Wednesday, 28 September 2016


Saving Sophie\

It is my very great honour and privilege to welcome Sam Carrington to my blog today!

*Grab the nearest paper bag and breathe!*

For those of you who have seen some of my previous posts and tweets, I am a huge fan of Sam's debut psychological thriller "Saving Sophie". The novel is about Karen and her 17 year old daughter Sophie who returns home one evening drunk and accompanied by the police. She has no memory of how she got into such a state. The next day there is still no news of her friend Amy and then a dead body is discovered. Karen makes it her priority to work out what happened despite battling her own issues - including suffering from severe panic attacks and the need for a paper bag to help regulate and calm her breathing. Myself and fellow book blogger Kaisha Holloway (The Writing Garnet) both agree that the publishers ought to make the sale of a paper bag alongside the paperback essential as it is such a gripping and literally breathtaking read!

So it is a great pleasure to introduce you all to Sam and hear all she has to say about her reading and writing habits.

Which book do you wish you’d written and why?

Oh, that’s actually quite difficult. There are a huge number of books I’d love to be able to say I’d written, all for different reasons! I am in awe of most of the authors whose books are in my favourite genre – psychological and crime (shocker there) – and I often stop in the middle of one of them and think, wow, that was a great twist, wish I could think of something that original and brilliant! Just for the fact I loved it so much and it’s the one that always stays with me, I will name Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes. It has all the elements that make a great psychological thriller – a brilliant dark edge, characters with depth, tension and good story-telling. It also tackles the frightening topic of domestic abuse. From the reviews I read, it affected a lot of other readers as well as myself and is one of the most recommended books I know.

Great choice - one of my favourites too! The protagonist's fear is absolutely palpable and I was totally absorbed in her predicament. Great writing!

Which fictional character makes you reach for a paper bag?

From a book, Hannibal had the edge for me when it came to raising my pulse and respirations, although that was some years ago! Psychologically I found his character intriguing yet scary, and then when the physical aspects of his behaviour were described (or visualised in the films) my anxiety raised to a whole new level. I always wonder if it was my fascination with his character that drew me to my prison role years later. More recently though, Spector, the killer from the TV series The Fall (one of my favourite series) also had me tense and holding my breath. It's almost just the fact he appeared as a normal, everyday husband and dad but hid his murderous tendencies, that was terrifying.

Ooohh, more great choices! Also love "The Fall" - I take it you'll be watching the third series this week when it returns to TV - if we dare! 

Which films or TV series have made you wish you had a paper bag with you while watching?

Other than The Fall and the Hannibal films and TV series, the film Hush was a particularly anxiety-ridden hour and a half for me! I think I held my breath for part of the film, then in the action scenes (which were really quite horrible), I hyperventilated. I didn’t relax for the entire film. 

I’m useless with scary films and have lately taken to actually screaming loudly at the jumpy bits. The TV series The Enfield Haunting also produced that reaction from me. And, if we’re talking panicky paper bag moments – any programme or film involving people crawling/squeezing through small spaces makes me clutch my chest in sheer panic. Don’t even get me started on Buried, the film where Ryan Reynolds spends the entire time in a coffin … yikes!

*hands slowly reach for a paper bag as I remember "The Enfield Haunting"....* And I'll skirt over "Remember Me" which I had to watch in daylight with a friend....!

Which authors would you recommend for readers who enjoy a story which leaves them gasping for breath?

There haven’t been many novels that have left me actually gasping (that I can think of). For me, it tends to happen more when watching films – I think that’s mainly because of the music and visuals that add significantly to the feeling of terror and anxiety. But, there have been books that have given me lots of ‘holding your breath’ moments – the authors that come to mind are: Mo Hayder, Sharon Bolton and Chris Carter. There are scenes in a number of their books which build tension brilliantly and also give an air of menace which certainly could cause someone to reach for a paper bag! The novel, Room by Emma Donoghue also contained a particular scene that produced a lot of anxiety – I won’t put a spoiler in here, but I imagine if you’ve read it, you might well know which one I’m referring to.

Absolutely. And, amazingly as great books don't always transfer to great films, I practically passed out watching the film of "Room"!

What was the hardest part of writing Karen’s character? Did you find it a very emotionally draining book write?

