Author interview: Kate Furnivall

22 May

I’m delighted to welcome Kate Furnivall to One More Page today to chat about her latest novel, The Italian Wife. Kate was born in Wales and studied English at London University. She worked in publishing and then moved to TV advertising, where she met her husband. In 2000, Kate decided to write her mother’s extraordinary story of growing up in Russia, China and India, and this became The Russian Concubine, which was a New York Times bestseller. All her books since then have had an exotic setting and Kate has travelled widely for her research. She now has two sons and lives with her husband in a cottage by the sea in Devon. Welcome Kate!

Kate Furnivall

Great to be here today. Thanks for inviting me.

Your new novel, The Italian Wife, has just been released. Please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it?

I have been extremely interested in architecture ever since my son and his wife became architects. So I was drawn to the idea of a young woman, damaged by her past, building a new life for herself as she builds a new town, the two inextricably intertwined.

Isabella Berotti is an architect who is part of the team building a town for Mussolini in 1932. Her life changes when she agrees to look after an unknown child for a few minutes and the mother throws herself off the top of a tower that Isabella has designed. Why did she do it? And what is her connection to Isabella? This is the start of a search for the truth behind a web of secrets and lies. Isabella turns for help to photographer Roberto Falco, and together they are caught up in a complex story of intrigue and danger.

My inspiration for the story came from Mussolini’s remarkable decision to drain the Pontine Marshes and build his towns on it. I was fascinated to explore what it would be like to be a cog in that huge Fascist undertaking, as Isabella is, finding a new path for her life as she does so.

Please could you introduce your leading lady, Isabella Berotti, by summing her up in five words?

Courageous.

Ambitious.

Loyal.

Damaged.

Talented.

The novel is set in beautiful Italy and particularly the Agro Pontino near Rome. Did you visit as part of your research and do you have a favourite place in Italy?

Wild horses would not have kept me away from going to see in person what is left of Mussolini’s five new towns. I knew they had suffered severe damage during World War II, but I was desperate to see for myself what remained. When I arrived there, it warmed my heart to see that much of the grandiose architectural style that Mussolini insisted upon remains, and I was impressed by the way the post-war reconstruction uses many of the same techniques. In an odd way it made me feel that Isabella’s work – even though fictional – had left its mark.

I loved my stay in Latina, but the place that totally stole my heart lies further along the coast – beautiful Sorrento. It is one of the wonders of Italy.

The story plays out against the backdrop of Mussolini’s rise to power in Italy; how did you go about your research on the italian wifeperiod and what was the most surprising fact that you uncovered?

For me the best way to get the feel of a place is to read as many biographies as I can get my hands on about the lives of people who lived there. So I began with a stack of books on Mussolini and ended up feeling that I knew him intimately – his ruthlessness, his charm, his ego, his lust for power and his passionate desire to turn Italy into a modern industrialised nation. So I felt able to write a scene where he visits Isabella’s architectural office and another where he asks her to dance. But I also trawled through hours of film footage that Mussolini ordered to be made by LUCE Films covering the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes. This was invaluable. But it was my visit to Latina that brought it all together in sharp focus.

The most surprising fact I discovered was that Mussolini brought 125,000 workmen into the malarial swamp to dig the canals and burn the forest. 125,000! Can you imagine the logistics of that? They were poorly fed, paid a pittance and kept in barbed wire camps where thousands died of malaria. I was deeply shocked by this.

What drew you to historical fiction as a genre and have you or would you like to write in other genres in the future?

I have always read historical fiction – I love the window it gives into the past. But I was only drawn to write about it when I learned late in life that my grandmother was a White Russian who fled to China after the Russian revolution in 1917. I was entranced by her story, dived into a year of research and at the end of it wrote The Russian Concubine. From that moment, I was hooked. As for writing in a different genre, I never say never. My stories are becoming more focused on mystery and intrigue, so maybe Crime is beckoning …..

The Italian Wife is your eighth novel and previous books span a number of time periods and exotic locations. If you could travel to any time and place, where and to what period would you go?

Ancient Egypt. I want to talk to the builders and mathematicians to understand how they built those gigantic inch-perfect pyramids with their bare hands. Architecture again, you see. I am a glutton for it.

And finally …. What can we expect next from Kate Furnivall?

Well, keep it quiet ……but I am in Italy again. A different time, a different place. But here’s a clue – I’m drinking limoncello!

