Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia #BlogTour #Extract

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Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia. My thanks also to Quercus Books and Ella Patel for the opportunity to be part of the tour. I have an extract to share today of the initial meeting of the two main characters, speech-therapist Maya and Lucas, the boy who went missing with his father 10 years earlier. If this sounds as interesting to you as it did to me, then do read on!

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There is a place in Minnesota with hundreds of miles of glacial lakes and untouched forests called the Boundary Waters. Ten years ago a man and his son trekked into this wilderness and never returned.

Search teams found their campsite ravaged by what looked like a bear. They were presumed dead until a decade later…the son appeared. Discovered while ransacking an outfitter store, he was violent and uncommunicative and sent to a psychiatric facility. Maya Stark, the assistant language therapist, is charged with making a connection with their high-profile patient. No matter how she tries, however, he refuses to answer questions about his father or the last ten years of his life.

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy who is no longer a boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world.

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Author

Mindy Mejia is an internationally acclaimed thriller writer, known for mixing compelling characters with page-turning suspense against the backdrop of the US Midwest. Her books have been chosen for People’s Best New Books Pick and listed in The Wall Street Journal’s Best New Mysteries. She lives and works in the Twin Cities.

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Extract

The patient faced the back of the room with his hands on the cement block wall in a push-up position. From the way he stood with his shoulders tensed and legs braced it looked like he was trying to move the entire wall. I took a step closer and noticed his hospital shirt was torn at the bottom and he’d used the missing strip to tie his hair back.

‘Hello, Lucas.’

He remained still for a second, but then surprised me by turning his head. I saw his face in person for the first time.

He wasn’t a boy.

My brain stuttered on that one thought for what felt like a stupidly long time as our eyes met and held. Why did all the media keep calling him a boy? Lucas Blackthorn looked at least as old as me and stood a foot taller. His cheeks were hollow and shaded with the beginning of a beard. His skin was a deep reddish tan, not the pasty white of most of our long-term patients, and his eyes conveyed things that no first session speech therapy could have drawn out: intelligence and caution mixed with undisguised curiosity.

Moving slowly and deliberately, I walked to the bare mattress between us. There was no table, so we’d have to start the flashcards on the bed. He watched my progress, studying my hair. The short, pixie-cut combined with its dyed color grabbed a lot of patients’ attention. One of the men in ward two, a lifer named Big George with a traumatic brain injury, even liked to touch the ends of it that swished in front of my ears. I made sure he stuck to the left side so he didn’t get distracted by the tiny silver hoop earrings along my right ear. Lucas noticed those, too. I watched him catalog every part of me, absorbing the appearance of this outsider to his room, like someone would analyze a newly discovered insect. His gaze paused on the blue fabric bag I carried, his expression unreadable now.

‘I’m Maya.’ Three syllables. Slow rate, distinct pronunciation.

I didn’t smile. I’d never trusted strangers who smiled at me – they always wanted something.

Patting the place where my pulse beat too fast, I nodded and said it again. ‘Maya.’

He swiveled back toward the wall, dismissing the insect. I glanced behind me where Stan was shaking his head through the lead glass. Shrugging, I started to pull out the flashcards when suddenly Stan’s face changed. His eyes widened and his mouth opened in a warning I couldn’t hear.

I hesitated and before I could turn around, a giant force threw me into the wall and something was being looped around my neck.

The metal door shrieked as Stan wrenched it open and I was pulled back, my body turned into a human shield. The thing around my neck tightened and I panicked, unable to breathe. Lucas had my arms locked behind me in an impossibly strong grip. I fought against it, desperate to free myself.

‘Keys,’ he said in a hoarse voice. I bowed my body against his,

trying to find some slack in the cord around my throat, but met only a column of unyielding muscle. If anything, the cord grew tighter.

My vision started to contract, black creeping in at the edges.

I kicked viciously, striking his shins so hard they should have snapped in half, and used the rest of my oxygen in the process. The last thing I saw before everything went dark was Stan’s hand, holding out his ring of keys.

*** Don’t forget to check out the other stops of the blog tour ***

Leave No Trace blog tour poster updated

 

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Resin by Ane Riel #BookReview

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Liv died when she was just six years old. At least, that’s what the authorities think.

