Eva Jordan reviews The Women by @SELynesAuthor published by @bookouture

 

The Women

This is the second psychological thriller I’ve read by this author (read my review of Mother here) and she is fast becoming one of my favourite writers in this genre. Inspired by the #MeToo movement, for me, this story brings to mind writer Neil Gaiman’s quote – “I like stories where women save themselves” – which is just what this story does.

However, at what price?

We begin in Rome where newlyweds Samantha and Peter are on their honeymoon. They are queuing to visit a famous stone carving of a man’s face called Bocca della Verita (The Mouth of Truth) where, according to legend, if you place your hand in the mouth and tell a lie, the stone jaw will clamp down and bite if off. Samantha is intrigued. “The gargoyle is disconcerting, she admits. But the urge to put her hand inside the mouth is almost overwhelming. At the same time, she imagines the mythical severance, the bloody stump of her own wrist, the horror on the faces of the crowd as she staggers, bleeding, onto the street.” Peter, on the other hand, seems harassed, reluctant to be there.

But why?

We are then taken back in time and introduced to Samantha Frayn, a university student from Yorkshire studying in London, where she meets the rather handsome Peter Bridges. Peter, who is much older than Samantha, is an accomplished, charismatic history lecturer. “He is slim. He dresses well—how she imagines an American academic might dress: soft blues, fawns, tan brogues.” He spots Samantha at a university social event and begins chatting to her, offers to take her for a drink. Samantha, both young and impressionable, is completely swept away by his charm and sophistication. She is flattered that a man such as he, a man with a wine cellar, who whistles classical music, drives a sports car and lives in a beautiful house on a hill, would single someone like her, a nobody, out. Their ensuing romance is immediate, thrilling and intense. Quite unlike anything Samantha has experienced before, especially with boys her own age, and before she knows it, she has moved in with Peter.

Later, when she looks back, Samantha will wonder at what point the subterfuge began.

As in her previous novels, the author’s prose, which is succinct yet brilliantly informative and descriptive, completely draws you in, making The Women an enthralling psychological thriller that is perfectly paced with just enough tension to keep you turning the page to the very end.

 

If you’d like to purchase The Women, or find out more about the author, go to Amazon here and here.

 

Eva Jordan in conversation with author @AuthoJon @EyriePress

 

Add a heading

 

Last month I reviewed the beautiful novella Silence and Songbirds (which you can read here), a thought provoking tale that transports the reader across the sea to the beautiful islands of the Marlborough Sounds, written by author Jon Lawrence. This month we get to know him a little better…

 

  1. Hi Jon, thanks for chatting with me. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself? I understand you used to be a singer-songwriter?

 

Yes, I trained as a musician and ethnomusicologist (which has fed quite nicely into my writing). I was lucky enough to perform all over the country and Europe as singer-songwriter. I released a number of albums, then my literature work started to take over. However, I still teach music and I enjoy writing musicals every year for the school I work with.

I was born in Pontypridd, so I am a child of the valleys. I moved out east with my work as a music lecturer, where I taught song-writing and world music. I have a wonderful wife, Kerry-Ann and two children, who always support me.

I love working with young children and have written some illustrated songbooks for them. Children are a huge inspiration for me. The way they view the world is unique and they represent an innocence that I have been searching for in my writing since I started writing books.

I am interested in all areas of written expression and I don’t feel pigeon-holed in any area. I have published poetry, plays, children’s books, essay and magazine article because I simply love to write.

I am also interested in travel. The world offers many wonderful landscapes which intrigue me. I have a particular fascination with New Zealand – a place which has a special place in my heart. I have based two novels there (Silence and Songbirds and Playing Beneath the Havelock House). Indeed, in all of my novels and novellas, stories have come out of the landscape. When I see a desert, a forest, a mountain range or an island, I ask myself, ‘Who lives here? What is their story?’

 

 

 

  1. You’ve recently completed a touring show called “Good Grief” – can you tell us what that was about?

 

My father died of cancer just over two years ago. Before he died I promised him that I would do five 100k treks on five deserts on five continents to raise money for a cancer charity. So, between August 2018 and April 2019 I walked the Atacama in Chile, the Sahara in Morocco, the Rangipo in New Zealand, the Wadi Rum in Jordan and finally, the Mojave in America. My journey gave me a lot of time to think about my father and the sometimes difficult relationship we had. It afforded me a little time and space to work through my grief.

