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.

Eva Jordan in conversation with bestselling author @darrensully @HQDigitalUK

Eva in conversation

 

Back in September I was lucky enough to do a joint ‘Ask The Author’ event at Peterborough City Library with bestselling author, Darren O’ Sullivan. It was a great success and I’m pleased to say we both had a lovely afternoon, including plenty of audience participation. It was fascinating to learn about Darren’s journey to publication compared to mine, and I was surprised to learn that his love of books, unlike mine, came later in his childhood. Therefore, for those of you that missed our event but are keen to know more about Darren, read on…

 

  1. Hi Darren, thanks for agreeing to chat with me. Can you please introduce yourself?

 Hi, I’m Darren O’Sullivan, Author of Psychological thrillers, Our Little Secret, Close Your Eyes, Closer Than You Think, and Dark Corners.

  

  1. How long have you been writing? Did you always want to be a writer?

 I have been writing for about 18 years, I started my career as an actor (it was hardly something you could call a career) so my writing journey began with my dabbling with stage plays. But despite writing shows, I didn’t want to be a writer; I hoped that by writing I would find a way in to be a more successful actor. Even the idea for my first book came from a play called Pact. I wrote it, had actors in to workshop it, and at the end of the first session we all knew the play was terrible. But, the characters were good, and I couldn’t shake them. It was then I contemplated writing a book, not knowing if I could. When I started, I was hooked and knew in that moment, I wanted to be a writer.

 

  1. So you were an actor? What is the most difficult/frustrating part of being an actor and how does that compare to the most difficult/frustrating part of being a writer?

I guess, reflecting, my acting career didn’t reach the dizzy heights (or any height) because of self-confidence. I was capable, but I wasn’t good at putting myself forward for things. That was the hardest part. Weirdly, being a writer feels more vulnerable, huge parts of my identity are poured onto the page, but I don’t have the same fear. Or if I do, I am more willing to face it. I love everything about writing, I love the challenges, the editor feedback, I love opening my laptop every morning and diving back into a world I have made up, I am an addict to the art of trying to be good. But writing is a slow process; it takes time, a lot of thought, and a lot of isolation. I found the transition from being in a busy, fast moving theatre to my desk on my own the most difficult part. Even still, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

 

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

The only advice that means anything is very simple; to write, you have to write. A marathon runner cannot complete 26.2 miles, if they just decided, on the day of the race to do it. You have to run, a lot, for months and months before entering. Don’t get me wrong; I am not a marathon runner, not even close. But I do the same with words. I wasn’t a good writer when I began; in fact, I was terrible. But I did it, every day; I put down words and finished pieces that would never be read. I ran. And I’m still running now. Get enough miles under the belt, and you will finish the race.

Eva & Darren 2 

For The Love of Books by Eva Jordan

read-2869328_1920 (1)

Image by RDRogers1971 from Pixabay

Last month I reviewed the beautifully illustrated children’s picture book, The Hospital Hoppities which you can read here. Inspired by such a lovely book and brilliant idea, I thought I’d take a look at why it’s so important for children to read books.

 

As a child I loved reading. I couldn’t wait to clamber up Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree or explore C. S. Lewis’s land of Narnia via the back of an old wardrobe.

 

 

Then, when my children were very little, I got the opportunity to go back to some of my childhood favourites by reading to them. I loved reading to my children, and they loved listening. Perched on my knee or snuggled up beside me they were always eager to listen to a bedtime story or two, including some I’d read as a child as well as new ones we discovered together. The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Harry And The Terrible Whatzit were always firm favourites.

 

 

Reading to children provides a wonderful opportunity to bond with them, and a brilliant way to introduce them to the magical world of books. Even before they are born children recognise their parents’ voices, so reading to them from birth, just for a couple of minutes a day, gives them the comfort of hearing a familiar voice while increasing their exposure to language. 

child-3046494_1920

Image by 2081671 from Pixabay

 

However, as my children grew older and their enthusiasm to sit on my knee waned, I’m pleased to say their love of books didn’t. They enjoyed trips to the library almost as much as a day out.

children-684584_1920

Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

So, what do the experts have to say about it? Well, apparently reading for pleasure is really good for children, and here’s why.

