Liz Currently Loves….Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

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Coming 6th March from Penguin

Thank you to the publisher for the advance copy.

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.

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

Pre-Order Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Unravelling-Oliver-Liz-Nugent-ebook/dp/B00F10Z4HI/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1391069815&sr=1-1

Happy Reading Folks!

Niamh Boyce talks The Herbalist. A Wonderful novel.

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The Herbalist is one of my favourite novels to come from Penguin lately and as the winner of the 2012 Hennesssy XO Award for New Irish Writing I was keen to find out a little more. So I was very happy when Niamh Boyce agreed to answer a few little questions for me and here is what she had to say.

What first gave you the idea to base a story around such an enigmatic character?

 

Actually I first came across the central idea for The Herbalist over twenty years ago! I was nineteen and archiving old editions of a local newspaper from the early forties, they were yellowed and crammed with articles with very small print. One of these articles caught my attention. It was short, two maybe three sentences, and referred to an Indian Herbalist who was arrested for offences against girls. His name was Don Robert Rodriquez De Vere. I was very curious as to the story behind that tiny notice, and years later when I began to write, I began to imagine what that it might be.

 

The sense of place in “The Herbalist” is excellent, was there a lot of research involved to get a feel for the era?

Thanks Liz! I’ve been doing a lot of readings and older people especially have commented on how accurately the late thirties were captured. I think the sense of authenticity stems from the fact that I grew up in that town in the novel. The factual character and story that inspired The Herbalist occurred in my home town of Athy, so I felt a strong personal connection. And I often wrote the scenes where I set them, down the alley way, by the river, at the courthouse.  In addition I watched only films from the era, movies like It Happened One Night, Wuthering Heights, Flash Gordon, Tarzan and many Betty Davis and Greta Garbo pictures. These were the films my character Emily would have seen, the ones that would have transported her from poverty to glamour, if only for an afternoon. I also read and reread the local newspapers from the late thirties which were full of social detail. I also used the internet, the national archives, and of course good old fashioned history books.

 

Do you have a favourite character from the novel?

Aggie is a prostitute and lives on a barge on the river, though she has a vulnerable life, and quite a brutal one, she is also one of the freest characters in the novel.  I really enjoyed her honesty, her earthiness and humour.

 

How did it feel to win the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards in the Newcomer of the Year category?

It was just wonderful that The Herbalist was voted the best debut novel of 2013, it’s a thumbs up to put it mildly! I was in shock when my name was announced, it still hasn’t really sunk in – it will probably hit me in a week or two when I’m doing something mundane! I’ll be standing in some check out and start whooping!

 

 

Can you tell us anything about your next project?

Like many other writers, I juggle work and family the best I can – so I’ve always a few things on the go, (i.e. loads of projects to finish!) and not enough time in the day – but I’m currently working on a novel, a short story collection and a poetry sequence.

Thank you so much for taking the time!

Review

The Herbalist is set in 1930′s rural Ireland and focusses very much on the lives of Women in that place and time – as we follow several of them, including Emily, a picture emerges of just how different life was back then and it is compelling intriguing stuff..

Emily dreams of another life and thinks the Herbalist can provide it for her – however he is an enigmatic and possibly dangerous man and Emily is not the only woman who wants something from him…

Again I don’t want to give too much away – but when Emily discovers things may not be as clear cut as she thought, her inate sense of justice prevails and things get very interesting…

I was completely and utterly immersed in that world during the reading of this wonderful, evocative and heart breaking novel…it does not surprise me in the slightest that Niamh Boyce won an award – the prose is beautiful to behold and puts you right into the hearts and minds of these women and the things they face. Women’s Lib very much a thing of the future, you will end up feeling very strongly about the subjects you are reading of, and its all tied up in a strangely delicious story.

One of my favourite parts of the story, a side issue if you will, was the comment on banned books of the era. One of the ladies “rents” out said novels – Lady Chatterley’s Lover amongst others, and the different reactions of people to said literature is intriguing and adds another depth to the tale.

All in all a wonderful reading experience. Not my usual thing perhaps but as I take on this reviewing lark with gusto, I am discovering some wonderful stories that perhaps might have passed me by. My grateful thanks to Penguin for sending me this one – I loved it.

 

Find out more here: http://niamhboyce.blogspot.co.uk/

Follow Niamh on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/NiamhBoyce

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Herbalist-Niamh-Boyce/dp/024196458X/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390980135&sr=1-1&keywords=the+herbalist+niamh+boyce

Happy Reading Folks!

Mel Sherratt is Watching Over You. Or is it Ella? Shiver.

