Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Sunset City - Melissa Ginsburg

Sunset City by Melissa Ginsburg

Published by Faber & Faber

21 April 2016

A thrilling crime debut from a strikingly brave new voice – shades of Patrick deWitt’s Ablutions and Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, set in a vivid and unforgettable Houston, Texas. 

Twenty-two-year-old Charlotte Ford reconnects with Danielle, her best friend from high school, a few days before Danielle is found bludgeoned to death in a motel room. In the wake of the murder, Charlotte’s life unravels and she descends into the city's underbelly, where she meets the strippers, pornographers and drug dealers who surrounded Danielle in the years they were estranged.

Ginsburg’s Houston is part of a lesser known south, where the urban and rural collide gracelessly. In this shadowy world, culpability and sympathy blur in a debut novel which thrillingly brings its three female protagonists to the fore. Scary, funny and almost unbearably sad, Sunset City is written with rare grace and empathy holding you transfixed, praying for some kind of escape for Charlotte.

I'm delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Sunset City and for my turn I have a guest post by the author, Melissa Ginsburg, who has written a piece on the relationship between the two central characters, Charlotte and Danielle.  

Who are Charlotte and Danielle? 

The friendship between Charlotte Ford and Danielle Reeves forms the heart of Sunset City. Their relationship has not been easy, and when the book begins, they have been estranged from one another for several years. 

Charlotte is 24, working as a barista at a local café and living in the small apartment she grew up in. She’s been alone there since her mother died when Charlotte was 18. Danielle Reeves, Charlotte’s best friend from high school, has been the single most important person in Charlotte’s life, even though they’ve been out of touch. 

When they were 15 years old, they fed into each other’s needs perfectly. Danielle was charismatic, beautiful, and impulsive. She could afford to be reckless, because she came from a wealthy home and no one depended on her. That felt exciting to Charlotte, who was the caretaker for her sick mother since she was a child, and always had to be very grounded and responsible.  Charlotte was an adoring audience for Danielle, and Danielle was attracted to Charlotte’s stability. 

When Charlotte’s mother dies, Danielle is given the opportunity to be kind and generous, to be needed by someone. She steps into that role beautifully, and learns that she is capable of being a really wonderful friend. But Charlotte’s mother’s death is also the catalyst for Danielle’s drug addiction. The girls start taking the dead woman’s leftover prescriptions of Xanax and painkillers. When the drugs run out, Danielle switches to heroin. Charlotte is unable to help Danielle, though she feels responsible for exposing Danielle to drugs. Charlotte’s guilt adds fuel to her already fierce loyalty.

They helped each other and they hurt each other, because neither of them was equipped to deal with the circumstances of their lives.

Danielle is murdered a few days after the two friends meet. Charlotte feels completely unmoored without Danielle, and she goes a little nuts. I wanted Danielle’s death to devastate everyone she knew, because of the loss and because of the difficulty inherent in loving her. That difficulty doesn’t go away when somebody dies. I’m interested in that complexity, in writing and in life. Grief is not just about sadness or longing. It’s also about regret, and the realization that the distance you always hoped to bridge will never be overcome, mistakes can’t be undone. To me, that part of it is more heartbreaking than just missing someone.

Complicated, difficult people are interesting to write about, and to be around. 
Charlotte and Danielle have this very intense relationship. They care deeply about each other, but they are also both trying their best to take care of themselves and move forward, which conflicts with that loyalty. 

I wanted to explore a relationship that was intense, full of love and loyalty, but also untenable. There’s built in drama there, a doomed quality, that seems to fit with who these characters are. 

About the author:

Melissa Ginsburg was born and raised in Houston and attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is the author of the poetry collection Dear Weather Ghost and two poetry chapbooks, Arbor and Double Blind. She teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Mississippi. Sunset City is her first novel.

Website | Twitter | Amazon UK | Goodreads

Friday, 22 April 2016

Chickens Eat Pasta: Escape to Umbria - Clare Pedrick

Published by Matador

Ebook and Paperback July 2015

Not just another romance, but a story of escapism, coincidences, friendship, luck and most of all... love. 

Chickens Eat Pasta is the tale of how a young Englishwoman starts a new life after watching a video showing a chicken eating spaghetti in a mediaeval hill village in central Italy. 

“Here I was, 26 years old, alone and numb with boredom at the prospect of a future which until recently had seemed to be just what I wanted.” 

