Tag Archives: family

Review: ‘My Name is Anna’ by Lizzy Barber

On Anna’s eighteenth birthday she defies her Mamma’s rules to visit Astroland, Florida’s biggest theme park, despite her mother’s ban on the place. When she arrives, though, Astroland seems familiar. On the same day, Anna receives a mysterious letter she receives and she starts to question her whole life.

In London, Rosie has grown up in the shadow of the missing sister she barely remembers.  With the fifteenth anniversary of her sister’s disappearance looming, the media circus starts up again, and Rosie uncovers some information that threatens to tear her family apart. Will Rosie uncover the truth before her family implodes?

I enjoyed ‘My Name is Anna‘ from the outset, my attention was grabbed by the intriguing prologue and beautiful prose. Lizzy Barber manages to balance a compelling narrative with excellent attention to detail and exquisite descriptions.

Told from two points of view, ‘My Name is Anna‘ is an interesting study of self-discovery. By having eighteen year old Anna and Rosie, who is sixteen, Barber evokes a time every reader can understand: adolescence. Combining typical coming-of-age drama with a serious crime is an effective tactic, I thought this was particularly inventive. 

The characters are well-drawn and, thanks to Barber’s descriptions, I could see them in my mind’s eye. Anna’s mamma, in particular, was brilliantly evoked.

My Name is Anna‘ is such an intelligently-written book. It covers all sorts of issues including religion, coercion and the repercussions of past mistakes. It’s fast-paced yet sensitive, with several layers. 

If I had to compare ‘My Name is Anna‘ with other books, I’d say ‘Carrie‘ meets ‘Sharp Objects‘ with a sprinkling of ‘The Couple Next Door‘. 

My Name is Anna‘ is Lizzy Barber’s debut novel and is available to download now. The paperback is released in January 2019. 

Vic x

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Don’t Quit the Day Job: Lucy Cameron

Lots of people don’t realise that although you may see work by a certain author on the bookshelves in your favourite shop, many writers still hold down a day job in addition to penning their next novel. In this series, we talk to writers about how their current – or previous – day jobs have inspired and informed their writing.

Today, my friend Lucy Cameron is sharing her thoughts with us. Her experiences may not be what you might expect…

Vic x

When I shouted ‘Pick me, Pick me’ to be included in this blog series I hadn’t really thought it through. I am a crime/horror writer, but my day job in no way connects to what I write, or ever has.

I am not a solicitor or barrister, I have only ever been in a police station to ask if they rent out uniforms to film makers (they don’t) and I have never been in a court house, if that’s even what they are called outside of films. As for ever committing a crime…? Okay, I once had a parking ticket. In short, I have never worked within, or outside of, the law.

What about medicine? Were I ever to see heavy blood flow I have little doubt I would faint, my uncle works in the local funeral parlour, but I’m not sure that counts.

Other avenues into the field of crime writing? I have never been a journalist, or an editor, or even written for a student magazine. I have never taught creative writing, nor have any qualifications in the above.

For a long time I believed you had to have done one of the aforementioned to even consider writing a crime novel. I was wrong.

What did I do to while away the hours before becoming a writer, and by this I mean pay the bills and mortgage, was work as a Convenience Store Manager for a food retailer. For anyone that’s ever worked in a public-facing job, if that doesn’t put you in situations where you want to kill people, or indeed meet people on a daily basis that could easily commit a crime, I don’t know what will.

I loved every minute. Okay I loved half of the minutes I worked in food retail, it was fast, it was busy, it was a minimum of sixty hours a week. The teams I worked with over the years were like family and we shared plenty of laughs and tears, and it’s this people experience I draw on when writing.

Writing I can do now that I have left my glittering career in food retail far behind me. Days were full of little interactions with customers, throwaway comments overheard. Once you have the characters in a story, once you have the idea, you can go and find out about the procedures and any and every job allows you to do this.

Now I am a writer, what do I do to while away the hours that I should be writing, and by this still I mean pay the bills and mortgage? I work as a Business Administrator for a local theatre, this time a job I do love every minute of, and that allows me the time to write. If you want to be a writer, you can be, whatever your background and this sounds like great news to me, and a future full of varied and interesting books.