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So the latest release from Mel Sherratt is “Watching over You” a frightening cautionary tale of life, featuring one of the scariest female characters I’ve met recently in fiction. I loved this one quite a lot (review to follow) it was in my top 5 reads of 2013 and I was lucky enough to meet the lovely author recently at her book launch. Since then I’ve managed to ask her a few pertinent (well things I wanted to know anyway) questions and here is what she had to tell me.

 

Ella is truly terrifying – tell me she is NOT based on anyone you know!

Absolutely not – or I would be running the other way too!  In my mind, Ella started off as a lonely woman who thought she had found a friend in her new tenant, Charley. But her obsession with wanting to be with someone who cared about her equally caused Ella to read the wrong signs. Charley was wary of Ella the closer she came but even she wasn’t prepared for how she eventually flipped. On the final read through, Ella even scared me. Although, I must admit, I never set out to create such a terrifying character. She just became more and more unhinged as I wrote her.

How did the story first start to take shape in your mind?

It was after watching the film Single White Female again that I thought it would be good to do something similar but more up to date with social media of today. As the story evolved, the social media side of it began to disappear. Instead, Ella became obsessed with embroiling herself into Charley’s day-to-day life. Things like, you know, sneaking into her flat when she wasn’t home, following her to work, spying on her…

Is it difficult to write such a scary story and keep it authentic?

Very difficult. I wanted to create something whereby a reader could really feel the fear and emotion building up yet also not be thinking ‘this wouldn’t happen in real life.’ To do this, Charley had to be put in some predicaments to cause tension or there wouldn’t have been a story. It was a fine line to tread to tie up all the loose ends and I’m sure it will be good for some, but not for others. It’s getting some very mixed responses because of this too. Ultimately though, it’s fiction, no matter how real it might feel.

 Can you tell us anything about your next project?

I’m just finishing the follow on from my crime thriller, TAUNTING THE DEAD, where we get to meet Detective Sergeant Allie Shenton again. After that I’m writing another psychological thriller.

Desert Island book?

Broken, Daniel Clay. It’s the book I read that prompted me to change genres – from women’s fiction to crime/psychological thrillers. I loved its gritty style.

Favourite thing to do on a lazy Sunday?

A long drive out with my fella to a pub in the countryside for a Sunday roast with all the trimmings.

One author you wish would write a book a week?

Only one? Liz, that’s cruel. Well, I will have to say… Elizabeth Haynes.

Thank you Mel!

Review

Following the death of her husband and unborn child, Charley Belington sells the family home and bravely starts life over again. On moving into a new flat, she is befriended by her landlady, Ella, who seems like the perfect friend and confidante. But, unbeknownst to Charley, Ella is fighting her own dark and dirty demons as the fallout from a horrific childhood sends her spiraling down into madness ‒ and unspeakable obsessions.

Well first things first just LOOK at that cover. Brilliant. That had me nervous before I even read the first page – I stocked up on chocolate, ensured that my axe proof duvet was at the ready and a bit like going back to childhood and watching Dr Who from behind the sofa, I cautiously made my way into the story…

So. Ella. What a great character. God she’s scary – so normal on the outside, at least at first glance, yet on the inside a complete psychopath. Ok, so she had a rubbish childhood- HORRIFIC – you should, I suppose, have some sympathy for her. And I guess I did – for a while..but this is cleverly written and has you wondering if she would still be an extremely dangerous person even if her formative years had been all rainbows and kittens. Sometimes evil is just that. So thats one side of this book and its compelling, totally frightening and utterly addictive.

Then you have Charley who is perfectly lovely – she has also suffered a tragedy, that being what puts her in the path of Ella in the first place as she tries to forge out a life for herself in unexpected and terrible circumstances.As  fate would have it her very real chance at new happiness may be thwarted by the simple fact that she is accepting of Ella’s manipulative friendship. Seemingly she has found a confidante, someone to help her through her grief and give her some solid ground – but as she soon realises, there is something very wrong here. And escape may be impossible.

The developing relationship between these two strong female leads is what keeps you turning the pages – we, the readers, have a greater insight into Ella than Charley has of course and you may be like me and spend most of the time yelling “RUN RUN! DON’T DO THAT” at Charley and half expecting her to hear you, so involved will you be pretty much from the start and the entire way through.

I read into the early hours of this morning, then grumped my way through getting the children to school before diving back into this tale and finally getting to the heart stopping and extremely thrilling conclusion. The purely flowing narrative keeps you on your toes and yes, you will worry for the cat.

Powerful stuff and a pure adrenalin rush of reading joy. I love it. Although no more for a while please..I’m off to read some Enid Blyton while my heart settles back into its normal routine.

