Zenith Hotel – Short but beautifully sweet…

Narrator Nanou, a street prostitute, gives a detailed account of her day, from the moment she wakes up with a foul taste in her mouth, in her sordid rented room, until the minute she crawls back into her bed at night to sleep. Interwoven with her story are portraits of her clients. Oscar Coop-Phane invents an astonishing cast of original and deeply human characters – losers, defeated by the world around them – who seek solace in Nanou’s arms. Original and moving, this short book deftly paints a world of solitude and sadness, illuminated by precious moments of tenderness and acts of kindness.

 

20609927BjABYV6IgAADexL

Translated from the French by Ros Schwartz

For a young man, Oscar Coop-Phane packs quite a punch with his writing – accomplished yes, you could almost believe that this is a writer who has been doing this for years – but also emotive, fascinating and with an insight into his characters that is second to none.

This is a uniquely human story, with a solitary, pragmatic soul at the heart of it, simply telling us about her day. The people she encounters, the raw side of humanity, with some little gems of purely poetic insight into the things that drive us. Set against the backdrop of a Paris unseen by most, this truly is a most amazing debut.

I read this in one sitting, immersed in that world, barely breathing – it hooks you straight in, holds you there until you emerge with a vague sense of wanting something you are not quite sure of. These are the moments readers read for..

One word. Wonderful.

About the Author

Oscar Coop-Phane was born in 1988. He left home at 16 with dreams of becoming a painter and at 20 moved to Berlin where he spent a year writing and reading classics. There he wrothe Zenith Hotel which won the prix De Flore in France and then Tomorrow,Berlin (Arcadia 2015). Today he lives in Brussels and is working on his third novel, October.

About the Translator

Over the last three decades Ros Schwartz has translated a wide range of Francophone authors including Arcadia’s Dominique Manotti (whose Lorraine Connection won the 2008 International Dagger Award). In 2009 the French governmnet made her Chevalier De l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for her services to Literature.

If you fancy your very own copy of this novel….

For a chance to win one, simply comment here Or tweet me @Lizzy11268 and tell me the last character from a novel that touched your heart. Because its possible that Nanou will be the next…

Happy Reading Folks!

Liz Currently Loves…We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

19667395

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. And thank you to the lovely Leilah Skelton of Waterstones fame for being very insistent that I read this one…

Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind.
Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man.
And Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister, her accomplice in all their childhood mischief? Fern’s is a fate the family, in all their innocence, could never have imagined.

So where to start. Well lets start in the middle….hey its a thing. I was about halfway through this one when it struck me that I came seriously close to missing out on this novel entirely – hence the huge thanks to good friend Leilah for bringing it to my attention. Frankly my reading life has been greatly enriched by reading this beautifully written, utterly utterly brilliant and absolutely compelling tale about one rather unconventional family. Why are they unconventional? Well I’m not telling although I’m sure you could easily discover that prior to reading it. Please don’t. Just trust me.

This is Rosemary’s story first of all. She tells it in her own way and in her own time. While she does this you will fall irrevocably in love…with the girl, with the story, with the sheer perfection of the writing and the following things will probably happen. You will laugh. You will cry. You will want to skip to the end but don’t do it. You will want to re-read bits. Ok you can do that. You may find that it takes over your life and you will find Rosemary peering over your shoulder while you do the mundane, begging you to come back and find out what comes next…I could barely put it down but I forced the issue because I didnt want it to be over too soon.

Amazing characters, superb prose, storytelling genius and a healthy dose of irony, all wrapped up in a most profound and extraordinary fictional life – Don’t be like me and almost miss this one.

There is a lot to be taken from this book, it will make you consider things that perhaps you have never thought about before. It will make you question certain things but most of all it will give you a unique perspective on life, love and family. I have absolutely no hesitation at all in recommending this as highly as I recommend The Humans by Matt Haig. And that says it all right there.

 

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

Purchase information: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/karen+joy+fowler/we+are+all+completely+beside+ourselves/10125528/

Read it. Live It. Love it.

Happy Reading Folks!

Chocolate Book Tag…

Thanks to Margaret BleachHOuseLibrary http://bleachhouselibrary.blogspot.ie/2014/03/chocolate-book-tag.html for tagging me to do this.

 

1) Dark Chocolate – A book that covers a dark topic

intothedarkestcornercover

One of the best debut’s I have ever read, Elizabeth Haynes “Into the Darkest Corner” takes a realistic and frightening look at domestic abuse.
2. White chocolate: your favourite lighthearted / humorous read.

339218

My guilty pleasure and a set of books I read over and over – Jilly Cooper’s series featuring leading man Rupert Campbell Black are the most fun ever. EVER.

 

3. Milk chocolate: a book that has a lot of hype that you’re dying to read.

 

18775152

Always Mr King. ALWAYS.

 

4. Chocolate with a caramel centre: a book that makes you feel all gooey in the middle while you are reading it.

bab037730dc497d403597df621dc4d3e

This one. A recent read for me but one I’m going back to again and again. Lovely gooey and with added humour to boot.

 

5. Wafer free kit kat: name a book that has surprised you lately

19015943

I’m not a fan of this type of novel so was surprised at how much I really enjoyed it. Just goes to show you should never assume you won’t like something.