Unlike some recent bestsellers, this is not simply an account of a foreigner’s move to Italy, but a love story written from the unusual perspective of both within and outside of the story. As events unfold, the strong storyline carries with it a rich portrayal of Italian life from the inside, with a supporting cast of memorable characters. Along the way, the book explores and captures the warmth and colour of Italy, as well as some of the cultural differences – between England and Italy, but also between regional Italian lifestyles and behaviour. It is a story with a happy ending. The author and her husband are still married, with three children, who love the old house on the hill (now much restored) almost as much as she does. 

Chickens Eat Pasta is Clare’s autobiography, and ultimately a love story – with the house itself and with the man that Clare met there and went on to marry. If you yearn for a happy ending, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a story that proves anything is possible if you only try. 

Author Clare Pedrick very kindly wrote a guest post for my blog last year, which you can read here, and recently Chickens Eat Pasta finally got to the top of my review list.  I'm so sorry it’s taken so long Clare! 

I think Clare could either be considered either very brave or very foolish to buy a derelict property in the Italian countryside on just one visit and without even having any kind of survey or legal work done (I'm a legal conveyancing secretary and just the very idea of buying a property in this way horrified me!) but compared to our cold and wet English weather and with no real reason to stay here, I could well understand the attraction of an Umbrian idyll. 

This is an autobiographical account of Clare's life in Italy but written as a novel, with some characters whose identities have been changed, however despite this, it still comes across as a very personal story.  In between chapters describing her integration into the Italian way of life and the work to the house, there are hints that she is leaving behind her life in San Massano - we don't know what has happened or why the change in circumstances and its only later in the book that we find out what really happens.

I really enjoyed Chickens Eat Pasta.  I became so engrossed in Clare's way of life, the problems of trying to do her work as a journalist without having a telephone or internet connection at home, the battles with bureaucracy and the problems with some of the locals and their dirty dealings. I certainly didn't envy her the harsh reality of living in a dilapidated house with no heating and with very basic amenities, however the friendships forged with some of the locals were a joy to read.  It wasn't all perfect, whilst some turned out to be wonderful friends, there were others that were scoundrels but their distinct personalities all added to the flavour of the story.  There are a lot of characters to get to grips with - I couldn't keep up with who was part of which family but I just went along with the story. 

The house is situated in a little village called San Massano, about an hour and half's train ride from Rome.  The location alone sounded idyllic but the descriptions of the food and local produce were just mouthwatering.   We don't just stay in Umbria, Clare's story also takes place in Naples and Rome - all with the same excellent sense of place and characterisation. 

This is more than just a story of renovating a property.  Its about love and friendship and making a new life.  Its a story that I very much enjoyed and would definitely recommend it.

My thanks to the author and Netgalley for the e-copy to read.

For more information, the excellent book site Tripfiction has a very interesting interview with Clare Pedrick.  

About the author:

Clare Pedrick is a British journalist who studied Italian at Cambridge University before becoming a reporter. She went on to work as the Rome correspondent for the Washington Post and as European Editor of an international features agency. She still lives in Italy with her husband, whom she met in the village where she bought her house.

Twitter - @ClarePedrick

Facebook - Chickens Eat Pasta

Troubador Publishing - Chickens Eat Pasta

Amazon UK

Monday, 18 April 2016

Guest Post by Stella Hervey Birrell

I'm delighted to welcome to the blog, Stella Hervey Birrell.  Stella is the author of How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right, published by Crooked Cat Publishing Ltd on 15 April 2016.  This is her debut novel. 

On Weddings, and being sure.

If your character is looking for Mr Right, the big wedding scene is the ultimate ambition. My novel, How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right? doesn’t close with Melissa’s wedding, and of course, I’m not going to spoil the story by telling you where she ends up, either…

Melissa is one of the few characters in the novel that is interested in marriage at all, her cool Edinburgh friends are beyond it, and her market-town pals don’t have marriage on their agendas.

When my own sister got married, I walked down the aisle behind her as ‘unofficial’ bridesmaid. My family are all about the unofficial when it comes to weddings: another sister is unofficially not married (she is married), and a third is unofficially married (she isn’t married). Anyway, it was a lovely service, but my overwhelming memory was when my brother in law-to-be turned to look at my sister, as she walked down the church, and he just. Looked. So. Sure.

Absolutely sure. Not terrified, or sitting light to the commitment they were about to make, or making a joke out of the whole thing. It was beautiful. 

When my future husband and I first got engaged, I told him this story. So, on our wedding day, he arranged his face into a ‘being sure’ expression accordingly, as I walked down the aisle of our own village church. 

