A Thought about: To the Bone

I would like to get one thing straight – although anorexia is very commonly associated with an uncontrollable urge to be thin and those suffering with this illness, are in fact, terrified of gaining weight, I would like to highlight a particular word in what I’ve just written. That is: Control.

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The Hidden Legacy by G J Minett: Book Review

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Once you know, you can’t forget

1966. A horrifying crime at a secondary school, with devastating consequences for all involved.

2008. A life-changing gift, if only the recipient can work out why . . .

First word: Wow. Last word: WOOOOW.

I can’t quite praise this book enough. What an amazing debut by G J Minett; it will definitely be a hard one to follow (I type this as I eagerly await the publication of his second novel Lie In Wait. March 9th guys. Note it.)

So I finished The Hidden Legacy Saturday night after being on my ‘to read’ list for quite some time. To be completely honesty I was utterly lost for words when I closed the book on the last page. I couldn’t form a sentence to express how I was feeling (in a 100% good way!) The novel is a definite page turner, that much I can tell you.

Minett has a gift. He is no doubt a writer who can do what some may think  impossible. He can split the plot in different directions yet somehow cross stitch all the pieces back together, ensuring that all the loose ends have been tied. The final twist of the novel itself had me holding my breath and it was only when I got to part four, did I actually breathe again.

The book opens with the narration of a lone young boy. It becomes increasingly obvious as the pacing of the writing quickens that this young boy is about to do something unforgettable. This is the immediate draw. For in 1966. this young boy, John Michael Adams walks into his school grounds and sets fire to two young girls. One dies, the other is scarred for life. My mouth was hanging open at the end of the prologue. I remember my eyes popping.

Flash forward to 2008 when Ellen Sutherland, a recently divorced mother of two, receives a letter from a solicitor urging her to make contact regarding the last will and testimony of one Eudora Nash. At first, Ellen believes they have the wrong person, for the name Eduora Nash means absolutely nothing to her.

Not knowing what possesses her and after a strange phone call with the Solicitor, Ellen decides to trust fate and makes a six-hour trip to the Cotswolds. And low and behold, nestled a few miles from Cheltenham, Ellen comes face to face with a picturesque cottage that, once all necessary paperwork have been signed, will belong solely to her.

Naturally, Ellen is shocked, in disbelief and most importantly, confused as to why this cottage has been left to her by someone she has never heard of. And thus, the long road to discovering answers, begins. Going back and forth between her mother whose memory has deteriorated rapidly and her boss whose like a father, the list of questions gets longer and responses are far too evasive.

The deeper Ellen digs, the more confused she becomes. The spider web continues to tangle with more questions emerging at every turn, until a faithful Reverend of the village hands her two very important letters. Letters that hold all the answers she’s been searching for. It’s just whether she is receptive to learn.

A powerful debut, Minett uses the novel to portray a number of different characters and we have the pleasure of seeing the development in the timeline through one character in particular, who manages to lace together the entirety of the plot. There are so many emotional responses to the characters and what they endure in order to hide and search and uncover the secrets from the past, that it is really hard not to sympathise with all of them.

What really grasped my heartstrings though was the concluding connection between Eudora and Ellen – something that I did not see coming and something Minett handles with easy grace. In my mind, The Hidden Legacy is not what I’d class the usual psychological thriller, but it is no doubt, undeniably one of the best of the genre from an incredible writer. It is well worth the read.

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So I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Graham and it was clear from the go, his passion for writing and for his audience is outstanding. I’m eagerly anticipating his next book, Lie In Wait. I am still so gutted I didn’t have his book on me when meeting him. It would have been an honour to have it signed!

Crime Fiction Fanatic Fangirl Moment // Meeting Peter James

During my first three years of undergraduate study, Plymouth University has offered lots of events and talks with people who are relatively well known being the main star attending. Of course, I never went to any of these previous events. I also managed to miss one event I actually paid £18 to see last year because I made the silly mistake of not realising I would be in London on that particular day. So there you have it, I wasn’t one to attend the events that were offered to me practically on my doorstep. However, tonight’s particular event struck me and I knew I wouldn’t be missing it for the world. It was free too, which surprised me even more.

Tonight, Plymouth University was hosting an event called ‘Walk This Way’ (appropriate name which I didn’t really understand until the first guest star was announced… great pun, guys…) The two guest stars were Haydn Kelly – a forensic podiatrist, and the best bit… BEST SELLING BRITISH CRIME AUTHOR Peter James! Obviously, this was the part that sold me, being a crime fiction fanatic, I was very much interested in hearing Peter James talk about his new book and how he came to be such an amazing success, there was also chance of a meet and greet with him after the talk, so I wasn’t going to pass up that chance. No way.

