Tag Archives: book

Review: ‘High Force’ by LJ Ross

high-force

I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I’ve encountered lots of people who are obsessed with LJ Ross’s DCI Ryan series – and the man himself. Having read ‘High Force’, I can understand why.

‘High Force’ may be the fifth DCI Ryan novel but don’t worry if you haven’t read the other books in the series, this novel can be read as a standalone.

Set in Newcastle, Northumberland and County Durham, ‘High Force’ follows DCI Ryan and his team as they track ‘The Hacker’, Ryan’s nemesis who has escaped from prison and appears intent on settling some old scores. Not content with having previously killed Ryan’s sister, ‘The Hacker’ has taken one of Ryan’s team hostage and continues to taunt him with a number of grisly murders.

I really enjoyed this compelling narrative which combined police procedural with criminal psychology. LJ Ross evokes place very well and the dynamics between the characters make this a really believable novel that I didn’t want to put down.

I will definitely be reading more LJ Ross.

Vic x

I review my 2016

I really enjoy running the annual reviews, they get wonderful feedback from readers and it’s always a pleasure to spend time with the participants so thanks to everyone who’s taken part this year. Here’s to a wonderful 2017!

Victoria

In 2016, I have had some really cracking professional successes. Noir at the Bar is a real highlight for me, having run two in Newcastle and participated in ones in Harrogate and Edinburgh. I have Graham Smith and Jay Stringer to thank for encouraging me to set up the Newcastle chapter. Special thanks must also go to Jacky Collins – organiser of Newcastle Noir – for assisting me with the running of NatB NE. The turnout for the events in Newcastle has been fantastic and it’s really gathering great support, it’s a really wonderful thing to be involved in. I’m really looking forward to the next one on Wednesday, 22nd February.

My friend Luca introduces me

Elementary Writers continue to go from strength to strength. This year, we’ve released a book – Blood from the Quill – and a pamphlet – Wish You Were Here. We’ve also done performances for Burns Night, Heritage Open Days and Halloween. It is a pleasure to work with such talented writers.

The writers that I’ve worked with as a copy-editor this year have had some great success. I loved going to Chris Ord’s book launch for his excellent novel Becoming and it’s great to see that Nicole Helfrich’s book Descent to Hell has been released internationally. Similarly, it’s great to see Paul McDonagh and Graham Bain‘s books available to buy now.

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Oh, and I started working on my novel again. I’ve written more in the last three months than I have done in six years. That’s a pretty good feeling. The feedback I’ve had from performing extracts and sharing the work has been awesome and has really spurred me on to actually finish it. It’s not easy but I’m actually really enjoying spending time with the characters and delving deeper into their lives. A couple of weeks ago, Mike Cockburn of Sogno Ltd did a session with Elementary Writers on Myers-Briggs Personality Types and that’s given me a lot of food for thought.

Personally, I’ve also had one of the best years of my life. The Boy Wonder and I moved into our first house together in August and, on 14th November in Oman, he asked me to marry him! I honestly couldn’t be happier.

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It was a true thrill going to see my dad be awarded an MBE for services to welfare reform and charity. It was such a special day, going to Buckingham Palace with my parents and brother to see my dad’s hard work rewarded. I’ve never felt so proud in my life. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea at the Grosvenor Hotel in London afterwards.

A very proud day

In other news, I finally hit my Slimming World target as well as being nominated – and winning – Woman of the Year and Miss Slinky at my group. I’ve made some great friends at the group and I will continue to go in order to control my weight.

Favourite film by a country mile was GhostbustersI didn’t want to see it as I was worried it would be a disappointed but I loved it. Kate McKinnon is my hero!

I’ve read so many fantastic books this year in a range of genres. I loved Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories which was a collection of his favourite chilling tales. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert was a real inspiration – any creative person should read this fantastic book. I read my first ever Agatha Christie this year and I’m proud to boast that I guessed who was responsible for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd very early on. The Yellow Wallpaper was an utter revelation. There are loads of other wonderful books that have stayed with me this year – you can check them out on my Goodreads page.

That has got to be Formation by Beyonce although I have been known to sing it as ‘Ok, ladies, now let’s get information’. The Boy Wonder and I went to see Hans Zimmer Live and that concert just took my breath away. Seeing him perform the music from The Dark Knight as well as being introduced to The Electro Suite and other incredible compositions has stayed with me ever since.

