Sunday, 25 June 2017

#OneLittleMistake #EmmaCurtis #Review

One Little Mistake: The gripping eBook bestseller

One little lie. One little secret. One little mistake could destroy her world. 

Vicky Seagrave is blessed: three beautiful children, a successful, doting husband, great friends and a job she loves. She should be perfectly happy.

When she risks everything she holds dear on a whim, there's only person she trusts enough to turn to.

But Vicky is about to learn that one mistake is all it takes; that if you're careless with those you love, you don't deserve to keep them . . . 

This was a very gripping read. Just as the title says, this novel is about one little mistake; one moment, one decision, one risk, one lie and from that, Vicky's life spirals out of control. One mistake turns in to another, a bigger lie, a web of deceit and cover ups, an uncovering of tensions that lurk beneath - hidden before and now rising to the surface.

It's debatable just how little Vicky's one mistake is. Popping out of the house for a few moments on a whim -to chase a dream, or possibly feed a minor obsession which has sprung from the need to 'fix' her home life or 'have it all' - Vicky leaves her baby Josh alone in the house so she can quickly view a new property that's just come on the market. She's only going around the corner. She's literally going to be ten minutes. It's the middle of the day. He's asleep in his cot. He'll sleep for at least an hour. He'll never know. No one will ever know. It'll be easier than taking him around to view the house later - later when a stream of other couples have viewed it and maybe put in an offer..... I'm sure there's not a mother out there who hasn't fleetingly had this same thought or been momentarily tormented by this choice. But it's only ever stayed a thought, an idea that's quickly dismissed. A choice that isn't actually a choice. 

But what happens if you do actually act on this idea? 

One little mistake. The worst mistake of Vicky's life. When she returns home she disturbs a man in the middle of a burglary. He has Josh. After a fight and a desperate attempt to save Josh, the man pushes his way past Vicky and leaves - Vicky has saved Josh but she also knows her 'little mistake' has cost her the happiness, safety and security of her family. Her first thoughts when she sees Amber, her best friend, appearing at the house to catch enough of the scene to realise exactly what has happened, reveal that Vicky knows just what this mistake has cost her:

"My relief at seeing her is tempered by shame. I hold her gaze and plead silently with her. Please don't judge me." 

But surely Amber, her best friend, is the best person to have seen what she has seen? Surely her best friend will help protect her from the police, her husband, any damaging repercussions? If any one is going to be part of the secret and make sure it becomes a mistake quickly buried in the past and forgotten about, if anyone has to know what she did, surely it should be her best friend who she can trust, rely on, depend on and lean on? Surely.......

Even though Josh is safe, I felt very conflicted. And judgmental. Perhaps this conflict develops further because of the way the girls then concoct a story to protect Vicky and hide the truth. Vicky made an 'impulsive decision' and she can't deny the ramifications. Even when she acknowledges her 'compulsive behaviour' and explains the pressure she's been under as a mother with a young, demanding family, I found that even though I can relate to these feelings, I couldn't really sympathise with her.  And this intrigued me. Curtis has given me a protagonist with whom I can't really claim to 'like' but I wanted to read on to see how the situation might unfold. This is a situation I could relate to, could see how it happened and Curtis has tapped into that great question of "what if?" 

Curtis then brings in the point of view of Amber. At the beginning I found the switching between Amber's third person narrative and Vicky's first person narrative a little confusing as the switches are not separated by chapters or markings, but introducing her voice early on helps to really raise the tension and the stakes once the incident of the opening chapters has taken place. Amber's voice offers not only a way of challenging Vicky but also sheds a different light on her character and gives Curtis a chance to show us more about what is going on. 

Amber's situation is very different from Vicky's. She has no children and therefore her reaction to Vicky's decisions is different. She would "never leave a child on its own". From the outset the reader realises that Amber presents one side of herself to Vicky  - generally as a supportive, kind, caring friend - yet internally she feels very differently towards her. This is incredibly intriguing as it makes the whole situation more vulnerable and introduces an exciting sense of threat. 

"Vicky is so careless of other people's feelings. If she places so little value on her husband, then she doesn't deserve him. Amber has always fancied him but she's never taken it seriously. They have an undeniable connection, but she wouldn't go there. She's not like that." 