Write because you love it, not for the money, and don’t worry if your job doesn’t seem to fit with ‘write what you know’, fiction is after all, exactly that.

You can catch up with Lucy on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Review of 2017: Lucy Cameron

I am so happy to have my “sister” Lucy Cameron on the blog today. Lucy and I first met at Crime and Publishment almost two years ago and since then, we have discovered we have an unhealthy amount of things in common! I have so many happy memories of times with Lucy and I feel so lucky to know her. 

I hope you enjoy Lucy’s 2017 review as much as I did!

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
I most certainly do. My debut novel Night Is Watching was published on the 6th April this year. I had an amazing launch at the Theatre Royal in Dumfries with loads of family and friends. The wonderful Matt Hilton was The Host with the Most and as one of the first writers I met when I moved to Dumfries that was pretty special. After several years of waiting for Night Is Watching to be published the launch exceeded all of my dreams and was one of the best experiences of my year, quite possibly my life, so far.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
There are so many it is really hard to pick. I will go with buying my house. The day I got the keys and had a glass of fizz with family and friends was brilliant. Seven months later there is still plenty of work to do but it is finally starting to feel like home.

Favourite book in 2017?
Still Bleeding 
by Steve Mosby. Wow. Wow. Wow. I am a huge fan of Steve Mosby but Still Bleeding really blew me away. This book is a clever page turner that has stayed with me long after I finished it. As soon as I finish drafting my current work in progress I will read it again – and there are very few books I have read twice.

Favourite film in 2017?
I haven’t watched many films this year so What We Do In The Shadows remains my current favourite. It’s an Australian mockumentary about a group of vampire flatmates. It is laugh out loud funny so great for lifting my spirits – it has dark elements to it (it is about vampires, after all) but well worth a giggle.

Favourite song of the year?
I don’t really have one as I rarely listen to music. Anything by Take That – judge that as you may.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
A year is made of ups and down but nothing major on the down front for me this year. The year has been a good one but feels like it has gone very quickly so I guess the standard ‘not enough hours in the day’ would be a downside if anything.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
I love the start of a new year and am always full of great plans and ideas. I would like to get fit in 2018 and as the chaos of my house move settles plan some proper writing time Monday to Friday.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
I hope to continue to be happy, spend quality time with family and friends, be healthy.
Book-wise I plan to finish the follow-up book to Night Is Watching and in addition try a bit of comedy writing as it is something completely different.

Review of 2017: L.V. Hay

Following in the footsteps of fellow Orenda author Thomas Enger, the lovely L.V. Hay reviews her 2017 today.

I’d like to thank Lucy and her stablemates at Orenda Books for taking the time to review their 2017 as well as their intrepid publisher Karen Sullivan for coordinating them so adroitly! 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
Got to be not only publishing my crime debut The Other Twin with Orenda Books, but seeing my baby in WH Smith! I’ve always dreamed of seeing my novel on bookshelves, so to see it in a shop I go in all the time was amazing. I loved too that so many of my friends and people I know online took pictures of themselves with my book too. The support and goodwill has been wonderful and humbling.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
I am blessed with a wonderful family and life generally, so it is hard to pick. I think this year though it was Halloween — it went on for what seems like ages because half term came early, so we ended up going to half a dozen Halloween events! I love seeing the kids dressed up and running about; this year it was especially clear nights all week too, we ended up in a haunted wood at one point.

Favourite book in 2017?
This is a really tough one, because I’ve read SO many great books this year! I think I can narrow it down to three: The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne (a brilliantly flawed, enigmatic female lead in a compelling scenario – my favourite);  The End of the World Running Club by Adrian Walker (been out a few years, but satisfied my dystopian leanings and an unusual male lead and story of redemption); plus The Mine by Antti Tuomainen – a fellow Orenda author – I’m a sucker for a hitman story, so to see one in an eco thriller too was just fab.