Not only does reading encourage children to use their imagination, studies have also shown that reading for pleasure can make a great difference to a child’s educational performance.

unicorn-2074469_1920

Image by Mandyme27 from Pixabay

They will often perform better in reading tests, develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures. In fact, Bali Rai, award-winning writer of novels for teenagers and younger readers suggests, “Reading for pleasure is the single biggest factor in success later in life, outside of an education. Study after study has shown that those children who read for pleasure are the ones who are most likely to fulfil their ambitions. If your child reads, they will succeed—it’s that simple”.

 

 

girls-2838810_1280

Image by b0red from Pixabay

Eva Jordan in conversation with retired nurse and author Joy M. Lilley

Eva in conversation with Joy

 

Today on my blog I’m very pleased to welcome the lovely Joy M. Lilley, author and former nurse.

 

Hi Joy, thanks for chatting with me today. Can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself? I understand you’re a retired nurse?

 Hello Eva, yes, I worked in the NHS for a long time. My nursing years were wonderful. I enjoyed every minute. Caring for others gave me much satisfaction. And I made some wonderful life-long friends.

Taking on three stepchildren along with one son of my own when I married, while working to train as a registered nurse was hard work. At that time I already had seventeen years under my belt nursing as a State Enrolled nurse. That training no longer exists. Looking back I wonder how I did it.

My nursing skills were required at home too. My husband was diagnosed with critical coronary heart disease aged 45. It was in 2008 I retired, when he needed his third major heart operation. Thereafter, I was able to get on with a goal I’d dreamt of for years, namely to write and publish my first novel.

I am a Grandmother of 6 and a great grandmother (gosh).

As well as writing, I also work as a voice over recording artist. I work mainly for the U.S. market, some European and the U.K. I have a British, mature voice and can manage most British accents and some others.

   

How long have you been writing? Did you always want to be a writer?

Seriously since 2008.And yes, I always hoped I’d end up writing novels.

 

What is the most difficult/frustrating part of being a nurse and how does it compare to the most difficult/frustrating part of being a writer? 

Interesting question. Nursing during the 60’s was hard slog compared with the modern era. Don’t get me wrong; nurses still have to work very hard, but there are a number of better systems in place now. We had to hand wash out the catheters of each prostatectomy every 30 minutes, with likely three patients having had the operation that day, along with 28 other patients to care for – it was exhausting. And wow betide any nurse who reneged on that duty as the patient could go into clot retention and need to return to theatre. There was only one trained nurse on night duty. Thankfully, that situation no longer exists as patients are now connected to a continuous infusion, releasing the nurses to cover all their other duties.

Perhaps not so much a comparison, but thinking through an appropriate, readable story to tell is frustrating to me, along with the discipline required to sit down and write.

 

And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a nurse or a writer?

If you are thinking about becoming a nurse the most important skills you need are compassion, empathy and patience. Be prepared for much study and a whole lot of giving oneself to others. Five GCE’S are required before the colleges will accept a student. The rewards are immense and as a Registered General nurse you will need a degree under your belt.

As for becoming a writer, similarly you’ll need empathy with your characters. Much patience is required when the rewrites take over. As is the need to go over the script, time and time again. I would also say it’s imperative to get an editor. They are often able to see the ‘schoolboy howlers’ we don’t.

 

Thanks for chatting to me today, Joy. 

 

If you want to know more about Joy’s books you can read about them here

 

Eva Jordan in conversation with publisher @janefspencer @EyriePress

 

Eva in conversation with Jane Spencer

 

Earlier this month I reviewed the wonderfully illustrated children’s story The Hospital Hoppities (see my review here), published by Eyrie Press. So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to have a chat with Jane Spencer, the publisher and managing director behind the local press who published this lovely children’s story. 

