Interview with Stav Sherez – Author of the Carrigan and Miller Novels.

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I adore the writing of Stav Sherez so I recently caught up with him to find out more about the Carrigan and Miller books amongst other things – here is what he had to tell me.

 

Tell me a little about how Carrigan and Miller came into focus.

Like most things, it was more by accident than design. I knew I wanted my third novel to deal with modern-day Africa and the phenomenon of child soldiers. I was interested in what happened to them when they were in another country, trying to create a new life for themselves. I knew that I couldn’t use amateur sleuths, as I’d previously done, because they wouldn’t have the access to the immigrant community needed and so the protagonists had to be cops. Once I knew this, the characters of Carrigan and Miller came into focus. It was never meant to be a series but halfway through writing A Dark Redemption I realised there was far more to these characters than I could get at in one book.

 

You have a lot of factual basis in the stories you write – Is it tough on the emotions to research?

Absolutely. But it’s also what spurs me to tell these particular stories. And the best thing about this job is that every novel allows me to further educate myself about the world. I’m interested in how idealism turns into fanaticism and each of my novels has dealt with this issue in different ways. Spending months reading about the Holocaust for The Devil’s Playground, or about child soldiers for A Dark Redemption – it is disturbing and creeps and gnaws and burrows into your dreams and the only way I know to purge it is through fiction.

 

Tell us a bit about series writing, it always fascinates me to know if there is a long term plan for the characters?

As I mentioned above, the series was never planned and I still don’t have a long term plan. I don’t believe in long-term plans. I don’t know what will interest me next year or the year after that or in six years time so to plan would be pointless and self-defeating. These days, when I get an idea for a novel, I first work out whether it should be a Carrigan and Miller or a standalone. Then I go from there. I never plan individual books more than a few chapters ahead so the idea of planning several books in advance is unimaginable to me!

The main difficulty I’ve found so far in writing a series is the danger of repeating oneself. You will inevitably be writing similar scenes from book to book and so the challenge is to make them new and surprising each time.

 

The London Carrigan and Miller inhabit is a dark one. How is your London?

Very pleasant, thank you! But there are many Londons. All cities are palimpsests – history and biography thread through their streets and buildings. I set my first two books abroad because London as a location for fiction held no interest for me, I knew it too well and it disappeared like the wallpaper in your flat disappears. But A Dark Redemption had to be set in London and I realised there was another London I could write about – a city of illegal immigrants, locked-down communities and transient populations, a city we pass by every day yet rarely notice.

 

One book you have read that stays in your heart.

I’m getting to be a bit of a bore on this subject but Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. The sentences are – I think – the best written of any novel, ever. The rush of landscape, history and hurtling theology. The dark incessant vision of a Hobbesian future played out in the bloodlands of the American West.

 

Apart from Author name one job in the world you would LOVE to have.

I truly cannot think of any other thing I would rather be. I wanted to be a writer since I was ten and this has never changed or wavered.

 

3 people living or dead you would go for a beer with.

William Burroughs, Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas Pynchon.

 

Thank you so much Stav!

 

Review: Eleven Days

Once again I found myself diving into a “second in series” book by an author I was already extremely fond of. The first book in the “Carrigan and Miller” series, A Dark Redemption, was excellent and I was not far into this one before I realised that, if anything, it was even better. This time we find our protagonists investigating arson at a convent in which eleven nuns die…except there were only ten nuns in residence. With Eleven days to go until Christmas, the powers that be are keen for a resolution to this case… So begins a mystery that is deeper than it first appears and takes us on a journey across time and continents until the final,very jaw dropping (in the best way possible – I didnt see it coming and there was I thinking I was clever…) solution. Once again Mr Sherez creates characters you can believe in. Both Carrigan and Miller grow in stature and the supporting cast are all important to the story and well drawn. The background, of evil acts in South America, The Shining Path and all the political shenanigans is brilliant – extremely realistic, I imagine that a fair bit of research was involved in making it authentic. Its also a terrific social comment on what may be happening in our own back yard that we all turn a blind eye to – some of the story was very emotive and isnt it great when a book can make you feel something as well as entertain you? I have to say I was pleased to be reading this on the Kindle – I’m fairly sure I would be covered in paper cuts by now otherwise in my eagerness to turn pages…so all in all a great sequel, a great book and if you havent met up with Carrigan and Millar before, head back towards a Dark Redemption and I’m fairly sure it will then be less than Eleven Days before you are reading Eleven Days. Wonderful.

Also Available:

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Happy Reading Folks!

 

Follow Stav on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/stavsherez

Purchase information clickety click http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stav-Sherez/e/B001HPPZV6/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1385716492&sr=1-2-ent

The Siege: Three Days of Terror Inside the Taj

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Thank you to Catherine at Penguin for tracking down a copy of this book for me.

