All posts by Abbie

Blog Tour – Seas Of Snow by Kerensa Jennings *Review*

I am absolutely delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Seas Of Snow by Kerensa Jennings today. About a year ago Kerensa approached me and asked if I would be able to read and review her debut novel. Unfortunately, I was unable to but offered Kerensa a guest post slot on the blog. The post she wrote had quite an impact on me, and I knew that I would have to read Seas Of Snow in the future (you can read that guest post HERE). And so, a year on, here we are!

The Blurb

1950s England. Five-year-old Gracie Scott lives with her Mam and next door to her best friend Billy. An only child, she has never known her Da. When her Uncle Joe moves in, his physical abuse of Gracie’s mother starts almost immediately. But when his attentions wander to Gracie, an even more sinister pattern of behaviour begins.

As Gracie grows older, she finds solace and liberation in books, poetry and her enduring friendship with Billy. Together they escape into the poetic fairy-tale worlds of their imaginations.

But will fairy tales be enough to save Gracie from Uncle Joe’s psychopathic behaviour – and how far will it go?

Seas of Snow is a haunting, psychological domestic drama that probes the nature and the origins of evil.

My Thoughts

‘Was evil born or made? Was innocence something we all hold in our souls, only to be blackened and turned rotten by experience?’

Seas Of Snow is the debut novel by Kerensa Jennings. After hearing so much about it from a lot of the book bloggers I hold in high esteem and featuring a great guest post on the blog by Jennings, I just had to read it for myself.

Set during the 1950s in North Shields, Seas Of Snow follows five-year-old Gracie as she progresses through her life as the only child of a single mother. As her home changes from a safe haven to place of fear and trepidation when her Uncle Joe moves in, Gracie’s escape comes from books and the games she plays with her best friend, Billy.

Seas Of Snow explores the dichotomy between good and evil and, as Gracie explores this and tries to make sense of it, Jennings raises age-old questions that we continue to try and answer. Gracie and Joe each signify what the other isn’t, with Gracie’s absolute innocence being in direct contrast to the wickedness that resides within Joe. In order to explore this, Jennings has chosen the most horrific example of ‘evil’ that is out there. A huge taboo within society and the one act guaranteed to horrify all, to explore good versus evil through paedophilia is a brave choice as it makes Seas Of Snow a difficult and, at times, distressing read.

Largely told via the point of view of Gracie, I adored her and I wanted to whisk her away from her life and make her safe. My heart broke for her every time I picked up Seas Of Snow. I loved the way she tried to make sense of her life and what was happening to her through literature. As her world becomes unsafe and the amount of safe places reduce, she firstly uses games with Billy and then literature and poetry as a means of escape. It is clear that Jennings has a great love for the written word and she manages to make beauty shine through the darkness. Literature had a huge influence on me as a teenager in making sense of the world and human nature and I wonder if this is still the case for teenagers in the 21st century? This aspect of Seas Of Snow is one of my favourite things about the book.

Sadly, Jennings portrayal of Gracie’s mother is an accurate one in her inability to be able to protect Gracie from harm. Fear and powerlessness can render a person into a frozen state and Jennings captures this. While Gracie, quite rightly, can’t understand why her mother does nothing, I understood her behaviour particularly in the context of an era in which domestic abuse viewed as a private issue and support from agencies was few and far between.

Another perspective we view the story from is that of the antagonist, Joe. Jennings’ depiction of him is chilling, uncomfortable and unnerving as she describes his predatory thought patterns and behaviour. As he uses his good looks to dupe people into trusting him, Jennings explores the fact that we are often pulled towards what we deem as attractive in our mistaken belief that attractiveness denotes goodness. Joe is likely to be the most repugnant character I come across this year as Jennings’ is unflinching in her portrayal of him.

The narrative structure of Seas Of Snow is interesting as it flits between past, present and perspective, often within the same chapter. I have to confess that at times I needed to stop and think about where I was in the book. However, I got used to this and it became less of an issue as I read.

Jennings writing style is fluid and unique in that she is not afraid to use words that are often unseen in modern novels. This gives her a style of her own and it is style that I enjoyed reading. Seas Of Snow has a beauty in the midst of the tragedy that unfolds before the reader that makes this book so compelling and difficult to turn away from. There are scenes that are, rightly so, uncomfortable and at times I felt like an utterly helpless voyeur.

