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Novel Nights by Callie Hill #novelnights #bristol

novel nights3

A couple of years ago I heard about this fantastic place in Bristol called Novel Nights where readers and writers came together and spoke about their love of books. It sounded right up my street and I really wanted to go. But even stronger than my love of books was my antagonist force of not being able to face a room full of people I didn’t know, especially on my own, so I put the idea to one side in the hope that one day I would be in a place where I would be able to overcome my flakiness and go along. I continued working on my writing, alongside my literature degree with the OU (Open University) – something I could do from the comfort and isolation of my writing room. Little did I know that, through the OU, my life was about to change and my dream of going to Novel Nights was about to become real.

I’d already completed the OU’s Creative Writing module (A215). This gives an excellent grounding in the basic elements of fiction writing such as characterisation, dialogue, setting, plot and structure etc, but in 2017 I signed up for the final year course: Advanced Creative Writing (A363). A363 not only builds on the elements of A215 it also includes scriptwriting – something that terrified me at first but I actually loved it. But what I loved most about the module was the people that I met along the way. As I mentioned earlier, A363 is an advanced course and is generally taken by those who are serious about developing a career as a writer. Whilst the OU online forums were pretty rubbish, our A363 Facebook group thrived and it wasn’t long before some of us had become good friends. After the module finished, we set up a cabin for the July NaNoMo, and later our own Facebook group: Blanc Page. The name is very apt as when we meet up we do tend to drink more Prosecco and cocktails than write. In fact, come to think of it, we don’t really do any writing at all – oops – hick! (This photo was taken at our last get-together).

Blanc page

One of the first literary events we went to was the 2018 Bristol Festival of Literature, and it was here that I first met Grace, the founder and co-host of Novel Nights. Grace was such a lovely person and promised me that everyone at Novel Nights was really friendly, and if I went along then I would be made to feel welcome. Going to the literary festival had been a big thing for me. I’d never caught a train on my own before but the Blanc Page girls held my hand through this traumatic event, meeting me at Temple Meads and generally calming me down at having done such an adventurous thing! (I live in Bristol so it was about a 12-minute journey). So when I spoke to Grace, all of a sudden going along to Novel Nights seemed like something I might be able to do afterall. My friends and I all agreed that we came away from the literary festival feeling just that little bit closer to becoming real writers and despite drinking bottled water and not Prosecco, we left the day completely fizzing. The next chapter in the adventures of the Blanc Page girls was to be Novel Nights. And I for one couldn’t wait!

Berkeley Sq

The first Novel Nights we went to was in January 2019.  Located in the heart of Clifton, just off Park Street, Berkeley Square is steeped in Bristolian history and culture, and arriving just before half-past seven on that January evening it was easy to visualise the setting when it was first built at the end of the 18th century: a foggy night with black carriages setting-down well-to-do ladies and gentlemen outside their imposing terraced houses. The pavements really are something else; the curbs must be a least a foot high – but I bet those horse-drawn carriages would have been quite a jump down for an 18th-century lady in a posh frock! It felt a little like I was walking into a scene from an 18th-century novel like Sherlock Holmes; in fact, number 24 was used in the filming of The House of Eliot. The Novel Nights venue is located at number 15, and it took us a while to work out that we needed to make our way down an external staircase to what looked like a secret members club. It was all very intriguing, and extremely exciting.

Inside, Grace was at the door, greeting people and ticking names off the guest-list. I was expecting to be asked what my name was but instead Grace greeted me with ‘Hello Callie, how lovely to see you here.’ Although this was no doubt just a small thing to Grace, I can’t tell you how this made me feel. I couldn’t believe she remembered my name. I’d arrived feeling super anxious but due to Grace’s natural ability to make her guests feel welcome, I’d only just walked through the door and I’d already been made to feel a part of things. I’m not easily impressed, but less than two minutes at my first Novel Nights, and I was in awe of the place.

novel nights bar

After making our way to the bar (well, a girl must get her priorities right) we bagged the squishy turquoise sofa along the back wall and sat back, not quite believing we were amongst the company of so many prolific writers. Jane Shemelt was sat in front of us. Like OMG one of my favourite writers ever! The guest talker was Christopher Wakling. As well as being a best-selling novelist, Christopher teaches Creative Writing at a number of prestigious places: Curtis Brown, Faber, and Arvon; we’d already heard Christopher speak at the opening night of the literature festival over at the Naval Volunteer (or the Volly as we Bristolians call it) so knew how funny he was, but I don’t think any of us were really prepared for just how inspirational his advice was too. I’m so glad I took along my writing journal – I soaked up every word he had to say, making pages and pages of notes on the whole drafting process from creating dialogue with conflict and subtext, to plunging characters into tricky situations, to editing and hooking an agent. Of course, this was done in typical Christopher Wakling style where the talk was delivered from the opposing perspective of ‘how not to write’. It was absolutely hilarious and his captivated audience was literally rolling around on the floor for most of it.