Favourite film in 2017?
I think Blade Runner 2049 was my favourite film this year. I loved the big ideas in it, plus the film noir-style mystery. Plus the way it revealed the seedy underbelly of the future, making commentary about the way things are now, was masterful. It’s a film with many layers, just like all Denis Villeneuve’s movies are. It requires repeat viewings to fully be appreciated. I like that blockbusters aren’t so shallow any more.

Favourite song of the year?
It’s a bit of an old one, but we love Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars in my house. This one never fails to get us dancing around the kitchen. We also like anything by The Weekend.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
The sexual harassment/abuse allegations coming out of Hollywood and Parliament have been really tough — my day job is working as a script editor for movies, so obviously I know some people who have been directly affected by all this. What’s been toughest for me though is the number of people, including women, lining up to minimise people’s experiences, saying they’re ‘overreacting’ or ‘mistaken’ and a ‘smokescreen’ for those affected by ‘real’ abuse. No wonder it’s taken until 2017 for this to hit the spotlight. That said, I think a sea of change is happening at last.

Are you making resolutions for 2018? 
I rarely make resolutions, but I do look at the year ahead and decide what I would like to achieve and  when by (something so many people forget). I always write at least one book a year, whilst editing up to two others. This year, I’d like to try and write something else in addition to my crime novels. A dystopian YA piece maybe, or perhaps a feel-good piece about relationships in the style of Jojo Moyes, Eva Woods or Rowan Coleman. I have lots of ideas so will have to pin something down in my brain first. We’ll see!

What are you hoping for from 2018?
A bestseller would be cool; or perhaps some translations of my existing books. But really, I’m living my dream – I wanted to be a novelist and I wanted to be a script editor and I’m doing both! I’m so lucky and realise that, so want to try and help other writers achieve their dreams in 2018.

Review: ‘Exquisite’ by Sarah Stovell.

Imagine you are feted author with the world at your feet. You have a startlingly successful career, a loving family and a beautiful home. You go to teach on a week-long residential writing course in Northumberland and meet a talented but troubled young woman. The chemistry between you is instant and you embark on an all-consuming affair like the ones you write about: or do you?

Exquisite is a breathless and claustrophobic read which captivates you until the final page. I literally could not put it down. It’s been a long time since I read a psychological thriller as good as this. I could see the action unfolding in my mind and already have a clear picture of who would play these characters in a TV or film adaptation.

The way in which Sarah Stovell has crafted this book requires a tremendous amount of skill. The narrative completely reflects the obsessive and confusing nature of the relationship between Bo Luxton and Alice Dark. Exquisite is layered  to perfection and ensures that your sympathies never lie with one person for very long. Sadly, it’s terrifyingly believable.

A must-read.

Vic x

Review of 2015: Pete Sortwell

My very good friend, Pete Sortwell, is here to review his 2015 today. 

Thanks for getting involved, Pete!

Vic x

Pete Sortwell

 

Allison Davies reviews her 2013.

Allison Davies is one of the best friends a gal can have. I met her – like Michelle – when we did our Masters together and I am so happy to see how her writing career has progressed since we graduated. Now it’s over to Alli to review her 2013.

Vic x

Allison Davies

2013 has been a great year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?

2013’s been pretty good so it’s hard to pin down a single favourite, though seeing my debut play Weather to Fly get the full production treatment is definitely up there. OddManOut https://www.facebook.com/oddmanouttheatre?fref=ts and our actors did a brilliant job, we got some lovely reviews and it spurred me on to complete another theatre script which may well get an airing in 2014. There are rustlings in the undergrowth so watch this space. And Weather to Fly is touring again in 2014, in the north east and beyond.

And how about a favourite moment from 2013 generally? 