 

Find out more here: http://melsherratt.co.uk/

Follow Mel on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/writermels

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Watching-Over-You-Mel-Sherratt-ebook/dp/B00G3NAPL2/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390854268&sr=1-1&keywords=watching+over+you

 

Also Available: And Also Recommended:

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Happy Reading Folks!

Cover Reveal – The Guestbook by Holly Martin.

A beautiful cover and going immediately onto my reading list.

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Welcome to Willow Cottage – throw open the shutters, let in the sea breeze and make yourself completely at home. Oh, and please do leave a comment in the Guestbook!

 

As landlady of Willow Cottage, the young widow Annie Butterworth is always on hand with tea, sympathy or strong Norfolk cider – whatever her colourful array of guests require.  A flick through the messages in the leather-bound cottage guestbook gives a tantalizing glimpse into the lives of everyone who passes through her doors.

 

This includes Annie herself – especially now celebrity crime writer Oliver Black, is back in town. He might grace the covers of gossip magazines with a different glamorous supermodel draped on his arm every week, but to Annie, he’s always just been Olly, the man who Annie shared her first kiss with.

 

Through the pages of the Guestbook Annie and Olly, along with all the guests that arrive at the seaside retreat, struggle with love, loss, mystery, joy, happiness, guilt…and the odd spot of naked rambling!

 

Forget sending postcards saying ‘wish you were here’ – one visit to Willow Cottage and you’ll wish you could stay forever.

 

Echo Boy by Matt Haig. A Book is a Map…

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Coming March 27th from Random House Children’s Publishers UK

I made a wish upon a star and it was granted via netgalley….

Audrey’s father taught her that to stay human in the modern world, she had to build a moat around herself; a moat of books and music, philosophy and dreams. A moat that makes Audrey different from the echoes: sophisticated, emotionless machines, built to resemble humans and to work for human masters. Daniel is an echo – but he’s not like the others. He feels a connection with Audrey; a feeling Daniel knows he was never designed to have, and cannot explain. And when Audrey is placed in terrible danger, he’s determined to save her. The Echo Boy is a powerful story about love, loss and what makes us truly human.

Well, here we are. The funny thing is, I was dreading and anticipating this one in equal measure. Its Matt Haig, author of “The Humans”, THAT book. So I was equal parts faith and panic before I started reading. The faithful side of my reading soul told me that whatever market it was aimed at Mr Haig would be incapable of writing a book that I didnt get absorbed into. The PANIC button in my brain kept saying “What if you don’t like it. How could you say. You couldnt say. You would have to leave the country. Heck you would have to leave the PLANET” Yes ok I’m a little weird. Its just the way I am. All the best people are you know…

Anyway as I am still here on planet Earth and not writing this review from Mars I think its safe to say that the faithful part of my soul was satisfied..and I’ll tell you a little bit about why. In two sections if you like. The first part being straight up review and the second part being me and mine.

Echo Boy tells the story of Audrey and Daniel – one a Human teenage girl and one an Echo – an artificial lifeform built for service – but Daniel is unique amongst Echo’s and when Audrey’s life falls apart, redemption may come from an unexpected place.

There are many themes woven seamlessly into the narrative – love, loss, the pursuit of power, the ethical arguments on scientific breakthroughs and what they can be used for, all wrapped up in a story about life. What it means to BE alive.

For Young Adult readers it has some familiar twists – Boy Meets Girl but heck it aint easy, a future world that is harsh yet recognizable, the bad guys, the good guys, and a classic battle to survive in an untenable environment. So as far as that goes you can tick all the boxes and say, yep, young readers are going to love this one. They have protagonists they can root for, a book adventure to be had, an easy flowing narrative that keeps you involved and both some emotional moments and some full on action..Everyone is happy. Not everyone will love it of course. I’m sure that there will be more “picky” reviews than mine popping up but I would have no hesitation in recommending it as a top notch example of Young Adult fiction that Adults can also get their teeth into. And that would usually be that. But this is me reading and Matt Haig writing soooooooo….

Lets talk about me. Its one of my favourite subjects.  I bring a little bit of me to each of my reviews I hope and in this case its more important than ever that I do so. For me more than for anyone else. So bear with me…

Like Stephen King, Matt Haig is one of my absolute Idols when it comes to the written word, hence the Panic button and the faith and all those things that happened prior to me staying up until 3.30 am this morning reading this on and off, and getting up at stupid o’ clock on a Saturday morning to finish it. I knew without actually thinking about it that there would be something in there to feed my soul. I think every reader has a writer that does that for them. I have two. Oh lucky me. Truly.