I documented each part of the trip and published a book last year called Good Grief. To promote the book, I have been performing a one-man show around the country telling the story of my adventures around the world and how the journey helped me to come to terms with things. The show contains video footage from my trips, photographs, anecdotes and music specially written for the show. It’s light-hearted, informative but also moving (I hope). I resume the tour in Stamford Arts Centre on February 4th with the tour visiting Diss, Bungay, Wells-next-the-sea, Doncaster, Birnam in Scotland, before concluding in Auckland, New Zealand in April.

 

  1. How does writing songs compare to writing books?

 

The thing about writing songs, is that you have to compress what might be a huge subject (life, death, world peace), into about twenty lines, sometimes less. You have to be able to move someone emotionally in two, verses, a middle-eight and a chorus. It has to get to the listener’s heart straight away. There’s no time to set scenes, establish characters or consider subplots. You have to be very clever with words. That’s why Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ is so brilliant. It gets you hooked form the first line and by the time it has finished it has you questioning everything you ever thought you knew about life!

Conversely, when you write a book, you start with what might be a small idea – a quote, a title, something you have seen – and then expand it to establish the bigger picture.

Some people might say that a song only takes fifteen minutes to write (such as ‘Every Breath You Take’) but some songs take months even years to shape and mould into the final version (Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Thunder Road’ are perfect examples of this).

They are both tremendous art forms.

 

  1. And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a writer?

 

My view is that everyone is a writer; some people just have a go, some people never do it for fear of what others might say. If you write a diary, you are a writer – you express your thoughts and feelings through words. In the first instance, write for yourself.

Then when you have a story, make sure you plan it. If I have a story idea, I go through a number of planning stages before I start to write (despite the desire to get writing straight away). A book might take up eighteen months of your life so you need to know that the story and the characters will still be of interest to you at the end. I have made the mistake of starting stories without proper planning, only to lose my way three months in. That’s a lot of time to waste.

Just have a go!

 

 

If you’d like to know more about Jon, click on the links below:

Website

Facebook

Eva Jordan reviews Wham! George & Me by @ajridgeley Published by @PenguinUKBooks

 

Wham!

 

Wham! George & Me, was given to me, as a gift for my birthday late last year and what an absolute pleasure it’s been to read. I was immediately transported back in time to my formative years, reminded of a more innocent time in my life. One that included dancing around handbags at school discos, Thursday night’s must-see of Top of the Pops, and Sunday evening’s listen-in to the Top 40 countdown. Perhaps I’m biased, my memories tinged with nostalgia, viewed through the lens of rose-tinted glasses, but whatever your thoughts of the 1980s––including the fashion, big hair, movies and mix tapes––it was undoubtedly one of the best and most diverse times in popular music history. Some of my favourite singers included Madonna, Kate Bush, Cindi Lauper and Prince, and some of my favourite bands at the time were Duran Duran, U2, Spandau Ballet, and New Order (to name but a few)––and of course, Wham! The pop duo singing sensation that comprised of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. 

Sadly, George passed away in 2016. However, this is not a story about George Michael per se, but rather a fascinating account of one of the UK’s most iconic pop bands seen through the eyes of Andrew Ridgeley––former band mate and lifetime friend of George. Like all good stories, this one starts at the end—28th June 1986 to be exact. Seventy-two thousand screaming fans all gathered together at Wembley Stadium for Wham! ‘The Final’ otherwise known as the farewell concert. From there Andrew takes us back in time, introducing us to his home-life and of course to the moment he first met a rather shy, bespectacled, frizzy haired lad called Georgios Panayiotou. From boyhood friendship to fame, Andrew, who described himself as both a self-assured and outgoing individual, explains how he and George, who was rather studious and introvert, were actually “two sides of the same coin… joined at the hip through a shared love of music”.

After Wham! George Michael embarked on a solo career, becoming one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Wham! George & Me is the prequel to that story. A tale of childhood friendship to iconic pop band––forged from a passion for music, maintained by mutual love and respect. Filled with sensitive reflection, plus an array of wonderful photographs, it is both an entertaining and fascinating read.

 

 

Book Reviews – And How To Get Some

notepad-3297994_1920

Image by DarkWorkX from Pixabay

So, it’s January 2020! Whatever your plans for the year I hope you see them through, including those of you that have decided to make this the year you sit down and write that book that’s been rattling around in your head for a while. However, once written and published, either traditionally or as an indie author, the next hurdle for most writers is drumming up interest in your book and generating honest reviews. In fact, “how can I get more reviews for my novel” is one of the frequently asked questions put to me by newbie authors. As the current published author of just three novels, I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I have learned a few things during my writing journey, which I’m more than happy to share with you.

