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Extract and giveaway: Shattered Minds by Laura Lam

18 Jun

Today is my stop on the Shattered Minds blog tour. Thanks to fab publisher Macmillan, I have an exclusive extract from the book and a copy of the beautiful hardback to give away! Please do check out the other stops on the tour too – there’s an extract each day so start at the beginning and read on from there!

Laura Lam’s Shattered Minds stars a female ‘Dexter’ with a drug problem and a conscience, in a terrifying near-future where technology rules our lives and haunts our dreams.

shattered mindsShe can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.

To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever.

Extract

THREE

CARINA

The Zealscape, Green Star Lounge, Los Angeles,

California, Pacifica

Carina’s drug dreams always begin the same way.

She’s back in Greenview House. Her father bought it even though it was far too big for three people, outside Woodside, California, less than an hour by hovercar out of San Francisco. Nothing but trees surrounded that house that would become a crypt. She couldn’t wait to leave, and now, eight years later, she still can’t escape it.

Carina walks through the empty hallways, her footsteps echoing. Nothing exists outside of the house in the Zealscape, not really, and the windows only look out into a grey fog. All her dreams and nightmares take place in its various rooms. Even if the rooms can expand into streets or forests, no matter how vast, she can turn a corner and step back into those familiar corridors. She tried to change the Zealscape program to another setting, but in the end, her subconscious is too tied to Greenview House and everything that happened here.

She opens the door to the room where she last saw the young girl and the doctor she knows from earlier nightmares. They are nowhere to be seen.

‘Anyone here?’ she calls. ‘Come out, come out, wherever you are!’

Silence.

Carina turns away. Needing her fix, she creates her first victim, bringing him to life on a table before her, prepped just as she wishes. Half the fun is the hunt, but when she first plugs in, there’s never the patience for it. It’s an appetizer of violence before the more leisurely meal.

Carina has a very specific type, here in the Zealscape. She kills criminals, perpetrators of terrible, fictional crimes. They are usually men, middle-aged, cocky in their assurance that they are getting away with their wrongdoings. She has killed women, for a bit of variety, often ‘angel of death’ types. Never children or teenagers – which is why the vision of the girl was so damn jarring.

Where had that come from?

The Zealscape is where Carina lets it all out so that those people out in the real world, those strangers who seem as insubstantial as her dream creations, are safe from her. She has killed hundreds of figments within these walls over the last six months. Used almost every weapon. Killed quickly. And slowly. The one constant is that she never tires of it.

The man pushes against his bonds, the whites of his eyes showing. Carina has created him a serial killer, like her, but he preys on the innocent. He buries young boys beneath his house, like John Wayne Gacy. He’s not real, but he deserves death.

Her fingers itch and she moves closer. His chains rattle as his struggles grow more frantic. A desperate, delicious gurgling bubbles from his throat. Her fingers tingle in anticipation, and her heartbeat quickens.

Carina doesn’t speak to her victims. She did in the beginning, trying to make these fabrications of her imagination understand what she was about to do to them. It grew dull, unlike the act of killing.Carina sometimes finds her situation amusing, when she’s coherent enough for amusement. The government doles out unlimited Zeal to keep criminals off the streets, yet offers them an unlimited playground to hone their criminal skills. With chronic Zealot mortality rates as high as eighty per cent, however, the government doesn’t have much to fear.

Closing her eyes to concentrate, she opens them to a long, thin knife resting in her hands. There are some weapons she prefers – the knife is particularly instinctual, personal, whereas the gun is too distant, even if the kickback and the crack are satisfying.

Carina hefts the knife.

The man below her is in his physical prime, muscled as a wrestler. He’s strong, the chains binding him straining with each pull. Her usual type is older, paunchier. Though she still buzzes with the need to kill, she forces herself to slow down, at least a little. She runs the knife tip along his skin next to the bonds. A tear slides down his cheek. She wipes it away with her thumb, then brings her fingertip to her mouth, tasting the salt. It feels real. Real enough.

His pain and fear feeds her, as if she grows larger from it. Only here, when the blood runs onto the white floor, does she feel alive any more. Carina is not that wreck of a woman strapped to a Chair in the Zealot room, suffering from mouth sores and malnutrition. That woman is the ghost.

The man whimpers again. Carina relishes the sound for a moment, then stands and thrusts the knife into his throat. Blood spurts from the punctured artery, painting her face red. She leans her head back, holding the hilt tighter, pressing down hard. All too soon the gurgles stop. She has not given this man a name, or imagined what life he might have lived outside his crimes. His eyes are wide, his mouth open in shock. She takes her hands away from the hilt. Her hands stop shaking. Carina sits next to the body, closing her eyes, breathing in the iron tang of blood.

She’s euphoric after the kill, and these brief moments before the craving returns are the only times she feels even remotely like her pre-Zeal self. Guilt bleeds in around the edges, even if she can’t regret that glee of the kill.

A few years ago, Carina had this under control. An occasional impulse she could push back and ignore. Nothing bubbled to the surface; it hadn’t since she was a teenager. She’d seemed like a perfectly functioning member of society. A great career, a promising future. And then, slowly but surely, it had all unravelled. A Zeal trip here or there. Once a month. Then twice a month. Weekly. By the time she’d left Sudice, it’d been every other day.

Now, she rarely leaves. She doesn’t trust herself out there. A wolf among sheep who’d never see her coming.

When she opens her eyes, the body is gone. A benefit of dream worlds: no clean up. No fear of being discovered dumping the body. No fear of discovery at all.

Dealing with the orderly’s accusing eyes is the only judgement she faces, and one she never fears.

She holds onto her sense of self, staying calm and collected. Replete. The mind of the scientist is back. She wanders the imaginary halls of her childhood home, peeking through the doors: the old home gym, her mother’s bedroom, preserved just as it was the last time she left it and never returned. Her teenage room, with its holographic band posters and unmade bed, reeking of a desperate attempt at normalcy.