christopher wakling

There have been lots of Novel Nights in between with talks from bloggers, to advice from top publishers and literary agents. But for me, without a shadow-of-doubt, the highlight of going to Novel Nights was meeting the best-selling psychological thriller writer Jane Corry. I’ve been a fan of Jane’s ever since her first psychological thriller My husband’s Wife, and I’ve been lucky to have been able to receive ARCs (advance review copies) of her last two books The Dead Ex, and I Looked Away. Listening to Jane speak of her writing journey was truly inspirational. As a newbie novelist, I could sit for hours listening to how successful authors spend their working day, and how parts of their own life experiences naturally ends up in their books. Right at the beginning of the creative writing course I did with the OU I was taught about tweaking and twisting what you know to make realistic stories, and listening to Jane really brought home this piece of advice. Just like me, Jane is a grandmother who adores her grandchildren, and with Ellie, the protagonist of her latest novel I Looked Away being a grandmother, it was clear to see how Jane had used the unconditional love she felt for her own grandchildren in Ellie’s character.  Jane had loads of other writing tips too. She spoke about how she carries out research, to how her novels have changed since she switched from pantsing to plotting, as well as planning what the big plot twist at the end might be. I’m currently writing my own debut psychological thriller so this has made me go away and really think about what those main plot points will be. To top the evening off, not only did Jane Corry sign my bloggers copy of I Looked Away, she actually asked to have her photo taken with me. Swoons…

Jane Corry

The same evening also saw readings from some other brilliant writers: Caroline Mitchell, A A Abott, Liz Hill. All three of them were completely mesmerising as they read out extracts from their novels. In fact, I was so captivated by Caroline’s story I completely forgot to take the photo I’d promised of her stood in front of the microphone! I met Caroline at Bristol University’s Writing Fiction class earlier in the year, and am proud to say she is now also one of the Blanc Page girls.

The atmosphere at Novel Nights is utterly intoxicating from the moment you step inside until the moment you leave, and then it can take quite some time to come down from the high of being in such a wonderful place. I can’t describe how brilliant it is to be in the same room as best-selling authors alongside writers who are at different stages in their writing journey. Like the literary festival, I always come away feeling just that bit closer to being a real writer.

But don’t just take my word for it. Novel Nights has grown from strength to strength this past year with regular events now in Bath, and more planned for Exeter. Novel Nights has also recently received Arts Council funding. The Novel Nights team Grace, Colette, and Charlotte, hope to use this to support the fantastic writing masterclasses they have recently set up as well as to expand into digital projects. The team are looking to establish monthly author-interview podcasts aimed at encouraging and inspiring writers – so no matter where you live Novel Nights can reach out to writers everywhere. I haven’t been lucky enough to go to one of the masterclasses yet but I’ve heard lots of good things about them. You can find out more here: https://www.novelnights.co.uk/masterclasses/

Novel nights

None of this would be possible for me it wasn’t for my Blanc Page girls, who have held my hand and introduced me to the fabulous writing and literary events we are so very lucky to have here on our doorstep in Bristol. So I would like to give a massive shout out to Suzy Fox (the next best-selling romantic novelist – def one to watch out for!); Jennie Foy (script-writer extraordinaire); and Claire O’Connor (amazing author of Floursacks to Petticoats, recently published in the Generations anthology by Write Club OU).

If you would like to come along to Novel Nights you can find out more details at https://www.novelnights.co.uk/.  You will be made to feel really welcome and will no doubt become as addicted as I am.  I just absolutely love Novel Nights and can’t recommend it highly enough for both readers and writers alike… just anybody who loves books really.

 

You can see my reviews for Jane Corry here:

https://www.literaturelove.co.uk/post/the-dead-ex-by-jane-corry

https://www.literaturelove.co.uk/post/i-looked-away-by-jane-corry

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: The Last Time We Met by Carol Mason

Last Time We Met

I’m delighted to welcome Carol Mason over at Literature Love today to talk about her latest book The Last Time We Met, due for publication 16th October 2018 – one week today!

Welcome Carol, thank you so much for dropping by.

Thank you Callie! It’s lovely to have this opportunity. 

The Last Time We Met is a re-release of The Love Market, which was published eight years ago now, so how did it feel to go back and re-visit the characters Celine, Patrick, and Mike?

It’s the strangest thing! Writing a book is such a long process that takes so much out of you that, when you’ve gone through countless drafts and the book is finally done, you almost have an element of relief. Or if not that, then certainly a sense of closure. But then you might re-read it years later and think Hmmm! I wish I’d pushed this aspect of his character a little harder, or, if only I’d written that aspect with a little of the wisdom I now have today…. So then to actually get that opportunity – it’s amazing! You can see your story with new eyes and bring aspects of it to a whole new level. You feel fresh and energized at the thought of adding one more textural layer… In the case of this novel, I always felt I could have given the reader so much more of a reason to care about Celine and Patrick’s relationship and their coming together a second time. I felt I’d always done a terrific job with the emotionally resonant and complicated nature of Celine and Mike’s separation, but had I really shown the depth of Celine and Patrick’s connection, both in the past, and in the present? Had I truly explored the indelible impression left by first love? So it was tremendously fun and rewarding to go back in and make this aspect of the story sing! I fell in love with Patrick myself, and SO wanted to be there in that moment when she first set eyes on him…

I’m so glad you said that. After reading both The Love Market and The Last Time We Met, I felt a much deeper level of empathy for Patrick’s character this time and was really rooting for him!

