Book Review: The Woman Next Door by Cass Green

30383918Synopsis

A No.1 e-book bestseller, perfect for fans of Her by Harriet Lane and In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware.
Two suburban women. Two dark secrets. The almost perfect murder.

Everybody needs good neighbours…

Melissa and Hester have lived next door to each other for years. When Melissa’s daughter was younger, Hester was almost like a grandmother to her. But recently they haven’t been so close.

Hester has plans to change all that. It’s obvious to her that despite Melissa’s outwardly glamorous and successful life, she needs Hester’s help. But taking help from Hester might not be such a good idea for a woman with as many secrets as Melissa…

My Review

This book is written exceptionally well. It had a vivid amount of lovely turns of phrase and the two characters who tell the story were brilliant. Hester, in particular, is a great character, and I’m pretty sure we all know at least Hester in our lives.

My only criticism is that the plot was a little cliched in parts (I can’t say much else, or I’ll ruin the story). I’d have liked to have seen something even more sinister – although I’m a pretty dark person, so maybe this plot was actually just enough for a normal person! There are twists in the book, but I did guess them quite early on, so I didn’t get that ‘Good grief’ gasping moment.

The front cover is a little misleading; again I can’t say much more for fear of ruining the story. The strapline text is quite vague, and the woman on the front looks like she’s under water when it would have been much more apt to have a ‘curtain twitcher’ on the cover.

Overall it’s a well-written book that keeps you reading; I was just disappointed that the story wasn’t as twisted as it could have been. 3 out of 5 stars.

Check it out on GoodReads here…

Book Review: The Venus Trap by Louise Voss

23199734Synopsis:

Jo Atkins’ sixteenth year was disastrous: she lost her dad, was assaulted by a stranger, and then had her heart broken. For the last twenty-five years, she’s believed that nothing could ever be as bad again.

She was wrong.

Now, still smarting from her recent divorce, pretty, self-effacing Jo finally gathers the courage to enter the dating scene. She meets Claudio, whom she vaguely remembers from her youth, but after a few dates decides he’s creepy and politely tells him ‘thanks but no thanks’.

But Claudio has no intention of letting her go.

Instead of never seeing him again, Jo wakes up sick and terrified, handcuffed to her own bed. She is given a week to prove her love for Claudio—or he will kill her.

Claudio, it turns out, is a man with nothing left to lose.

The Venus Trap tackles the emotional impact of divorce, the perils of modern dating and the age-old powers of lust and obsession.

Review:

I was recommended Louise Voss’ work by my best friend, Julie and also my friend and fellow author, Jane Issac, so with two such glowing reviews, I had to read Louise’s work. I was so glad I did. She’s a fantastic writer with a quirky sense of humour, which is something I always appreciate in books, regardless of their genre.

The story has a lot of flashbacks in, which I would typically find frustrating, but the concept worked very well here. From a writer’s perspective, The Venus Trap could be used as a class textbook to teach using flashbacks and how to plot for dramatic impact. The pace is steady, and although I did guess the ending, it wasn’t until about halfway through the book – which isn’t unusual for me, my mind is pretty dark and twisty, so I usually figure out the twist in the tale quite early on.

This book features online dating, which I must admit I attempt once in a while myself, and this book captures the sheer annoying oddness of that world. I’ve certainly had some simply soul-eroding encounters in the past!

Claudio wasn’t your usual villain, but his quiet craziness kind of made him even scarier. After all, someone coming at you with a butcher knife kind of have all their cards on the table. Someone you can’t get a read on, that’s the one you need to watch out for!

The front cover is good. It represents the story and has a flash of eye-catching colour.

Overall, I’d give The Venus Trap 4 out of 5 stars. Worth picking up – especially if your New Year’s resolution is to try online dating.

Find it on GoodReads here…

 

My Top 5 favourite TV series based on books.

One of my ambitions as an author is to have my work on screen; I mean who wouldn’t? So, as my work hasn’t been picked up by a lovely TV producer (yet) here’s my top 5 TV shows based on books.


10964Outlander:
I just binged watched this time travel romance series based on the books by Diana Gabaldon. Gritty and sometimes gruesome, this gem of a series sweeps the viewer into an amazing story filled with hunky highlanders, sadistic soldiers and with just a hint of witches and magic. My only gripe is that the heroine, Claire is not as strong as 301082she could be and makes a lot of fundamental mistakes that kind of annoyed me.

