Monthly Archives: July 2016

Meet the Author – Katie Marsh

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MEET THE AUTHOR

 ~ KATIE MARSH ~

In the latest in a series of Meet the Author Interviews I am delighted to welcome the wonderful Katie Marsh who’s second book A Life Without You has just recently hit the bookshops also her highly acclaimed debut novel My Everything both published through Hodder & Stoughton. Here we talk about Katie’s books and life as an author.

 

Congratulations on your second novel A Life Without You for those that are about to discover your book for the first time can you give us a brief synopsis.

The book tells the story of Zoe, who is about to get married when she gets a call telling her that her estranged mum Gina needs her help. She leaves the wedding, putting her relationship in jeopardy and the book follows them as they reconnect, only for Zoe to discover that Gina is showing signs of early-onset dementia. It’s about the two of them becoming close again against the ticking clock of Gina’s illness, and about coming to terms with the past before it’s too late and making the most of every moment you have.

Your second novel is a poignant story of the relationship of a mother and daughter. Where did the inspiration for A Life Without You come from?

My granny had Alzheimer’s, and for years I watched my mum trying to look after her and making such difficult decisions in order to try to keep her safe. Her bravery was a major source of inspiration to me in writing this book. Equally, I thought of the idea when I had just become a mum for the first time. Every chapter ends with a letter from Gina to Zoe, written on every birthday, from first to the present day. Through them the reader learns about how close they once were, and about the family secret that rips them apart. They are my favourite part of the book and were inspired by letters I write to my own daughter on her birthdays. I found motherhood seismic, to say the least and so the book is very influenced by that – the fact that when you become a mum you try to do the best for your child but never really know whether what you’re doing is right.

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When you decided to write second novel you must have had to face a lot of research, what challenges did you come across during the writing process and how long did it take to write?

I think the challenge with this book was how very personal it was – keeping the story and structure tight while trying to convey the depth of emotion I wanted was incredibly difficult. Also, it was my first book written under contract and as such it took only a year (my first published novel, ‘My Everything’ took five). There were some long nights at the keyboard, and my structural edit notes were about ten pages long, but I have a brilliant editor who really helped me to unwind the good from the bad and keep the book pacey, humorous and – hopefully – moving.

As an author how do you decide on the characters that you want to play in you books?

I am not a planner and I find that the characters do just tend to walk straight into my head. In this book Gina came first – fully formed, while Zoe took longer to fix on the page. Then came the rest of their family and Zoe’s fiancé, Jamie, and there was my main cast of characters!

You previously worked in healthcare has this played a major role in writing your books?

Definitely. I saw so many emotions while working in hospitals and clinics around the country – and so much bravery all around me no matter where I was based. My writing tends to walk the line between laughter and tears, and my years in the NHS were definitely key to me deciding what kind of books I wanted to write. I found it incredibly inspiring seeing people cope with so many challenges with so much humour, bravery and determination.

 I talk to a lot of authors about their writing routines, some are more creative in the early hours and some are happy in a bustling environment. Can you tell us about your typical writing day?

I have to start early, or my day slides into oblivion. I am usually up and writing by 7 and I write all morning. In the afternoons I do my research, catch up on emails and – of course – pretend I’m not spending too much time on Twitter.

How has the process of writing your second book A Life Without You differed from your first book My Everything?

It was a LOT quicker. It did feel pretty pressurised, as I wasn’t used to the book in a year cycle, and I did come pretty close to the wire on my deadlines. However, as I now have an expert agent and editor to read early drafts, I found it a much more satisfying process, as the book took shape more quickly with their help.

How has the journey to become an author been, how long did it take to have your first book published?

It took me ten years to progress from writing my first word of fiction to seeing my first novel in print. I wrote two novels that didn’t quite make it along the way, and was just about to give up when I thought of the idea for ‘My Everything’ and it wouldn’t let me go.  Once I’d finished it five years later, I quickly got an agent and got a two-book deal with Hodder a few months later after yet another edit.

Do you have any advice for any writers out there seeking to start their journey to become an author?

I found Twitter incredibly helpful and supportive – and I actually first met my agent, Hannah Ferguson, via a friend I made on the site. So I’d recommend getting on there, and also just reading a lot and writing a lot. Everyone always says that, but it’s TRUE.

