Monday, 27 June 2016

Too Close - Gayle Curtis

I am delighted to be able to host a guest post from Gayle Curtis today, author of Too Close. I am hooked on Bonnier Publishing at the moment...they seem to be churning out book after book of top quality stories, with excellent twists and gripping plot lines and this novel is no exception. I found it an engrossing read, and while it will take some people out of their comfort zone (it did to me!) the storyline is so addictive I found myself completely unable to put it down. 


          A few years ago my dear friend, Vicky persuaded me to attend some courses, workshops entitled You Can Heal Your Life. We’ve been friends for over twenty years and there had been many occasions such as this where I had politely and sometimes rudely, said no. Seeing something I clearly couldn’t and knowing how good these workshops were going to be, she wouldn’t take no for an answer. I wasn’t into any nimby namby, dance around the garden naked and plait each other’s hair kind of courses, so I tried to think of every possible excuse I could not to attend. The cat needs a shampoo and set, I thought to myself….no, that won’t work, something more drastic…the cat’s broken a claw…the cat’s suffering from anxiety…no…I drummed my fingers on the table but I just couldn’t think of a reason not to go.
         The morning of the course dawned and I called Vicky. I’m not listening, she said, unless you’re dead, you are going to that course even if I have to drag you there myself. I clearly wasn’t going to get out of it. The silly thing is, I wanted to go, I knew I needed to go and being my best friend, she saw that in me. It was the greatest thing I ever did for myself.
        It wasn’t anything like what I had imagined and Jill who was running the course was more boot camp sergeant major than a bra twanging twig whittler. There is too much to explain here but basically the whole course was about retraining your brain to realise that you are in control of your life, not the other way round. And the most important lesson of all, as cheesy as it sounds, was to learn to love yourself and look at life with an attitude of gratitude. Yes, I really did say that.
         Since I learnt to write as a small child, I have in fact been writing and telling stories. It was a part of my life, like brushing my teeth or having a shower, only I had never really told anyone. A select few people noticed because you can’t hide things from the ones closest to you. A couple of friends suggested I send some of my work off to a literary agent or a publisher. I thought this was an absolutely ludicrous idea. I wasn’t a writer. I could never be a writer. That was something other people did. Not me, no way.

          After attending these courses I began to see things differently, I looked at myself and everyone around me with new eyes and I began to believe in myself. I started to listen to what my loved ones had been saying all along, I absorbed the words and finally saw my life in a different way. So I began to write some letters accompanying my work and within a few months I was offered a contract by The Feldstein Agency.

Too Close is out on 30th June and you can get it here:

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

BLOGIVAL! Adapt - Edward Freeland

Today, as part of the BLOGIVAL tour, I am hosting a guest post from Edward Freeland, author of Adapt. Adapt has made it's way into my TBR pile and from the blurb, I think it's going to be a cracking read.

"Daniel O'Neal lives a very normal life. He drives a bus for a living in a sleepy English countryside town, and enjoys the mediocrity of his daily routine. But on a trip to London, while enjoying a quiet drink with a friend, he notices a code of numbers on his mobile phone screen, and not for the first time. When Daniel returns home, he begins to notice an increasingly common malfunction with his electronic devices, as his laptop begins to develop the same quirk. Suddenly, his world undergoes a paradigm shift. It starts with subtle responses and giggles at work and in public. Daniel becomes increasingly paranoid, and certain that something is out of the ordinary, yet he cannot prove it. Before long, he believes himself to be under an assault on his being. Is there something more playing with him than just his mind? Is there an organised attack on his psyche, and if there is, can Daniel find the strength to endure the attack?"

I wrote this story to explore some fundamental human characteristics and emotions, both positive and negative, all of which I believe can relate to every person’s life.  On the surface is a story of hacking, media power and people in positions of trust abusing their power to harm others.  It delves in to the mind, and observes how outside factors can play havoc with an individual’s mental state.  It follows the experiences of a patient being destroyed by a wayward psychiatrist, with unquestionable power over that patient’s life.  Beneath this amalgamation of modern day issues, (all of which a few people may relate to, a victim of hacking, a victim of a media onslaught, or a helpless patient undergoing poor/disastrous treatment by mental health workers), there exists a number of themes, that together, for me, are the themes of life.  These themes not only interest me but I feel they are common to many people.  They are of connection, consciousness, and the fact that the love of another can be instrumental on a person’s ability to adapt their consciousness.  Everyone will need to adapt in life, and will often need the love of another to help fine tune their consciousness and existence in a reality that no human being truly understands.  Ever present, even in our modern society, behind our highly evolved minds and our desire to connect and entwine our consciousness with another being, lurk primal drivers, and evolutionary traits passed on through DNA.  These traits often override our intelligent, understanding selves, without us ever realizing they are at play.  There is an inherent drive for people to group together.  I believe it’s a trait that was very important for our ancestor’s survival, for instance, when a tribe of hunter gathers encountered a larger tribe, their existence would be at stake.  Pure survival, to group, share ideas, and protect their existence in a hostile world.  This continued through history. As our tribal ancestors evolved in to settlements, towns, cities and empires, the need to be part of a group remained, whether political, religious or warrior based.  This is still within humans the world over, from religious groups through to avid followers of a sports teams, (which often result in bitter feuds with rivals).  I believe that grouping together is important for our happiness, unions of individuals the world over are an awesome, inspirational sight, when coming together for the good and the positive.

