Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Mountain In My Shoe by Louise Beech

Published on 30th September 2016 by Orenda Books. My thanks to the publisher and author for sending a review copy.

A missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself.

On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she's leaving, he doesn't come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she's befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his lifebook, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor's foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband's secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all.

Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain in My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family ... and just how far we're willing to go for the people we love.

My Thoughts:

I feel that I might be the last person to read this book, if I am not then I should be. I read and loved this author's first book last year. You can read my review here. I enjoyed that book so much that it made my top reads of 2015. I was a bit nervous, hoping that I would like this as much. My fears were allayed from the very first page, that was when my heart was captured. 

This book has elements of mystery and suspense, but more than that it has a wonderful human and emotional depth. Bernadette is leaving her husband as she can't take any more of his behaviour, she is reclaiming her life. She is a friend to Conor who is in foster care, his life book goes missing and Bernadette's husband doesn't come home from work. This is where the mystery begins....

This story is narrated from three perspectives; Bernadette, Conor and The Book. The Book was an important and useful tool in the telling of the story and for me it proved to be the best narrator. Some of those bits were so emotive, I had a lump in my throat.

Louise Beech is a gifted writer, a writer of great depth and one who is able to portray human relationships and tackle difficult themes, including abuse and the child care system with a gentle touch, that nonetheless provides a punch to the gut. There is always a harsh reality behind the beautiful words, but somehow sadness and desperation is turned to hope in this thrilling page turner.

This is a story of hope and fixing what is cracked but never broken, it is about removing the pebble from ones shoes and it is about not being defined by one portion of your life.

Louise Beech writes with such a grace and elegance. There is a real empathy between those lines, but also an urgency that demands the story to be read and a spark that keeps the story real. It is hard not to be enchanted by her work. If you only have time to read one book, I would say you should read this one, as this author is going to make my top reads for the second year in a row. 

About the Author:

Louise has always been haunted by the sea, and regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull - the UK's 2017 City of Culture. She loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012. She is also part of the Mums' Army on Lizzie and Carl's BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show. She is currently working on her third novel.

You can follow her on Twitter: @LouiseWriter

Saturday, 22 October 2016

** Blog Tour ** Her Last Breath by J.A. Schneider

Her Last Breath is available now. Purchase link: ‪ 

Her Last Breath, the second psychological thriller by J.A. Schneider, was released yesterday, on October 21st.  #HerLastBreath is the second thriller - after Fear Dreams - featuring highly intuitive NYPD detective Kerri Blasco, Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite…

A chilling psychological thriller about a woman caught between two men...
Mari Gill wakes to horror in a strange apartment next to a murdered man, and can't remember the night before. Accused of murder, she feels torn between her husband, a successful defense attorney, and a mysterious, kind man who wants to help. Can she trust either of them - or even her friends? Detective Kerri Blasco battles her police bosses believing Mari is innocent...but is she?

I am delighted to welcome Joyce to the blog today as part of the blog tour. She has written a wonderful guest post. Thanks for stopping by Joyce and good luck with the book. 

How I write: AKA The Daily Terror, by J.A. Schneider

I look at that title I just wrote, and I laugh. Easy to do at times like this when I’m between books - one done, the next just starting to form - and I’m staring out at the Connecticut fall leaves turning orange and russet and, behind where I sit on the sofa, the nice aroma of last night’s fire in the fireplace still wafts in the room. It’s kind of absurdist funny, when you’re out of your writing bat cave, to remember what it feels like when you’re in it.
Oh, those twin terrors: the new, blank page, and the question, What happens next?
Which tells you immediately that I don’t outline. I start with the fun part - an idea, the beginning with my main one or two characters and a fuzzy idea of the ending. That’s the exciting part, just letting the new idea start to swirl in my head. Then more ideas come to join the Word doc of notes that I keep - but those notes start to resemble a shopping list more than any semblance of order.
I’ve tried to outline, several times gave it my best effort. Those glorious outlines maybe made it up to chapter four or five…but then what? The final stories went off the rails anyway.
So pare it back down to the naked beginning. And since I write thrillers, they inevitably start with something high adrenalin. Those opening scenes are my favourite, the cornerstone of what reading that story should feel like, with the problem looming to maintain that intensity.
Enter the hardest part: the battle with the first draft. Two of my favourite author quotes are David Baldacci’s “A writer is always terrified,” and E.L. Doctorow’s “Writing is like driving at night. You can only see as far as your headlights.” Other terrific quotes are Tess Gerritsen’s “Do you have the guts to stay with it?” and Stephen King’s “Just flail away at the goddamn thing.” I have a collection of those quotes on a Word doc which I keep open to the left of my writing draft, and those quotes are my crutch, like friends saying, “Hey, we all go through the same thing!”
It’s a comfort.
Another feeling I get when finishing a book is - How in the world did I do that? It feels like that whole story, finally and after struggle, just…took form. It feels like magic, and I don’t remember how I did it! Only that ideas come as I write. Things just finally fill in…although that never happens in the first draft.
Nobody gets it right the first time. You HAVE to do it wrong first to see how you should have done it. First drafts to me feel like descriptions of mountain climbing, where you have to pound spikes, one at a time, into the hard rock face, and then you pull yourself up to the that spike where you’re hanging on, buffeted by wind and lost sleep, and you reach up and bang in the next spike, and the next…until you’re done with the bleeping first draft.
And then you “turn the pile over,” go back to the beginning to see what you’ve got. By this point, the muddy water has cleared (these metaphors do help), and you have a clearer idea of the story. It does get easier after the first draft. Even pleasant with discovery as characters come to life and start figuring things out for themselves. Kinda  like Gepetto carving Pinocchio?
My biggest hurdle is still avoiding the quagmire of re-writing too soon, editing as I go along. I’m still trying to learn to write rough, master the art of powering through, get to the end of the manuscript and THEN worry about the quality, go back and edit.
But I’m not there yet. I still plod away, starting each day trying to get yesterday’s work into better shape, and then I move ahead. Which is better? Writing 3,000 words a day, then having a mess to go back to and edit? Or writing a more careful 1,200 words a day and having them go down cleaner?
So far, I fall in the latter category. But maybe that’s because, subconsciously, I really do have a story structure more clear than I realise in my head. Honestly, I’m not sure.