 Some writers I talk to never read any reviews about their books and some hang on every word written about them. Are you a reader of reviews people have written?

I certainly am. So far I’ve been pretty lucky, and I’m learning not to take the bad ones personally – as one of the joys of books and reading is that everyone has such differing tastes. I also store away the lovely reviews and read them when I feel stuck on my current book – I find they help me to keep the faith when I’m really struggling to get a story into shape.

 Are there any writers that have inspired you to become a writer?

Many. Jojo Moyes. Rowan Coleman and Rosamund Lupton would all feature here, but also childhood writers like Cynthia Voigt or Dodie Smith. They made me love stories and writing, so are probably exceedingly responsible for my choice of profession!

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Now that you have two books under your belt and now an established author, what motivates to want to write more books?

There are so many stories in my head – I very much doubt I will ever write them all down. I can’t imagine I would ever stop voluntarily and I am training my daughter to be a story addict too – I love making up stories for her starring her toys and friends.

 Do you have a favourite book of all time?

Argh. The nightmare. If I did have to answer, it would be an equal tie between ‘I capture the castle’ by Dodie Smith and ‘Wonder’ by RJ Palacio.

 Are you planning a summer holiday? What will you be reading?

I’ve actually already been on holiday (Cornwall – amazing). But over the next few weeks I’m reading several Tamar Cohen’s (I have just discovered her), Cathy Rentzenbrink’s ‘The Last Act of Love’ and the new Emily Giffin. I can’t wait.

What’s next for Katie Marsh author?

I am about to hand in the first draft of my third book which I am utterly overexcited about. I have been wanting to write it for years and while I can’t give anything away I can say that I can’t WAIT to share it with you all.

 

My thanks to Katie Marsh for taking the time to answer some questions on Meet the Author. For more on Katie Marsh visit her website Katie-Marsh.com

You can follow Katie on Twitter via: @marshisms

If you have not yet discovered both books by Katie the links below will take you to both. And they are truly worth reading.

My Review of: My Everything

My Review of:  A Life Without You

Bookstore links:

My Everything: Amazon Link. Here   Waterstones Link: Here

A Life Without You. Amazon Link: Here  Waterstones Link: Here

 

 

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Blind Side – Jennie Ensor

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Blind Side – Jennie Ensor

The Last Word Review

 

London July 2005, a moment in time that all of us will recall and never forget. In her debut thriller Blind Side Jennie Ensor has written a stunning gripping psychological thriller that is set just before the terrorist attacks on 7/7.

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For Georgie our leading character things could not be going any worse now after a fling with one of her best friends Julian she has met a Russian man called Nikolai and Julian is not best pleased to say the least as he is being rejected. Now Georgie has to cope with the venomous Julian. But for Nikolai he has a past that he does not like talking of and that is his time in the Russian army and the war in Chechnya and the sheer brutality of that war that is still haunting him. But there is something that Nikolai is holding back from Georgie something that could destroy them both. But what is it?

Set at a time when London and its inhabitants were trying to cope with the 7/7 terrorist atrocity there are a number of themes running through the story and questions of relationships with the leading characters as well as secrets and lies. Trust is something that is earned and can quickly be destroyed. But what price love? Does love really conquer all in the end? Both Georgie and Nikolai’s lives could not be so worlds apart but they have been brought together is this fate that has brought them together?

For a debut novel this is a brave topic as the time it is set in, but what Jennie Ensor brings is a thrilling psychological story that I really enjoyed and raced through. If you enjoy a thriller with a number of themes running through the story, then Blind Side is one not to be missed.

For more on Jennie Ensor talking about her debut novel Blind Side see the recent guest post that appeared on my blog recently Here

My thanks to Jennie Ensor and Unbound for the review copy ahead of publication.

Blind Side by Jennie Ensor and published by Unbound on 23 July and is available through Amazon for Here

 

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The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena

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The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena

The Last Word Review

 

When I first heard of The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena and read up on the story line I knew instinctively that here was going to be one of the thrillers of summer 2016.

