Tag Archives: family

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.


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.

Review: ‘The Accident’ by Linwood Barclay

Builder Glen Barber’s life has seen better times – between the recession hitting and a law suit for a fire, his business is under threat. But that’s just the beginning of his problems: his wife is killed in a drink-driving accident and looks to be the cause of the deaths of two other people. Glen not only has to deal with his loss but his anger towards his wife at leaving their eight-year old daughter without a mother. However, his friends also seem to be having their own problems, involving a gangster and a missing stash of money.

‘The Accident’ is yet another great thriller from Linwood Barclay. As readers have come to expect from Barclay, it’s complicated with an ever-increasing list of suspects. There’s crime after crime in this book and there are plenty of red herrings.

Although I wondered how likely it is for a builder to become a private investigator / all-action hero, one has to wonder what we’d do if our family was in jeopardy. Sometimes ordinary people are capable of extraordinary behaviour.

Barclay’s characters are very well-constructed, with an understanding that no-one is all good or all bad. ‘The Accident’ is another great read from Barclay.

Vic x

Order ‘The Accident’ in hardback here: http://amzn.to/pbo5SY

Order ‘The Accident’ in e-book here: http://amzn.to/p6uJwX


My baby brother turns 21 tomorrow.

I grew up an only child, until at six and a half, I became the proudest big sister in the world. I was used to having my parents’ full attention and only having stuffed toys to play with. I was a very mature child as I spent all of my time, until starting school, in the company of adults. Likewise, I was very independent, happy to entertain myself by making up dance routines, reading and writing stories.

When my mum told me I was going to have a baby brother or sister, I was over the moon. I remember lying on my mum’s tummy, getting kicked by the baby and laughing. The summer of 1990 was one of the hottest on record. Every morning, I took my mum a glass of water as she struggled in the heat. She never let it stop her though, we went to town on the bus, I played in the paddling pool and she took me to swimming lessons, all without a car.

If the baby had been a girl, I was allowed to pick the name – I chose Louise. Gavin was always going to be the name for a boy.

On the date the baby was due, I ran home after getting off the school bus at lunchtime, bursting through the front door shouting “Is the baby here?!” My mum, who looked about ready to pop, was standing calmly at the hob cooking my lunch. It was three days later that my dad woke me up in what appeared to be the middle of the night (6am) and told me I was going to stay with the next-door neighbours while they went to the hospital. I was super excited.

Later in the day, I was taken to my Nana’s house and then my uncle dropped me off at a friend’s roller disco party. Did I want to roller skate? Did I heck! I wanted to see my new sibling and my mum and dad. I went back to my Nana’s, had dinner and my dad rang to say my mum had been put on a drip. I remember bursting into tears as I thought that meant she was going to die. I was only six, remember. I watched ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ with my Nana and, at nine twenty pm, my dad rang to tell me I had a baby brother. I sat on my Nana’s knee and cried with pride.

The next day, my dad and I bought a little blue teddy bear and I was introduced to my brother. He had a shock of black, spiky hair and he was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Tactfully, I asked my mum if she “still had another one in there” as we left. I went to school on the Monday morning but was allowed to go home at lunchtime to bring my mum and the baby home from hospital.

From then on, I wanted to hold my brother. I think initially I was disappointed that all he did was eat, sleep and cry but I liked to help feed him, bathe him and so on. On a Saturday morning, I would prop him up against a cushion on the sofa and make him watch the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ cartoon and yell to my mum “Look Mam, he likes it” despite the fact all he could probably see at that time was the colours.

As my brother got older, he became far more rambunctious than I had ever been. He climbed everywhere. He was irrepressible and remains so to this day. He was obsessed with Fireman Sam, asking my dad every weekend to take him to the local fire station to see the engines. He loved tractors, buses and the Lion King.

Throughout Gavin’s life, his hearing hasn’t been the best and so he has provided us with a lot of laughs. “Optician by Calvin Klein” was one of his gems.

Gavin and I are so different in many ways, he’s gregarious and an all-rounder. At school, lessons came so easily to him – no matter what the subject. He’s so popular and I have never met someone who didn’t like him and rightly so. My brother has grown into a man to be proud of.

Gavin is a guy who loves being with people, he loves partying and is a total hedonist but he is also a thoughtful, caring soul. He still gives us hugs and spends time with the family.

I am so grateful for the relationship I have with him. We still go to concerts together and I enjoy the time I spend in his company.

When he was young, I was the protective Mother Hen but now it works both ways. I know so many siblings who, for many reasons, don’t get along and I am so happy that our relationship has always been good. We do have spats – who doesn’t? – but I know that I could not ask for a better brother.

I am so proud to say he’s my brother.

Vic x

Review: ‘The Weight of Silence’ by Heather Gudenkauf

‘The Weight of Silence’ is a tense thriller which focuses on two little girls being discovered missing one summer morning. Seven-year-old Calli has selective mutism brought on by a tragedy in her early years. Petra is Calli’s best friend and also works as her voice. But no-one knows where either of the girls are.

This non-linear narrative tells the story from various character’s points of view as well as revisiting the past to reveal family secrets. The book follows Calli and Petra’s parents, as well as the sheriff involved in the search and Calli’s older brother Ben.

I found this book a real page-turner with a compelling narrative. For a debut novel, this is quite a feat. Intelligently and sensitively written, Gudenkauf manages to explore the intricacies of family life as well as the effect secrets have on people.

The prose is almost lyrical in places and Gudenkauf manages to make you desperate to reach the conclusion of this tale.

Vic x

Order your copy here: http://amzn.to/q1dC5n