Her father knew he was the only one who could keep her safe in this world. So one evening he left the isolated house his little family called home, he pushed their boat out to sea and watched it ruin on the rocks. Then he walked the long way into town to report his only child missing.

But behind the boxes and the baskets crowding her Dad’s workshop, Liv was hiding. This way her Dad had said, she’d never have to go to school; this way, she’d never have to leave her parents.

This way, Liv would be safe.

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This novel was emotionally devastating! Yep I’m dropping that d-bomb right away. I feel it’s my duty to warn you right now that it’s totally going to creep up on you and shake you up by the end of it. Seriously, I didn’t know what I was diving into but this is quite a sensational story.

The very first sentence of the novel was instantly debilitating and I knew there was a captivating but harsh story between these pages to be discovered. The novel was very atmospheric, the remoteness, the isolation from the town and the mainland tangible between the pages. I mistakenly thought this novel was perhaps reminiscent of The Marsh King’s Daughter, a story involving an abhorrent dominant father but I couldn’t be further from the truth. Liv’s father didn’t punish her or used any kind of force and came across as a gentle soul and I forgave him for the lifestyle that he pushes upon his wife and child for quite a while. The author showed me his background, the seed that was planted for his actions in the present and that earned him some understanding. I also knew that even if Jens was doing wrong by keeping his daughter away from other children and by telling her things that weren’t necessarily true just to make it better, his actions were made out of a warped sense of love that made I couldn’t really hate him.

The blurb gave me the illusion that Liv was sort of held captive but she isn’t, at least not literally – she can move around – yet in a way she is because her world is confined and terribly limited, her view on the outside world small and distorted. She tells chapters in her own voice and I came to know her as a brave and resilient girl. My heart went out to her although I never heard her feel sorry for herself or cry. It’s only her brother who cries and the two of them acting together pulled on my heartstrings so hard.. it actually shredded my heart to pieces more than once!

Her father’s ideas and his mental health spiral out of control as the story progresses and there was one particular scene that will play in my mind many times over when thinking of this novel. You’ll certainly know what I’m talking about when you read this novel, it’s a completely non-violent scene but it made my heart thud quite loud. Even though it was quite reverant and written beautifully, it was also disturbing to read at the same time, especially because Liv is a witness to it as well and I felt how emotionally damaging that must have been for the child.

I was aware that the situation Liv was living in wasn’t normal but I felt like I was actually opening my eyes for real when it was presented by another person’s POV in the end. The tragedy really creeps on you and then suddenly it hit me real hard. I felt it in my gut.

You’ll do crazy things out of love and some might seem like the kindest thing to do but sometimes you just have to let people go. The horror of it all is that Jens, Liv’s father, just wants to keep, keep, keep..  A tragic and disturbing novel that you won’t possibly forget!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

Author Spotlight: In Defense of Innocence by @DaveWickenden #QandA

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From time to time you come across a novel that piques your interest and In Defense of Innocence did just that. I think it’ll deliver some great conflicting feelings towards the person who’s avenging crimes and I already wonder what the main character, Janice Williams, will do in the end.

It doesn’t have a lot of reviews yet on Goodreads but I think it really deserves a spotlight so I’m very happy to have Dave Wickenden on the blog today. I have an interesting Q&A coming up but first some info about the novel:

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In Defense of Innocence follows Janice Williams, head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Child Sex Crimes Division, as she hunts child abusers only to be beaten to their capture by a vigilante who avenges the harms done to these innocent children.

When Janice uncovers the identity of the vigilante, she is faced with the dilemma to do her job to uphold the law or help this person escape a nation-wide manhunt.

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Author

David Wickiden

Dave has lived the life of a protagonist. He spent time in the Canadian Armed Forces before the Fire Service, so is as comfortable with a rocket launcher as a fire hose. He has brought people back from the dead utilizing CPR and a defibrillator and has assisted in rescuing people in crisis. He has led men and women in extreme environments. He retired as Deputy Fire Chief to write full time.

Dave and his wife Gina are parents to three boys and three grandsons. His two youngest boys are busy with minor hockey and fishing, so you can guess where you’ll find Dave when he’s not writing. He is a proud member of the Sudbury Writers Guild and working on his fourth thriller novel.

