Come Back For Me Review: Summer’s Contender For Most Enticing Plot

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Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts over the past week, I’ve been on a very exciting work trip to the beautiful city of Dubai!

Whilst I was out there I took one of the ever-growing stack of books that I still haven’t got round to reading to keep me occupied during my long waits at the airport. As I wanted something I knew I would enjoy I selected Heidi Perks’ latest novel, Come Back For Me. 

Having already read and reviewed her previous novel, Now You See Her, I was certain that I would enjoy her latest offering, and I wasn’t wrong.

Come Back For Me tells the story of therapist Stella who, as a young child, fled with her family in the middle of the night from their home on a remote island off the coast of Dorset (my home county and the best place in the world, fact). A fictional place named Evergreen, Stella’s childhood memories show an idyllic space where her family gambolled and played happily and freely.

Now living in Winchester, Stella is a family counsellor hoping to support other families that have been through trauma such as her own, without fully understanding or acknowledging the seismic events that led to the breakdown of her own family all those years ago.

That is until one day a news item appears announcing that a body has been found on Evergreen, at the site of Stella’s beloved former family home. She is shocked to discover that there might be more to her past than meets the eye, and as such she sets out on a quest to find out the truth about what drove her family to flee.

Perks is a skilful and brisk storyteller, and as a result Come Back For Me is a fast-paced thriller that readers will hardly be able to stop reading. Every time I felt I could put a bookmark in and go do something for a bit I found myself driven further into the narrative by the gripping plot and the incredible sense of foreboding that haunts every aspect of the narrative, from Stella’s prickly sister Bonnie and haunted brother Danny through to the enticement of her trip back to Evergreen, which seeps out of the pages and makes the reader almost urge her on to go and check it out.

So in all, if you’re looking for a tantalising and thrilling tale to keep you occupied this summer, I can recommend nothing better than Come Back For Me. Trust me when I say that you won’t be able to put it down or forget it in a hurry.

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Agatha Raisin Is Great On TV: Why The Fuck Do The Books Suck?

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I’d not heard of Agatha Raisin before it was televised, and I was keen to find out more about this modern version of what appeared to be Golden Age crime plots. When the TV series came out I found myself enjoying it immensely: Matthew Horne as her former assistant turned best friend is a particular pleasure.

So a few weeks ago, when I spotted some of the books in the local Oxfam, I was keen to check them out and see if they were as good. I was expecting a cross between Miss Marple and Kerry Greenwood’s amazing Phryne Fisher.

They’re really not.

I was completely taken aback by how god-awful the books were. I’ve tried a few of them, and I’ve been completely unable to get through them. I’m not usually willing to give up on a book, but these are so boring and poorly written that I can’t get through them.

The problem is, they’re just not very engaging. The Agatha Raisin of the books is a dry, dull old spinster and a complete sad act; the Agatha Raisin of the TV series is a vivacious, charming and hilarious character. The peripheral characters in the TV adaptation are fully rounded characters with personalities; in the books there are so many with so few lines each that they are just there to drive the plot forward.

Setting-wise, author M.C. Beaton a.k.a. Marion Chesney does very little beyond tawdry stereotypes of village life, making her version of Carsley boring and uninspiring, whereas on TV it comes to life as an additional character.

There’s a ton of these books, but unlike some prolific writers such as Stephen King or Peter James, these books have been written in a rush to a poorly constructed formula.

The initial murders often happen mere pages into the books, meaning the reader hasn’t had time to know or care about the premise or character. Also, information is dumped at random into the novels in a very haphazard way, for example when a client, in the middle of an unrelated conversation, asks Agatha in Agatha Raisin And The Blood Of An Englishman, if she has a license for her detection agency, all so the author can drop in the information that the laws have now changed and, as such, she now needs one.

The protagonist herself is a very strange character; she’s not even a very good detective. Whilst many of the world’s greatest fictional detectives have been mavericks with unusual methods, Agatha Raisin is downright rude, and often scares off witnesses or suspects, and has to send her associates to interview them because she’s been so nasty to them that they won’t speak to her anymore.