A stark warning that is not the stranger you need to fear, but those you think you know and that the bright and beautiful can have the darkest core, Seas Of Snow is a book that has an intense impact which stays with you long after you have read it. Incredibly dark and yet beautiful, Jennings’ debut novel introduces us to a great new talent and I look forward to reading more from her.

Published on eBook and Hardback on 9 February 2017 and paperback on 5 April 2018 by Unbound.

Grab a copy here:

Foyles: bit.ly/Foyles-SeasofSnow-KerensaJennings
Waterstones: bit.ly/Waterstones-SeasofSnow-KerensaJennings
Amazon UK: bit.ly/AmUK-SeasofSnow-KerensaJennings

Amazon US: bit.ly/AmUS-SeasofSnow-KerensaJennings

About Kerensa Jennings

Kerensa Jennings is a storyteller, strategist, writer, producer and professor. Kerensa’s TV work took her all over the world, covering everything from geo-politics to palaeontology, and her time as Programme Editor of Breakfast with Frost coincided with the life-changing events of 9/11. The knowledge and experience she gained in psychology by qualifying and practising as an Executive Coach has only deepened her fascination with exploring the interplay between nature and nurture and with investigating whether evil is born or made – the question at the heart of Seas of Snow. As a scholar at Oxford, her lifelong passion for poetry took flight. Kerensa lives in West London and over the last few years has developed a career in digital enterprise.

IN HER OWN WORDS…
“I’ve been writing stories and poems ever since I was a little girl. Although it’s taken me a long time to get around to writing a book, I’m lucky enough to have had a long career in the media as a TV producer, writing television programmes. Most of the time viewers would have had no idea who I was, but my words have informed, educated and entertained millions over the years. I produced, directed, wrote for and worked with some of the most amazing people including Nelson Mandela, Sir David Frost (I was Programme Editor of Breakfast with Frost), Sir David Attenborough, Fiona Bruce, Sian Williams, James Nesbitt, George Alagiah and Rory Bremner. I moved away from programme making to strategy and became the BBC’s Head of Strategic Delivery where I designed and delivered strategies for the Corporation, including a significant digital strategy (BBC Make it Digital). I now run The Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award.
I’ve always used literature, and poetry in particular, for solace and escape. I happen to think literature is probably the best self-help on the planet! You can fly into other worlds and find ways through writing to make sense of life. SEAS of SNOW draws together some of my passions and fascinations in life. While I was at university, I studied the psychoanalysis of fairy tales and got very interested in archetypes and the way characters and stories of good and evil are portrayed.
While leading the BBC News coverage of the Soham investigation, I had the opportunity to see first-hand a lot of evidence about the mind and motives of a psychopath. So in SEAS of SNOW, the protagonist Gracie uses poetry and playtime to escape the traumas and abuses of her life; the antagonist, her Uncle Joe, is a bad man, a psychopath; and there is a subtext of fairy tale underlying the page-turning scenario which hopefully makes you want to read while half covering your eyes.”

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Website: http://www.seasofsnow.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/KerensaJenningsAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/zinca

I read my own copy of Seas Of Snow and this is my honest and unbiased review. My thanks to Caroline at Bits About Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Be sure to catch the other stops on the tour;

 

 

Taking a Blogging Break

A quick ramble from me today to advise that I am taking a break from the blog during the month of April. I will be taking part in the blog tour for Kerensa Jennings’ Seas Of Snow on the 5th April. Otherwise, there will be nothing appearing on the blog until my return in May.

Why am I taking a break? As some of you know I have been completing a proofreading course. I have my final assignment to submit and it is then completed – halle-bloody-lujah! It has been hard work, I need a bit of a break from reviewing for a while and I want to work on a potential new project. 

I also feel that my reviews have not been up to the standard I want them to be and a break will, hopefully, give me back my review writing mojo. I haven’t been feeling it as much recently and I’m going to take the time to think about the blog and where I want to go with it.

I’m pretty sure I will still be dipping in and out of social media and sharing some book love via my blogging buddies, and I plan to return in May feeling refreshed and with some great new books to shout about.

So for now I bid you farewell, and I will see you all in May!