All too soon, that buzz returns. Her fingers twitch. That delicious expectation of following her victim and their moves: where they’ll be, how she’ll take them and make them hers. Her thoughts turn only to blood and flayed muscles. Of taking out organs and hefting them in her hands, arranging them just so.

Here in the Zealscape, she can lose herself in the hunt as much as she wants. Here, she hurts only herself, as more and more of her body wastes away, strapped in the Chair in the Zeal lounge. Her body warms, thrums with excitement. She whispers Zeal’s newest catchphrase to herself: ‘More real than reality.’

Carina enters another room. In the real Greenview House, it was a guest bedroom and study, but now it is her planning room. One wall is blank, and she can visualize and design her next victim. She decides to go back to her roots: a distorted echo of her first target. Carina builds the man from scratch. Early fifties, a beer gut, hair and beard of greying brown. Hard eyes, an unhappy slash of a mouth. Large hands that make blocky fists. He is different enough that the sight of his face doesn’t make her shudder. She feels awareness sharpening. She’s growing closer. Her fingers twitch.

After creating him, she sends him away. She spends a few minutes programming his background – his job, his friends, sketches of his wife and family. This criminal has a penchant for child porn. She can again pretend it’s vengeance, not pure, selfish pleasure. Most Zealots don’t have such control over their drug-fuelled dreams. Then again, most people don’t have PhDs in neuroprogramming.

She can’t wait any more. Her skin is hot with need.

Carina walks through a door on the far side of the room and steps into a hallway that transitions seamlessly into a street. She follows her prey at a distance, watching the greying head bob as he walks. Her jaw is clenched tight. She barely blinks. The other people on the street are only vaguely human- shaped, with blurred ovals for faces. Nightmares for anyone else, but for her, just stand-ins.

Carina grasps a Stunner she conjured in her pocket. Sometimes she’ll stretch out the hunt – stalk them for longer, make their lives more detailed, lose herself in the fantasy – but she can’t today. Her breath catches in her throat. Her eyes in the Chair, back in reality, dilate behind closed eyelids. Almost time. Almost time to feel alive again, for a little while.

She’s just taken out the Stunner in a quivering hand when it happens.

The street disappears, along with her quarry. Just gone, as if someone has hit a switch. The whole room turns black. No, darker – that blackness of the space between stars. There have been glitches in the system before, but Carina knows, with a deep certainty, that this is something more.

She’s lost the sense that she has a body. Her mind seems to float in the darker-than-darkness. Then light explodes back into her world.

Numbers, sounds, flashes of brightness, the feel of fingernails against her skin, of bubbles on her tongue. All her senses fragment and blur. Between the overloads is a snapshot of cohesive thought.

I’m dying. This is what dying must feel like.

The noise and the chaos begins to crystallize. Five images, over and over: A bee, buzzing, its wings flapping frantically, its antennae twitching. A rose, in full bloom; brilliantly, impossibly red, a drop of dew on one petal. A thorn, from the rose, its point curved and wicked. A drop of blood, welling on a fingertip. And eyes, staring right at her, wide and fathomless. Heterochromic – one green, one blue. They play, over and over and over again, telling a narrative she cannot hope to understand.

And then they stop, though she can still sense them, as though the images are flashing just out of sight.

The last image, the mismatched eyes, takes over her entire vision. It zooms out, until Carina sees the rest of the face, and then a body on a Chair in that lab she recognizes all too well. The last vision had been through the girl’s viewpoint, but Carina is sure this is her. She’s young – fifteen, sixteen at a push. She’s all doe-eyed innocence, spindly, coltish legs, her hair half an inch long. She reminds Carina a little too much of herself as a teenager. The girl is dead.

Part of her short hair has been shaved away. Dr Roz Elliot has opened up her skull, poked about in the contents, and sewn it back up, yet dead flesh does not knit. Her tanned skin is pale and chalky, legs akimbo.

‘What did you do, Roz?’ Carina asks the darkness.

The dead girl does not answer. Her eyes are open and staring. One blue, one green.

As if Carina blinks, the image is gone, and all is darker than black once again.

Giveaway!

I have one hardback copy of Shattered Minds to give away.

To enter this giveaway,  just leave comment in the box below or re-Tweet one of my tweets about this giveaway or like one of my posts about this giveaway on my Instagram page.

I’ll pick a winner using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Friday 23rd June.

Good Luck!

 

Book review: Come Sundown by Nora Roberts

7 Jun

come sundownLove. Lies. Murder. A lot can happen… COME SUNDOWN

Bodine Longbow loves to rise with the dawn. As the manager of her family’s resort in Western Montana, there just aren’t enough hours in the day – for life, for work, for loved ones. She certainly doesn’t have time for love, not even in the gorgeous shape of her childhood crush Callen Skinner, all grown up and returned to the ranch. Then again, maybe Callen can change her mind, given time…

But when a young woman’s body is discovered on resort land, everything changes. Callen falls under the suspicion of a deputy sheriff with a grudge. And for Bodine’s family, the murder is a shocking reminder of an old loss. Twenty-five years ago, Bodine’s Aunt Alice vanished, never to be heard of again. Could this new tragedy be connected to Alice’s mysterious disappearance?

As events take a dramatic and deadly turn, Bodine and Callen must race to uncover the truth – before the sun sets on their future together.

Nora Roberts is one of my favourite authors that I’ve discovered since becoming a blogger and over the last seven years I’ve read many of her novels. They always hook me from the first page and hold me gripped as I read, whether I’m reading about the search for a mythical gem on a sun-soaked island or about love and drama in a thriving city. Come Sundown is no exception and is filled with great characters, romance, drama and suspense – another sure fire hit for Nora!

The story takes place in the beautiful setting of Montanna where we meet Bodine Longbow and her family. Bodine is the manager of her family’s very successful five star resort which sits alongside the family ranch. I loved Bodine from the very start; she’s a great business woman, a successful and caring boss and loves her family and friends. The descriptions of the resort, ranch and Montanna are just wonderful and if there are any horse-lovers reading this review, you will love this book!

