Book Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Synopsis:

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

My Review:

I enjoyed The Girl on the Train; it was the epitome of the unreliable narrator and an incredibly twisty story that surprised me; so I was looking forward to Into the Water. When I read the description, I though, oooh this sounds good. But when I started reading it, I found the amount of point of views incredibly confusing. Maybe I just don’t have the attention span to keep up, but in my opinion, if its a book that’s too long to read in one sitting (which this is) that many POVS just leaves the reader frustrated that they can’t keep the story straight. I had to take notes to keep the events straight, which ultimately marred my reading enjoyment and kept bringing me out of the story.

From a writer’s perspective, I applaud the author for weaving an intricate tale that comes together in the end, but I do wonder how many readers will even get to that payoff point. Also, by continually skipping character POV it becomes increasingly difficult to have any empathy for the characters involved, and when it comes to any book (especially a thriller where bad things inevitably happen), the reader needs to feel for the character to go on that emotional journey with them. I did find myself not giving a fig about the arguably large cast of protagonists.

The front cover is good enough, although I’,m pretty sure that if it hadn’t had had ‘By the author of The Girl on Train’ on the front, it perhaps wouldn’t have attracted so much attention.

Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars; As an author, I truly believe in pushing literary boundaries and challenging readers, but Into the Water was just a little too much for me.

Find the book on Goodreads…

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Interview with Lucy English

Tell us about your publishing journey…

I chose to self-publish because I love the democracy of it. Technology has given us so many avenues to share creativity that may never have made it out into the world in the past. My approach to life is that I’ll work my hardest to put good work into the world.  I know it won’t be perfect, but I need to push past the vulnerability involved because I have one lifetime and when I die I want to be able to say “I tried really hard to make contributions that were good for the world.” Technology allows all of us to put our best thoughts and creations out to connect and share with others without gatekeepers.  I’ve found fantastic editors who totally get the mission behind what I write. I cherish my ability to keep my work close to my heart and to connect with readers. I also like being able to keep prices low because this is more about celebrating the heroism of social service professionals than about profit.

What do you love about being an author?

What I love most is the very stuff that makes me seem crazy.  I love when the story tells itself.  I started writing my second book, Penny Legend, without knowing who the murderer was. When I found out I was completely surprised and frankly devastated.  But I’d learned that when the story tells itself, I don’t get to change it (I tried that and ended up wasting time and needing to revert back to how the story wanted to be). When I learned the identity of the murderer in Penny Legend, it totally messed up the structure I thought the book should have because we found out the murderer too early for a traditional mystery.  But the story had its own way of carrying on the intrigue and momentum and it worked!  Every book has some of that magic where the story seems to come from some other place.

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

I would have George’s Bank Sea Scallops with Artichoke Puree, Yellowfoot Chanterelles, and Fennel Pollen at Bristol at the Boston Four Seasons with Robert B. Parker’s character Spenser.  And he would happen to be single.

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

Amy Adams would be a great Penny Wade.  If she was able to communicate with those aliens in Arrival, she could do okay with some of Penny’s more difficult social work clients.

In Girl Ghosted, your protagonist has an unfortunate experience with online dating, have you ever tried online dating?

Oh, yes. Yes I have.  Some of Penny’s experiences are inspired by my own, others are inspired by stories from my friends.  Some are purely imagined.  I’ll never reveal which are which!  It can be harrowing and it can be wonderful.  I have several close male friends that started out as online dates.  No happily ever after yet….

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

I like modern comforts, so I hesitate to go back very far.  This would not be comfortable, but I’d like to travel South America in the 1950’s with Che Guevera.  Crazy to say especially since I dislike motorcycles, having been badly injured on one.  You didn’t say I needed a rational answer though.

What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?

Actually, it’s in Girl Ghosted. Here’s part of a scene where Penny is talking to her mentor about her failures in love:

“You know,” I said, “when I date a guy who meets some very basic qualifications, I feel like he should be good enough. Well, not only that, but friends, and my dead parents in my head, say ‘What’s wrong with him? He’s smart and handsome and has a good job.’ Maybe he even loves me, and I feel like that should be enough. You’re telling me it’s not.”