 

6) Snickers: A book you are going nuts about.

17790153

Well what were you expecting folks. I mean really….

 

7. Hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows: a book that you would turn to for a comfort read.

 

1058817997707

I use this as an example only. For comfort reading its either King Or Haig for me. Which book depends on my mood.

 

8. Box of chocolates: what series have you read that you feel has a wide variety and something for everyone.

175242

John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series. Bit of crime, bit of spookiness, some extraordinary characters and amazing writing. Perfect.

 

Really enjoyed doing that. And as authors are readers as well and really why should us bloggers do all the work I tag @JackCroxall @SharonSant @hannahbeckerman @NeniaCampbell Hey they blog as well. No rush guys….

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

Featured: Dystopian Fiction. Guest Article by Jack Croxall

18400281Jack Croxall - Author Photo

 

Dystopian Books: The Wind on Fire Trilogy

0094c983434416b9321db8e5b9ac92b4

 

When lovely Liz asked me to write an article on my favourite dystopian story, one series sprang instantly to mind: the Wind on Fire trilogy by William Nicholson.

Starting with The Wind Singer, Nicholson’s trilogy begins in Aramanth; a meritocratic dystopia. The city does offer protection to its citizens relative to the terrible wastelands outside, but it comes at a cost. The society is built on a system structured by relentless examinations. Right from being a baby, every person in Aramanth is ruthlessly tested and their families are awarded a score based on their collective performance. The more you score, the better accommodation, jobs and lifestyle your family is afforded. Your score even dictates what colour clothes you’re allowed to wear.

Reading this book as an over-examined teenager, I instantly sympathised with the Hath family’s hatred of the system. And when leading lady, Kestrel Hath, began to rebel against the society and question the legitimacy of its emperor, I was cheering her on with all my might.

I think this is what great dystopian fiction can do; comment on the society we live in now even if it takes place in a fantastical setting. The Wind Singer really helped to show me that examinations aren’t everything, and to relieve much of the stress I was feeling at the time of reading. If you haven’t already, you should read it right now.

 

Jack Croxall is a YA author living in rural Nottinghamshire. His best-selling dystopian short story, X, is available now.

Fifteen-year-old X thinks she is going to die. Shacked up in the cellar of an old farmhouse, she starts a journal to document her last few days. Much less than a few days if the things outside manage to get in.

X on Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1a55UnN

X on Amazon US: http://amzn.to/185lNc1

www.jackcroxall.co.uk

Featured: Post Apocalyptic Fiction. Guest article by Sam Kates.

18624069Sam Kates

 

So the first in a series of articles running on that genre of book known as Post Apocalyptic Fiction comes from Sam Kates, author of “The Cleansing”. Look out for other articles from a variety of lovely authors and readers coming over the next little while. We will also be looking at Dystopian fiction and Crime Fiction in the coming weeks. Over to you Sam!

 

It’s the End of the World As We Know It

 

The title of this piece comes from an REM song that was a minor hit in the UK in the early nineties. It’s a good song by an extremely good band, but that’s by the by. It’s the phrase I want to talk about: the end of the world as we know it. An overused phrase when it comes to post-apocalyptic fiction, but being a cliché does not make a saying untrue. On the contrary. For me it succinctly sums up the attraction of post-apocalyptic fiction to both readers and writers. The world hasn’t ended in the sense that it’s been blown to smithereens and Mars has become the third rock from the sun. No, the world is still here; but it’s a version that we don’t recognise.

 

Apocalyptic events come in all shapes and sizes. Meteor and asteroid strikes; deadly pandemics; nuclear war; disastrous climate changes; attack by extra-terrestrials; plagues of undead. What they have in common is the wiping out of a large proportion of the world’s population, and a struggle for survival by the remaining people in a world where the previous rules no longer apply.

 

In the immediate aftermath there is no law and order, no society, no culture, no international boundaries. There are no checks and balances. What morality remains has to struggle to assert itself amidst anarchy. Humankind is reduced to its basest, most bestial form.

 

There’s the attraction for the writer. A blank page that can be filled however he (or she, but for the sake of brevity can we take ‘she’ as read?) chooses. The writer may open the story with the apocalyptic event itself. Or he may jump forward a hundred years, or a thousand, whatever he wants, and leap right in at a point where new rules are already established, new orders have arisen, new currencies are being traded or fought over.

 

The writer can develop new goals and conflicts that are unlikely to arise in the world as we know it. Maybe the acquisition of uncontaminated water will be the overwhelming aim of survivors in the new world; or arable land; or sanctuary from mutant enemies; or dry ground; or a cure for disease; or shelter from deadly solar rays; or… The possibilities are endless.

 

The reader will take delight in entering a world where all bets are off. He will relish trying to identify the new rules, if indeed there are yet any, and putting himself in the place of the protagonists. How would he, the reader, cope if thrust into such a world? Might there even be, whisper it quietly, something desirable about inhabiting a world where there are no conventions?

