White Crocodile by K T Medina. Asking the Author…

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One of the best debut’s I have read this year so far is the thrilling and also somewhat educational “White Crocodile” from K T Medina – so I set out to find out a bit more and here is what she had to tell me.

 

Tell us a little bit about what made you decide to set the book in Cambodia, and how much research was involved versus how much you were already aware of the problems over there.

 

White Crocodile is very personal to me because the idea for the novel came out of my own experiences. I had the idea for White Crocodile while I was working for Jane’s Information Group, the world’s leading publisher of defence intelligence information, as Managing Editor, Land-Based Weapons. As part of that role, I spent a month working alongside professional mine clearers in Cambodia, to find out what information they needed to help them to clear land mines more quickly and safely in the field. I was privileged to be able to get to know both Western and Khmer clearers and to spend time talking with Khmers – adults and children – who had lost limbs to land mines. Cambodia has the highest rate of land mine amputees per head of population of any country in the world and Khmers believe that someone who has lost part of their body has also lost part of their mind, so it is devastating to be an amputee there.

 

When I returned to England, I had the very strong sense that I wanted to shine a light into what I found to be a heartbreaking corner of the world. The device of a page turning thriller that drew people into the story and characters whilst at the same time taking them into this world was, I felt, a great way to shine that light.

 

Despite Tess having had a difficult time, she is a very strong female protagonist – is she based on anyone in life?

 

The friends who have read White Crocodile say that they see a lot of me in Tess, and I suppose that, following the old adage of ‘write about what you know’, I would agree. I was definitely inspired by the experiences that I have had both in the Territorial Army and at Jane’s.

It made absolute sense for me to write a female protagonist because Tess faces a tough emotional journey in White Crocodile and I felt that, as a woman who has worked in stressful, male dominated environments, I would be able access her feelings and emotions in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do if my protagonist was male.

 

There are some dark themes running through the narrative – spousal abuse for example – were there portions of it that were difficult to write?

 

I found a lot of White Crocodile very hard to write and there are chapters that, even now, when I read them again, make me teary! But my aim was to write a thriller that grabbed readers by the throat and by the heart, and that is what I have hopefully achieved with White Crocodile. I want readers to remember the novel and the issues it raises long after they have finished the last page.

 

 

Will you be returning to any of the characters from “White Crocodile” in future novels?

 

I loved living with Tess for the time I was writing White Crocodile, but she, and the other main characters in the novel, have been through so much that I think a sequel would be an anti-climax. I have written the first draft of my second novel, which also features a strong female protagonist with a military background, but that’s all I can say for now.

 

 One book you recommend to everyone.

 

All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque. This novel, written in 1929, is set in the First World War, but written by a German, from the German perspective. It illustrates that the armies on both sides were made up of frightened young men who wanted nothing more than to be home with their loved ones, but who, on returning, felt detached from civilian life because of the horrors they had experienced. I have read this novel more than any other over the years.

 

Tea, Coffee or other?

 

Coffee first thing to wake me up, tea throughout the day and New Zealand or Aussie sauvignon to finish.

 

No 1 item on your bucket list (if you have one!)

 

I don’t have a bucket list, but if I did, it would be to backpack around the world again. Having young children means that holidays invariably end up being on a beach somewhere and I miss the immersion in other countries and cultures that backpacking with very little money encourages.

 

Favourite thing about writing.

 

Being able to escape to different worlds in the company of interesting, complex, albeit fictional, people. With a busy household, I also love that writing is solitary – I cherish the hours that I get to spend alone with my characters in a silent, empty house!

 

WHITE CROCODILE by K.T. Medina is out now, £12.99 (Faber & Faber)

 

Review

When emotionally damaged mine-clearer Tess Hardy travels to Cambodia to find out the truth behind her ex-husband’s death, she doesn’t know much about the country or its beliefs.
On arrival, she finds that teenage mothers are going missing, while others are being found mutilated and murdered. As local superstitions breed fear, Tess is drawn into a web of lies that stretches from Cambodia to another murder in England, and a violent secret twenty years old
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An absolutely thrilling yet quietly emotional read can be found within the pages of “White Crocodile” a novel that, for me, gave new life to the thriller and mystery genre and at the same time gave me plenty to think about – although the thinking came later, while you are immersed into the pages you won’t look up for anything…

One of the best books I’ve read recently for putting you right on the spot, the sense of place is expressive, the living conditions, the people, the danger they face everyday – the beauty of the prose puts you right there with them every step of the way. Seen through the eyes of main protagonist Tess Hardy – a strong, intelligent yet haunted woman who travels to the country seeking answers about the death of her ex-husband, the subtle ways the author manages to get under your skin make the book memorable and intelligent – this one will stay with you for a long time.