Thank you Kate and happy travels!

The Italian Wife is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Sphere.

Finf out more about Kate and her novels at:  www.katefurnivall.com

Book review: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North

20 May

sophie starkThe Life and Death of Sophie Stark is the story of an enigmatic film director, told by the six people who loved her most. Brilliant, infuriating, all-seeing and unknowable, Sophie Stark makes films said to be ‘more like life than life itself’. But her genius comes at a terrible cost: to her husband, to the brother she left behind, and to the actress she can’t quite forget.

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is one of my favourite books of the year so far. I was completely drawn in to Sophie’s story as it is told by six people who knew her fairly well. I say fairly well because one of the key themes of the book is a discussion of how well you can really know a person and one of the factors that kept me glued to this book was trying to understand the enigmatic Sophie.

In Sophie’s case she’s more mysterious than most. Described through the book in turns as a genius, a child, a friend, a colleague, sibling and lover, we see six different perspectives on Sophie but we never actually hear from the woman herself. I loved the way that this book is written and the way that Anna North captured small details of Sophie’s chracter whilst maintaining a sense of never knowing her completely.

The book follows acclaimed film director Sophie s life  (not necessarily chronologically) with chapters recounting key moments and her major works from the perspective of one of the key people in her life at the time. We meet her brother Robbie, her college crush, Daniel, her husband Jacob, the star of two of her films and on-off lover, actress Allison and movie producer George. These five narrators all have distinct voices and unique perspectives on Sophie. Each of their ‘chapters’ reads like a short story in itself and the book is a cleverly collected group of recollections of Sophie which come together to build up a picture of her life and its ups and downs.

The sixth perspective was one of my favourite elements of the book and comes in the form of reviews of Sophies film from critic Ben Martin. I enjoyed watching Ben’s career develop in parallel to Sophie’s and thought this gave an excellent ‘outsider’ perspective to the story. Of the narrators, Daniel’s story captured my attention and kept me thinking and I found Robbie’s perspective was particularly poignant.

As Sophie’s career develops she becomes known for her ability to show life, characters and feelings in a ‘true’ form. In contrast Sophie’s emotional filters are often absent and her actions often hurtful to those who love her as she pursues her art relentlessly. There’s a haunting mix of sadness and happiness in the book and it’s a novel I could easily read again. This would make an excellent choice for reading groups who are looking for something a little different. It’s a well paced, quick read that completely held my attention and gave me plenty to think about long after I’d finished reading. I look forward to reading more from Anna North.

5/5

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is out now in ebook formats priced at 99p until 26th May (£2.99 thereafter).

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this novel.

Find out more about Anna North and her writing at: www.annanorth.net

Guest post: Building Characters by Claire Mackintosh

19 May

Today I’m delighted to welcome Clare Mackintosh to One More Page on the latest stop of the blog tour for her debut novel, I Let You Go. Claire spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant, and now writes full time. She is the founder and director of Chipping Norton Literary Festival, and lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and their three children. You can find out more about Claire and her writing at: www.claremackintosh.com

Clare MackintoshI tend to think that writers are either very character-driven, or very plot-driven, but rarely both. That isn’t to say that they can’t do both, or even that a reader could notice, just that generally writers have a strong leaning towards one or the other.

I am a plot-driven writer. The story arrives in my head first – often simply as a twist, or a ‘what if?’ – and takes shape before I’m really sure who it is about. Right now I am planning my third book, and although I know exactly how it unravels, I couldn’t tell you anything about the characters, beyond their gender and approximate age. I haven’t created them yet.

When I had an outline for I Let You Go, I began to work solely on building the right characters for my story. I mentally scrolled through possibilities: a catalogue of people, based on friends and family, neighbours, actors… anyone I have ever seen. I recognised Jenna as soon as I saw her in my mind: she was tall, with shoulder-length hair the colour of wet autumn leaves, and so pale and drawn I could see the pain in her eyes. I knew that she had once been happy, and now was broken. She fitted my story perfectly.

Early on in the life of I Let You Go I carried out some character exercises with the help of Julie Cohen, a brilliantly talented author with whom I had some coaching sessions. She gave me a questionnaire to fill out for each of my characters: where did they go to school? What was their first job? What was their biggest fear? How did they dress? The questions were endless. I diligently filled out the forms for my central characters, each question forcing me to think about who that person was, and how they had reached the point at which the reader would meet them. It was time-consuming, and I gave up before I completed the forms for my final three or four characters. It would be okay, I told myself – they had minor roles to play.