That was how I first became attracted to the genre. I was a young boy, probably around nine or ten, and watched The Omega Man on television one Saturday evening. I can still recall the thrill I felt at seeing Charlton Heston enter a department store and pick out any clothes that took his fancy without having to pay for them. I imagined being in his shoes, walking down a litter-strewn, deserted high street, calling into every toy, sweet and gun shop that I passed (they were always toy, sweet or gun shops – I was nine) and simply helping myself. In my boyhood mind, I was the most dangerous sweet-sucking, gun-toting, toy-laden critter in town. Of course, I was the only sweet-sucking, etc. critter in town but didn’t let that get in the way of a good fantasy. My childish self conveniently ignored the downside to finding myself in such a scenario: the loneliness, the desolation, the abject despair.

 

Those aspects were brought home to a slightly older version of me with the BBC television series The Survivors. I only vaguely remember the original (it was remade a few years ago), but recall it being grey, gritty and downright miserable. It nevertheless cemented my love of the apocalyptic story.

 

Around four or five years later, I read Stephen King’s The Stand. This still ranks as one of my favourite post-apocalyptic books (along with Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker and Cormack McCarthy’s The Road). I especially enjoyed watching the apocalyptic event unfold and seeing what happened in the immediate aftermath (elements, along with a deadly virus, that I use in my own apocalyptic novel The Cleansing). Having wiped out most of the population of the United States – we never see what is happening in the rest of the world – with a manmade superflu bug, Mr King could have taken the story in any one of a multitude of directions.

tumblr_lfxc0pOHKK1qzsyre

 

There is so much conflict inherent in an apocalyptic scenario that the writer doesn’t need to invent more. The mere struggle for survival is compelling in itself: the competition with other survivors for scarce resources, threats from predators old and new (animal and human), establishment of new bonds that will determine whether the human race can continue. But that’s the beauty of stories about the end of the world as we know it: almost any new element – spiritualism, the supernatural, mysticism, the extra-terrestrial, and so on – can be introduced to add even more spice to an already tasty dish.

 

Mr King could have shown the surviving humans in The Stand struggling to adapt to their new world without introducing any extra conflicts, and no doubt it would have been a cracking tale. As it was, he opted to have the survivors gravitate to one of two camps (figure-headed by the ancient and pious Mother Abigail, and the charismatic and deadly Randall Flagg) and constructed a ripping yarn about good against evil, while retaining all of the basic conflicts mentioned above.

 

There are many more books and films in the apocalyptic genre that I have enjoyed, as well as computer games like the Fallout series, so it was inevitable when I began writing fiction that sooner or later I would turn my hand to an end of world tale of my own. Like many writers, I write the sort of stories that I enjoy reading (and watching and playing).

 

Apocalyptic books, films, games, they all provide the reader, the viewer, the player, with the vicarious terror of experiencing a horrifying situation and wondering what he would do next. Run for the hills? Give up? Fight back? But in contrast to being actually thrust into such a scenario, the reader will derive great pleasure from the journey without suffering the accompanying deprivations and heartaches. He will feel relieved or even smug that he will never (hopefully) have to undergo such an experience in the real world.

 

And that brings me back to the title of this piece. It’s not quite correct or, at any rate, complete. The full title of the REM song is It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine). Now the title sums up the attraction of the apocalyptic genre more fully. It explains it all.

 

The writer will pen tales that involve the deaths of millions or billions of people; he will place the survivors in yet more jeopardy (as if the poor buggers haven’t already suffered enough); he may offer them the flimsiest hopes or the thinnest opportunities to escape ever more desperate situations; he may force them to champion the cause of mankind against overwhelming odds (give them a break, for goodness’ sake).

 

The reader will sit on the sidelines, watching the tale unfold with increasing incredulity or awe or horror. He’ll sympathise with the survivors; gasp as they face each new challenge; root them on when there’s nobody else on their side; laugh and cry with them.

 

But neither writer nor reader has to die with them. And maybe, only maybe, we end up appreciating the world we know, this world, just that little bit more. Perhaps it isn’t quite as bad as it sometimes seems. The apocalyptic tale shows us that it could be a whole lot worse. It might make us feel, even if only subconsciously, a little better about our world and ourselves.

 

And that can only be a good thing.

 

Follow Sam on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/_Sam_Kates_

Find out more about his novel here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cleansing-Earth-Haven-Sam-Kates-ebook/dp/B00HFF7XFS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394612520&sr=1-1&keywords=the+cleansing+sam+kates

The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules. Competition and Author Interview.

401f75f52520bea1cceb85e0bff972b9image002

I was recently lucky enough to read this hilarious and heartwarming tale about the vagaries of getting older and being expected to behave just so – and about Martha who refuses to conform. And in exciting news Pan will be publishing the sequels – I can’t wait to find out what Martha gets up to next!  The author answered a few questions for me – and look out at the end of this piece for a chance to win your very own copy!

 

Was Martha inspired by anyone in particular? 

 

When I worked as a marine archaeologist I led many expeditions and I came across various personalities and characters. But Martha … cough, cough . . .  is very similar to me sometimes…

 

Did you have a lot of fun writing the League of Pensioners? I definitely want to join when I’m older.

 

Yes, I had lots of fun writing about these five characters, so much fun that there will be at least two more books about them. Sometimes I giggled aloud and the I hoped that if I giggled writing them then people would have fun reading the books too …

 

Do you have a favourite character apart from Martha?