Here is a tight taught thriller that really is the stuff of nightmares for every parent and will leave you asking so many questions and asking just who you can really trust and how well we really know some people.

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Anne and Marco Conti have arranged to go next door to their friends for an evening dinner party but their baby sitter has cancelled at rather short notice leaving the couple to leave their six-month old baby alone in the house and enjoy an evening next door, they would at intervals take turns and check on Cora. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty of drink has been consumed and Anna is feeling somewhat guilty at leaving baby Cora alone in the house albeit just next door but they have both been drinking far too much and Anna who is suffering from postnatal depression wants to go home and persuades Marco to bring the evening to a close. Anna believes Marco has been flirting again and Anna is close to losing it. Their lives are now about to change. They stand on their doorstep to find their front door is open. Panic now sets in. The couple race to Cora’s room to find the cot is empty. Cora has been taken.

What takes in the following minutes is a blame game between both Anna and Marco, with Marco admitting it was his fault. But who has taken Cora, both parents had been taking it in turns to check on their beloved baby. It seems like in these immediate moments that two worlds have just collided. Anna for some time has had doubts about her husband now her baby has been taken. Anna is venting her fury at Marco and does not hold back.

The opening seems to go so quickly it is that good and is totally gripping and you feel that you are a fly on the wall watching two people lives fall apart. There are so many twists and turns that you start to play the role of trying to solve the mystery for them. Suspicion clearly falls on the couple as the police start their investigations. Look out the police detective Rasbach, in the chaos and confusion he is calm and calculated. He has his suspicions and doubts some of the answers he is hearing and then add to the mix Anne’s very wealthy parents, who have clearly do not have a lot of time for Marco. Then again what about the couple next door Cynthia and Graham, there is something not quite right about this couple but saying that all the key characters left me cold and rather too quickly into the book I found that I had dislike towards all of them. They all seemed to be hiding something and had their own agenda.

It was clear from the opening pages that Lapena has written a summer blockbuster that delivers a page-turning thriller that is packed with suspense. I enjoyed Lapena’s writing style and the fact that she made sure that all the key characters became under suspicion. If there is one drawback with The Couple Next Door it is in the conclusion, I just had the feeling it letting me down, the main story is enthralling and so fast paced but the ending without giving it away, I had high hopes for. But this does not in any way detract from a fabulous thriller.

Thank you to Becky Hunter from Transworld Publishers for the review copy.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena is published by Bantam Press and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

Guest Post: Jennie Ensor and Blind Side

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I am delighted to welcome Jennie Ensor as a guest on my review page as a guest blog talking about her forthcoming debut book Blind Side to be published on 23 July 2016. I will be reviewing Blind Side on 27 July.

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How Blind Side came into being: inspiration, research, titles and more

First, I’ll tell you a little about who my story and who everyone is.

The main narrator is Georgie, a young woman at a critical stage in her life. She knows something important is missing from it, and she must decide whether to continue the path she’s on or to gather her courage to risk making a change. The second narrator is Julian, Georgie’s close friend, a slightly geeky chap who has nursed strong feelings for her but been unable to express them, because he knows she would probably run away. From the start, Julian is jealous of Nikolai, the Russian ex-soldier who nearly clobbers Georgie in a London pub.

I started writing Blind Side – or ‘Nikolai’ as I first called my work in progress – in early 2005, before the London terror attacks that July. Back then I had my three main characters, Georgie, Julian and Nikolai as a young Russian conscripted to fight in Chechnya. I knew I wanted to explore – among other things – the impact of war-time experiences on Nikolai, and that the story would involve guilt, loyalty and betrayal.

After 7/7, I realised I was going to make London and the terrible events that during that July a significant part of my novel. Like many other Londoners, I was deeply affected by the assault on our capital and the climate of fear and suspicion it evoked. The revelations that four terrorists were ‘home-grown’ (from Yorkshire) particularly struck me, and led me to incorporate the idea of an ‘enemy within’.