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QandA

1. Defense of Innocence is a police procedural about the hunt on someone who targets child abusers. My first obvious question is:  How hard do we need to brace ourselves when starting this novel for graphic scenes? Should readers take caution about some disturbing scenes?

Although the story surrounds a very disturbing topic, there are no scenes of child abuse. There was no way I was going to sensationalize the horrors that played out by monsters within our society. Although I allude to and come close to tell the story, readers do not have to worry about graphic or gory details. In one scene, I go into the thoughts of a child abuser and a fair amount of readers told me that one scene spooked them good.

2. What gave you the idea to write a novel about this subject matter? Did your job have anything to do with it perhaps?

Although I have come across physical abuse of women in my career as a firefighter, I never had to deal with a child abuse incident. However, I personally know of some children who have been abused and of course we are inundated through the media with countless stories of animals preying on children. Each and every time though, the punishment did not fit the crime and that got me upset. The story had been growing in me for a number of years and finally I decided to write a story that brought attention to the issue while at the same time was an exciting read.

The vigilante in the story does what I think a lot of us contemplate in the darkest corners of our minds. What parent wouldn’t think about taking the law in their own hands if someone touched their child? I’ve listened to fathers, god fearing and law abiding citizens say so when the topic is raised.

3. What was the most challenging part when writing this book?

The hardest part is keeping it real. Although I write fiction, it has to be realistic. There is a scene where a mother comes to realize that her child is dead. As a parent, this had to be the hardest scene. I won’t lie, I bawled my eyes writing this part, because I had to put myself into the character’s head and imagine finding my own child. I also had to get into Janice’s head while dealing with this distraught parent. It hurt like hell.

4. What’s the most fun part of being a full-time writer?

The best part is having time. I have no idea how authors who work full time can write a book. Even working all day long, I’m still struggling to get all I want done completed. As I become more comfortable with the writing process, the stories are taking less time to complete, so I am able to produce more. And I have so many ideas.

5. The detective in Defense of Innocence is Janice Williams. Who is she? Can you compare her with another detective we might know?

Janice could be anyone of us. We all carry baggage, some more than others. We all struggle with our demons; some real, like her past and some circumstantial like overcoming a marriage breakup. How we deal with those demons defines us. By facing her biggest fear, Janice has become a strong successful police officer. She still has issues but she won’t quit.

As for comparisons, I think a good contender would be Detective Olivia Benson from Law and Order: SVU. Using her tortured past to help her understand what the victims have had to deal with.

6. Who is your own all-time favorite detective?

My favorite detective would have to be Batman. He’s been around forever uncovering and stopping the schemes of the world’s most evil villains. He uses a variety of techniques and technologies that are usually cutting edge. Hell if I was as buff as the Bat, I’d wear spandex too.

7. You write books about child abuse and ISIS, two very diverse novels. Is there a story in your head that you still really want to write in your life?

I have a number of ideas swimming in my head. One would deal with a cult that is involved in a scheme to take down the government. Another idea is an issue that is growing and surrounds itself with fresh water. Canada has it in abundance. I think in the future it will be fought over more viciously than oil (Next World War?)

Of course any important issue that is affecting the world like child abuse and the radicalization of young people by ISIS is always on my radar. My question is always – what would I do if…

8. What’s the current working title for your Work In Progress? 

My WIP is the sequel to IN DEFENSE OF INNOCENCE. I haven’t confirmed a title, but I am toying with DEADLY HARVEST. My main character is in Paris and fights an International Human Trafficking organization.

9. One final question to round up: You’re Canadian and I haven’t been to Canada yet but I would love to visit one day. Can you give me just one tip what not to miss when I visit (sights, food, anything)? 

When you visit Canada, make sure to try Poutin – this is a national treat that stems from Quebec. It is french-fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. Of course, if you’re American, try our Canadian beer just so you taste the difference – of course, this might cause an invasion on its own.

Thank you Dave for your answers. It was a pleasure to have you on the blog!

Keep Her Silent by Theresa Talbot #BlogTour #QandA

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Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for Keep Her Silent by Theresa Talbot. My thanks also to Vicky Joss and publisher Aria for the opportunity to be part of the tour.

