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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