I think the hardest part was ensuring I captured the very real physical symptoms of agoraphobia as realistically as possible. I read a number of articles but also searched for real-life stories from sufferers, which also included reading help forums where people’s experiences were detailed. I also suffer from claustrophobia and so could draw on the anxiety I feel when I even think about being in an enclosed space, let alone if I was to find myself in one. The parts of the novel where Karen’s condition prevented her from being with her friend were difficult to write, and the scenes between them were emotionally draining. And, as I have a daughter, I often thought ‘how would I be feeling?’ and ‘what if that happened to my girl?’ which definitely gave me some sleepless nights.

What do you do to stay calm? How do you relax and unwind after a day of writing a psychological thriller?

I’m not sure that I DO stay calm! Or relax. I suppose I must – although even when asleep my mind works overtime and I have very vivid dreams! I do read as much as possible. But, depending on the book it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m unwinding! I guess the most relaxing thing is taking my two border terriers for walks. I’m often accompanied by one of my sons and we have long, sometimes whacky chats that make me laugh – we end up talking about such weird topics that my mind can be taken away from my writing.

What three pieces of advice would you give to aspiring writers about creating tension and suspense in their writing?

1) Keep your chapters quite short. It helps the pace if you’re quickly moving from one scene to the next, and it can create an urgency which keeps the reader turning the pages.

2) End those short chapters with cliff-hangers. They don’t have to be huge story-changing ones, as that would soon become wearing – but give the reader a reason to read on to find out what you’ve hinted at previously. The reader has (hopefully) become attached to the character, so it’s like foreshadowing that something bad might be going to happen to them. That should create a good level of suspense as the reader moves along with a sense of dread at what might be around that corner…

3) Don’t always follow straight on to the next part of the story with the same character, shift to another character’s viewpoint or to a different period of time – make the reader wait another chapter to get back to where you left off.

Brilliant advice - thank you for sharing! These devices definitely work very successfully in "Saving Sophie"! 

What are you working on next and will we need another paper bag?!

My next novel focuses on forensic psychologist, Connie Summers. After she recommends a prisoner’s release, he commits a serious offence which Connie feels responsible for, so she trades her role working with offenders for running her own counselling consultancy helping the victims of crime. One of her newest clients is Steph, a troubled young woman relocated by the Protected Persons Service, who is fearful for her and her son’s life. When Connie begins to unpick these fears, she uncovers the tragic circumstances that led to the death of Steph’s dad sixteen years ago. Meanwhile, DI Wade and DS Mack pay Connie a visit to tell her that an absconded prisoner has been murdered and his body dumped outside the prison gates. Initially, Connie thinks they are asking for her expert opinion and help in profiling the perpetrator. But then they tell her who the victim is, and that her name is written on the dead man’s hand. Suddenly the past catches up, threatening to reveal Steph’s true identity and ruin Connie’s new career – possibly even her life. Will you need a paper bag? Well I've tried to induce fear in a number of the scenes - so it's a possibility! No actual paper bags in this one, though. 

Wow! I'm so intrigued! This sounds fantastic! I cannot wait! 

Thanks so much Sam for coming on my blog today and answering all my questions with such interesting responses! It's been lovely to learn more about you and to chat "scary books /TV" with you!

Good luck with completing your new novel and we look forward to hearing more about it nearer publication time! 


Sam Carrington

Sam Carrington lives in Devon with her husband and three children. She worked for the NHS for 15 years, during which time she qualified as a nurse. Following the completion of a Psychology degree she went to work for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. Her experiences within this field inspired her writing. She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist. SAVING SOPHIE is her debut psychological thriller novel.

You can follow Sam on 
Twitter at @sam_carrington1
Facebook: Sam Carrington Writer (@samcarringtonauthor)

For my review of "Saving Sophie" please click on the following link:

For a few more suggestions about heart stopping books click here:

For my review of "Room" please click on here:

For more reviews, recommendations and author Q&As please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk) 

Monday, 26 September 2016

"The Good Enough Mother" Anoushka Beazley

The Good Enough Mother
Which mother wouldn't be drawn by this cover? A bloodied knife, a cake...... And a great title - as we all struggle just to be "good enough". Turn to the first page and read the opening quote- it will hook you right in. The quote in itself a clear warning that this book is not going to be quite the story you expected. This is something for readers who are looking for something edgy, risk taking and refreshing.

