Published by Penguin

Ebook : 17 August 2017  |  Paperback : 2 November 2017

342 pages


About the book:

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.

And now the police are watching them…

 

My Review:

The marketing for this book was very intriguing. First in the post arrived a key, with a code to a website link which when unlocked, then showed details of the book. Genius!

The proof cover doesn’t give anything away so when I started reading I went in blind  – and was very quickly hooked.  The story is told by both Jack and Syd in turn, each recounting events and their thoughts as journal entries. Sometimes this format can be difficult to connect with but this was well done and worked well for me. You didn’t get a complete retelling of the story but an insight into their personalities and backstory and also their comments on what each had written about the other.

The story began with a creepy premise. When Jack and Syd move into an old house, complete with the previous owner’s contents and belongings, it all felt a bit weird. After all, who sells their house and doesn’t take their things with them. Apparently the seller had a change of personal circumstances and decided to offload the whole shabang. Anyway Jack and Syd have a monumental task on their hands, trying to clear out the unwanted items, including some taxidermy animals (yuk!). However when Jack goes up to the loft whilst trying to discover the source of a particularly nasty smell, what he discovers is rather unpleasant and decidedly sinister.

There are various strands to the story and at first I couldn’t understand how they connected to the house. There are some disturbing themes here too, no spoilers but what kept my interest was how these threads would come together and what the impact would be on our two main characters.

This was a suspenseful and twisty read but not quite what I expected. I was anticipating that the story would focus more on the house and that there would perhaps be a supernatural/horror element, but instead it took a slightly different turn and focused primarily on the two main characters and how events in their past and present impacted.  I felt that far from being a main character, The House was relegated to the role of an extra.

Despite my slight confusion was to where the story was heading, it turned into a very good dark and disturbing read which I enjoyed.  There were some truly horrible characters here and if you’re like me, you will be silently wishing every last plague and pox on them whenever they appear.  In my opinion it was more of a crime/suspense thriller than a true psychological one but whatever, it still makes for a tense and chilling read.

One thing is certain.  I will be #LockingMyDoors!

 

My thanks to the publisher for the review copy and for the invitation to take part in the blog tour.

 

At the time of this post, The House, can be downloaded from Amazon UK for just 99p

 

 

About the author:

Simon Lelic is the author of three previous novels: Rupture (winner of a Betty Trask Award and shortlisted for the John Creasy Debut Dagger), The Facility and The Child Who (longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger and CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2012). The House is his first psychological thriller, inspired by a love of Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King.

 

Author Links:    Website   |   Twitter   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads 

 

Published by Linen Press

in paperback and ebook on 1 April 2017

254 pages


 

About the book:

 

A rape. A war. A society where women are bought and sold but no one can speak of shame. Shanghai 1937. The courtesan culture. Violence throbs at the heart of The Dancing Girl and the Turtle.

Song Anyi is on the road to Shanghai and freedom when she is raped and left for dead. The silence and shame that mark her courageous survival drive her to escalating self-harm and prostitution. From opium dens to high-class brothels, Anyi dances on the edge of destruction while China and Japan go to war. Hers is the voice of every woman who fights for independence against overwhelming odds.

The Dancing Girl and the Turtle is one of four interlocking novels set between 1929 and 1954, The Shanghai Quartet, which span a tumultuous time in Chinese history.

 

Extract

Prologue – The Dancing Girl and the Turtle

I shot the horse four days ago.

Its foreleg was broken and the horse screamed for release. A farmer and his wife heard the cries.

He said, ‘You can use my gun. I’ll bury the horse too, but you’ll have to give me your wagon in payment.’

What else could I do?

His wife took pity on me and fetched a handcart her son had once used. I put all I could into that child’s cart and walked away. When I turned back, the farmer’s wife was fingering the books and scrolls I had left behind, as stunned as if she had just been anointed Empress of all China.

The road had looked honest and straight. A journey of two weeks, I thought. But here in the mountains the mist rises from the river and the road turns milk-white and the way forward is lost.

Soon, I’ll be out of this hinterland, back in the city where there are people and bowls of soup and a dry place to sleep. Soon, my Uncle and Auntie will find me on their doorstep and how surprised they’ll be! They’ll praise me for having found my way all alone from Soochow to Shanghai. They’ll welcome me into their home and my new life will begin.

I walk on. The cart squeals with every step I take. I close my ears to its agony. I only want to look and smell.

The sea! Its silver threads lace the air, weaving themselves into the trees. The road curves just ahead, a path of seashells made to mark the land or maybe just to please a child. The afternoon sun spreads from the path and warms my knees.

