Tuesday, 29 August 2017

#UntaintedBlood #LizMistry #BlogTour



I am delighted to be on the first day for the Blog Tour for Untainted Blood by Liz Mistry! Thank you so much to Liz and Sarah Hardy at Bloodhoundbooks for inviting me to join the tour and for the advance copy of the book in return for my honest review! 

And thank you to Bloodhound books too for introducing me to a whole new series of books that had somehow escaped by attention!! 

Untainted Blood is the latest unmissable Crime Thriller from author Liz Mistry. I have not read the first two books in this series (Unquiet Souls & Uncoiled Lies) which not only am I embarrassed about - I'm also a little annoyed with myself that I've missed out on a series with so much promise!


In a city that is already volatile, tensions mount  after a Tory MP in Bradford Central is discredited leaving the door open for the extreme right-wing candidate, Graeme Weston, to stand in the resultant by-election. 
However, Graeme Weston is not what he appears to be and with secrets jeopardising his political career, he must tread very carefully.
Meanwhile, a serial killer targets Asian men who lead alternatives lifestyles and delivers his own form of torture. 
As DI Gus McGuire’s team close in, the deranged killer begins to unravel and in an unexpected twist the stakes are raised for Gus.
Are the murders linked to the political scandals or is there another motive behind them? 
DI Gus McGuire and his team are back and this might be their toughest case yet.

Yes, it does sound good doesn't it? Well it is good and yes, I do recommend it! Don't be like me and let this series pass you by!

I thought this thriller was a complete breath of fresh air. Why? Because it felt really alive, really contemporary and really relevant. It references the political and social concerns of today and it tackles the issues that face communities today. 

This crime novel also felt full of energy. It is fast paced, action packed, full of dialogue and vividly drawn characters. It is firmly rooted in Bradford with every last attention to detail included so that it is very easy to picture the setting. The location and setting is important to the novel and the author has depicted the city and area very effectively. I have a little knowledge of the area and felt that it was really accurate in its portrayal. Mistry is obviously passionate about the area and the city's community. 

There are several key characters to get to know in the book and they are all well crafted and all very three dimensional. There is a very effective anonymous narrative that is suitably threatening and menacing and actually, all the narratives have strong voices and distinctive characters. Although the chapters are often short and they switch from character to character quite rapidly, it is easy to follow and easy to build up a picture of who everyone is and what is going on. It is the first book I have read in the series and I did find it fine to read as a stand alone, but as with all series, obviously there is an overriding story arc to enjoy so I'm sure I would benefit from reading Unquiet Souls and Uncoiled Lies - something I will rectify immediately - even if it's just because the titles are so clever!

Mistry ensures that there is a real sense of urgency and pace to the novel by using each day of the week as a heading. Immediately this creates high level tension and a sense of building towards something or that sense of a ticking clock which inspires all sorts of excitement and trepidation for a crime novel! The location and time of day is also sighted at the beginning of each section which also keeps the reader on their toes and enables Mistry to weave in several different threads effectively. As I said before, this is a fact paced novel and there is no time to pause for breath as Mistry launches the reader headlong into the action.

I don't want to give away any spoilers or reveal anything that might give something away but I would recommend Untainted Blood. It has every single ingredient you want in a fast paced, exciting, modern day crime thriller. Mistry knows how to write a great detective story and she has also written a story that is full of diversity and social issues as well as crime, with a confident and assured voice. I would love to see this televised as it reads so well and would transfer so easily to screen. The book will appeal to anyone who enjoys a solid detective thriller. 
LIZ MISTRY

As well as writing crime fiction, Liz is co-founder of and main contributor to The Crime Warp blog, which reviews all areas of crime fiction, interviews crime authors and participates in blog tours.  She is the main publicist for the blog, using social media to promote their presence. 

Liz is an ex teacher who has taught in inner city Bradford schools for over twenty years.  Her husband of nearly 30 years is Indian and they have three children.  They live in inner city Bradford and Liz likes to use the rich tapestry of her life in Bradford, combined with her Scottish heritage, in her writing.

In Sept 2017 she is starting a PHD In Creative Writing, researching crime fiction and social media.
Liz also teaches creative writing, specifically within the crime fiction genre.

Twitter : @LizCrimeWarp   FB @LizMistrybooks 



Don't forget to follow the rest of the Blog Tour for Untainted Blood and see what all the other bloggers have to say about this book! 