As well as a second point of view, Curtis also brings in a second timeline and chapters from 1992 start to interject themselves in between the main present day story. Like Amber's narrative thread, for quite a while I was unsure how this second storyline was connected to the main plot but rest assured, we are in very capable hands. Curtis weaves a complex narrative that takes several characters, scenarios and complications in order to really explore this one idea of this 'one little mistake'. The joy of this novel is its length. At nearly 450 pages, Curtis is able to really develop both her key characters, introduce a multilayered plot and create emotional responses, excitement, drama, tension and suspense which will keep you reading until the very last page. 

To heighten the tension, Curtis brings in newspaper reports and radio shows which are commenting on a case of another mother who left her child alone. This continually haunts Vicky with the fact that she has lied to her whole family but also forces her to confront the enormity of what she did and the seriousness of that moment of compulsiveness. As the radio presenter says, "What parent hasn't left a child asleep in their car while they've dashed into the shops?" 

But "One Little Mistake" is about more than that. Yes, a huge part of the novel is a thought provoking presentation of what happens when you 'cross the line' and the ramifications of lying and keeping secrets. But Vicky is not the only one keeping secrets. Amber's behaviour becomes more and more threatening and disturbing with each chapter until Curtis cleverly uses Vicky's mistake to reveal how previous mistakes, conflicts, unequal relationships and incidents that we face in our past can have such an effect on our future. This novel becomes more than just a debate on parenting but much more about jealousy, revenge, friendship, loyalty and needs. It becomes a novel that becomes more psychological, dark, compelling and unnerving. 

I made lots of notes when I was reading this novel. There were lots of passages I liked because they raised questions about not only the obvious themes of motherhood, friendship and love but also a deeper layer of questions about what we need and what we want, perception and really, competition, jealousy and whether friendships are ever equal. I liked that this novel challenged me in that I wasn't really sure how to feel about the characters and these feelings changed throughout the novel. I liked that there was a lot going on and that there was nothing judgemental in Curtis's writing. There is no moral high ground, no underlying message, it is just a great story about two women, two mothers and one little mistake. 

I would recommend this book. It would make a great book club read. It is a novel that has stayed with me and even a week later I am still thinking about the characters who still feel very vivid in my mind. I still feel a shudder at the dramatic climax of the novel. It was one of those books when you're desperate to get to the end and find out what's happened but equally desperate not to get to the end and have to leave the story behind! 

One Little Mistake is published by Black Swan on 15th June 2017. 




BIBLIOMANIAC'S BOOK CLUB: QUESTIONS 

There are some Book Club questions in the back of the paperback already but here are a few I would add or use if I was fortunate enough to be reading this as part of my book club. 

- Is there ever justification for leaving a child? How do you think the author wants us to react towards Vicky at the beginning of the novel?

- Who do you have more sympathy for during the novel - Vicky or Amber? Whose motivations are easier to understand?

- Is it the actual mistake or is it who knows about the mistake that generates the disaster and drama in the novel? How would things have been different if Amber had not arrived at the house moments after Vicky?

- Is Katya a reliable narrator?

 - Amber says "Vicky needs to know that actions produce consequences." Does she need to be shown this? Is Amber right?

 - Vicky and Amber are best friends. What do you think this novel says about friendship? Is friendship ever equal and transparent?

 - What is your perception of social services and child protection from this novel?

- Tom says to Vicky that they've "both made mistakes." What do you think of this statement?

 - Could Vicky have healed Amber?

For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk

#BibliomaniacsTopReads #June



BIBLIOMANIAC'S TOP READS

Here's a quick glance at the best books I've read over the last few weeks or so - these are my MUST READS so if you only have time for one books this month, make it one of these!! 


TRUST ME by ANGELA CLARKE

Trust Me (Social Media Murders, #3)


Why?

You don't really need to ask why do you? It's Angela Clarke! It' a crime thriller about social media! It's got the most unlikely partnership between it's two main protagonists and is full of action, dilemmas, complications tension and suspense. 

This is a book about very contemporary issues but also a great read. Trust me, you'll love it! 