But when I sold I Let You Go and began working with an editor, guess which characters she felt needed work..? I set about thinking through the back-stories for those minor roles, realising that cutting corners would always come undone in the end! By the time I finished the book, I knew my cast of characters as well as my own family – better, in some cases. I knew exactly what decisions they would make in any given situation; what drink they’d choose; and how they would feel about each other.

Although I will always be a plot-driven author, excited by a concept or a challenging question, I now spend a little more time on building the characters who will fill the pages of my book. After all, without them, there wouldn’t be a story.

Extract from I Let You Go

When I wake, for a second I’m not sure what this feeling is. Everything is the same, and yet everything has changed. Then, before I have evenI Let You Go opened my eyes, there is a rush of noise in my head, like an underground train. And there it is: playing out in Technicolor scenes I can’t pause or mute. I press the heels of my palms into my temples as though I can make the images subside through brute force alone, but still they come, thick and fast, as if without them I might forget. On my bedside cabinet is the brass alarm clock Eve gave me when I went to university – ‘Because you’ll never get to lectures, otherwise’ – and I’m shocked to see it’s ten-thirty already. The pain in my hand has been overshadowed by a headache that blinds me if I move my head too fast, and as I peel myself from the bed every muscle aches.

I pull on yesterday’s clothes and go into the garden without stopping to make a coffee, even though my mouth is so dry it’s an effort to swallow. I can’t find my shoes, and the frost stings my feet as I make my way across the grass. The garden isn’t large, but winter is on its way, and by the time I reach the other side I can’t feel my toes. The garden studio has been my sanctuary for the last five years. Little more than a shed to the casual observer, it is where I come to think, to work, and to escape. The wooden floor is stained from the lumps of clay that drop from my wheel, firmly placed in the centre of the room, where I can move around it and stand back to view my work with a critical eye. Three sides of the shed are lined with shelves on which I place my sculptures, in an ordered chaos only I could understand. Works in progress, here; fired but not painted, here; waiting to go to customers, here. Hundreds of separate pieces, yet if I shut my eyes, I can still feel the shape of each one beneath my fingers, the wetness of the clay on my palms.

I take the key from its hiding place under the window ledge and open the door. It’s worse than I thought. The floor lies unseen beneath a carpet of broken clay; rounded halves of pots ending abruptly in angry jagged peaks. The wooden shelves are all empty, my desk swept clear of work, and the tiny figurines on the window ledge are unrecognisable, crushed into shards that glisten in the sunlight. By the door lies a small statuette of a woman. I made her last year, as part of a series of figures I produced for a shop in Clifton. I had wanted to produce something real, something as far from perfection as it was possible to get, and yet for it still to be beautiful. I made ten women, each with their own distinctive curves, their own bumps and scars and imperfections. I based them on my mother; my sister; girls I taught at pottery class; women I saw walking in the park. This one is me. Loosely, and not so anyone would recognise, but nevertheless me. Chest a little too flat; hips a little too narrow; feet a little too big. A tangle of hair twisted into a knot at the base of the neck. I bend down and pick her up. I had thought her intact, but as I touch her the clay moves beneath my hands, and I’m left with two broken pieces. I look at them, then I hurl them with all my strength towards the wall, where they shatter into tiny pieces that shower down on to my desk. I take a deep breath and let it slowly out.

I Let You Go is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Sphere.

Please do check out the other stops on the I Let You Go blog tour.

Serial Spotlight: Catch Me If You Cannes Part 3 by Lisa Dickenson

18 May

9780751557480 (1)Things could not be going better between Jess and Leo. Every moment they spend together is lovely and sunkissed and full of anticipation. Jess hasn’t felt like this in a very long time and she doesn’t want it to end. Sure, Leo is a bit vague about certain areas of his life but that doesn’t mean anything . . .

Suddenly Jess’s perfect holiday romance isn’t looking so great and she has a choice to make – should she ignore what Bryony is telling her and keep living the dream, or should she run the risk of losing Leo in order to prove her friend wrong?