"Oh how I hated the school run. It was like a living thing. Every day, just at the point I thought I had no more hate left in me, I found a way to hate it more. It was like a mutated lizard's tale that, if cut off, would not only grow back but grow back even bigger, with festering pustules, making it even more loathsome."

Blogger Joanne Robertson drew my attention to this book with such an enthusiastic recommendation it literally leapt out from my Twitter and Facebook feeds. She called it a hidden gem - one which she, and therefore me and many others- could easily have missed. I am so grateful that I decided to give it a go completely based on Joanne's review as otherwise I would have missed one of the most darkly comic, satirical and witty reads of this year.

When Drea's boyfriend walks out on her for another woman, she is left in the house with his teenage daughter Ava. Not a natural mother, not a conformist and not a typical "Chelsea-Tractor-Lady-Who-Lunches", Drea struggles not only parent but more importantly, find the fees to keep Ava at her prestigious private school. But watching the wealthy Yummy Mummies inspires her to hatch a daring (and criminal) plan which will upset every single resident in the quiet, affluent town of Gatlin and propel Drea into the thick of a compelling, dramatic, catastrophic and entertaining story of crime, murder, love, relationships and the politics of the school gate.

This book is not for the fainthearted. Drea is a woman who says all the things we keep to our inner voice, aloud. She is crude, she uses expletives, she is blunt. She is witty, sharp, observant and most definitely her own person. I envied her gall, her frankness and her attitude. But I loved her. She made me laugh out loud, choke on my drinks and even hold my lips together so I could try to keep a straight face and not draw too much attention to myself when I was reading in a cafe. I snatched time to read this book whenever I could, taking photos of a few pages to text to friends like a naughty school girl passing an illicit note during class.

Drea appears disinterested in Ava and parenting. She is lazy. She smokes and drinks and is not the typical role model or parent in this small, leafy suburb. Her hopes for Ava are not the same as the competitive alpha mothers she faces on the school run.

"Ava had come to live with us when she was four years old. It might have been nice to think some of me had rubbed off on her. However......her need to achieve was more than a little disappointing." 

But despite this, Ava and Drea seem to get on well - or at least understand where they stand with each other. As Drea says: "Ava and I had unspoken agreements. I wasn't interested in any of her friends or her school life and she in turn, would not force me into situations where I needed to behave as if I was." 

For me, as a parent, there was something very liberating reading about Drea. Her voice is a real breath of fresh air. We know she will not be winning any parenting awards or penning a guide to parenting book (more's the pity!!) but she is a kind of anti hero.

"'I never actually married your father and I'm the only mother you've got coz the real one doesn't give a s***,' I screamed. There is an outside possibility I could have handled that better." 

"'Plus I feel very sad today,' Ava continued. The 'plus' was a clue. It meant I should have started listening earlier than I had."

It is hard for writers to strike a balance with "yummy mummy / slummy mummy" characters. I find often authors can make them either too saccharine, too cliched or they become too much of a caricature or too unpleasant. Beazley does not do this. For me, Drea was believable. Everyone has an inner Drea in them some days and I think Beazley managed her protagonist very well. I was rooting for her and I was very much involved in her plight throughout the whole novel.

As well as dark humour there is also sadness and seriousness in this novel. Drea is depressed and has a bottle of pills in her bag - enough to commit suicide when the right moment presents itself. As with everything, Drea is upfront and matter-of-fact about this.

"Today was the day I was planning to kill myself but then I read Alex's note and, from there, I became unreservedly and altogether distracted."

This issue adds tension to the situation. As the novel continues and things become more serious and more sinister, it helps to create more intrigue and complexity.

Beazley is clearly a talented writer. Not only are her characters full of vividness and colour, but her attention to detail is thorough, her imagery and description is effective. There are moments when the wry voice of Drea comes through, for example; "The most modern thing about our house was our neighbours" but also when the description is simply impressive:

"The sun twinkled like a girlish courtesan, hopping from cupboard to dresser, unsure where to lay her balmy touch. A yellow bath of colour tinged the bedroom from the large bay windows, all the way to the faded flowery wallpaper behind the bedstead."

So the financial pressure mounts and mounts until Drea spots Regina's gigantic rock sized diamond ring that "sat fat on her yoga-stretched fingers, like the missing aid for a third world country" and a plan starts to form in her mind. Drea's initial foray into illegal activity begins with her usual dry observations which make the reader wonder just how aware Drea is of her actions and potential consequences:

"I was covering every role on this job, doubling up as my own get-away driver.I guess that's how all small business ventures start out."