At the start of 2016, I’d been made redundant and a house purchase had fallen through. That was not a great start but since then, I’ve never looked back. Looking outward, I’m devastated by the events all over the world. Syria, the US election, the EU referendum in Britain and the fallout have just been terrifying. Every year, I worry that we – as humans – are losing touch with humanity. I can’t believe the way people are behaving towards one another – usually because of difference. That’s just heartbreaking.

My resolutions for 2017 are too try not to over-commit. I get very excited by the opportunities offered to me and find it difficult to say no but sometimes that negatively impacts on me.

I’m hoping 2017 will be a better year for people. I really hope we can find a way to work together to bring about positive change in the world – regardless of difference.

Review of 2016: Bernie Steadman

Today we have Bernie Steadman on the blog to review her year. By all accounts, it’s been a corker but you don’t need to hear that from me – allow Bernie to sum up her 2016 for you!

Vic x

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Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
My first novel, Death and Deception came out right at the end of 2015, so it was in January 2016 that I first read reviews from people I didn’t know, about a book I had created. It was a special moment and the fulfilment of a dream. The second in the series, Death and The Good Son, came out on the 9th December this year, and my favourite part of that process was having a launch with so many friends, a glass or two of prosecco, some signings, some sales… it was a great afternoon!

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And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
I’m an Iyengar Yoga devotee, and in May I went to Crete for a week long retreat with a brilliant teacher. The venue: 30 yards from the beach. The yoga: challenging, and in every way, stretching! The food: delicious home-made Cretan delights; yogurt, fruit and vegetables from the garden. The weather: warming nicely by the end of the week to 30 degrees. The sea: warm enough to swim. Reader, I wept like a baby when I had to come home…

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Favourite book in 2016?
So tough. I’ve read so many. I loved ‘The Rosie Project‘ by Graeme Simsion, and the first in the ‘Brilliance‘ sci-fi series by Marcus Sakey. Debut authors; I have to recommend Angela Corner’s ‘The Hidden Island‘. Heleyne Hammersley’s ‘Fracture‘ was good, and I mustn’t forget the magical, wonderful, ‘Ghostbird‘ by Carol Lovekin.

Favourite film in 2016?
Dr Strange‘, with the delectable Benedict Cumberbatch. Love a bit of Sci-fi, and will see ‘Rogue 1‘ before the end of the year, no doubt.

Favourite song of the year?
Emilie Sande, ‘Hurts‘. She’s a fabulous singer; you can hear her soul in her voice.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
Personally it’s been a fantastic year, but so many of our icons have died this year that I think it is tinged with a little sadness for everybody.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
Well, I have a new novel to write, starting January 1st

What are you hoping for from 2017?
A safe world, in which difference doesn’t spark xenophobia. I’m going for spontaneous acts of kindness, and smiling at strangers!

Review of 2016: Sandra Ireland

Today we’re joined on the blog by the lovely Sandra Ireland who’s here to review her year. I know it’s a funny time of year – the week between Christmas and New Year – so thanks to Sandra for taking the time to appear on the blog.

Vic x

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Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
I suppose everyone says ‘The Book Launch’, which is absolutely true! Mine was in St Stephens, Stockbridge, and hosted by a wonderful indie bookshop, Golden Hare Books. My publisher Polygon selected this venue as my novel Beneath the Skin is set right around the corner! But I have so many great memories of 2016, including being invited to take part in Bloody Scotland’s ‘Spotlight on Crime’ event.

 

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
2016 has been a BIG year. In April, I was a awarded Creative Scotland funding to undertake a year-long creative residency at NTS Barry Mill, Angus, and in May my son Jamie married his lovely girl, Lizzie, at the Mill. The ceremony took place beneath a gorgeous old apple tree. Not a dry eye in the place!

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Favourite book in 2016?
So many to choose from. At the moment I’m reading Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch‘, after seeing the painting in Edinburgh. Such a beautifully-written novel, and that sense of place bestowed by basing it around an actual artefact: brilliant! I’ve tried to do something similar with by second novel, which is set in a fictional version of Barry Mill. I love the idea of literary tourism.