Add to that the fact that the mystery element is well plotted and brilliantly flowing in a way that captures the imagination and keeps you gripped throughout, the supporting cast of characters are all as well drawn and integral to the story as Tess is herself and you really do have a most amazing read. There are some emotive and terrifying issues running through the narrative, all handled in an extremely realistic and sympathetic way and overall this is without doubt one of the best debuts of the year and deserves a lot of attention. I have no hesitation in highly recommending it to any reader, anywhere.

Find out more here: http://thriller-writer.com/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/KatieMedina11

Purchase Information: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/k-+t-+medina/white+crocodile/10065485/

Happy Reading Folks!

Darcie Chan – The Mill River Redemption.

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Publication Date: Available now from Sphere – Paperback or Ebook.

Source: Publisher review copy

Having unexpectedly lost her husband and lacking the means to support herself, Josie DiSanti and her two daughters take refuge in the small town of Mill River, to live with Josie’s aunt, Ivy. The sisters, Rose and Emily, are inseparable growing up – until a shocking tragedy tears them apart. 

Years later, Rose and Emily return to Mill River for the reading of their mother’s will, where they learn that Josie would do anything to force their reconciliation: the sisters must move into neighbouring houses for the summer and work together to locate the key to Josie’s safe deposit box, which contains their inheritance. And so, left with no choice, Rose and Emily reluctantly begin their search. But in a place known for its magic and miracles, little do they know that an even greater treasure awaits them . .

A beautifully written and emotional family drama with a hint of mystery to it, I absolutely loved this story, character driven and intriguing with a wonderful sense of place and time.

It was easy to immerse myself in this world as the story ebbed and flowed backwards and forwards in time to give a picture of a family – Josie brings her children to Mill River, escaping from something, we are not sure what and over the course of time settles in and becomes an integral part of the community. Sisters Rose and Emily are inseperable but something goes horribly wrong and when we meet them at their mothers funeral, they have not been together for many years. Forced into communication by the terms of Josie’s will, a voyage of discovery begins for these two girls, one that is fascinating and emotive and will keep you turning the pages desperate to know the outcome.

There is a beautiful depth and complexity to the characters here, a story of forgiveness and redemption – neither of which are easy – and Ms Chan does not offer simple straightforward solutions but rather allows her characters to speak, to learn, to develop and accept over the course of events and the passing of time.

The best things about this book for me were firstly the true sense of community within this town that the author conveys – a place I would love to live and is now as real to me as anywhere I’ve experienced in real life. Added to that were some eclectic and wonderful supporting characters – who I believe get more of a story in Ms Chan’s first novel, The Mill River Recluse, which I must go back and read. Overall this gave a realism and quirky edge to a really graceful story.

Captivating throughout, often charming, always emotional, this was a heartfelt tale elegantly told. Highly Recommended.

Find out more here: http://www.darciechan.com/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/DarcieChan

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0751557285/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=0751557285&linkCode=as2&tag=shasboobou-21

 

 

 

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New Release: Rival by Penelope Douglas.

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A MUCH anticipated hot new release….

 

Publication Date: 26th August (E-book ) 6th November Paperback – From Piatkus.

 

About the author:

Penelope Douglas is a writer living in Las Vegas with her husband and daughter. She is the author of the New York Times and USA Today Bestsellers BULLY and UNTIL YOU. Rivals is the 2nd book in the “Fall Away” series.

About the book:

Madoc and Fallon. Two estranged teenagers playing games that push the boundaries between love and war . . .

She’s back.

For the three years she’s been away at boarding school, there was no word from her. Back when we lived in the same house, she used to cut me down during the day and then leave her door open for me at night.

I was stupid then, but now I’m ready to beat her at her own game . . .

I’m back.

Three years and I can tell he still wants me, even if he acts like he’s better than me.