This book is not The Humans. That kind of thing probably only happens once in a lifetime and I’ve had mine – but still, in a lot of ways it IS. About humanity anyway…and for that reason this one will also stay with me, just in different ways.

Every so often, in amongst the story and the action and the compelling fascinating tale, one character would think or say something that just spoke to the very living heart of me. Things that are FELT but not vocalised because they are hard to put into words. Mr Haig can do it though. Oh boy can he. And I now have a few more quotes added to my life rules that I took from “The Humans” that will help me in the darker moments that still plague me. To remember that to feel is to be alive. And to be alive is one of the most amazing gifts we have.

A Book is a Map…

So thank you Matt Haig.

Killing me softly with his words. Again.

Matt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/matthaig1

Book information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Echo-Boy-Matt-Haig/dp/1782300066/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390672411&sr=1-1&keywords=echo+boy

Happy Reading!

 

 

Season To Taste by Natalie Young. Scrumptious!

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Recently I was lucky enough (Thanks Ben Willis) to get a copy of this quirky and wonderful book from Natalie Young – I’m sure it is going to be much talked about this year in the world of books and everyone will read it and form an opinion – this readers opinion is that its a brilliant read, something unique to sink your teeth into – so I tracked Natalie down and asked her a few questions and here is what she had to tell me.

Tell us a little about how the idea for the story started forming in your mind

 

For a long time I had in my mind an image of a woman living alone in the woods. She was in my head for about two years before I started writing the book. There was nothing violent or barbarous about it, at that time. I just kept seeing her. It was more like a feeling-state. There was something playful but also sad about her. She was profoundly isolated. I started to write about her and around her, bringing new characters in, and approaching her from different angles. Then the other characters just dropped away and I was left with Lizzie by herself again. At that point I knew what she had done. I wrote in a notebook: ‘The woman in the woods has killed her husband. Now she is eating him. That’s what I have to write about.

 
Its an intriguing drama with an almost fairytale quality to it – were you influenced by any particular authors or stories?

 

I love novels that can be summed up in just a few words. Man turns into bug, or man goes up Congo, woman turns into pig. I knew I wanted to write something short and intense about a central character and their psychological journey. I was inspired by Kafka’s Metamorphosis; and a wonderful book by Marie Darrieussecq called Pig Tales or ‘Truisms’ in French; and also Greek myths. The novel is about far more than violence and cannibalism – it’s about metamorphosis – Lizzie transforms herself from downtrodden spouse to a woman firmly in control of her own destiny. It is graphic in its depictions – there are recipes provided as she squeamishly prepares the meat – and the novel has been compared to Albert Camus’ existential tale L’Etranger for the way it is written.

 

 

I loved Lizzie despite what she was up to – was she fun to bring to life?

 

Not fun, no. Certainly not to start with. It felt like an act of desperation. Writing Lizzie’s story was unbelievably difficult and painful. The more I worked on her the sadder and more helpless she became. In the first few months I can’t remember having fun with any of it. It felt like very serious, very difficult, almost unbearable work.  But I didn’t want to do anything else, and every time I walked away from the novel everything felt worse and so it pulled me back in. Quite late on in the process I began to see the light coming in. Suddenly there was humour, and i introduced the graphics and the bullet points for the inner voice. It was as if oxygen began to bubble through the text and bit by bit it opened up becoming something light and fresh and new feeling. That was very exciting. Then I started to have lots of fun. I wrote the rest very quickly and enjoyed it very much. It’s fascinating to me that the process itself went from being so dark to so light. Throughout the book there is this preoccupation with the interplay between dark and light, dark and funny, sunlight in the dark wood. But to experience that quite so dramatically in the shape of the book so that Lizzie and her book had a metamorphosis, as I was writing, was awesome.

Can you tell us anything about your next project?

Certainly not.

(Ah well it was worth a try!)

 

Favourite author and/or comfort read

 

At the moment I can’t get enough of Doris Lessing. I’m reading Volume 1 of her autobiography. Comfort reads: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCuller; Runaway by Alice Munro; To The Lighthouse byVirginia Woolf, Kafka’s diaries; the letters of John Keats;The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland and The Twits by Roald Dahl.

Any writing habits?

 

Move, breathe, caffeinate.

 

In an ideal world I would live in a hot country and swim for twenty minutes in my own outdoor pool. Then I would sauna and shower in one of those huge bathrooms with everything in it, and then sit down to meditate. Then I would go to a desk and find an enormous mug of steaming coffee put there for me by a helpful kitchen elf in pointed green shoes. In reality, I muddle though. Best just to get up really early, sit at a table, and go for it.