 

Hoppities-5

 

  1. Hi Jane, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and about Eyrie Press?

 

Hi Eva. I’m an editor and proofreader living in March, Cambridgeshire. I home educated my four children and realised there weren’t many books that featured home educating families, at least not in a positive way, so I decided to address that and publish some! I set up Eyrie Press as a social enterprise and then broadened its horizons to publish books that take a non-tokenistic approach to featuring other communities underrepresented in fiction, or books by writers from East Anglia. We also run local writing and publishing workshops from time to time and have an annual short story competition exclusively for East Anglian writers.

 

  1. The Hospital Hoppities is such a lovely, beautifully illustrated book and is the perfect companion for small children that have to spend time in hospital. How and why did Eyrie Press get involved with its publication?

 

Charlotte, the author, submitted it to us and it was such a lovely idea that we knew straight away we wanted to publish it. As a story which aims to make families in hospital feel ‘seen’ in children’s literature, and which empowers its main character with a helping role rather than a dependent one, it very much ticked our boxes! We put out a call on Facebook for an illustrator and were delighted to find Anjalee, who did an amazing job of bringing the story to life. We could hardly believe this was the first book she’d illustrated!

 

  1. And finally, for all those budding writers out there, I understand you are open for submissions. What, ideally, is Eyrie Press looking for?

 

Going forward, we’re focusing on well-crafted novels and novellas in the genres of contemporary, historical and speculative fiction. We’d really like submissions that are by writers from East Anglia (which we define as Cambridgeshire, Peterborough Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire), or which feature underrepresented communities. There are more details on our website www.eyriepress.co.uk and you can get some hints as to what I like in a submission by reading the Q&A I did over at The Book Stewards blog! www.thebookstewards.com/qa-with-jane-spencer-of-eyrie-press

Jane Spencer

Eva Jordan reviews… The Hospital Hoppities by Charlotte Hartley-Jones Illustrated by Anjalee Burrows @anjaleebee Published by @EyriePress

 

Eve Reviews The Hospital Hoppities

My book review this month is something a little different for me. The Hospital Hoppities is a beautifully illustrated children’s story aimed at younger children that have to spend extended periods of time in hospital, the idea being to make their stay a little less scary and a lot more fun.

Ollie, a little boy waiting for his operation, is bored. His wise old grandmother tells him about the Hospital Hoppities: small, furry rabbits, with big eyes, shimmering fur and log floppy ears. They are, according to Ollie’s grandmother, magic rabbits that live in hospitals. “They look after the children and help the hospital be a happier place, but they don’t like to be seen”, so most of the time they make themselves invisible. They do this by thumping their back paw. However, one-day Ollie spots a Hospital Hoppity in the drawer of his hospital bedside cabinet. Somehow he has got his paw stuck. Ollie helps the Hoppity release his paw but when he taps it to make himself invisible, it doesn’t work. The Hospital Hoppity then asks Ollie for help, and between them they fly around the wards of the hospital carrying out good deeds.

Hoppities-3

Charlotte Hartley-Jones, the author of this delightful story, is a trained clinical psychologist and writer. She was inspired to write this story after her own first-hand experience of life on a hospital ward with a son with a chronic medical condition. She was keen to write something children could relate to, especially those that spend a lot of time in hospital, by taking some of the fear out of the experience. Therefore, although the story itself doesn’t focus on individual health conditions, the beautiful illustrations by Anjalee Burrows, a digital illustrator, do show medical equipment like heart monitors, drip stands and hospital staff wearing stethoscopes and scrubs, helping to ‘normalise’ such things. The storyline also empowers Ollie, the main character, by giving him a helping role, instead of a dependent one.

 

Hoppities-1

The Hospital Hoppities is a wonderfully magical, beautifully illustrated story that is both entertaining and comforting, especially for small children that have to spend time in hospital. It also makes the perfect companion for children visiting siblings and loved ones in hospital, helping to ‘normalise’ what can sometimes be a very daunting experience.