But within the picturesque beauty hides a shocking secret. The novel opens with a short prologue set in 1991 as Alice makes her way home to her family after a long absence. Alice doesn’t make it home that night and what happens to her gives the story a series of shocking twists and turns.

The contrasts between Alice’s story in the past and Bodine’s in the present are stark and some parts of this novel were difficult to read and I couldn’t predict what would happen (although I enjoyed developing my theories and trying to guess!). As a murder is discovered on resort land, past and present collide and I could not put this book down until I found out what the outcome would be!

Nora sets the pace brilliantly. I found myself swept up in Bodine’s story and her developing romance with childhood crush Callen and also holding my breath every time the narrative moved back to what happened to Alice. Come Sundown is dramatic and tense. wild and romantic; a sweet and suspensfull mix of a page turner.

4/5

Come Sundown is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats from Piatkus.

Find out more about Nora and her writing at: http://www.noraroberts.com/

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

 

Book review: I’ll Eat When I’m Dead by Barbara Bourland

20 May

eat when imRAGE Fashion Book is the world’s most dynamic, ambitious magazine.
Its editors ­- like Cat Ono – have the power to change minds and the market.
They’re savvy, sisterly and polished to perfection. Even the one found dead in her office.

Everyone thinks Hillary starved to death – but Cat knows her friend’s dieting wasn’t a capital P problem. If beauty kills, it’d take more than that. Hot-headed and fiercely feminist, Cat’s sure she can match the investigating skills of Detective Mark Hutton, solve the case, and achieve sartorial fulfillment.

But going undercover, Cat’s in over her head, and soon becomes snared in a very stylish web of drugs, sex, lies and moisturizer that will change her look – and outlook – forever.

Cat’s about to find out what it really means to be a fashion victim.

I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is Barbara Bourland’s debut novel; a no-holds barred satirical look at the fashion and magazine industry, set in New York. The book has been described as “The Devil Wears Prada meets American Psyco” and I was so intrigued I went against my normal tendency to steer away from anything involving crime or murder to give this book a try.

I’m pleased I did because although this book does have a deadly murder mystery within, it is so much more and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although it did remind me of The Devil Wears Prada and there were parts that made me think of Candace Bushnell’s novels, I’ll Eat When I’m Dead put me most in mind of the classic Valley of the Dolls which I read for the first time last year. Fans of all of these should give this book a try – it’s one of those books that doesn’t easily fit into a single genre and I liked it all the more for that.

The novel opens with the death of thirty-seven year old Hillary Whitney. Hillary was a fashion editor at fashion magazine RAGE – a publication with worldwide domination in the fashion magazine industry. The employees of RAGE are the most fashionable women in New York and Hillary’s cause of death -cardiac arrest due to persistent starvation – is both surprising and not to the occupants of an industry where the pressure to look perfect is constant. But as we soon find out, thanks to the interest on Detective Mark Hutton, there may be more to Hillary’s death than the NYPD intiially thought.

And so the mystery part of the novel is set. As Mark investigates the increasingly crazy world of RAGE and its staff, we are introduced to Hillary’s friends and colleagues, associate editor, Bess Bonner and Editor Catherine “Cat” Ono. Bess and Cat are very different characters and I enjoyed getting to know them both and following as their stories developed. I also liked that Bourland gave Mark an interesting back story and I thought the sub-plot involving him and his on/off girlfriend Callie added and interesting mix.

Set over three months, the story moves swiftly and is packed with insider detail of the fashion industry with commentary on everything from digital start ups, 24/7 social media, the cult of celebrity, eating disorders, drug addiction and ethical production and of course the unbelievable lengths people will go to to remain young and beautiful. This book really does give a whole new meaning to the phrase “fashion victim” and it makes for addictive reading.

Bourland clearly knows her stuff and digs deep into the contradictory world of fashion using Cat to show the other side of the story. The scenarios created are in places so far-fetched that they could only be true and I found myself switching between envy and shock frequently as I read. I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is both darkly humorous and deadly disparaging whilst paying homage to the industry that its author loves. A gripping debut!

4/5

I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Riverrun.

Find out more about Barbara and her writing at: http://www.barbarabourland.com/

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

Location, Location: the setting for Vixenhead by Eve Seymour

31 Mar

Today I’m delighted to welcome Eve Seymour to One More Page to talk to us about the location inspiration for her latest novel, Vixenhead. Eve is the author of nine novels and has had a number of short stories broadcast on BBC Radio Devon.

After a short and successful career in PR in London and Birmingham, she married and disappeared to Devon. Five children later, she returned and began to write seriously.

In a bid to make her work as authentic as possible, she has bent the ears of numerous police officers, firearms officers, scenes of crime, the odd lawyer and United Nations personnel. She also works by day as a freelance editorial consultant, specialising in crime fiction. Welcome Eve!

Eve SeymourWhen I write I tend to draw heavily on places with which I’m familiar.  If I don’t know them already, I take pains to do the legwork.  Once, memorably, for a spy novel, I flew to Berlin for four days.  Clearly, some places lend themselves more obviously for certain stories than others.  

I’m a huge fan of Cheltenham.  My last three novels are set there and ‘Vixenhead’ is no exception.  It’s where my main character, Roz Outlaw, lives and works.  I know the place intimately, including the address where she rents and the workplace from where she is made redundant.  I’ve walked down her streets, strolled through her park and driven out of town on the exact same route she takes.  Having said this, Cheltenham does not receive star billing in the way it does in previous novels and for a very good reason:  I needed a creepy and dark environment for the story.  Cheltenham, with its glossy streets and Regency architecture, doesn’t quite fit the bill.     

There is more than a passing reference to Ludlow, not somewhere with which Roz is familiar, unlike myself.  I found it fun to view the centre of the Welsh Marches through a stranger’s eyes.  The main action, however, takes place in North Wales and the choice of location sparked from a short leisure break at Deganwy Quay with my husband.  It was March.  The weather was typically blustery and a little wet – exactly the same as in ‘Vixenhead’.  Having never visited before, I found myself captivated by nearby Conwy Castle, a spectacular backdrop to what is essentially a small walled market town.  From our hotel balcony, we had a perfect view of the castle illuminated at night.  Spooky and beautiful, it got me thinking.  