This evolutionary trait of ours can be used to propel us forward as a species and as individuals, yet all too often this primal driver is present as a destructive force, one group waging war with a rival group. Or, in the case of my novel, a group of people collectively coming together to target an individual, essentially the rising of a lynch mob.  Throughout history, mobs, without rational debate, perspective or understanding carry out persecution, and the mob always feels validated in their actions.  Together the group justify the destruction of another person’s life, and pride themselves on ripping the fabric of that individual’s reality.  Mobs have justified pushing someone’s mental state over the precipice, burning witches at the stake, or locking women in mental asylums for behavior that today is understood to be perfectly normal.  In Adapt, I explore how mob mentality can erupt in modern society and how it could hypothetically play out with instant national media flows and social media, ( I researched the idea of monstering, a term taken from the book Hack Attack, which basically means bullying by the media.  Everyone is aware when the media relentlessly target an individual, and I thought it would be a good idea to take monstering to a whole new level).  I try to highlight the absurd hypocrisy of any mob.  A mob retaliates to hateful speech with hateful speech.  A mob retaliates to violence with violence.  It’s a cycle of hypocrisy, that’s easily avoided.  If somebody feels a part of collective who’s purpose is to hurt a fellow human being, they only need to stop.  They devalue their own individuality by being a cog in a bullying mechanism.  In Adapt the mob uses subtlety and positions of power to inflict their hypocritical persecution.

In conclusion, the book is an example of how connection, and the love of family, friends or a partner will always be pivotal in a person’s ability to adapt, whether to bullying or any other troubles in life.  To group together for positive will highlight the pettiness of grouping together for hate.  Life will continue to put us in positions we wish we were never in and will continue to put strain on our happiness.  As one chapter in life closes another begins, and maybe this time, someone else will need your support to Adapt.  I hope that people take something away from reading my novel.  Each reader may take their own understanding with them.  They may question people in positions of trust abusing their power.  Some readers may educate themselves on how easy it is to hack webcams and microphones on our personal electronic devices and put tape on their web cam.  Some may look at real stories of mental health patients who have received concerning treatment, sometimes life changing for the families involved.  Others may question the media’s position to inform without veiled motives.  Ultimately, what I would like is for a reader to walk away from the book, and want to group with others for positive goals, for people to help others to adapt to their situations in life.  I hope some readers will walk away, and not be concerned by petty attacks on their character and ignore their detractors, and to avoid pursuing the want to get back at those who have hurt their life in some way, and to pursue their own happiness, by harnessing our primal drivers and using them for loving interactions, kindness and understanding.

Adapt is out now and you can get it here:

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Willow Walk - SJI Holliday

"When the past catches up, do you run and hide or stand and fight?
When a woman is brutally attacked by an escaped inmate from a nearby psychiatric hospital, Sergeant Davie Gray must track him down before he strikes again. But Gray is already facing a series of deaths connected to legal highs and a local fairground, as well as dealing with his girlfriend Marie’s increasingly bizarre behaviour.
As Gray investigates the crimes, he comes to realise that there has to be a link between Marie and the man on the run. It’s the only thing that makes any sense. But he also knows that if he confronts her with the truth, he risks losing everything.
As a terrified Marie is pulled back into a violent past she thought she’d escaped, she makes a life-changing decision. And when events come to a head at a house party on Willow Walk, can Gray piece together the puzzle in time to stop the sleepy town of Banktoun being rocked by tragedy once again?'

I enjoyed Susi's first novel, and was looking forward to this, her second, however I didn't realise exactly HOW GOOD this one was going to be. The second in the Banktoun trilogy is a BRILLIANT read - it's intense and uncomfortable, and at some points I felt like I should be averting my eyes, but like a car crash, I couldn't. 

Two storyline running alongside each other mean that this is a pacy, addictive read. The characters are...hard to describe. I liked Marie, even though she is desperately flawed, and there is nothing you can dislike about Davie. Some of the other characters, though, had my skin crawling - there is something about a certain character that gets under your skin and makes you feel that uncomfortable, which means long after I'd finished reading he played on my mind. A tense and difficult read, Willow Walk heads right up to the boundaries of some pretty intense, taboo stuff - and it's executed perfectly. 

Bravo, Susi - I thought I loved Black Wood, but it turns out I loved Willow Walk even more. I can't wait for the third in the trilogy. 

**My thanks to the publisher for my ARC**