Link for full review: Trust Me by Angela Clarke


THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER by KAREN DIONNE 

The Marsh King's Daughter


Why?

This is an intriguing novel about a woman who was born while her mother was being held captive in an isolated shack in the middle of the marshes. What makes this book interesting is it's more original look at the relationship between captor and prisoner; the conflict that exists, particularly for a child who has known nothing else and can't forget that this man was her father for 14 years. 

This novel is graphic, shocking, brutal but not at all sensationalised which I found more powerful and more intriguing. It's a challenging subject and the author has written a novel that raises lots of interesting and throughout provoking questions - particularly as the woman who was imprisoned is now a mother herself and finds her own family are facing great danger. 


EXQUISITE by SARAH STOVELL 

Exquisite

Why?

A great story of a friendship between two women that quickly becomes something more sinister, more obsessive and more threatening. The book is narrated by the two main characters and each one is as unreliable as the other so you are never certain which you can trust and who you can believe. 

A good page turner and good thriller. 

Link for full review: Exquisite by Sarah Stovell  

Book Club Book Choice 


Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips 

Fierce Kingdom

Why?

Yes, I am mentioning this book again! I think it is one of the best books I have read this year so far. 

Set in the zoo, Joan finds herself trapped at the end of the day with her four year old son when she hears gunshots. The book is then set in real time as she does all she can to protect herself and her son, but it also looks at more universal questions and themes such as motherhood, our responsibility for other children, motivations, choices and consequences. 

You will not be able to put it down. You will want to talk about it.

Links: 





If you want to hear more recommendations and more suggestions for Book Club reads (with accompanying questions) then please do visit me / follow on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk


#BlogTour @theangelaclarke #TrustMe #Extract

Trust Me (Social Media Murders, #3)


TRUST ME by ANGELA CLARKE is the 3rd instalment of Clarke's Social Media Murders Series. It was published on June 15th 2017 by Avon. 

Synopsis: 

When Kate sees a horrific attack streamed live on her laptop, she calls the police in a state of shock. But when they arrive, the video has disappeared – and she can’t prove anything. Desperate to be believed, Kate tries to find out who the girl in the video could be – and who attacked her. Freddie and Nas are working on a missing persons case, but the trail has gone cold. When Kate contacts them, they are the only ones to listen and they start to wonder – are the two cases connected? 

Dark, gripping, and flawlessly paced, Trust Me is the brilliant third novel in the hugely popular social media murderer series.

Trust Me is an excellent read. It is gripping, immensely well paced and so well constructed it is compelling, exciting and unputdownable. 

I felt that the structure, suspense and tension was so tightly managed and so well executed in Trust Me that this is nothing but an exceptionally strong, confident and competent example of the crime thriller novel. Clarke once more picks a contemporary issue related to Social Media - this time Periscope and the use of live streaming on the Internet. Once again, she raises questions and explores our fears about the abuse of social media but not in a way that feels far fetched or sensationalised. Once again, she explores issues, themes, motives and the effects of using social media in a way that is shocking, gripping, unsettling and also hugely captivating.

You can read my full review here: 



Today I am thrilled to be able to share with you an extract from Trust Me so that you can see for yourself how fabulous it is! So get yourself a drink, find a comfy spot and read on!!! 

AN EXTRACT FROM TRUST ME by ANGELA CLARKE 


Kate hadn’t been able to sit still since she’d seen the video. Her laptop, black in power-save mode, was still at its aban­doned angle on her dining table. Fifty-six years old, and she couldn’t bring herself to get any closer to the screen. Instead she’d focused on clearing up the mess on the kitchen floor. As she’d wiped up the sick and bile, she tried not to think of the girl’s pleading eyes. She forced herself to take another gulp of sugared tea. She’d changed, and put her soiled clothes in the washing machine.

She could still smell the acid of vomit, and leant over the sink to open the kitchen window. But the familiar square of garden, in which she grew sweet peas and strawberries, twisted and turned away from her. The electric streetlight played nasty tricks with the rows of houses that stretched away over Hackney. Somewhere out there was the girl. Terrified. Hurt.