 

Actually, I love them all. Martha is my central character, of course, and I identify with her, but I like Brains very much too as well as Anna-Greta, Christina and Rake. So, you see, it is difficult to single out just one of them . . .

 

Can you tell us anything about your next project?

 

Yes, I have already written the next book! The League of Pensioners are up to their old tricks again but this time in Las Vegas!

 

Review:

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.

79-year-old Martha Anderson dreams of escaping her care home and robbing a bank. She has no intention of spending the rest of her days in an armchair and is determined to fund her way to a much more exciting life-style. Along with her four oldest friends – otherwise known as the League of Pensioners – Martha decides to rebel against all of the rules imposed upon them.

I’m still giggling now. This novel is hilarious and heart warming and very addictive – the first thing I want to make clear is, when I’m 79 I hope that I’m out robbing banks. Ok, well perhaps I won’t actually rob banks but I’m taking my walker to a nightclub I’m telling you!

Martha refuses to conform. She may be old but she’s just not having it. She is the very definition of “Age is a state of mind” – her state of mind being mischievous child. Along with her cohorts, the league of pensioners, she sets out to break the mould and have a lot of fun along the way.

There were points in this story where I laughed until I cried, literally, but it also has some very poignant moments and the occasional tug on the heartstrings. Extremely easy and fun to read, this is one of my favourite books of the year for pure entertainment value.

A comedy romp in novel form you can’t go wrong with this one. A purely feel good and uplifting tale of life in the fast lane…no matter what age you happen to be on paper.

Happy Reading Folks!

keep-calm-its-competition-time-7

Competition: UK Only.

If you fancy your very own copy of “The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules” complete the following sentence:

 

“When I’m 79 I still hope to be….”

 

Either leave me a comment here with your answer or Tweet your answer using the hashtag #LittleOldLady

 

Good Luck!

 

Coming Soon – The League of Pensioners are back!

You’re never too old to have some fun . . .

 

The little old lady is back! Martha Andersson and the League of Pensioners have left behind their dreary care home in Stockholm and headed for the bright lights of Las Vegas.

 

This is their opportunity for a new lease of life and they plan to make the most of it. But before long they are up to their old tricks and with ingenious tactics, a pair of false teeth and a wheelchair each, they plot to outwit the security system at one of the biggest casinos. However, they aren’t the only ones planning on stealing bucket loads of cash and soon find themselves pitted against a gang of dangerous criminals.

 

Can the group of elderly friends work together to outsmart the younger robbers and get away with their biggest heist yet? Or will this job be a step too far for The League of Pensioners?

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

Liz Nugent is Unravelling Oliver. Happy Publication Day.

19099368liz_small

I was lucky enough to read this brilliant debut novel early, and also lucky enough to persuade Liz Nugent to answer some questions for me about the book – here is what she had to tell me.

 

Tell us a little about how idea for the story started coming together.

 

I initially wrote the first chapter as a short story and I was delighted when it got shortlisted in a competition. I had raised a lot of questions within those 1800 words and afterwards, I wanted to find out the answers, so that’s how I went on to develop it. I picked a few characters mentioned in the short story and began to tell it from their perspective. I had the first three chapters done and then put them aside for a few years while I was busy with other things but the plot was percolating in my head. Eventually, I just dropped everything for a week and went away to a writers retreat and plotted the entire novel, and after that, it was just a matter of finding the time to write it up.
Oliver is an enigma and a fascinating character – how much did he change over the course of the writing?

 

I deliberately wrote an utter monster when I started out, but as I was writing from his point of view, I realised he doesn’t think he’s a monster. He will defend and justify everything and that led me back to finding his humanity and exploring what could have shaped his personality. By the time I was finished writing him, I could not condone his actions, but I could understand them. He is as much a victim as everyone he hurts along the way. His arrogance is a smoke-screen for his overwhelming insecurity.

 

The characters surrounding Oliver all view him very differently – did you have a favourite?

 

I loved Barney. He’s not intellectually bright like most of the other characters but he probably has more emotional intelligence than anyone else. He really knew how to love, and unfortunately gave up that love because he thought Alice deserved better than him. His fondness and patience with her learning-disabled brother Eugene speaks volumes about his character.

Eugene also is close to my heart. Because of his intellectual disability, nobody would take Eugene seriously, but Eugene is the only one who instinctively knows that Oliver is bad. Eugene is the prophet of the story.
We only really hear about Alice via others – would you have liked to give her more of her own voice?

 

I had at one stage written a chapter from Alice’s point of view, in the form of a letter to Barney towards the end of the book, but really, her story was already told and it did not add any new information. I had wanted her to say to Barney ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong’, but it didn’t make sense as a chapter in itself. I think Alice fell in love with Oliver because of his stories and the effect they had on Eugene. She was shocked and flattered that someone as handsome as successful as Oliver should take an interest in her. Throughout their marriage, she always felt that he was more important. Her needs were secondary.

 

Can you tell us anything about your next project?

 

I don’t really want to say anything yet because I’m not even at the plotting stage yet and it could all change. I’m currently reworking the first three chapters for the seventh time. They have to be right.

 

Favourite place to read.