But I won’t be scared away. Or pushed down. I’ll call his bluff and fight back. That’s what he wants, right? As long as I keep my guard up, he’ll never know how much he affects me . .

 

For fans of:

New Adult, contemporary romance.

 

Also Available:

 

2080395320803962

 

Find the author on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PenelopeDouglasAuthor

Follow the author on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PenDouglas

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rival-Fall-Away-Book-3-ebook/dp/B00M88TM1A/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1408950027

 

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liz Currently Loves….Don’t Talk to Strangers by Amanda Kyle Williams.

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Publication Date: Available now from Headline

Source: Bookbridgr

Sheriff Ken Meltzer, from the small town of Whisper, finds the decomposing body of a girl deep in the Georgia forest. Next to her, the skeletal remains of another girl. One victim had been there for sixty days, the other for ten years. Drugs, theft and reckless speeders are the main worries in Meltzer’s county; homicide is not his speciality. A friend at the Atlanta Police Department recommends a freelancer Meltzer has never heard of – former FBI profiler and private detective Keye Street…

I absolutely adored this one, in that manic page turning way that a well written thriller can sometimes cause – this is actually book 3 in the “Keye Street” series but can easily be read as a standalone with no problem at all.

An extremely engaging and enthralling murder mystery, given added oomph thanks to the main protagonist – Keye Street is wise and wise cracking, with an intriguing background that makes you  immediately want to know more about her – and as I said on Twitter the other night, I DO like it when an author can bring the funny to a story that has a heart of darkness. This one certainly has that, as Ms Street is sucked into the vortex of an investigation involving the kidnapping and murder of children.

There is a wonderful mix of storytelling and character development here – and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes, the “bad guy” not being immediately obvious, although I did get it before the reveal it was not until late in the game – the author is good at misdirection and superb at weaving a web of intrigue and suspicion whilst making the characters pop off the page. I adored Keye, but I equally adored the Sheriff and even the prickly Brolin had her moments.

I want to go back and read the previous two books – mainly because I did love all the characters so much, and in this instalment, Keye spends the majority of her  time in Whisper, so her normal sidekicks only have cameo roles – I’d like to be up to date with everybody before reading book four, which I hope will hurry the heck up!

Talking of Whisper, another thing I really enjoyed about this tale was the look at small town life – everyone knows everyone else pretty much and Keye has a problem persuading residents, even those in law enforcement, that the killer is likely to be someone they know and interact with everyday. It was fascinating and gave an added realism to the whole thing – I mean its true is it not, that we cannot ACTUALLY imagine that our neighbour is also a killer – but in real life as well as fiction this can sometimes turn out to be the case. I also liked that Keye herself does not get everything right – the rather generic theme of “our hero is always right but godarn it no-one is listening” is not a theme of this story, she follows the evidence and things chop and change. Another more realistic look at how such an investigation may progress.

Overall then an addictive, fun,  horrifying and scary in places read, with good depth of character and a flowing, captivating story that will keep you up into the early hours. Great stuff. More please.

Find out more here: http://amandakylewilliams.com/

Follow Amanda on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/AKyleWilliams

Purchase Information: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/amanda+kyle+williams/don27t+talk+to+strangers/10108504/

Also Available:

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Happy Reading Folks!

 

Liz Currently Loves….The Winter Foundlings by Kate Rhodes

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Publication Date: Available Now from Mulholland Books.

Source: BookBridgr

The girl’s body lay on the steps of the Foundling Museum. She was dressed all in white, and tagged with the number 12.
Britain’s most prolific child killer, Louis Kinsella, murdered nine children before he was caught and locked away for life in Northwood high-security hospital. Now someone is carrying on his work. Four girls have disappeared in North London. Three are already dead…

So, the “Alice Quentin” series then – I got confuddled and read out of order, so I read and loved the 2nd book (A Killing of Angels) followed by the 1st book (Crossbones Yard) which I also loved and now here I am back on track with Book 3 – The Winter Foundlings.

For a start every single one of these has been beautifully written, very engaging and wonderfully constructed, top notch crime fiction with a well rounded and likeable yet flawed heroine in Alice Quentin. I have always had a soft spot for fiction written with a psychologist or profiler as a main protagonist (HUGE fan of Tony Hill from Val McDermid and Joe O Loughlin from Michael Robotham) and this series is definitely equal, if not on occasion overtaking those much loved books. The quality of storytelling, addictive reading and intriguing character building both of regular series characters and the supporting cast that arrive with each new case is terrific and each novel raises the stakes and becomes more and more entertaining.