Author Influences With Julie Ryan

It’s that time of the week again and I’m delighted to welcome Julie Ryan to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books for today’s Author Influences.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
I grew up on Enid Blyton. Thanks to her Famous Five series I discovered the love of a good story and the sheer escapism of reading is just as enjoyable today.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I was pretty good at English although I struggled a bit with Shakespeare and poetry. I think because I read a lot, grammar and spelling were never a problem but at school my first love was French.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I love historical fiction, romance, crime and thrillers. In fact I would say that my writing is a combination of all those genres. Reading most definitely influences me as a writer.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I’ve never written proper historical fiction and I think that’s because I know, despite all the research, some bright spark will spot a bloomer. However, the historical aspect is becoming stronger in my romances so who knows in the future?

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
I’ve always been interested in Greece but one day, long before I actually visited the country I came across The Magus by John Fowles. I was blown away by the magic and mystery he managed to convey. Not long afterwards I got a job as a language teacher in Greece. That was the beginning and I had no idea then how important the book and Greece would become in later life.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
There are a few – Victoria Hislop, Kate Morton, Philippa Gregory, Kate Mosse – all brilliant writers whose next work I always look forward to.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Last summer I read The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman. Not only is it well-written but it encompasses many of the themes of my own writing except that she does it so much better. It has time travel, alternative futures, great characters and sense of place. It has quickly become one of my new favourites.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
The story of Jenna in Jenna’s Journey was loosely based on my own experiences. As a writer, no one character is based on a real person but there are many influences that come together to create a new character. I love it once the character comes ‘alive’ and starts telling me as a writer what to do.

Huge thanks for taking part, Julie.

The first in Julie’s Greek Island Series, Jenna’s Journey is out now. Here’s what it’s about:

Heading to the Greek Isles without telling husband or friends is heady medicine for a failing marriage. Seduced by Grecian sun and sky, Jenna innocently obtains an ancient urn that tangles her into a web of a criminal world more sinister then she could ever have imagined. Romance is always afoot in the Greek Isles and Jenna gets a large helping with the seductive Nikos.
Twenty-five years later, Allie takes this same journey in a story that spans 25 years and intertwines the lives of mother and daughter. Twisty as the streets in a Greek island village, full of unexpected characters and threatening villains, Jenna’s Journey will keep you turning pages far into the night.

About Julie Ryan

Julie Ryan’s roots are in a small mining village in South Yorkshire. After a degree in French Language and Literature, wanderlust kicked in and she lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. Her spirit enriched, her imagination fired, Julie started a series of mystery romances, thrillers set in the Greek Isles.
Jenna’s Journey is the first novel in Julie Ryan’s Greek Islands Series, a series she did not set out to create but which took on its own life and grew, rich and fascinating. This is the first of three published so far and promises to delight readers looking for the hidden dark sides of dream vacations in the Greek Isles.

In a new venture, Julie’s latest book is a short rom-com called Callie’s Christmas Countdown.
A prolific and well-known book review blogger, Julie does her writing and reviewing from rural Gloucestershire, where she lives with her husband, son and dippy cat with half a tail.

Website/blog for book reviews
http://www.allthingsbookie.com/
Blog
http://julieryanbooks.blogspot.co.uk
on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/julie.ryan.3114
and on Twitter @julieryan18

Review – Lord Of The Dead by Richard Rippon

The Blurb

A woman’s body has been found on the moors of Northumberland, brutally murdered and dismembered. Northumbria police enlist the help of unconventional psychologist Jon Atherton, a decision complicated by his personal history with lead investigator Detective Sergeant Kate Prejean.

As Christmas approaches and pressure mounts on the force, Prejean and Atherton’s personal lives begin to unravel as they find themselves the focus of media attention, and that of the killer known only as Son Of Geb.

My Thoughts

 

Lord of the Dead by Richard Rippon is the first book to be published by new indie publisher Obliterati Press and, I hope, heralds the start of a new crime series.

When a dismembered body is found in Northumberland, psychologist Jon Atherton is enlisted by Northumbria police to assist them in their murder enquiry. With the added complication of an historical affair between Atherton and DS Kate Prejean, the tension quickly mounts in Lord of the Dead.

What I liked about Lord of the Dead is that it is a crime novel that comes from a different perspective rather than that of your usual police procedural. In this case it is the psychologist who is brought on board to provide the police with a profile of the killer. I think we all want to get inside the heads of killers and understands what drives their actions, so the fact that Rippon has taken the psychologist’s perspective ensures that readers will be intrigued and the plot is less formulaic.