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

Sunday, 27 August 2017

#BibliomaniacsBookShelves #SummerRoundUp Bank Holiday August


Bibliomaniac's Bookshelves: Summer Reading Round Up
Bank Holiday August 2017

Yes, I'm still 'on a break' so I'm still writing my mini reviews! Here's what has been going on in the book world of Bibliomaniac over the last little while!


THERE IS ALWAYS MORE TO SAY by LYNDA YOUNG SPIRO 


*My thanks to the author from whom I received this book in return for an unbiased and honest review*

This book opens with the intriguing words 
"I feel compelled to write this story. I don't know the ending yet and I can't remember the beginning. Full of the unexpected. Like life itself." 

And so begins a story that perhaps isn't really a story but more a meditation on life, on love, on friendship. To me, this is more like a long love letter; a letter rather than a journal as the narrator refers to "you" the whole way through and is very much aware that this story is for someone specific. Although it is for "you" (a best friend, a lost love, a soul mate) and there is some very personal reflections within the pages, there is so much that is universal and the themes alluded to and explored with resonate with all readers. There is also something very intimate about reading a story addressed to "you" throughout the entire book and something that draws the reader into the relationship with the narrator on a deeper level. The story is also so honest that it is impossible not to become involved in the characters emotion's and feelings. 

Each of the short chapters, which flit backwards and forwards through key moments in the narrators life as she remembers, explains and considers, start and end with a quote. I was quite fascinated by the quotes used - they range from literary figures, philosophers to much more mainstream well known quotes but each is carefully chosen as it is used to encapsulated the theme or thought of that particular chapter. Each quote helps the reader to reflect on what they have read and I thought there inclusion was very effective.

This is a short read and unlike anything I have read for a while. The narrator is fifty five and although at a different point in her life from where I am, there was plenty for me to relate to and to empathise with. I'm not sure which genre I would use to classify it as it transcends the labels I would normally fall back on. I would recommend it to people who enjoy a kind of stream of consciousness, a book which is thought provoking and reflective and for people who enjoy fictional memoirs. Although the structure of the story is shaped around some action - or key moments in the character's life - it's not really about happenings and events; it is about hopes, dreams, fate, destiny, choices, regrets, expectations and apprehension. It is about what could have been and what has been. It is about life. 

There is Always More to Say was published in April 2016. 


THE SEVEN RULES OF ELVIRA CARR by FRANCES MAYNARD 



*My thanks to the publisher from whom I received this book via NetGalley in return for an unbiased and honest review*


One afternoon, Elvira's mother suddenly has a stroke and ends up in hospital, leaving Elvira alone and having to look after herself. Socially challenged, and only having known being ruled by an overpowering mother, Elvira finds herself learning to navigate her way through the days both physically and emotionally. 

The novel is narrated in first person by Elvira which allows the reader to really see the world from her point of view. I thought this was really effective as the reader is fully aware of Elvira's responses and interpretations of situations which helps us not only understand her thought process and issues, but also ensures we form a strong bond with her. It is a challenge for any author to successful create a convincing character who suffers from the kind of issues Elvira has but Maynard definitely does this. There is a lot of gentle wit and humour on every page of this story and Elvira's stark, honest and obvious responses will make you smile. The author writes with heartwarming sensitivity and respect rather than mockery. 

Elvira is not a character for us to pity either. The reader will feel sympathetic towards her but only in a supportive manner - and only with a realisation that actually our use of "figure of speech" or turn of phrase is sometimes ironic, illogical or confusing! No, Elvira does not need us to feel sorry for her or to closet her - her mother has been fiercely controlling of her and some of the things she has said to her in the past have been incredibly hurtful and destructive. Now her mother is in hospital, Elvira has the chance to see what she is indeed capable of and although she makes mistakes and misjudgements along the way, the reader is rooting for her and thrilled to see all that she does achieve. 

To help navigate her way through her new independent life, Elvira develops a spreadsheet with rules. Her notes on why these rules are important and phrases she can use to help implement the rules are endearing, clever and insightful. They are a great framework on which to hang the story line and perhaps everyone can take something away from some of the rules Elvira tries to adhere to! 

I also really enjoyed the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. They were as pertinent, poignant and heartfelt as any quote from literature of philosophy and I thought they underlined the essence of the book and what the author was trying to achieve. 