Part two of Lisa Dickenson’s fun summer read, Catch Me If You Cannes left me wondering about Jess’s fledgling romance with lovely Leo as her best friend Bryony gave voice to her suspicions about what Leo is really up to in Cannes! So I was as eager as Jess to find out what was really going on. Part three of this sunny serial is all about Jess and Bryony trying to get to the bottom of the mystery and just flew by as I read as fast as I could to see what would happen next.

This part of the story made me laugh as much, if not more than the previous two; Lisa certainly knows how to write a killer one-liner and Catch Me If You Cannes is full of them – I defy anyone to not smile while reading this book.

As Jess and Leo’s romance hots up Jess tries to remember that she hasn’t exactly been truthful about her real life whilst trying to find out more about Leo and his work. The mystery thickens as a romantic evening on his yacht throws up more questions than answers and Jess and Leo aren’t the only ones with secrets to hide in this part of the book as Bryony is given the chance to interview a big star who wants to tell the world her own secret but poses a big dilemma for Bryony and her career.

I loved the way Lisa kept this part of the story light and funny whilst making a good point about being true to yourself and who you really are. With a fab surprise twist at the end of this part, the scene is set for the grande finale next week and I can’t wait to find out how everything will turn out!

Catch Me If You Cannes Part 3 is released today in ebook formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

 

Giveaway Winner: The Crooked House by Christobel Kent

17 May

The Crooked House

 

The winner is …

Bren Birkett

Congratulations! I have sent you an email. Thanks to everyone who entered. Look out for more giveaways very soon!

Book review: The Happy Ever Afterlife of Rosie Potter (RIP) by Kate Winter

14 May

THARP coverFalling in love is never simple. Especially when you’re dead.

When Rosie Potter wakes up one morning with what she assumes is the world’s worst hangover, the last thing she expects is to discover that she’s actually dead. With a frustrating case of amnesia, suspicious circumstances surrounding her untimely demise, and stuck wearing her ugliest flannel PJs, Rosie must figure out not only what happened last night, but why on earth she’s still here.

Slowly the mystery unravels, but there are many other secrets buried in the quiet Irish village of Ballycarragh, and nobody is as innocent as they first appear. Aided by the unlikeliest of allies in her investigation, Rosie discovers that life after death isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, particularly when you might just be falling in love . . .

In this hilarious, life-affirming and romantic journey through Rosie Potter’s afterlife, she shares the ghostly tale of how she lived, she died, and she loved (in that order).

I do love a pretty cover so The Happy Ever Afterlife of Rosie Potter caught my eye straight away. I’m also a fan of books with a paranormal element and they are quite rare in the chick lit genre so I was intrigued to see how having a ghost for a main character would work.

This is Kate Winter’s debut and I think she gets it spot on. The opening chapters are funny and light despite the fact that the lead character has just found out she’s dead! The writing in The Happy Ever Afterlife is witty and full of funny one liners. Rosie’s discovery that she is a ghost, despite the possibility that she has been murdered is handled with dark humour and I smiled many times as I read. Rosie can’t remember what happened to her and I liked the pace of the book as it moved from present to past to fill in the gaps about events leading to the fateful night of her death.

There’s a strong cast of supporting characters; Rosie’s best friend and housemate, Jenny is a brilliantly feisty character and I loved Rosie’s close knit family, especially her Mum and her brother Chris who she has always had a close relationship with. The banter between Rosie’s Mum and Dad really did make me laugh out loud and it was nice to see a strong male friendship in Chris and his best friend Charles.

I thought Kate got the balance just right between keeping the story funny and lighthearted but also including poignant moments. What surprised me most about this book was the romance element. As Rosie watches her boyfriend Jack cope with her death, the romance element of the book had a number of surprising twists and I thought it was very well done and made the book quite unique.

With elements of rom-com, paranormal romance and mystery, there’s something in Kate Winter’s debut for everyone. The Happy Ever Afterlife of Rosie Potter (RIP) is quirky, fun and romantic and perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella’s Twenties Girl. I love to know what happens next at the end of a story so the Epilogue of this book was the cherry on the cake for me . I’ll look forward to seeing what Kate writes next!

4/5

The Happy Ever Afterlife of Rosie Potter is released on 21st May in trade paperback and ebook formats by Sphere.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Author Interview: Kerry Wilkinson

13 May

The Renegade blog tour is stopping off at One More Page today with author Kerry Wilkinson in the hot seat to answer questions about the Silver Blackthorn Trilogy. Kerry is a number one Amazon bestseller for his Jessica Daniels crime series for adults. Renegade is the second  book in his young adult  sci-fi/fantasy trilogy and is a fantastic read (look out for my review later in the week!). You can find out more about Kerry and his books at: http://kerrywilkinson.com  Welcome Kerry!