In this instalment, Alice is hoping to take a more sedate role, doing some research at Northwood High Security hospital on the methods and results obtained there in their work with violent criminals – however when a childs body is found and another child goes missing she is once again sucked into the vortex of a police investigation right on her doorstep. With her usual indomitable style she faces danger with determination and it is compelling stuff.

What I love about Alice is how absolutely realistic she is in her thoughts, actions and how she is developing as time moves on. She may be a strong, independant and intelligent woman in what could very much still be described as a mans world – but she is also appropriately scared, able to accept and absorb the advice of others and has no tendency to feel hard done by. I LOVE that about her, she takes things in her stride but equally has very human emotions and responses that keep you right by her side throughout any and all circumstance. If you are going to stick with a series of books, you absolutely need someone in there that you want to know about, need to keep up with and who gives you that “YAY” feeling when you know another part of their story is on the way. Alice does all that and then some, through the extremely clever and great writing from author Kate Rhodes.

There are dark and violent themes running through the narrative, but all done in an authentic and real way with a clear eye towards facts where appropriate, obviously well researched in the backgrounds which gives all these books both an escape from the realities of your real life and an immersion into what could easily be the real life of the person standing next to you. Intelligent plotting with some real edge of the seat moments means that I really really cannot wait for book no 4. In my top 10 series I must read for sure.

Overall a brilliant read and definitely highly recommended for any crime fiction fan – or if you are about to dip your toe in the water of Crime fiction for the first time I think these would be a great start, as they are easy to read but offer great depth of story and character.

Find out more here: http://katerhodes.org/Kate_Rhodes/home.html

Follow Kate on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/K_RhodesWriter

Purchase Information: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/kate+rhodes/the+winter+foundlings/10096056/

Also Available:

1579318217558753

Happy Reading Folks!

BroadChurch Beacon Blog Tour.

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Welcome to my stop on the Broadchurch  Beacon Blog Tour – whilst excitement is rising for series 2, the talented Erin Kelly took on the mantle of putting into literary form the addictive, highly popular tv show and boy did she do it justice and then some so….let me remind you what I told you when I said…

Lets Talk About Broadchurch….

                                                  77403e206818d80d06e332f0565a67ec                                                                                                                          Erin Kelly writer

Right, so, the UK tv sensation of 2013 completely passed me by. Oblivious was I, having watched 10 minutes of the opening episode, then getting distracted by a book or possibly even by chocolate. Luckily I also managed to avoid any and all spoilers, so for me, apart from the fact that there was a body on the beach, I knew nothing.

When I found out that the novel version was to be penned by the devilishly twisty mind of the lovely Erin Kelly I was literally chomping at the bit – for many reasons. Firstly because I adore her books anyway and secondly, being the only person on the planet who did NOT know who murdered Danny Latimer, I wondered if I could work it out. We’ll come back to that one. First lets look at the book overall.

This was a genuine page turner for me, haunting, evocative, looking at a small town coming apart at the seams after a most horrific event. As suspicion rises in all quarters, it was compelling stuff. Its probably good that I can’t make comparisons between the tv portrayal of David (swoon) Tennant and Olivia Coleman and the characterisation provided by Ms Kelly here of Alec Hardy and Ellie Miller, but both of those characters came to life in my head, as did every single one of the others. Emotionally speaking this was a shot straight through the heart – the grief bang in the centre of the Latimer family is brought into stark contrast by the police investigation going on around them – I did often have a tear in my eye especially when Danny’s mum Beth was having her darker moments, alone and in pain.

So yep, packing a definite emotional punch, one that I can’t imagine will be outdone by the viewing of it when I do that – I’ll move onto the heart of the mystery – just who DID kill Danny Latimer and why? Well according to many many people who I have spoken with, on the screen it was glaringly obvious. In the hands of Erin Kelly? Not so much. In fact I got it completely wrong. Utterly, I’m actually embarrassed that now she has had me twice on the twisty turny stuff, once with The Burning Air and now with Broadchurch. When I look back I realise that everything I needed to know was right there – what this author does so well is not hide the facts but make you look the other way. Misdirection. Cleverly done – especially since in this instance she was working from a story already told and to someone elses script. At which point I should say I am VERY much looking forward now to seeing Chris Chibnall’s vision of this story.