The hotel in Conwy, in which Roz stays for a short time, was somewhere we went for dinner.  I also ate the same meal as Roz, although I enjoyed mine a lot more! ‘Vixenhead,’ the house where all hell breaks loose, emanates from a drive down a narrow lane.   On our travels, I spotted a sign to ‘Wolf House’ and simply ran with the idea, although ‘Vixenhead’ itself, and the place where it is set, is purely fictional.  Not quite so the grounds.  

I’m not much of a gardener.  In fact, a single glance at a plant from me usually ensures its swift demise.  In other words I struggled slightly with ‘Vixenhead’s immediate surroundings.  If you read the novel, you’ll appreciate their importance.  Happily, around the time I was worrying about my total absence of horticultural skills, we went for a walk near Cowley Manor, a fabulous hotel, with a quirky interior, in the Cotswolds.  It also happens to have 55 acres of land.   Having heard a lot about Cowley’s collection of art and sculpture, we ventured inside for a peek.  We received a warm, friendly greeting from a member of staff who invited us to explore the hotel and grounds.  To find our way around the gardens, we were given a handy map.  This, and our tour outside, provided the basis for the acres of land surrounding ‘Vixenhead’ – gargoyles and all.  

Vixenhead is out now in ebook formats from HarperImpulse.

VixenheadSomewhere in Vixenhead, I’m certain the truth lies…

A sudden disappearance…

When Roz Outlaw’s partner Tom mysteriously vanishes, she knows his life is in danger. Tom has been distracted lately, afraid, as though he is being hunted…

A desperate search…

With the police showing little interest Roz knows it falls to her to find Tom. But as Tom’s secrets are uncovered nothing can prepare Roz for the dark lies and twisted truths she finds. She thought she loved Tom, but quickly realises she has been living with a stranger – a man with murder in his past.

A house of evil.

The key to unlocking Tom’s past lies in his childhood home – Vixenhead. A house of wickedness that keeps its secrets well hidden. Can Roz find Tom before it’s too late or will the evil within Vixenhead claim her too…

Find out more about Eve and her writing at: http://www.evseymour.co.uk/

 

 

Book review: The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman by Mindy Mejia

17 Mar

last act Hattie

No one keeps more secrets. No one is better at hiding them.

Eighteen-year-old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. When she’s found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community.

Sheriff Del Goodman, a close friend of Hattie’s dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers: it turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on. Told from three perspectives, Del’s, Hattie’s high school English teacher and Hattie herself, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman tells the story of the Hattie behind the masks, and what happened in that final year of her life…

Wonderfully evocative of its Midwestern setting and with a cast of unforgettable characters, this is a book about manipulation of relationships and identity; about the line between innocence and culpability; about the hope love offers and the tragedies that occur when it spins out of control.

I don’t normally read and review crime books – it’s not a genre I have a huge love for,  but something about the cover of The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman drew me in and when I read the synopsis, I couldn’t resist. I do love an American High School story and the title and synopsis had echos of an old favourite of mine, Twin Peaks and The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. 

There are three very strong character voices in this story; Hattie, Sheriff Del Goodman and Peter, Hattie’s school English Teacher. The chapters move between the murder investigation in the present, set in 2008 and the months leading up to Hattie’s death starting back in August 2007. The moves between characters and backwards and forwards in time give the story good pace and set up many questions, intrigues and mysteries as the novel progresses – I was certainly hooked!

Hattie is a wonderfully complex and well-written character. She’s an amateur actress and has plans to move to New York as soon as she’s finished high school. But for Hattie, acting isn’t just something she does on stage; she sees her whole life as a series of different roles and ‘acts’ accordingly. It’s a clever premise and the psychology of Hattie is one of the most gripping parts of the story-line, throwing up many questions about how we see ourselves and how others see us (or want to see us).

Sheriff Del was my personal favourite character in the book. In many ways he comes across as the ‘typical’ Midwestern small town Sherrif but I liked his shrewdness and his dry humour and I liked that we get to see underneath the tough exterior as we move through the book, particularly through his relationship with Hattie’s parents. His interactions with his young deputy, Jake, are brilliant and their competitiveness made me smile.

Finally, Peter – a city boy transplanted to his wife’s farm as she cares for her dying mother. Peter was the character that I liked least – possibly because he came across to me as very selfish but also because he seemed to think himself above most things! The three different narrative voices make for great reading though as we get different perspectives on events and I enjoyed piecing the time line together and trying to work out who had killed Hattie.

As well as reading this book, I listened to parts of it via the Audible version and I have to say that it is one of the best narrations I’ve listened to this year. Each character has a separate narrator and whilst they jump off the page, hearing them tell their story really increased the impact of it. If you’re a fan of audiobooks I’d certainly recommend giving the audio version a try.

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman is a clever and compelling thriller that will keep you guessing to the final pages!

4/5

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman is out now in Hardback, ebook and audio formats from Quercus.

Find out more about Mindy Mejia and her writing at: http://mindymejia.com/

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

Exclusive extract! The Devil in the Snow by Sarah Armstrong

16 Feb

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Sarah Armstrong’s new supernatural thriller, The Devil in the Snow. Sarah lives in Essex with her husband and four children.  Her short stories have been published in Mslexia, Litro and other magazines and anthologies.  Sarah teaches creative writing for the Open University. Her debut novel, The Insect Rosary, was published by Sandstone Press in 2015.

DevilInTheSnow_FRONT‘It was only girls who had to worry about the devil…’

All Shona wants is a simple life with her young son, and to get free of Maynard, the ex who’s still living in the house. When her teenage daughter goes missing, she’s certain Maynard is the culprit. Her mother, Greta, is no help as she’s too obsessed with the devil. Her Uncle Jimmy is fresh out of prison and has never been entirely straight with her. Then there’s the shaman living in her shed. Shona soon discovers that the secrets she buried are as dangerous as the family curse haunting her mother.