The wheels of my cart slow and finally stop. It was only a matter of time before I would have to jettison a little more of my past. What do I leave on the road this time?

The sky is still clear, the promise of a radiant night. Now that the wheels have stopped, I can hear the birds.

They sing to me, ‘Don’t cry, Song Anyi, daughter of the most famous silk weaver in Soochow. You cannot fail now, so close to Shanghai.’

I turn. The two boys are ragged and dirty, no older than I. They wear the ill-fitting uniforms of privates in the Chinese army. There’s a man, too, whose boot presses the wheels of my cart into the soft earth. He doesn’t speak as he approaches. He takes my long braid in his hand as if it were a strand of pearls. He smiles at me but I cannot smile back. He hits me and I fall to the ground.

The birds wheel away, cawing for help. The man tears my garments, scraping each layer away until I am a fish with no scales, flailing on the chopping board. The boys know what to do. They each take an arm. The man takes my legs.

‘Cover her face,’ he growls and the boys obey. Dead leaves fill my mouth, strangely sweet.

I count faces, fingers, teeth and toes. I was good at counting. It was the one thing I did that earned my father’s praise. Fourteen yuan for a roll of washed silk, thirty-five yuan for a heavy brocade. I sat behind the screen at Baba’s workshop and counted. There was a time when the great and the good would come and beg Baba to weave something special, just for them. So many rolls of silk left, the mould creeping from thread to thread, all because Baba wouldn’t sell to the Japanese.

What would you say now, Baba? Do you and Mama look down from the heavens and weep?

I will not cry.

I smell the earth, damp and fecund with the seed of these men. They rest for a while, lounging bare-bottomed on a fallen tree. The boys smear mud on my face while the man throws stones at my bleeding hole. They laugh and the trees laugh back.

‘Shame!’ the birds cry.

They sit in black rows. Their red eyes glow in the night.

‘Shame on you, Song Anyi. You were too proud to marry any local boy. You were too good to live in Soochow. Ambition has brought you to this end.’

Death?

The birds deliberate. The trees shiver in the wind. A leaf drops, delicate in the air. A perfect specimen adrift on the forest floor, so close I can see its veins.

‘Is she dead?’ one of the boys asks.

‘Who cares,’ the man says.

‘Should we bury her?’ the other boy wants to know.

The man pulls on his pants. He spits into his hands, wipes the grime off his shirt.

‘Leave her for the dogs,’ he says. ‘They’ll come soon enough.’

I wait.

About the author:

Karen Kao is the child of Chinese immigrants who settled in the United States in the 1950s. As a young lawyer in Washington, DC, she fell in love with a Dutchman. Karen moved with him to Amsterdam. Unfazed by a new language, culture and legal system, she launched a second career as a high-flying corporate lawyer.

In 2011, she abandoned the law for a third career: a return to her love of writing and the stories she heard as a child of Old Shanghai. She writes: ‘My heart belongs to Shanghai. It’s the star of my novel.’

Kao is a former student of Lan Samantha Chang from the Paris Writers Workshop (2013) and of Yiyun Li at the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference (2016).

Her debut novel has been praised by critics from London to Hong Kong for its sensitive portrayal of violence against women and the damage silence can do.

 

Author Links:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Goodreads | Instagram 

 

 

Published by HQ/Harper Collins

Ebook and Paperback : 21 September 2017

464 pages


I’m delighted to welcome Annabel Kantaria to the blog with a guest post for the blog tour. When I was invited to take part and to suggest a topic, I asked if Annabel could write about her life in Dubai and whether the challenges of being a journalist/author there are any different to those she would face in the UK.

 

by Annabel Kantaria

 

You moved to Dubai in 1998. What made you do it?

For adventure, warmth and sunshine. To be able to wake up almost every single day and see bright blue sky is my idea of heaven. I’ve been here all these years, and the novelty of wall-to-wall blue sky still hasn’t worn off.

Were you an author back then?

No, I was a journalist. To be fair, I did have a bit of a pipe dream of me sitting facing a gorgeous swimming pool as I wrote a string of best-sellers in the sunshine, but the reality at that stage was far from the dream: I was a magazine editor, working ten-hour days that left me so drained that the idea that I might be able to write something creative when I got home was about as realistic as a chocolate sun-lounger.

How did you make the move from journalist to author?

Over the years, I left my job, started freelancing, had children and finally found it possible to claw some time for myself to start writing fiction. In 2013, I won the Montegrappa Prize for First Fiction at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, and this ultimately resulted in me gaining both an agent and a publisher, and taking the step to become a full-time author.