Of course it was entirely wasted on me, I spent the whole walk saying hello to all our guests. His ‘sure’ face was lost in a haze of ‘Hi! Look at you!’ and ‘Stella! Here she comes!’ He was quite put out, having made all that effort. I missed my special moment too.

But that’s OK - we’d had the eyes-across-a-crowded-room thing, a couple of years before. We’d felt our way into a complex, modern relationship, a melding of his family and mine. Our demons were sorted and organised into pairs: mine and his sitting side by side like yowling babies in a hospital nursery. Our baggage was piled into corners, his bags, my bags, all of it accumulating stress like dust, but off our backs at least. 

This is the important stuff.

It had been a long journey to Mr Right, and a bit of paper saying we were married didn’t really mean anything – it was second time around for my Mr Right for a start. ‘Wedding’ should be defined as: ‘very expensive day which all your guests complain about, because it is not designed to their specifications.’ It was hands down the most stressful party I have ever hosted: I lost two whole friends as a result of my guest list alone! 

And every day since the ‘big day’ has been much more significant. Every day Mr Right and I have chosen to choose each other all over again. Every moment we stayed sure. Every hour that we’ve kept our eyes on each other, our demons in sight, and stored more of that back-breaking baggage, alongside the dust and the stress.

I’m glad I left Melissa before ‘I do.’ I trust her to work it out: that a wedding is not the important bit. It’s more important to be with someone who is sure. To be sure about them. And you don’t have to walk down the middle of a church to know that.

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to find out where Melissa does end up, my book, How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right? it is available from the following places:

iBooks - search ‘How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right?’ in the iTunes Store

How to find me: please come and say ‘hi!’

Twitter is @atinylife140
I have a page on Facebook here.

I can also be found wandering the streets of various East Lothian villages.

About the book:

Sneak a look into Melissa’s present, past and future… 

Her present: Living in Edinburgh certainly beats working two dead-end jobs, in a dead-end town, and staying with her Mum. 
And thank goodness for her friends: Julie – her bestie – always has her back, even if she does have a new, boyfriend-shaped growth. Gerry regularly introduces her to eligible men, so it’s OK to ignore his belief that women belong in the kitchen. And the new guy James…perhaps he could be more than just a friend? 

Her past: Melissa can’t stop thinking about things her dad said when he was alive. Re-playing warnings about teenage boyfriends and the over-use of the phone might not help, but it’s all she has left of him. Will obsessing about her past block the path to happy-ever-after? 

Her future: Stressful days with a toddler, filled with love, paint, wee (or is it just water?) and ‘I’m not eating that!’ Is every day to be a solo-parenting day for Melissa? 

It’s hard work searching for The One when you’re a modern, independent, strident, lonely feminist. 

From noisy pub to folk club, from broken heart to new start, you’ll end up rooting for Melissa, despite her despicable decisions and massive mistakes. 

A story about frog-kissing, bed-hopping, sliding off your lily-pad with embarrassment, and croaking with joy.

Author bio:

Stella Hervey Birrell was born but not bred in a market town in Fife, Scotland, just before the winter of discontent in 1978. Writing success came early when at the age of 13 she won the Class Prize in the National Bible Society of Scotland's Annual Competition with her poem, 'Mary's Donkey.' From memory, the poem itself was fairly dire.

After various distractions such as an Open University degree, marriage, several years working as a Committee Clerk, and children, Stella began writing in earnest in the early hours of the morning and during naptimes. Her first novel, How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right? was published by Crooked Cat books in 2016.

Stella writes a weekly wordpress blog about her tinylife. Other short pieces have been published, (or are coming soon) in The Guardian, The Ropes Journal, the Lies, Dreaming podcast, and The Dangerous Woman Project.

Stella now lives in an East Lothian rural idyll with her cat, husband, and children. In that order.

A Fine House in Trinity - Lesley Kelly: Guest Review by Rachel Hall

A Fine House in Trinity - Lesley Kelly

Published by Sandstone Press Ltd

E-book & Paperback - 21 April 2016

I'm delighted to be starting off the blog tour for A Fine House in Trinity with a guest review by Rachel Hall.  This is Rachel's second review for Sandstone Press, you can see her previous review here.