 

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Eyrie Press (30 Jun. 2019)

 

Hope Springs Eternal

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness”

– Desmond Tutu

0-10

Back in April this year I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful city of Krakow in Poland. If you’ve never been I highly recommend it. Dating back to the 7th century it is one of Poland’s oldest cities, rich in history and culture. It is also one of the few eastern European cities to escape bombing during World War II, which is why many of the streets and architecture remain exactly as they were before the war. In 1939, during the Nazi occupation of Poland, the Third Reich began rounding up all Jewish residents and confining them to overcrowded ghettos before later deporting them to concentration camps. Which was another reason for my visit to Krakow—I wanted to visit the nearby infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau camp and pay my respects to the many innocent men, women and children that had been imprisoned and, in most cases, murdered there.

First stop was the Auschwitz camp where we entered via the notorious iron gates and emblazoned words “Arbeit Macht Frei” ­­­­­­­(Work Sets You Free). My biggest fear at this point was that people would attempt to take selfies––thankfully no one did, with those taking photos (myself included) doing so quietly and discreetly. Walking through the gates I noticed the old lookout towers and surrounding, once electrified, barbed wire fencing, which made me shiver, despite the warm weather. Our guide then led us to various rooms in numbered buildings known as blocks, which had once housed prisoners, some of which now contain physical reminders of those murdered. It was heart breaking to witness the hills of human hair, shoes, hairbrushes, clothes, and toothbrushes displayed behind glass panels. Equally appalling were the standing chambers, suffocation chambers, starvation chambers and the firing wall of notorious Block 11—otherwise known as the punishment chamber.

0-4

Our next stop (10 mins drive away) was Birkenau (which reportedly held over 90,000 prisoners in 1944) also known as Auschwitz II. Built to keep up with mass European arrests taking place it evolved into a network of camps where most prisoners were exterminated, often in gas chambers, or used as slave labour, while other prisoners were subjected to barbaric medical experiments led by Josef Mengele. Our guide took us inside what was once one of the women’s barracks. These were brick buildings often housing up to 700 people, sometimes more, containing three-tier wooden bunks (sleeping up to six or seven people to each bunk), shoddily built, lacking any real heating or sanitation facilities. Our guide then led us alongside the same train tracks that had transported prisoners from Poland and other parts of Europe via overcrowded cattle trucks into the camp. We then walked the same route to the “shower blocks” that on arrival, most of the elderly men and women, and women with young children believed they were going to, with the promise of a hot meal and a bed afterwards. History tells us otherwise though, and we now know they were in fact marched straight to their deaths via the gas chambers, their bodies then burned in the nearby crematorium.

0-2

As our tour ended, I took stock for a moment and looked up, feeling the heat of the sun on my face. I wondered how the prisoners of the camp must have felt on the days the sun shined for them, if they found the energy to notice or enjoy it—even for a few seconds? I concluded that what I found most difficult to believe about Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the many other camps like it, was that its mass extermination of ordinary people took place very recently, less than eighty years ago to be exact. And it wasn’t just Jews that were targeted, many non-jewish artists, writers, journalists, teachers, politicians, Romas, communists, homosexuals, and mentally and physically disabled people met their death––anyone basically, deemed unfit for Nazi Germany. Sadly though (although perhaps not on the scale of the Holocaust), our history books are littered with accounts of genocide, both before and since World War II.

However, there have been many inspiring accounts of survival since those terrible events took place. Stories about people that never gave up hope, who went on to live full lives, many of whom married and had families of their own. Ten years ago I was privileged enough to meet Eva Clarke, one of the Holocaust’s youngest known survivors. After spending time in Auschwitz, her mother, Anka, gave birth to Eva on a wooden cart in the shadow of the prison gates of Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria in April 1945. Eva explained how her mother once told her that before her incarceration she would never have predicted being able to withstand such an experience, but when it happened, and for no real logical reason, she just assumed she would survive, attributing a bit of luck and the overwhelming love for her unborn child as one of her greatest motivators to keep going.

So, as long as there is good in the world, and love, there is always, I believe, hope.