Main character Atherton has a few of the characteristics you would expect to see in the detective in a crime novel – his marriage is on the rocks, he spends far too much time at work and he has a propensity to drink to much – but there is something inherently likeable about Rippon’s character. The fact that he has cerebral palsy is interesting and I would love to know why Rippon included this. It’s not something you often see in crime novel and I love the fact that Rippon has done this. It adds another depth to Atherton’s character and yet it never detracts from the part he plays throughout Lord of the Dead. Rippon has created strong, believable characters that you get behind and want to see again after you have finished the book. The characters that surround Atherton each have their unique attributes and they are all perfectly placed and add to the enjoyment of the book.

The pacing in Lord of the Dead is spot on. Rippon’s prose is precise and yet descriptive and he drives the story forward ensuring that you want to keep turning the pages. I found myself gripped from the outset and enjoyed returning to the book following periods in which I had been doing other stuff.

One of the reasons I found myself wanting to return to the book was the unique way in which the killer arranges his victims and the reasoning behind them. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that it was interesting, something I haven’t seen before and clearly closely researched by Rippon.

A great addition to the crime genre, Lord of the Dead is well written, refreshingly different and highly recommended for fans of crime thrillers. Rippon has ended the book in such a way that it suggests Lord of the Dead is the first in a series, and I really hope this is the case.

Lord Of The Dead was published on 3 November 2017 by Obliterati Press and you can grab a copy HERE.

My thanks go to Nathan O’Hagan at Obliterati Press for my copy in exchange for my review.

 

 

Blog Blitz – No Comment by Graham Smith *Review*

I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog blitz for Graham Smith’s new novella, No Comment, today. A huge thank you to Graham and the lovely Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me along for the ride. 

 

The Blurb

When a single mother, Julie Simon, is found in her kitchen with a stab wound to her stomach, Cumbria’s Major Crimes Team are handed the case. Under the supervision of DI Campbell and witîh advice from his former DI, Harry Evans, DC Amir Bhaki fights to discover who assaulted an innocent woman and left her with life-threatening injuries.
Nothing is as it first appears and when the team looks into Julie’s life they uncover a hidden sex-life that may just hold the key to the identity of her attacker.

My Thoughts

The irrepressible Harry Evans is back in Graham Smith’s novella No Comment and we see him in a different role following his retirement from the Major Crimes Team. Acting as an advisor to the team who have a murder case in which a single mother has been found stabbed in the stomach in her kitchen, Evans and the rest of the team quickly discover that nothing is as it seems.

Those who are familiar with the series of books will be pleased to know that DI Harry Evans continues to play an important part in the book. Those who haven’t yet been acquainted with Evans and the Major Crimes Team will find that this book acts perfectly as a standalone. Fans of police procedural novels should definitely check this series out if they haven’t already.

No Comment is a novella of around 100 pages. The brevity of this book takes nothing away from the story that lies within. Smith’s perfect use of the English language and his way of making every word count ensures that No Comment has everything you would expect from a full-length novel.

Pacey and full of surprises, No Comment delivers on all counts of great plot, twists and turns, and first-rate writing. Smith had me on the back foot as I tried to figure out who had committed the crime and why the stabbing had happened, and I was pleased to find myself way off the mark. Totally unpredictable, No Comment gets a huge thumbs-up for original plot.

A cracking quick read, No Comment is a great addition to the DI Harry Evans series and marks Graham Smith out as one of the authors to go to if you are after a good police procedural.

No Comment is published on 22 March 2018 by Caffeine Nights Publishing. You can grab a copy HERE.

About the Author

Graham Smith is a time served joiner who has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000, he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.
He is an internationally best-selling Kindle author and has four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team, and three novels, featuring Utah doorman, Jake Boulder.
An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com since 2009
Graham is the founder of Crime and Publishment, a weekend of crime-writing classes which includes the chance for attendees to pitch their novels to agents and publishers. Since the first weekend in 2013, eight attendees have gone on to sign publishing contracts.
Graham can be found at
Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/grahamnsmithauthor
Twitter
https://twitter.com/GrahamSmith1972
Website
www.grahamsmithauthor.com

Be sure to catch the rest of the bloggers on the No Comment blog blitz.