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Ooonagh O’Neil is back with another dark and chilling investigation…

‘Do that which is good and no evil shall touch you’

That was the note the so-called Raphael killer left on each of his victims. Everyone in Glasgow – investigative journalist Oonagh O’Neil included – remember the murder of three women in Glasgow which sent a wave of terror through the city. They also remember that he is still at large…

When the police investigation into the Raphael killings reopens, Oonagh is given a tip off that leads her straight to the heart of a complex and deadly cover-up. When history starts to repeat itself, it seems the killer is closer than she thinks. Could Oonagh be the next target…?

Authentic and gritty, Keep Her Silent is a gripping and page-turning thriller that will leave you breathless. Perfect for fans of Susie Steiner, and Karin Slaughter, Patricia Gibney.

Purchase

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Google Play: http://bit.ly/2u0VxlQ

Author

Theresa TalbotTheresa Talbot is a BBC broadcaster and freelance producer. A former radio news editor, she also hosted The Beechgrove Potting Shed on BBC Radio Scotland, but for many she will be most familiar as the voice of the station’s Traffic & Travel.

Late 2014 saw the publication of her first book, This Is What I Look Like, a humorous memoir covering everything from working with Andy Williams to rescuing chickens and discovering nuns hidden in gardens. She’s much in demand at book festivals, both as an author and as a chairperson.

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QandA

Can you tell me a little bit about this novel? Why do we need to pick this one up?

I could be cheeky and say please pick up & buy Keep Her Silent as my roof leaks & I need new shoes! But seriously, Keep Her Silent has been such a labour of love for me. The second in the Oonagh O’Neil series, there are three strands running through the narrative; a cold case going back to the 1970s when three women were murdered by The Raphael Killer, a women incarcerated in a secure unit for the slaying of her husband and son, and the tainted blood scandal, where thousands of patients were infected with Hep C & HIV through contaminated blood products. The tainted blood scandal has been described as the ‘worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS’ (Sir Robert Winston) and although Keep Her Silent is a work of fiction, this part of the story is based on real characters and real life events. I’ve worked closely with one of the victims, and his story is one of nightmares. I’m a journalist and although, yes I was aware of the scandal, I had no idea of the actual effect it has had on the victims.

I’m always really fascinated by institutionalised crime, or crime by the establishment, and the fact that few, if any, perpetrators are ever brought to justice. That’s how I feel about the tainted blood scandal. Google it and you’ll be led down a wormhole that beggars belief. I made that the central theme to my book, for me it’s the biggest crime of the 20th century and beyond, yet all committed by the establishment with the backing of the law. Pharmaceutical giants were making millions from these infected blood products, yet they put profit before the suffering of mankind. Threading that through a crime novel seemed natural to me – readers invest in characters and themes in works of fiction that make them sit up and take notice. That said, I was really nervous about the whole thing – I felt such a huge responsibility to everyone affected to get it right. Thankfully, so far, it’s had a very positive response.

This is the second novel in a series. Can it be read as a standalone?

Yes, it can be read as a standalone, but there are obviously references to ‘The Lost Children’, and my characters behave in certain ways because of their past and their experiences. One of my pet hates in any work of fiction (especially soaps) is that something awful, wonderful or earth shattering can happen to a character. They’re then the central storyline for six weeks before it moves on to another plotline and their experience is hardly mentioned. I’ve tried to develop my characters, make them real flesh & blood human beings. They change and grow as time moves on. One of my characters, Tom, has undergone (on the surface) quite a dramatic change, but I felt that that was right thing to do. He’d made a decision in the last book to change his life and follow it through. I’ve got a whole lot of respect for Tom..then I realise he’s not real and I made him up! So although it’s not necessary to read The Lost Children first, it may explain some of the character traits and background, but I was careful to ensure that readers who pick up this as their first taste of my novels won’t be left scratching their heads… unless they just happen to have a random itch!

Who is one of your favourite detectives and why?

No contest, Inspector Salvo Montalbano. Written by Andrea Camilleri, the stories are set in Sicily. He’s decent, honest & hard working … just like all good Sicilian Detectives (!) and operates in a rather murky world – there’s loads of humour too. I watch Young Montalbano on DVD to drool over the scenery and practice my Italian. He’s my favourite this week as I’m heading off to Italy soon – in a few months time when I’m stuck indoors and the rain is battering off my window it might be John Shaft again!