However, before we begin, the first rule of thumb is to remember that lots of reviews don’t necessarily equate to lots of sales, but they can help, and here’s why.

Reviews help build your credibility and integrity and encourage new readers to try your books. Plus, reading reviews of your own work can help you as a writer, hone your skills by giving you a better understanding of what your readers are looking for – answering questions like, what readers enjoyed about your work? What they think is missing? And what they connected with? Which does a lot to help you understand your audience.

So for those of you just starting out, here are my top tips.

 

Build like-minded friendships. Before you even think about approaching anyone to review your book, I strongly recommend you join the reading, writing and blogging community online. Twitter is a good place to interact with the book world – try using, or searching various hashtags like #writingcommunity #BookReview #booklove #bookbloggers #FridayThoughts #FridayFollow and #FridayReads. Facebook too, is a great place to find lots of fab groups where readers, writers and reviewers can all interact together (see some my recommend groups below). Just be aware though, each group has a different set of rules (and some do not permit random self-promotion posts) so please be sure to read the group rules of each one you join. This gives you the opportunity to build friendships with readers, writers and reviewers and eventually reach out to those you think might be interested in reading and reviewing your book(s).

 

Image by Thought Catalog from Pixabay

Image by Thought Catalog from Pixabay

Author Joanne Harris suggests that writers should:

“Engage with the book community. It’s not a question of “us and them”: many of us are readers, authors and bloggers all at the same time”.

Screen Shot 2020-01-26 at 20.13.21

 

Book Bloggers. Reviews by Book Bloggers can be extremely influential. Again, I refer to Joanne Harris, and number one on her list of #TenThingsAboutBookBloggers – which she tweeted last year:

“Over the past ten years, book bloggers have gradually overtaken print reviewers when it comes to informing readers about books. That’s because bloggers are passionate readers, with no editorial agenda to push.”

Screen Shot 2020-01-26 at 20.24.36

However, not all Book Bloggers review all types of books. Most prefer to read and review the genre they like best. So if you do reach out to book bloggers, PLEASE read their review policy beforehand. Book Bloggers are inundated with requests, so I cannot stress how important it is to do this! Click here to read editor Emma Mitchell’s useful guide on how to approach Book Bloggers. You’d also do well to remember that bloggers don’t get paid for reviews, therefore, as Joanne Harris suggests (above) they also have no agenda. If a blogger does agree to read an ARC of your book, it is in exchange for an honest review, which is no guarantee it will be a glowing one. Joanne Harris suggests:

“By all means thank a blogger for a good review. But don’t argue over a bad one, even if you think it’s unfair”.

Screen Shot 2020-01-26 at 20.26.52

Book Bloggers don’t owe authors good reviews.

 

Book Blog Tours. I’m a huge fan of Book Blog Tours. My publisher, Matthew Smith, at Urbane Publications kindly arranged the Book Blog Tour for my third novel, Time Will Tell, with the lovely Kelly at Love Books Group Tours. They’re also a great idea if you don’t feel confident enough to approach individual reviewers or book bloggers yourself.

Ammended time-will-tell Blog tour poster copy 3

However, I do feel it’s important for writers to get grips with the true value of Blog Tours, which doesn’t necessarily equate to more book sales.

In 2016, author and blogger Barb Drozdowich wrote a post for ALLI (Alliance of Independent Authors) here, mainly in response to some of the negative comments she kept hearing from authors who were clearly disappointed with the results of their Blog Tours, particularly those that couldn’t see a relatable rise in book sales. Barb wrote, “let’s be clear right up front: BOOK BLOG TOURS DON’T SELL BOOKS”.

Ok, fine, you might be saying if you’re reading this, why should I invest in one then?

Well, let me tell you.

A Book Blog Tour is about social interaction. A virtual meet and greet version, if you will, of some of the (real life) author/blogger meet ups I’ve attended. It’s the coming together of a group of likeminded individuals with the aim of sharing information about books.

Going back to Barb Drozdowich’s post, she quotes Aimee, a blogger who arranges blog tours:

“I know when you think ‘Book Tour’ most authors immediately think ‘book sales’ but it’s not true.  I always try to tell my authors that book tours don’t sell books, they get people talking about your book, which in turn may help sales at some point but really it’s about getting you as the author and your book out into the interwebs to be found!”