All of your books have a literary feel to them that explores what it is that makes us human.  Celine’s story and the emotional pull she has endured is such a timeless one, but the contemporary world around us has changed quite a lot since you wrote The Love Market, particularly with the ever-increasing cyber world of social media.  How did this impact on any editorial changes for the Last Time We Met?

I did use a few pop culture references in the earlier edition that certainly dated the novel, so they had to come out. And of course online dating is so much more commonplace now than back then, so I had to tweak that to explain how Celine’s matchmaking business, called The Love Market, would still be relevant today. Plus Patrick and Celine get to FaceTime, which I don’t think we’d heard of back then! These were fairly easy tweaks compared to delving deeply into a character’s reasons for being! And a good editor helps that process too. And, as you so cleverly observed, I had to change Brad Pitt (as a heartthrob reference) to Ryan Gosling – Brad, bless him, is getting a bit past his sell-by now!

Hehe, yes, poor old Brad!

Every book of yours that I read seems to just get better and better; each book evidence of how you’ve grown as a writer.  Were you tempted to make big changes?  Were you tempted to kill anybody off, or re-write the ending?

Oh thank you. That’s very flattering and of course what writers really hope for! Yes, it was hard to re-read old work and not want to rewrite it! Not because I thought the writing was inferior, but perhaps because I am 10 years older now and 10 years wiser and more mature, so I see people and life a little differently. I’m not as idealistic any more. Perhaps I’m not even as romantic as I once was! This was helpful in establishing why Celine would be a little mistrusting of Patrick’s feelings at first – she too is not the girl she was when they first met. Plus I was better able to get to grips with the concept of what love really means once the thrill of the first flush has worn off.  All this added more depth to the story. But I must admit I was tempted to change the ending a little! I won’t say in what way, or I will give the game away. But, suffice to say, I reminded myself that 10 years ago I had written a love story and, while I could add to that story and improve that story in so many ways, I also wanted to stay true to it. When I finally handed this revised draft in I felt huge satisfaction with my ending – elements of the story might have changed but the characters at heart hadn’t. And that felt right.

­I love both the title and new jacket design for The Last Time We Met. They fit really well with the design of After You Left, and I know I will just have to have both of them sitting next to each other on my Favourite’s Bookshelf.  Do you have anything else in the pipeline? Something with another gorgeous cover to match After You Left and The Last time We Met perhaps (she asks hopefully!)

Thank you! And… yes! I have just gone through edits for my brand new novel that will be out March/April 2019. This one is called The Shadow Between Us.  It’s about a marriage that is tested in ways a couple could never have imagined. It’s about what happens when one day, quite out of the blue, almost everything about your life changes, and how you ever find your way back from that. It’s a sad, touching story, but also a very hopeful one. In fact, it’s the story I think I always wanted to write from the time I first began writing, only I wasn’t sure quite how to shape it and pull it off – it felt bigger than I had the maturity for back then. So I am massively excited for this one! This book is actually part of a brand new 4 book deal that I have just signed with my wonderful publisher, Lake Union. So I’m thrilled to say that writing will be keeping me busy for the next little while. I have my other ideas all lined up and can’t wait to share them with you in due course.

How exciting – I can’t tell you how happy that makes me! Well, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you Carol. I wish you every success with The Last Time We Met and look forward to chatting to you again soon to talk about The Shadow Between Us.

You can read my review for The Last Time We Met here:

https://literaturelove.uk/2018/10/09/the-last-time-we-met-by-carol-mason/

 

About Carol Mason

Carol Mason

Carol Mason is the women’s fiction author of the Amazon Charts Bestselling novel After You Left, published by Lake Union, The Secrets of Married Women, Send Me A Lover and the soon to be re-released The Last Time We Met.
Carol grew up in Northern England – Sunderland, to be precise, but left there when she was 19, for London. There, she worked for the Diplomatic Service before leaving after about a year to embark on adventure travel to Canada, where she met the boy she would marry. Twenty-three years later, they still live in Canada, just outside of Vancouver. When not writing, Carol is ususally reading as many books she can manage, to always stay abreast of what is hot and current. When not doing that she is usually surfing recipes on the Internet, cooking, eating, then telling herself there has to be more to life than food.
You can visit Carol’s website here: http://www.carolmasonbooks.com

 

 

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THE FAMILY by Louise Jensen #psychologicalthriller #creepy #fivestars

The FamilyGenre:         Psychological Thriller
Publisher:  HQ (Harper Collins)
Published:  3rd October 2019
Reviewed:  2nd September 2019
 
 
Blurb
ONCE YOU’RE IN, THEY’LL NEVER LET YOU LEAVE.
 
Laura is grieving after the sudden death of her husband. Struggling to cope emotionally and financially, Laura is grateful when a local community, Oak Leaf Organics, offer her and her 17-year-old daughter Tilly a home.
 
But as Laura and Tilly settle into life with their new ‘family’, sinister things begin to happen. When one of the community dies in suspicious circumstances Laura wants to leave but Tilly, enthralled by the charismatic leader, Alex, refuses to go.
 