About the book:

Joseph Staines, an unemployed chef, has left Edinburgh with the tallybook of the late debt collector, Isa Stoddart. Her son Lachie thinks Stainsie killed her, but Lachie has apparently committed suicide. To his surprise, Stainsie is the sole beneficiary of Lachie’s will and has inherited a dilapidated mansion. Isa’s debtors and the local priest who paid Stainsie to leave town want him gone. A certain young mum, Marianne (whose uncle, Wheezy, is Stainsie’s drinking buddy) does too, and his old school-friend, Detective Sergeant Jamieson, wants to interrogate him about the deaths. Why are the lawyers lying to him, and who’s the bruiser asking about him down the pub?

Rachel's Review

Meet Joseph Staines, the original loveable rogue with a twinkle in his eye and a nose for trouble, a man devoid of all willpower when it comes to the lassies and a drop of the hard stuff! Returning to Leith just six weeks after disappearing with a stolen tallybook Staines had planned to be in and out of his home town in twenty-four hours all the while keeping his head down. What changes this is his appointment with Bell Muldoon Solicitors and the news a certain Ms Spencely delivers that he is the sole beneficiary of Lachlan Stoddart's will. This is news to Stainsie but the added information that the death of Lachie's much feared mother, Isa Stoddart, settled a considerable sum on Lachie is another surprise. Staines ears prick up when he finds out that this is in form of an partially completed investment conversion of a large Victorian house into a block of flats in York Road. York Road means the Trinity area of Edinburgh, where the serious old-money luxury can be found and suddenly things are looking a whole lot brighter! There is just one little problem, namely that all over the scheme everyone is falling over themselves to give Stainsie's name to DS Jamieson as the prime suspect behind the demise of Isa Stoddart and the fact that the stolen tallybook was the property of Mrs Stoddart is not making things look good for Stainsie. Returning to Leith, Joseph Staines finds himself with no option but to discover what really happened to Isa and Lachie Stoddart and thereby prove his own innocence in the process.

Firstly, rewind a little and consider who is to blame for the current state of Stainsie's life. You guessed it, grandfather Joe, if this wasn't already apparent enough! Whilst Josef Wiśniewski wouldn't renounce his heritage as a Pole to find accommodation or work, at the first sign of a lassie who took his fancy he was happy to adopt an altogether more English sounding moniker when he became Joseph Staines in 1948. This seemingly insignificant detail thereby sentenced his grandson to a lifetime of Lachie as a best mate due to the virtue of the Staines and Stoddart surnames nestling alongside each other in the alphabet and this explaining the seating position on the very first day of school. Lachie Stoddart, you may ask? Yes, gangsters son with none of the brains or brute force of his elders and with a family behind every racket going on warranting a Polis force in Leith all of their very own!

Interspersed with the details of Stainsie's days in Leith carrying out his own investigations are snapshots of some of the defining moments of his lifetime which can go some way to explaining his predicament and provide readers with a potted history of the reliably unreliable Joseph Staines. From his first day at school and the unfortunate seating position, through to his marriage and life working as a chef on a cruise ship all the way through to the where he has currently wound up - and he isn't too proud to admit to the odd mistake along the way. The plot is so tightly constructed and knits together brilliantly and the historical snapshots give readers a real connection with the protagonist and the character of Stansie.

Joseph Staines has all the makings of a noir protagonist; his life is characterised by disorder and his dissatisfaction with where he has found himself is evident in his 'bear with a sore head' approach to life. His scepticism of the Polis has become ingrained through his dealings with them and he is no stranger to the culture of turning a blind eye, having grown up in communities where the law is regarded as 'flexible'. Yet what makes Staines such a great creation is his own personal moral code and the knowledge that whilst he might commit the odd indiscretion along the way he has a limit. Stainsie is a substantial character and I would certainly be amenable to hearing more from him. Kelly has fleshed him out well and through this novel you really get a sense of what makes him tick and feel that you understand his motivations. Wonderfully Lesley Kelly makes her readers care about a man who starts A Fine House in Trinity at odds with the world and emerges through every scrape, bruised and battered, but still with a conscience which overrides everything else.

A Fine House in Trinity is filled with a cast of colourful characters wandering the streets of Leith and it provides a great insight into the varied social demographic that Leith is home to. Kelly has a brilliant eye for characterisation and everyone of her characters makes an impression, some distinctive trait lodging in the minds of readers, most impressively with Wheezy Murphy, DS Danny Jamieson and Father Paul.