Extract

She collected Jude from the school office, thirty-five minutes late on the second day of his first full week. He looked quite happy, swinging himself around in the head teacher’s chair. The head wasn’t quite so contented and made it clear that she was only postponing a pep talk about time management or consistency for five-year-olds because she wanted to go home today. Jude was smiling and pleased to see her and Shona was happy to leave.

Shona carried Jude home on her back for a treat to celebrate not getting told off. She clasped her hands under his bum as a seat but he still held on a little too tightly. By the time they got back her windpipe felt bruised.

She opened the back door and remembered. Dominic was still asleep.

Jude sat by him, as Shona had done, watching him.

‘Who is he?’

‘I’m not sure. He’s called Dominic.’

‘Are we going to keep him?’

‘He’s just going to stay for a little while.’

Jude raised his eyebrows. ‘In our room?’

‘No.’

Jude frowned. ‘Cerys’ room?’

‘No, He’s just here for a couple of hours. We haven’t got any room, have we?’

Cerys had one bedroom while Shona and Jude shared the other and the walk-in office attached to it. The locked, little-used front room downstairs belonged to her husband, Maynard. The attic had a pull down ladder and a lot of dusty rubbish.

‘He’ll go soon,’ she said. She thought again that she should phone someone, but he’d said Meghan. She needed to hear the rest of that and, when he left, that would be her chance lost. She played it back in her mind, trying to convince herself that he had said something else, but it was always Meghan.

She heard the front door close as Cerys let herself in. Dominic stretched and sat up. Shona froze. What convinced Jude wasn’t going to work on her.

‘Mr Cartwright wants to see you last at Parents’ Evening,’ she shouted from the hall. ‘I wasn’t going to bother, but he asked. I wrote it on the sheet.’ Shona could hear the school bag drop to the floor. Cerys stopped in the doorway and stared.

She’d taken off her school tie, untucked the blouse and shaken her long brown hair free. Her skirt was rolled up at the waist, revealing thin legs with thick fist-like knees. Her nose, which seemed to have been growing out of sync with the rest of her face, was settling now, straight and pretty. Cerys still hated it.

‘Hi,’ she said. She wasn’t talking to Shona or Jude.

Shona looked at her. She hadn’t seen Cerys smile like that for years, open and happy. Dominic smiled back and Shona watched Cerys blush deep on her cheeks.

She hadn’t thought this through. She hadn’t thought what a boy like this would do to a fourteen-year-old. He was beautiful in a girlish boy band way, with large eyes and longish hair. How had she not noticed?

‘Dominic, I think I should call your parents now.’

‘There’s no need.’

‘They’ll be wondering where you are.’ Shona could sense Cerys fidgeting behind her.

‘I’m eighteen. I told them I’d be away for a while.’

‘Of course he should stay, Mum,’ said Cerys. ‘We’ve got room.’

‘Do we?’ Any minute now Dominic would start talking about instructions and Meghan, and then Cerys – what would Cerys do? Shona looked at her again. Cerys wouldn’t say a word. She was ready to jump whenever he told her.

Dominic stood and stretched again. ‘I slept on it. I’m going to stay in the shed.’

Shona thought about it, although it wasn’t a question. ‘And your parents?’

‘I’ll let them know.’

Cerys, still blushing, turned and went upstairs. Shona knew she’d be calling her friends, spreading the word. Shona knew this couldn’t really happen; she couldn’t let this boy sleep in the shed. But, to be honest, she didn’t need another fight with Cerys. She would be the one who would cause trouble over it and if it was fine with her… And Jude?

She didn’t think it would be more than a day or two, just long enough for him to tell her about Meghan. And, please God, he’d be gone before Maynard turned up.

——————————————————–

The Devil in the Snow is released today in paperback and ebook formats by Sandstone Press.

Find out more about Sarah and her books at: http://sandstonepress.com/authors/sarah-armstrong

Book review: The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp

5 Aug

9780356506852Jack Sparks died while writing this book.

It was no secret that journalist Jack Sparks had been researching the occult for his new book. No stranger to controversy, he’d already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed.

Then there was that video: forty seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed – until now.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is a book that leaps out, grabs you, petrifies you and doesn’t let go until the end! Based on a brilliant premise; that author Jack Sparks died whilst writing the book which has now been released by his brother in tribute to him, the story is in turns funny, outrageous and downright scary. I’m not so good with scary stories and this one was too much for me in places (I had to read it in daylight with people around me!) but neither could I walk away from it – I had to know what happened to Jack.

The book opens with an introduction from Jack’s brother, Alistair. As Alistair introduces Jack and his reasons for releasing Jack’s last book posthumously, the reader begins to form a picture of Jack ,who has found fame first as a journalist but latterly as an author of books that look into aspects of the society that we live in. Jack’s previous literary forays include the brilliantly titled Jack Sparks on Drugs – the ‘research’ for which ended with him entering rehab! This introductory potted biography of Jack is of course just his brother’s telling of Jack’s life and we soon get to know the real Jack Sparks as we begin to read his last book.

I loved that this story is a book inside a book – Jack’s final work is presented in its ‘unedited’ format and is fascinating but what adds an extra layer is the inclusion of emails, social media and reports of conversations with others in Jack’s life. Emails to his editor, comments on his Youtube channel and other social media outlets give a wonderful insight into Jack’s persona and keep the reader guessing about the ‘real’ Jack. Initially at least, I didn’t think Jack was a very likeable character – he’s arrogant, self-obsessed and confrontational – as you can imagine, this goes down a storm on his networks.

With no punches pulled, the story proper starts with a recount by Jack of his witnessing an exorcism in Italy. It’s a pretty gory scene but Jack very much sees it as a piece of theatre and that’s where the trouble starts. Jack’s actions that day trigger a chain of events that ultimately lead to his death. As a frightening video appears on his YouTube channel that he knows he didn’t post, the story steps up a gear and takes turns that I could never have imagined.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is a very modern take on our fascination with ghosts and the supernatural, amplified through the use of social media. Fans of films like The Exorcist and The Blair Witch Project will love this book – it truly is frightening and Jason Arnopp skillfully keeps the shocks and surprises coming wrapping them all up in an enticing mystery. I’m already looking forward to his next book!