Favourite comfort food

Anything cooked by someone else.

 

Thank you so much Natalie!

 

Review

Coming January 16th From Tinder Press.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the review copy.

Jacob has not been seen for a few days. That’s because Lizzie snapped last Monday and killed him. Over the course of the following month, with no other option at hand and no income, Lizzie will use her best skill–cooking–to dispose of Jacob. When she finds unexpected kinship with an isolated misfit, she will be tested: Will Lizzie confess or will her new friend be an unwitting accessory to her crime?

Funny and disturbing, SEASON TO TASTE is a novel about the definitive end of a marriage, and its very strange aftermath.

So, here we go – I don’t think I have ever read a novel QUITE like this one before but oh I loved it – be warned though it is probably not for the squeamish! At turns darkly ironic, humerous and endlessly fascinating, this is a compelling and devilish look into one woman’s psyche and her rather odd and violent, yet effective way of ending her unhappy marriage.

On impulse one day Lizzie kills her husband – having then to come up with a plan for body disposal she chops him into handy joints, pops him in the Freezer and over the course of the novel uses her culinary skill to make a meal of him, quite literally. Yuck I hear you cry. And yes I suppose so – but in the intelligently creative hands of Natalie Young it is less yuck and more yum…in the reading sense of course.

As we follow Lizzie on her quest, with her lists to keep her on track and her growing relationships outside of the family home making her reconsider her future plans this is a captivating and often enchanting tale despite the subject matter, or perhaps even because of it. It is certainly a unique take on things and Lizzie has a crazy but appealing side to her character. Written in a snappy and matter of fact style, it has perfect pacing and witty prose that will keep you on the journey with Lizzie from start to finish. Will she get away with it? Well, you will have to see..

Its possible this book spoke to me on a deeper level because I am currently in the midst of a separation and Divorce myself – who knew that it was not a Lawyer that I needed but simply a giant stock pot? And in a marketing twist of pure genius, along with the review copy I received a handy wooden spoon….

Terrific. Give it a go!

Follow Natalie on Twitter here : https://twitter.com/natalieyyoung

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Season-Taste-How-Your-Husband/dp/1472209354/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390550570&sr=1-1&keywords=season+to+taste

 

Happy Reading Folks!

 

Meet Sam Kates…and hear about “The Cleansing”

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So a little while ago I was lucky enough to be amongst the first readers of “The Cleansing”, and end of days tale with a twist that I loved very much. So much that it did get a mention in my 2013 Reading Year in Review. So I tracked Sam down to ask him some questions and here is what he had to tell me.

What, if anything, inspired you to write an “end of days” tale – I won’t say Post Apocalyptic just yet!

I have been fascinated by end of the world tales since watching the film The Omega Man as a young boy. There’s a scene where Charlton Heston wanders into a department store and starts picking out new clothes. I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to be able to go into any shop I fancied and just take anything that caught my eye. I was too young to fully appreciate the downside to all this – the despair, the loneliness, the absolute hopelessness of being in such a situation – but the sense of wonder has never left me.

 

Since then, some of my favourite books have involved end of the world scenarios: The Stand, Riddley Walker and The Road, to name a few. When I started writing in my early thirties, it seemed perfectly natural to pen an apocalyptic tale and I wrote the short story The Third Coming around fifteen years ago. It contained the germs of the ideas that would be realised more fully in The Cleansing and its sequels. When writing that story, something in the back of my mind told me I would be returning to explore that world in more depth at some point.

 

It nagged at me on and off for the next fifteen years, but it was only when a review of my short story collection Pond Life mentioned that the reviewer would be interested in reading an expanded version of The Third Coming that I decided the time was right to return to that world.

 

 
Was it difficult to breathe new life into the genre and find a unique perspective for it?

 

To be perfectly honest, not once did such considerations enter my head. Of course, I was all too aware that similar stories had been told, and amazingly well, by writers with reputations I can only hope to emulate. More than once the thought crossed my mind, ‘Does the world really need yet another apocalytic novel?’ Moreover, by a writer no one’s ever heard of? But I pressed on regardless. Not through arrogance, but because I have to write a story once it’s in my head. The only way to get shot of it is to write it. A little like lancing a boil but without the mess.
Do you have a favourite character from the book?

 

Bishop and Simone both intrigue me. Without giving anything away, they are of the other sort yet neither display the hive mentality of their kindred.

 

Peter and Milandra, too, I find interesting. Torn between loyalty to their kind and sympathy for the survivors, I’m looking forward to seeing how they will act from here on in.