What is your favourite method of murder?

I just read an online post saying a Tupperware lid would be the best ever murder weapon as no-one would ever be able to find it again! I’m wracking my brains here trying to think what my ‘favourite’ method is… I have to say, an old episode of ‘Tales of The Unexpected’ keeps coming back to mind. ‘Lambs to The Slaughter’ was an adaptation of a 1953 short story by Roald Dahl. Mary Marney – played by Susan George – whacks her husband over the head with a frozen leg of lamb when he announces that he’s leaving her. She calls the police, claiming it was an intruder, and subsequently feeds the murder weapon to the detective who’s all smitten with her. It’s hilarious – and black too. I’m not sure I’d need to go to all that trouble if I wanted to kill someone – I’d just cook the lamb and watch them slowly lose the will to live as they chewed endlessly on a piece of gristle.

What are you reading right now?

I have far too many books on my TBR pile, and I need to be honest I’ve had to take a break from reading as I had so much writing to do it was interfering with my brain! But I’ve just started The Janus Run by Douglas Skelton (I have a review copy – on the shelves by the time you read this) and I have to say this is one bloody great read!

What’s on the cards in the future?

Book 3 in the Ooagh O’Neil series in now underway (if my agent or publisher is reading this then it’s finished and at the final edit stage!) I’ve grown so fond of Oonagh, she’s flawed and troubled and sometimes gets it wrong – but she’ll fight with her last breath to stick up for the underdog. I’m giving Jim McVeigh (detective) a bit more to say and do in this book too.

Thank you Theresa for answering the questions and having me on the blog tour!

Thank you for having me – it’s been such a pleasure xx

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*** Don’t forget to check the stops on the book tour ***

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An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena #BookReview

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We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.

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Novels with a locked-in trope are my new addiction so it’s no surprise that I was dying to read this one. Being able to hunt for a suspect you must know, someone hiding in plain sight in a very claustrophobic setting is something that enraptures me. An Unwanted Guest certainly captures the same vibe of Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’, a novel where several guests come to stay on a small, isolated island. They’re stranded there while one of them is a killer.

In An Unwanted Guest the setting is a small lodge where several guests are looking for a weekend getaway. Little do they know that there’ll be a snow blizzard cutting them off from the outside world with no power or cellphone reception. There are 10 guests with an additional 2 people working as the lodge’s staff and while this seemed a lot to follow and I was worried I’d get confused about the who’s who I didn’t have any issues at all. I admire how the author deftly wrote about them all, used enough references and repetition to make them all easily recognisable. I was able to identify every person and relationship in no time. There’s the unhappy couple, the couple in love, the engaged couple, the (girl)friends, the singleton writer and the lawyer. Good thing he’s there; or not, because can you really trust a lawyer ;-)?

The novel shows what being trapped with several strangers does to you. Everyone acts differently at first but it the end they all feel the same way, everyone suspects each other and fingers are pointed in every direction. The suspicion and fear is high and the secrets that come out make them ALL look even more guilty. I loved all the suspicion and I couldn’t clear anyone from my suspect list.

Of course I just can’t leave this brilliant novel – that I really couldn’t put down because I HAD TO KNOW WHO IT WAS – without uttering some kind of remark again. The thing is… there wasn’t any evidence around to break the investigation open. It’s more about the group’s reactions and the aftermath of their discoveries than actually solving this whodunnit and I just wished I could have sleuthed and found some interesting clues before it all blew up. The author undoubtedly played on that – quite shocking – surprise effect by revealing the killer’s identity the way she did.. but I would have enjoyed it more if the killer and the motive wasn’t just given up but found through brilliant investigation skills and more deduction.

Overall I very much enjoyed reading this novel and I don’t know for how long I’ve had it but I just found the paperback in my library of The Couple Next Door so that’s pushed up on my readlist now!