But things quickly take a more sinister and chilling turn of events. The pace of the novel cranks up as Drea becomes caught up in a more complex web of crime; a journey which also forces her to confront her issues, her past and her role as a mother. The freshness and originality in this novel comes from the fact that it is like a cross between 'Bridget Jones' and an episode of 'Midsummer Murders' penned by Caitlin Moran. It is a bit of popular women's fiction and crime fiction all pilled in together and, with all credit to Beazley, it's a successful combination that doesn't ever feel too far fetched, too ridiculous or too contrived. There are serious comments made and serious issues explored. It is not a farcical novel nor is it flippant about the relationship between a mother and a daughter or even a privileged community like Gatlin.

I really enjoyed this book. I don't think it will be for everyone as Drea's comments can be quite shocking and there is a lot of swearing but it was the perfect tonic for me at the start of term! I would love to have Drea in my life. After all, who hasn't been to a baby and toddler group where the women are all sat "convincing each other and themselves that merely having squeezed a human out of their vagina is basis enough to both begin and sustain a friendship" and who hasn't felt like Drea, who while listening in their "cacophony of banal high-pitched incomprehensible chatter" observes, "Why not just say 'Your baby is fat' and 'I was hoping not to see you here'?" 

This was not a book I would have necessarily sought out or perhaps even picked up but I am immensely grateful to Joanne for bringing it to my attention. I will be rereading it and I will be recommending it. I have genuinely enjoyed being made to laugh out loud this week while engrossed in the pages. I am absolutely so grateful to Anoushka Beazley for sending me a copy of "The Good Enough Mother" to read in return for a fair, honest and unbiased review. I will definitely be looking out for her next novel as I think she shows great promise.

Thanks again to Anoushka Beazley for a copy of "The Good Enough Mother" which published in July 2016.

For more recommendations and reviews please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)

Saturday, 24 September 2016

"Beside Myself" Ann Morgan

Beside Myself

Helen and Ellie are identical twins - like two peas in a pod says everyone- except the girls know this isn't true. Helen is the leader and Ellie is the follower. 

One day they decide to swap places, just for fun. Just for one day. 

But then Ellie refuses to swap back. And so begins Helen's nightmare from which she cannot wake up.......

The quotes adorning this novel are striking hyperboles like "compelling", "gripping", "ingenious" and "blistering clever". However, in this case, I have to completely agree with every single adjective used both on the inside and outside of its cover!

Any story about twins - and there have been some excellent ones published recently - is usually captivating, but this novel really is compulsive.

The atmosphere set up in the prologue is cold and unpleasant- the narrative voice is so unkind, so cruel and so full of malice that automatically a high level of tension and anticipation is established. The spine chilling final sentence, "We're going to play a game," was literally left ringing in my ears as I turned to Chapter One.

The writing is clever. The prose is sometimes quite lyrical; often only short phrases or deliberately vague imagery is used to convey character and setting. At other times the voice of the young Helen is captured with sincere authenticity and conviction. Morgan has set herself the challenge of writing two story lines - one in the present day as "Smudge" receives a phone call forcing her to confront her past, and one in the past, following the story from the moment of the swap. Both voices are the same character but both voices are very different - just as the character is so very different as a result of the disastrous effect their game.

Morgan's novel is about identity and how the way we are defined and treated by others affects us. What I found really fascinating was the judgements made against Ellie and the lack of fairness or opportunity offered to her. Then Helen becomes Ellie - Helen who is supposedly the intelligent, pretty, graceful and popular child- she is automatically treated unfairly and never once given the chance to prove herself. Helen's outrage and frustration is so palpably created by Morgan that it was impossible not to become emotionally involved with these three dimensional characters.

The children's world of school and family is exceptionally well evoked. The twins first day back at school after the swap was compelling reading - I've just tried to skim back for a quote and ended up rereading three pages, once again totally absorbed in Helen's childlike observations and hopes. It's so vivid. It's so emotive.

Morgan allows us to care for both girls even though they can both be equally monstrous in their behaviour towards each other. At first I did not believe I could ever sympathise with Helen, but when she tries to trick Ellie using the same cruel game herself and Mary have frequently tormented her with and it backfires so she is suddenly the victim, I felt a surge of shock and sympathy.

