that there are increasingly simmering tensions in the office, and that some characters have deeper issues. 

It’s apparent that the two stories are going to converge at some point but you don’t know how until it happens. It’s so cleverly done because throughout the novel I had my suspicions about every single character – there were moments where I felt quite smug because I had it all worked out and then something else happens and I was back to  the drawing board! I love novels like this. Tammy Cohen is so brilliant at throwing you off the scent and she does it numerous times in this book. All of the people in the office seem to have either a motive for revenge, or they have a dark side to their personality or unexplained injuries etc so it really could have been any one of them that is the bad guy.

I did work out part of the plot but, because there are many aspects to this story, I didn’t work all of it out, and I’m not sure anyone could. The reveal when it comes makes absolute sense though and as soon as you know, it all clicks into place as you think back over the novel.

Tammy Cohen really is a master at this type of novel – she weaves such a tight web that captures you so tightly and doesn’t let go until long after you’ve finished reading.

I rated this book 4 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

When She Was Bad is due to be published on 21 April in the UK. 

I received a copy of this book from Transworld via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

First by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time-the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy – so far. Her mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn – or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her own reputation -and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn’s Firsts is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this book initially as it does seem completely immoral that Mercedes is intentionally sleeping with other girls’ boyfriends. It soon becomes apparent that Mercedes has a lot of issues and has reasons for behaving in this way, and I began to wonder if something had happened in her life that had hurt her and that this plan is all about somehow making things right.

We soon find out that Mercedes’s dad left when she was younger, and her mother has since allowed her to do pretty much whatever she wants. She allows her to dress however she likes and she rarely home to keep an eye on her daughter. I think both females were damaged from the father leaving but this isn’t really explored in the novel and I wish it had been. It feels like Mercedes was a product of many things that happened in her life before she started having sex with lots of boys, not just one thing.

Mercedes has strict rules for her plan that she will only sleep with virgins, that it will only happen once, and it is only for boys who have a girlfriend that they are planning to sleep with. Mercedes is doing this so that the boys can make their first time with their girlfriend perfect and really special. She makes the boys promise that they will keep their time with her a secret and, of course all the boys agree but not all keep their promise.

As you can probably guess the lines around what Mercedes is doing end up getting blurred as she occasionally breaks her own rules and begins to feel confused about the rights and wrongs of what she is doing, especially as she is regularly sleeping with her good friend Zach, who is besotted with her, but she won’t date him. She doesn’t want him to get close to her. It’s at this point in the novel that I started to suspect that Mercedes may have had a bad experience with a man when she was younger and that this scheme of hers was to make sure no other girl had a bad first experience. It’s a twisted logic but for a mixed up teenage girl it’s possible to understand her reasoning. I ended up feeling really sad for her and was willing her on to work out her own issues so that she could move on in her life and leave the past behind her.

This was an interesting novel, it’s an idea that I’ve never read about before in YA fiction and I think it’s an important issue to explore. It’s horrible that a young female character who has issues around sex ends up letting herself be used by boys in an attempt to make herself feel better but having said that I’m sure this is true to life for a lot of people, and in the novel’s case it’s Mercedes’ way of trying to redeem the perceived wrong that she has committed years before so it makes sense within the story, sad though it is to read at times.

This is ultimately a novel about a lost, damaged teenager who struggles to let her guard down but really just wants to be liked. She is different things to different people but it’s all part of her wish to be accepted, and I think just about everyone will be able to identify with this. 

I’m sure most readers, myself included, will open this book having made a judgement on Mercedes’ behaviour but it takes a good writer and a good story to turn how the reader feels about a character right round. I soon felt concerned for Mercedes, and then just very sad and really hoped she would find a way to turn things around for herself.

This is a really good young adult novel that explores important issues in an unflinching way. I rated this 4 out of 5 and would recommend it. 

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin’s Griffin via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Firsts is out now and available from all good bookshops.

Review: Dear Dad by Giselle Green

dear dad by giselle green

I was thrilled when I was recently offered the chance to review this book as I have read and enjoyed previous books by Gisele Green. I knew from the synopsis that this was going to be a really good read but I didn’t anticipate it being quite as incredible as it was or quite so heartwarming.

Adam is a nine-year-old boy who doesn’t have the easiest of lives. He lives with his elderly Nan, who is unable to take care of him – in fact, Adam is taking care of her on his own and as a result is neglected. He is also being bullied at school but has nobody to help them.  One day his nan tells him who his father is so Adam decides to write him a letter thinking that this could be the answer to all of his problems.

Nate is a war reporter who is suffering from PTSD. He has been unable to leave his house for weeks and as a result his life is beginning to fall apart, his job is at risk and as a result so his his home. He doesn’t know where to turn, he doesn’t know how to make it better and he is ashamed to tell anyone he knows what he is going through. Then one day he receives a letter in a child’s handwriting and when he opens it he discovers that the letter is from a boy, Adam, who believes that Nate is his father. Nate is certain that this boy is not his child and feels that he must at least let the boy know that he has the wrong person.

Jenna is a talented tattoo artist who has just returned to the UK following a break up with her fiance. She needs to find a job as soon as possible in order to be able to sign a lease on a flat and while it’s not what she really wants she ends up taking a job as a substitute teacher. On Jenna’s first day at her new school she sees Adam being bullied and steps in, she is immediately concerned about the boy.

The lives of all the three become increasingly intwined from this point on as both Nate and Jenna do their best to help Adam.

The thing that all three of these characters have in common right from the start was that they all had a tendency to run away from their problems: Adam was covering up his neglectful home life and would often run away in the night just to think, Jenna was literally running away from a broken relationship, and Nate was metaphorically running away in the sense that he couldn’t face up to his PTSD.  I think they sensed their similarities in each other and that desire they all had to find a better life, which is why they all bonded so quickly.  Jenna, as Adam’s teacher, has a duty of care to Adam but she soon goes above and beyond to try and help him, and Nate has no duty at all tot he boy but he can’t help but feel for him and wants to try and help him.

I have to commend Gisele on her the way she portrays PTSD in this novel. So often when a novel has a character with this  condition something will happen (e.g. they will fall in love) and the PTSD just miraculously disappears and this makes me so mad. I have personal experience of PTSD and it’s not something that just suddenly goes away but sometimes having someone in your life that gives you encouragement to get better, who understands and supports you, can be the thing that you need to start making changes, and this is what happened with Nate.  His anxiety gradually lessens as the novel goes on but it’s apparent that it’s still there and he’s just learning to control it better. It’s very refreshing to see anxiety being dealt with in this way.

This is such a wonderful novel that is ultimately all about how sometimes the right people will come into your life at the right time and they will make such a difference. It’s about how your problems won’t go away just because you’ve found someone to love you but it might give you the impetus to work on your issues and to leave your past behind you.

I rated Dear Dad five out of five out of five and can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s such a beautiful and heartwarming novel, and one not to be missed!

Dear dad is out now and available from Amazon.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.