I received a free paperback copy from the publisher, Bantam Press, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Before Her Eyes by Jack Jordan #BlogTour #Guestpost

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Welcome to my turn on the blog tour for Before Her Eyes by Jack Jordan. Sincere thanks also to Kirsty Doole of Corvus Books for the opportunity to be part of the tour. I have already read and reviewed both of the novels Jack Jordan wrote this year so I’m sharing an amazing guestpost with you all today that is very touching but first and foremost let’s start with the book itself:

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She can’t see the killer But the killer can see her…

Naomi Hannah has been blind since birth. Struggling with living in a small, claustrophobic town, Naomi contemplates ending her life. But then she stumbles across the body of a young woman who has been brutally murdered. She senses someone else there at the scene – watching her. Naomi may not be able to see the killer’s face, but she is still the only person who can identify him.

As the police begin hunting the person responsible and more victims are discovered, Naomi is forced to answer the question on which her fate hangs: why did the killer let her live?

In a town this small, the murderer must be close, perhaps even before her very eyes…

Click the links below for my book reviews on all of his books so far :

A Woman Scorned and Before Her Eyes, My Girl and Anything For Her.

Purchase

Before Her Eyes is available in paperback and ebook (audio coming soon) from Waterstones, WHSmith Travel, Waitrose, and all good bookshops and online outlets, including all major e-retailers

amazon uk  and links to Anything for Her, My Girl, A Woman Scorned.

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Guestpost

Agoraphobia kept me prisoner, but ultimately set me free 

Most authors will tell you that they have wanted to be writers ever since they can remember, and have always imagined they would have their own stories on the shelves one day. My start, however, was a little different.

            I loved reading and writing as a child. English was one of my favourite subjects in school. I beamed whenever I had the opportunity to exercise creative writing in class and I’ve always loved reading, even if a little out of my age range (I was once told a book was too mature to bring to school… I can’t even remember what it was. All I knew was: it was a book and I was going to read it). But I never remember thinking that my love of reading and writing meant that I could have a book on the shelf too. I never thought that someone like me, a working class kid, could achieve something so monumental. I had put limitations upon myself from the very beginning: I wouldn’t even allow the idea of writing a book, let alone getting it published, to enter my mind, which stayed that way until one day, many years later, my dream finally clicked… but not without struggles along the way.

            Cut to me, aged seventeen. After moving four hours away from home in a wild, rebellious rush, I returned home utterly broken from a traumatic experience. I came home to feel safe, with no idea that the very same home I craved would become my prison for over a year.

            Anxiety is a powerful, intelligent thing. I’ve had it my entire life. Separation anxiety plagued every goodbye. Sunday nights were hell in my house, as my anxiety exploded from having to face another week of school. But even a lifetime of anxiety could not have prepared me for the debilitating power of agoraphobia and PTSD.

            Overnight, I became a recluse. I existed entirely behind closed doors. I gave windows a wide berth to avoid being seen, flinching whenever someone walked by. I shut myself away if there were visitors in the house, and lost all sense of night and day, sleeping in the day and living at night, which made me feel like I was the only person awake in the entire world, a unique breed of loneliness that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. My anxiety was triggered by everything and anything, however irrational they seemed. And then it got so bad that I couldn’t even leave my bedroom.

            I remember when this happened: I had walked down the stairs at the exact same moment the postman delivered our mail, and the shock of it brought on a horrendous panic attack. I collapsed on the stairs and stayed there, hyperventilating with my eyes on the glass in the door, too terrified to move. I stayed there for an hour. Just like that, I was confined to my bedroom, too scared to even look out of my own window.

            One morning, after another sleepless night, I lay in bed filled with unspent energy. Hiding away day and night takes very little physical exertion, and deprives a person of mental stimulation. The energy builds and builds and builds like traffic, and with nowhere to go, it ends up fuelling the anxiety, the very thing that was keeping me hidden in the first place – a never-ending cycle that I felt helpless to stop. So as the sun rose, I wrote a short story to pass the time. It was only a thousand words or so, written in the notes app on my Blackberry. I didn’t think anything of it, it was just something I did for fun, just another idea that had presented itself inside my mind that I had no idea what to do with or felt I had the right to act on. It was just to help me fall asleep.

            Except… when I woke up, I wrote another chapter. And another. And another. I had no idea that I was writing a book, only that I was creating characters who could exist outside of my prison. I was getting the stimulation I craved and a way out of my hell, even if my escape was only imaginary.