It's always nice to be appreciated. And apologised to - Janice Drapkin, Checkout Operative, Asda. 

I enjoyed this book. It is well written with a lovely turn of phrase which captures the personality of Elvira effectively.  The use of dialogue is clever and I was impressed how well the author not only managed to create such a readable, likeable and well judged voice but also sustain it over the entire course of the novel. We have seen characters like Elvira in several other contemporary fiction novels but The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr definitely stands out and deserves to gain recognition. It is simple, understated, humorous and engaging. It has a bit of everything; sadness, loss, struggles, pain, friendship and happiness. There's also a bit of a mystery to solve as well. I recommend. 

Oh and there are some fabulous book group questions at the end so make sure you tell your book club all about this novel too! Definitely lots to discuss here! 

The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr is published by Pan MacMillan on 24th August 2017. 

THE BURNING GIRL by CLAIRE MESSUD 


*My thanks to the publisher from whom I received this book via NetGalley in return for an unbiased and honest review*

This is a story of two girls, Julie and Cassie, who have been friends since nursery. It charts their friendship over the years, the ups and downs, the ebbs and flows, the highs and lows that exist in any friendship and in any relationship that spans many years. 

The novel is narrated by Julie and there is relatively little dialogue. It is very descriptive, very mesmeric and very atmospheric as we really become part of this relationship and realise the significance it has had on Julie as she grows from toddler, to young girl, to older girl. Told through Julie's point of view we only really know Cassie from the details Julie gives us but this is not a book that is short on detail. I trusted Julie and believed her account of events and the way the relationship between the two girls developed. I also enjoyed the fact that we were able to infer more about what was happening with Cassie from what Julie revealed and able to piece together any missing parts of the jigsaw for ourselves. 

Friendships, particularly those formed at school, are a fascinating base for any novel, perhaps because we are nosy or because of our vicarious nature and I enjoyed the fact that the author had decided to explore this friendship in such immense detail. Readers will enjoy watching this friendship as it tries to survive the friends growing emotionally and physically at different rates, deal with differences in their respective family lives, differences in their popularity at school and so on. The novel is very engaging despite the fact it is so dependent on one character's narration with perhaps less dialogue or action than other novels about teenage girls around at the moment and it should not be overlooked. This isn't just about friendship, it is about how we define ourselves, how we consider ourselves and the stories and myths we build around ourselves. It's also about confronting issues, pain and truths. 

I was struck by the idea that whatever happened to these girls, they had a bond that would never leave them. Even when Cassie is with new friends and has left Julie a little behind, there is a certain flick of the hair or a particular phrase and Julie knows immediately exactly what is going on in Cassie's mind. That's what defines a friendship  - that's the feeling you have about that special person who you've grown up with. A person you were so close to you even pretended to be sisters. 

"....it would all still be there between us: you couldn't take away our whole lives. But our friendship was, at the same time, like a city you hadn't visited in a long time, where you knew the streets by heart but the shops and restaurants have changed....." 

There's some really beautiful writing in this novel and some fantastic observations. I enjoyed the girls envy of each other's mothers, family homes and how Messud had captured so many universal themes about human nature in a very personal story particular to two girls. I liked the atmosphere of the novel which is actually quite foreboding and dark and I was caught up in the fluency of the polished and eloquent writing. 

This is not a typical thriller or a typical "Girl" titled novel but it deserves a spot on the shelf amongst the best sellers. There is fire in this subtle, well written novel and it's flames will flicker inside your mind once you've finished reading. 

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud is published by Little, Brown on 7th September 2017. 

TRY NOT TO BREATHE by HOLLY SEDDON 

Try Not to Breathe

I recently read Holly Seddon's new novel Don't Close Your Eyes and loved it so much I was determined to buy and read her first novel this summer while on holiday. I was delighted to find that Try Not To Breathe is equally compelling, chilling, exciting and as gripping! Seddon's writing is very polished and her ability to orchestrate several narrative threads that gradually converge is impressive and very well executed. 

Try Not To Breathe is the story of Amy who has been in a coma since she was 15 and her broken body was recovered in the park. She disappeared one night after school and was eventually found, left for dead. Her step father, boyfriend and neighbours were all interrogated, but the perpetrator and the true events of the attack are still unknown. 