Razor sharp Scottish wit is suffused throughout and this makes A Fine House in Trinity a very sweet shot of noir crime fiction. This cleverly constructed romp around Leith will have readers grinning from ear to ear and some of the turns of phrase deserve a standing ovation in themselves. In the hands of Lesley Kelly everything slots neatly into place and It is hard not to find yourself vying for Stainsie every step of the way! A Fine House in Trinity bristles with wit from start to finish, this is a stunning debut from Lesley Kelly.

Now, how about the Freedom of the City for Stainsie?!

About the author

Lesley Kelly has worked in the public and voluntary sectors for the past twenty years, dabbling in poetry and stand-up comedy along the way. She has won a number of writing competitions, including the Scotsman's Short Story award in 2008. She lives in Edinburgh with her husband and two sons.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Guest Post by Katey Lovell (author of the 'Meet Cute' series)

I'm delighted to welcome back to the blog, Katey Lovell.  Katey was last here in November when the first two short stories in her 'Meet Cute' series were published (you can see the post here). Since then another two short stories have been made available (The Boy at the Bakery and The Boy Under the Mistletoe) and and yesterday a further two were published - The Boy with the Boxes and The Boy on the Bus, again with HarperImpulse.  All the books in the series are available to download from Amazon for just 49p.

Keeping with the theme of boxes, here's Katey with a guest post about moving house.

When I first started writing The Meet Cute series back in 2014, a group of encouraging friends helped me come up with the titles. Some of them immediately conjured up images and I knew exactly how the romance would begin, but others were less cut-and-dried. The suggestion of ‘boxes’ didn’t really spark very much within me at all – could the boy be a packer in a factory? Could it be a box at a theatre rather than a cardboard box? Or should I go down what felt to me like the most obvious ‘meet cute moment’- the boxes that accompany a house move?

Compared to some people, my experience of moving is limited. I grew up in one house in South Wales, a stone fronted cottage that I lived in from toddlerdom until leaving for university just before my nineteenth birthday.

Since then I’ve lived in six different places in Sheffield. The first three were during my studies; a square room devoid of character in Halls of Residence, a shared student house with three other girls then an attic flat reminiscent of Del Boy’s abode in Only Fools and Horses which was the first home my now-husband and I rented together. We moved out of there after an infestation of mice (how on earth do they take up residence in an attic?) which put me off for good, moving into a small seventeenth century cottage for the next five years. Although small, that house holds some of my favourite memories – it was the house we lived in when we got married and our son was born in the living room there one dark December morning. We’d probably have stayed there longer, but it wasn’t really suitable for a family, and when I inherited some money it felt like the right time to get a mortgage, and with it a traditional Sheffield terrace in an area we loved. It was much bigger – and inevitably we filled the space with furniture, books and a rather ridiculous amount of toys. By the time we moved out last year, packing was a real challenge. I’d always thought people made a meal of moving, after all, we’d done it a few times and it hadn’t been that stressful. But the amount of boxes we had when we left that house – it was ridiculous! We bought specialist ‘moving sets’, collected cardboard boxes from the supermarket and filled plastic storage crates with our stuff, but we’d obviously accumulated a crazy amount of possessions over the years we’d lived in that house.

Rosie in The Boy with the Boxes seems to have done the same – she’s berating the amount of wine glasses she’s acquired (along with her CD collection) as she meets Irishman Connor as she moves into her new flat. But of course, he’s a gentleman and this is a romance, so that goes some way to alleviating the stress…

Katey Lovell is the author of The Meet Cute series, published by Harper Impulse.  The Boy with the Boxes and The Boy on the Bus were both published on April 7th.

The Boy with the Board and The Boy at the BBQ will be available for download on 19 May with The Boy and the Bridesmaid published on 16 June, all are available for preorder. 

Congratulations Katey, I've bought and downloaded the latest two Meet Cutes and have pre-ordered the others. 

Rosie's starting afresh. Her best friend and former housemate is starting a new life in Australia leaving Rosie to move into a new flat on her own. But when she meets her next door neighbour, Rosie realises she may not be quite so alone after all…

Lucy's morning bus journey is the highlight of her day – it's the only time she sees her crush. But how can he take up so many of her thoughts when she doesn't even know his name?

Author bio:

Katey Lovell is fanatical about words. An avid reader, writer and poet, she once auditioned for Countdown and still tapes the show every night. Getting the conundrum before the contestants is her ultimate thrill.

She loves love and strives to write feel-good romance that'll make you laugh and cry in equal measure. 

Originally from South Wales, Katey now lives in Yorkshire with her husband and their eight year old son.