What if the boys knew she’d been watching? What if they’d made a note of her account? Could they find her? A shadow licked at the edge of her garden and she jumped. London, with its exotic blends, its languages, its music and food and dance, that dynamic that made it special, that had made it her home all her life, felt hostile. She was overlooked. An easy target. She let go of the window handle as if it had burned her. Instead she pulled the slim chain to unfurl the kitchen blind, small flecks of dust floating down onto her as she obliterated the city skyline she’d always loved.

She ran up the white-painted stairs to her bedroom, pulled the curtains up there too and fetched her perfume from the bathroom. She sprayed the scent in the kitchen, the tangerine and blackcurrant smell settling uneasily over the sour stench of sick. She would feel better when she knew they’d found the girl. Got her to hospital.


The doorbell buzzed and she jumped. It would be the police. It was a Friday night, presumably they were busy, it’d been just over an hour since she’d called 999. She slid the spyhole aside; the sight of a man made her heart rate spike.

......You know you want to read on! Here's the link to Amazon so you can buy yourself a copy and enjoy the whole of the book. Don't forget to check out the first two books in this series, Follow Me and Watch Me, while you're adding books to your basket! 

Trust Me (Social Media Murders, #3)

amazon link

Angela Clarke is an author, playwright, columnist, screenwriter and broadcaster. She is the author of the critically acclaimed crime thrillers Follow Me and Watch Me.

Don't forget to look at the other stops on the Blog Tour if you've missed any! 



For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk



Thursday, 22 June 2017

#TwoSisters #KerryWilkinson #Review

Two Sisters

Megan was ten years old when her older brother, Zac, went missing among the cliffs, caves and beaches that surround the small seaside town of Whitecliff. 

A decade later and a car crash has claimed the lives of her parents.

Megan and her younger sister Chloe return to Whitecliff one summer for the first time since their brother’s disappearance. Megan says it’s to get her parents’ affairs in order. There are boxes to pack, junk to clear, a rundown cottage to sell. But that’s not the real reason. 

Megan has come to confront her family’s past after receiving a postcard on the day of her parents’ funeral. It had a photograph of Whitecliff on the front and a single letter on the back.

‘Z’ is all it read. Z for Zac.


I think the most striking thing about this novel is the protagonist, Megan. She is a complicated character with huge emotional issues which are revealed in the very opening pages. The novel starts with the shocking news that her parents are dead.

"I've screwed up because instinct is hard to fake. I should be breaking down, throwing my hands in to the air. I should have questions. The who, what, where, why and how. That's what normal people ask."

From the outset it is clearly established that Megan is not going to react to her tragic situation in the same way many others would and that immediately creates intrigue. It immediately raises questions about what has happened to her in the past, about her relationship with her parents and about why she appears so calm, unemotional and detached. It's a good hook for a first chapter and prepares us for a story with a character who is heavily flawed; not always easy to like and is not always easy to understand. However over the next couple of hundred pages she will reveal to us why she thinks, feels, acts and behaves in this way and illicit sympathy - or empathy - from the reader.

Wilkinson has created a character who suffers from a very complicated mental illness. Throughout the novel this issue is handled sensitively, carefully and thoughtfully. It is interwoven into the plot so it gradually reveals the depth of the characters unhappiness and why she has such need for control.  At first I was a little unsure if it was really needed at times, but it is done well so I think my reservations were unfounded. This aspect of the story doesn't distract, dominate or add unnecessary melodrama to the main plot.

Megan needs control to her life. She needs to make her own decisions and feel as if she is making them  - even when the reader is dubious about the risk or consequence, Megan is buried deep inside herself . She is so focused on finding Zac that nothing else seems to matter. Her search is almost obsessive and the new relationships she tries to form or rekindle when back at Whitecliff are dominated by her need to uncover the truth. Megan is direct, focussed and often unaware of her words and their effect.

"Last time I was here," I say, "my brother went missing."

With the use of flashbacks and remembered conversations, Megan's relationship with her mother is revealed which also shows why perhaps Megan's need for control is so strong. She confesses that "I don't usually let me guard down this much," and so the reader is once more intrigued when this starts to change. I think this novel is as much about Megan and her emotional journey as it is the twist and turns we look out for in a thriller.