The event started with complimentary canapes and wine; I took advantage of the free mini quiches, and the official talk begin at 6:30. There was a real good variety of people, including podiatry students. We were first introduced o Haydn Kelly, where he began to talk about how forensic gait analysis has become a really useful tool in the world of law enforcement – and how it has become an inevitable part in catching the criminal. Kelly is known as the founder, and he created a world’s ‘first’ in Forensic Gait Analysis (FGA) in July 2000 when presenting FGA evidence in London, as verified in the Guinness World Records.

Forensic gait analysis is, according to Kelly, the identification of persons by the style and features of their walk and involves the examination of the unique features of an individual’s gait; hence the title of the event being ‘Walk This Way’ – Get it? Hehehe. But yes, this type of analysis includes the movement of the body as a whole. FGA involves the examination of types of body movements which are interpreted by clinical, qualitative and quantitative methods. This type of forensic method appears in Peter James’ new novel ‘You Are Dead’ and Kelly himself, is also a fictional character that has featured in four of James’s novels, including his most recent in the Roy Grace series.

For fellow readers who may not know much about Peter James, I’ll start by saying he is the UK’s most treasured crime and thriller novelists of the 21st century. He is the proud creator of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace – and these novels have sold over 16 million copies worldwide – translated into 36 languages – so he’s a pretty big deal. It was an absolute honour to sit in the same room as him, even to breathe the same air… Okay, my fangirl persona is making an appearance, but it was just so overly insightful, entertaining and fascinating to no end. Peter James is an absolute gem of a human being with a real passion for his work. It was so refreshing hearing from an author who enjoys their writing – it was also absolutely hilarious to experience first-hand, his friendly and down-to-earth nature.

He began answering the question about how he came to write crime fiction with such a comical emotional tone, and I truly fell in love with his sense of appreciation for life. He is much more than a writer, he is such an inspiring human being and I am so thankful I got to attend this event. One of my favourite moments during the talk was when he was approached about this idea of writer’s block. Now I’m sure everyone who has ever written, knows what it is like to suffer from periods of not being able to write anything and this is the process we call writers block. Peter James expressed controversial views on this subject – he doesn’t believe in writers block and thinks it is a complete myth. Everybody in the room were pleasantly surprised by this; including me. I was a little bit horrified at first. he went on to explain that writer’s block is what happens to someone when they haven’t planned their story – and he appreciates that writing is difficult, and it doesn’t get any easier, but writer’s block is something that occurs when the writer hasn’t planned his/her work effectively enough so they can’t see where it is going to end.

This got me thinking and I realised, that in fact, it is actually quite true. The number of projects I’ve given up on are all one’s that haven’t had a fully formed plan… so that shut me up. It was also extremely interesting to hear about James’s view on ebooks and technology, which is also helpful for a particular seminar paper I am writing at the moment for my course; win win. Overall, the evening was a huge success and it was absolutely amazing to be in the same room as someone who is responsible for producing a wide range of crime novels that are acclaimed best sellers…. It was pretty surreal, but magical. I made a great mistake of sticking my hand up for the Q&A afterwards, and asked him a question about whether he drew inspiration from other crime authors. I was literally dying inside with happiness.

That was until after the talk and I ended up waiting in line with a copy of his new book and then I was standing in front of him. Then I died. He was so kind to sign my copy, and I even managed to get a picture with him; at this point I was literally fangirling extremely hard… I literally have no words for that moment. He even said I had a lovely name, and asked about my studies. When I told him I was a Masters student studying Publishing, I made a nervous joke about one day publishing him, and he said he would be absolutely delighted.

Literally.

Dead.

Can’t. Even.

So that was my Tuesday night….. I am speechless.

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Plymouth International Book Festival: Branding the Writer

Plymouth International Book FestivalSaturday 17th October

Today marked the third day of the Plymouth International Book Festival; a festival that first ran in 2012 and was the first large scale celebration of international and UK writers that Plymouth had ever seen.

It is a literature festival, celebrating local and international authors, promoting their works through a number of events: readings, talks, poetry, workshops, and discussions. The festival itself is a partnership between Literature Works, Peninsula Arts, Plymouth University and Plymouth City Council; this event has opened the community to an annual programme of literature that everyone can enjoy.

As a Plymouth University student, I have the opportunity to attend the festival for free; for a graduate English Literature student, would I pass up the opportunity of attending? For this year’s festival, I chose to be a volunteer, I got to go behind the scenes and experience the festival first hand, and today was my first volunteering session. I got to meet and greet with the writers; two of which were debut novelists, as well as assisting them, I got an all access pass to watch their unique discussion titled ‘Branding The Writer’. Of course, writers come under all sorts of labels, and what was at the heart of this particular discussion was whether or not certain labels were relevant to the work of the 21st century writers.