Kerry_Wilkinson1-963x1024Renegade, the second novel in the Silver Blackthorn trilogy has just been released; please could you tell us a little about it?

It picks up an hour or so after Reckoning finishes. Silver and her friends have escaped the crazed clutches of the King – but what now? It’s a different kind of book to Reckoning in the sense that the first novel was largely set in the same place. It was supposed to the claustrophobic, about trying to get away. Renegade is more about consequences – and because Silver and co are out of the castle, there’s an entire country for them to explore.

How did you come up with the idea for the trilogy and did your ideas change as you wrote book two?

I started making notes for what turned out to be Reckoning while I was on holiday. I’ve got a minimal attention span, so sitting on a sunbed for more than about five minutes drives me bonkers. I never planned the series to be a trilogy. I wrote the first novel and realised that if I was going to take the story further, then it would end up being one very long book. Splitting it also allowed for the tonal change that happens between Reckoning and Renegade that I described above.

In the first novel, Silver takes the Reckoning and is designated a Member; which group do you think you’d be in if you took the test?

I’d probably be a tweener for Inter and Member. I’m not very establishment!

The series is set in an alternative future England with much of the action in book one situated in Windsor Castle; why did you choose this as a key location and how similar is Silver’s world to our own?

All the way back in my early notes, it was a teenage girl versus a mad king. If writing about a mad king in England, there needs to be a castle – and there’s none more famous than Windsor.

Silver’s world is a fair way removed from ours in the sense that travel and free movement is very difficult. People are hungry and democracy isn’t even a concept. There are still similarities, though. The characters are human, with emotions and feelings. Any story – whether set in the future or past – regardless of genre – has to be about people, not things. Silver’s world is a backdrop to her life and the lives of those around her – but that’s not really what Reckoning or Renegade is about. The novels are about her and the relationships she has with those around her.

Silver builds strong friendships during the book; do you have a favourite supporting character and if so why?

Faith took on a life of her own as I wrote Renegade. She’s one of my favourites in all my books – not just from the Silver trilogy.

I love Silver, she’s a great strong lead for the series but why did you choose to have a female lead and was it strange to write from a female perspective?

Writing from a female perspective has, for whatever reason, become my thing. I’ve got nine crime books – the Jessica Daniel series – with a lead female. I didn’t really plan it…it’s just what comes out…what feels right for the story. I have other novels with male leads, but they’re not out yet.

This is your first fantasy series but you also write crime novels; are there other genres you’d like to explore?renegade

Perhaps…but I don’t really think of it like that. I write about what interests me at the time. If that’s crime, it’s crime. If it’s fantasy, then I’ll work on that. If some other genre grabs me, then I’ll probably have a go at that. I never bother forcing things.

And finally… What can we expect next from Kerry Wilkinson? 

Childish tweets is pretty much a guarantee. After that, I have a crime hardback – Down Among The Dead Men – out in October, then another Jessica Daniel crime book in February 2016. Resurgence, the final part of Silver’s story, is out in May next year.

Thanks Kerry!

Renegade is out in paperback and ebook formats now.

Short Story Spotlight: Catch Me If You Cannes – Part 2

11 May

9780751557473The second part in this hilarious four-part romantic comedy, from the author of You Had Me at Merlot and The Twelve Dates of Christmas – winner of the Novelicious Debut of the Year award.

Jess had been feeling on top of the world – she’d had the best night out with Bryony, making lots of fabulous new friends, and she’d MET A BOY! Now, all of a sudden, her carefully constructed (if slightly exaggerated) facade is about to come tumbling down. She’s had a taste of how the other half live and she’s not ready to give it up just yet – especially if it means also giving up Leo. But how long can Jess and Bryony continue pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes before they’re in too deep?

Each Monday this month I’m posting a review of a part of Lisa Dickenson’s fun new novel, Catch Me If You Cannes. The book is being released in four ebook parts throughout May and is just perfect to get you in the mood for sunshine and holidays!