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Favourite film in 2016?
Tricky. I’m not a fan of anything connected with ‘Star Wars‘ or action/ adventure/ superhero stuff, and I don’t like all the hype surrounding cinema releases. I’m a rather-read-the-book type! I did enjoy ‘Sunset Song‘ last year, but I guess that doesn’t count! This year I went to see ‘Room‘, and ‘The Girl on the Train‘ which were both just okay!

Favourite song of the year?
I’m a big Nick Cave fan, so I would have to say that my go-to song for a bit of Gothic writing inspiration is his ‘Red Right Hand’. Since it’s the theme for Peaky Blinders (beautifully-written) I think that qualifies it to be included in my 2016 highlights!

Any downsides for you in 2016?
Mainly family stuff. I suppose bright light casts a long shadow, and alongside the good fortune of having my book published are the things that can’t be helped but must be endured. My father is nearly 93 and doesn’t keep well. However he’s doing okay at the moment. My younger son, Calum, is in Australia and managed to come back for the wedding. Neither of them made it to the book launch, which was sad but unavoidable. I missed them both.That’s the writing life – it’s a strange career choice; you just have to write through the downsides of life.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I like to see what the Universe has in store for me – I like to be led by my intuition, so no resolutions for me. Too much like taking control! I do have goals, though.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
I hope to get my second novel published, and to build on the other strand of my writing life which is as a tutor/facilitator. I’m about to start working with Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust on a creative writing project at a local Macmillan Centre. I love the idea of well-being through the arts, so I’d like to do more of that in the New Year. I’m hoping for lots of good health, energy, enthusiasm and tolerance in 2017!

Thank you so much for sharing this space with me! Wishing yourself and all my writing friends every success and help from a friendly Muse in the New Year!

Review of 2016: KA Richardson

The prolific KA Richardson is reviewing her year for us today. I had the pleasure of spending time with Kerry at lots of events this year including Newcastle Noir, Harrogate and Noir at the Bar. 

It’s a real pleasure to see her career as a writer go from strength to strength – I don’t know how she does it! Thanks for being a part of it, Kerry! 

Vic x

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Wow 2016 has been a busy one! So much going on I feel like I’ve met myself coming the other way at times. But it’s been an interesting one!

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Starting at the beginning is always the best bet I think. March saw the publication of my short story, Escape, which was published by Caffeine Nights – only 100 hard copies were produced so if you got your hands on one then well done you as it’s pretty rare! With Deadly Intent, my first novel in the North East Police series was published in April – and I started promoting, had a launch party and had contact with lots of lovely readers who had fallen in love with Cass and Alex, as I did. I never in my wildest dreams truly believed that people would enjoy my writing – and this gave me the first burst of confidence in my writing and belief in myself.

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Those who know me know I’m generally really positive – and I am. But I’ve always suffered with confidence issues and my writing has helped me nourish the belief that I could actually do something other than my day job.

April was an exciting month for other reasons too – I approached Bloodhound Books to see if any other publishers would be interested in my writing – the fabulous Eileen Wharton had been published by them had found them to be amazing and, in truth, I was genuinely curious to know whether my books would be sellable elsewhere. Within 24 hours of the submission, Bloodhound had offered me a 3 book deal. This left me with some thinking to do as obviously I already had a publisher. In the end, though, I made the difficult decision and moved to Bloodhound which turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made.

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They published my second novel, I’ve Been Watching You in June – and the sales blew me away! It got to number 24 in the paid Kindle chart and was a Kindle All Star 3 months in a row! I’m still in shock at this! So many lovely readers bought it and enjoyed it. This humbled me greatly. And still does.

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Because I’m one of those folks who is ultra organised, I actually had books 2 and 3 complete when I approached Bloodhound, and book 4 was well under way. Thanks to it being finished, Bloodhound also published book 3 in the series, Time to Play, in September 2016! So, three novels out within the first nine months of the year. Even saying that makes me sit back and go ‘wow’. It still all feels a little surreal! Almost like it’s happening to someone else. But it’s not – my writing is doing better than I’d ever imagined. And it’s here I’d like to say a sincere thank you to everyone who’s bought the books. It’s the readers that make this all worthwhile and I have so much love for all of you.