Alex, a former journalist but now a woman struggling to hold herself together as her life crumbles around her - her marriage over, her alcoholism consuming her days -  decides to investigate Amy's story and starts to visit her in hospital. And so begins an unique friendship where Alex seeks to find the truth even when it means placing herself at risk. 

This novel alternates from Alex's point of view in the present day, Amy's narrative which includes flashbacks from 1995,  and also the voice of Jacob who was Amy's boyfriend at the time she was attacked. It is not hard to follow or to keep track of where in the story we are - in fact Seddon uses the variety of voices and switch in view point to maximise tension and drama. For me it made the novel even more unputdownable because I was so desperate to keep going back to each character and find out more. Although there is plenty of action, twists and turns I thought this was also a very character driven novel and once again I was impressed with Seddon's ability to balance both a griping, multilayered plot with highly developed, intriguing, interesting and complex characters.

The voices are all a good contrast to each other and all very distinctive. Each character is really well created and comes with their own heap of baggage and problems which is also beautifully handled with conviction and authenticity by Seddon. I really admired the way the author developed the characters, their frustrations, weaknesses, fallibility and fears. I loved the way their paths began to overlap and inform on each thread of the story. I was left in awe of Seddon's storytelling skills and ability to achieve such a complex, suspenseful psychological thriller. Seddon's observations are candid, acute and poignant. Her understanding of human emotions, relationships and the complexities of parenting, love and marriage are insightful and powerful. 

I could talk about this book for a whole lot longer but all I'm really going to say is that you really should read it. It's such a treat. I thoroughly enjoyed it and at the risk of a series of cliches, I was gripped from the start, totally immersed in Seddon's writing, I was hooked and consumed by the characters and just didn't want to put it down. I am in love with the way Seddon's writing is compelling and page turning but also sharp, intelligent and original. Her novels are excellent and I know it's a bit cheap to borrow other reviewers words but it is "top notch" and a "must read". 

I can't believe this is a debut novel. I can't believe I have to wait for a third book. I am in love with Seddon's writing. 

Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon was published by Corvus in 2016. 


A GUEST POST FROM FIONA SPARKS 


In case you missed it, I also hosted a guest post from Fiona Ford this week where she answered lots of questions about her favourite books and the inspiration behind her new series of books set in WW2. You can read the interview by clicking on the link below! 



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

Saturday, 26 August 2017

#GoodFriday #LyndaLaPlante #BlogTour



Today I am thrilled to be on the Blog Tour for one of the most famous writers in Crime Fiction! Thank you so much to Bonnier Zaffre for inviting me to join the tour and for the advanced copy of Good Friday

But, as this is a review of a crime novel, perhaps I should begin with my dark secret, my guilty confession and a hidden truth which will affect all that you read from this moment onward and force you all to reconsider your opinion of me..... This is the first Lynda La Plante book I have read. SShhhhh!! 

I know. Shocking. However, in my defence, I am completely hooked -I've just bought the first two books in the Tennison series prior to Good Friday and can not wait to make my way through the Prime Suspect collection. That is beauty of discovering a writer when they already have an impressive back catalogue - you can binge on their books like it's a box set! 

Anyway, on with my review. Why did I enjoy this book so much?

Good Friday is set in the 1970s. A world without mobile phones, social media and one where the work place is fuelled with sexism. When the book opens, Jane Tennison, our protagonist, is faced with comments and judgements just because she is a woman and is also up against the challenges of working in the police force as a female. The novel is not overtly out to make a political comment or moral judgement about the role of women, it is just capturing the social context of the story but it immediately makes the reader feel sympathetic towards Tennison and want to see her fight against the obstacles in her way. The sexism and attitude of the police towards women - and also the attitude of other women and Jane's family which also reflect prejudice - permeates the novel. It does challenge the reader to think about attitudes to women and it does add another dimension to Tennison's character. Tennison has more to prove and more to overcome. La Plante's writing places the reader very firmly in the 70s and she evokes the social setting very effectively. 