So, recently I decided to expand my reading yet again by starting to read some more non-fiction  – something I’ve only dipped a toe into every now and again, much preferring fiction and all the adventures you can find there…

I started with Jamie Baywoods often hilarious account of how she settled into a new home- Getting Rooted in New Zealand – and then moved onto a “self help” book for those suffering a loss “You can Heal Your Heart” both of which gave me very different but equally rewarding reading experiences. I then put out a plea amongst friends as to what I should try next – The Siege, by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott Clark, telling the story of the 2008 takeover of the Taj in Mumbai by Islamic terrorists seemed to be a popular choice – Read it they told me. Its fascinating, horrifying and compelling. So I did..and here is what I thought.

Synopsis

The Siege by Adrian Levy & Cathy Scott-Clark – a searing account of the 2005 terrorist attacks at Mumbai’s famous Taj Hotel.
On 26th November 2008 the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai is besieged by Pakistani Islamists, armed with explosives and machine guns.
For three days, guests and staff of the hotel are trapped as the terrorists run amok.
On 29th November commandos launch Operation Black Tornado. The world holds its breath.

The first thing that struck me was how well researched this book was. Starting with the “Dramatis personae” giving an overview of the people involved and a brief background, including guests, staff and the terrorists themselves, I was immediately right at the heart of the matter – I wanted to find out what happened to all of them. Leading on with a bit of background of the events leading up to the terror attacks, and some information on the hotel, you were left feeling slightly off kilter while you waited for what you knew was coming..

The second thing that struck me was how much this book read as if it was a Thriller – a fast paced one at that – I often had to stop for a moment and remind myself, especially in the more violent moments, that these people were REAL. Everything I was reading actually happened – it was a sobering thought and one that compelled me to read ever onwards. I read this in two days, such was my inability to leave it before I knew the outcome. I had zero knowledge of these events before opening this account – such is the beauty of the writing I now feel almost as if I were there – or at the very least had friends who were.

This is a soundbite in a way – a little of my own research tells me that there was a lot more to the terror attacks on Mumbai in 2008 quite apart from the events at the Taj – I feel that I absolutely want to know more. If anyone knows of any other books that tackle this subject well, I would be very interested to hear about them.

I’m not sure what else I can say really – I can’t speak to characterisation because these are not characters they are human beings who suffered at the hands of other human beings – that very fact makes this a must read. I would highly recommend that you give it a go.

At the end, I read every name in the “RIP” section and shed a tear for those people I had never known, and never WOULD have known even had they lived.

Highly Recommended.

 

 

Choosing my next read….sometimes it takes hours!

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For a complete bookworm such as myself choosing my next read (or in my case batch of reads) often takes a lot of doing…I peruse my bookshelves, I look at my netgalley approvals, flip through my kindle then I wander the house for a while with a lost expression on my face…before returning to the bookshelves….

Sometimes its easy. That book you’ve been waiting for has arrived, or in my case one of my lovely publishers has sent me something delightfully unexpected (Kate at Harper Collins is psychic I believe – whenever I’m having a rough time or am dying for something a bit different inevitably something arrives that is just perfect!) She’s not the only one either – I count myself as one of the luckiest bookworms ever…

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My reading material comes from many sources. I buy about 10 books a month, sometimes more. I get sent 2-3 a week on average. I have netgalley for those up and coming releases I just can’t bear to wait for. Lovely Indie Authors send me their novels, often little gems that would have passed me by. I get offered reads and sometimes chase them down tenaciously (I found one of my current books that way – I stalked Catherine at Penguin until she found me a copy of “The Siege” – sorry Catherine!) I usually wait to be asked but sometimes – well, my obsession gets the best of me. Sigh.

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There are not enough books in the world to make me feel like I’ve got a long enough reading list – I LOVE drowning in novels, having a myriad of new worlds to explore, new characters to meet and then rave about. I have a practical eye when I choose my next adventure – if I have Advanced Reading Copies I try and make sure that I time it right, but mostly it has to be said, its purely impulsive. My brain tells me whether I need zombies, or dystopia, or a thrill ride or a juicy murder to investigate. Whether its family drama I need to read about or whether I want to find out more about a real life event – such as I am doing now with “The Siege”

However my brain processes it, I always seem to end up with the right read at the right time for ME. Remember “The Humans”? Of course not, I will never let you forget…

So how do YOU choose your next read? Here are mine…

Currently Reading.

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Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

A Christmas Anthology will be Rocking the Road to a Cure….

 

In the spirit of giving, six chick-lit authors present a charming collection of seasonal shorts sure to inspire holiday cheer, plus love and hope throughout the year, with all proceeds donated to Rocking the Road for a Cure!

 

On Friday 22nd November, Merry Chick Lit, a warm, funny Christmas anthology in aid of Breast Cancer Care, will be officially released.

 

Every penny of the royalties is going to Breast Cancer Charity, Rocking the Road to a Cure.

 

Rocking the Road to a Cure is dedicated to improving the quality of life of people undergoing the often energy-depleting and emotionally draining treatments for breast cancer.

 

The name comes from their founder and President, Dawn Frey, a musician, who learned through personal experience that “it takes a village” to get through the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, and not every individual has the support network they need.