This is a novel with a dramatic premise - sisters Megan and Chloe are suddenly orphaned and retuning to a family retreat to find out the truth behind their brother's disappearance. But it is also a novel that explores some very interesting themes like nurture, absent parents, siblings, control and the life of small communities. It is a bit of a slow burner and Wilkinson strikes a good balance between solving a mystery as well as following the emotional journey of Megan.

It is a story about two sisters but it is also about bad parenting, the influence of a mother, the effects of parenting and parental decisions. It is about lies, deception and buried secrets. There are also some interesting observations about small communities and the merging of superstitions and traditions that they believe or uphold.

I also enjoyed the setting of the novel. The beaches, caves and landscape are described clearly and add another layer of tension and suspense to the novel.

This is a psychological thrilling novel but it is more of a slow burner and tackles a lot of issues. I think this book could generate an interesting discussion in book groups about the role of the parent and the memories of her parent. There's a lot to get to grips with and the author is in not massive rush to get us to the end, which is a good thing because you will want to stay in the setting of this novel and stay with Megan.

Two Sisters is published on 23rd June 2017 with Bookouture.

For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

#KerensaJennings #SeasofSnow #AuthorQ&A

Seas of Snow

In 1950s England, six-year-old Gracie Scott lives with her Mam and next door to her best friend Billy; she has never known her Da. When her Uncle Joe moves in, his physical abuse of Gracie’s mother starts almost immediately. But when his attentions wander to Gracie, an even more sinister pattern of behaviour begins. 

As Gracie grows older, she finds solace and liberation in books, poetry and her enduring friendship with Billy. Together they escape into the poetic fairy-tale worlds of their imaginations.

But will fairy tales be enough to save Gracie from Uncle Joe's psychopathic behaviour - and how far will it go?


I am delighted to have the opportunity to ask Kerensa Jennings some questions today about her novel Seas of Snow and her writing process. I can't wait to meet Kerensa at my book event in July so this is a real treat to get to ask a few questions beforehand! If you haven't booked your tickets for the event yet, then please do using the link below the interview1 

Could you tell me about your novel in a couple of sentences?

SEAS OF SNOW is a story of broken trust and shattered dreams. Of consequences. Of a life lifted and liberated by poetry. Of a life haunted by darkness and lived in fear.

It is a bleak psychological thriller that explores whether evil is born or made…

Your inspiration for your novel has come from real life news or events. What was it about this moment / event / newspaper story that captured you so much that you wanted to write about it?

While in charge of the BBC News coverage of the Soham case, I worked closely with Cambridgeshire Police and was exposed in intimate detail to the evidence that was collected. Seeing with my own eyes what the school caretaker Ian Huntley had done to those two beautiful little girls affected me profoundly. I had been given police evidence tapes to spool through. I was alone in a dark room. I played one, called ‘Deposition Site’, having no idea what might be in store. What I saw burned into my retina and I have never been able to forget it. The remains of the girls found in woodland at RAF Lakenheath.

The Soham case devastated the nation and tore apart the lives of two families and their friends, a whole community. Working closely on it for many months was profoundly emotional, particularly when I had to sit behind the perpetrator in the press section of the Old Bailey day after day during the trial. 

I became interested in the psychology and motives of psychopaths, wondering what it was about a person’s psychological make-up that could allow them to commit such monstrous acts. This interest led to me exploring the various disciplines of psychology, and training and qualifying as an Executive Coach and MBTI practitioner. I went on to take my learning further, reading about psychopaths and the neuroplasticity of the mind. Ultimately, this interest in the nature versus nurture debate – trying to understand whether evil is born or made - sparked the inspiration for SEAS OF SNOW.

What has been the biggest challenge about writing a piece of fiction which is either based on fact or has elements of fact within it?

The hardest thing while actually writing it was controlling my emotions. It is a highly charged novel which is designed to make you feel a rollercoaster of emotions and at times I had to stop writing to let myself cry. This is what one recent book blogger (Keeper of Pages) said in her review:

“Seas of Snow is emotionally intense and will take you through a range of emotions; anger, hatred, sadness, pity, sorrow, happiness, and most strongly – the longing to save a child. And that child is Gracie, an innocence so mercilessly destroyed, you heart aches. Even the title of this book is emotionally charged – ‘seas of snow’ is a haunting metaphor and you need to read this book to find out why.”

