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:

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  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:



 #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            




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.



After the End by Clare Mackintosh

#aftertheend #bookreview #literaturelove

After the End


Publisher:           Sphere

Published:           25th June 2019

Reviewed:           19th July 2019



Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. Only now they’re facing the most important decision of their lives – and they don’t agree.

As the consequences of an impossible choice threaten to devastate them both, nothing will ever be the same again.

But anything can happen after the end . . .

My Review

I knew this book was different to the author’s usual genre, and after reading the author’s note (I always read these before the book) I also realised it would be a heart-wrenching story. What I wasn’t prepared for was putting everything on hold as I found myself gripped for hours on end as the characters worked their way into my heart.

Split into two parts, part one has a triple narrative that draws the reader into the shoes of Pip, Max, and Leila. Pip and Max are a happily married couple whose lives are turned upside down when their two-year-old son, Dylan, is diagnosed with a brain tumour; Leila is Dylan’s paediatric neurologist. As the main bread earner, Max juggles his demanding career (and unforgiving wanker of a boss), whilst Pip gives up her job to spend every waking moment at Dylan’s bedside. Geographically the couple are miles apart for the best part of the week, but the bond between them is stronger than ever as they hold each other together, willing their boy to get well. As well as Pip and Max both having their own voice through first-person narratives, we also see how they are perceived from the outside world through the limited third-person perspective of Leila. Leila is a well-drawn out character where we also see how the everyday strain of working as a doctor for the NHS impacts on her life and relationships as a young woman.

But when Dylan’s condition takes a turn for the worse, Pip and Max’s relationship is put to the test when they have different ideas of what the best treatment options are for their son, and when the couple aren’t able to agree, the hospital steps in and takes the case to court. With Pip, Max, and Leila, each having individual voices through their own designated chapters, this allows the reader to empathise with their different perspectives: what it is like to be them and how they reach the decision they have regarding what is best for Dylan. Part one of the narrative ends as the judge gives his verdict.

With the world and his wife having a view on what the right decision should be, part two of the story is where the author really ups her game. Although a bit confusing at first, this part of the narrative has a sliding doors structure where the different outcome scenarios of the court-case are played out. It is these kind of stories where I do prefer a real book rather than an e-book, so I can flick back and work out what’s going on. Anyway, once I’d figured out that this was actually a sliding-doors structure, and that I wasn’t going mad, this made the story all the more compelling. During this part of the story, chapters alternate between the perspectives of Pip and Max, and there are different time periods as the cleverly structured plot, addresses the question as to whether one decision is any better than the other. It also makes you consider whether fate is a factor: no matter what route you take will you end up in the same place?

The story also explores the theme of unconditional love. Not just the love between Pip, Max, and Dylan; but maternal love between Max and his mother, Pip and her mother, Leila and her mother, Blair (no spoilers as to who she is!) and her children.

One of the first things I was taught as part of my English Literature and Creative Writing degree was to ‘write what you know’ in a fictionalised way, adding elements of ‘what if’. After the End by Clare Mackintosh is an absolute masterclass in this, and should be considered essential reading material for every serious creative writing student. I’ve long admired the work of Clare Mackintosh, her first book I Let You go, in particular, is one that years later has still stayed with me; After the End will be no exception.

As I said earlier, After the End is very different to the author’s usual style of writing, and this beautifully written narrative reminded me of Carol Mason, Kit de Waal, and Emma Cooper.

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

clare-mackintosh-2019-500x500With over 2 million copies of her books sold worldwide, number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh is multi-award-winning author of I Let You Go, which was a Sunday Times bestseller and the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It also won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016.
Both Clare’s second and third novels, I See You and Let Me Lie, were number one Sunday Times bestsellers. All three of her books were selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club, and together have been translated into over thirty-five languages.
Clare is patron of the Silver Star Society, a charity based at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, which supports parents experiencing high-risk or difficult pregnancies. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

Clare Mackintosh





I Looked Away by Jane Corry

#psychologicalthriller #amreading #twisty

Publisher: Penguin

Published: 27th June 2019

Date of Review: 6th June 2019


Every Monday, 49-year-old Ellie looks after her grandson Josh. She loves him more than anyone else in the world. The only thing that can mar her happiness is her husband’s affair. But he swears it’s over now, and Ellie has decided to be thankful for what she’s got.

Then one day, while she’s looking after Josh, her husband gets a call from that woman. And just for a moment, Ellie takes her eyes off her grandson. What happens next will change her life forever.

Because Ellie is hiding something in her past.

And what looks like an accident could start to look like murder…

My Review

I looked away is a compulsive and twisty domestic noir that has been impossible to put down. With a past and present timeline, the dual first-person narrative explores the lives of Ellie – a middle-class grandmother, and Jo – a homeless woman. We see the two characters meet at the beginning of the story but just how they are connected and to what degree this seemingly inconsequential liaison has on the storyline is not revealed until we reach the story’s climax. I did have an idea as to what this might be, and as somebody who devours psychological thrillers like no tomorrow, I was right. But this did not in any way spoil things; in fact it made it all the more satisfying!

Ellie’s timeline is mostly in the past, where we see a very different lifestyle to the middle-class woman she is today. Ellie starts off as a woman who you immediately root for. She has a lot going for her from a materialistic perspective but the one thing she can’t buy is her husband’s fidelity. We don’t see much of Roger in the present, but they have a long history together and there are a few shocks and twists as details of their relationship emerge. You just know he is a complete dick and you will be willing Ellie to pack her bags and find a better life without him. But this is a psychological thriller, so things don’t work out quite so simple as that!

But it was the characterisation of Jo that totally drew me in. Firstly, we see her arrive in Bristol. As a Bristolian, it was like I was wandering the streets with her, and it really makes you think ‘What would I do? Where would I go?’ if placed in Jo’s shoes. The character is so real, when I was in town a week after reading the book, I saw a woman who looked just like the character in my head and I thought ‘Oh look there’s Jo!’

As the two time-lines gradually converge, all the seemingly inconsequential events scattered throughout the narrative are brought to light. At the beginning of this year I decided to only review those books that excite and inspire me as a new writer. Jane Corry does this in abundance. Everything from the way the novel is structured, to the twisty and compelling plotline, to characterisation, to the writer’s colloquial and compelling voice. My list is endless. I absolutely loved this book and can’t recommend it enough.

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 Amazon UK Amazon US