True Blood: Although not on your screens anymore, this vampire extravaganza is
definitely worth a watch. They took just enough liberties from the novels to make it interesting for readers and had some truly gorgeous vampires and rugged werewolves in there. Ended with a fizzle rather than a bang (just like the book series!) but hey, sometimes that happens.

13496Game of Thrones: I’m certainly not alone with this one! You really can’t ask for much more in one series: frosted zombies, dragons that are just as cute huge as they were when they were hatchlings, killer knights, mythical magic, and warring factions where there is both good and bad on every side. I’m so looking forward to the next season coming back in April, although we are now getting to the stage where the TV series will be overtaking the books, it will be interesting to see what will h30071appen here.

The Walking Dead: Based on some amazing graphic novels, the Walking Dead has me hooked on their undead and post-apocalyptic anarchy. There was a bit of a lull in the middle (around season 3), and if I’m honest, it almost lost me – but now I’m counting the days till the new season resumes in February. They have some great characters and don’t seem afraid to kill them off either! Edge of your seat stuff!

656War & Peace: Featured on the BBC here in the UK, I have a great feeling about this Tolstoy classic. Sweeping drama drenched with lavish settings, costumes and an amazing cast. It has the potential to take the viewer by the hand and lead them through a turbulent time in history and introduce a whole new generation to this masterpiece of literature.

 
Happy watching, and remember to let me know if you are watching any gems yourself. Nicx

Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager

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Synopsis:

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

“The Final Girls need you. . . . The Final Girls are tough, everything survivors should be. But the new threat is clever, ominous, even closer than you suspect. You are about to gasp. You might drop the book. You may have to look over your shoulder. But you must keep reading. This is the best book of 2017.” —Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author of Find Her

 

Review:

Great book. Can’t recommend it enough!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers, it sneaked in as the best book I read in 2016.

A twisty story that keeps you guessing and I just loved the subject matter of the ‘Final Girl’. I have long been a fan of the splatterpunk genre and the slasher films, and this concept fascinates me. Are there real life Final Girls out there? Yes, just Google it.

As an author myself, I appreciated the pace of the story and the subplots that all tied together; a real plotting feat by the author that I’d advise any writer to read and learn from, no matter what your genre.

The front cover is very eye-catching, love the pink flashes. Although I have discovered since that, there are two front covers out there, which I really can’t understand. I write, but I also work in marketing, so I truly think that branding is everything. One of my books has two different covers I feel that it can confuse people. Even when it comes to different countries, I still think you should pick one cover and stick to it – just my opinion.

I think this is going to be a big hit, if it isn’t, then there really is no literary justice in the world.

5 out 5 stars – you have to read this book when it comes out in June 2017!

In the meantime, check it out on Goodreads…

Happy New Year!


file7841341533535Happy New Year!

So, 2017 is here and let’s hope it’s going to be a good one. Although, it’s not all out of your hands. If you feel like you could have had a better 2016, achieved more, done more, been more, then, instead of feeling annoyed at yourself, turn that feeling around to making 2017 better.
I know, it’s easier said than done, right? Even I have felt like I’ve worked hard to achieve very little in 2016. It can be soul destroying and make you wonder why you bother at all, but you just need to remember that your life can turn around in just one event, one meeting or even one decision. You just need to keep trying till you get to that key moment.
As a writer, I know this more than anyone. It took me years to get published, and even now I still don’t feel like I’ve reached that goal to be a professional author yet. But I haven’t stopped trying, and I won’t. I’ll also continue to help other writers who want that same goal as me, guide them on their journeys (something I’ve done for over 6 years now) and give them the support that I wished I had had.

2723aea9e715263cbfa96f520a4168ff
So, the question that never really get answered in all those self-help books: How? How do you keep going even if you’re tired, depressed, feeling unappreciated or feeling like life is ignoring even your most basic needs? Unfortunately, I think that the answer is different for everyone. For me, I just need to push on regardless, do the whole British ‘stiff upper lip’ trick and hope that all my work will, someday, pay off. The one piece of advice that I can give you, right now, is just to get something done, to take that first step on whatever journey you need to take to get you to the destination if where you want to be. Write a ‘to do’ list and then start ticking those bad boys off. And just remember, a year from now, you’ll wish you had started that journey today.