 

Rocking The Road For A Cure provides free, in-home housekeeping, health and wellness services to restore strength and confidence, and to rebuild spiritual, emotional and physical well-being.

 

So, when you settle back and relax to enjoy reading Merry Chick Lit, please know that you have helped us help a breast cancer patient to also settle back and relax…and heal.

 

Featured authors & stories include:

 

Carolyn Ridder Aspenson
In “Santa’s Gift,” journalist Jessica thinks Santa’s just a silly myth for children, so when he asks what she most wants for Christmas she tells him the one thing she knows he can’t deliver–true love. Or can he…?

 

Sarah Hitchcock
In “The Christmas Lights,” one competition pits two families against each other…who will win this war?

 

Francine LaSala
Pretty Izzy knows exactly what she wants for Christmas: hunky sales manager Jake Harrington wrapped up with a shiny silver bow–and nothing else. Except Santa may have other plans in “Carol of the Belles.”

 

Nikki Mahood In “Spinster Christmas,” Cara’s looking forward to spending Christmas alone until she learns her old–and she believes very gay–crush needs a place to stay. Though it soon becomes clear that while still hot, Ronan isn’t gay after all…

 

Holly Martin
Ella’s dreams of making a better life for her and her daughter seem further away than ever in “Iced Dreams.” But as Christmas approaches, and she wishes for a fairy godmother to wave a magic wand to fix her life, things begin to change in ways she never imagined!

 

K.C. Wilder
In “The Mermaid,” Allie’s content to spend Christmas by herself at a vacant beach house to make good on a promise made to her true love lost, Jeff. Until Jeff’s gorgeous college roommate Tim crashes in on her with his own promise to keep…

 

So snuggle up near the fire, drink a glass of wine or a cup of cocoa and enjoy these festive holiday shorts, knowing your purchase of this book is helping women with breast cancer.

 To Purchase: Clickety Click

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Merry-Chick-Celebrate-Season-Shorts-ebook/dp/B00GPUXAEM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1384704085&sr=1-1

 

Happy Publication Day to Will Carver and Dead Set…

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So I recently raved about, oops I mean reviewed Dead Set, the latest January David novel from Will Carver – and today you can all get your hands on a copy! So in celebration of that fact I caught up with Will and asked him a few extremely intelligent questions. Ok, questions anyway. Here is what he had to tell me.

 

January David is a weirdly wonderful character – tell us a little about how he came into focus in your mind.

He was, actually, the last character I invented when I wrote GIRL 4. I started with the killer, Eames, then invented all of the victims, one of whom was Audrey David, my future detective’s wife. I’d built this entire world and a set of very deliberately staged scenes of murder, I just had to fit January David in. And the best way to do that was to have him not fit in. I wanted a man that was successful and smart but dark and broken. I wanted him to have risen up the ranks quickly for solving cases based largely on his intuitions, then I wanted to take his intuitions one step further and consequently force his career three steps back.

He needed to struggle. I wanted the reader to solve that case before the detective, to have more information than he was likely to uncover. I wanted him to make mistakes on the GIRL 4 case because he was so against believing in the things The Smiling Man was telling him. In THE TWO, I wanted him to go the other way. To believe so completely in his ‘intuitions’ that he forgot about the real police work that had built his career. I think he needed to fail so that he could remember why he does the job he does.

He wants to find his sister.

In DEAD SET, we see for the first time that January David is combining both of his talents, and to good effect.

Though he was the last character I created, I think he is the most complete in my mind. I think of him as a person rather than a character. He’s very real to me. He doesn’t do the same thing in every book. He can’t solve each case in the same way because he is evolving with each new challenge. I know him so well now that his chapters are the easiest to write for me. But I know where it’s all leading and I know where it will end.

 

Cool name too – How did you decide on “January”.

I wanted something memorable. A name that was quirky and unique enough to stick in peoples’ minds. I thought I may have made up the name but the parents of actress January Jones were decades ahead of me on that one, though I haven’t seen it used for a man . . . I think it works. And I like that it can be shortened to Jan for the people that know him best – I call him Jan. Still, there have been readers that tell me how much they like David January.

There is a second reason for his name but it is a bit of an authorly joke or puzzle that I share only with myself. I have been known to impart this information in person after a few whiskies so there are a few others who share my secret.

Maybe it’s an anagram . . .

 

Did you always intend to have a “supernatural” element to the stories?

Yes. Absolutely. Though I never really thought of it as supernatural. January David sees a cryptic version of a murder that is going to take place and he knows that some time in the 24 hours following, a person is going to die. These clues have been referred to as dreams or visions or prophecies but I tend to think of them as intuitions. He is a detective that has thrived on his hunches. I see his gift as taking the hunch to the next level. That Jan is so connected to the case that his unconscious mind is telling his conscious mind the things it needs to know. He needs to combine these intuitions with regular police procedure to obtain an answer quicker.