I think the other thing that struck me was the relevance of the story. Although no longer living in fear of an IRA terrorist attack, terrorism, bomb threats, attacks at tube stations and organised events are still very much a threat to our society and lives and therefore readers will be able to engage with the storyline whether they remember the IRA or not. As Tennison and the police force investigate the terrorism in Good Friday and race to prevent further destruction, the scheming, hating and planning of the perpetrators is recognisable as is the fear, urgency and pressure on the police force. La Plante also explores the level of infiltration that individuals and groups go to in order to carry out their devastating acts of terror and this behaviour remains the same today. I also thought the way La Plante portrayed the characters - their calculated befriending, their exploitation of trust - to be very compelling and again, something that readers will relate to or find resonating in contemporary society. Although the novel is gripping enough on its own, the echoes and parallels are hard to ignore. 

I liked Jane Tennison a lot. She's a great character. I felt sympathetic towards her and wanted her to do well. She's keen, trying hard, wants to do the right thing and is led by a sense of justice. She cares for people and perhaps her emotional involvement with people makes her more vulnerable but as this is a kind of prequel series, I am intrigued to see how her character develops with her time on the force. I'd like to see her toughen up a bit but given the social context and Jane's position, her character worked for me. I did find her parents a little annoying - they were quite suffocating but perhaps this is also a reflection of the social context and attitudes to women at the time. It's interesting to see how much we take our independence for granted; here we see how hard Jane has to fight for independence and to gain respect for her decisions in her personal life as well as professional. 

The characterisation in the novel is very good. The attitudes of the male police officers is well handled and there are plenty of characters who will provoke reactions from the reader. There are also a few characters who not only take advantage of Jane's trust, but perhaps also take advantage of the reader and so we have to look out for hints and clues and keep a more objective counsel throughout the book. Of course this also adds a few twists and turns and raised the tension and suspense. I also thought the character of Pearl was very well created. I did not like her!! La Plante's screenwriting experience is obvious in her ability to make these characters so alive and vivid. 

This police procedural is set over 40 years ago and there is no mention of mobile phones, social media, advanced technology and all the impressive gadgets we see in crime fiction today which I found really refreshing. I loved that the police had to use land lines which might then be engaged or how convoluted it was to try and get hold of the key person in the heat of the moment! There was still a huge sense of urgency, drama and excitement throughout the whole police investigation and La Plante has clearly researched this side of the story in immense detail. It felt so convincing and I thought the whole story and the whole investigation was very well executed. 

I would highly recommend Good Friday. It is well written, the characters are well crafted, easy to picture and easy to hear through the authentic dialogue. It's a very accessible, readable police procedural with a well controlled story line. It's dramatic and exciting and well worth a read! Like I said, I'm off to read Jane Tennison's story from the start and can't wait to catch up with the entire Prime Suspect series!

GOOD FRIDAY by Lynda La Plante is published by Bonnier Zaffre on 24th August 2017.

GOOD FRIDAY : A BOOK CLUB EXTRA 

Good Friday would make a good choice for any book club. It gives me huge pleasure to welcome Lynda La Plante to my blog today to answer a few questions about her reading!


BiblioManiac’s Book Club
If you are / if you were in a book club, which book are you / would you most like to read /discuss at the moment and why?



I think it would be Ripper by Patricia Cornwell.   I know it is non-fiction but I think it would provoke a lot of discussion, especially if the rest of the group were crime readers and were interested in forensics.  I cannot believe the amount of research Miss Cornwell carried out; it is simply remarkable.  


If you could ask a book club one question about this book what would it be?
Do you agree with the author's findings? Has she identified Jack the Ripper? 

If you could invite any author / fictional character to your book club who would it be and why? Which book would you like to chat about with them?

It would have to be Raymond Chandler, I am such a huge fan.  Unfortunately, we never got to meet, and I wasn't able to tell him what a genius I think he is.  I'd ask him how he came up with the titles for his books, everyone is brilliant. 

Which three books or authors have been the biggest influence on your writing?

I think my acting career had the most influence.  If I'd not been acting, I'd not have starred in crime series like The Professionals, Minder or The Gentle Touch. This lead to me having a go at writing a script, which was called WIDOWS.  In fact, I've just re-written the novel of WIDOWS, and it will be published in June next year, see www.lyndalaplante.com for details and follow me on twitter @laplantelynda.  

Which book are you desperate to read this year?

I've just read The Late Show by Michael Connelly (I'm a huge fan), and I'm already eager to read his next one!  Hurry up Michael! 

Thank you so much Lynda for answering my questions!

And now, here's a few questions on Good Friday to help start a Book Club discussion!