Can I have 20? No? OK. 19 then. Over the course of the year I met some wonderful people and enjoyed a shedload of special moments, but one in particular stands out. It’s got nothing to do with celebrity twerkers or royal shoe sizes mind.  I travel to Nepal occasionally with Danusha, the ethical jewellery project that I help run along with a couple of friends. Back in April we were in Kathmandu when one of our jewellery makers brought her disabled son to the workshop – 6 year old Hitesh. He was a shy kid with huge brown eyes, and all I really wanted to do was get him to crack a smile. He had a battered old toy car and I started playing with it. It didn’t take long before Hitesh and I were legging it up and down the balcony, doing our best Ferrari engine noises, and giggling like, well, 6 year olds. It was pretty special.

As adults I think we often discount the power of play, of letting go and just being, and of seeing what comes. Hitesh is my 2013 hero for reminding me about the things that really matter – relationship, humanity, connection, finding joy in the moment.

I do need to give a special mention to Meerkat TC too. Kats, you are outstanding! Your creative company has been a source of energy and laughter throughout the year and I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.

Weather

Favourite book in 2013?

It wasn’t published in 2013, but on my birthday a family member took the trouble to send me a copy of When Marnie Was There by Joan G Robinson, which has been on my wish list for years. It was a childhood favourite for reasons I won’t bore you with here. Suffice to say I have very few keepsakes from the first 20 years of my life, so when this arrived in the post I was bowled over, especially as it was the edition my Dad gave me on my 7th birthday.

Favourite film of 2013?

Hmmmm. If you’re talking about films released this year it’s a toss-up between The Invisible Lighthouse http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_vGHqIvoHg  and Silver Linings Playbook. I loved the cinematography in Life of Pi too. But the best film I saw in 2013 was Lee Chang-Dong’s Poetry. A moving, powerful, thoughtful story and 100% superb!

Favourite song of the year?

If you’d asked me a couple of months ago I’d have said Take These Bones http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8bJu5HEnH0   by Fran Smith. I love belting it out at full bore when I drive the Military Road to Cumbria to visit my Mum. But then November came and Pharrell Williams released this understated groove http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM which makes me grin every time I hear it. And then there’s Arcade Fire http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7E0fVfectDo and Alt-J and Nick Cave and London Grammar and Daughter and Thundercat and… Well, you get the picture.

Any downsides for you in 2013?

Nothing major. A few health niggles, and a few people behaving like knackas at times. Grrrrr!  (knacka: Geordie term of mild abuse, meaning idiot, dipstick, plonker. Also testicle. Make of that what you will.)

Are you making resolutions for 2014?

In common with many of your reviewers I don’t really do resolutions, though I’ve come up with a few simple rules for living. Eat more cake. Don’t forget to play. Learn something new. Try not to be a knacka. When, inevitably, you behave like a knacka, apologise. Forgive other people when they behave like knackas, even if it costs you to do it, or alternatively, bop ‘em on the nose with a frozen kipper.

What are you hoping for from 2014?

It would be wonderful if people took a bit more responsibility for their consumption of resources, cared for each other and the planet and lobbied for fair working conditions for those who manufacture the stuff we wear, eat etc. (I’m looking in the mirror here.) We could all do with being more open, and less mean spirited, and I get really angry at some of the things I hear people say about their fellow human beings. Oh, don’t get me started or we’ll be hear all day.

Oh yeah, this is meant to be about writing, isn’t it? Well then, I’d like to get better at it as there’s always something new to learn. I’m interested in working collaboratively so am open to opportunities for that. The magic gets turned all the way up to 11 when there’s more than one person in the room. Otherwise it’s just me at my desk, talking to the people in my head. Cue chicken noises.

I often find it hard to concentrate on one thing at a time, so in 2014 I’d like to be a bit more focussed about life in general. I’ve been practicing meditation (mindfulness, breath) for a while now and I find it incredibly helpful.


If Santa was to bring you any one thing you wanted on Xmas morning, what would it be?

I’m spending Christmas and New Year in India which is fab, but I do miss my friends back home, not to mention long walks on bright, cold beaches. So if you’re reading this Mr Santa and if your tuk tuk does late deliveries, please deliver the sound of the North Sea at Druridge Bay when the wind’s blowing easterly and the waves tear up the beach, along with a massive hug from my friends.

I guess what I’m really asking for is a little soul warmth to end the year.