Are the challenges of being a journalist / author in Dubai any different to those you would face in the UK?

I imagine that the challenges of writing fiction are the same no matter where you live so working as an author in Dubai can’t be so terribly different to working as an author in the UK. For me, the biggest issue of living abroad is FOMO – fear of missing out. Social media lets us all see what others are up to, and I look wistfully at pictures of the book launches, signings, parties and literary gatherings back home that pop up on my various feeds, and wish I could have been there. I also miss being able to have face-to-face meetings with my agent and editor. It’s true they’re always there at the end of an email, and I fly back and forth as much as I can, but I’d love to be able to have the odd lunch with them to brainstorm ideas without having to jump on a plane.

Are there any particular advantages to working as an author in Dubai?

Because Dubai is a much smaller market than the UK, it’s easier to publicise yourself. I’ve had the chance to do far more television and radio than I would have been able to do in the UK, which is great.

I’ve also got to do some amazing things. Last year, for example, I was invited to sit on an advisory panel for HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who wanted ideas on how to get people reading more books. I was invited to his stud farm to brainstorm with some seriously clever people, then he flew in in a helicopter to hear our ideas himself. I honestly can’t imagine being invited to do that for the Queen or Prime Minister in the UK!

Dubai’s also home to the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which last year alone brought 180 international authors to the city. Through the festival I’ve taken part in some great writing workshops and met some wonderful authors. It’s just two weeks a year, though – I wish it was every month!

What advice do you have for budding authors?

Try to get into the habit of writing something every day, no matter how little it is and no matter how rubbish you think it is. They say the writing is like a muscle – it has to be exercised – and I think it’s very true. But also, if you’re trying to write a book, you’ll be surprised how quickly 500 words a day turns into a full manuscript.

 

About the book:

Everyone has one. An ex you still think about. The one who makes you ask ‘what if’?

Fifteen years have passed since Stella and George last saw each other. But something makes Stella click ‘yes’ to the invite to her school reunion.

There’s still a spark between them, and although their relationship ended badly, they begin an affair.

But once someone gets you back, sometimes they’re never going to let you go again…

 

 

About the author:

Annabel Kantaria is a British journalist who now lives in Dubai with her husband and children. She has edited and contributed to women’s magazines and publications throughout the Middle East and returns regularly to the UK.

 

Author Links:  Website   |   Twitter    |  Facebook  | Amazon UK   |   Goodreads

 

Published by Orenda Books

ebook: 15 August 2017   |  Paperback: 30 September 2017

276 pages


It’s a pleasure to be cohosting today’s blog tour spot for Louise Beech’s latest book, Maria in the Moon.  Firstly, I have a lovely guest post from Louise and my review follows at the end.

 

by Louise Beech

Maria in the Moon is a novel essentially about memory. How it controls us. The potency of it. And the power of a lack of it, as in the case of Catherine-Maria who cannot remember her ninth year. Naturally, writing the book got me thinking about my own memories.

When I write, sometimes it feels like I’m searching for them. My childhood is shrouded in mystery at times. There was much that left me baffled. I watched my parents’ divorce unfold. Saw my mother go through a serious depression, culminating in a suicide attempt that left her in hospital for a year, while my brother, two sisters and I were cared for by our grandma and foster carers. We then experienced a succession of our mother’s entirely inappropriate boyfriends.

We also didn’t see our father for twenty-six years, so when we met again we wanted all the stories he had. We were hungry for those missing pieces. Asked him endless questions. But of course, they were that – stories. His version of what happened. Where our names came from (differing from our mother’s version). What we were like as babies (again different).

My siblings and I recently got our official care records, hoping for answers there. But much is blacked out. Confidentiality rights means that we can only see things where others are not mentioned.

My mother told me her own stories as I grew up. I probably get a lot of my creativity from her. She weaves a tantalising tale. She told me about my conception on Valentine’s Day – this could be true as I was born nine months after. How she once ‘forgot me’ and left me in my pram at the shops, only realising once home that she was missing something. As I grew up, these stories often altered. Really, I want my own version. The truth. And I’m sure I look for it in the fiction I create.

But just as Catherine-Maria’s lack of memory protects her, I wonder if mine does me. What are the things I don’t remember? There are whole chunks of them. Is it better not to remember? In Catherine’s case, it’s a good thing. She can heal once she has her truth. Face the people who let her down. Understand herself better. But this is fiction, where readers often want things to at least be resolved. Life isn’t that exact.