Desperately searching for a way to save her daughter, Laura uncovers a horrifying secret but Alex and his family aren’t the only ones with something to hide. Just as Laura has been digging into their past, they’ve been digging into hers and she discovers the terrifying reason they invited her and Tilly in, and why they’ll never let them leave…
My Review
Laura has reached rock bottom. Her husband, Gavin, has been killed in an accident on a building site, and due to Gavin building on toxic land, the community she was once a part of have turned against her in her hour of need. Customers to her once flourishing flower shop are now virtually non-existent and Laura isn’t able to pay her rent. To top it all, the insurance company is refusing to pay-out until further investigations into Gavin’s death have been carried out. With her parents disowning her for something Laura has done in the past, the only people Laura and her daughter, Tilly, can rely on are Gavin’s brother and his family. But now, even they are refusing to help, so when Saffron shows Laura kindness and offers her a way out, Laura takes Saffron up on her offer. But, as Laura says, things come in threes, and this was her first mistake. Her second mistake was taking Tilly with her. Both of these mistakes come very early on in the story and I couldn’t turn the pages quick enough to find out what the third mistake would be.
 
With a chilling prologue that immediately draws you in, the narrative continues from three points of view: the first person perspectives of Laura and Tilly, and the third-person limited perspective of Alex. It is from Tilly’s perspective that we learn Gavin was keeping secrets: don’t tell Tilly.As far as Laura is concerned, Gavin was the love of her life, so what secret did he hide from her? As well as being caught in the middle of her father’s secret, Tilly is having a rough time of things at school. She’d always been best friends with her cousin, Rhiannon, but with the school bully isolating Tilly whilst at the same time drawing Rhiannon into the ‘in’ crowd, vulnerable Tilly soon becomes susceptible to Alex’s attention.
 
Handsome and charismatic Alex is the person who runs the ‘organic farm’, and has both Laura and Tilly under his spell. By giving him his own voice, the author allows the reader a glimpse into both his warped mind as well as the painful past that has shaped the man he has become. However, by switching to third-person, this allows a degree of distance and juxtaposes Alex’s perspective with the closer first-person perspectives of Laura and Tilly; leaving the reader in no doubt as to who to route for.
 
The middle part of the story centres around life on Oak Leaf Farm itself: the set-up, the others who live there. It is this part of the story that I found darker and much more creepy than the author’s other novels. Although, it was made clear that Laura could leave at any time, the sense of isolation from the rest of the world, both physically as well as mentally, made it feel this wasn’t possible. I just couldn’t put the book down here; I had to read on and get Laura and Tilly out of there!
 
The latter part of the narrative is where the strands of Laura’s past and present really come together; and it isn’t until now that the novel’s title really takes on its true meaning. I was sure I was right about the fate of one of the characters but OMG I didn’t see that one coming– what a twist that was! If you think life on the farm is dark and creepy, that ending will send shivers down your spine…
 
As well as her well-plotted storylines, what I like about this author is her unique writing style. Sentences are clean and uncluttered; and whilst rich in vivid imagery, the narrative isn’t over flowery. Louise Jensen says what needs saying, then gets out; resulting in a fast-paced and heart-pounding experience for the reader.
 
I absolutely loved The Family; yet another fantastic read from Louise Jensen. I would recommend this book for fans of Lisa Jewell, Jane Schemilt, and Jo Ullah.
 
Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley
for an Advance Review Copy of this book
in return for an honest and unbiased review.
About the Author
Louise JensenWhen I was little I was obsessed by Enid Blyton. Her characters were so real to me they became my friends. I often huddled under my covers, stifling my yawns and straining my eyes, as I read ‘just one more page’ by torchlight.
 
Mr Townsend, my primary school English teacher always encouraged my love of literature, and it wasn’t long before I’d read everything my school had to offer. The first book I created was six pages long, had stick-man illustrations and was sellotaped together. I was immensely proud of it. Writing was a huge part of my life, until one day it wasn’t.
 
I can’t remember ever making a conscious decision to stop writing but it became easier to act on the advice I was given – ‘grow up and get a proper job’ – and my dreams were tightly packed away, gathering dust for the next twenty years.
My thirties were a car crash. Literally. I sustained injuries which when coupled with a pre-existing condition forced me to radically change my lifestyle. I felt utterly lost and utterly alone. Always an avid reader I began to devour books at an alarming rate. ‘You’ll have read every book in here soon,’ my local librarian said. ‘You’ll have to write your own.’
And there was a flicker, a shift, a rising of hope. I grasped that nugget of possibility and I wrote. I wrote when I was happy. I wrote when I was sad. I wrote when I was scared and in-between writing, I read, read and read some more. Words have the power to lift, to heal. They have illuminated my world, which for a time became very dark.
As Anne Frank said ‘I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.’
 
 
 
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THE GIRL AT THE WINDOW by Rowan Coleman #ghostromance #uplit #terrifying

Girl at the Window.png

Genre: Ghost/Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Ebury Press (Penguin)

Published: 27th June 2019

Reviewed: 21st August 2019

Blurb

A house full of history is bound to have secrets…

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

My Review

Rowan Coleman has always been one of my favourite authors, occupying three out of the twenty coveted spaces on my ‘All Time Favourites’ shelf: The Baby Group, Dearest Rose, and The Summer of Impossible Things. All different genres, and all equally as brilliant as each other. So, as you can imagine, I had already set my hopes quite high for the author’s latest novel. As well as this, I knew The Girl at the Window had connotations with Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. This brings back fond memories when during the second year of my literature degree, I was snuggled up in my writing room, writing an essay on ‘the constant overlapping of the gothic and the domestic’ in Wuthering Heights whilst the snow and hail storm of February 2016 rapped against my window.