            For six months, I lived vicariously through my characters, escaping the confines of my home using my mind, my characters, the power of words, until one day I looked down and realised I had written a novel of one hundred thousand words. Without realising, I had fulfilled the dream I had never allowed myself to fathom. The second I wrote ‘The End’, I knew I was a writer, and that deep down, I had known all along.

            Writing ‘The End’ was only the beginning, but it unlocked a truth from within me, a realisation that might never have occurred, had it not been for my anxiety: I’m a writer. I always have been. All of those ideas that had plagued my mind for years not only had a way of being released, but they had a purpose.

            You’re not reading the words of a university graduate. I never even went to college. I dropped out of school at fourteen because of depression and anxiety (growing up attracted to the same sex is VERY fun, by the way). You’re reading the words of an author whose lifeline was the written word. As my peers moved around the country to study, I taught myself grammar, spelling, punctuation, how to format a novel, how to structure a story, how the whole publishing thing worked, all from the confines of my bedroom. I spent day and night making my dream a reality, and slowly put myself back together again through years of therapy and exposure. Five years later, I went on to publish my debut novel Anything for Her, followed by my second, My Girl, the year after. The two titles sold over one hundred thousand copies.

            So now, at twenty-five, as I prepare myself for the release of my traditional debut, Before Her Eyes, I look back with complete admiration for who I was at seventeen, and for all the strength it took to face and trust the world again, not only as a person, but as a writer, with my past and pain strewn over the pages of my books and dozens of rejections to my name.

Eight years have passed, but I will never forget how I started, and will always feel the same pride, the same overwhelming confirmation that being a writer is who I am, every time I write ‘The End’.

*** Don’t forget to check out the other blog tour stops ***

Before Her Eyes (Blog Tour)

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton #BookReview

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‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

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Stuart Turton. Man! I don’t know how he managed to write such a maze-of-a-novel. I don’t believe I’ve ever read anything like this before!

I knew this novel was being hugely praised and it made me even more determined and ready to solve this whodunnit on my own. If you already read this novel you’ll know how ridiculous my assumption was because there is no way that you can anticipate and solve this on your own, as I figured out quite soon as well ;-). There’s so much cause and effect in this novel, so much detail that went into this grand scheme of things that it just wasn’t possible to get a clear picture of the whole puzzle. It didn’t spoil any of the fun though, there was so much to be discovered in this novel, there were new insights and revelations with every character change.

Although I loved the start of the novel I was a bit worried how the story was going to develop and if I’d be able to keep up. I felt quite confused with what was going at first… was it just me I wondered? Should I start making notes of timelines and characters? Bell seemed awfully focused on someone called Anna but I thought it was all about a woman called Evelyn Hardcastle.. and then there was quite a large cast of characters in the novel that were kept an eye on. As the story progressed everything became clear though so not to worry, if you keep going it’ll all make sense eventually, you just have to go with the flow and let the main character lead you on, it’ll all become clear as water.

I had a hunch that the present mystery and a past event were in some way connected but I didn’t know how. I also had no clue who was chasing him, trying to get him killed or who this masked man is called The Plague Doctor. He’s the one who doesn’t let him leave unless he solves the murder but also provides him with info. Is he to be trusted and who is he? Lots and lots of intriguing questions *big smiles*. The main character (Aiden) will have to use each character’s strong points to his advantage and learn as much as he can about the others in order to solve this one. I was satisfied with all the answers in the end though and it exceeded my expectations entirely.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is not an easy relaxed read, one where you’re able to have one eye on your cooking, child or husband, but you will want to keep with it when reading anyway, in the end it’s really insanely twisted!

This novel takes you on a mind-boggling trip with many many twists, secrets, and even a little sprinkle of futuristic sci-fi in it. The details of that last part were not developed but it’s not something I wished for either, the idea was enough to make it work. Even the sci-fi part was great for me, go figure!

I’m going to stop here because I could keep going on forever. I think you’ll have realised by now that this is a must-read! Don’t give up in the beginning, it’s totally worth it. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is the most complex novel I’ve probably ever read. It’s incredibly clever and utterly addictive. I don’t say this often but I most definitely would love to reread this in the future even when I know – and won’t forget any time soon – how it ends and who killed Evelyn Hardcastle. It’s that good!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.