The hardest technical challenge was working on the authenticity of the language and dialogue of children growing up in North East Tyneside in the 1950s. As you will see when you read the book, we first meet Gracie and her best friend Billy when they are 5 and 7. They grow up through the book so it was important to evolve their vocabulary and conversations to reflect that.

Can you tell me a little bit about your writing process and that transition from taking a ‘real event’ and to it becoming a fictional story?

I was scrupulous to never write anything that would in any way exploit the tragedy of what happened at Soham. My story may have been originally inspired by the case and has some recognisable elements - but I took care to ensure that the story is set in other time and place. Soham is one strand of inspiration, giving me my starting point examining whether evil is born or made. SEAS OF SNOW also has so many strands of other influences from fairy tales to poetry to psychology to academic studies of psychopaths to the symbolism of flowers to synaesthetic influences of colours, to my own life experiences and other stories I have read and news events I have covered - that the original inspiration will always be the burning embers of the story but is far from being the full experience of it.

My writing process for SEAS OF SNOW started by building my scaffolding. I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve, so I spent a lot of time mapping out the structure and the plan before writing a word. I have read so much contemporary fiction in the last few years where the ending just peters out, or leaves you feeling let down or disappointed. I was determined to try to ensure readers would feel my book was well worth investing time in, which meant I needed to work hard to structure tightly so that what I wanted to do with the denouement would work. I think I seem to have managed it… reviewers and bloggers seem to be enjoying the twist, with one reviewer saying:

“As you read you begin to realise that the author has plotted your route more meticulously than you could possibly have imagined through the narrative. And the end leaves you wondering how she did it.”

The writing bit was just such a pleasure, notwithstanding the emotional pain at times. I can’t begin to tell you how much I love simply sitting down to write. Once I know what I am doing, where I am going… the words just flow out, almost like automatic writing. It just spills out of my fingers as I type, and I eagerly read as I write to find out what happens next. Characters arrive fully formed in my head with names and attributes… I have never had to agonise over what to call someone because they arrive, ready for action.

I have always had very busy day jobs so novel writing is sadly consigned to holiday time. I wrote SEAS OF SNOW over all my holidays between the years 2009 and 2013, working on the final draft in 2014, getting the publishing deal in 2015, then last year doing the development edit, the structural edit, the formatting edit, the  copy-editing queries edit then two rounds of proof reading. The editing process felt a bit like homework to me – but the development edit in particular was just sheer delight.

How does researching a novel based or inspired by real events differ from writing another novel?

I write something every single day, and always have done as long as I can remember. I can’t begin to imagine writing something which is not influenced in some way by real experience or observation.

My first three novels are all psychological thrillers inspired by my time working in the field. The next two are all mapped out – and I am working on the second now.

Some people like to read fiction as a way of escaping from the real world. Some people like to read fiction to help them understand the real world or make sense of something they have experienced in the real world.  Can you think of any novels you have read that have either provided some comfort, escapism, and some insight for you at any point in your life?

My guest post focuses on one book in particular which has offered me all three - comfort, escapism and insight – ‘Letters to a Young Poet’ by Rainer Maria Rilke. Although if I had to choose one of ‘comfort, escapism and insight’, I would most definitely say comfort. I’d also cite another two favourites as emblematic of the other two…

For example, ‘Immortality’ by one of my favourite authors, Milan Kundera. I will say upfront that Immortality is a strange book... in many ways it is almost a treatise on the art of the novel. For that I would place it firmly in the ‘insight’ category.

Immortality

It takes you into flights of fancy, fictionalising imaginary scenes where artists, writers, poets and philosophers of the past meet, debate and banter with one another.

But the core story intertwines several narratives - one an unfolding tale of the protagonist, Agnes, and her family. Another, the authorial voice playing the part of observer of action and bit-part actor depending on what is developing in the book.

There are debates and discussions in this book that I would like to have in real life. In part, I have done.... but not nearly enough. I would love to wake up one day and find myself in a room with Goethe and Ernest Hemingway and pick their brains and find out what they think. And I'd love to spend hours with someone over a drink - lingering over the meaning and metaphor of a gesture, as Kundera does over Agnes's beautiful flourish of the hand.