In my review of part one last week I said I couldn’t wait to read more as the girls had got themselves into a bit of a tricky situation by pretending that they were staying at a very posh Cannes hotel and then having to follow through on their fibs! I wondered how on earth they’d get out of it without losing face in front of the new friends they’d made but quick thinking Jess and Bryony managed to do it! The result is more high jinx as they caper through the hotel to make their escape and the opening to part two of the book certainly made me smile.

After the opening escapades, part two of this book felt more relaxed than part one and I felt like I got to know Bryony and Jess better as they enjoyed the sights and sounds of Cannes. The descriptions of Cannes made me wish I could go there and in this part the girls also visit playground of the rich and famous, Monaco. As a reader who loves travel and discovering new places, I really enjoyed the descriptions of beautiful new places.

There’s still plenty of glitz and red carpet glamour to this part of the story including an exciting trip to a casino! Who couldn’t fail to be swept up in the romance of it all? The setting makes the perfect backdrop for Jess and Leo’s developing romance and their scenes in this part of the book are very sweet. Like Bryony though, I’m very curious to know what exactly it is that Leo does! Bryony’s imagination seems to be working overtime but if her hunches are right it could lead to heartbreak for Jess.

The book ended on another enticing cliffhanger – thank goodness there’s only another week to wait for part three!

Catch Me If You Cannes part two is released today in ebook formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Lisa Dickenson and her writing at: http://www.lisadickenson.com/

Book review: The Crooked House by Christobel Kent

8 May

The Crooked HouseOne fateful night. One unthinkable family tragedy. One survivor. This is Alison’s story.

Alison is as close to anonymous as she can get: with no ties and a backroom job, hers is a life lived under the radar. But once Alison was someone else: once she was Esme, a teenager whose bedroom sat at the top of a remote house on a bleak estuary. A girl whose family, if not happy, exactly, was no unhappier than anyone else’s – or so she thought.

Then one night violence was unleashed in the crooked house, in a nightmare that only Alison survived and from which she’s been running ever since. Only when she falls for the charismatic Paul does Alison realise that to have any chance of happiness, she must return to her old life and face a closed community full of dark secrets.

As she seeks to uncover the truth of what happened that terrible night, Alison begins to question everything she thought she knew. Is there anyone she can trust?

The Crooked House by Christobel Kent represents new reading ground for me. I’m not usually a reader of crime fiction and I only occasionally dip my toe into the psychological thriller pool. The premise for The Crooked House caught my attention though as did the striking and atmospheric cover image and once I started reading I found I couldn’t stop  thinking about Alison and her story. I whizzed through this book because I had to know what really happened as soon as possible!

The book starts with a frightening episode told from the point of view of the main character and it had me hooked straight away. I half wanted not to know what horrors had taken place while the girl was in her bedroom and the other half of me of course could not look away. The haunting images described in the first chapters of the book sealed my fate – I had to know how Alison had dealt with the ordeal and of course what the real story of the events that night was.

Shifting to the present we meet Alison, the sole survivor of her family. We soon learn that Alison is her chosen name, a name she picked because of its commonness to give her anonymity. Alison is really Esme, the girl who survived.

Alison makes an excellent unreliable narrator, having blocked out or refused to find out about much of the aftermath of the murders. As events in the present conspire to take Alison back to the small village where the crooked house is and where those dark events took place, she decides to finally face up to and confront the past. I enjoyed the way her return triggered memories and thoughts which led to revelations about what happened that night.

The narrative does jump around a lot – often in the middle of a chapter or event. I thought this mirrored well Alison’s chaotic thought process but initially I did find I was sometimes confused by what was happening when. Once the action moved back  to Saltleigh where Alison and her boyfriend Paul are attending a wedding I got into the flow and I loved the pace of the story.

One of the key themes of the book is how the murders have overshadowed the town. Alison recalls other negative happenings in the towns history and wonders if places can attract tragedy. This was a very interesting theme in the book. As links are made and new facts revealed there are many twists and turns to this complex story and it really did keep me guessing to the end.

As you can probably tell, I enjoyed the change of genre that this book gave me and it’s certainly made me open to trying other books like this.

4/5

The Crooked House is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of this novel.

 

Giveaway! Win a signed copy of The Crooked House by Christobel Kent

8 May

What better way to end the week than with an exciting giveaway? The Crooked House by Christobel Kent is a dark and gripping psychological thriller that kept me turning the pages way past my bedtime! Christobel’s publisher, Sphere is kindly providing a signed copy of the book for me to give to one lucky reader! Read on for an extract fr0m the book and details of how to enter this fab giveaway.