The Girl at the Window is a perfect blend of fact and fiction, historical and contemporary. Starting in the present, Tru is having one of those weird dreams where you think you’ve woken up but you haven’t. But when she does wake up her nightmare is only just beginning when she is told her army surgeon husband, Abe, has gone missing in action. But despite all the evidence stacking against him, Will (Tru and Abe’s young son) refuses to admit defeat and is determined to have faith in the return of his father. But Tru isn’t convinced and decides to go back to the home where she grew up, and the place where she fell in love with Abe: Ponden Hall and the Yorkshire moors, in the hope that she will find a clue as to what happened to him.

Tru’s mother still lives at Ponden Hall but we soon learn that their relationship is a difficult one and they have been estranged for several years. As the rift in their relationship gradually heals, we learn about what life was like for Tru as a child, and her father’s familial connection to Ponden and the Bronte’s. The story also touches on some deep issues such as post-natal depression. At first, Tru’s mother came across as a right old hag, but by the end I absolutely loved her. A tribute to the author’s wonderful creation of this multi-dimensional character.

But where this story is so very different from other ‘uplit’ genres is that it is also utterly creepy. You wouldn’t think the two genres would work together, but this hybrid really does work so well. There is a scene where a hand comes out of the wall and grabs Tru: like OMG I almost s**t myself! One of the reasons nineteenth-century gothic and crime novels were so popular was because they juxtaposed the ordinary world against danger. Sherlock Holmes for example, one minute he was trying to escape with his life, the next he was in his cosy living room with an open fire and his housekeeper bringing him a cup of tea. Ponden is like that; you have weird and supernatural things going on in one part of the house whilst Tru’s mother is baking cakes in another.

Like Wuthering Heights, The Girl at the Window also has a frame structure, where the past story is told through the present-day story. There were also some other plot and characterisation similarities to Wuthering Heights: I could see parts of Heathcliffe in a few of the characters. Like Heathcliffe, Agnes was brought to Ponden by the man who adopted her; and in the same way that Heathcliffe returned and bought Wuthering Heights, so did Robert. Whilst Blackbeard, like the adult Heathcliffe, was full of hatred and revenge, this character also reminded me of Hindley Earnshaw and the way he treated the young Heathcliffe. There is also, of course, the star-crossed love story element between Agnes and Robert, and not to mention Tru and Abe.

The Girl at the Window has been yet another unique and incredibly satisfying read from Rowan Coleman. I don’t want to give any spoilers but wow that ending, and how the message from Agnes links to Tru on a much deeper level is just brilliant. I can’t really say who I would recommend this book for as it in a league of its own. It’s a story for anybody who is looking for an uplifting story of family, love, loss, reconciliation, as well as somebody who likes a bit of gothic horror. Not to mention anybody who has a book addiction. Modern-day Bronte’ fans perhaps!

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

Rowan Coleman lives with her husband, and five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family which includes a very lively set of toddler twins whose main hobby is going in the opposite directions. When she gets the chance, Rowan enjoys sleeping, sitting and loves watching films; she is also attempting to learn how to bake.

Rowan would like to live every day as if she were starring in a musical, although her daughter no longer allows her to sing in public. Despite being dyslexic, Rowan loves writing, and The Memory Book is her eleventh novel, which was chosen as a Richard and Judy bookclub selection in 2014. Others include The Accidental Mother, Lessons in Laughing Out Loud and the award-winning Dearest Rose, a novel which lead Rowan to become an active supporter of domestic abuse charity Refuge, donating 100% of royalties from the ebook publication of her novella, Woman Walks Into a Bar, to the charity.

https://rowancoleman.co.uk/

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-girl-at-the-window/rowan-coleman/9781785032462

Other Genres

THE GIRL AT THE WINDOW by Rowan Coleman

Genre: Ghost/Paranormal Romance

Publisher: Ebury Press (Penguin)

Published: 27th June 2019

Reviewed: 21st August 2019

Blurb

A house full of history is bound to have secrets…

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

My Review

Rowan Coleman has always been one of my favourite authors, occupying three out of the twenty coveted spaces on my ‘All Time Favourites’ shelf: The Baby Group, Dearest Rose, and The Summer of Impossible Things. All different genres, and all equally as brilliant as each other. So, as you can imagine, I had already set my hopes quite high for the author’s latest novel. As well as this, I knew The Girl at the Window had connotations with Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. This brings back fond memories when during the second year of my literature degree, I was snuggled up in my writing room, writing an essay on ‘the constant overlapping of the gothic and the domestic’ in Wuthering Heights whilst the snow and hail storm of February 2016 rapped against my window.