Author Influences With Karl Holton

I’m thrilled to be joined by crime thriller author Karl Holton for this week’s Author Influences.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
As a small child (going into junior school), everything I read at school at this age is long gone from my memory; mainly because I know that I really didn’t like children’s stories. I had four books at home that I loved; one named Fascinating Facts that covered a huge range of subjects written around 1970. I also had a Greek mythology storybook; an enormous old encyclopedia written around 1930 and a copy of Treasure Island. I still have the originals of the last three in my library today.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I wouldn’t describe myself as good and I really didn’t like the vast majority of what we were forced to read at secondary school. I just didn’t enjoy writers like Hardy, Austen or the Brontës. I struggled with Chaucer and Dickens was just about ok. On the positive side, I have always loved Shakespeare from the moment I was introduced to it, particularly the tragedies.

We read many one-off books and some of these I enjoyed (i.e. Orwell) but we were never allowed to choose what we read. Once I realised there were writers that I wanted to read that school would never introduce me to, I spent most of my time reading them.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
Right now, I’m rereading a bunch of great classic books I’ve never had the time to reread. I’m also reading quite a bit of non-fiction, especially if I think it offers something interesting in research terms. So, I do read subjects like true crime, mathematics, science and history.

The two things I love reading are philosophy and poetry. These have had the most impact on me since I started choosing what to read and certainly do impact my writing. If you read what I write and you have an idea what to look for you’ll see it strewn throughout. My characters, particularly Danny Benedict (given elements of his back-story), think in these terms. So his thoughts and dialogue are injected with it.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I would really like to try Science Fiction. I was so obsessed with this when I was really young it is something I have locked away in my mind.

History is a subject I’d love to dedicate time to at some point.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
I’ve never known anyone who writes so there’s no one that I knew personally.

If I was picking one single author that’s an inspiration it would be Agatha Christie. I know some parts of her writing aren’t that popular given modern taste but when it comes to twisting plot arcs she is the queen.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
No one still writing; the authors I focus on to that level are all dead but there’s so many of them it will take me a lifetime to even get close to reading everything by them to a reasonable depth.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
There really is quite a few that I’ve read and a massive number that I know I haven’t. If I was forced to pick one piece of fiction it would be The Stranger (L’Etranger) by Albert Camus. I first read this at seventeen and I’d already read quite a bit by associated philosophical writers. This was an example of me choosing something school would never let me read. Reading this is life changing when you understand, even at a simple level, what he is saying to you.

I need to add something else … anything by Dylan Thomas.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real-life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Yes, I use real events in my plots quite a bit. I’m more than happy to employ the Agatha Christie approach and steal from reality.

I also use very real locations. For example, if someone looked carefully they would spot that I use actual buildings and properties. I find it enhances the authenticity of the moment in the narrative.

Thanks for taking part, Karl. I really enjoyed reading your responses.

Karl Holton is the author of the Shadow Series. Book one, The Weight of Shadows, was published on 26 July 2017. Here’s what it is about:

When you have spent your life in the shadows, what would you do at the dying of the light? Three years ago the best murder detective in London is blamed for the death of his colleague and kicked out of the Met. A man with secrets buried in the past and present returns to London, the city that started the mysterious career which made him a billionaire. The two need each other. But they have no idea how much. A gripping crime thriller mystery with twists from the beginning to end.

Book two, The Wait For Shadows, was published on 28 December 2017. Here’s the blurb:

An assassin wants revenge but doesn’t know who to kill. A drug dealer wants revenge without the muscle to kill. A ‘wild beast’ can help them both. Can anybody stop it? The last six days in ‘The Weight of Shadows’ were just the beginning. Danny Benedict and the whole team must get ready — it’s day seven. The second book in the ‘Shadows Series’. Every morning you can watch the sunbeams glitter, certain you no longer need to wait for shadows.

About Karl Holton

Karl Holton is a crime thriller author. His first book, The Weight of Shadows, came out on Amazon on Kindle and paperback in July 2017. This was the first book in a crime thriller mystery series, known as the ‘Shadows Series’. The second book in the series, The Wait for Shadows, came out in December 2017.

Karl previously worked in financial markets for over thirty years, before deciding that he had to write. He couldn’t leave this dream any longer.