The Crooked House

One fateful night. One unthinkable family tragedy. One survivor. This is Alison’s story.

Alison is as close to anonymous as she can get: with no ties and a backroom job, hers is a life lived under the radar. But once Alison was someone else: once she was Esme, a teenager whose bedroom sat at the top of a remote house on a bleak estuary. A girl whose family, if not happy, exactly, was no unhappier than anyone else’s – or so she thought.

Then one night violence was unleashed in the crooked house, in a nightmare that only Alison survived and from which she’s been running ever since. Only when she falls for the charismatic Paul does Alison realise that to have any chance of happiness, she must return to her old life and face a closed community full of dark secrets.

As she seeks to uncover the truth of what happened that terrible night, Alison begins to question everything she thought she knew. Is there anyone she can trust?

Extract:

Thirteen Years Ago

When it starts again she is face down on her bed with her hands over her ears and she feels it more than hears it. A vibration through the mattress, through the flowered duvet, through the damp pillow she’s buried her face in. It comes up from below, through the house’s lower three storeys.BOOM. She feels it in her throat.

Wait, listen: one, two, three. BOOM.

Is this how it begins?

Leaning on the shelf over the desk, wooden letters spelling her name jitter against the wall. They were a present on her seventh birthday, jigsawn by Dad, E.S.M.E. The family’d just moved in, unloading their stuff outside this house they called the crooked house, she and Joe, as the sun went down over the dark marsh inland. Creek House to Crooked House, after the tilt to its roofline, its foundations unsteady in the mud, out on its own in the dusk. Mum was gigantic with the twins, a Zeppelin staggering inside with bags in each hand. We need more space now, is how they told her and Joe they were moving. It was seven years ago, seven plus seven. Now she’s fourteen, nearly. Fourteen next week.

Ah, go on, Gina had said. Just down it. Then, changing tack, You can give it me back, then.

Esme’s been back an hour. She isn’t even sure Joe saw her pass the sitting-room door, jammed back on the sofa and frowning under his headphones: since he hit sixteen he’s stopped looking anyone in the eye. The girls, a two-headed caterpillar in an old sleeping bag on the floor, wriggled back from in front of the TV, twisting to see her. Letty’s lolling head, the pirate gap between Mads’s front teeth as she grins up at her, knowing. She mouths something. Boyfriend. Esme turns her face away and stomps past.

Mum opening the kitchen door a crack, leaning back from the counter to see who it is. Frowning like she can’t place her, she gets like that a lot these days. What are you doing back? Esme doesn’t answer: she is taking the stairs three at a time, raging.

Outside the dark presses on the window, the squat power station stands on the horizon, the church out on the spit that looks no bigger than a shed from here, the village lights distant. Make all the noise you like out here, Dad’s always saying, no one can hear.

Hands over your ears and never tell.

On the bed she lies very still, willing it to go, to leave the house. Whatever it is.

Her hands were already over her ears, before it started. Why? The boom expands in her head and she can’t even remember now. All she knows is, she was standing at the window, now she’s on the bed.

She grapples with detail. She heard a car. There were voices below in the yard and, after, noises downstairs. Something scraping across the floor, a low voice muttering and she didn’t want to deal with it, with his questions; she flung herself down on the bed and the tears began to leak into the pillow. She would have put on her music but she didn’t want him to know she was back.

Now. A sound, a human sound, just barely: a wounded shout, a gasp, trying to climb to a scream that just stops, vanishes. And in the silence after it she hears breathing, heavy and ragged; up through three storeys and a closed door, it is as if the house is breathing. And Esme is off the bed, scrabbling for a place to hide.
BOOM.

On the marsh behind the house there are the remains of an old hut with a little rotted jetty. The tide is beginning to come up, gurgling in its channels, trickling across the mud that stretches inland, flooding the clumps of samphire and marsh grass and the buried timbers. Behind her the house standscrooked in the wind freshening off the estuary.

The lights of the police cars come slowly, bumping down the long track, an ambulance, the cab lit. It is three in the morning but the inky dark is already leaching to grey behind the church on the spit. One of the coldest June nights on record, and it takes them a while to find her. She doesn’t make a sound.

To enter this giveaway just leave a comment in the box below and I’ll draw a winner using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Wednesday 13th May.

Good luck and please do check back later today for my full review of the book!