I’m still learning, and the learning never stops. For the next book, I’ll make another try to get a decent outline down…

About the Author:

J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek Magazine, a wife, mom, and reading addict. She loves thrillers…which may seem odd, since she was once a major in French Literature - wonderful but sometimes heavy stuff. Now, for years, she has become increasingly fascinated with medicine, forensic science, and police procedure. Decades of being married to a physician who loves explaining medical concepts and reliving his experiences means there’ll often be medical angles even in “regular” thrillers that she writes. She lives with her family in Connecticut, USA.

Please follow the other stops on the blog tour: 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

An Honest Deceit by Guy Mankowski

This book is published on 20th October 2016 in paperback and ebook by Urbane Publications. My thanks to the Publisher and the Author for the review copy.

When Ben and Juliette's young daughter dies in a tragic accident on a school trip, they begin searching for answers. But will they ever know the truth? What was the role of the teacher on the trip - and are the rumours about his past true? As Ben and Juliette search for the truth and the pressure rises, their own secrets and motivations are revealed.... An Honest Deceit is an intelligent and gripping contemporary psychological thriller that questions not just the motives of others, but the real reasons for discovering the truth.

My Thoughts:

This book is a gem of a surprise. Pitted, I believe as a thriller, it is that but it is also so much more. It sits in its own niche and is quite simply brilliant. Literary and bold, it had me turning each page faster than the last. I really felt like I was inside the head of the narrator.

The book starts out with what is believed to be an accident on a school trip. Ben and Juliette's daughter Marine tragically dies. This is not a spoiler, what happens throughout the rest of the story, centres on this event.  What ensues is a portrayal of the grief that is ever present and the incredulity that this could have happened to Marine. Narrated by Ben throughout this was an excellent tool to allow the reader to feel closer to his character particularly and his emotions. Although I did find the emotional side of the story a little bit detached. Ben is a bit naive, he struck me as a bit if a perpetual student who finds being an adult tricky at the best of times. He has suddenly found all of these new circumstances thrust upon him. 

It becomes clear further on in the story that things are not quite what they seem. This requires Ben to step up and fight for justice. A story of lies and corruption, at times brutal in its telling, are children really safe when they are sent to school? It is about whether or not power naturally goes hand in hand with trust. Ben has to take divisive action and risks ridicule if his gut instincts are not correct. This story also interestingly brings to the light the maelstrom of publicity and social media, its uses and limitations. 

This book is spectacular. It burns away with a quiet fury, that doesn't die down until the final page turns. Clever, creative, complex and unforgettable it gets under your skin and itches away. Guy Mankowski is a very talented writer, who has a real skill for the portrayal of the best and worst traits of humanity. 

I, for one will definitely be reading his previous novels. 

About the Author:

Guy Mankowski was raised on the Isle of Wight. He was singer in Alba Nova, a band who were once described by Gigwise as 'mythical and evocative'. He trained as a psychologist at The Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London. The first draft of his debut novel, The Intimates, was written when he was 21. It was chosen as a 'Must Read' title by New Writing North's Read Regional campaign. His second novel, Letters from Yelena, was researched in the world of Russian ballet. He was one of the first English people to be given access to The Vaganova Academy, possibly the world's most prestigious ballet school. The novel was adapted for the stage and used in GCSE training material by Osiris Educational. 
Twitter- @gmankow