For now though I think that if you did watch the show, and loved it as many did, then this novel will absolutely enhance and expand that experience. Because for me, it would not have mattered one little bit if I had already known the culprit, the heart of this novel is not in the whodunnit, but in the emotionally charged atmosphere of the people and place involved. In a community where everybody knows everybody else and there is nowhere to hide, still Broadchurch has many  devastating secrets buried just below the surface. And as brilliant as ALL the actors who took part in the show surely are, you cannot see what they are thinking, feeling at depth or considering doing. That is where the novel will absolutely beat the visual medium I have no doubt. Because Erin Kelly can write characters straight out of real life and onto the page – in this case with a deft hand and an imaginative turn that will hold you gripped within the boundaries of Broadchurch for a good while.

Brilliantly done, loved it!

 

UPDATE: I have now watched the Broadchurch television experience and boy that was absolutely perfect. I can honestly at this stage say that the book and the show compliment each other perfectly. My own recommendation is to read then watch if you are lucky enough to still have this to discover…

Follow Erin on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mserinkelly

Follow Chris on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChrisChibnall

Tell me your thoughts @Lizzy11268 using hashtag #BroadchurchNovel

 

Happy Reading Folks!

Liz Currently Loves….Conquest by Jennifer Ridyard and John Connolly.

 

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Publication Date: Paperback 28th August, Kindle available now from Headline.

Source: BookBridgr

She is the first of her kind to be born on Earth.
He is one of the Resistance, fighting to rid the world of an alien invasion.
They were never meant to meet.
And when they do, it will change everything . . .

Highly enjoyable YA adventure involving alien invasion, a resistance, the start of a love story and plenty of action – I found it to be a refreshing and fun read, albeit with an ending that annoyed the heck out of me because now I have to wait to find out what happens next.

With a quick introduction explaining how the aliens arrived on our planet, this is a novel that you can immediately be involved with as we soon move on to meeting our main characters. Syl is the first of her kind to be born on earth, along with friend Ani she often breaks out of her protected atmosphere to experience life amongst the humans – when one day they are caught up in a bombing and meet Paul and Steven, two brothers who belong to the resistance, everything begins to change for Syl as she starts to question motives.

There is some extremely clever world building – set mostly in and around Edinburgh, the sense of place is terrific, with some recognisable landmarks making an appearance. I loved all the characters, good and evil, although I have a particular soft spot for Just Joe. The Illyri are wonderfully  imagined and have an intriguing background which is well described so you can get a sense of what they are trying to achieve.

As the story unfolds we realise that there is a lot more going on within the Illyri than first meets the eye, it all flows beautifully keeping you hooked into the narrative, I particularly enjoyed the relationships that started to form and was  surprised by the odd revelation. The scenes set at The Eden Project were brilliant, the action when it comes is fast and furious and as a book one it set things up perfectly for the next instalment.

I think the main thing that made this work for me was the fact that both Alien and Human get pretty equal attention here, the Illyri are not all “evil” and the humans are not all “good” – there is moral amiguity, not everything the Illyri brought with them to earth was horrific. This leads to some interesting interactions between Syl and her kind and the human element and gives an added depth to proceedings. Whilst this is not really a unique story it is a great take on an age old tale and absolutely highly entertaining.

Mostly though this is just a terrifically fun adventure tale, with many threads running through it, an ongoing enthralling story and the hint of really curious things to come. I, for one, am dying to know more about The Sisterhood and REALLY want to know what was actually going on at The Eden Project- just two things that will have me hanging on a thread ready for the next part of the tale, Empire, coming soon.

Definitely a great addition to the YA genre and I look forward to many more adventures with Syl and co.

Find out more here: http://chroniclesoftheinvaders.com/

Follow John Connolly on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/jconnollybooks

Follow Jennifer Ridyard on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/JennieRidyard

Purchase Information: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/john+connolly/jennifer+ridyard/conquest/9962196/

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

Liz Currently Loves…..Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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Available Now from Puffin.

Source: Purchased Copy: Coles Bookstore.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction.