Anna Karenina

Another favourite novel is Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina – which I would say is one of those books you read for escapism. The author’s alter-ego, Levin, is so incredibly earnest, authentic, kind and optimistic, a little bit of me fell in love with him, I think, the first time I read the book. Then of course you have the more famous driving narrative of the story which just grips you with every twist and turn and heartfelt denouement. Anna Karenina is a story with multiple strands and depths that simply sweep you along, trapped in its power, unable to function or do much else while you are reading it. I’d recommend reading it on holiday rather than trying to fit it in around chores, work and the humdrum of normal life.

Having said that, I must admit I first read it while living and working in Japan in the early nineties, so I am afraid I did manage to squeeze it in amongst what passed for my everyday life at the time.  It proved the perfect antidote to some very unusual challenges living and working somewhere entirely different. I was up in the mountains of northern Japan, far away from anything I recognized as normal – I had previously lived and worked in Paris, Austria, Germany… this was something else, particularly as I could not speak Japanese when I first went out. Anna Karenina gave me an extraordinary means of escape. I also enjoyed the somewhat delicious irony that my little mountainside house was on the same latitude line as Siberia so I felt a little connected to my Russian story in more ways than one.

Do you have a favourite author or novel that has inspired you as a writer or reader or is there a book that you are excited about reading in 2017 / best book from 2016? 

Oh – where to start with this one? In terms of contemporary fiction, I love Alice Sebold, Jon McGregor, Ian McEwan, Lionel Shriver, Liz Jensen, SJ Watson, Chris Cleave, Milan Kundera, Julian Barnes, Kim Edwards, Maggie O’Farrell, Kate Mosse, Tracey Chevalier, Haruki Murakami, Gillian Flynn, Colm Tóibín, Liza Dalby, Salman Rushdie… too many to mention!

My classic inspirations come principally from F Scott Fitzgerald, Oscar Wilde, Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, Gabriel García Márquez… again way too many to mention.

This year, the books I am most looking forward to reading are Men without Women by Haruki Murakami, Rattle by Fiona Perry and The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. I have already bought two of them to add to my #tbr pile, which seems to grow by the day! 

Rattle (The Bone Collector, #1)Men Without Women: StoriesThe Essex Serpent


If you would like to hear more from Kerensa then come along to my book event! £10 includes a free drink, entry to a raffle, three authors chatting about books and a goody bag! 
To book a ticket for this event where you can hear more from Kerensa, please click on the link below: 
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/real-life-real-books-tickets-34393602190



For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk




#TrustMe #AngelaClarke #Review

Trust Me (Social Media Murders, #3)

What do you do if you witness a murder…but no-one believes you?

When Kate sees a horrific murder streamed live on her laptop, she calls the police in a state of shock. But when they arrive, the video has disappeared – and she can’t prove anything. Desperate to be believed, Kate tries to find out who the girl in the video could be – and who her killer is.


Freddie and Nas are working on a missing persons case, but tensions in the police force are running high and time is ticking. When Kate contacts them, they are the only ones to listen and they start to wonder – are the two cases connected?


Dark, gripping, and flawlessly paced, Trust Me is the brilliant third novel in the hugely popular social media murderer series.


Trust Me is the the third novel in Clarke's Social Media Murderer series and it is brilliant. It is gripping, immensely well paced and so well constructed it is compelling, exciting and unputdownable. Freddie and Nas are developing into very likeable, complex and engaging characters who have their flaws but also have their strengths, courage and bravery. I really enjoyed being back with them and watching the dynamics between them develop as well as learning more about them as people.

To me, this felt like Clarke's strongest novel in the series - and that's saying something as I thoroughly enjoyed Watch Me and Follow Me! But I felt that in this novel, we have got to know the characters so much better that we enjoy seeing them tested a bit more. I enjoyed watching the relationship between them changing as they learn more about each other and find themselves in more conflicting and challenging situations. I found myself rethinking my attitudes towards Nas and Freddie at various different stages of the book and enjoyed discovering a deeper layer to their characters.