It's incredible that Ellie, always thought to be so slow, dimwitted and weak, has the power, insight, confidence and brazenness to reinvent herself as Helen with so much conviction. But then I guess this idea of prejudice and never allowing people to shake off labels is a fascinating theme which Morgan wants to explore in her writing.

Helen gradually becomes "Smudge". A woman who has lost her own identity and become a shadow. Her musings do become more muddled, the blurring between the truth, the past, the present, which girl is which and keeping track of whether it's Ellie / Helen or Helen / Ellie reflects a kind of descent into madness and conveys how devastating the consequences of a malicious game can be. The shockwaves from the Ellie's decision to suddenly not relent to Helen throw huge crashing waves thought the entire family for the rest of their lives. I liked that at times I felt I was drowning in the novel, spiralling into madness alongside Helen. It is not often that you can become so absorbed that it feels as if you are truly inside the disturbed, confused mind of the protagonist.

It is not just a thriller - it is more than that. It is gripping as there is a constant confusion about which twin is which, if they will ever be discovered and then the shock revelations about some dark secrets hidden behind the closed doors of the family home. It is a sinister page turner. But this novel is more unsettling than that. This book is psychologically unnerving; it examines mental illness, fragility and the sense of self. The ending raises shocking questions about secrets, game playing and parenting. The protagonists are complex, the plot is multilayered, the writing often beautifully metaphorical. It is immensely thought provoking and an impressive debut.

I can't wait to read more from Ann Morgan and as Heat says on the back cover - I do feel a little haunted even after nearly a week of finishing the last page!

For more reviews and recommendations you can follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

"The Devil Wins" Reed Farrel Coleman

Robert B. Parker's the Devil Wins


In the wake of a huge storm, three bodies are discovered in the rubble of an abandoned factory building in an industrial part of Paradise known as The Swap. One body, a man’s, wrapped in a blue tarp, is only hours old. But found within feet of that body are the skeletal remains of two teenage girls who had gone missing during a Fourth of July celebration twenty-five years earlier. Not only does that crime predate Jesse Stone’s arrival in Paradise, but the dead girls were close friends of Jesse’s right hand, Officer Molly Crane. And things become even more complicated when one of the dead girls’ mothers returns to Paradise to bury her daughter and is promptly murdered. It’s up to Police Chief Jesse Stone to pull away the veil of the past to see how all the murders are connected.

This is number 14 in the New York Times bestselling Jesse Stone series. Coleman was selected by the estate of Robert B Parker to take over the writing of the Jesse Stone series of novels when Parker died in 2010. The Huffington Post states that "'The Devil Wins' is such a winner of a novel that Parker's loyal fans, and Coleman's new ones, will be equally delighted." This is quite a claim to make with such confidence, but this reviewer is not alone in their praise for Coleman's work.

I am intrigued by this book - and even more so by the fact that I have not heard more about this author! I love that the Sunday Times has said the Parker "packs more meaning into a whispered 'yeah' than most writers can pack into a page."

The Guardian states that Robert B Parker is one of the "greats" and Newsday says the "sentences flow with as much wit, grace and assurance as ever, and Stone is a complex and consistently interesting new protagonist." 

This definitely looks like a book to add to your TBR pile for lovers of crime and police procedural novels.

Author Bio:
Reed Farrel Coleman is the Edgar nominated author of 18 novels and 3 novellas, including the critically acclaimed Moe Prager series. He teaches at the Hofstra University and is a founding member of the MWA University.

Robert B Parker was the best selling author of over 60 books and lived in Boston until he died in 2010.

Contact info:
01582 766348

"An Honourable Man" Paul Vidich

An Honorable Man

"An Honourable Man" by Paul Vidich publishes on 22nd September 2016 in Hardback with No Exit Press.


Washington D.C. 1953. The Cold War is heating up: McCarthyism, with all its fear and demagoguery is raging in the nation's capital, and Joseph Stalin's death has left a dangerous power vacuum in the Soviet Union.

The CIA, meanwhile, is reeling from a double agent within their midst. Someone is selling secrets to the Soviets, compromising missions around the globe. Undercover agents have been assassinated, and the anti-Communist plots are being cut short in ruthlessly efficient fashion. The CIA director knows any news of the traitor, whose code name is Protocol, would be a national embarrassment and compromise the entire agency.