He lives in Surrey with his wife and two children.

Website = http://karlholton.com
Twitter = @KarlHolton
Goodreads Author Page
Email = info@thuja.co
Amazon UK – The Weight of Shadows
Amazon UK – The Wait for Shadows

 

 

 

 

 

Review – The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn

The Blurb

TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough.

Haunting, consuming and powerful, The Bird Tribunal is a taut, exquisitely written psychological thriller that builds to a shocking, dramatic crescendo that will leave you breathless.

My Thoughts

The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn is quite possibly the most interesting and unique book I have read this year. I suspect that it is likely to stay that way as we progress through 2018. Why is this the case? Read on to find out.

TV presenter, Allis Hagtorn, walks away from her life to take a job in a remote part of Norway as a housekeeper and gardener to Sigurd Bagge. On arrival, Allis is surprised to discover that her employer is not the infirm, elderly man she expected.

The first thing that struck me about The Bird Tribunal was the style and the prose. None of the dialogue is punctuated and while this is not unique within literature – it is a style used by Cormac McCarthy – it is not a style I have come across in the past few years. This lack of punctuation could, potentially, cause difficulties for the reader, punctuation is, after all, used to guide the reader, but in The Bird Tribunal this is not the case. The quality of the writing and translation is such that it flows beautifully and, I felt, adds to the story rather than detracts from it. Of course, it got me mulling over why this style was decided upon and while I couldn’t answer that from the author and publisher’s point of view, it did make me consider the impact it had on me. I found myself focusing more on the words used rather than skimming over them quickly. As the story is told in first person narrative, purely from the perspective of Allis, the lack of dialogue punctuation made me feel as though Allis was directly addressing me. In some way, that I haven’t yet figured out and am still mulling over (if I do figure it out I will let you know), the lack of punctuation added to the overall feel and atmosphere of the book. The tension and claustrophobia that prevail throughout The Bird Tribunal is enhanced, in some way, by the style of the prose.

The Bird Tribunal is very much a character-driven plot and the tension is, in part, intertwined with the reader wanting to understand Bagge. As Allis is inexplicably drawn to the temperamental, secretive, distant Bagge the reader also finds themselves in the same position. Like a modern-day Heathcliff, Bagge is both a sympathetic and sinister character and I wondered which side of him would eventually prevail and what the final outcome would be. As my opinions of him and feelings towards him ebbed and flowed, Ravatn ensured that I was constantly taken off-guard. The subtlety that Ravatn uses throughout the book makes the behaviour of both characters all the more unnerving.

One of the things that I love about the literary classics is the use of symbolism and, having a thing for ravens, I adored the use of birds in The Bird Tribunal. For me, the birds were a harbinger of what’s to come and the loss of freedom rather than the freedom they usually represent. Combined with the use of nature and the time Allis spends in the garden and amongst wildlife, Ravatn effectively uses this device to increase the tautness that is felt within the relationship between the two characters. The setting is described and depicted wonderfully with Ravatn portraying all that is positive and negative about being in an isolated location. Other people will, undoubtedly, see things differently to me and I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this. The Bird Tribunal is a book you want to discuss and would be a great novel to read as a reading group.

I’m aware that I am waffling a bit about this book and, as you can probably tell, I loved it. It is a book that is not to be rushed so you can take in every perfectly placed word. As with all Orenda books the translation by Rosie Hedger is flawless.

A psychological thriller in the purest sense, The Bird Tribunal is deeply unsettling and will resonate with you for days after reading it. It is, however, more than this and the outstanding prose and rich descriptions make it a beautiful piece of literary fiction. Outstanding!

Published on 1 September 2016 by Orenda Books, you can purchase a copy HERE.

My thanks go to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Review – My Girl by Jack Jordan

The Blurb

Paige Dawson: the mother of a murdered child and wife to a dead man.
She has nothing left to live for… until she finds her husband’s handgun hidden in their house.
Why did Ryan need a gun? What did he know about their daughter’s death?
Desperate for the truth, Paige begins to unearth her husband’s secrets.
But she has no idea who she is up against, or that her life isn’t hers to gamble – she belongs to me.
From the bestselling author of Anything for Her, Jack Jordan’s My Girl is the new chilling thriller that you won’t want to miss.