 

In bed before sleep. I just started The Luminaries last night. 800+ pages! It’s so big that I’m thinking of getting a bigger bed.

 

 

Any writing habits?

 

I find that I have to write first-person narrative. I have to live in the character’s head to know what they sound like.

 

Desert Island book

 

Ulysses. To my shame, I’ve never read it but if I was on a desert island, I’d be forced to!
 

Something you wish you were good at but are not.

 

Any sport.

 

Thank you so much!

Review

Oliver Ryan is a handsome and charismatic success story. He lives in the leafy suburbs with his wife, Alice, who illustrates his award-winning children’s books and gives him her unstinting devotion. Their life together is one of enviable privilege and ease – enviable until, one evening after supper, Oliver attacks Alice and puts her into a coma.
In the aftermath, as everyone tries to make sense of his astonishing act of savagery, Oliver tells his story. So do those whose paths he has crossed over five decades. What unfolds is a story of shame, envy, breath-taking deception and masterful manipulation.

To say this book was gripping would be to put it mildly. And I don’t think I have seen a book so aptly titled in a long time. Unravelling Oliver is exactly right. Oliver and Alice seem to have the perfect marriage – he writes childrens books, she illustrates them, and a fair few people are envious of what they have together. Then one night for no apparent reason, Oliver beats Alice, severely and without mercy. But why? What exactly made him crack?

What follows is a compelling and comprehensive “unravelling” of the man behind the mask – told from various points of view, including Oliver’s, we begin to build a picture of the true nature of both the marriage and the people. As those that crossed Oliver’s path over the years tell their story you will be  fascinated, sometimes horrified but always urged onwards, unable to look away.

This is terrific writing because there are many strands to this one – Oliver’s childhood, his formative relationships, background filled in by those who knew him. The juxtapositions between how they view Oliver and how he views himself are completely and utterly engrossing…as an  intriguing look at one man’s psyche this works perfectly. I was completely and utterly unravelled myself.

I won’t say too much about the other characters you will meet along the way – they are all extraordinarily well drawn and as much as you learn about Oliver you will learn about them – and possibly fall in love with one or two. I know I did. And this has a great “finish” to it as well. Clever. Loved it.

As an intelligent psychological suspense novel, this is top notch. If you enjoy a book that gets to the heart of people then this one is for you. Highly Recommended.

Find out more here: http://liznugent.ie/

Follow Liz Nugent on Twitter here : https://twitter.com/lizzienugent

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Unravelling-Oliver-Liz-Nugent/dp/1844883094/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394088794&sr=1-1&keywords=unravelling+oliver

 

Lucy Lawrie and Tiny Acts of Love.

bab037730dc497d403597df621dc4d3e1381231986

I recently read Lucy Lawrie’s debut novel “Tiny Acts of Love” and it headed straight into my “will read over and over again” chart, a wonderfully witty and insightful novel about new Parenthood which will capture your heart whether or not you have ever been a first time Mum or Dad. I caught up with Lucy and asked her a few questions and here is what she had to tell me.

Tiny Acts of Love captures new parenthood SO well. Is it based on any of your own experiences?

 

The events in the book aren’t based on my own life, but I did draw on my own experience to capture Cassie’s state of mind as a new mum. I remember how, in those first few days and weeks after the birth, I saw everything in terms of survival – whether that be making it through another sleepless night, getting Emily to take a feed, or even pushing her pram through the park, which had suddenly become a terrifying place, full of unpredictable dogs and sinister-looking pigeons! I was on high alert all the time and it was exhausting. But, as well as that, I wanted to capture the funny side of parenting, and those moments of sheer joy that come out of nowhere, when it feels impossible that you could love anybody so much.

 

Are any of the characters based on real people?

 

There’s a lot of me in Cassie, but she’s still her own, quite distinct, person. Often, while writing the book, I used to ask her out loud what she thought about things – once I even wrote her a letter to ask why she didn’t get on with her mother, when I felt she wasn’t telling me the whole story! As for other characters, I suppose you inevitably borrow bits and pieces from people you know – a mannerism here, a particular speech pattern there, or perhaps a certain sort of mindset. But I wouldn’t base a character squarely on someone I knew. I don’t think you could successfully do that anyway – characters always change as you progress with the writing. They become their own people, in all sorts of ways you never predicted. That’s the most magical part of writing.

 

Do you have a personal favourite character from the book?

 

Jonathan was lovely to write. He kept saying things that made me laugh. Out of everyone, he surprised me most with how much he grew and evolved. In the first draft of the novel it was all about Cassie. By the final version, it was as much about him, too, and his journey as a new dad, a husband and a son.

 

 I’m going to miss Cassie – can you imagine a sequel in the future ?

 

I’d like to write a sequel at some point, yes. I’d need to throw some more problems at the characters, though, which feels like a bit of a shame! I can just imagine Cassie rolling her eyes at me, asking me to give her a break! I think I’ll let them live happily ever after for a bit first, before I start bothering them again.

 

Favourite Author/Comfort book

 

I love Alexander McCall Smith’s books. My ultimate comfort reads are the 44 Scotland Street books, which are set in Edinburgh, my home town.

 

Tea, coffee or other?