Saying that, I do understand the supernatural tag and I’m completely fine with that. My two favourite detective are Fox Mulder from The X-Files and Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks so I have a fondness for the esoteric and it’s nice that my writing can lift itself out of straight crime or thriller.

 

Is it difficult to give a unique “voice” to each character with the multiple viewpoints?

Think of it in terms of the TV show Big Brother. The later seasons became ridiculous. They would fill the house with deliberately combative personalities. They’d slip in a woman who used to be a man or a dwarf or someone with obscene plastic surgery or a nymphomaniac or conjoined twins. It was one step away from The Bearded Lady or Jim-Jim the Dog-Faced Boy. It was bad television and, worse than that, it was easy television.

Compare it with the first season of the show, and the second season to an extent. It was twelve ‘normal’ people from around the UK who had no idea how big the show was going to be. They were like people you knew, the differences between them were based on personality. That was the risk. That’s what was interesting.

When I create each voice I don’t want every character to be completely different from the other. It is more to do with nuance. So I think about each character having a different personality quirk or way of speaking, perhaps they have a phrase they use or something they mispronounce. It should be subtle because that is more realistic. It’s harder to do but who wants it easy?

 

Do you have a favourite villain? – Eames, Audrey or someone we perhaps haven’t met yet? 

I love writing the villains and I’ve done a lot of research into the psychology of serial-killers, psychopathy and cultism. It’s all so interesting.  I really loved writing the character of V in THE TWO. He was so strict with himself and focussed on his regime of fitness and excess. He was a classic removed narcissist, but with a good reason. Really enjoyable to write.

Eames is my favourite, though. That’s why I had to bring him back for DEAD SET. He is just so cold. He looks at a person and thinks of them in the same way that he thinks of his shoes or a smeared handprint on the doorframe or a discarded TV dinner. He believes that he is supposed to kill, that it is his job. He was formed a lot from Ted Bundy and Charles Manson but he, himself, admits that he is nothing like them. He does not blame anyone else for the way that he is, he was born to do this. It’s not even a case of not feeling that what he does is wrong, it’s that he just doesn’t care.

I love that he has this inflated vision of his station in life yet he also looks at himself in the same way that he sees a dirty fork or a chewed-up biro. I know that what he does is wrong, that he is a bad man, but he’s also quite suave and I find myself liking him and his cockiness.

He is pure theatre and real pleasure to write but his chapters are always the most difficult to write because every inflection of his voice, the pace that he talks, it has to be perfect. That’s how he’d want it.

 

Tell us a little bit about what’s next for January.

DEAD SET is the last book of my contract so January David’s future is currently floating in the ether with The Smiling Man. What I will say is that I know what the next three books will be, I have written one of the them and started another.

I don’t want to give too much away that would spoil the end of DEAD SET but I do see some of the characters returning and January David uncovering something very significant that is related to his past. He is also moving into a place where the reader will have to be on their A-game if they are going to solve a case before him from now on. He is emerging from the darkness.

 

Book you wish you had written.

This is a different question to What is your favourite book? I love The Book Thief but I don’t wish I had written it, that would have taken something away from the way I felt when I read it. I love Hemingway and Fitzgerald and there are single lines they have written that I would give it all up for. But there are two books I wish I had written. Fight Club and American Psycho. I think Palahniuk and Easton-Ellis are of a similar ilk. Caustic prose that shows no fear. Dark and daring and uncaring. Free to paint a picture of the world that most readers are afraid to admit is true and exists. That’s what writing is or should be about.

I keep a copy of Fight Club on my desk when I write and occasionally flick through it if I’m having a dull moment. It’s my something to aim for. I can turn to any page and it makes me feel sick that someone else got there with it first.

I am Jack’s envious quill.

 

3 People living or dead you would have a beer with?

I’d have a beer with anyone, especially if they’re buying . . .

Shaun T. He’s a fitness guru responsible for the Insanity workout regime. I’ve gone through this high-intensity workout program several times now and he has pushed me to the limit. It’s really difficult but it’s awesome. I would love to take him out for a few beers just so that I could say, ‘Right, you keep up with ME this time. Dig deep.’

Hemingway. But we’d have to drink Absinthe. And he’d have to get really serious about writing. Maybe he could punch me in the face at the end of the night. What a story.

Hank Moody from Californication. I know he’s not dead or alive. I know he’s not real. To you. But he is to me. I would love to have a few beers with him. Shoot the shit about how being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life before moving onto whisky and talking about women. I imagine the night turning into something bad that we’d need a lawyer to get out of. That the details would only return the next day in patches of light. We’d go back to his after being let out of jail and start the party again in the morning. So, not that different from my real life . . .

 

Thank you Mr Will Carver!

 

Review

 

First things first. If you have not then READ GIRL 4 FIRST.  And The Two. And you should. If you havent. There may be spoilers ahead for the first two novels.

Here we go….

Detective Inspector January David doesn’t love me.

He loves his missing sister. He loves his job.

But he doesn’t love me. Not in the way he should.

I am his wife. I am still his wife.

And I will do anything for him.