Bibliomaniac's Book Club: Good Friday

1. What struck you most about the setting of the 1970s in this novel? What shocked or surprised you?

2. How does the attitudes towards Jane and women in the work place increase the tension in the novel?

3. Although it is not strictly an historical novel, the novel is set in the past. What challenges do you think the author faced from setting her novel in the 1970s? How might it be easier or harder to write  this compared with a novel set 150 years ago?

4. What do you think are the key differences between Jane Tennison and a female police detective in a police procedural set in the 2010s?

5. How did you feel towards the male police officers in this novel? Which did you like or dislike the most and why?

6. What was your reaction to the female characters in the book? Which did you like or dislike the most and why?

7. If you were to cast actors for a new Television adaptation of this novel, who would you cast as Jane and why? What about some of the other characters?

8. Is this your first Lynda La Plante novel? If not, which have you read and how do they compare? If so, will you be reading more?

LYNDA LA PLANTE



Biography

Lynda La Plante was born in Liverpool. She trained for the stage at RADA and worked with the National Theatre and RDC before becoming a television actress. She then turned to writing - and made her breakthrough with the phenomenally successful TV series WIDOWS.

Her novels have all been international bestsellers. Her original script for the much-acclaimed PRIME SUSPECT won awards from BAFTA, Emmys, British Broadcasting and Royal Television Society as well as the 1993 Edgar Allan Poe Writer's Award.

Since 1993 Lynda has spearheaded La Plante Productions. In that time the company has produced a stunning slate of innovative dramas with proven success and enduring international appeal.

Based on Lynda's best selling series of Anna Travis novels, Above Suspicion, Silent Scream, Deadly Intent and Silent Scream have all adapted into TV scripts and received impressive viewing figures.

Lynda has been made honorary fellow of the British Film Institute and was awarded the BAFTA Dennis Potter Writer's Award 2000.

On 14th June 2008 Lynda was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List (Writer and Producer for services to Literature, Drama and to Charity).

On 3rd October 2009, Lynda was honoured at the Cologne Conference International Film and Television Festival with the prestigious TV Spielfilm Award for her television adaptation of her novel, Above Suspicion.

Books penned by Lynda La Plante include: The Legacy, The Talisman, Bella Mafia, Entwined, Cold Shoulder, Cold Blood, Cold Heart, Sleeping Cruelty, Royal Flush, Above Suspicion, The Red Dahlia, Clean Cut, Deadly Intent and Silent Scream, Blind Fury (this entered the UK Sunday Times Bestsellers List at number 1 having sold 9,500 copies in its first two weeks), Blood Line, Backlash, Wrongful Death, and Twisted, which have all been international best-sellers.


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

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

#AllTheWickedGirls #ChrisWhitaker #Review


Ok. I have been really looking forward to reading this. For a long time. I loved Tall Oaks (you can read my review here) and honestly couldn't wait for Chris Whitaker's second book to arrive. I was super curious to see how it would match up against such an original debut novel. My enormous thanks to the author and publisher for sending me an advance copy in return for an honest and unbiased review.

Well, all I can say is that All The Wicked Girls is possibly one of the most incredible novels you will read this year. There is only one word that really sums it up effectively - and that word is powerful. 

With Tall Oaks, Whitaker proved he was full of original and creative ideas with a sharp, witty, sense of humour. All The Wicked Girls just confirms this all over again and then some. This second novel shows his exceptional ability to create vivid characters and a compelling storyline. In this novel, Whitaker has written about Summer Ryan; a model student and a musical prodigy who goes missing. But All The Wicked Girls is as much about a community and the individuals within that community as the actual brutal and terrifying crime that is being investigated. 

What makes All The Wicked Girls so powerful is the fact it is such an immersive experience. Set in Grace, Alabama, the whole novel is written with an Alabama accent. This is surprisingly easy to read and quickly pulls the reader directly into the community of Grace. It makes the voices of the characters stronger, louder, more authentic and the reader feels much more absorbed into the setting; the connection between the reader and the character closer. I fell into Grace's culture, society, time and place - a part of the world I have never travelled to, no knowledge of or any connection with but because of the style of prose, I was transported there. I was utterly immersed in the world of the story. 