 

But my favourite character? Probably Ceri. I sense a strength of character within her that I don’t think even she’s aware of.

 
Is there a complete vision for the story as a whole, this being Book One, or are you expecting further developments from your characters?

 

I know (roughly) how the third book ends, so in that sense it’s plot-driven. However, I have no idea how the characters will reach that point. And there are new characters in Book Two (The Beacon) that I’m enjoying getting to know. Quite what their roles will be is not yet clear. That’s part of the fun, and terror, of the way I write: I don’t plot in advance – I’ve tried and I can’t do it – so it’s almost as much a journey of discovery for me as it will be for the reader.
Can you tell us a little about what is next for them without giving too much away?

 

Tom was the dominant survivor in The Cleansing, but I suspect that he has already plumbed the depths of his courage. Ceri will come more to the fore in Book Two. I know that at least one of the new characters, Bri (pronounced like brie, the cheese), will have a big part to play.

 

Simone will become a key figure, but possibly not revealing her full role until Book Three. Diane is still an enigma – her innermost feelings and motivations are still unclear. And Peter… hmmm. He’s hiding something. That’s all I’d better say for now.

Favourite Comfort author/book.

 

Since my teens, Stephen King has always been my go-to author, but I often return to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series for light-hearted escapism. So I’d have to declare a draw for my favourite comfort author. Book? No contest: The Lord of the Rings. I can revisit it time after time and never grow bored.
Favourite comfort food

Ribeye steak (medium/well done), onion rings, fried mushrooms, peas, golden chips, all washed down with a good Merlot.

Something you wish you were good at but are not.

Advance plotting. I’m a little envious of writers who can produce a 30,000-word outline then knock out a near-perfect novel in a few weeks because most of the hard work – resolving twists and turns, coping with characters who insist on doing their own thing, tying up loose ends – was done at the outline stage.

And self-promotion. I’m completely inept at blowing my own trumpet. When I try, I become all coy and self-deprecating. So that’s what I wish I was good at – and so do my publishers.

 

Thanks Sam!

 

Review:

Apocalypse unleashed, the Cleansing begins. Relentless. Survival, uncertain.

Seven billion people inhabit this world, unaware our destruction is at hand. Death arrives unheralded—swift and nearly certain—not from meteors or nuclear holocaust or global warming, but from a source no one even knows exists.

So, this was brilliant. Yep. It really was. Mainly because, although it has as its basic premise a story told often before (The end of mankind etc etc),  the author has given it a little twist, a little spark of new life, thrown in a spot of originality and mixed the whole thing up into a rather addictive adventure.

Its difficult to go into a lot of detail here without spoiling the sense and ambience of it – because of the variations on a theme, the discovery of those variations are at the heart of the enjoyment of the story so I won’t give anything away. Its certainly new to me and I was engaged and intrigued all the way through.

The writing is pacy and compelling, easy to read and sink into, and there are some terrific characters to be found here…all in all it is certainly one of the best books of its kind I have read this year.

This is very much Book One – the author has taken this opportunity to do some proper mythology, background and world building, to situate his characters and at least imply their purpose, all without resorting to mundane exposition which might bore the reader. Cleverly achieved – and when I reached the end I was ready to metaphorically kill people in order to get Book Two, but did not feel short changed at all by the story as a whole.

Excellent. Loved it. Highly Recommended.

Find out more here: https://www.facebook.com/writersamkates?fref=ts

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

Purchase Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cleansing-Earth-Haven-Sam-Kates-ebook/dp/B00HFF7XFS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390469202&sr=1-1&keywords=the+cleansing+sam+kates

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

Cherringham: Mystery at the Manor. A murder for every month of the year.

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Digital Series. Episode 2:
The elderly owner of Mogdon Manor, Victor Hamblyn, dies in a mysterious fire. But was it really an accident? Jack and Sarah are skeptical – The victim’s three middle-aged children, who all live in the village of Cherringham, are possible heirs. And possible murderers – Did one of them set the fire?
“Cherringham – A Cosy Crime Series” is a series of twelve self-contained episodes. A new case for Jack and Sarah is released each month.

 

So its back into the fray for Jack and Sarah, a couple of great characters we first met in “Murder on the Thames” (review here: http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/cheringham-a-murder-for-every-month-of-the-year/ ) and I was very pleased to see them again!

In this instalment they get together once more to investigate a fire, cause supposedly accidental, but of course its not going to be as simple as that – they are definitely suspicious of the circumstances and there is money in the mix…

I thought this was a terrific follow up, consolidating the relationship between the two at a realistic pace, giving us another intriguing Christie-esque mystery to get out teeth into and certainly making this reader want to keep up with each episode as it appears.