George Mueller seems to be the perfect man to help find the mole: Yale educated; extensive experience running missions in Eastern Europe; an operative so dedicated to his job that it left his marriage in tatters. The Director trusts him. Mueller, though, has secrets of his own, and as he digs deeper in to the case, making contact with a Soviet agent, suspicion begins to fall on him as well. Until Protocol is found, no one can be trusted, and everyone is at risk.


This book is receiving huge international praise so far. I was particularly impressed to read the quote below from Schiff as "The Americans" has definitely been one of my favourite TV series recently and I think there has been a resurgence of interest in the Cold War era in both television, film and novels in the last 12 months or so.

Stephen Schiff, writer and co-executive producer of "The Americans" writes:
"A cool, knowing and quietly devastating thriller that vaults Paul Vidich into the ranks of such thinking-man's spy novelists as Joseph Kanon and Alan Furst. Like them, Vidich conjures not only a riveting mystery but a poignant cast of characters, a vibrant evocation of time and place, and a rich excavation of human paradox."

John Connolly says that this novel is a "rare beast: a good old fashioned spy novel. ....For a book about the Cold War, it left me with a warm, satisfied glow." 

Jayne Anne Phillips, New York Times bestselling author describes the book as an "immensely assured debut, a requiem to a time...intensely dark, silken with facts, replete with promise." 

The reviews left by established authors suggest that Vidich is going to be a very strong, new voice in spy thriller fiction and that this book is definitely one for that TBR pile! Mine's added - I can't wait to read it and be swept away by a world of betrayal, moral compromises and excitement!

Amazon Link 

Author Bio:

Paul Vidich has had a distinguished career in music and media. Most recently, he served as Special Advisor to AOL, Inc. and was Executive Vice President at the Warner Music Group, in charge of technology and global strategy. He serves on the Board of Directors of Poets and Writers and The New School for Social Research. A founder and publisher for the Storyville App, Vidich is also an award winning author of short fiction. This is his first novel.



"The Two O'Clock Boy" Mark Hill

The Two O'Clock Boy


One night changed their lives
Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children's Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home's manager.
Cries in the fire and smoke
Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis' favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.
A truth both must hide
Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O'Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders - but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

As first lines go, this is a killer.

"The boy loved his parents more than anything on this Earth. And so he had to kill them." 

I was instantly hooked. And with each line, the writing just got better and better. 
"Perched on the edge of his bunk, he listened to them now. The squeak of their soles on the deck above as they threw recriminations back and forth in voices as vicious as the screeching seagulls wheeling in the sky. He heard the crack of the sail in the wind, the smack of the water against the hull inches from his head...Slap....slap....slap...." 
The threat of menace is so darkly palpable through Hill's description of the boat; the words "slap, vicious, crack" and "smack" all instantly implying violence, aggression and murder. I loved the line "His love for them was untethering, drifting away on a fierce tide.....Slap...slap....slap.." The metaphorical power of such a simple phrase is so effective and not at all the kind of lyrical phrases I was expecting when picking up this new debut crime thriller. 
By the end of the first page, there was nothing drifting or untethering about my attention - it was well and truly caught. 
This anonymous character whose voice opens the story - and who we know only to be a boy - is utterly chilling. He is filled with corrosion and bitterness; fury and rage:
"Already he felt anger swelling like a storm where his love had been." 
As the novel continued, I was determined to enjoy Hill's descriptions and clever use of language despite the speed at which the story races along. I liked his image of "clots of people gathered in the sweep of the cherry lights to watch the proceedings from the outer cordon..." for a crime scene. The subtle choices of colour and words absolutely brimming with connotation and help creating suspense and tension. Hill has written a gritty, contemporary novel that doesn't shy away from hard hitting scenes but with the more unexpected brush of lyrical description. It bodes for an interesting and original voice. 