These ‘associates’, who either work at her detective agency or are merely nosy friends of the protagonists, are one-dimensional characters with dull dialogue who are defined by their appearances and relationships to Agatha. For example, one of the members of the detection agency is described almost exclusively as ‘the pretty assistant’ and not allowed to go on assignments where there are men that Agatha fancies. These tawdry stereotypes of women in positions of power and the petty jealousies that none of them ever really have are yet another example of how these truly dreadful books let the reader down and are completely unrealistic.

Much like the Grantchester stories, I was disappointed with reading the book version of a TV show I’ve been enjoying for some months now. Whilst often the TV show is worse than the books, owing to the dumbing down of plots, specifically mysteries, for a watching audience, in this case the books are poorly created while the formula translates well to the screen.

In all, if you want to read something great that’s a little formulaic and what might be considered easy reading, go for something better than this. You deserve it.

Killing Eve Season Two: Even Better Than The First!

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Just in case you’ve been living in a cave or something, there’s a new season of the brilliant Killing Eve out, with all eight episodes available to stream on the BBC iPlayer.

Although technically a spy show, the first series did not dwell on this aspect of the narrative, instead focusing on the relationship between Sandra Oh’s Eve, an MI6 Agent, and Jodie Comer’s serial killer Villanelle.

In this latest season, the spying really coming into the fore, with Fiona Shaw getting a much larger role (thankfully!) and delivering both laughs and shocks. I’ve always been a bit annoyed by spy novels or shows that try to bring in too much of a human element to their narratives, as if plot and spying aren’t as relevant or interesting.

Season two offers both a closer look at this, frankly unhinged relationship and the role MI6 plays in tracking down criminals and security threats. Villanelle is both brilliantly witty and expertly playing the system as she overcomes her dramatic stabbing from the end of season one and enters the real fray, working against the organisation that employed her previously.

Later episodes show the real power of MI6, and any Fiona Shaw fans will be impressed by her exquisite performance. She offers her lines with relish and there’s something uniquely powerful about her, even when she’s in vulnerable positions.

As well as being a great thriller, Killing Eve is also deeply feminist, and it’s a real pleasure to be able to see women in positions of real power, working alongside men and being respected. Eve and Carolyn are not in their roles because of diversity: they are there because they are bloody good at their jobs, and that’s refreshing, even in 2019.

Personally, I binge watched the entire second season in one day pretty much as soon as it came out, but if, unlike me, you have an actual life and don’t want to waste your precious free time on a show that sucks, please, take it from me, this one really doesn’t.

At the end of the day, Killing Eve has everything you could possibly want from a spy thriller: death, international terrorists, security services, guns, sex, violence, the lot and more. Throw in some truly fabulous fashion, great writing and beautiful locations and you something genuinely spectacular.

Physical Books Won’t Die: Passing Then On Is Too Much Fun!

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Saturday is my day to do chores, and one of those involves going to town to do a shop and pick up anything I need.

As I’m due to go a short break shortly, while I was trudging around I decided to head into some of my favourite charity shops to have a look for books I want to take with me.

After all, I love reading and spend most of my time reading while I travel. As I was browsing the shelves I realised that some of the books on there were ones I’d previously donated to help clear my own shelves.

It’s a lovely feeling, knowing my old favourites (and some I couldn’t wait be shot of) will now be not only raising money for good causes, but also brightening up someone else’s personal library.

That’s why, with all this talk that digital media and eBooks should’ve put the kibosh on printed books, I know in my heart that they never will. Digital files aren’t nearly as fun as actual paper books, and you can’t pass them on in the same way.

Imagine trying to gift wrap a eBook, whereas it’s always nice to have an actual book wrapped up in shiny paper! As for shopping for books, it’s great to go rummaging through a second-hand bookstall on a market or burrowing about in charity shops. It’s not really the same looting through an online store of floating book covers only to download your chosen item in exchange for Bitcoins or whatever it you pay with these days.