Blind Side is the novel’s third title. My editor suggested I change it to reflect Georgie’s viewpoint. After much indecision I managed to let go of Ghosts of Chechnya, which had been the title since 2008. I came up with ‘Blind Side’ during the early hours one near-sleepless night and knew it was probably The One. It fits the novel in many ways and sounds more like a thriller – also it doesn’t risk confusing the reader. Although past scenes are set within Russia and war-torn Chechnya, the present of the novel is mostly located in London (especially Kings Cross, Camden, Hampstead and Finsbury Park).

Research wise, much of my fact finding for this novel has involved reading copiously – and the internet. Goodness knows how many politically sensitive, suspicious-looking Google searches I’ve made, seeking information about Chechen separatist groups, the Russian mafia, murky goings on in the Russsia-Chechen war, the Beslan hostage crisis, the 2005 London bombings, etc etc. (A while ago, months before Edward Snowden’s revelations, I became rather paranoid and stopped discussing anything sensitive on the phone, just in case.)

Thankfully, some of my research involved visiting real places and talking to people. For ages I’ve been interested in abnormal psychology and the impact of trauma, but I didn’t know that much about Russia, Chechnya or the many years of conflict between the two regions. (President Putin’s ban on foreign reporters probably got me interested in this in the first place. Not that I was intending to go, but I did wonder what he was trying to hide.) I managed to track down two Chechens who’d fought against Russia and were willing to talk about their experiences. Other people helped me with all sorts of details, from Russian life in Soviet times to accidents on construction sites (an important strand in the novel).

Coming up with a genre for my book has caused me much grief, I freely admit. In the final (100th?) revision of the manuscript, I turned my sort-of contemporary novel into a psychological thriller with political overtones entwined around a love triangle.

 

I’ve gone for long enough, I think. 11 years since starting out on this project, I wait with anticipation laced with hyperventilating panic to see what readers will make of Blind Side.

About the author

Jennie is a Londoner descended from a long line of Irish folk. For much of her life she’s been a wandering soul, but these days she lives with her husband and their cuddle-loving, sofa-hogging terrier. As well as from reading and writing novels, she loves poetry. Her poems, published under another name, tend to inhabit the darker, sometimes surreal side of life.

While on an extended trip to Australia, Jennie studied journalism and worked as a freelance print journalist, covering topics from forced marriages to the fate of Aboriginal Australians living on land contaminated by the British nuclear tests.

When not chasing the dog, lazing in the garden with a book or dreaming about setting off on a long train journey with a Kindleful of books, Jennie can be found writing or doing Writing Related Stuff. WRS can include singing and playing the piano (vital for destress) and watching thrillers/spy dramas on TV (research). She’s working on getting her second novel ready for publication, a dark and unsettling psychological thriller.

blog www.jennieensor.com

author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JennieEnsorAuthor

Twitter: @jennie_ensor

About BLIND SIDE

The story begins in London in 2005, a few months before the 7/7 bus and Tube bombings. Georgie agrees to have sex with Julian, her close friend from their university days. Wary of relationships after previous heartbreak, she is shocked when Julian reveals he has loved her for a long time but felt unable to tell her.

Soon afterwards Georgie meets Nikolai, an ex-soldier recently arrived from Russia. Despite her misgivings, she can’t resist him; Julian struggles to deal with Georgie’s rejection. Realising how deeply war-time incidents in Chechnya have affected Nikolai, Georgie suspects that the Russian is hiding something terrible from her.

Then London is attacked…

BLIND SIDE explores love and friendship, guilt and betrayal, secrets and obsession. Can you ever truly know someone? And what if you suspect the unthinkable? An explosive, debate-provoking thriller that confronts urgent issues of our times and contemplates some of our deepest fears

Blind Side by Jennie Ensor will be published by Unbound on 23 July. 

I will publish a link as to where you can buy a copy of Blind Side in my review on Wednesday 27 July.

Blind Side by Jennie Ensor The Official Blog Tour.

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Being Dad: Short Stories about Fatherhood – edited by Dan Coxon

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Being Dad: Short Stories about Fatherhood – edited by Dan Coxon

The Last Word Review

 Being Dad published by Tangent Books and edited by Dan Coxon is an anthology of short stories of fatherhood from fifteen contemporary writers. Every single story is presented with such poignancy that any father will read and find themselves lost in the words of being just that a father.