As well as an ability to convey scene and atmosphere with such assurance, Hill also creates convincing characters. His description of Kenny here illustrates the more gritty tone of the novel:
"Kenny hated going straight. Loathed it. He'd been a good boy for three years now - three years, eight months and fourteen days to be exact - and every single minute of every single hour had been excruciating."
Continuing with the grit, DI Ray Drake is our man for solving this crime and he has all the ingredients for an engaging character that readers will want to invest in and follow on further adventures. Suitably haunted by a past and a a secret, suitably admired and referred by his colleagues he is a great creation. Again, I could quote much here but have already used up precious word count tantalising you with the opening and don't want to give anything else away for those of you that want to meet this new detective on the block yourselves. I must confess also that I became too absorbed in the plot to remember to keep highlighting good quotes! 
What I will say is that so far critics have draw similarities between "The Two O'Clock Boy" and the TV series "Luther" and I'm hard pushed to better that. This comparison captures the essence of this original detective book. 
Hill is a journalist and a script writer and I think this is evident in his writing. It is very visual, it is very polished and it is very authentic and compelling. Although this is his debut novel, it is clear that he is a talented writer and confident in his ability to thrill, shock and keep you up until the early hours of the morning turning the final pages. 
But don't just take my word for it. The endorsements from other authors is overwhelming. David Young ("Stasi Child") says it is "unsettling and powerful.....shocking edge of the seat twists and a heart stopping finale." Several others use the word "talented". 
This must surely be the start of a hard hitting crime series that will be devoured by those who like to discover dark, fresh writing. 
My thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of this novel in return for a fair review. 
Little Brown publishes "The Two O'Clock Boy" in ebook on 22nd September 2016 and paperback on 6th April 2017.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

**BLOG TOUR** "Time for a Short Story" Julia Roberts

Time for a Short Story

Eloise is still coming to terms with the death of her mother two years previously when she takes a job as a waitress in a tearoom while she is home from university to spend the summer in Guernsey. There she meets regular customer, Josephine, whose hobby is writing short stories.  English student, Eloise, offers to read some of the stories and is surprised by how good they are. She organises a special ninetieth birthday treat for Josephine but when the elderly lady doesn't show up for her usual Wednesday morning elevenses, Eloise gets a feeling that something is terribly wrong.

Where is Josephine? And will she ever find out about Eloise's extraordinary act of kindness?

Today is my turn on the Blog Tour for Julia Roberts' "Time for a Short Story". This is indeed a short story - about 38 pages long and easily read in one sitting. I was delighted when Julia said she would also answer a few questions for me about her writing as part of my blog post today.

So without further ado, I'll hand over to Julia!

In "Time for a Short Story" Josephine says, "The best university, if you're serious about being a writer, is life." Is this also your opinion? What would be your top tip to any aspiring writer?

Not necessarily, although to quote Ernest Hemingway; "To write about life, first you must live it." Josephine is ninety so, like my mum, believes that there are things in life that school and university can't teach. My tip to any aspiring writer would be to start putting your ideas down on paper and see what develops.

At the end of this book, you explain that the inspiration for this short story is your mum. Did she influence your passion for writing? Do you ever read each other's work-in-progress or bounce ideas around together?

I wouldn't say Mum influenced my passion for writing but both she and my dad were very supportive of my desire to write. Twelve years ago they bought me a gold Caran d'Ache pen and I still have the accompanying note; "Hope this pen will inspire you to write happy notes, cheery letters and - perhaps - a novel!" Unfortunately, my dad didn't live to see my work in print but I like to believe he knows. With regard to reading each others work-in-progress, I don't share my with Mum until it is finished. She and my twenty-eight year old daughter, Sophie, are always the first two people to read my work. Mum likes to read her stories to me when she is still working on them and asks for suggestions if a piece of the plot is proving tricky.  

There are several characters in "Time for a Short Story"; all of them have back stories and all of them probably deserve a longer story of their own. Will we be meeting any of them again in a future novel?

I'm not sure, but probably not. Funnily enough, my copy editor asked me why I didn't make "Time for a Short Story" into a full length novel as she also wanted to know more about the characters - I think Josephine may well have led quite a colourful life!

Tell me a bit about your "Liberty Sands" trilogy.