Also, you can’t really get second hand online books. Once you’ve got it, it’s yours; if you don’t want it you just delete it. You can pass it on to someone else, but you’d still have your digital copy. Whereas with books, there’s something satisfying about handing an old favourite on to a friend and introducing them to something you’ve come to enjoy.

In all, as I’ve said before, I really don’t think eBooks and online readers will ever replace the joy of actually reading a physical book, and for those who haven’t yet experienced the sheer joy of passing on a book to a new reader you really should try it. It’s the greatest high book enthusiasts can get without stimulants, and I’d fully recommend you pass your old faves on to friends or drop off some to a charity shop. Not only does this make you feel good, but it helps others too, and that’s always a good thing!

Proximity Review: A Tantalising Thriller About The Terrors of Technology

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Personally, I’ve long thought that Jem Tugwell was an awesome writer. I interviewed him previously and was so taken by his idea I requested an early view of his at-the-time unfinished novel, Proximity.

The novel’s plot was one of such a uniquely original and fascinating idea that I just knew it would be a hit. Jem is a skilled writer and I could see at once that this was a truly creative, original idea that was in capable hands.

The premise is a simple one: in the future, people are embedded with technology that tracks where they are and what they do. As such, crimes are pretty much gone, as anything that happens can be tracked and the culprits apprehended.

In Proximity, everyone is accountable for their actions, and every aspect of their lives, from the food they consume through to the transport they take, is logged and controlled in the interested of benefiting society as a whole. After all, with fewer substance abuse, weight and exercise based health issues and less crime, costs will be reduced for the taxpayer, which is at least how Jem’s fictional society justifies its innovative new approach to government.

As a result, civil liberty is sacrificed for the good of society, as everyone’s thoughts and feelings are downloaded onto software embedded in their minds. Jem worked for more than two decades in the software development market, but he manages to perfectly combine expert technical insight with great storytelling to create a book that is equally fascinating and accessible.

Soon into the novel this causes trouble, with a crime coming in under the radar and forcing the now pretty much superfluous police force to put their thinking caps on. When things get personal and more murders are committed, the team is left to uncover the truth behind who could’ve both committed the crimes and tampered with the technology to cover it up.

Throughout the novel, the author’s eye for detail and exceptional characterisation drive readers towards the nail-biting conclusion. Everything, from the tightly wound plot to the tense dialogue, is designed to keep the reader hooked, and it works. You won’t be able to put Proximity down, and you’ll be happy about it.

So, in conclusion, when Proximity becomes the bestseller it deserves to be and Jem Tugwell is the name everyone’s talking about, just remember, you heard it here first.

Susan Sage Interview: “My favorite genre is probably Magic Realism.”

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Poet and Author Susan Sage provides me with an overview of her work and how it’s been influenced by a diverse range of writers.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style.

My writing style has been greatly influenced by authors/poets I’ve enjoyed reading over many years. Due to my love of poetry, specifically contemporary, I’ve always enjoyed imagery – especially dreamlike imagery. My descriptions aren’t particularly lengthy, but they are often visual. Never was a big Hemingway fan, but I suppose I’ve been influenced by his writing style.

Authors like Zora Neale Hurston/Toni Morrison/William Faulkner are brilliant with voice, and have affected me most. I doubt whether you can see their influence in my writing, but I’m in awe of what incredible masters of the craft they all are. If you’re referring more to writing style in regards to genre, I don’t have a particular genre that I write in, though I especially enjoy character-driven writing, regardless of whether a novel’s a fantasy, mystery, or other. I’m currently working on a draft that I’m hoping is multi-genre. My favorite genre is probably Magic Realism.

What is your background in writing and how did you get in to writing professionally?

I have an undergraduate degree in English from Wayne State University in Detroit and have taken several graduate English classes from the University of Michigan-Flint. I took several creative writing classes when I was an undergraduate. Also, I’ve been an active member of a writing group for several years. I’ve taught creative writing to all ages of students and have been an editor of a student creative writing magazine. While I write fiction and some poetry, I’ve always worked, too. Since I don’t spend most of my day writing, I’m certainly not as professional as many.