“Of course I am!” Nathan’s eyebrows went up and he leaned even more toward me, resting his forearms on his knees. “Do you really want to merge your life with someone who doesn’t deeply see and respect your approach to life? He has to really get why you do this very hard, intense, and dangerous job—the deep reasons you do this. And he has to have his own path where he’s developing things important to him, in himself, in his contribution to the world in this lifetime.”

I felt tears prick behind my eyes. It seemed so obvious when he said it, but also so impossible.

“People get divorced all the time because the basic criteria you stated aren’t enough. They’re enough for a while, especially coupled with lust, but they aren’t enough in the long term.”

“What are the chances of me finding him though?”

“There isn’t one him. Let go of that. You aren’t looking for a particular person so much as a particular relationship.”

“Huh?”

“There is more than one man who will be interested in and capable of having a healthy relationship with you. As you interact with men, remember how you want to be treated and how you want to enjoy a partner. It’s about finding someone who relates to you the way you want to relate.”

“Oh my God,” I said, suddenly glimpsing the shift of perspective he was suggesting. “I keep meeting men who I think are great because I like things about them that are really about them as a man and not about the way they relate to me. Then I hope they’ll learn to have the relationship I want because I like their looks, masculinity, intelligence or whatever.”

“What if you started with evaluating a man’s ability to see and love you for who you are, to communicate well, to practice give-and-take. If he doesn’t get gold stars on those, you move on, no matter how good-looking or otherwise compelling he is.”

“I’m looking for a particular relationship, not a specific man.”

“That’s right. In the end, of course, he’ll be a specific man, but you have to look for him differently than you think. If you focus first on how he relates to you, you’ll rule out bad ones sooner. You’ll stop getting stuck in thinking he’s so perfect despite his lack of relationship skills.”

What research did you do for Girl Ghosted?

I went on online dating sites to gather some of the typical stuff people put in profiles (nine out of ten men use the words “laid back” within their first two sentences), and examples of user names. I pulled some lines from messages men had sent me.  I did research on the MA Department of Children and Families regarding procedures for assigning and assessing child welfare cases. I researched crypto-currencies because one of the characters trades in them and it’s an interesting and intriguing world, about which many of us are unaware. I did a bit of research on sailing, but can’t say much about that without spoiling.

Where do you write best? 

I write well either sitting on my bed or in a little office I have in the back yard.  Sometimes I write onsite in Boston locations, but usually that’s more the place descriptions rather than dialogue or plot. I need to be in a quiet place write the story because I go into the world to see what’s happening.

What was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it?

Oh my gosh.  I just re-read a Nancy Drew mystery—The Mystery of the Old Clock.  When I was a kid I adored Nancy Drew. I read every single one over the course of a summer. That was my start into mysteries. I was excited for the nostalgia of summers in Michigan reading Nancy Drew, but I hated it!  It was terrible!  I feel like I’ll be struck by lightning for saying that so I’m gonna stop now.

If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why?

I’m working on a middle grades magical realism series.  That’s fun. I’ve also thought about historical fiction because I love researching and being inspired by historical events.

Where can fans find you online?

http://www.pennywademysteries.com

and on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/pennywademysteries/

If readers want to join my launch team and get a free advanced Kindle copy of Girl Ghosted in return for posting an honest review, they can join the Girl Ghosted Launch team on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/416247958759509/

Book Review: The Magpies by Mark Edwards

Synopsis:

When Jamie and Kirsty move into their first home together they are full of optimism. The future, in which they plan to get married and start a family, is bright. The other residents of their building seem friendly too: the horror writer and the middle-aged herbalist who live upstairs, and the Newtons, a married couple who welcome them to the building with open arms.

At first, the two couples get on well. But then strange things start to happen. Dead rats are left on their doorstep. They hear disturbing noises, and much worse, in the night. After Jamie’s best friend is injured in a horrific accident, Jamie and Kirsty find themselves targeted by a campaign of terror.

As Jamie and Kirsty are driven to the edge of despair, Jamie vows to fight back – but he has no idea what he is really up against…

THE MAGPIES is a terrifying psychological thriller in which the monsters are not vampires or demons but the people we live next door to. It is a nightmare that could happen to anyone.

My Review:

I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers recently and have a particular liking for Mark Edwards as an author. He writes very realistic thrillers, things that could really happen and horrors that could befall just about anyone. The Magpies is no different. Nuisance neighbours, we’ve all had them, this story could happen to any one one of us, so perhaps this should be more of a life survival guide, rather than a work of fiction!