Im a little bit in love with Jack as a character – I look forward to finding out more about him as this continues, and I adore the quirky and fairly unusual developing relationship between the two – Sarah herself is  wonderfully drawn and very authentic, especially in her role as a mother.

All in all I would continue to recommend this to anyone who likes a nice quick read for those lunch hours and train journeys where time is limited. And I do like the idea of a series such as this – it gives you something to look forward to and its certainly worth the very reasonable price.

If you love a good cosy mystery but would love to have something you can simply dip your toes into and have a lovely reading experience this is for you.

Happy Reading Folks!

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Co-authors, Neil Richards (based in the UK) and Matthew Costello (based in the US), are known for their script work on major computer games. The Cherringham crime series is their first fictional transatlantic collaboration. Matthew has written and designed dozens of bestselling games including the critically acclaimed The 7th Guest, Doom 3, Rage and Pirates of the Caribbean. He is also the author of a number of successful novels, including Vacation (2011) and Beneath Still Waters (1989), which was made into a movie. Neil has worked as a producer and writer in TV and film, creating scripts for BBC, Disney, and Channel 4, and earning numerous Bafta nominations along the way. He’s also written script and story for over 20 video games including The Da Vinci Code, and consults around the world on digital storytelling.

 

The Investigation by Jung-Myung Lee – A truly wonderful book.

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Thank you kindly to the publisher for the Advance Reading Copy.

Fukuoka Prison, 1944. Beyond the prison walls the war rages; inside a man is found brutally murdered. Watanabe, a young guard with a passion for reading, is tasked with finding the killer. The victim, Sugiyama – also a guard – was feared and despised throughout the prison and investiWgations have barely begun when a powerful inmate confesses. But Watanabe is unconvinced; and as he interrogates both the suspect and Yun Dong-ju, a talented Korean poet, he begins to realise that the fearsome guard was not all he appeared to be . . .

First of all I should make clear that I adored this one with a fiery passion. Not since “The Humans” by Matt Haig has a book touched me on a level such as this one. Absolutely addictive reading, with some beautiful prose I was fully immersed from start to finish. There is poetry within the pages – both literally and metaphorically – and the tale itself is a compelling one.

The book is inspired by the life and death of  Korean poet Yun Dong-ju and uses some of his posthumously published work, Poetry and the beauty of words is a theme throughout..and it works so well, having an effect on heart and soul that I can’t really put into words. Add to that a snapshot of prison life during war, some absolutely amazing characters and a tendency to surprise you when you least expect it and you have a reading experience that is difficult to categorise.

I really hope that people don’t read the synopsis and think this is just  a crime novel, or a war story. Whilst in a very small way it could be described as both of those things, there is after all a crime and it IS set during a war,  the heart of this novel is so far removed from those two things, it kind of sits outside them peering in. I have also seen it described as “Literary” – well yes but again, to me and to quite a few readers I know, “Literary” often transcribes into bloated and endlessly dull – in fact Vicky Newham and I were having this very discussion last night. This book is anything BUT dry, it is never dull and is fascinating, heart stopping and purely graceful throughout.

This is a story about how words have power. Power to change us, power to give us hope and joy even under the direst of circumstances. How inner beauty does not always shine – as Watanabe investigates the death of Sugiyama he discovers a man he never knew existed. It puts him firmly in the path of another man who will change his life. And running through the strands of the story are always the words – the poetry – and the heart of humanity. There is certainly more than one mystery going on here.

This is the first book from a Korean author that I have read. Kudos to the translater, this is perfect in almost every way. I believe Jung-Myung Lee will be visiting the UK later this year and I hope, I really do, that I get to see him when he does and perhaps hear him speak. It feels like one of those things that must be done.

I hope that I have inspired you to read this even if you would normally not consider such a book. Novels like this do not come along that often – for me anyway. I loved every minute of it. It brought me to tears in a cathartic way – And if I had to describe it in one word, one magical word, that word would be exquisite.

Happy Reading Folks!

2013 – My Reading Year in Review.

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Well here we are, a few short weeks into the New Year and already I have had some amazing reading experiences. Right now though, I’m heading back in time to last year and having a look at what got my blood pumping in 2013. This may end up being long. Please bear with me…

First of all I have to say. It is almost IMPOSSIBLE to mention every book that “got” me last year. I read so many and so many touched my heart, that this article would be a novel in itself before I was done. My reviews I think speak for themselves. And if you are the author or publisher I KNOW I will have told you at the time what your particular book meant to me.