Whitaker's writing is so fluent that the reader can not help but get swept along in the events of Grace and the interactions between the characters - characters who are vivid, colourful, and memorable. This is a gritty novel that explores real issues and the real complexities that affect a community and its families when a girl goes missing. The language spoken between the characters reflects that grittiness, that reality, that violence, that truth. But there is also a huge amount of emotion  within these pages. There is a huge amount of understanding, empathy and care. There are some sentences that shock you with expletives and then there are some sentences that shock you with their beauty. I was so incredibly impressed with the author's ability to capture conversations that were written with such a sparing use of language yet so evocative, and then in other sections produce phrases that were exquisitely written. There was a well judged and well balanced mixture of stripped back, brutal, passages against the more lyrical, mesmerising and poetic moments. 

Like I said. Powerful. 

This book does not have cliffhangers at the end of its chapters, it has something worse. It has sentences that make your stomach lurch and leave you breathless, blinking back tears as the poignancy, brutal honesty or sadness hits you. There are some chapter endings that I will not forget. I love writing that uses phrases or observations that seem casual or innocent yet are weighed heavy with meaning and heartache. The narrative sections written by Summer got me every time. 

I think this novel is ambitious and complex in what it sets out to achieve. It has a large cast of characters and I was gripped yet full of heartache at the same time. The main characters are vividly brought to life and their interwoven stories are dark, oppressive, atmospheric and evocative. We alternate between Summer's narrative and the third person present, there are several threads and several complex themes to pull together but Whitaker makes all of this appear effortless with writing that is faultless. And impressive. And powerful. Have I said that already?!

All The Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker is published by Zaffre on 24th August 2017. 

If you live in Harpenden, then please come along and meet Chris Whitaker 
at 
Harpenden Books 
Saturday 2nd September 
 2-4.30pm

Why not come down, say hello, then pick up a copy of All the Wicked Girls and get it signed! 

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


Sunday, 20 August 2017

#FionaFord #TheSparkGirls #Q&A


The Spark Girl (The Spark Girls #1)
It is my great pleasure to welcome Fiona Ford on to my blog today for an interview! Thanks so much to Fiona for coming along - but before we get on with the q&a, here's a bit of blurb about her book!
Spring 1940. Kitty Williams has suffered more than her fair share of tragedy but rather than wallowing, she's more determined than ever to do her part in the battle against Hitler. Stepping up her own war effort, Kitty leaves her home town of Coventry and joins the Auxiliary Territorial Service (Women's Army - ATS) where she finds new friends in Di, Peggy and Mary but also new obstacles to overcome in both her professional and personal lives.
Packed full of wartime adventure, romance, heartbreak and friendship, The Spark Girls is a gripping and poignant saga perfect for fans of Ellie Dean, Daisy Styles and Maggie Ford
FIONA FORD: AUTHOR Q & A

Thank you so much Fiona for coming along today. Can I start by asking you about your reading? Your twitter header uses the quote from Hemingway “There is no friend as loyal as a book”. Which 3 books have been your most loyal friends? 
That is a tough one! I have many books I like to revisit where getting back into them is as comfortable as chatting with an old friend and picking straight up where you left off.

I would say Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes is my top choice – brilliant mix of humour and pathos, and Marian’s voice itself is like being with an old friend.

Little Women РLouisa May Alcott. Probably a clich̩ but the relationships between the March girls never fail to provide comfort during particularly difficult times.

Back Home – Michelle Magorian. I loved this book as a child and adore it just as much now. The tale of Rusty the evacuee returning to the UK after she was shipped to the USA at the start of the war and the challenges she faced as she adjusted to her old life is so poignant and probably got me started with my fascination of WW2.

Which 3 books would you recommend to your most loyal friends?

Lisa Hall – Between you and Me. Lisa’s books seriously mess with your mind in a really good way that will have you questioning the way you read that book for days.

Victoria Hislop – The Island is such a beautiful heart-wrenching novel, it’s a nourishing holiday read.

Anna Freeman – The Fair Fight is a brilliant historical novel with guts, chutzpah and a fab use of the Bristol dialect. An extremely good and loyal friend introduced me to it and so I would have to repay the favour and pass this onto another loyal pal.

 “The Spark Girls” is set in WW2. Can you recommend one historical novel that you have found inspirational in the sense that it captured the era, setting and society of that time convincingly?