4/5

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Jack Sparks at: http://www.jacksparks.co.uk/

Guest post: Best Friends Forever or Just for Now? By Alison Rattle

19 May

Today I’m delighted to welcome Alison Rattle to One More Page on the latest stop of her V for Violet blog tour. Alison grew up in Liverpool, and now lives in a medieval house in Somerset with her three children, her husband – a carpenter – an extremely naughty Jack Russell and a ghost cat.  She has worked as a fashion designer, a production controller, a painter and decorator, a barmaid, and now owns and runs a travelling vintage tea room. Alison has also published three previous YA books about young Victorian women with Hot Key Books – The Quietness, The Beloved and The Madness. Welcome Alison! 

Alison Rattle photoRemember your best friend from school? Did you promise each other to be friends for always? Is she still your best friend now? Or did you lose touch the minute you walked out of the school gates forever?

Female friendships can be among the most intense relationships of our lives, especially those formed during our school years. Friendships can be made accidentally when you are thrown together by circumstances. I remember Raj who I sat next to in biology classes. We had nothing in common outside of those classes, but for those few hours every week we were the best of mates. She was the clever, good girl of the class and I was the slightly naughty one. But our friendship developed to such a stage that I once persuaded her to let off a stink bomb in the classroom, as we knew for a fact that she would be the one student no teacher would suspect. The plan worked. But to this day I have no idea what Raj did with her life. I don’t even remember her surname. And she probably doesn’t remember the stink bomb.

And then there was Amanda. We moved up to big school at the same time and only lived around the corner from each other. We spent almost every night at each other’s houses and went through puberty together. We compared the sizes of our growing boobs, practised kissing our reflections in a mirror and raided our mum’s supplies of sanitary towels and tampons, fascinated by these objects of womanhood that we didn’t need yet. We started our periods at around the same time and I had never felt closer to anyone. But then Amanda moved schools, her parents choosing to send her to a private school in another town. I never saw her again.

Then along came Pamela. We had seen each other from a distance, across the playground. She was always hanging around with a group of cool girls. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to wear my tie in a tiny knot and roll my skirt up to above my knees. They all had boyfriends too. Older boys who would meet them after school on their motorbikes. They were popular and thrilling and I wanted to be part of their group. When we moved up a year I found myself sitting next to Pamela in our English class. We hit it off immediately. We spent lessons giggling and messing about and thinking of ways to wind up our teachers and skip school. Our cross country runs consisted of Pamela’s boyfriend meeting us around the corner in his car and driving us around the course. He would drop us off twenty minutes later and we would run back into school pretending to be out of breath and always scoring the best times. Outside of school, we rebelled in the only ways we could in our small town. We tried our first illicit drink of alcohol together, snuck into pubs, went to parties, shared clothes and lost our virginities in the same week. We shared all the terrible, dangerous, wonderful things about growing up.

At the heart of my latest book, V for Violet, there is an intense friendship between the main character Violet and her best friend Jackie. All the v for violetway through school they have done everything together. Violet has a photograph album of memories in her head with pictures of all the special times they have shared. From their very first day at school when Violet accidentally wets herself and Jackie gives her her own dry knickers, to the rainy day when they both carve their names under a park slide and promise to be friends forever, Violet experiences the same intense feelings that first love brings. She can’t imagine her life without Jackie. But then school ends and suddenly Jackie has a new life and new friends and Violet is tossed aside, her heart broken.

 I’m happy to say that Pamela never broke my heart. We still keep in touch after all these years and when we do manage to see each other (we live at opposite ends of the country) it’s like no time has passed. We don’t even notice each other’s wrinkles. But I know that’s a rare thing and that I’m very lucky to still have that connection to my youth. Most teenage friendships are, like first love, so intense and all-consuming that they burn themselves out.

Of course, I grew up in the time before Facebook and all those other social media sites, so when you lost touch with someone, you really lost touch. I wonder now if that all makes a difference? Because even if your friendships fade after leaving school you can still keep in touch to a degree by simply finding someone on Facebook. If only I could remember Raj’s surname. I would definitely look her up, if only to reassure myself that the stink bomb incident didn’t completely ruin her life!           

 V for Violet by Alison Rattle is out now in paperback and ebook formats published by Hot Key Books.

Follow Alison at www.alisonrattle.com or on Twitter:@alisonrattle

 

April 2016 new releases – hot picks!

3 Apr

So, March was the month where we all took it in turns to be ill in our little family so I didn’t get as much reading or blogging done as I’d hoped. But with a sunny new month comes a fresh start and I’m very excited about the April new releases. Here are the ten books I’m hoping to read this month.

head over heelsHead Over Heels (Geek Girl Book 5) by Holly Smale (HarperCollins Children’s Books) April 7th

I’m such a big fan of Holly Smale’s Geek Girl Series I’m currently halfway through this book and think it’s the best yet!

“My name is Harriet Manners, and I will always be a geek.”

The fifth book in the bestselling, award-winning GEEK GIRL series.

Harriet Manners knows almost every fact there is.

She knows duck-billed platypuses don’t have stomachs.
She knows that fourteen squirrels were once detained as spies.
She knows that both chess and snakes and ladders were invented in the same country.

And for once, Harriet knows exactly how her life should go. She’s got it ALL planned out. So her friends seem less than happy, Harriet is determined to Make Things Happen!
If only everyone else would stick to the script…

But is following the rules going to break hearts for GEEK GIRL?

Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane (HarperCollins) 7th Aprilwho's that girl

Another fab read from the author of the bestselling You Had Me At Hello. The hardback has a beautiful pearly cover and this is a story that will make you giggle!

When Edie is caught in a compromising position at her colleagues’ wedding, all the blame falls on her – turns out that personal popularity in the office is not that different from your schooldays. Shamed online and ostracised by everyone she knows, Edie’s forced to take an extended sabbatical – ghostwriting an autobiography for hot new acting talent, Elliot Owen. Easy, right?