Our panel consisted of four authors; two debuting novelists, one successful local thriller author and surprise, my very own short story module leader from my undergraduate studies! The two debuting authors; Tim Clare and Anna Freeman, both debut writers with a background in poetry and creative writing, were the light and soul of this lively discussion – it was a real treat to see such different characters express themselves so freely in front of an eager audience.

Tim Clare’s charismatic energy was the spotlight, his character was a pure delight  and his insight to the world of writing was so full of life. Anna Freeman’s dry comical approach was endearing and supported her overall attitude towards life – her book titled ‘The Fair Fight’ is an extreme tale of stories that aren’t well known, I won’t give the plot away, but as each of the authors read a few paragraphs, I was blown away by the first page of her particular debut.

Mark Sennen, a local Plymouth author and writer of the DI Charlotte Savage thriller novels, is a prime example of a writer who excels in his work. He started off as a self-published novelist, because a number of publishers rejected his work. His first novel Touch, sold over 86,000 copies, self published, and then finally his talent was picked up by HarperCollins Imprint Avon book publishing. His relaxed approach to the discussion was both informative and exciting. Tom Vowler; a familiar face, short story writer and novelist (also my short story module leader during my second year of my undergraduate degree) had, as always, a delightful approach in engaging both audience and writers.

The discussion concluded that being branded a writer was neither good or bad – but each author expressed different views. Tim Clare’s novel was his first attempt at writing fantasy fiction, with a number of people spotlighting his poetry background, comparing and expressing his work in relation to certain poets who Clare had neither read or was inspired by.

It was the prime talk of what being a writer meant to an individual; Clare expressed deeply that he much prefers being an individual first because being called a writer, labels him and on the days he feels like writing is too hard, he feels he’s fails himself as writer. This approach was mirrored similarly by Vowler and Sennen. Freeman expressed how she felt that she was only able to justify her title as a writer, when she was published. But now, she feels that to call yourself a writer, you must first value writing dearly. She quoted ‘I think you first become a writer when you start to really care about what you are writing.’

Overall the discussion was lively, entertaining and extremely insightful, and I was more than happy to attend; both as a volunteer and a member of the audience.

I also managed to get two signed copies of both Clare’s debut novel ‘The Honours’ and Sennen’s ‘Tell Tale’! So yeah, I guess that means I’ve kind of been around famous people.

How has everyone else’s Saturday been?

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Book Review: Stasi Child by David Young

What better way to kick start my new posts by publishing a book review I have written for a novel that is set to be released in February 2016. It is already available on e-book, but the paperback isn’t out yet. I had the wonderful opportunity to read and review an uncorrected proof of this novel, due to my involvement with Literature Works – the south west’s leading strategic literature development charity.  So without further ado, sit back, read this review and go and pre-order this fantastic upcoming thriller.

NOTE: this review was written for Literature Works and can now be found up on their website.
Further note: Publication day for Stasi Child, part of this review was featured in the public published edition!!! (see here)

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Stasi Child
by David Young

Debuting his first thriller paperback novel, David Young creates a beautifully atmospheric and exciting plot, featuring a brand new leading female character role within Stasi Child.

Set in the winter of East Berlin, 1975, Oberleuntnant Karin Müller and her deputy, Unterleutnant Werner Tilsner receive a call to investigate the death of a young girl found by the Berlin Wall – or, the ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Barrier’ as it is so called. From the go it is unusual for Müller to be involved in an investigation of this nature so close to the border; that is until they arrive at the scene. A Stasi officer, Klaus Jäger is onsite and he is requiring personal assistance from Müller.

This ice cold winter tale chisels away at the reader’s fingers as they delve deeper into the plot, with the relationships between Müller and other characters being immensely captivating. For instance, her attraction to Tilsner, the strain of her marriage to husband Gottfriend and of course, the Stasi officer, Jäger himself. From the first few pages, Young creates this sensational setting with a headstrong female lead that drives the plot forward at a steady pace.

The narrative itself is conveyed through strikingly sinister reminders of life in East Germany back in the 1970s which stays true to the novel throughout. With lots of twists, the number of sub-plots draw you in at every turn of the page. As the story continues, it leaves the reader asking a number of questions but most importantly, the question of who can and cannot be trusted.

With fantastic attention to detail, including the use of German language for authenticity, the novel appears educational as well as extremely pleasurable. The plot is cleverly complicated, but easy enough to follow and so full of curiosity that it is hard to put down. It is such an incredible debut for the start of a leading character series and Young has definitely written a sensational beginning.

Reminding me of the inspiring Henning Mankell and his famous Kurt Wallander series, David Young has produced a remarkable plot with some remarkable characters that are no doubt, here to stay. Hopefully the next Karin Müller thriller won’t be too far behind.