I had the opportunity in the later half of the year to be part of something amazing too – I was asked by Bloodhound to produce a short story to be included in an anthology in which all proceeds go to fabulous charities – Hospice UK and Sophie’s Appeal. Hospice UK provide support for over 200 hospices in the UK, and Sophie’s Appeal was set up by the mother of Sophie Barringer who died from a rare form of cancer. The fund supports other people who suffer. It was an honour to be asked to participate, and even greater honour to be included in something that raises both money and awareness of such great causes. There are 41 short stories in the anthology, Dark Minds, from some absolutely cracking authors, like MA Comley, LJ Ross, Jim Ody, and Betsy Reavley, and it’s available for purchase in ebook, paperback and audiobook via Amazon and in all good bookshops.

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2016 has been amazing for all the above reasons – but also challenging in areas not just related to writing, and not just for me, for lots of people I know. I’ve been struggling with my Rheumatoid Arthritis, an autoimmune disease that affects my joints giving pain and swelling, but also can give bad fatigue which for me, has been horrendous. It’s impacted on so many aspects of my life – work, writing and even my home life. It’s hard adapting to having a disease for which there is no cure, only management, but I’m getting there slowly. My husband, Peter, was rushed into hospital a few weeks ago and was in for almost 2 weeks – he’s been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis which is basically ulcers on his colon and large intestine – another auto-immune disease. But despite this, we’ve had so much support from our friends, and relatives, both in real life and online. It’s helped us both come to terms with what we have, and continues to give us the support and love.

I’m so grateful for everything that’s happened this year – both good and bad. Sometimes you need the bad to show you just how strong you are and can be when you have no other choice. And to show you the things in life you shouldn’t take for granted. I have amazing friends, fantastic family, and a whole host of people online who show me every day that life is for living. So I’m going to just forget the bad side of 2016, and focus on all the amazing things that have happened. 2017 will be a great year – because I will make it a great year. Thank you all for being here for me as I’ve hopefully been here for you- I hope 2017 is as fantastic for you as it will be for me. Much love.  Xx

Review of 2016: Angela Readman

I’ve been so spoiled this December and the advent treats continue: today award-winning writer Angela Readman is here to review her year.

As always, it’s a pleasure to host Angela. Thanks for being involved, Angela!

Vic x

Angela Readman

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
The beginning of the year was wonderful professionally. I won The Mslexia Short Story Prize, and on the same day I found out my short story collection ‘Don’t Try This at Home (And other Stories)’ had been shortlisted in The Edgehill Prize. I didn’t win, but it was an honour to get so far. It’s a lot more than I imagined. I also won the Fish Short Memoir Competition which was something new for me, I’ve never tried memoir before. I sent it out as an experiment to see if just writing about me was OK.

This was also the year I published poetry again, my collection ‘The Book of Tides’ came out with Nine Arches in November. It has been so long since my last one it meant more to me than I can say.

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And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
I really want to have one, but I’m struggling. 2016 seems like the year the world got meaner I don’t want to think it’s just the way we are as a species, so I suppose my favourite thing has been little articles about kindness that pop us sometimes. Someone walking into a school and paying all the unpaid balances on school meals, pay it forward, communities coming together to support people, groups that yarn bomb places to try and make someone smile- that sort of stuff. It’s small, but it gives me hope for us.

Favourite book in 2016?
I don’t get a lot of books during the year, I have to wait until Christmas, but I loved Shelley Day’s novel ‘The Confession of Stella Moon‘. Alice Oswald’s ‘Falling Awake‘ was a poetry collection that impressed me. Every year I try to read some books I’ve never got around to before. I was blown away by Shirley Jackson and read Carson Mccullers for the the first time this year. ‘The Ballad of the Sad Cafe‘ is something I know I’ll be reading every year or so for the rest of my life.

Favourite film in 2016?
I loved ‘Dark Horse‘. It’s a documentary about a bunch of ordinary people who come together to buy a racehorse. I loved seeing people live out a dream, however unlikely it is. I also loved ‘The Lobster‘, so strange, sad and unsettling. It’s such a powerful story of conformity and its costs.