 

I like herbal tea – peppermint, and also some strange lime and ginger concoction I’ve recently grown fond of. My vice is Diet Coke – I always have one in the afternoon, and two if I’m particularly tired. (Actually, who am I kidding – I always have two!)

 

3 people alive or dead you would have over for dinner.

 

I’d invite Emily Dickinson, if she’d leave her attic room, and also Charlotte Bronte. That might get a bit intense, though, so we’d need someone to balance that out. Can I invite a fictional character? I’d love to meet Anne of Green Gables. I think she’d have us all giggling!

Thank you SO much Lucy.

Review

Surviving motherhood? It’s all about having the right network. Lawyer and new mum Cassie has a husband who converses mainly through jokes, a best friend on the other side of the world, and a taskforce of Babycraft mothers who make her feel she has about as much maternal aptitude as a jellyfish. Husband Jonathan dismisses Cassie’s maternal anxieties, but is he really paying attention to his struggling wife?

Gosh and Golly this was an amazing read. From the brilliantly hilarious but absolutely real opening few pages, where the immediate aftermath of Sophie making her debut into the world become clear to new Mum Cassie, throughout the heart wrenching, glorious intensity of the first year of childcare, this one will have you laughing out loud, shedding the odd tear, completely immersed into the ever changing maelstrom of life and nodding sagely along as Cassie and Husband Jonathon traverse the waters of that wonderfully ironic thing called Parenthood.

At turns both emotional and heart warming, the very real highs and lows of maintaining a relationship under the sheer pressure and joy of having a new member of the family are SO well described here, alongside an absolutely insightful and realistic look at how becoming parents can affect both men and women. One of the things I absolutely loved about this was the fact that, although it is mainly Cassie’s story, it avoided the pitfall of allowing it to be all about Mum. Jonathon is well drawn and just as realistic as Cassie – the hopes and fears and dreams and nightmares are just as real for him as for her.

Using a set of absurd yet extraordinarily believable set of events that see Cassie reconnecting with her first love, helping a client with a workplace safety Supernatural issue ( the night of the documentary had me in stitches) and desperately trying to live up to the expectations of the absolutely hilarious but lovely BabyCraft crew, Lucy Lawrie takes us on a journey of emotional depth, ingenious observations and absolute understanding of post natal perceptions and sensitivities. If you have ever been a new Parent every moment of  this novel will resonate with you. If you have not, you are still in for a fantastic and invigorating peek into one fictional family’s life.

Really cannot recommend this highly enough.

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

Follow Lucy on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/LucyLawrie1

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tiny-acts-love-Lucy-Lawrie/dp/1845027213/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394003877&sr=1-1&keywords=lucy+lawrie

Happy Reading Folks!

 

Steve McHugh talks Hellequin. With Silent Screams.

b76cf94cbd659b8996c3ffc9fe6ef96d1003657_10151701911066054_1269474088_a

Having recently read the 3rd book in the Hellequin series I thought it was high time I dragged Mr McHugh kicking and screaming back onto the blog – its ok, he answered the questions and is now safe back at home….

 

So, third outing for Mr Garrett – how do you feel he has developed since we first met him back in “Crimes Against Magic”?

Well in Crimes he didn’t really know who he was, so behaved in quite a cocky manner. He slept around and became a thief, mostly because it was a fun way to make a living. By the time Born of Hatred and now, With Silent Screams, comes around he’s back to having all of his memories, so his confidence is less cocky and more assured of his abilities.

The blending of well known mythologies into Nate’s own story is really intriguing – How did the idea for that first start to form for you?

I’ve always loved mythology and wanted to use it in the stories, but I figured instead of just having Norse or Greek, I’d have all of them as being real. By the time it came to write Crimes, Nate had already been fully created in my head, so the story formed around him and the various mythological characters were used as the story warranted.

I have spreadsheets that just lists mythological beings and their relationship with Nate and each other.

The stories have some adult themes and violent aspects, but very well balanced – is that quite hard to achieve?

It was in Crimes. After I wrote that book I pretty much decided that sex scenes weren’t really for me, so from the 4 or so that are in book 1, there’s 1 short one in book 2 and the same in book 3. I’m not prudish or anything like that, but I felt that they were a weak part of book 1, and with Nate’s returning memories and personality they didn’t need to be continued for the remaining books unless they were utterly necessary.

The violence part is quite strong in all of the books, mostly because Nate lives a violent life with violent people. You can’t just have continuing action and fights, you’ve got to actually have a story to put it all in.

Can you tell us anything about what’s next?

I’m currently writing book 4, Prison of Hope, and then I’ll be going on to write the first book in a new trilogy called Chimera. After that Hellequin book 5 needs writing. Because, as I’ve learned, books don’t write themselves. Which is probably an oversight for my career choice.

Best book you’ve read in the last few weeks.

Probably The Black Angel by John Connolly. I’ve only recently started to read the Charlie Parker books, and the first 4 are very good, but 5 was just fantastic. Can’t wait to read the rest.

Book you WISH you had written.

I don’t really wish I’d written anything else, mostly because when I read something by an author I enjoy, I know there’s a part of them in that book. Saying that, I wish I’d written Neil Gaiman’s, Fortunately, the Milk, because it’s astoundingly brilliant.