Wrong. Banished back to her home town of Nottingham, Edie is not only dealing with a man who probably hasn’t heard the word ‘no’ in a decade, but also suffering an excruciating regression to her teenage years as she moves back in with her widowed father and judgy, layabout sister.

When the world is asking who you are, it’s hard not to question yourself. Who’s that girl? Edie is ready to find out.

passengerPassenger by Alexandra Bracken (Quercus Children’s Books) 7th April. 

I’m so excited about getting my hands on this book having seen the great reviews from the US release. I love books with a travel theme and this one has the added bonus of another favourite theme of mine – time travel!

New York City, present day

In one night, Etta Spencer is wrenched from everything she knows and loves. Thrown into an unfamiliar world, she can be certain of only one thing: she has travelled not just miles, but years from home.

The Atlantic, 1776

Captain Nicholas Carter is tasked with delivering Etta to the dangerous Ironwood family. They are searching for something – a stolen object they believe only she can reclaim. But Nicholas is drawn to his mysterious passenger, and the closer he gets to her, the further he is from freedom.

The Edges of the World

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey
across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by a desperate thief. But as Etta plays deeper into the Ironwoods’ game, treacherous forces threaten to separate her not only from Nicholas, but from her path home – for ever.

The Map of Bones (Fire Sermon Book 2) by Francesca Haig (Harper Voyager) April 7thmap of bones

Having loved The Fire Sermon, I’ve been eagerly anticipating book two in the series! Do check out the blog tour and look out for my stop on 9th April!

The second book in Francesca Haig’s critically acclaimed debut fantasy series.

The ashes of the past cannot hide the truth forever.

The Omega resistance has been brutally attacked, its members dead or in hiding.

The Alpha Council’s plan for permanently containing the Omegas has begun.

But all is not entirely lost: the Council’s seer, The Confessor, is dead, killed by her twin’s sacrifice.

Cass is left haunted by visions of the past, while her brother Zach’s cruelty and obsession pushes her to the edge, and threatens to destroy everything she hopes for.

As the country moves closer to all-out civil war, Cass will learn that to change the future she will need to uncover the past. But nothing can prepare her for what she discovers: a deeply buried secret that raises the stakes higher than ever before.

these days of oursThese Days of Ours by Juliet Ashton (Simon and Schuster) April 7th

I heard Juliet read from this novel at the recent Simon and Schuster Spring Blogger event and I can’t wait to hear more!

A novel about love. Raw important love. Small, beautiful love. And what happens when the person you love cannot be yours… Perfect for fans of Rowan Coleman, Jane Green and David Nicholls.
 
Kate and Becca are cousins and best friends. They have grown up together and shared all the most important milestones in their lives: childhood birthday parties, eighteenth birthdays, and now a wedding day as they each marry their childhood sweethearts, Charlie and Julian.
 
Kate has always loved Charlie – they were meant to be. Then she discovers that life never turns out quite how you expect it to. And love doesn’t always follow the journey it should.
 
But best friends are forever, and true love will find a way, won’t it…?

The Keepers: Ethan by Rae Rivers (HarperImpulse) April 7thEthan Cover

Rae was one of the very first authors I read from HarperImpulse and I’ve been hooked on her Keepers Series ever since. It’s finally Ethan’s turn in the spotlight and it’s a sizzling read!

“Going to Ameera to find Hazel. Stealing the spell … You think you can pull it off?” he asked.
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
Just as she thought he’d kiss her, he reached for her jacket and said, “Then let’s go.”

A portal to another world has opened, unleashing dangerous creatures on earth. A dark witch is out for revenge. The stakes are high, a war inevitable.

One person can stop the madness. Jenna. She’s a Keeper to a powerful hybrid witch but she harbours a secret and if Jenna steps through the portal – seduced by the whispers of her hidden past – she may never return.

Fortunately, she has company… infamous Bennett brother and fiercely protective Keeper, Ethan. Their whip-cracking banter makes them perfect sparring partners in training, but how will they manage when their lives and everything they were born to defend are on the line?

When the battle lines are drawn, will Jenna and Ethan stand side by side – as friends, protectors, lovers … or as traitors?

the obsessionThe Obsession by Nora Roberts (Piatkus) April 14th

I do love Nora Roberts! I actually squealed when the proof of this book was delivered!

Naomi Carson is a survivor. As a child, her family was torn apart by a shocking crime. It could have destroyed her, but Naomi has grown up strong, with a passion for photography that has taken her all around the world.

Now, at last, she has decided to put down roots. The beautiful old house on Point Bluff needs work, but Naomi has new friends in town who are willing to help, including Xander Keaton – gorgeous, infuriating and determined to win her heart.

But as Naomi plans for the future, her past is catching up with her. Someone in town knows her terrifying secret – and won’t let her forget it. As her new home is rocked by violence, Naomi must discover her persecutor’s identity, before it’s too late.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (Borough Press) April 21st eligible

A favourite author taking on one of my favourite books – I can’t wait to see how the two come together!

From the bestselling author of Prep, American Wife and Sisterland comes this brilliant retelling of Austen’s classic set in modern day Cincinnati.

The Bennet sisters have been summoned from New York City.

Liz and Jane are good daughters. They’ve come home to suburban Cincinnati to get their mother to stop feeding their father steak as he recovers from heart surgery, to tidy up the crumbling Tudor-style family home, and to wrench their three sisters from their various states of arrested development.

Once they are under the same roof, old patterns return fast. Soon enough they are being berated for their single status, their only respite the early morning runs they escape on together. For two successful women in their late thirties, it really is too much to bear. That is, until the Lucas family’s BBQ throws them in the way of some eligible single men . . .

Chip Bingley is not only a charming doctor, he’s a reality TV star too. But Chip’s friend, haughty neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, can barely stomach Cincinnati or its inhabitants. Jane is entranced by Chip; Liz, sceptical of Darcy. As Liz is consumed by her father’s mounting medical bills, her wayward sisters and Cousin Willie trying to stick his tongue down her throat, it isn’t only the local chilli that will leave a bad aftertaste.