No matter what I have to sacrifice.

So the third outing for January David, finds him coming to the end of the sabbatical enforced upon him after the events of “The Two”. Meanwhile a missing young girl is found dead, another murder victim begins to tell us her tale…and January will soon find himself caught up in the tangled web being weaved by our favourite psychotic killer once more…oh but which psychotic killer do you refer to I hear you ask? Well take your pick. The wonderfully drawn Eames or the enigmatic and dangerous Audrey David? Well, we will see…

What you get with this series of novels is Murder, Magic and Mayhem. A hint of the supernatural and a touch of fear. Or in my case a screaming case of the heebie jeebies. Every time. Every single time. Why? No idea – its all in the writing my friends.

Will Carver writes with a very quirky style – it is unique and very much his own. He uses multiple points of view to great effect – you hear from January, from Audrey, from Eames and from the victims, all interspersed with bridges from one to the other…a flowing and intelligent narrative that tells you everything you need to know whilst keeping it secret at the same time. Inventive  writing indeed. It won’t work for everyone – but if you love a story that takes you “outside the box” then this is perfect for you.

As I was drawn inexorably towards yet another brain bending conclusion (yes, you will not get molly coddled here folks) I was at turns terrified, absorbed, captivated and entertained – as usual a perfect combination. This is perhaps my favourite of the three – because now the mythology and mystery at the heart of these novels is ingrained. I’m right there. I know what to expect and yet I am always, always taken aback. Perhaps I should say I have learned to expect the unexpected…

I adore this series in the same way that I adore John Connolly’s “Charlie Parker” series – because they are surprising, delightful, downright scary and utterly fascinating. Kudos.

 

Find out more here: http://www.willcarver.net/www.willcarver.net/Author_Will_Carver___January_David_Novels.html

Follow Will on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/will_carver

Purchase Information clickety click : http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Set-January-David-3/dp/0099551055/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383559778&sr=1-2

(Remember though – Girl 4 first!)

Also Available:

 

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Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

Guy Mankowski talks “Letters from Yelena”….

Letters From Yelena

 

So I had the pleasure recently of reading another great novel from Legend Press, “Letters From Yelena” by Guy Mankowski. I caught up with him and asked a few pertinent questions and here is what he had to say.

 

Tell us a little bit about how the idea for “Letters from Yelena”  came into being.

 

I wanted to tell the story of someone who was devoted to their art, and a ballerina seemed a seductive way to do that. The hard part for me is always finding an angle that inspires you. A friend of mine told me about a book he was working on which were a series of letters and it struck me as the perfect way to tell the story of someone’s inner life, which is all I’m ever really interested in. Once I had that way of mining the story the plot flowed for me quickly.

 Was a lot of research involved, especially with reference to the Ballet?

 

Yes, there was a lot. I travelled to Russia, alone, to visit St Petersburg where my character trains. Like her, I had to learn how to adapt to a new country in order to be creative. Being funded by the Arts Council to research a book in famous ballet academies sounds wonderful, and in many ways it was. But in reality it was very isolated, as the blueprint for the book only existed in my head and I didn’t speak a word of Russian. Some specialist tour companies told me they could get me access to certain places and once I was in Russia it transpired that they hadn’t yet so I had to learn a variety of tactics to get what I needed for the book. My visa only allowed me a limited amount of time in Russia so I was against the clock as well. It occurred to me at the time that as a little-known author I really had no right to have access to these famous places and dancers. But perseverance paid off, and I got to meet artists whose work is there lifeblood, and find out how they grind out this magic. I developed a love of ballet which I think came through, and that certainly helped.

How did you find writing from a female point of view as a male author?

 

Ideally I would prefer to write from a female point of view more often. There are certain literary tropes in existence, and one seems to be that the male view is reductive. I found the female perspective more sensual and layered. Which is all very well but when it comes to promoting a book you have to read bits out, often in front of lots of people you want to win over, and as an English male I felt a bit weird reading letters supposedly written by a Ukrainian female. I wasn’t sure if I should be in drag, or a tutu at least…
Did Yelena’s story change in your mind as the book progressed?

 

Yes. It became darker. I knew that Yelena would have to be running from something, or trying to prove something, in order for her to be determined enough to come from the Ukrainian wilderness and into the big lights of St Petersburg. But I was surprised how dark it got, following the encouragement of my publishers I should add. I was talking to an author about this the other day, and we were both commenting on this. The one area of the book that you don’t want to stay in for too long tends to be the area readers are most interested in.

What was strange is that certain things happened to Yelena and once I’d written the story they also happened to me. I won’t say what as it gives away the plot but they were dramatic. So I ended up adding to earlier drafts with personal experience.

Can you tell us anything about your next project?

 

It’s about an eccentric musician from dark ages Manchester who has a burst of fame and then vanishes. A journalist is commissioned to track him down when it is rumoured this man is finally coming out of hiding. I love the Factory Records scene which gave birth to bands like Joy Division. It was a time when people were kicking against the backdrop of recession by creating this otherworldly, confrontational music. There are aspects of that relevant today. In terms of the dress, the performances, the use of sound it was very inventive. People making art on a shoe-string, that shook the world. I find the discipline of that music exciting too- it has that in common with ballet.