The Girl at the Window is a perfect blend of fact and fiction, historical and contemporary. Starting in the present, Tru is having one of those weird dreams where you think you’ve woken up but you haven’t. But when she does wake up her nightmare is only just beginning when she is told her army surgeon husband, Abe, has gone missing in action. But despite all the evidence stacking against him, Will (Tru and Abe’s young son) refuses to admit defeat and is determined to have faith in the return of his father. But Tru isn’t convinced and decides to go back to the home where she grew up, and the place where she fell in love with Abe: Ponden Hall and the Yorkshire moors, in the hope that she will find a clue as to what happened to him.

Tru’s mother still lives at Ponden Hall but we soon learn that their relationship is a difficult one and they have been estranged for several years. As the rift in their relationship gradually heals, we learn about what life was like for Tru as a child, and her father’s familial connection to Ponden and the Bronte’s. The story also touches on some deep issues such as post-natal depression. At first, Tru’s mother came across as a right old hag, but by the end I absolutely loved her. A tribute to the author’s wonderful creation of this multi-dimensional character.

But where this story is so very different from other ‘uplit’ genres is that it is also utterly creepy. You wouldn’t think the two genres would work together, but this hybrid really does work so well. There is a scene where a hand comes out of the wall and grabs Tru: like OMG I almost s**t myself! One of the reasons nineteenth-century gothic and crime novels were so popular was because they juxtaposed the ordinary world against danger. Sherlock Holmes for example, one minute he was trying to escape with his life, the next he was in his cosy living room with an open fire and his housekeeper bringing him a cup of tea. Ponden is like that; you have weird and supernatural things going on in one part of the house whilst Tru’s mother is baking cakes in another.

Like Wuthering Heights, The Girl at the Window also has a frame structure, where the past story is told through the present-day story. There were also some other plot and characterisation similarities to Wuthering Heights: I could see parts of Heathcliffe in a few of the characters. Like Heathcliffe, Agnes was brought to Ponden by the man who adopted her; and in the same way that Heathcliffe returned and bought Wuthering Heights, so did Robert. Whilst Blackbeard, like the adult Heathcliffe, was full of hatred and revenge, this character also reminded me of Hindley Earnshaw and the way he treated the young Heathcliffe. There is also, of course, the star-crossed love story element between Agnes and Robert, and not to mention Tru and Abe.

The Girl at the Window has been yet another unique and incredibly satisfying read from Rowan Coleman. I don’t want to give any spoilers but wow that ending, and how the message from Agnes links to Tru on a much deeper level is just brilliant. I can’t really say who I would recommend this book for as it in a league of its own. It’s a story for anybody who is looking for an uplifting story of family, love, loss, reconciliation, as well as somebody who likes a bit of gothic horror. Not to mention anybody who has a book addiction. Modern-day Bronte’ fans perhaps!

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

Rowan Coleman lives with her husband, and five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family which includes a very lively set of toddler twins whose main hobby is going in the opposite directions. When she gets the chance, Rowan enjoys sleeping, sitting and loves watching films; she is also attempting to learn how to bake.

Rowan would like to live every day as if she were starring in a musical, although her daughter no longer allows her to sing in public. Despite being dyslexic, Rowan loves writing, and The Memory Book is her eleventh novel, which was chosen as a Richard and Judy bookclub selection in 2014. Others include The Accidental Mother, Lessons in Laughing Out Loud and the award-winning Dearest Rose, a novel which lead Rowan to become an active supporter of domestic abuse charity Refuge, donating 100% of royalties from the ebook publication of her novella, Woman Walks Into a Bar, to the charity.

https://rowancoleman.co.uk/

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-girl-at-the-window/rowan-coleman/9781785032462

Psychological Thrillers

NEVER HAVE I EVER by Joshilyn Jackson #psychologicalthriller #catandmouse #twisty

Blurb

It starts as a game at a book group one night. Never Have I Ever… done something I shouldn’t.

But Amy Whey has done something she shouldn’t. And Roux, the glamorous newcomer to Amy’s suburban neighbourhood, knows exactly what that is.

Roux promises she will go away. She will take herself and her son, who is already growing dangerously close to Amy’s teenage stepdaughter, and she will go. If Amy plays by her rules.

But Amy isn’t prepared to lose everything she’s built. She’s going to fight back, and in this escalating game of cat and mouse, there can be only one winner.

My Review

Amy and Char are both mothers of young children who live in the same street, and despite their age gap (Amy is older) the pair are the best of friends. Char loves classical literature and runs a book club (from Amy’s house), which is planned down to the last minute . She also likes to sit in her own special chair, which all the other women in the book-club daren’t sit in. So when Roux, the mysterious newcomer to the area, arrives unannounced at their book-club one evening and takes over – including sitting in Char’s chair – Char is put out to say the least.  Before Char and Amy know it, the evening has come to an end and Char’s chosen book has barely been mentioned. But it is after Char has gone home that things really hot up!

The author has already set the scene that Roux is out to cause trouble. When she instigates a game of ‘Never Have I Ever’ one of the other women in the group admits to kissing another man and Roux stores away this piece of information to use in the future. The next day, Roux turns her attention to Amy, and reveals she knows exactly what Amy did in her past, blackmailing her to hand over her inheritance or risk losing everything she holds dear. However, Roux hasn’t banked on Amy’s feistiness and she may just have possibly picked on the wrong one this time.