I’ve read a lot of historical novels for research and pleasure but Kate Thompson’s, Secrets of the Singer Girls completely blew me away. Kate’s characterisation is so warm, the writing witty and observational and she has a wonderful knack of drawing you in right from page one. The thing about historical novels is we often see people depicted with completely different sets of values and it can put people off the genre because they think they won’t be able to relate to the characters – Kate’s writing changes all of that.

 “The Spark Girls” is set in the wartime – not an easy time for people, and not an easy time for your characters. Why do you think novels set in the past have such an appeal to readers today?

I’ve been asked this a lot lately and I think that part of the appeal is the world is just a little bit cruddy now and the past gives us quite a bit of comfort. In short, we as humans have survived an awful lot – two world wars most recently for example. I think the fact we can read stories set in these challenging times and know that everything worked out in the end proves there is hope for us all, no matter how dire circumstances seem to be.

 I read that your interest in the Second World War grew from looking at photos with your grandfather and hearing about his wartime experiences. What was it about his experiences that interested you so much?

My grandfather was a wonderful man with a fantastic gift for storytelling. Although he told me a lot of stories, his face would light up and he would become particularly animated when we pored over photos from his navy days. There were so many stories, from missing his ship and having to play catch-up at ports around the world (a common occurrence surprisingly) to Vera Lynn who sang as his ship set sail from England.  His enthusiasm was infectious and I adored nothing more than listening to his tales and seeing the joy on his face as he told me with forthright honesty what life was like in the navy during WW2.

 Was it something he told you about that particularly inspired the plot for “The Spark Girls”? How much of him or what he shared with you made it in to the novel?

Although Kitty’s story is set in the army rather than the navy which is where my grandfather served, the one thing I’ve included that was important to Granddad was the camaraderie he experienced.  He had so many photos and stories of his shipmates that I think it was those relationships that made it easier being away from his wife and baby son (my father) while serving his country. I’ve also used his name as one of the important characters in the novel as a way of honouring those happy times we shared – Joe.

You have worked as a journalist for many years before publishing your debut novel. How easy has the transition from non fiction writer to fiction writer been? Has your experience of writing about the real lives and real dramas of women helped inform your fiction writing?

It has been a huge help. Interviewing so many different people over the years has given me the gift of seeing how people cope when obstacles are thrown their way. I feel very lucky I’ve had a huge range of emotional, funny and downright silly stories to fall back on from people that were kind enough to share those precious moments of their lives with me.

 “The Spark Girls” is the first instalment of a series. Was this a conscious decision from the beginning and if so how did it affect your planning and writing process?

Yes! It was always the plan to write another, and fingers crossed there will be more. I knew from all the research I had done that the lives of those that served as drivers in the army was perfect for storytelling. With women facing danger, ferrying secrets to Winston Churchill one day or delivering goods and lorries across the country another, all the while at risk of being hijacked by the enemy. These women were so courageous and full of life I knew that these stories had all the ingredients for a series.

Are you working on the next book at the moment? Can you tell us anything about it?  

I have literally just finished the sequel to The Spark Girl. It’s called The Spark Girl’s Promise and tells the story of Peggy who we meet in book one. Peggy starts off as a quiet, shy girl but with all the danger and adventures she has to face as the bombs fall in 1941 she finds strength and courage she never knew she had to cope with some very challenging surprises.

And finally, what book can you recommend that might “spark” up my summer holiday reading?! Or can you recommend one novel that one of the characters in your novel might be reading  / want to read if they were living in 2017?


If you’re new to historical fiction or don’t think it’s for you then try The Bomb Girls by Daisy Styles. Packed with feisty women, a terrific storyline and punchy dialogue, she’s given the saga market a welcome shake-up and it’s perfect for lying on a beach wishing these cracking female characters were here to enjoy that cheeky cocktail with you as the sun beats down in 2017.

Thank you so much for answering my questions and for your interesting answers - and great book recommendations! It's been a real pleasure to chat with you and I wish you all the best with the publication of The Spark Girls! 

The Spark Girls was published by Orion in June 2017.

FIONA FORD





I have spent the last fifteen years working as a journalist and now spend my days crafting fiction having created The Spark Girl , a series of wartime sagas, published by Orion and the Pug Like Percy novels, published by HQ.  As a little girl all I ever wanted to do was write books and lose myself in a world of characters and stories. Amazingly, my dream has finally come true! 


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