Dream job that doesn’t involve writing.

Astronaut. Seriously there’s no cooler job anywhere than being an astronaut. Maybe an astronaut ninja. That would be awesome, although I doubt there’s a big need for one.
Something you wish you were good at but are not.

I wish I could draw. I have zero artistic abilities in terms of actually drawing anything that isn’t a stick figure. If I’d been able to draw I think I would have written a comic book by now.

 

Thanks Steve!

Review:

With thanks to the author and publisher for the review copy.

His name is Nathan Garrett, but he’s also known as Hellequin. And murdering one of his friends and trying to blow him up is a good way to get this centuries-old sorcerer’s full attention…

A long time ago (It feels like now) I impulsively purchased “Crimes Against Magic” the first in the Hellequin series from Steve McHugh featuring sorcerer Nate Garrett and immediately and irrevocably fell in love.

I had only just started my foray into Urban Fantasy and was looking for another fix and here it was right here. Now we are onto Book 3 (with a short story bridge as well) and these just get better and better. For sheer reading fun, it rarely gets better than this- a glorious mix of known mythology, a brand new world to explore, some tremendous characters and always a heartstopping and well constructed story.

In this instalment someone makes the rather extreme error of killing a person Nate is fond of. Then attempting to blow him up. Follow all that with a good deal of smug goading and your fate is probably sealed. And so it begins.

Once again we have a past/present twist to the tale, some magnificently evil bad guys and some beautifully imagined settings where magic and reality collide. WereLions, Cave Trolls and Guardians, other realms, wizardry and mayhem all tied up together in a fantastic package of adrenalin rushing goodness. Like a Rollercoaster ride in novel form, you are in for one hell of a ride.

These are adult in nature – the violence is as violent as real violence is.. the fights are down and dirty with no holds barred and Nate himself is the very definition of anti hero. He kind of follows his own moral code but when the chips are down if you are in his way he really is not going to give much thought before wiping you off the face of the planet. I love that about him. Flawed yes, not indestructible by any means but if you are going to annoy him you had better be sure you can either beat him at his own game or that you can run REALLY fast.

The supporting cast of characters are all superb. I am absolutely in love with Nate although he does now have a rival for my affection after this story in the form of Galahad.  Caitlin is my favourite kind of kick ass female – one who stands no nonsense but is very aware of both her limitations and her surroundings. As for Hades well, who DOESNT love Hades? I am definitely an unapologetic fangirl all round for this series. All the way.

This is definitely a set of books that has grown in stature since its humble beginnings as Nate and the mythology surrounding him has grown, developed and taken on a life of its own. So, all in all a terrific 3rd book in a series that is now absolutely one of my favourites in the Urban Fantasy stakes alongside Felix Castor and Alex Verus. Possibly not for the faint hearted but if you like your Urban fantasy absolutely Urban and fantastical these will probably bring great satisfaction.

Note: With Silent Screams can easily be read as a standalone book with no problem whatsoever, so if you fancy starting with this one, go right ahead!

 

Also Available:

7ccb89650dc0ee2950eb41957f357282903910e635d6ef14887648e1f5977f3318933991

 

 Author information.

Steve’s been writing from an early age, his first completed story was done in an English lesson. Unfortunately, after the teacher read it, he had to have a chat with the head of the year about the violent content and bad language. The follow up ‘One boy and his frog’ was less concerning to his teachers and got him an A.

It wasn’t for another decade that he would start work on a full length novel that was publishable, the results of which was the action-packed Urban Fantasy, Crimes Against Magic.

 

Steve McHugh lives in Southampton on the south coast of England with his wife and three young daughters. When not writing or spending time with his kids, he enjoys watching movies, reading books and comics, and playing video games.

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/StevejMchugh

Website: http://stevejmchugh.wordpress.com/

With Silent Screams – http://www.amazon.com/Silent-Screams-Hellequin-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B00EDUFTI6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392016015&sr=8-1&keywords=steve+mchugh

 

Alex Segura talks Silent City.

18270938alexauthor

I recently read the first Pete Fernandez mystery by Alex Segura – Silent City- and rather enjoyed it. So I caught up with the author to ask a few questions and here is what he had to tell me.

 

Tell us a little about where the story came from – were there any particular influences?

The idea for Pete Fernandez, the protagonist of Silent City, had been bouncing around in my head for a while, and proto-Petes had been making appearances in my early attempts at fiction, which consisted mostly of short stories, unfinished novels and some comic book ideas. I wanted to write about a contemporary – someone younger who was going through the same things I was, and wasn’t so defined as most of the people I read about. After moving to NY, I got really into crime fiction. I’d always enjoyed mysteries and whodunnits, but after reading Raymond Chandler’s work, I was seriously hooked. I plowed through most of the classics and felt really engrossed by those stories – but somewhat disconnected. I couldn’t really relate to a fedora-wearing P.I. in the 60s, as much as I liked hanging out with them. Not long after, a friend of mine handed me a copy of George Pelecanos’ A Firing Offense and it all kind of clicked into place. Here was a book that read like a great punk or new wave record – sloppy and jagged with an underlying melody. And the protagonist wasn’t polished and had really no idea what he was doing. That kind of helped me bring the idea of Pete closer to another idea I was bouncing around in my head, which was to write my own crime novel. I owe that first Pelecanos book a lot, and I’d cite him as a big influence, along with the early Dennis Lehane Pat and Angie books, Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series and Ellroy’s Lloyd Hopkins novels. They all present protagonists that aren’t flawless – quite the opposite – and that make bad decisions but you cheer them on anyway. That’s what I had in mind for Pete.