My Thoughts

I had heard so many good things about Jack Jordan’s My Girl and I was excited to finally be able to get stuck into it. At around 248 pages, My Girl is a quick read and it was compelling enough for me to get through it in a few hours, which is unusual for me.

It would be an understatement to say that Paige Dawson’s life is a mess, but understandably so. Ten years ago she lost her 14 year old daughter, Chloe, and two months previously her husband took his own life. Paige’s life has spiralled completely out of control as she self-medicates with alcohol and prescription drugs. Things are, however, about to take a dramatic turn as she finds a gun and a mobile phone in her husband’s desk drawer. And so begins Paige’s quest to find out the truth about her daughter and husband.

My initial impression was that I was not going to settle into My Girl and I found myself wondering if I had been taken in by the hype. Very quickly though Jordan completely threw me off course and pulled an absolute blinder that had the simultaneous effect of taking me totally by surprise and making me feel quite nauseous. As it became apparent that Jordan was not afraid to fully address the seamier side of life and thrust it into your face with no holds barred, I began to get a glimpse of the reason behind the hype.

The character of Paige Dawson is well developed and Jordan has ensured that her substance and alcohol misuse are realistically portrayed. He manages to accurately portray the all-encompassing nature of addiction and has clearly taken time to research this issue. Paige is not a particularly likeable character but you cannot help but be empathetic towards her. I switched between wanting to hug her and give her good shake!

My Girl is split into three parts with the initial and final part concentrating on Paige’s perspective and narrated in the third person. The middle part of the book is narrated in first person by … you will have to read it yourself to find out! I always enjoy a shift in perspective in a novel and Jordan pulls it off well and it certainly adds to the story.

I was taken in a totally different direction to the one I thought I was heading in with My Girl, and Jordan certainly knows how to put a twist in the tale. I did feel that there were a few loose ends left dangling which I would have liked to see tied up, and I think there was scope to make My Girl a longer novel to address these.

My Girl is gritty, gripping and unflinching in its storyline as Jordan touches on some uncomfortable and chilling issues. Jordan can clearly tell a cracking a tale and, this being his second novel, as his writing style develops I have no doubt he will become a formidable force in the crime/thriller genre.

My Girl was published in paperback on 3rd July 2016 by CreateSpace and on ebook on 1 June 2017 by Corvus. Grab your copy HERE.

I reviewed my own copy of My Girl and this is my honest and unbiased review.

 

 

 

 

 

Author Influences With Barbara Quinn

Hello and welcome to this week’s Author Influences. I’m joined by the lovely Barbara Quinn for today’s book chat.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
The Nancy Drew series captivated me. So did Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Alice in Wonderland.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
English was always a favorite. I loved learning about historical times and delving into fantastical journeys such as Jules Verne’s undersea adventures in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the
genre you write?
I mainly read a lot of fiction. Yes, it does influence my writing! Good stories spur me on to make my own better.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I’ve written in several genres including paranormal, fantasy, chick lit, and women’s fiction. I’m working on a steampunk story which is a new and challenging genre. I tend to go where the muse takes me. A women’s fiction is also brewing.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write
and if so who, what and why?
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland enthralled me as a child and through my teens. The wonderful characters came alive in my mind and made me want to travel down my own rabbit holes.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you
have to get it?
Anne Tyler is always a favorite.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I
had written that’ and what was it about the book?
The Great Gatsby has been a huge influence and always sets the bar for my own writing. The deceptively simple language reminds me to stay away from adjectives, adverbs, and other weakening words. And the story itself shows there can be a fascinating tale in any situation.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life
events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
For sure real life events and people influence me! My latest novel, The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me, is set at the Jersey shore in the heart of Springsteen country. The novel is a tribute to the healing power of music and Springsteen’s songs in particular. You don’t need to love Springsteen to enjoy it! The story is about a woman who finds a way to move forward after suffering losses. Music helps her heal. Each chapter is titled with a Springsteen song and that song is woven into the fabric of the chapter.

Another book, The Speed of Dark, a coming of age tale, opens with a young boy encountering a girl with magical powers as they ride their bikes in the fog spewing behind a DDT truck. It’s hard to believe now, but we used to do that when I was a kid growing up in the NY suburbs! I liked the idea of something special arising from that poisonous cloud.

Massive thanks for taking part, Barbara. You have mentioned some of my much-loved books here.