What was unique about this narrative was that it was solely from Amy’s perspective and (apart from a flashback scene early on) it is set in the present. I thought this was quite interesting because although it is an event from Amy’s past that has given Roux the first spark of amunition against Amy, it is her ongoing actions since then, including the here and now, that raises the stakes. Most psychological thrillers juxtapose the perspective of the protagonist alongside that of the antagonist; asking the question as to who is telling the truth. But this was not the case here. Roux’s background is a complete mystery and is only brought to light through Amy’s detective work and personal psychoanalysis of her. Rather than internal monologue, the author reveals Roux’s inner thoughts by coming in so close that every tiny facial twitch tells a miniature story, revealing whether Roux is nervous or lying.

I really liked Amy, she’s done some stupid things in the past, but a big twist reveals just what a big heart she has and just exactly how much she could lose though Roux’s evil determination to destroy her: this is much more than what is revealed early on. Although initially at her wits end as to what she is going to do,  Amy soon decides to fight back by digging into Roux’s own closet – quite literally. And what she finds out is far more shocking than anything Amy has done. Readers are in for a real treat with this twisty turn in this tale of cat and mouse.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson’s newest book, Never Have I Ever, will launch in July of 2019. You can check out her previous eight novels and other work here. Joshilyn’s books have been translated into a dozen languages, have won SIBA’s Novel of the Year award, have three times been #1 Book Sense Pick, have twice won Georgia Author of the Year awards, have three times been shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, and have been a finalist for the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction.

A former actor, Jackson reads the audio versions of both her own novels and the books of other writers; her work in this field has been nominated for the Audie Award, was selected by AudioFile Magazine for their best of the year list, won three Earphones awards, made the 2012 Audible All-Star list for highest listener ranks/reviews, and garnered three Listen Up awards from Publisher’s Weekly.

She serves on the board of Reforming Arts, a nonprofit that runs education-in-prison and reentry programs. Reforming Arts fosters the development of critical and creative thinking skills, encouraging students to build livable lives both during and post-incarceration. Through this organization, Joshilyn has taught creative writing, composition, and literature inside Georgia’s maximum security facility for women.

Joshilyn learned to scuba-dive in order to write Never Have I Ever, and now she and her husband Scott are both avid divers. They live in Decatur, Georgia with their two kids, two entitled cats, and a modestly-sized dog.

https://www.joshilynjackson.com/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1526611597?pf_rd_p=330fbd82-d4fe-42e5-9c16-d4b886747c64&pf_rd_r=ZFZT90G1A8GFSHE23VAX

https://www.waterstones.com/book/never-have-i-ever/joshilyn-jackson/9781526611598

Uncategorized

NEVER HAVE I EVER by Joshilyn Jackson #psychologicalthriller #catandmouse #twisty

 

 

Never Have I Ever

 

 

Genre:        Psychological Thriller

Publisher:  Raven Books

Published: 8th August 2019

Reviewed:  7th August 2019

 

 

 

Blurb

It starts as a game at a book group one night. Never Have I Ever… done something I shouldn’t.

But Amy Whey has done something she shouldn’t. And Roux, the glamorous newcomer to Amy’s suburban neighbourhood, knows exactly what that is.

Roux promises she will go away. She will take herself and her son, who is already growing dangerously close to Amy’s teenage stepdaughter, and she will go. If Amy plays by her rules.

But Amy isn’t prepared to lose everything she’s built. She’s going to fight back, and in this escalating game of cat and mouse, there can be only one winner.

My Review

Amy and Char are both mothers of young children who live in the same street, and despite their age gap (Amy is older) the pair are the best of friends. Char loves classical literature and runs a book club (from Amy’s house), which is planned down to the last minute . She also likes to sit in her own special chair, which all the other women in the book-club daren’t sit in. So when Roux, the mysterious newcomer to the area, arrives unannounced at their book-club one evening and takes over – including sitting in Char’s chair – Char is put out to say the least.  Before Char and Amy know it, the evening has come to an end and Char’s chosen book has barely been mentioned. But it is after Char has gone home that things really hot up!

The author has already set the scene that Roux is out to cause trouble. When she instigates a game of ‘Never Have I Ever’ one of the other women in the group admits to kissing another man and Roux stores away this piece of information to use in the future. The next day, Roux turns her attention to Amy, and reveals she knows exactly what Amy did in her past, blackmailing her to hand over her inheritance or risk losing everything she holds dear. However, Roux hasn’t banked on Amy’s feistiness and she may just have possibly picked on the wrong one this time.

What was unique about this narrative was that it was solely from Amy’s perspective and (apart from a flashback scene early on) it is set in the present. I thought this was quite interesting because although it is an event from Amy’s past that has given Roux the first spark of amunition against Amy, it is her ongoing actions since then, including the here and now, that raises the stakes. Most psychological thrillers juxtapose the perspective of the protagonist alongside that of the antagonist; asking the question as to who is telling the truth. But this was not the case here. Roux’s background is a complete mystery and is only brought to light through Amy’s detective work and personal psychoanalysis of her. Rather than internal monologue, the author reveals Roux’s inner thoughts by coming in so close that every tiny facial twitch tells a miniature story, revealing whether Roux is nervous or lying.