Find Katey on twitter, @katey5678
and her author blog www.kateylovell.blogspot.co.uk

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Tastes Like Fear - Sarah Hilary

Published by Headline

Ebook and Hardback - 7 April 2016
Paperback - 28 July 2016

You'll never be out of Harm's way

The young girl who causes the fatal car crash disappears from the scene.

A runaway who doesn't want to be found, she only wants to go home.

To the one man who understands her.

Gives her shelter.

Just as he gives shelter to the other lost girls who live in his house.

He's the head of her new family.

He's Harm.

D.I. Marnie Rome has faced many dangerous criminals but she has never come up against a man like Harm. She thinks that she knows families, their secrets and their fault lines. But as she begins investigating the girl's disappearance nothing can prepare her for what she's about to face.

Because when Harm's family is threatened, everything tastes like fear...

Tastes Like Fear is number three in the DI Marnie Rome series.  The previous two, Someone Else's Skin and No Other Darkness have both been reviewed here on the blog. This is a series that I very much look forward to and I was delighted to receive an advance copy. 

This is a series that just gets better.  Sarah Hilary doesn't shy away from the darker side of life and this story will keep you completely engrossed.  The scene is set from the start with a young girl walking into the road and causing a fatal car crash.  She then disappears.

Marnie and Noah are searching for a missing teen.  When a body is found, their investigations lead them to the world of the homeless and dispossessed.  Vulnerable young homeless girls are being lured off the streets into what they think is a place of safety. However the truth is far more sinister and dangerous than they could imagine.   

The run down council estates, where residents are terrorised by gangs of children, the backdrop of Battersea Power Station, the tunnels where homeless young people spend their days - all these locations add to the chilling atmosphere and frighteningly realistic story. 

Marnie Rome is of my favourite female detectives.  She has an insight and empathy with the youngsters that she encounters and can recognise something of her younger self in them. Her life took a different path but it could so easily have mirrored theirs.  Her working relationship with Noah Jake is noticeably different and develops with each book.  She may be his superior officer, but she trusts his judgement and relies on his insight a great deal. There is definitely something even more sinister to come with the story between Marnie and her foster brother, Stephen Keele, and I can't wait to see which way this story will go. Noah's private life also plays a more prominent part - although his relationship with his partner Dan is strong, his younger brother Sol has always been a problem and Noah is concerned that Sol is getting himself into some deep trouble.  

Tastes Like Fear is a frightening and realistic commentary on modern society and how easy it is for people to fall into the clutches of those who wish them harm.  The writing is descriptive but not so much that it pulls you out of the story; the tension and pace never let up and the clever twists and gradual reveals of information will keep you turning the pages.  

This could be read as a standalone but the characters of Marnie and Noah are developing with each book and I strongly advise you to read the previous two books in the series to get the best out of the series.  

Sarah Hilary is a top quality crime author.  Her debut, Someone Else's Skin, won the 2015 Theakston's Crime Novel of the Year and was also a Richard and Judy selection.  Tastes Like Fear, I think, is her best yet and I am sure will gain her a following of new fans. 

I can hardly wait for next year for number 4 in the series and I'm eagerly awaiting my Marnie fix!

My thanks to the author and publisher, Headline, for the paperback copy for review. 

About the author:

Sarah Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut novel, SOMEONE ELSE'S SKIN, won the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015. It was the Observer's Book of the Month ("superbly disturbing"), a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, and has been published worldwide. NO OTHER DARKNESS, the second in the series was published in 2015. The Marnie Rome series is being developed for television

Sunday, 3 April 2016

The Missing - C L Taylor

Published by Avon

Ebook & Paperback: 7 April 2016

You love your family. They make you feel safe. You trust them.

But should you…?

When fifteen-year-old Billy Wilkinson goes missing in the middle of the night, his mother, Claire, blames herself. She's not the only one. There isn't a single member of Billy's family that doesn't feel guilty. But the Wilkinson’s are so used to keeping secrets from one another that it isn't until six months later, after an appeal for information goes horribly wrong, that the truth begins to surface.

Claire is sure of two things – that Billy is still alive and that her friends and family had nothing to do with his disappearance.

A mother's instinct is never wrong. Or is it?

Sometimes those closest to us are the ones with the most to hide…

In The Missing, 15 year old Billy Wilkinson suddenly disappeared from home one night and his family is going through hell wondering if he is dead or alive.  We don't see his disappearance, the story starts 6 months later when Claire and her husband Mark are getting ready for the second TV appeal, which doesn't quite go to plan.  The story is mainly narrated by his mother, Claire and we see events from her perspective. We can't always believe her story though because she has blackouts - or fugues as they are called.