So here is how this will work. First I shall talk about one book. Then I shall give some honourable mentions to a few books in 2 genre forms. I will not re-post my reviews but simply say a few words.  Then I shall count down my Top 5 of last year – chosen simply like this – I popped some music on and those characters that came to dance with me were included as they arrived. If you are a reader you get it….

So here we go. Deep Breath.

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Yes you KNEW it was coming right? But I am not telling you this was my No 1 book of last year. Or giving it an honourable mention. OR making up a strangely entitled bloggers award I can give it. Because how can I? What box exactly could I put this novel in that would even BEGIN to say what I want to say. Impossible. Unimaginable that I would classify it. I often call it the book that saved my life. Which is true. But even that doesnt really cover it. It just is. Its mine.

Honourable mentions.

Crime/Mystery

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Two terrific debuts that I read back to back last Summer – Someone Elses Skin and Dead Gone had me hooked from the start, desperately turning pages, and left me with the feeling that in a few years time I am going to have a WHOLE collection of these authors on my shelves! Terrific stuff!. Then we have Derwent. Thank you Jane Casey for that series, which improves with age and who has written the one male character who I truly truly am in love with. Oh and Maeve Kerrigan ain’t so bad as a main protagonist either. Then the incredibly quirky and terrific writing of Will Carver brought us another January David novel – his best to date in my opinion, these books scare me stupid and I love every minute of it. And Well, Neil White has started a new series that offers a terrific mix of crime and legal thriller which I read through the night. Finally a new David Raker novel from Tim Weaver is a thing to be savoured and savour it I did….

Fantasy/SciFi/Post Apocalyptic

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Shovel Ready held me in its thrall over the Christmas break this year – a brilliantly imaginative world and a terrific main protagonist I’ll let you discover that one for yourselves. Nick Cole’s The WasteLands Saga was the closest thing I’ve found to a Post Apocalyptic novel that can match “The Stand” for me. And Steve McHughs Nate Garrett novels are refreshingly adult and so much fun as well as being fairly dark – and oh Nate will you marry me? What Lots Wife Saw, winner of the 2007 Athens Prize for Literature will blow your mind. Sarah Pinborough took real life events and turned them into something quite amazing with “Mayhem” – Murder is out later this year  and I can’t wait. Then Sam Kates pulled off a miracle by actually having a refreshing take on an end of days tale. Can’t tell you how – no spoilers remember?

All of the following made my day!

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There was only ONE book by THIS author that I liked (In Joke)

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Short story art is not dead….

 

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Great fun was had by all!

As for the YA Genre and Fiction you will have to wait. I have an article coming up very soon where I am looking at some of the great YA books I read last year and another one where I’m talking genre and how sometimes perhaps its hard to place. When those go up then you will be able to see some of my favourites of last year in those two categories.

So..here we go then. My Top 5.

 

FIVE!

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Nope, its no good I still can’t speak. Moving and magical, you must read this.

FOUR!

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Yes, Ella came to dance…I ran screaming from the room! Get your axe proof duvet and dive right in…

THREE!

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A book that had me totally involved from start to finish, it captured my imagination perhaps like no other “crime/mystery” novel this year. Coming March 2014 I would highly recommend you put it on your “must read” list. Following the aftermath of a Plane crash, where everything is not as it seems, beautifully written with some of the most engaging characters I have come across this year, it absolutely deserves a place in my top 5.

TWO!

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Now I adore a great post apocalyptic novel but to do something new and different within the genre is extremely difficult. As well written as they can be, they often follow the same basic path. Josh Malerman has managed to write a claustrophobic, terrifying tale of one womans fight for survival in the aftermath of an event – a truly frightening and unique event at that – with the story set in the present time and with what lead to it.  I read this in one glorious not eating not drinking not sleeping session and absolutely could not put it down until I was done. Amazing.

And. Huge Drumroll before Thunderbirds are go!

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My Number One Read of Last Year.

 

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Again, I love a good dystopian novel…and this one was a doozy. You may THINK you have read dystopian before, but boy you aint seen nothing yet. With a protagonist you can truly root for, living in a world beyond imagination, with a rich, imaginative backdrop and some of the best world building I have ever seen, every single part of this book held me in its thrall. I laughed, cried, sat on the edge of my seat, fell off a few times and when I got to the end I would truly have committed murder if it meant I could get book 2 RIGHT NOW. Sadly I will have to wait…

This one I WILL link my review: http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/red-rising-by-pierce-brown-sometimes-words-are-not-enough/

 

And that folks is your lot!

Here’s to many many great reading experiences in 2014.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!