Perhaps one day I’ll write a memoir. But until then – until I remember everything in order to do so – I’ll keep writing the fiction that helps me make sense of everything…

 

About the book:

Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can’t.’ Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything. Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide…

 

 

My Review:

I’m a huge fan of Louise Beech’s writing and both of her previous books have been in my Top Books of the Year (How to Be Brave, 2015) and (The Mountain in my Shoe, 2016), (both being reviewed here on the blog). When you’ve loved the previous books, there always feels a little bit of a worry in reading a new one. It’s not always a given that you will love it as much and I admit that when I first started reading this, I wasn’t sure at all.

Maria in the Moon is Louise Beech’s third book to actually be published (but I believe it is the first book that was written). It has been released from that bottom drawer to find its way in the world (quite rightly so), and is yet another example, if one were needed, of how beautifully she writes.

The author has experienced at first hand the awful flooding that took place in Hull in 2007 and uses this knowledge to highlight the desperation of those affected. Thankfully I have never yet been in this situation and I can’t imagine how awful it must be to not only have filthy water invading your home but destroying your most precious possessions.

Our main character Catherine is a victim of the flooding. Her house is being rebuilt and she is sleeping on a sofa in a rented flat above a curry house. Alongside her part time job at a care home, she volunteers for Flood Crisis, where she chose the name Katrina (to differentiate between her and another Catherine at the centre) because at the time she happened to be looking at a newspaper headline about ‘Hurricane Katrina’ causing havoc. I must admit that when I first saw the name Katrina here, I immediately thought of the 1990’s Eurovision winner, Katrina and the Waves (keeping with the water theme!) but …moving on!   Flood Crisis is a telephone support service to help those affected by the flooding. It is this aspect of the story that I found incredibly moving and you realise that it isn’t just those who have been directly affected who need help; there are people who rely on their neighbours but those neighbours have been moved out of their homes – the isolation of those left behind is apparent as they are marooned in buildings completely on their own.

When I initially started reading, I didn’t find Catherine an easy person to like. She could be difficult, sometimes aggressive and sarcastic but there were occasions when she made me laugh with her sarcasm and caustic comments. However the person we see working in the Flood Centre is completely different. To distressed callers she is Katrina with a patient and gentle manner, she listens carefully and there are some that she feels a connection to but the rules forbid her from dispensing advice or from getting too close. It is clear that some trauma has affected Catherine very deeply and reading between the lines, it isn’t difficult to work out what it could be.

Catherine can’t remember her ninth year or why she stopped being called Catherine-Maria. Or why her grandmother’s beloved Virgin Mary statue was smashed. There is a huge gap where these memories should be which has tainted her adult life. She doesn’t ‘do’ relationships and pushes people away when they get too close.

Maria in the Moon is just beautifully written and poignant and the underlying focus is on memories and trauma that are so painful to remember that they remain hidden deep inside until such time as something in us is unlocked and we are ready to face them. As a child Catherine-Maria was happy until her 8th birthday. Then her dad died, her relationship with her stepmother deteriorated and life for Catherine changed forever.

There are some wonderfully drawn characters here. Catherine has a distinct personality and although I wasn’t sure of her at first, I grew quite fond of her, and at times could have cried for her. Her strained relationship with her stepmother was expertly depicted and so believable.

Mother, marched over; her face was wet.  I thought she might hug me. Maybe kiss me.  But she slapped my face. Twice. I recoiled. “Worried?! she cried, “You stupid, selfish, horrible girl. You’re always thinking of yourself. Always going off and causing trouble. Why can’t you be more like Celine? [her stepsister]  Why can’t you just be….be…pleasant. I never should have taken you on. God, if I’d known”. 

Her affection for her father’s sister, Auntie (Hairy) Mary was touching and the relationship between them counterbalanced her stepmother’s apparent lack of attention. Her colleagues at the Flood Centre both helped and irritated her – the office jobsworth ‘Jangly’ Jane, Catherine’s buddy mentor Christopher – they are all part of Catherine’s story, for better or worse.

Maria in the Moon is not a thriller but an emotional drama.  Whilst there are undoubtedly dark and disturbing elements to the story, it is very much character driven. The writing is flawless in its construction and it is one of those books that you need to savour and read slowly in order to fully appreciate it.

I needn’t have worried about not loving this book as much.  Maria in the Moon is another triumph for Louise Beech.

My thanks to the publisher Orenda Books for the review copy and to Anne Cater for the invitation to take part in the tour.