One book you would want if stranded on a desert island?

 

Everything, by Simon Price. It’s a book about the Manic Street Preachers. They say the truth is stranger than fiction but the story of these cross-dressing intellectuals from a village in Wales who set the world alight always inspires me, and it has some real pockets of insight about art.
Favourite author/s?

Kafka or Camus. People who find that deserted area that everyone should be talking about and just set up camp there.
One person famous or not,dead or alive, you would love to meet?

 

Peter Cook. Those wonderful old-school comedians, who juggled with words as if they were sharp knives, offering piercing insights left right and centre and creating surreal worlds with a single quip. Just to be at a dinner party with someone like them when they are riffing would have been thrilling. Perhaps my next book will be about a comedian.

 

Thanks so much Guy!

 

Review

My letters to you, my darling Noah, will be maps, in which I hope I can be found.

Yelena, a brilliant but flawed Ukrainian ballerina, comes to the UK to fulfil her dreams and dance in one of ballet’s most prestigious roles: Giselle. While researching content for his new book, Yelena meets Noah, and here begins a journey of discovery.

Firstly I would like to say that this novel was beautifully written. Yelena’s voice through her letter writing is easily heard – and her story is compelling. Her passion for her dancing shines through as does the hardship and pure determination that is required in that field – it gave me an insight into just how much blood, sweat and tears goes into what we eventually see on stage…

This is very much a book about human feelings and emotions – through Yelena’s hopes, fears and dreams, her world comes to life. Both the light and the dark side – the author tackles some emotive subjects through this character and it is heart wrenching and addictive reading.

A bittersweet tale to be sure, one that will hold your heart in its hands for the length of the reading experience and will not let go.

This was one of those novels I would describe as “Poetic”. It won’t be for everyone, but personally I loved it. Wonderful and sublime writing.

You can follow Guy on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/Gmankow

Find out more about the books from Legend Press here: http://www.legendpress.co.uk/

Purchase Information clickety click http://www.amazon.co.uk/Letters-Yelena-Guy-Mankowski/dp/1909039101/ref=ntt_at_ep_edition_1_1

 

Happy Reading Folks!

Meet Stephanie Elmas – Author of “The Room Beyond”

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So a short while ago I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to read “The Room Beyond” from Stephanie Elmas and I loved it. Review shortly but first I caught up with Stephanie and asked her a few questions – here is what she had to tell me.

 

The Room Beyond was a labour of love for you – tell us how the idea first came into focus.

I have always loved reading about grand eccentric families. Brideshead Revisited is one of my favourite books for example.  As an only child from a very small family, sibling dynamics are something that fascinate me and I think the family in The Room Beyond was probably born out of that fascination.  What I didn’t bargain for was how dark the novel became as I wrote it.  That simply evolved and perhaps a psychologist would be needed to dig about in the corners of my mind to find  out where those specific ideas emerged from!

 

Please tell us about Walter Balanchine – what was your inspiration for that weirdly wonderful character?

Walter Balanchine is a character from the Victorian part of the novel. He is an East End London mystic who wears outlandish wizard like clothes and carries charms and trinkets around his neck.  Readers of the book have told me that at first they’re not sure whether he is good or bad as he is so unconventional and strange looking. Walter was born out of the turmoil that was taking place in late Victorian society. Darwin’s findings had made a lot of people question the role of religion and industrialisation and Empire were changing the way that many saw the world.  As a result there was a growing interest in the occult and supernatural during this period.  I think that Walter embodies a lot of what was going on then. He is a misfit and an eccentric and I loved writing him.

 

 

Was it fun writing over two timelines?

Yes it was. Many people say that it’s a very hard thing to weave two time frames together but I actually found it refreshing and less intense. If I was in a Serena mood (my present day heroine) then I’d write about her but if I felt like plunging into Victorian London then I could do that too. The novel I’m writing now does not have two timelines but I’d love to do it again in the future.

 

 

Did any of the characters “speak” to you more than the others?

I loved writing Beth, the little girl that Serena is nanny to in the present day. I have two little girls of my own: one is very serious and mature, the other incredibly flamboyant and articulate. Beth is based on neither of my children but there are elements of both of them there and when I created her I really did write from the heart.

 

Can you tell us anything about your next project?

Well, I couldn’t possibly leave Walter Balanchine alone! So, I’m sticking to the Victorian era this time and writing about his early life. I chart his progress from a young workhouse boy in the East End to a talented conjurer and mystic who, with the help of his friend Tom Winter, takes London society by storm.  Expect smoke, decadence and a fabulous love affair…

 

 

Favourite comfort book or author.

I like Kate Morton or something much loved and familiar like the books of E M Forster.

 

Favourite thing to do on a rainy day

Writing of course – I couldn’t possibly say otherwise! Or sitting in a dim sum restaurant and eating my body weight in dumplings.