Happy 2017 everyone – Remember to stop by here on my blog when you can and let me know how the year is treating you and how your journey is going. Nicx

3 things I love about Christmas, and 3 things I hate

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1) I love the opportunity to spend time with family and friends. It’s a great excuse to get people together and have a good catch-up. We all live very hectic lives, and this time of year we can take time out and have a festive cuppa and a good old chat.

 
2) Presents. I’ll say it again, presents! I know it’s a bit capitalist/ commercial, but I’m not above saying that I love gifts and also the chance to buy beautiful things for the important people in my life. I’m a bit of a shopaholic, and I take every gift as a challenge to buy something that I think that person will love, something that shows them that I listen to them and know them.

 
3) The promise of a new year. Christmas heralds a new year and a chance to feel like anything is possible. It wasn’t that long ago that such a time started my writing journey, got me published and saw me start a writers’ group that has helped others along the way too.

1) But I do hate Turkey, There, I said it. It’s dry and has a strong taste to it, but this time of year I’m made to eat it. I can usually choke it down if I smother it in oodles of cranberry sauce, but still, I wish a new meat would emerge as a traditional Christmas meal. Although a few years back my mum branched out for Christmas and bought a bird within a bird, within a bird which turned out to be a culinary sin against nature, so maybe I should be grateful for the white meat devil I know!

2) I can’t stand Christmas decorations. I know, bar-humbug! But they smell funny; they make rooms seem claustrophobic and manic (if not done correctly, and mostly they are not) Competing with neighbours as to who can have the most flashing lights dripping off your house that waste electricity and distract drivers is just crazy. Then add in the cost and time for putting all those tinsel-encrusted decorations up and taking them down… it’s exhausting. Now, I’m not against everything; I love a bit of bunting just as much as the next girl, but a little moderation can go a long way.

3) Christmas cards. I really hate being told what to do, and for years my family forced me to write Christmas cards. What a waste of time, paper, money and thought. I’d much rather see that person and buy theeventing_and_dog_fall_photos_118m a drink and have a proper chat than give them a card of one of four designs I bought in last year’s sale with a scrawled signature in. Yes, as an author I’m still buzzed when I get to sign a book, but having to write fifty cards at once is just wrist numbingly wrong. I always appreciate when someone gives me a card, and I respect other people’s belief in them, but instead of just a hurried pre-bought Christmas message, why not use them to invite that person round for some mulled wine or, if they are too far away, set up a Skype call.

And for no real reason, other than it’s Christmas, here’s a cute dog dressed as Santa!

Merry Christmas to all my readers, and to all a good blog. May your turkey be moist and everyone you love be near enough to hug. Nicx

A Tourist’s Halloween Guide to Bad Blood

g1510984England has a rich heritage and, especially in London, you’ll find it difficult to spit and not hit something centuries years old – BTW, you might get arrested for that, so do check around before letting rip with the salvia!

London is a busy city where there are too many people and far too many construction sites. Our Tube (Subway) is unnaturally warm, and our roads are naturally congested. But none of this matters in my YA horror novel, Bad Blood. It’s hard to care about temperature and traffic when you’re hip deep in snarling smelly zombies.

Bad Blood is told first person from a vampire’s point of view. Britannia is the very essence of Britain; she has protected it many times in the past, and now finds herself taking on that role again to save survivors of a fast-paced zombie outbreak that hits the UK. The first book happens mainly in London – so let’s take a tour of some Bad Blood hot spots:

The Statue of George IV, Trafalgar Square: erected in 1843, this bronze statue of King George IV astride his faithful steed looks out over the world famous Trafalgar Square. Used as higher ground by Britannia when she is sniffing out un-infected humans to feed on, this statue gives her the space and time she needs to locate her next meal.

The Natural History Museum: A beautiful, elaborately designed building established in 1881; filled with knowledge, dioramas and now zombies. Britannia has an epic struggle on her hands here, and not just with the hungry undead hordes that were given free admission!

Madame Tussauds: Originally set up by wax sculptor Marie Tussauds in 1884, there is more blank-eyed scary looking celebrities here than on any red carpet event. But Bad Blood takes you deeper into the bowels of this tourist attraction, delivering you a fast-paced confrontation in the Chambers of Horrors.

Double Decker Red Buses: The Red Double Decker bus is an iconic symbol of London and is used by the vampires and the human survivors to flee the city and also to indulge the vampire’s competitor natures!