 

About the author:

Louise Beech remembers sitting in her father’s cross-legged lap while he tried to show her his guitar’s chords. He’s a musician. Her small fingers stumbled and gave up. She was three. His music sheets fascinated her – such strange language that translated into music. Her mother teaches languages, French and English, so her fluency with words fired Louise’s interest. She knew from being small that she wanted to write, to create, to make magic.

Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism. Her debut novel, How to be Brave, was a Guardian Readers’ pick for 2015.

When she was fifteen Louise bet her mother ten pounds she’d be published by the time she was thirty. She missed this self-set deadline by two months. Her mother is still waiting for the money.

 

 

Author Links:   Website  |   Twitter   |   Facebook   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads

 

 

Head of Zeus

ebook & hardback: 9th Feb 2017   |  paperback 7 September 2017

400 pages


 

|  About the book  |

 

Five years ago, Rosa walked to the pier in the dead of night, looked into the swirling water, and jumped. She was a brilliant Cambridge student who had just lost her father. Her death was tragic, but not unexpected.

Was that what really happened?

The coroner says it was suicide. But Rosa’s boyfriend Jar can’t let go. He sees Rosa everywhere – a face on the train, a figure on the cliff. He is obsessed with proving that she is still alive. And then he gets an email.

Find me, Jar. Find me, before they do…

 

 

Extract

He’s learnt over the years that paranoia is a corrosive disease, eating away like acid at the edges of his rational mind, but he allows himself one certainty this evening: his at wasn’t visited by burglars. The chaos was too choreographed, too methodical for crackheads. In recent days he has had the feeling of being watched, followed home from work, observed from coffee shops, a sensation that he has so far managed to dismiss. Tonight changes everything.

He unbolts the locked side door of the garage and stepsinside, turning on the fluorescent strip light. His actions feel more valid now. He isn’t expecting this place to have been burgled too, but it’s still a relief to nd it exactly as he left it yesterday. He sits down at the computer, switching it on as he looks around the small, cold space. Rosa always feels closer here.

Three nautical charts of the north Norfolk coastline, taped together, dominate one breeze-block wall. Red-marker-pen arrows have been drawn on to the charts, indicating the direction of currents; beaches as far west as Burnham Deepdale and Hunstanton have been circled. Next to the charts is an Ordnance Survey map of Cromer. Green-coloured pen lines lead out to photographs and CCTV stills neatly stuck to an adjacent pinboard.

The wall behind the computer table is a patchwork of photographs. On the left-hand side are images of Rosa from university. On the right are unconfirmed sightings since her death, some of them crossed out. He didn’t take a photo at Paddington of the woman he thought was Rosa. Instead, he sticks a photo of the station on the wall, draws a question mark next to it with a red marker pen and adds the date.

He keeps everything to do with her here, in an effort to preserve some sort of normality in the rest of his life. The end- less Freedom of Information requests to St Matthew’s (her college), the police, the hospital, as well as his correspondence with the coroner (exempt from FoI). There’s the more personal, too: a Margaret Howell nightshirt (bought by her aunt when she got into Cambridge), her favourite perfume (scent she’d found in the spice market in Istanbul), one of the funny cards she’d slipped under his college door.

When people visit the flat, they think he’s moved on with his life. He likes that, wants people to believe he’s over her. No one need know that it’s here in this draughty lock-up that he feels most alive, surrounded by images of the woman he loved more than he thought it was possible to love another human being. If someone walked in on him now, they would mistake him for a stalker. In some ways that’s what he is, except the woman he is hunting is meant to have died five years ago, jumping to her death on a wild night in Cromer, 130 miles away on the north Norfolk coast.

 

 

 

|  About the author  |

 

Author Jon Stock, now writing as J.S. Monroe, read English at Cambridge University, worked as a freelance journalist in London and was a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4. He was also a foreign correspondent in Delhi for the Daily Telegraph and was on its staff in London as Weekend editor.
He left Telegraph in 2010 to finish writing his acclaimed Daniel Marchant spy trilogy and returned in 2013 to oversee the paper’s digital books channel. He became a fulltime author in 2015, writing as J.S. Monroe.
His first novel, ‘The Riot Act’ was shortlisted by the Crime Writers’ Association for its best first novel award. The film rights for ‘Dead Spy Running’, his third novel, were bought by Warner Bros, who hired Oscar-winner Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana) to write the screenplay. It is currently in development.
He is the author of five novels and lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife, a photographer, and their three children.

 

 

Author Links:  Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook   |   Amazon UK   |    Goodreads