Which is true, readers are always looking for new recommendations from sources they trust. So, while a Book Blog Tour may not result in an immediate spike in book sales, as Sandra Poirier Smith points out here in her Bookbub guest post, Tips on Using Blog Tours for Book Marketing, “a nod from a book blogger with an avid fan base in your genre is pure gold”.

You will, of course, be charged a fee if you ask someone to arrange a Book Blog Tour for you (see my list of Book Blog Tour organisers below) however, it’s also important to remember that the book bloggers that take part in these tours (many of whom have full time jobs and busy family lives) don’t get paid – they do it for one reason, and one reason only – the sheer love of books. So always be polite, and don’t forget to say thanks.

 

ARC Groups. Crime writer, Tony Forder suggests that “forming your own ARC (Advance Reader Copy) group on Facebook works well. If you can get 30-40 interested readers who will provide an honest review on Amazon in exchange for the ARC, then it can really give you an early boost. Amazon, of course, are notorious for changing their rules and how they apply them, so sometimes reviews won’t be accepted for reasons Amazon will not reveal, so you tend to need more readers in your ARC group than you might think. All you need to do is create a locked group on Facebook and invite people, explaining how it works”.

teachers-23820_1280

 

 

Others: I haven’t actually tried all of these myself (so there may be some pitfalls) but some of my writing buddies suggest taking a look at the following to help generate reviews:

GoodReads

BookBub

Reedsy

Kindlepreneur

NetGalley

 

Good luck. I hope this helps.

 

Some of my recommended Facebook groups:

The Fiction Café Book Club

Book Connectors

THE Book Club (TBC)

Chick Lit and Prosecco (Chat Group)

Writers authors and readers

Women Writers, Women’s Books

Good Housekeeping Book Room

Crime Fiction Addict

 

Book Blog Tour Organisers:

authors-contact-us-today

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelly Lacey – Love Books Group Tours

 

Random ThingsTours FB Header .jpg

Anne Cater – RandomThings Tours

 

Screen Shot 2020-01-26 at 23.19.50.png

 

Rachel Gilbey – Rachel’s Random Resources

 

hand-masterxxx-2-blog-tour-services-final.png

Emma Welton – Damppebbles

 

book-on-the-bright-side.png

Sarah Hardy – Book On The Bright Side

 

Eva Jordan reviews Silence and Songbirds by @AuthoJon published by @EyriePress

Add a heading

Silence and Songbirds is a thought provoking tale that transports the reader across the sea to the beautiful islands of the Marlborough Sounds, an extensive network of sea-drowned valleys at the northern end of the South Island of New Zealand. Tane, the story’s narrator, is an indigenous islander whose name means ‘man’ in Maori culture. He shares his name with the god of forests and light who, the Maori believe, is also responsible for creating the tui bird. Tui, like most songbirds have two voice boxes which enables their complex variety of songs and calls. Early European colonists called them mockingbirds, and for good reason. Like parrots, the tui bird has the ability to clearly imitate human speech.

The story begins with Tane heading towards the end of his life. “My ancestors’ voices are sounding. When I close my eyes at night, I can hear them calling me in my native tongue… It is a little unnerving, yet beautiful. There are shifting rhythms that sway and swirl like sand in the wind, while the lilting melodies of their voices slide and glide through the lulling lows and haunting highs… Soon I shall take a final voyage, this time into the mysterious underworld. I am not afraid of death.” Tane reflects on his long life, and in particular, his formative years when, after a terrible accident that resulted in the loss of those closest to him, he not only suffered great pain and sorrow but also his ability to speak. However, by striking up a carefully nurtured and mutually respectful friendship with a local tui, plus a chance encounter with a young English girl called Emily, Tane once again discovers his voice, enabled by the healing power of love and friendship.

Silence and Songbirds is a novella that, less than a hundred pages long, can easily be read in one sitting. Beautifully written, it is a story everyone can relate to. An evocative tale of love and loss but also a coming of age story that demonstrates the positive power of friendship, in whatever guise it manifests itself. Sad and joyous, Tane’s thoughts and feelings are as complex and colourful as his surroundings, “where the dolphins play and the orca hunt, where the plates of the earth rise up in thunderous earthquakes, and, of course, where the tui sings.”