Ha! I adored this book. I’ll be honest and say I wasnt sure going in, it sounded strange and a little bit mad and actually it was exactly that but at the same time positively brilliant. At turns witty, ironic and emotive, this will have you searching for the fairy tale within the narrative (and trust me the heart of it is there) whilst getting totally immersed in the world Cinder inhabits, with all its charm and mayhem.

Cinder is a top mechanic and also cyborg, a fact she would rather hide when she meets Prince Kai, unexpectedly in her workshop one day. From then on in it is a rollercoaster ride of great reading fun as Cinder finds herself even more at odds with her Stepmother, trying desperately to save her Stepsisters life and becoming aware that not everything is as it seems – even herself. Extremely clever storytelling makes for an addictive and terrific read, the premise is beautifully imagined and executed, the whole thing was top notch.

The world building is pitch perfect, enabling you to visualise the city and the places within, I adored all the characters even the evil ones (the wicked  Queen is wicked indeed) I fell completely in love with Kiko, tried to decide if Prince Kai was indeed charming and really got quite emotional when Cinder was treated badly – I was in this one all the way. The ending drove me to immediately pick up “Scarlet” (thanks to that lovely friend of mine who advised that I buy all 3 available books in this series at once) and so far that one is living up to the promise of the first so I dare say I’ll be on about it anytime now.

This is one of those novels which at first glance you might assume to be light reading, nothing special, fun perhaps but thats it. In reality there are some dark themes running throughout, a little bit of social commentary on how we treat others within our society perceived to be “different” and whilst it absolutely IS a great deal of fun, there is also passion and protest there, an intelligent story within a story that can give you pause for thought. For me this gave it an added depth as an adult reading fiction aimed at teenagers (and teenagers will and do adore it) and solidified my opinion that some of the YA available at the moment is far superior to some of the adult fiction when it comes to packing pure emotional punch.

Overall then terrifically terrific. I’m positive that this is going to be heading to the top of my favourite series list. Absolutely highly recommended for adults and young adults alike.

Find out more here: http://www.marissameyer.com/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/marissa_meyer

Purchase Information: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/marissa+meyer/cinder/8650363/

Also Available:

1320676013206828

Coming 2015: Winter.

 

Happy Reading Folks!

Meeting Lauren Oliver….

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A while ago now I read “Before I Fall” by Lauren Oliver and was struck by how beautifully written and evocative it was – I had been saving up the “Delirium” trilogy to read in one big gulp, but when I was offered the opportunity to read her latest novel “Panic” (review to come after this article)  and not only that, but meet the lady herself for a chat about it during one of her signings, I jumped at the chance – who wouldnt? So on Saturday, I took my friend Hayley and we set off to Waterstones in Oxford to do just that.

 

I will admit to being somewhat nervous beforehand, after all it is not every day that you get the opportunity to meet an author who’s work you admire, but that soon vanished as soon as we were in the room, Ms Oliver is one of those people who you immediately feel at ease with – open and friendly with a brilliant smile and as it turns out, passionate about her work and very insightful. Right there and then I knew that I wanted to capture her personality within this article so instead of carefully writing down everything she said, I’m just going to talk a little about our chat and what came out of it.

 

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Panic is a novel about a small town, and in the way of small towns they have their own entertainment. Every year a game is played by the graduating seniors- a game of challenges, ever more dangerous, at the end of which one winner takes home a pot of cash. Of course that is not what it is really about at its heart, so I wanted to know where the story started to come into focus.

With another flash of that brilliant smile Lauren tells me about coming across one of Grimm’s more obscure fairy tales about a boy who could not feel fear, because he was simple – in the way of Grimm, this leads to him spending the night in a haunted castle in an effort to win the hand of the princess . A simplified version of a more complicated tale – those interested can find the full story here http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/authors/grimms/4youthfear.html   It got her thinking about what we fear and why, and so Panic was born – the underlying thing for her being that what we fear cannot always be put in front of us in solid form for us to face – the youngsters in Panic may overcome their fear of heights, or small spaces, but these are not the real things that haunt us. It was fascinating watching her enthusiasm for this subject, and certainly for me she captured the essence of the idea in the novel, from her head to the page, a talent that I often wish I had myself…

 