The author has captured so well the family's emotions.  The strain of Billy's disappearance and the not knowing is breaking them apart.  The entire family have feelings of guilt. His older brother Jake fought with him the day he disappeared and Mark, the father, also had problems with his youngest son before his disappearance. His marriage and family are falling apart and they can't seem to communicate with each other.  Jake's girlfriend Kira lives with them, she has her own personal issues to deal with and seems to be struggling to cope with this family who all have secrets they are hiding from each other. 

Between chapters are separate transcriptions of WhatsApp messages between two unknown people, which become increasingly graphic and unsettling.  I had my suspicions from early on who these two people were and it surprised me to find out that I was correct.  The more I learnt about Billy as the story progressed, the more I thought him to be a right little toerag. I'm not a parent but it must be so difficult to get right that line between disciplining your children without alienating them. Billy was at that rebellious age and didn't want to be controlled.  

I think I must have suspected every family member or friend at some time, even Claire. Her blackouts made it possible for her to have done something which even she can't remember.  I found the subject of dissociative amnesia fascinating. It's incredible to think that someone can go through certain actions such as driving a car and finding yourself somewhere that you have no memory of travelling to. I could understand why Claire found it so frightening. 

The story doesn't so much focus on the official investigation of Billy's disappearance but more on the effect it has on the family and how they are desperate for answers.

I suspect I'm going to be a lone voice with this one as many other reviewers have raved about it.  I loved this author's two previous thrillers, The Accident and The Lie, both of which are reviewed on this blog and had been eagerly looking forward to this latest book, but The Missing didn't engage me as much as I had hoped for and I can't put my finger on why. I liked it but I didn't love it.   It's not the writing that's at fault because that is up to the usual standard and is excellent.  It may be my mood at the moment, or the fact that I simply didn't care enough about the characters - I don't know.

I don't review books here that I wouldn't recommend.  Although this wasn't one of my favourites by C L Taylor, its still a very good, suspenseful and well written story and I would recommend it to others.  I think in this case its "me not you". 

My thanks to the publisher Avon for the ARC to review.

At the time of writing this post, the Kindle version of The Missing can be pre-ordered from Amazon for £2.99 

About the author:

CL Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son. Born in Worcester, she studied for a degree in Psychology at the University of Northumbria, Newcastle then moved to London to work in medical publishing as a sales administrator. After two years she moved to Brighton where she worked as a graphic designer, web developer and instructional designer over the course of 13 years. She now writes full time. 

CL Taylor's first psychological thriller THE ACCIDENT was one of the top ten bestselling debut novels of 2014 according to The Bookseller. Her second novel, THE LIE, charted at number 5 in the Sunday Times Bestsellers list. Combined sales of both novels have now exceeded half a million copies in the UK alone.

Cally's third psychological thriller THE MISSING will be published by Avon HarperCollins in April 2016. 

Sign up to join the CL Taylor Book Club for access to news, updates and information that isn't available on the web, as well as exclusive newsletter-only competitions and giveaways and the books that CL Taylor thinks will be the next big thing: 


Friday, 1 April 2016

Q&A with author Giselle Green

'Dear Dad' by Giselle Green was published yesterday, 31 March.  I  have this for review and am only sorry I wasn't able to read it in time for publication but I'm delighted to have a Q&A with Giselle below and my review will follow. 

Can you please introduce yourself and tell us about how you approach the writing process, do you research and plan in detail first or do you start writing and just run with the story?

Hi Karen! Thanks so much for inviting me onto your blog today. The question about the writing process is always an interesting one. It seems to go differently every time I write a book. I’m not one of those authors who heads off into the novel with a detailed plan (or even a rough plan) of every chapter, from the start. What I do need to have, is a very good sense of my characters, though. I’ll happily spend months thinking about them and getting a good felt sense of who they are and where they’re at in their lives before I begin writing them. Then I drop them into a difficult situation that’s going to ruffle up their lives and force them to start making tough choices that’ll hurt - for sure - but it’ll also teach them about who they really are and release them from outdated beliefs that were holding them back. Once I know who they are, I let them run.

From your books that I have read so far, they all have a heart wrenching and emotional theme.  How do you deal with writing about such difficult subjects.