Nas and Freddie are very different in their thought processes, decision making and behaviour. They tackle their problems and dilemmas in very different ways yet they are both heroes. They are both dedicated to solving the crime. Freddie is still more of a risk taker and I think her appeal is that she's more maverick in contrast to Nas - who is also restricted and confined by her conventional role within the police force. However in this instalment I felt that Nas also showed bravery and courage and that the climax of the novel and the relationship between the women was absolutely gripping.

In terms of the murder and plot, I felt that the structure, suspense and tension was so tightly managed and so well executed in Trust Me that this is nothing but an exceptionally strong, confident and competent example of the crime thriller novel. Clarke once more picks a contemporary issue related to Social Media - this time Periscope and the use of live streaming on the Internet. Once again, she raises questions and explores our fears about the abuse of social media but not in a way that feels far fetched or sensationalised. Once again, she explores issues, themes, motives and the effects of using social media in a way that is shocking, gripping, unsettling and also hugely captivating.

But this novel is not just about social media. Clarke also seeks to challenge things that might feel taboo or that are not discussed openly enough with our children and our community. This story raises questions about age restrictions and how social media is not just a platform for promotion, sharing information, selling things and spreading the word but also how more and more it is a way of people feeling validated or encouraged. "Likes" and "followers" allow people to continue with things, ideas, behaviours or actions that they would not normally or logically do and I found this really fascinating.

"My likes were going mental. They were loving her!.........They were sending all these comments....We were racing up the charts...." 

There are several different voices in this novel and I found the alternation between the different narratives very effective. I was intrigued by the use of "A" and "B" and thought the sections that revealed the internal struggle of "A" were really well crafted. Clarke's inclusion of the perpetrator's viewpoint is bold, brave and totally works. It's always great to challenge the reader and their emotional reactions to characters. The world is not black and white, people's feelings are not black and white and situations are never as straight forward as they might appear.

I also found I reacted very strongly towards Kate. Her character is very well crafted. I loved that I was sometimes unsure whether to trust her, or whether she was reliable, but that I was rooting for her and feeling every moment of her anguish and fight throughout the whole book. Her emotional story arc is so palpably recreated with a sensitivity and understanding that indicates not only the depth of Clarke's talent as a writer, but also as an observer of people.

Much to my excitement, Clarke has included Reading Group Questions at the end of her book as well as a Q&A. One of the questions asks her about the darkness of Trust Me. I want to end by quoting her answer as I think it sums up exactly what she has achieved in this novel.

"When you write about crime, you explore the darker sides of human nature and interaction, in a way that is safe for the reader. But you have a responsibility to do that in a careful and considered way, while still giving a great story." 

Trust Me publishes on 15th June by Avon. Trust me, you want to buy it!

ANGELA CLARKE 

Angela      Clarke

Angela Clarke is an author, playwright, columnist, screenwriter and broadcaster. Her debut crime thriller Follow Me was named Amazon’s Rising Star Debut of the Month January 2016, longlisted for the Crime Writer’s Association Dagger in the Library 2016, and shortlisted for the Dead Good Reader Page Turner Award 2016. Watch Me is the second instalment in the Social Media Murder Series. Angela’s memoir Confessions of a Fashionista is an Amazon Fashion Chart bestseller. Her play, The Legacy, enjoyed its first run and rave reviews at The Hope Theatre in June 2015. She hosted the current affairs show Outspoken on Radio Verulam for six months in 2014, and has appeared on the BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4, BBC Three Counties and more. Her journalist contributions include: The Guardian, Independent Magazine, The Daily Mail, Cosmopolitan, and Writing magazine. In 2015 Angela was awarded the Young Stationers' Prize for achievement and promise in writing and publishing. She volunteers with Womentoring, and the RSA Meet a Mentor scheme, and others, to help encourage and support marginalised artists into the industry. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Angela lives with her husband and far too many books.

www.AngelaClarke.co.uk
@TheAngelaClarke

For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @KatherineSunde3 or via my website bibliomaniacuk.co.uk

Angela will be coming along to chat with me and 3 other fabulous authors in Harpenden in September - do come along and join us!

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/back-to-the-books-tickets-35451725064