Moving on to the characters that inhabit the place where Panic is played, she and I are of one mind on our favourite – that being Dodge, a character that for her started in a completely different story that never came to fruition. However, she tells me, the character himself stayed with her and by the time she wrote Panic, she knew him well – describing how he finally found life in this novel, he is obviously a creation close to her heart, again something that shines through in the story itself. Vengeance for an accident during the game that disabled his Sister seems to be the driving force behind his desire to win the game, but as always with Ms Olivers writing, that is far from the whole story. It is obvious from talking to her and reading her tales that she has an insight into human behaviour and a unique outlook on some of the things that make us who we are. Which is, I suppose, what makes her books  so addictive for the reader. Certainly for me it is that added depth she brings that makes me love her work – the one thing meeting her has done for me is make me even more determined to keep reading…

 

We did talk a little more about other characters from the book – specifically the relationship between Heather and Nat – but later this month I am writing an article about Women in Writing which will focus on some of the influential women writers around today, and this particular subject, how friendships are portrayed in novels, and other things, will go perfectly with that piece. One in which I was always going to feature Lauren and her novels, so basically I’m teasing here – you will have to wait to find out what she told me. It will be worth it I promise.

 

Panic-Excerpt

The discussion moved on – I think I did manage to flummox her slightly when asking “Why Tigers?” – yes there are Tigers in “Panic”, to find out how and why you will have to read the book (and you really should, trust me on that) – for her, Tigers are something ancient and elegant, so featuring them felt right. With a wry smile she tells me that she can’t always clarify where the ideas come from or remember the exact process, they just are – referring to a scene involving cows in another of her novels and also telling me about the time someone pointed out to her that in “Before I Fall” the character goes through the five stages of grief, in order, something that she had not done intentionally – this speaks to the more organic flow she has to her storytelling, less research and planning, more how it happens as she writes.

Finally we talked a little about the ending of the novel, which for me was pitch perfect – she told me how she did not necessarily want a “happy ever after” finish to Heather, Nat, Dodge and Bishops story – but more the sense of hope, the path to a better life lying in front of them..again for me that is exactly what she put on the page. I have spent some time, and will probably spend more, thinking about where Heather will go next. In my head I’m sure that Happy Ever After will be it, but I’m sure the next reader may take a different path. Another sign of graceful writing that will speak differently to each person it touches…

So that was that for the actual interview – later, as she was signing books for Hayley and I, Lauren made me laugh, her enthusiasm for visiting Edinburgh, next on her schedule, was terrific, but she was perhaps not so happy about the thought of the 6 hour train ride that would get her there – I hope she had a good journey and managed to pick up a couple of the ready glasses of wine she told me she had discovered  – a great idea indeed.  I also hope I have managed to get across a decent sense of the lady – she was beautiful in that windswept stunning way that not many people pull off and so very friendly and completely natural – a perfectly normal and lovely person yet one with an extraordinary gift. I hope to meet her again one day, perhaps after I have read Delirium – I am sure there is a lot more to know. For now though, she definitely has another constant reader in me and she managed to make Hayley a fan before she had even read a word…

Find out more here: http://www.laurenoliverbooks.com/biography.php

Follow Lauren on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/OliverBooks

Purchase information for Panic: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/lauren+oliver/panic/10304874/

Panic_HC_JKT_des4.indd Review

Available now in Paperback from Hodder and Staughton.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Panic is a wonderfully written and totally addictive novel, following a group of youngsters playing a dangerous game – but at the heart of the story is a coming of age tale, peppered with some terrific characters who’s motives ebb and flow as the game is played, and who will capture your heart in various ways.

The further I got into this tale the more I loved it – starting off with Heather rather impulsively joining in the game when she fully intended to avoid it – we move through a series of events that are at times heart stopping and at times extremely emotional. Heather struggles in her home life, with a drug addicted mother and a sister to look out for – she sees winning Panic as a way out, a chance to leave this life for pastures new. Along with best friends Nat and Bishop and joining up with the enigmatic Dodge, they traverse the waters of the increasingly dangerous challenges, ending up on a path of discovery about themselves and each other, one that could end up with redemption or disaster.

A clever story, one that speaks to the different fears that each and every one of us has – I loved the flow of it, that absolute sense of excitement the challenges invoke, the pure adrenalin rush that can come from the unexpected – but also the best part for me was the interactions, friendships and ever changing attitudes of the people playing. Well drawn and evocative, this captures some of the aspects of growing up perfectly. With an insightful eye, Ms Oliver tells us a tale about facing your fear – and understanding that which drives us.