Barbara’s latest book The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me is out now. Here is what it’s about:

Arriving home to catch her husband with his face between the long, silky legs of another woman is the last thing Sofia expects—and on today of all days.

So, after scratching an expletive into his Porsche and setting the cheating bastard’s clothes on fire, she cranks up her beloved Bruce and flees, vowing never to look back.

Seeking solace in the peaceful beachside town of Bradley Beach, NJ, Sof is determined to start over. And, with the help of best friends, new acquaintances, a sexy neighbor, and the powerful songs of Springsteen, this may be the place where her wounds can heal. But, as if she hasn’t faced her share of life’s challenges, a final flurry of obstacles awaits.

In order to head courageously toward the future, Sofia must first let go of her past, find freedom, and mend her broken soul.

About Barbara Quinn

Barbara Quinn is an award-winning short story writer and author of a variety of novels. With roots in the Bronx, Long Island, and Westchester, NY, she currently resides with her husband in Bradley Beach, NJ and Holmes Beach, FL. Her travels have taken her to forty-seven states and five continents where she’s encountered fascinating settings and inspiring people that populate her work. Her many past jobs include lawyer, record shop owner, reporter, process server, lingerie sales clerk, waitress, and postal worker. She enjoys spending time with her son and his family and planning her next adventure. She wants to remind everyone that when you meet her, SHE’S NOT SHOUTING, SHE’S ITALIAN.

Website Link: baquinn.wixsite.com/BarbaraQuinn

Instagram: authorbarbaraquinn

Twitter Name: BarbaraQuinn

Review – The World is [Not] a Cold Dead Place by Nathan O’Hagan

The Blurb

I have developed a detachment from the rest of the human race. I don’t fear them. I don’t consider myself above them. It’s just that I genuinely loathe them. There is no reason. I wasn’t abused as a child. There were no traumatic events in adolescence, no heartbreak or rejection in early adulthood. Nothing to account for the person I have become. I shall offer no explanation, no mitigation for what I am. But whatever the reason, I have come adrift from mankind, and that is where I intend to stay.

Welcome to Gary Lennon’s world. It isn’t a cold dead place. You’ll like it there. You’ll see things his way and you’ll want to stay. But Gary’s therapist has other ideas. He thinks Gary should get a job, meet people and interact with the real world. Look out, people. Look out, world.

My Thoughts

I have had this book on my TBR pile for what feels like a ridiculously long time, but I’m pleased to have finally got around to reading it. The World is [Not] a Cold Dead Place is very different to what I have been reading recently but in a good way and, as they say, a change is as good as a rest.

The world we inhabit as we read The World is [Not] a Cold Dead Place is Gary Lennon’s. Living in Birkenhead, Gary’s world is isolated and revolves around his flat, his two friends and his therapy sessions. Gary’s obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety and depression mean that he has a certain way of viewing life. His relatively small world is about to be rocked, however, as his therapist has decided that he should get a job and start meeting people.

Gary is acerbic, cynical and has a very bleak view of the world. With biting black humour, O’Hagan has written a book that has you both laughing and nodding in agreement with his acute observations of the more ridiculous and astounding aspects of modern life. I really warmed to Gary, he is an anti-hero who says and does the things you wish you could but can’t as you would never get away with. There are some pretty heart-breaking moments in the book and I was particularly affected by the story behind one of Gary’s friend’s nickname.

This could be a bleak and depressing read, but O’Hagan’s mix of humour and biting observations ensure that this isn’t the case. O’Hagan is clearly astute and questions what is going on around him and this shines through in The World. He has created a well-rounded character in Gary Lennon and, despite him not being a conventionally lovable character, you can’t help but like him. The World is not a fast-paced book that is rammed with action and yet it is engrossing and during the periods when you can’t read you are itching to get back to Gary and his world.

The World is [Not] a Cold Dead Place is a scathing, suspicious yet accurate account of modern society as seen through the main character’s eyes – a character who in the same turn is endearing – and it is incredibly funny in places. If you like your humour on the darker side and you find yourself rooting for the underdog, introduce yourself to Gary Lennon by grabbing a copy of O’Hagan’s book.

Published on 21 August 2015 by Armley Press you can grab a copy HERE.


#AroundTheUKIn144Books book 11. County: Merseyside