I really liked Amy, she’s done some stupid things in the past, but a big twist reveals just what a big heart she has and just exactly how much she could lose though Roux’s evil determination to destroy her: this is much more than what is revealed early on. Although initially at her wits end as to what she is going to do,  Amy soon decides to fight back by digging into Roux’s own closet – quite literally. And what she finds out is far more shocking than anything Amy has done. Readers are in for a real treat with this twisty turn in this tale of cat and mouse.

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

 

About the Author

joshilyn-jackson-headshot-768x1034New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson’s newest book, Never Have I Ever, will launch in July of 2019. You can check out her previous eight novels and other work here. Joshilyn’s books have been translated into a dozen languages, have won SIBA’s Novel of the Year award, have three times been #1 Book Sense Pick, have twice won Georgia Author of the Year awards, have three times been shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, and have been a finalist for the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction.

A former actor, Jackson reads the audio versions of both her own novels and the books of other writers; her work in this field has been nominated for the Audie Award, was selected by AudioFile Magazine for their best of the year list, won three Earphones awards, made the 2012 Audible All-Star list for highest listener ranks/reviews, and garnered three Listen Up awards from Publisher’s Weekly.

She serves on the board of Reforming Arts, a nonprofit that runs education-in-prison and reentry programs. Reforming Arts fosters the development of critical and creative thinking skills, encouraging students to build livable lives both during and post-incarceration. Through this organization, Joshilyn has taught creative writing, composition, and literature inside Georgia’s maximum security facility for women.

Joshilyn learned to scuba-dive in order to write Never Have I Ever, and now she and her husband Scott are both avid divers. They live in Decatur, Georgia with their two kids, two entitled cats, and a modestly-sized dog.

https://www.joshilynjackson.com/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1526611597?pf_rd_p=330fbd82-d4fe-42e5-9c16-d4b886747c64&pf_rd_r=ZFZT90G1A8GFSHE23VAX

https://www.waterstones.com/book/never-have-i-ever/joshilyn-jackson/9781526611598

Uncategorized

COME A LITTLE CLOSER by Karen Perry

 

 #bookreview #psychologicalthriller #amreading #literaturelove

Come a Little Closer

 

 

Genre:          Psychological Thriller

Publisher:    Penguin                                                    

Published:   28th November 2019 (paperback)

                       27th June 2019 (ebook)                  

Reviewed:   28th July 2019            

 

 

Blurb

Leah is in love. It should be the happiest summer of her life, but she can’t help feeling lonely with Jake’s attention divided between her, his ex-wife and his young son. As insomnia sets in, the walls of their new basement flat feel as if they’re closing in around her. Until she meets her upstairs neighbour, Anton, who has recently moved back in after a long absence from the street. He’s a sympathetic ear when Jake can’t be, and even though others on the street seem strangely hostile towards him, Leah soon comes to rely on Anton and their secret conversations in the night.

Leah has no idea that nineteen years before, Anton was convicted of killing his wife. A wife who looked a little bit like Leah. He has always said he didn’t do it. Is Leah his redemption? Or is she befriending a killer intent on luring her closer and closer?

 

My Review

Written in third-person from the limited perspectives of Leah, Anton, and Hilary, Come A Little Closer is a spine tingling narrative that had me changing my mind and guessing right up to the very end.  Although my first thought was the correct one, there were many times throughout the book where I thought the complete opposite. And there was a thought I had which I was certain would be the big twist but it turned out to be a red herring. I won’t say what that was in case other readers have this same thought!

Leah has a secret past of her own, a past that her boyfriend (Jake), knows nothing about, so when her new landlord (Anton) claims he is innocent of murdering his wife (Charlotte), a crime he has spent the last 19 years in prison for, she is quick to give him the benefit of the doubt.  But with Leah being similar in appearance to Charlotte, he soon becomes infatuated with her; and with neighbour Hilary obsessed with Anton, Leah is in a very dangerous place within this creepy triangle.

Certain events are repeated, being told from the different points of view of one or more of the characters. I really liked this narrative form; how one character saw something another didn’t, or how another character was privy to something that another character knew nothing about.  It is through this form of dramatic irony that the truth about Charlotte’s fate is gradually revealed. The narrative also includes quite a lot of internal monologue, especially from Hilary’s perspective, with certain events triggering past memories. This meant the narrative did jump around quite a lot from past to present within the same chapter, which was a little confusing in places but not overly so. The steady pacing throughout the first part of the story meant that actions of the characters were more believable: one small act, leading to another, building to terrifyingly disturbing scenes and a fast-paced climax.

I really enjoyed reading this book, even more so than Your Closest Friend, and would recommend this for fans of Ella Drummond or Shalini Boland.

 

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley

for an Advance Review Copy of this book

in return for an honest and unbiased review.

 

About the Author

Karen Perry

Karen Perry is the Sunday Times bestselling author of Your Closest Friend, Can You Keep a Secret?, Girl Unknown, Only We Know and The Boy That Never Was, which was selected for the Simon Mayo Radio 2 Book Club. She lives in Dublin with her family.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Come-Little-Closer-Karen-Perry/dp/1405936673/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1564259195&sr=8-2

https://www.waterstones.com/book/come-a-little-closer/karen-perry/9781405936675