 

Kindle Edition: 77 pages

Publisher: Eyrie Press (2 Nov. 2019)

 

Amazon buying links here and here.

Eva Jordan reviews Miss Marley by the late @VanessaLafaye, and @rebeccamascull @HarperCollinsUK

Eva Reviews Miss Marley.png

 

Every Christmas it has now become customary for me to read Charles Dickens’ wonderful Christmas story, A Christmas Carol; the tale of solitary miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who is taught the true meaning of Christmas through a series of ghostly visitors on Christmas Eve, including his old business partner Jacob Marley. However, for those of you who don’t know, there is a prequel to this great Dickensian ghost story, namely Miss Marley.

Written almost two centuries after A Christmas Carol, Miss Marley tells the story of orphans Clara and Jacob Marley. The siblings spend the first happy years of their young lives living in a grand house with their parents. However, some years later after the tragic loss of both parents, Clara and Jacob then find themselves homeless and penniless. Living on the streets of London, in the shadow of the workhouse, the youngsters scavenge for food as, “Every Friday afternoon, the butcher threw scraps from his back door to the hungry street children, but all the best morsels went to bigger boys and vicious stray dogs”, relying on their wits and one another to keep each other safe. Then an opportunity presents itself, one that will allow the intrepid youngsters to flee the dangerous city streets and escape poverty. Jacob seizes it, despite the great moral price to his soul. Later, after much hard work, with the siblings once again elevated in society, Jacob meets Ebenezer Scrooge… and so begins their infamous partnership.

The author’s note by Vanessa Lafaye states how she often wondered about Marley’s backstory; an exercise that eventually consumed her imagination. Sadly, Vanessa passed away in February 2018, unable to finish this beautiful prequel. But at the request of Vanessa’s husband, and her publisher, it was, I’m pleased to say, completed by Vanessa’s good friend and fellow author, Rebecca Mascull. 

Written in third person, this is the bittersweet story of Jacob Marley as seen through the eyes of his sister, Clara. Clara is a character entirely invented by the author who believed “that the idea of inhabiting Marley himself felt too much like trespassing”. Masterfully written, this evocative fable offers insight into the social observations of Victorian life, which at times reflect some of our current issues, whilst also capturing the Dickensian spirit of Christmas, complete with ghosts, goodwill, hope and redemption.

 

Hardcover: 176 pages

Publisher: Hq (1 Nov. 2018)

Amazon buying links here and here.

Eva Jordan reviews Closer Than You Think by @darrensully @HQDigitalUK

Eva reviews

“It was the darker things in life that drew humanity in…”

Closer Than You Think is the third psychological thriller written by best-selling author, Darren O’ Sullivan, and the first of his books I’ve read. Recommended by a good friend, my expectations were high. I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint.

The story begins with a prologue narrated in close third person via the voice of the unknown antagonist of the story, in this case a serial killer. He explains to the reader how he believes people become who, and what they are based on their environment and experiences, and how he also believes that the possibility of changing who we are, is, essentially impossible. However, he also believes people can evolve: “He [himself] had experienced several evolutions which had altered the direction of his thoughts and actions. But these didn’t change who he was. He would always be someone who killed.” Make no mistake; he is not a nice individual.

The main protagonist of the story is a woman called Claire Moore. Narrated in first person, she is a physically and emotionally damaged character who ten years prior survived the brutal attack of a serial killer. However, although she escaped the clutches of the man the media dubbed The BlackOut Killer, Claire’s husband didn’t, and it has haunted her ever since. To the general public Claire represents hope and survival, but behind closed doors life is a struggle, despite the fact her attacker was actually apprehended and imprisoned. However, fast forward ten years and Claire is slowly feeling stronger again. She is tired of living in fear. So, with the continued support of close friends and family, she begins to fight back the demons that have, for all intents and purposes, kept her a prisoner in her own home. At least that is… until she hears the news about a recent murder; one where the killer has used the same modus operandi adopted by her perpetrator years before. But how is that possible? Is it a copycat killer? Or… is the killer closer than Claire thinks!

Closer Than You Think is a taut whodunit. A domestic thriller, both well written and easy to read. The characters are well drawn, the writing atmospheric, and there are just enough twists to keep you turning the page, including an ending, I can also safely say, that was very unexpected.

 

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: HQ Digital (30 May 2019)

Amazon buying links, here and here.

If you’d like to know more about the author, you can read my interview with Darren here.