The sheer beauty of this fabulous book is that there are no answers to the many questions posed by fatherhood but more the case of them sharing the everyday moments of everything that being a father is, the joy, the love and along the journey the pain. But these stories also pose the questions that every father will recognise it is a sheer joy to read. Recently Being Dad won the Best Anthology Prize at the Saboteur Awards 2016.

Writers who have written short stories are Toby Litt, Courttia Newland, Dan Powell, Nikesh Shukla and Nicholas Royale with many more adding their own personal take on what a father means to them.

As with each of the stories each one is unique and a personal perspective of being a father and what it means to that writer. The quality of the writing from each is outstanding. I guess the one thing that binds us all is that we all have a father sometimes though the father is missing and this is spoken about in Being Dad words that will resonate with some readers. The one thing that does come through the near 200 pages is Being Dad is that moment from birth the nappies the feeding during the nights the teenage years and tantrums that go along with this and then there is inevitable arguments and rows, there is love and then there is the talk of loss and also of death. Along the way there is great humour as there should be about Being Dad and that is the strength of this beautiful book is the words that shine through are poetry about what it means to be a father.

If you are a short story aficionado you will rejoice at this wonderful book that should hailed as a success by everyone involved and I just hope that one day we will see a book called ‘Being Mum.’ I urge you to read this and not be affected by it. Being Dad is a joy to read.

Thank you to Dan Coxon for a review copy of Being Dad

Being Dad: Short Stories About Fatherhood edited by Dan Coxon and published by Tangent Books is available to but through Amazon and to order through all good bookshops.

 

 

Moonstone – The Boy Who Never Was – Sjón

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Moonstone – The Boy Who Never Was Sjón

 Translated by Victoria Cribb

The Last Word Review

The author Sjón whose full name is Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson has been involved on the Icelandic literary scene since the 1970’s and also best known for the collaboration with the Icelandic singer Björk but I am asking myself how it is I have not yet previously discovered his writing before now.

The year is 1918 and Europe is embroiled in the latter stages of World War One. Moonstone – The Boy Who Never Was is set in Reykjavik and its central character the 16-year-old orphan boy Máni Steinn who at night dreams of the cinema and during the day has sex with men for Money. Due to the Great War Iceland is short on food and coal and people are living hand to mouth on a daily basis. But life is about to get a lot worse for the inhabitants of Reykjavik.

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That alone may put off some readers but would strongly advise you to read Moonstone it captures Iceland at a moment in history where life and death stalk everyone, like a time capsule the writing is poetic in nature.

Young Máni lives day to day flitting between the two main cinemas in Reykjavik and the money he earns pays for his dream. He is transfixed by the enigmatic Sóla G who seems to spend her time riding around on a motorbike in black leathers. Has she ridden straight from the silver screen into the young man’s life. She really has film star look and adds to the dreamlike state that Máni finds himself in.

The sky above Reykjavik are dark as volcano Katla spews it contents into the air and then to add to the gloom a Danish passenger ship arrives carrying an even deadlier cargo. Spanish Flu has now arrived in Reykjavik and suddenly death lurks in the shadows and no-one is immune. Máni goes about his daily rounds ‘earning’ his money through his encounters with other gentlemen.

As the Spanish Flu takes its toll and the death toll mounts to shocking proportions the main characters are recruited to make house visits and take the dead to the morgue. This is at times a difficult read but it is so profound and poignant. By the time I have read this very short book I too had felt I had been part of a dream like state but that is exactly how Sjón writes. Striking and noticeable Moonstone will capture the reader and it will be read in one sitting. Although a work of fiction the historical accounts of the time are not missed. Moonstone is a masterpiece of writing. It is only at the very end of the book do we really find out the true meaning of this incredible story.

There are times when a book comes along and will haunt you and get inside your head for days afterwards, this is one of those books. An absolute delight to read and pleased to say will convert many like me to the writing of Sjón.

Thank you to Sceptre Books and Bookbridgr for the review copy.

Moonstone – The Boy Who Never Was by Sjón and published by Sceptre on 2 June is available through Waterstones and all good bookshop.

Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes – Simon Wan

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Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes –  Simon Wan

The Last Word Review

 

I have to admit when this arrived on my desk I was somewhat unsure what to make of Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes by Simon Wan. But I need not have worried. This is an autobiographical story of his life, or should I say his love life. It is a real hoot of a read. As a writer I am not sure were Simon Wan has been hiding but rather pleased he has emerged with this warm and funny story of his life and he is only 40.

 

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One aspect of this book I should say now it will consume you as you will not want to put this down it is actually contagious but in a way that no other book I know of in this genre can bring. What Simon brings to this is his love and boy does he have lots to give. He shares his love of music, his close friendships his love of those he really cares about and potatoes. Well what did you expect from the title. Oh and then there is the women in Simon’s life. To say he has travelled the path and can tell the story is remarkable. Yes, he has had a wide range of interesting women in his life I will let the reader judge them. The one thing that he does well is to tell the story in his own inimitable way and this is where you will struggle to put the book down so wonderfully written and he lives a life in a way that is to live it to the fullest. There is great honesty within his story which refreshing and helps as the reader will take to take to this aspect of his writing. You may not agree with everything he does and all the women he falls in love with and some are to say ‘wacky.’ But Simon seems to be on the lookout for love at the turn of every corner and he does meet some interesting women on his journey to find the real true love.

The one thing that I took from his story is his energy and passion and the immense humour that he has. It is sizzling and hot as the hot sauces he enjoys. Do not miss this if you are looking for a very honest and immensely funny book to read this summer. Now that he turned to writing after stints in the music business and success as an actor I am looking forward to seeing what comes next for Simon Wan.

Thank you to Urbane Publications for the review copy.

Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes by Simon Wan is published by Urbane Publications and available to buy through Amazon and to order through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

Where Roses Never Die – Gunnar Staalesen

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Where Roses Never Die – Gunnar Staalesen

The Last Word Review

I have for a while been a big fan of Nordic crime novels but I have to admit that this is my first read of Gunnar Staalesen’s novels and if his latest Where Roses Never Sleep is anything to go by then I have been missing out.

With excellent translation from Don Bartlett the writing has echoes of another of my favourite Nordic crime writers Jo Nesbo. Private investigator Varg Veum is recruited to try and solve a mystery that remains unsolved for nearly 25 years.

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Just a little bit on the background of our P.I.  Varg Veum, he is a lone operator, a maverick perhaps, he has become something of a drinker, this could be after the death of his girlfriend a few years before. There is something about this case that only Veum could solve.

It is September 1977 and three-year-old Mette Misvaer disappears while playing in her garden despite all efforts of the police there is trace of her. Due the laws regarding statute of limitations and that time is almost up and in a last desperate attempt to find out the truth about what really happened to Mette her mother meets Veum. From this moment Veum is involved in a case that uncovers a lot more than just 1970’s secrets and lies. Veum will leave no stone unturned as he goes about seeking the truth. For Mette’s mothers it has been nearly 25 years and time might have well stood still and she will not rest until she knows what happened to her daughter.

What begins is a journey of discovery a discovery of getting to the truth and also a journey for Varg Veum as he is a very troubled man. No-one believes he can solve this case within the time frame but never doubt this man Varg. He starts to delve in the history of the case and looking back at the people involved including the officers who handled the case. This is gripping stuff. I had a real sense of foreboding as I read through this outstanding book. This is really Scandinavian crime writing at its very best. There is something dark and haunting about this novel that will test every sinew of your emotions as the truth emerges and the shocking truth at the end.

At 260 pages this is the ideal book to slip into your bag if you are jetting off on your summer holidays. If you have not discovered Nordic crime novels before now you will not be disappointed in the crime writing of Gunnar Staalesen.

Thank you to Karen at Orenda Books for the advanced review copy.

Where Roses Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen was published by Orenda Books on 30 June and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

The Wolf Road – Beth Lewis

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The Wolf Road – Beth Lewis

The Official Blog Tour

 

MEET THE AUTHOR

BETH LEWIS – THE WOLF ROAD

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In the latest in a series of Meet the Author Interviews I am delighted to welcome Beth Lewis to talk about her stunning debut novel The Wolf Road which is has just been released through The Borough Press and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

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Congratulations on your debut novel The Wolf Road, can you tell you tell us a little of what The Wolf Road is about?