Tell me about your books. What do you believe draws your readers to your work?

I’ve published two books. My first book, Insominy, is a contemporary fantasy. It was self-published back in 2010. I was clueless about how to promote it, and to be fair, there weren’t as many online opportunities. Local promotion drew readers interested in fantasy. A Mentor and Her Muse, published by a traditional publisher, Open Books, has definitely sold more copies than my first. It’s classified as both psychological and women’s fiction, so I guess readers, particularly women, who are interested in psychological fiction, are drawn to it. Two of the three main characters are writers, so it has a literary bent, as well, so female authors might be the ones most drawn to it.

When choosing books to read, what style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

Interesting question because I think it’s true that we do write what we tend to enjoy reading! I’d have to say, I most enjoy psychological fiction and also some fantasy and science fiction. I’m interested in writing and reading novels that make social statements, as seen in the work of Margaret Atwood or George Orwell. There are too many present day novelists to list, though my among my favorites from the 19th Century include Tolstoy, Proust, and Dickens. I’m a fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez due to his use of Magic Realism. I keep meaning to re-read One Hundred Years of Solitude.

If you could collaborate with any person, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

It would have to be Margaret Atwood because of her superb imagination. Also, she seems like she’d be easy going and would have the right amount of humor to make a collaborative project possible.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I’m currently working on a draft of a novel, which is proving to be an interesting challenge, not only because it’s multi genre, but also because it’s main character is a guy – an older guy. I’ve never written from a male perspective before except in a few short stories. It’s tentatively entitled The Ringo Tales and it’s basically about a near End Times community coming together in search of Ringo, a lost golden retriever.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?

Just recently, I began enjoying books by several authors I’m acquainted with on Twitter. Ones I high recommend include: Kevin Ansbro, Susan Rooke, C.A. Asbrey, Milana Marsenich, Iris Yang, and Mark Ozeroff. There are many others whose works I’m curious about but haven’t yet read. This group includes Gemma Lawrence, Ellie Douglas, Karl Holton, Millie Thom, and M. Ainihi. There are many others, as well!

Anything you’d like to add?

Thanks SO much for giving me this opportunity! I’m looking forward to reading your blog.

Huge thanks to Susan for answering my questions, it’s been a pleasure.

 

 

 

The Savage Shore Review: An Enchanting and Gripping Thriller

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Having previously participated in David Hewson’s blog tour in which I interviewed him about his work, I felt it was only right that I also review his latest novel, The Savage Shore, and give you my honest thoughts on the book.

It’s one of the early publications of a new publishing imprint, Black Thorn Books, and is part of Hewson’s longstanding Nic Costa series about the search for the truth in the heart of Italy.

Throughout Hewson’s series, which spans nearly ten books and is back after a break of a decade, Costa and his team have explored the history, culture and politics of Italy in search of the criminals behind a string of diabolical crimes.

In this latest incarnation, The Savage Shore, Costa has to infiltrate a ruthless and deadly mafia organisation with the help of a turncoat witness who may very well have his own agenda. In an unfamiliar location with a fake identity, Costa is surrounded by enemies and in grave danger.

The novel has that perfect blend of pace; fast, but with enough time to describe the scenery and evoke a sense of setting for the reader. Hewson’s work has the advantage of being set in the beautiful and evocative Italy, rather than somewhere grim and dank, like Scunthorpe, but the author’s exquisite sense of timing and sumptuous descriptions shine through none the less.

With everything from intrigue and lies through to murder and threats on the table, this ingenious thriller grips the reader from the beginning and draws them in to the elite yet frightening world of organised crime in which Costa now finds himself operating as he works with the head of a notoriously brutal branch of the mafia to unravel the organisation from the inside.

In short, this is a really concise, ingenuous thriller that leaves no doubt in my mind that Black Thorn Books has bloody good taste.