I sometimes find it hard to review thrillers in general, as I don’t want reveal twists and expose too much of the plot and ruin another reader’s experience, so I’ll just say: READ THIS BOOK.

From a writer’s point of view, the way the story evolves is a perfect example of suspense fiction; it starts with small incidents that could be easily dismissed and quickly ascends to the types of situations that seriously call for action. The story builds beautifully, and before you know it, you’re invested in the protagonists and can’t put the book down. Any writer looking for a great example of ho to build tension into a story should read this book.

The front cover does let the book down a little, I’m not sure it particularly represents the story as it’s set more in a city than in the country, and I do know how important book covers are in the commercial world of books. It is also similar to other books by the same author so could be easily mistaken for the wrong book.

Overall I’d give The Magpies 4 out of 5 stars – a must read for thriller writers and readers alike.

The Magpies on Goodreads

Book Review: Follow You Home by Mark Edwards

Synopsis:

It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, a final adventure before settling down.

After a perfect start, Daniel and Laura’s travels end abruptly when they are thrown off a night train in the middle of nowhere. To find their way back to civilisation, they must hike along the tracks through a forest…a haunting journey that ends in unimaginable terror.

Back in London, Daniel and Laura vow never to talk about what they saw that night. But as they try to fit back into their old lives, it becomes clear that their nightmare is just beginning…

Follow You Home is a chilling tale of secrets, lies and deadly consequences from the author of #1 bestsellers The Magpies and Because She Loves Me.

My Review:

This book was another one that grabbed me from the outset. The author cleverly ties the past with the present throughout the story to keep you guessing and, of course, to keep you on the edge of your seat. It is one of those stories that, although could seem far-fetched, is so rooted in reality with real and believable characters, that I could honestly believe that something like this could happen. Again, I don’t want to go into too many details here; I don’t want to reveal the plot or ruin the ending. You’ll just have to read it to see what I mean.

From a writer’s perspective, there is clearly an enticing incident that happens in the past, it’s the catalyst that sets the story of the book in motion. It refers to a lot, and you don’t get to know what it is until near the end of the book. This, in my opinion, was a risk. By keeping a the reader guessing you can end up disappointing them, as those with a dark mind (like myself) could be imagining something much worse than what actually happened. As it turned out, the incident was pretty awful, so fortunately met with my twisted expectations.

The front cover is atmospheric, but I’m unsure as to what scene in the book it’s representing, I think a cover that has something more obviously related to the book would serve it better.

Overall I’d give It Follows You Home 4 out of 5 stars. Well written and thoroughly enjoyable.

Follow You Home on GoodReads

Killing Cupid by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards

10958968Synopsis

When Alex Parkinson joins a creative writing class, he soon realises that he and his tutor, Siobhan McGowan, are meant to be together. Alex will do anything to be with her. Like buying her designer clothes and lingerie…with her own credit card. Like breaking into her house and reading her diary. Like threatening her ex-boyfriend – and watching his love rival plummet from a rooftop.

But when Alex finally admits defeat and seeks solace elsewhere, Siobhan decides to take revenge. How dare he lose interest in her? He picked the wrong woman to stalk then just back off! As their lives begin to unravel and the past closes in, Alex and Siobhan embark on a collision course that threatens to destroy both themselves and everyone around them…

Optioned by BBC TV for a two-part drama, KILLING CUPID is a dark, twisted psychological thriller that examines what happens when two people who are unlucky in love meet their soulmate – but still manage to get everything wrong. Filled with suspense and dark laughter, and with a unique twist at its conclusion, KILLING CUPID is written in alternating chapters, showing the male and female viewpoints, by renowned author LOUISE VOSS and newcomer MARK EDWARDS.

“I’ve just finished reading this and really enjoyed it: it’s a stalker novel with a twist and an unexpected lightness of touch. You may think the plot will take a predictable course but it doesn’t. The creation of voice and the wit of the observations create immediacy and verve.” LORNA FERGUSSON, Author of The Chase.

My Review:

This book was another recommendation. I run a writers’ group in my home town and when my friend read this book she said, ‘You have to read this!’ Now, I don’t think I have any stalkers in my group (if I do, they’re playing their cards pretty close to their chest) but the concept was still incredibly similar to me as a person; I’m an author, I run a writer’s group, I’m single – although I hasten to add, I’m far too lazy to act out on any violent tendencies! LOL.