The Wolf Road is about Elka, a young girl who discovers the man who raised her, is a killer. Upon finding this out, she flees into a scarred wilderness to find her real parents but neither the man, Trapper, nor the law on his tail, aren’t letting her go that easily. To me, it’s about a girl’s journey, about facing her demons and trying to find her own place in the world.

 How did you come up with such a compelling post- apocalyptic storyline?

Firstly, thank you for calling it compelling! It was pretty organic. I had a start point, Elka in the trees watching the man she once loved, I had a moment in the middle, and a vague sense of where I wanted Elka to end up, but other than that, it all came together on its own. It’s that old, annoying thing writers say, ‘the character led the story’ but Elka really did. Like hell I could make her do anything she didn’t want to do!

 Can you give us a little idea of the research that was required to write such an extraordinary book?

Thank you! The research was the best part. I was already an ardent, long-time fan of survival shows and movies, and nature documentaries, so knew I wanted to write something set in the wild. I had the base knowledge of the area and skills but I wanted a more hands-on experience so I spent a weekend in the woods learning bushcraft and survival skills. I slept in the woods, built a shelter, made fires, set traps and prepared game. I was uncomfortable and hungry and cold, woke up shivering, covered in dew. It was brilliant and gave me invaluable, real experience to draw on for Elka’s story.

 The cover art design is incredible. Did you come up with the idea for the artwork?

I can’t take any credit for that! Dom Forbes at HarperCollins designed the cover and it’s just perfect, he did a fantastic job. My only real input was saying I liked bold, typographical covers. They took that, ran with it, and came up with something striking and beautiful.

 I always like to ask authors about their writing process, how long did it take to write The Wolf Road? And do you have a ‘quiet’ location where you write?

It took about three months to write, all over one rather frenzied summer. Looking back on it, it’s mostly a blur but I remember it being crazy fun. My wife told me I was a nightmare during that summer but I think she’s happy with the results.

In terms of a ‘quiet’ location, hell no. I can’t write in silence but I can’t write to music either. I spent my weekends and days off in a café. White noise, no TV, and rubbish WiFi are key ingredients to my perfect writing environment.

 How does it feel now that you have your first novel published? Are there plans for a book tour?

It still feels unreal, even after seeing it in bookshops. It’s always been my dream to have a book published, right from childhood. It’s the reason I work in publishing and the reason I spend my evenings and weekends hunched over a laptop, so to have that dream come true takes a bit of getting used to. It’s amazing and I’m so thankful. I’m not sure about a book tour at this stage but I wouldn’t rule it out.

 Do you have a favourite author? And what are you reading at present?

It’s too hard to pick just one favourite but I adore David Mitchell, Sarah Waters, Stephen King, Clive Barker, and I loved The North Water by Ian McGuire, A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and so many more. I’m currently reading Norwegian Wood by Lars Mytting and Barkskins by Annie Proulx, what can I say, I like trees!

For your chance to win a copy of The Wolf Road read on.

The Last Word Review

 

As debut novels go The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis stands as a post-apocalyptic novel that takes the reader on a journey into the wilderness of North America. Written through the words of the leading character Elka a young lady brought up by a man she only knows as ‘Trapper’ a hunter and very much a loner. This following a storm in what Elka knows as ‘the Big Stupid’ an apocalyptic event. Without spoiling for the reader I will let them decide what this event was.

Trapper has looked after Elka whereas she would not have survived alone and so young, I would not go as far to say they lived a happy peaceful life together but more or less co-existed. He taught her to hunt and stay alive the very things needed in this ‘new’ world following the ‘event’.

While venturing into town Elka discovers the Trapper has a name Kreagar Hallet and he is wanted for murder. This changes everything for Elka and she realises she can no longer stay with the man who has been looking after her. She needs to escape and now we join her on a journey to try and find her real parents. If indeed they are still alive. Out in the wilderness were you must fight to stay alive where others would wish you harm. But there was something else about that wanted poster that puts Elka’s life in real danger. She is being hunted. This is an enthralling epic adventure that from the very first page Beth Lewis snares the reader and you face every twist and turn with Elka. It is brilliantly written and as dark and sinister the plot is there is some great humour added.