I had the idea for the trilogy while I was on holiday in Mauritius, recuperating from a year of quite intense medication. The protagonist, who we meet at the beginning of "Life's a Beach and Then...", is single mum, Holly Wilson, who has recently landed herself a job as an undercover travel blogger, travelling to luxury resorts around the world. She hasn't had a boyfriend in the twenty years, since the father of her child deserted her when she was pregnant, choosing instead to devote her life to bringing up her son, Harry. In Mauritius she is introduced to writer, Philippe, by a British couple she has met, whose lives are set to be devastated by terminal illness. Holly falls in love with Philippe and he pledges to join her in England when he has finished writing his book. A series of misunderstandings cause Holly to break off their relationship before discovering she is pregnant with his child. The second book, If He Really Loved Me..., brings Harry in to the story more as he begins searching for the father he has never known, after finding out his mum is pregnant again. His search, aided by one of his university friends, Amy, who is secretly in love with him despite being his best friend's girlfriend, takes him to Los Angeles where he meets his grandparents and discovers the real reason that his father, Gareth, abandoned his mother. I also introduce 'knight in shining armour, Nick, towards the end of the book, posing the question who will Holly choose to spend the rest of her life with. It's Never Too Late To Say... is the conclusion of the trilogy. In it, we finally meet Holly's estranged mother, Carol, who we have heard about in the previous two books. She is an alcoholic suffering from liver cirrhosis and alcohol-induced dementia. It is a darker storyline in places but we do end up back on the beach in Mauritius for a wedding. The question is, who is marrying who?       

I see from your back catalogue that you have written an autobiographical book, "One Hundred Lengths of the Pool." You have led a very varied and fascinating life. What one thing from your life so far do you think has had the most impact on you as a writer?

I feel very blessed to have led such a full life and, like most people, assumed I had many years ahead of me to 'eventually' write the novel I had always wanted to. Shortly before "One Hundred Lengths of the Pool" was due to be published, I was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia. I remember walking out of University College Hospital in London in a state of shock. I had cancer and at that point I had no idea if the drug therapy was going to work for me. I think that may have been the catalyst for me to start writing fiction, once I was feeling well enough, just as losing my dad was the catalyst for me writing "One Hundred Lengths of the Pool." 

What would you say were the main differences between writing a non fiction book and a fictional one?

"One Hundred Lengths of the Pool" was about remembering special moments in my life, whereas my novels are using my imagination to create story-lines, although, in truth, elements of my novels have their basis in real life. 

What do you think are the main differences between writing a short story and a longer novel?

The obvious answer is that it doesn't take as long. This is my first attempt at a short story and it started off as an exercise to see if I could do it. I hadn't plotted it out at all, I just sat down and started to write. Award-winning novelist, Sue Moorcroft, had very kindly forwarded me some notes from a talk she had given at a meeting of the London chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association that I had been unable to attend. The most important thing I learned from those was that you still need to tell the whole story but in a condensed way, with fewer characters and locations.    

Are you working on anything at the moment?

I have plotted my next full length novel which I hope to make a start on writing in my next break from QVC in a couple of weeks time. I'm also intending to write another short story in the next six weeks or so, and a Christmas novella for which I have a great title but as yet a very 'sketchy' plot - maybe that will have to be for Christmas 2017! 

The title "Time for a Short Story" has a double meaning in this instance. What one ambition do you want to make time for in the future?

I'm glad you picked up on the double meaning. Honestly, I feel very fortunate to have done the things I have in my life so I'm not sure I can apply the word 'ambition' to anything I would still like to achieve. If I can stay healthy, and keep writing books and stories I will be happy, especially if one day I can share my writing with grandchildren.

What are you currently reading?

I'm currently reading Sue Fortin's "The Girl Who Lied" although I must confess I'm only a couple of chapters in - so far it's really good. 

Thank you Julia for such detailed answers and for chatting here today! It's been really interesting! I hope all your books continue to do well and look forward to catching up with your back catalogue! 

And now, my review of "Time for a Short Story"!Image result for images tea and toasted teacake

"Time for a Short Story" is a charming book; a gentle easy read that nicely accompanies a slice of toasted teacake and frothy coffee, just like one of the main protagonists, Josephine, likes to enjoy once a week at her favourite café!

Roberts' story is less than 40 pages long and can be read in one sitting in your local café while eating homebaked goods – and believe me, with all the description of cakes, sponges and café ambience, that is the only place you really can sit to read it!

There are a handful of interesting characters, all with a back story and all well established in the brief time Roberts has within these mere 8000 words. The pages are packed full of characters, mini stories and touches on lots of themes. There is a great balance struck between developing enough complexity to carry an enjoyable plot, without things becoming too unnecessary complicated or convoluted.

This is a comfortable, comforting read about realizing dreams, rebuilding relationships and the power of storytelling.

If you are looking for something to nudge you along your creative journey, then read this. Or, if you just fancy an extra slice of something one afternoon, help yourself to this satisfyingly light morsel!

"Time for a Short Story" was published on Monday 12th September 2016.

For more reviews and recommendations please follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)