 

Film you watch for pure escapism?

The Lord of the Rings, I don’t mind which one or in what order. Can’t get more escapist than that!

 

Thanks so much Stephanie!

 

Review

When Serena begins a new life working for the Hartreve family at 36 Marguerite Avenue she falls in love, not just with its eccentric and alluring inhabitants and their world, but with the house itself. Number 36 is a beautiful Victorian London mansion that has remained in the family for generations. Serena feels that by being here she has escaped the ghosts of her own sad childhood and found a true home, but she soon discovers that behind its gleaming surfaces Marguerite Avenue is plagued by secrets and mystery. Why does such a beautiful tranquil street seem sometimes to shimmer with menace? Is everyone in the family quite who they appear to be? And just what is it that the family is trying to hide from her?

 

Set in two timelines, with Serena beginning her employment with the Hartreve family and the relationship developing between her and the enigmatic Sebastian, we also head back to 1892 and meet Miranda Whitehouse, struggling in her marriage and forever under the watchful eye of her sister Jane. When she gets involved with the reclusive and mysterious Lucinda who lives next door, nothing will be the same again…

I love a novel that gives you true atmosphere and this one does just that… a beautifully descriptive writing style and classic tension building are key here and Stephanie Elmas pulls it off perfectly. The early part of the novel rambles gently but compellingly along but as things develop a much darker side appears – and from then on its a breathtaking rush to the final denouement.  I wasnt expecting it to be that favourite thing of mine – a wonderfully twisty tale – but it was. The strong supernatural elements hit the mark and all in all this was a delightful surprise of a read.

Characterisation is terrific, I adored Miranda, she was perhaps my favourite but I have to give a nod to Walter Balanchine with his weird and wonderful style, a truly terrific creation indeed. As the strands of the separate stories are pulled together, I was pleased that this was an ebook, I’m fairly sure if it had been a physical book I would currently be suffering paper cuts from my eagerness to turn the pages. I loved it.

You will notice that plot details are rather lacking in this review – there is a reason for that – the absolute joy of this novel for me was that it wasnt quite what I was expecting, but what it turned out to be was captivating and delectable.

 

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

Follow Stephanie on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/StephanieElmas

Purchase Information clickety click http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Room-Beyond-ebook/dp/B00FJ433QK/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382606481&sr=1-1&keywords=the+room+beyond

 

Happy Reading Folks!

Managing Reading Lists….Can it be done?

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Well I asked the question. The answer for me is No, not really! Ok so as a book blogger but firstly and forevermore a reader, when I started this reviewing lark seriously I soon realised that I needed to manage my backlog..my review copies and my reading life in a much more logical fashion. Then of course, you finish one book – or in my case batch of books – look at your schedule and realise that the next book on the list is not the one you currently have a fancy for. Sigh. So what to do?

 

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Me when its time to choose the next batch of books.

 

I used to have a very specific schedule – especially when it came to books sent to me for review – but after a while it wasnt working for me. Any reader knows that when you pick your next book you are in the moment – if you are in the mood for a dystopian Y.A. read then a serial killer thriller won’t cut the mustard. So here was the situation. I was being sent (and requesting) many books to read and review, at the same time my purchasing did not slow down. I’ve always had a book budget and trust me, I use it every month! I was also fed up with reading one at a time – my mood swings didnt allow for that. So I examined my reading habits and now I have a system that works for me.

Want to know? Ok I’ll tell you. Its messy…look away now if you like your life to have a sense of order to it…

 

First of all I realised this…

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Then took that and ran with it…

So now I keep lists, several of them, to ensure that I read any books sent to me for review in a timely fashion but without being beholden to them – the most important thing for me now is not WHEN I read it, but that when I do, its got my full attention, is one that I’m in the mood for and I can therefore write a true and from the heart review.

Currently I have six separate lists for batches of four books. Yes maths is not my strong point…

As I start each new batch of books I make sure that at least one is from my “purchased” list. Every third or fourth batch I make sure that one is from my “re-read” list. I love re reading old favourites, and I’m also looking to update various authors pages on my site with current reviews. This is just as important for me as reading all the wonderful new novels that are appearing through my postbox daily..

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So my lists grow ever longer. I’m currently trying to track down ARC’s of various books I know are coming and MUST READ NOW. I’m receiving lovely surprise books from some of my lovely publishers – Harper Collins of course, Penguin, Headline, Pan MacMillan to name but a few. I’m being offered some amazing reads.  As someone who supports Indie Authors I try and make sure I purchase at least 2 self published books a month and I accept requests for review from Indie Authors (although I make it clear I can’t promise a timescale). Then I obsessively enter Goodreads giveaways (and give each “win” a big cheer and a priority read!) purchase anything and everything that takes my fancy then moan about how many books I have to read (while loving every minute of it!) Sound familiar?

So Managing Reading Lists….Can it be done?

Nope. Unless another reader has found a foolproof method – if you have, please tell!