The real beauty for me was in the fact that all the hunting and survival skills that ‘Trapper’ taught her she uses in the wilderness to stay alive, now the real Elka comes forward as she fights the elements right down to catching and killing for food you are alongside her every step of her journey out of the hell and the darkness of her past. Imagine being out in the devastated wilderness and fearing you are being followed and hunted down, you run for fear you run for the fear of what will happen to you if they catch you. And Elka does run as fast as she can. This is a land were law and order does not exist so it is a fight for survival and trusting only yourself. As time moves on Elka starts to think about the past and she starts to question herself and was she Kreagar’s accomplice what was her role in all that took place. She must put this aside to keep her safe.

The Wolf Road is a remarkable story and one of the best stories of survival it is an astonishingly brilliant in the way the voice of Elka comes through every page it is unique in how her voice is transcribed onto the reader. Very quickly you will be accustomed to Elka’s personality and style of language.

I must admit to loving The Wolf Road and the story of a brave tough young lady fighting her surroundings and fighting to survive. A stunning debut novel from Beth Lewis and one I am delighted to recommend.

 

Thank you to Jaime Frost at The Borough Press for the advanced review copy.

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis and published by The Borough Press was released on 30 June 2016 and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

The Wolf Road Official Blog Tour 2016.

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You have read the interview with Beth Lewis and then my review, so now I have wetted your appetite, do you fancy winning a copy?

 

Now here is your chance to win a copy of the excellent The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis Just head over to my Twitter feed @Thelastword1962 and follow and Retweet the pinned review tweet and you will be entered into the draw. (UK Only) The free draw closes on today 8th July 2016 at 20.00hrs. The winner will be selected at random and notified via a DM through Twitter and a copy will be sent out by the publishers.

The Good Guy – Susan Beale

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The Good Guy – Susan Beale

The Last Word Review

When this book arrived in early June I sat and looked at the cover for some time wondering what the premise of the story was about. The cover is just sublime. The Good Guy by Susan Beale is inspired by her own true life events after reading her adoption files and from conversations with her birth mother after they re-connected later in life.

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I have to admit I fell into The Good Guy hook line and sinker, I like nothing better than a story that has is inspired by true events. The story is based in suburban New England in the 1960’s. This is a gorgeous story filled to the brim with passion with a mix of desire and deception.

Back in the 1960’s young couples seemed to do what was expected dated, courted and married young, then came the house and then the family. The idyllic lifestyle. Ted and Abigail did all these things but some men just don’t know when to say no.

Susan Beale sets the tone of the book by alternating each chapter from the female and male perspective and captures the mood of the time perfectly. It is utterly captivating like watching a box set of your favourite tv series set in this era, nothing short of absorbing.

Ted was hard working he always felt that he was doing well in his job but something was just not right and his feeling was that his wife was not giving him the support he deserved. I think you can guess what comes next? Along comes Penny a single woman she is fashionable funny and most of all attractive and she is missing something from her life, she just wants to be loved. After a brief encounter things move quickly between them and the consequences of getting involved in an affair when things go too far are both stark and real. In a time when the contraceptive pill was not wildly available the dangers for both are real. And in this case Ted faces losing everything and for Penny life changing circumstances.

For Abigail who spends her time looking after their son and cooking a pot roast she seemingly struggles to cope in a marriage that has lost its way. Does she have any idea of her husband’s infidelity? Each character is so incredibly woven into the story that you become transfixed by their own words and deeds. I guess the one thing that comes out of this story is that of human frailties. At times you felt like you were watching a car wreck about to happen with the consequences for all to see. This is real life laid bare for everyone to see. Heartache for all three.

Looking back now after I have read The Good Guy is just how different life was back in the 60’s and how people were treated. Different era different generation. This is a hugely entertaining read one that you just cannot leave alone as you just want to find out what has happened next. If you are looking for an ideal Summer holiday read. Pack this one in your hand luggage.

My thanks to Ruby Mitchell at Hodder for the review copy.

The Good Guy by Susan Beale was published by John Murray on 16 June and is available in hardback from Waterstones and all good bookshops.

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