I must admit at the time, I didn’t read the Goodreads profile, only the back of the book, so I was quite shocked to see pretty much nearly the whole plot there, I really enjoyed the twists and turns of Killing Cupid, and if I’d have read about it on Goodreads first, I perhaps wouldn’t have liked it so much.

From a writer’s perspective, the expertise that both authors use to tell the characters’ stories is without fault. It’s a real ‘he said, she said’. I’m unsure as to whether I could write a story with another author, but it is something that I’d love to try in the future. I enjoyed both writer”s styles so much that I have started reading their own books too.

The front cover is great. Very evocative yet simple.

I noticed in the description that this has been optioned for TV, which it thoroughly deserves. I just the hope the authors have control over what happens to their story, so it stays as faithful to the book as possible.

Overall, 4 out of 5 stars. Whether you are a writer or not, you should read this book.

 

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…

 

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…

Interview with Judy Penz Sheluk

IMG_4063Tell us about your publishing journey… 

I’ve blogged extensively about this on my website, http://www.judypenzsheluk.com. My best suggestion is to go to archives, Select: One Writer’s Journey, and then the subhead, “My Publishing Journey.” It’s an unvarnished look into my experience so far, blemishes, bumps in the road, and all.

What do you love about being an author?

I love being able to create stories from nothing but my imagination. I love doing research. I love seeing my random thoughts turn sentences, paragraphs, pages and chapters. Erica Jong said it best, “When I sit down at my writing desk, time seems to vanish. I think it’s a wonderful way to spend one’s life.”

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

I’d love to eat at Rosie’s with Kinsey Millhone from Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Mysteries. We’d have white wine and whatever Rosie told us we had to eat. 

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

I was just asked this question at a book club meeting (the group had picked The Hanged Man’s Noose as their September read, and I agreed to visit with them—had a blast). Anyway, I told the group that I really had no idea. I have images of the characters in my head, of course (for example, Garrett Stonehaven is a 40ish Chris Noth), but I don’t have every role in my head cast as a real-life actor. Someone in the group replied, “But then what if they cast an actor you don’t like.” To which I responded, “My book as a movie, are you kidding me? Where do I sign?” 

Vampires – do you prefer them as sexy leads or blood hungry monsters? 

Sexy leads, absolutely. 

 

 What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner? 

Agatha Christie said, “Write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” It’s another way of saying, “don’t wait for the muse to show up, but be there when it does.” I expect I spent a fair bit of my life waiting for the muse to show up without making any effort to invite her in.

 

Where do you write best? 

In my home office, on my iMac. My walls are painted Philipsburg Blue, a comforting and creative color (thank you Benjamin Moore!). I work best while listening to talk radio in the background (Newstalk 1010 Toronto and Talk 640 Toronto). I can’t imagine writing in a coffee shop! 

Cover -WEACWhat was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it? 

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. It was one of the finest books I have ever read. The storytelling is inspired, the characters fully drawn and the richness of the descriptions reminded me a bit of In Cold Blood, which I’ve always considered a masterpiece. 

If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why? 

Something comforting and connectable, and by that I don’t mean a self-help book. For example, I read Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain shortly after we had to put our 12 ½ year old Golden Retriever, Copper, down. The ending of that book was so comforting to me, but the entire book was filled with moments like that.

Where can fans find you online?

You can find me on my website, http://www.judypenzsheluk.com. My blog covers the life of a writer, from my perspective, and I also interview other authors, as well as publishers. I’m on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JudyPenzSheluk, Twitter is @JudyPenzSheluk, and Pinterest is http://www.pinterest.com/judypenzsheluk

 

The Hanged Man’s Noose (July 2015) is available at all the usual suspects, including Amazon (http://authl.it/3jg) and directly from the publisher, http://www.barkingrainpress.org, where you can read the first four chapters free. http://www.barkingrainpress.org/dd-product/hanged-mans-noose/

Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime (Carrick Publishing, Nov. 14), The Whole She-Bang 2 (Toronto Sisters in Crime, Nov. 14), and in the Short Fiction Mystery Society’s first crime fiction anthology, Flash and Bang (Untreed Reads, Oct. 15). Find them all at amazon.com/author/judypenzsheluk

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