Overall a beautifully written and compelling story, one that will stay with me for a while.

Highly Recommended.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

In Praise of Editors – Guest Post from Joanna Courtney.

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I am very happy to host Joanna once again on my blog, telling us about her publishing journey and writing in general. Today she is in Praise of Editors….

 

 

 

I first started writing for the women’s magazines back in 1999. I still remember having my first story accepted for publication (yes, a bottle of bubbly was bought and probably cost almost as much as I was paid but, as discussed in my previous post, all successes must be celebrated). I felt fantastic – I was on the road to being a ‘real writer’. I could stop doing housework (not that I’d ever really got started) and chain myself to my desk to suffer for my art. The fact that my next 3 stories were all politely turned away dented this confidence a little but there were good reasons for the rejections and once I’d worked out where I was going wrong I crept forward, having work accepted by more and more editors.
And what lovely people they are. OK, so they don’t feel quite so lovely when they reject you (reject your story, I know, but we all understand how personal it feels when it happens) but at heart they are true fiction lovers and very engaging people and I honestly believe that writing for the womags over the years has really helped me improve my general style. There are people who look down on the womags in the same way as there are people who look down on chick lit or sci-fi or romance and for the life of me I fail to see why. These genres sell. Readers love them and what better accolade is there?
I remember hearing the Derbyshire writer Stephen Booth speaking at a writers’ conference in Loughborough once. It was a fantastic speech throughout but the one bit that sticks in my mind was an anecdote he told about touring America. He was taken to a vast warehouse-style bookshop and told his signing would be in the section where his books were shelved. He duly looked up at the huge signs over the aisles and made for ‘fiction’ at which point he was stopped by an apologetic shop worker who told him he was very sorry but Stephen wasn’t in ‘fiction’ – he was in ‘popular fiction’. Why apologise, Stephen asked him – who wouldn’t want to be popular?
I couldn’t agree more and its one of the reasons I love writing for the magazines. There is little more satisfying than receiving a letter from a reader saying they can’t wait to get into the newsagents for the next part of your serial. Old-fashioned maybe (Dickensian even) but wonderful. My main aim as a writer is to involve readers – to create stories that draw them in and make them want to know more and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the lovely editors at the People’s Friend, My Weekly, Women’s Weekly, Take a Break and Yours for helping me learn how best to do that.
My first ever serial with The People’s Friend was a huge learning curve in pacy plotting. For those who don’t know, the outline of a serial is usually accepted with the first episode but every subsequent episode has to be approved on its own merits before you are (a) paid and (b) asked to crack on with the next one. The poor lady editing my work gave me patient and hugely valuable feedback on upping tension, keeping characters consistent and interweaving storylines. I don’t think it was until episode 5 that I got it right first time but some of her wisdom must have rubbed off as from that point on I only had minor re-writes. My next serial sailed through in comparison to the first, though I’m still prone to the odd stupid mistake, always very gently pointed out!
These editors know their readers inside out and that seems to me to be the key to successful fiction. I – along with most writers I’m sure – write from the heart about characters that burn inside me and plots that keep me awake at night and settings that (when I finally do get to sleep) haunt my dreams and I think that’s the only way to do it. Anyone chasing a market is unlikely to succeed – we have to write the story inside us, not the one (tempting though it certainly is) currently flying off the shelves. I do, however, always try and edit with my readers in mind to make sure all those characters and plots and settings are as vivid to them as they are in my own tiny head.
I’m now, very excitingly, embarking on the edit of Book 1 of The Queens of the Conquest, with my new (and hopefully just as patient and kind) editor, Natasha at Pan Macmillan and I’m hoping that years of perfecting short stories to the women’s magazines’ very high standards is going to help. It’s a daunting task trying to get that high-shine to my work and one I’m grateful not to be doing totally alone.
So this entry goes out in praise of editors. My especially thanks go to Shirley Blair at The People’s Friend and Liz Smith at My Weekly and I look forward to continuing to work with them even as I launch into the new waters of my novel. And, of course, I have one consolation – polishing my prose, however tough, will always, always be preferable to polishing the furniture!

 

http://www.joannabarnden.co.uk/