 
Pete is a great character – is there anything of you in there? 

 

Thank you for saying that! I’ve grown fond of him over the years. I think as writers we put a piece of everything into every character we write – so, yeah, there’s some of me in Pete, though we’re not that much alike. I also worked in newspapers in Miami, so that helped feed the technical side of Pete’s job, though I never worked in sports nor was I ever a beat writer. With Pete I wanted to create someone I could have seen myself knowing – in high school or college, for example. Someone I would have maybe hung out with. Though, he seems to get into pretty dangerous situations – not sure how safe I’d be.

 
The setting is a character in itself – Is Miami a city you know well?

 

I was born and raised there and spent most of my life there until I was about 23. Setting was really important to me. I live in NY now and considered – for a second – writing a novel set here, but at the time I just didn’t feel informed enough to do that. And I do find that “write what you know” holds true in some regards, and it was really helpful to me to have Miami as the setting for the Pete books. I wanted to present the Miami I knew, the “real” city, as opposed to the neon and shiny version that you see on TV or in the movies. Miami’s a big place, with lots of nooks and crannies and good areas and bad areas. It’s much more than palm trees, beaches and mojitos, though that’s part of the book, too.

 

Setting is also really important in the book because I don’t think you could just transplant Silent City and have it happen in, say, St. Louis. It’s a very Miami book – it deals with things that happen there and involves people that live there, and that was a big goal for me when I set out to write it. Setting is so important to so many detective series, like Marlowe’s LA orthe DC in the Stefanos books, that I knew I had to really get it right and make it matter, otherwise it’s just something interchangeable.

 

Can you tell us anything about whats next?

 

I’m revising the second Pete novel, DOWN THE DARKEST STREET, which should be out relatively soon. I’ll keep you posted on that. It’s a dark book, and it really challenges Pete and his friends in an unexpected way that I hope people will enjoy. While it shows a more experienced Pete, he’s still a flawed person dealing with an overwhelming situation, and that doesn’t bode well for him. I also have a short story – co-written with my friend Justin Aclin – in an upcoming sci-fi anthology titled APOLLO’S DAUGHTERS. Looking further ahead, I’m about halfway through writing the third Pete novel and i have some comic book ideas I’m trying to nail down. So, lots of stuff!

 
Favourite author/comfort reading?

 

This is a tough question! I have so many “favorites” it’s nearly impossible to pick one. I find great comfort in reading a really well-crafted PI novel, so I tend to burn through those while on trips or away form home – like the Lawrence Block Scudder books or Reed Farrel Coleman’s Prager novels. I’ll read anything by the following writers: Daniel Woodrell, Don Winslow, Megan Abbott, Sara Gran, Greg Rucka, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman and James Ellroy.

 
If you could live anywhere in the world…

 

I’m really fond of NY, to tell you the truth. Though, this winter has been brutal. I thought I was a grizzled New Yorker, since I’ve lived here for about eight years. Not so. This winter really reminded me that I have tropical blood.

 

No 1 item on your bucket list – if you have one.

 

I’m not sure. I would like to go to Cuba at some point and see where my family’s from. That’s definitely on my radar. Overall, I’d like to travel more – especially outside the U.S.

 

Thank you so much Alex!

 

Review

Pete Fernandez is a mess. He’s on the brink of being fired from his middle-management newspaper job. His fiancée has up and left him. Now, after the sudden death of his father, he’s back in his hometown of Miami, slowly drinking himself into oblivion. But when a co-worker he barely knows asks Pete to locate a missing daughter, Pete finds himself dragged into a tale of murder, drugs, double-crosses and memories bursting from the black heart of the Miami underworld – and, shockingly, his father’s past.

So the first in a new mystery series from Alex Segura and boy, that was a terrific start – mainly because our protagonist, Pete Fernandez is so well drawn so you get right behind him at the start even though he kind of falls through life and has a spectactularly illogical decision making process. In that there is not really a process at all…I loved that because its a bit like me…shall I do that? Oh yes why not. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Set in Miami, the city comes to life in the authors hands  – rich and vivid with a definite dark underbelly, it put me in mind of “Miami Vice” a show I used to love which visually had the same feel to it – bright lights and warm nights hiding a less salubrious reality..where danger lurks around every corner.

As Pete traverses the city streets trying to track down the missing Kathy, and runs into all sorts of trouble, the mystery element is well imagined and intriguing. Decent action all the way and a great twisty turny tale that resolves realistically, this was a fascinating and compelling story with great character development and excellent scene setting to keep you involved all the way. I will definitely be reading more in this series.

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

Follow Alex on Twitter: https://twitter.com/alex_segura

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Silent-City-Alex-Segura-ebook/dp/B00G3VLC7K/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393833639&sr=1-1&keywords=silent+city+alex+segura

Happy Reading Folks!