Does it matter?

Nope. Every book will be read at the right time for me. This I know. Every review I write will be my honest feelings about the book just completed because I’ve read it right. And I will continue to tenaciously track down any book that I feel the need to read – even if it kills me. Because as Stephen King points out…

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Read it. Live it. Love it.

 

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

 

Red Rising by Pierce Brown. Sometimes words are not enough.

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Arriving January people of earth. Form an orderly queue.

Thank you to the author and the publisher for the advance copy, although its also possible I want to throw shoes at you…

Darrow is a miner and a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he digs all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of the planet livable for future generations. Darrow has never seen the sky. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better future for his children. But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed….

So. Where to start. Well I could say the whole thing is brilliant (which it is) but that probably does not cover it. I could say its absolutely addictive (also true) but that would not cover it either. Sigh. And of course I do not REALLY want to say much about the story as this is an insane ride of total reading joy…so perhaps I’ll just give you a little snippet but mostly talk about the experience of it rather than the nitty gritty.

One thing I want to get out of the way is the inevitable comparison to The Hunger Games that will occur (and indeed is it seems in the marketing of it). Before I read “Red Rising” that series of novels was perhaps amongst the best example of a Dystopian read aimed at the Young Adult audience that I had come across. And “Dystopian” is where the comparison stops for me. Red Rising is The Hunger Games on acid, a wonderful, heartfelt, enslaving rollercoaster ride of a novel, filled with rich language, a world beyond imagination, peppered with astonishing fascinating characters and best of all a truly magnificent main protagonist. Yes, Young Adults will love it. Pensioners will love it for that matter. As will everyone in between if this is the type of story they go for. And if you don’t normally read this genre and are looking at me as if I’ve gone slightly insane..then get a copy, read it, and come back to me afterwards. I think you will be surprised..

So what about what me? Well,  while reading the following things happened. I laughed. I cried. I cheered and I held my breath. I often threw it down in agony only to pick it up again seconds later to read another chunk..after the halfway mark I only allowed myself a bit at a time because I knew that I would be bereft once I was done…and yet still it drew me back in at every spare moment. I KNEW this book was going to be trouble when I spilt my drink yesterday and yelled “BloodyDamn” at it. Other reviewers who have already had this reading experience will know THAT feeling. There is a whole new language here and I seem to have been affected by it…

True love. True Loss. Adventure. Pain. Pleasure. Good versus Evil, one young man against an army…true David v Goliath stuff. And oh gosh, this is only the start. In terms of this being “Part One” the set up is truly extraordinary. I really would sell my soul to the devil to read part two RIGHT NOW! So if the Devil exists and he is watching….

So I havent told you much have I? Well. I didnt know much going in and that was the beauty, the fun, the sheer exhilarating genius of it. I feel like quoting Stephen King now so I leave you with this.

Go Then…There are other worlds than these.

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

Liz Currently Loves…..JellyBird by Lezanne Clannachan.

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Thank you kindly to Lezanne for saving me from certain Jail by sending me a copy of her book. And thanks to Bex for the recommendation.

‘I’m good at secrets,’ Libby says. Yes, thinks Jessica, I bet you are…

With her life unravelling, Jessica flees home to the seaside town where she grew up. The discovery of an old postcard among her childhood belongings sends Jessica in search of her first love, Thomas, ‘the ghost boy’ who disappeared one night seventeen years ago.

Jessica has escaped her somewhat unhappy childhood and is happily married – until Libby comes into her life. At first Jessica is pleased to have a new friend. But as she becomes suspicious of Libby’s motives, Jessica finds circumstances flinging her back into her past..and a mystery never fully explained.

This was a wonderfully evocative novel – a tale of childhood, how our experiences shape our adult self and most of all about perception…and how things can come into focus as we grow up and understand more – especially about the actions, or sometimes inactions of our parents.  Jessica takes a journey back into her childhood but seeing it with different eyes..in order to find out who she is and what she wants, she must understand who she was then….and find out once and for all the truth about what happened to Thomas.

This book did remind me, with its ambience, very much of one of my favourite Agatha Christie novels – Sleeping Murder. Very different tales, but both with childhood memories affecting an adult life and both with something dark lurking just below the surface. In Sleeping Murder of course, Miss Marple knows why that feeling influences Gwenda so deeply, in JellyBird Jessica is on her own..who can she trust when a lot of the time she does not even trust herself? And therein lies the beauty of this one – a sympathetic character who you are right behind even at the times you would like to kick her in the shin to get her to wake the heck up.

The mystery element is intelligent and creative – all is not as it appears. Ever. Right up to the end there is an element of suspicion about what actually occurred – even with hindsight not everything becomes clear (no, those of you who hate an open ended finish, that is not what I mean, the story is complete. However I certainly have one question for Ms Clannachan and I shall be tracking her down shortly to ask it) If you like an imaginative resolution I would say you will love this.

All in all a terrific read so thanks Bex for insisting I would love it – because you were oh so right!

Happy Reading Folks!