But where there are hearts that beat and mothers that push, the mysterious course of love will resolve itself in the most entertaining and unlikely of ways. And from the hand of Curtis Sittenfeld, Pride & Prejudice is catapulted into our modern world singing out with hilarity and truth.

steeple streetThe Nurses of Steeple Street by Donna Douglas (Arrow) April 21st

I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed all of Donna’s previous Nightingales nursing series so I’m really looking forward to this book which starts a completely new series. And it’s set in Yorkshire – yay!

Welcome to the district nurses’ home on Steeple Street, where everyone has a secret…

Ambitious young nurse Agnes Sheridan had a promising future ahead of her until a tragic mistake brought all her dreams crashing down and cost her the love and respect of everyone around her. Now she has come to Leeds for a fresh start as a trainee district nurse. But Agnes finds herself facing unexpected challenges as she is assigned to Quarry Hill, one of the city’s most notorious slums. Before she can redeem herself in the eyes of her family, she must first win the trust and respect of her patients and fellow nurses.

Does Agnes have what it takes to stay the distance? Or will the tragedy of her past catch up with her?

The Assistants by Camille Perri (Corgi) April 21stthe assistants

I’m looking forward to discovering a new author with this debut. There’s a fab quote from  Paige Toon on the front cover –  an excellent endorsement!

Behind every successful man is a busy assistant and Tina’s boss is very successful.

But Tina is tired of being overworked and underpaid.
She’s bored of her damp flat and her mounting debts.
Then a blip in the expenses system sends Tina a cheque.
She’s a good person.
But she’s desperate.
This isn’t stealing.
It’s an administrative error.
Right?

What would you do if you thought you’d get away with it?

 


What are you looking forward to reading this month?

Guest post: Enjoy Being Published by Annemarie Neary

22 Mar

Today I’m delighted to welcome debut author Annemarie Neary to One More Page. Annemarie was born in Northern Ireland and educated in Dublin — at Trinity College, where she studied literature, and King’s Inns, where she qualified as a barrister. She has a Masters in Venetian Renaissance art from the Courtauld Insitute, and Venice is something of an obsession.  

Most of her career has been spent working as a lawyer in London. She has lived on Clapham Common for more than 20 years with her husband and three sons. Her novel Siren will be published on 24th March by Hutchinson (Penguin Random House UK) with another novel to follow. Welcome Annemarie!

AN_1808_1266 B&WWhen you sign a book deal, plenty of things can give you angst if you let them. Don’t let them. Something to remember  — while it is still your book, it also belongs to other people too now. These people are on your side – their interests (mostly!) coincide with yours.  Have a strong idea of your own book and what matters to you most about it, but be flexible as well.

Editing

Your editor is not trying to ‘ruin your book’. S/he is trying to help you tell your story in the most cogent way possible. S/he loves your book — and wouldn’t have bought it otherwise. So relax. No good editor will try to rewrite you in their own image, so don’t be too defensive. Stand up for the things you feel strongly about, but do take advice on matters that affect narrative tension and flow.  A lot of people within the company will probably have read the ms by the time it reaches the editing stage, so if there is consensus on a plot glitch, for example, or if they feel a certain section drags, they’re probably right.

Jacket design

The publisher’s perspective is partly dictated by the ‘box’ into which your book has been placed. You were hoping for hearts and flowers, but you’re getting ‘retreating figure on dark street’ and big jagged lettering. What’s happening?  Maybe there’s a mismatch between you and the publisher when it comes to the key characteristics of the book? Not very likely, if you’ve come this far together. Perhaps they are attempting to align your book with that of Author X. Maybe they’re being innovative, going for crossover appeal, taking advice from Retailer Y…  Whatever it is, you need to discuss this. If you hate your cover, it’s worth saying so. You’ll have to live with it for a long time. Your contract will give you room for manoeuvre here, but you also need to take into account the reaction of retailers and key influencers, and recognize that to some extent the jacket design will be dictated by the zeitgeist.

Reviews

Scary. Some people will love your book and others really won’t.  You may choose to read reviews or ignore them. Personally, I think that if someone could be bothered to read your book and give it a considered review then you should be bothered to read it. But don’t obsess. And, whatever you do, don’t reply to a bad review. Ever.

Envy and Upping the Ante

To finish a novel is a big achievement. To get it published is nothing short of miraculous. Don’t beat yourself up that your novel isn’t on the front table at your local Waterstones or that its ranking is a six figure number on Amazon (or that Whatsername, on the other hand….). That way madness lies. Get on with the only thing that really matters — writing the next one.

 A small window

Your book is new for a very short time, so do what you can to help it along during those first few weeks. If book clubs get in touch, try to make time to connect with those readers, whether in person, through an emailed Q&A, or via Skype. Support the reviewers who are reading your book and posting about it by spreading the word about their sites, and retweeting reviews (and not just your own!). With interviews and Q&As, try to give sensible answers that don’t come back to haunt you down the line…  If you’re not already on Twitter, I’d advise you to join. It is a wonderful way of making connections with other writers and linking in to the book world generally.  People are generally very supportive, and it can be a great comfort. Just try not to spend all day on there. Use internet blocking software like Freedom or Self Control if you really start to develop a serious Twitter habit.   After all, the only thing that really matters is that you are writing that next book.

Thanks Annemarie!
SIREN COVER FINALAnnemarie Neary’s psychological thriller, Siren, will be published by Hutchinson on 24th March 2016

HE STOLE HER LIFE. AND NOW SHE WANTS IT BACK.
Róisín Burns has spent the past twenty years becoming someone else; her life in New York is built on lies.
A figure from her Belfast childhood flashes up on the news: Brian Lonergan has also reinvented himself. He is now a rising politician in a sharp suit. But scandal is brewing in Ireland and Róisín knows the truth.
Armed with the evidence that could ruin Lonergan, she travels back across the Atlantic to the remote Lamb Island to hunt him down.
But Lonergan is one step ahead; when Róisín arrives on the island, someone else is waiting for her…