Favourite song of the year?
I was stunned by Lorde’s cover of ‘Life on Mars‘. She did it her own way,  it was a remarkable, respectful and fitting tribute.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
Politics, hatred, a lack of tolerance and failure to accept other people seems to be wherever I turn. It feels like this is on the increase, it’s been a sad and worrying year. On a career level, I’m in a curious place of working hard, but so much of it seems to be dealing with admin. It’s one of the things no one tells you I think, that once you’re published there can be less chance to write sometimes. It’s just part of the job, it’s part of life these days I suppose. I haven’t found a way to do it without working longer hours.  I dream of retreats and walks by the sea while I work at weekends to catch up with mail.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I start each year hoping to keep writing. I also like to form a reading resolution, sometimes it will be read a poem a day, sometimes it’s read a short story a day, or make an effort to read more work by small presses, it depends. I haven’t decided exactly yet, but there’s always a book resolution. Last year’s was to finally read Roald Dahl’s short stories.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
I really hope people are going to like my poetry collection. I hope to keep my publisher happy. I hope we can all be kinder. I hope we can be happier. I hope to be better.

Review of 2016: p.a. morbid

p.a. morbid is a name I’ve been familiar with for several years and, finally, earlier this year, I met the man himself for the first time at the launch of Harry Gallagher‘s pamphlet ‘Chasing the Sunset’. 

morbid is really well-respected and has furthered the careers of many poets so it’s a true pleasure to have him on the blog today. Thanks for taking the time to review your year, morbid. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
Professionally, with The Black Light Engine Room Press, it has been a rather good year, as we’ve published chapbooks by a number of great poets, inc Harry Gallagher. The high point though, was February, when we published Jim Burns as one half of the ‘Dark Matter’ chapbook (with Judi Sutherland). Jim’s one of the nicest people, and has been publishing since the 60s & is the closest thing I’ve got to a hero/father figure in the poetry world. I was a little nervous meeting him, but he was just so nice & exactly as he is in his letters & emails. He read ‘Easter In Stockport’ which the first poem of his I came across in the 90s. He stayed at mine & we spent 2 hours the next morning talking about art & poetry, which was just amazing! A true inspiration, in that he’s always ready to answer my questions & is so knowledgeable about poetry, bohemianism, modern art. Great interview with him here.

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
Its been a good year on the whole, but I think I’d have to go with having my first exhibition of paintings. Most people know me as a poet &/or local historian, so it was good to show my graphic side for a change, even if it was a little dark for some people.

Favourite book in 2016?
There have been a few, but the best have been: “Artists, Beats & Cool Cats” by Jim Burns – a collection of reviews & articles covering artists etc – the breadth of his knowledge is, well, wide! And he writes in such an easy going manner that you almost forget that you’re ingesting all that knowledge!

Jesus, Interrupted” Bart D. Erhman. Bart’s a New Testament scholar, ex-fundamentalist Christian, who’s a professor of religious studies North Carolina. The book covers the changes in the N.T., some accidental, others not, and again, is so easy to read…
Mercurius” Patrick Harpur. A detective novel & history of alchemy all rolled into one, this helped me express some of the things that were bugging me in a symbolic, pictorial way, feeding into my painting, as well prompting me to layer my prose with subtle esoteric references.
Hackney, That Rose Red Empire” Iain Sinclair. Although he writes, mostly, about London, I find Iain really inspires me to write about Middlesbrough. He has a very Beat way of writing, which I can’t handle in his fiction, but in his ‘psychogeography’ I find fascinating.

The Psalm Killer” Chris Petit. A poet, and mate of Mr. Sinclair, I picked this up in Waterstones & read it quickly, for me, over 4 days. Set in 1985 Belfast it combines a great story, and lots of the Irish-British army/ counter-intelligence of the 70s.

Favourite film in 2016?
Without a doubt it was “Byzantium“, which is, and I don’t usually gush about films, truly beautiful. A modern re-telling of the vampire myth, set in Brighton, it made me cry when I first watched it. I’ve seen it 4 times now, and it hasn’t lost any of its appeal. The best thing is I found it in Cash Generators & bought it on a whim. That, & watching “True Blood” for the first time, set me off writing a vampire story set in Middlesbrough.

Favourite song of the year?
It’s rare that anything new grabs my attention, but Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard did. They’re a doom metal band, but with a female vocalist & this really makes them stand out. 

Any downsides for you in 2016?
Well, I suffer from depression, am a recovering alcoholic, so there’s always something ha ha. I have periods of total despair, which isn’t helped by being a poetry publisher, because, as much as I love it, it’ll never make me any money!

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
No.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
To have the press grow, as well as the live events, We’ve got 7 chapbooks coming out between January & June of 2017, so I’m going to be very busy…