I always recall one reviewer who said; ‘Books are often described as heart-wrenching but Giselle Green’s books are heart-mending.’  I don’t know who she was, but thank you whoever you were - I love that!
You’re right, these emotional themes can be very difficult to write, but that reviewer really nailed my motivation in tackling tough themes. Without sounding too lofty, I really do want to help mend my character’s broken hearts, show them that even when life seems very hard, there’s a way through.

On a practical level, this means taking it much slower than a lot of my other author friends. I sometimes bemoan the fact that I can’t write quicker, be more prolific ... but writing emotionally taxing emotions is in itself emotionally taxing. I need to have a break after each one, and that takes as long as it takes.

Is there any part of the writing process which you enjoy (or dislike) the most – i.e. researching, writing, editing?

I love it when I’ve found my stride in a story. I start to write very fast then and it all flows beautifully. I love it when small acts and symbols that I’ve randomly inserted into a story early on suddenly come alive and their meaning becomes clear to me. It’s as if a lot of threads that were always connected underneath the story start coming together but this time, in plain sight. I don’t mind doing research – there is always some, and it can take up quite a few writing hours but it’s all part of the process.

I guess the only bit I really don’t savour is the editing. That’s why I need a good team around me!  

How do you feel about social media, do you find it helpful or a distraction?

Being a bit of a Luddite, I’ve never really been too distracted by social media but these days it’s starting to get its grip, even on me! The truth is, it’s really helpful in connecting authors with readers and as I’m navigating my way though it now, I find I’m enjoying it much more. Once I start my next book I’ll have to be a lot more disciplined, I imagine. You can lose hours!

Name 3 favourite books.

One of my favourite books of all time is still The Thorn Birds by Colleen Mc Cullough. With its themes of a young girl falling in love with a priest and he with her, it wouldn’t work today, would it? But in its time, it was a true love story. The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald remains an all-time favourite. Most recently, I’ve loved Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

Your latest book ‘Dear Dad’ is published on March 31st 2016.  Can you please tell us a little about the story and the inspiration behind it.

The premise of a child reaching out, writing ‘Dear Dad’ letters to a stranger because he’s desperate for a father, was an extrapolation of an idea I picked up in a newspaper. The story was about how a guy acted as someone’s dad, to help them out. It got me thinking about the kindness of strangers and how when we open our hearts to others, that allows goodness to pour into our own. I started by doing research on stepdads and men in general who take on other mens’ children and bring them up as their own. I realised what a great bunch of underrated superheroes for kids (of both sexes, in fact) we have out there in the non-biological parent – and my story’s hero Nate became one of them.

This is a story about how a young boy’s search for a dad ends up helping, not only himself, but a couple of caring but wounded people who’d never have met without him. It’s a ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ without anyone being related. It’s about a lot of things. How PTSD can cripple even the bravest among us; how even an impossible situation becomes tenable when seen through the hopeful eyes of a child and lastly, it’s about how even the most wearied hearts should never give up on the possibility of love because you never know if this time it’ll all work out.

Congratulations on the publication of Dear Dad and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Giselle.  More information about Dear Dad is below. 

About the book

Handsome, 28-year old, Nate Hardman is a frontline reporter with a big problem. Suffering from shell-shock and unable to leave his house, he’s already lost his social life and his girlfriend. Now his career prospects are sinking fast. 

9 year-old Adam Boxley who lives alone with his ageing nan, also has big problems. Neglected at home and bullied at school, he’s desperate to reach out to his dad – and that’s when he sends his first letter to Nate. Only Nate’s not who he thinks he is. Will he help? More importantly – can he? 

Across town meanwhile, caring but impulsive teacher Jenna Tierney really wants to help Adam - except the feisty redhead has already had enough of teaching. Recently hurt by yet another cheating boyfriend, Jenna’s now set her sights on pursuing a dream career abroad ... only she’s about to meet Nate - her dream man who’ll make her re-think everything. 

The big question is; can three people desperate to find love, ever find happiness when they’re only connected by one big lie?

About the author

Born in Chiswick, Giselle Green was brought up in Gibraltar where she has extensive family. She returned to the UK to study Biology at King's College London, followed by an MSc in Information Science at the City University. She is also a qualified Astrologer, with a particular interest in medieval astrology. 

Her debut novel Pandora's Box won the Romantic Novelists' Association New Writer's Award in 2008. Her third novel, A Sister's Gift achieved best-selling number one slot on Amazon kindle in 2012.

Her sixth novel DEAR DAD, released on 31st March 2016 is available on Amazon.

Giselle lives in Kent with her husband and their six sons.

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