Now you know the stops, why not jump onto the Bad Blood bus and let it take you sight-seeing through the zombie ravaged streets of London; the price of admission? Well, Britannia only asks for your blood…

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Author interview swap with J Keller Ford

jkellerford

Today, I have with me J Keller Ford, author of the Chronicles of Fallhollow series.

If you could have dinner with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?

OMGosh, I would so eat dinner with Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I adore seafood, and who wouldn’t love that spectacular view from the Nautilus while eating mammoth lobsters!

If your book was to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?

You know, I’ve actually given this a lot of thought and here’s what I have as of today. It could change at any minute. J

Katharine Hope as Queen Mysterie

David Wenham as Sir Trogsdill

Kate Winslet as Slavandria

Paul Rudd as Seyekrad

Craig Parker as King Gildore

Liam Hemsworth as David

Alexandra Daddario as Charlotte

Ian Somerhalder as Eric

If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?

I loved the Victorian era. I’d want to walk among the elites in Europe and would have loved to have been a friend/acquaintance of King Ludwig II. The gowns, the music. The castles. The palaces. The balls. Sigh.

What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?in-the-shadow-of-the-dragon-king-ebook-cover-2700x1800

Travel. See. Do. Experience.

So much of my life I’ve been very conservative, so mindful of what I should be, not what I wanted to be. I think if I could go back and do it all over, I would listen to my heart more. I would have traveled more, seen more, done more and experienced life without feeling so guilty for taking care of me.

If you were a supernatural creature, what would you be and why?

I think I’d like to be a tree/forest dryad. I could commune with fairies, imps, and all creatures, great and small. I would have the power to heal the land and nurture nature. It would be such a peaceful existence.

You can find me online at

Twitter:               https://twitter.com/jkellerford
Pinterest:           https://www.pinterest.com/jkellerford24/
blog:                    https://jennykellerford.wordpress.com/
website:              http://www.j-keller-ford.com/

 

Doing the zombie shuffle – Zombies in YA literature

img_0443_v2I find zombies scary – there I admit it. I always have done. And I can tell you why; we are just one mad scientist away from zombies becoming real. Zombies worry me, and movies aside, they are certainly not new to literature.

I read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at school. It’s only when you get into the nitty gritty of this book you realise it was one of the first ever zombie novels. The creature, albeit more sentient than your average ‘braaaains’ screeching shuffler, is a re-animated corpse. Considered a ‘flawed creation’ by Dr Frankenstein, the creature has to contend with some serious abandonment issues, loneliness (after all zombies are pack creatures) and some rather vengeful thoughts. All in all, the zombie in question doesn’t act much like the zombies we’re use to today.

Moving quickly through the years to Carrie Ryan’s Forrest of Hands & Teeth we find Mary, the protagonist, struggling to free herself from a predictable YA love triangle while avoiding the ‘Unconsercrated’. The name of the zombies in itself echoes the book’s theme of religion; but apart from that, they seem to lumber around the forest being said hands and teeth. The zombies provide only one author objective: they are the threat that seeks to harm the main characters. The only zombie character that comes to ‘life’ is the fast and slightly vengeful, Gabrielle – who seems to retain some of her former personality and is hell-bent on killing Mary for allowing her to die.

Darren Shan’s Zom B uses zombies to unite its characters. One of the themes of this book is racism and yob-like behaviour. Although by its title, it’s a zombie book, the shambling flesh-munching creatures serve as danger and a catalyst for character development. They unite the survivors – regardless of their misguided beliefs.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion did something extraordinary with zombies – he made them the romantic lead. The book is written the first person from R’s point of view. It was a bold move that paid off and put zombies in a different light altogether. After that, Lisa Habel’s Dearly Departed also took zombies firmly into the romance genre.

Now it would seem that zombies are not just evolving but contorting into a new type of ‘monster’. Maybe it would be more accurate to say they are going back to their gothic character-driven roots. Who’s to say that if Dr Frankenstein had given his monster a bride that it would have gone very differently for him, and his loved ones.

As a YA urban fantasy writer, I love zombies, and am, to a degree, guilty myself of simply inserting them into my story as a wall of rotting flesh that relentlessly rolls towards my heroes – I did, though, introduce a new dynamic in my series, Battle of the Undead. It’s vampires VS zombies. So what happens when a vampire becomes infected? A Vambie or a Zompire? Find out now with the first in the series, Bad Blood:

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