Mark Watson has written a book so intense, dark and scarily relevant in today’s society. It is a study in mental ill-health, social media and what it’s like to be ‘contacts’ in a person’s life.
He tackles the subject of suicide with sensitivity yet still being honest enough to be painfully aware of the thought processes both as the person intending to carry out the suicide and as one of the many receiving that message. As someone that has walked the road – on both sides of the situation – I found parts comfortingly familiar and others intriguing and insightful, reading things I hadn’t considered before.
I even felt that Mark Watson narrating the audio version was a great choice too. There’s something about his voice which is halting and nervous yet genuine and raw that pitches the perfect tone for the inner monologue of Brian and that book overall.
If it were appropriate, because I’m not sure it is, I would say this book is beautiful. However, it did leave me wanting more, almost wanting to sit down over a cup of coffee or tea with Mark and just discuss it all further. The content inspired an intrigue into the complexities surrounding suicide and the world we live in, who we are connected with and how. It has left me with many things to consider.
Thanks NetGalley, Harper Collins UK and Mark Watson for the opportunity to read this ARC.
I certainly loved the premise of this book but the delivery did not live up to expectations or hope. It had all the elements I knew I’d love – the well-known parts of a would-be Sherlock Holmes and Watson, mixed with many fantasy elements and characters, a good dose of murder mystery, all set in a steampunk 1880’s – but nothing was fully fleshed out or explored, leaving me feel underwhelmed.
I think for me it felt like the author tried to include too many things, leaving not enough space for anything to truly flourish. For example, there were many fantastical characters but we barely got to see their traits played out within the plot, with the exception of Doyle (our would-be Watson) and a little of Crow (our would-be Sherlock Holmes). And speaking of Crow, despite his angel status being explained and some of the pros and cons of it, the angel part was not massively integrated into the plot, or at least nowhere near as much as it could. Overall it left me feeling like it was all superficial and too much was missing.
The same was true for the storyline, the author tried to weave in many sub plots within the over-arching theme but it felt like adding too much and not allowing any one plot to fully come to fruition. At one point it was almost information overload and not enough interesting, action, plot-moving stuff. It lacked that fast pace that we know and love from a Sherlock inspired theme. The author set up many potential interesting avenues, like the types of angel – those with a dominion, the nameless and the fallen – but there was a distinct lacking in the use of those set ups. So we knew they existed, they just didn’t really get included in the main storyline other than as token gestures. All of which just left me wanting more. Also, the synopsis of the book gives away the name of a murderer so as it’s playing out in the book we already know who it is long before they start using his nickname. This was disappointing and a bit of a pet-peeve of mine.
In summary, I would have preferred a much cut down version but with fully realised characters that played integral roles in the story, with their character traits woven throughout the plot – making the plot! Couple that with a detailed but again, fully covered storyline and I might have loved this book.
Thanks Netgalley, the publisher and the author for the opportunity of reading this re-released ARC.
This is the story of Otty, an aspiring writer who gets the chance to make it big, and Joe, an up and coming name within the industry. The two are thrown together in both their living and then their working world with varying levels of success. But will their stories work out or will they end in disaster?
This isn’t the genre I would usually pick up but the literary element had me intrigued. My verdict – it was ok. As far as a lighthearted, easy to read book goes, it works but for me I wanted a little more.
I really wanted the whole Otty and Joe thing to work and wished there were more moments in the books where that was allowed to flourish. Instead I found myself getting frustrated at their actions which prevented them from understanding each other. In terms of the love story itself, I felt it was all pretty predictable and I could see the ending coming. However, that was one of the quickest round ups I’ve seen in while! It would have been nice to have seen more of their love story played out in the literary world rather than it just ending at the proposition.
The supporting characters were all basic and played no real role in the story telling. So for me it felt unrelatable and underwhelming.
Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with the ARC in return for an honest review.
Peace Talks is the latest novel in the Dresden Files from Jim Butcher. Firstly, it’s safe to say that if you’re not up to date on this series, then jumping in at book 16 is not advisable. There’s been a break of some years since the last instalment, and I was very eager to jump into this given how much I’ve enjoyed the series to date (and re-read them at least twice).
The story essentially does what it says on the cover and follows the proposal and lead up to peace talks between supernatural nations after a period of war. Suffice to say that this isn’t the entire focus of the novel, with some other plot threads bringing some interesting developments early on. It’s also clearly one half of a larger story, which is somewhat frustrating given the lack of answers and resolution, but with the next novel in the series, Battle Grounds, due out within a few months it’s a forgivable annoyance.
Butcher delivers a solid story and build up here, with many characters from previous novels making an appearance and ticking the right boxes. I was left very interested to get to the next novel and will be making it a priority read on its release. The narrator, James Marsters, does as good a job as ever and perfectly embodies Harry Dresden. A joy to listen to and so easily digested. Great stuff!
Michael is a budding young scientist who chances on an opportunity to work on developing new nano-technology. During his research he discovers a way to develop the nano-technology to cure blindness but in his eagerness to develop his research he ends up working for some very shady characters, not realising the impact his work will have until it is too late.
This was a very rudimentary read in my opinion. The premise itself held a lot of potential but the delivery lacked substance and depth. Beyond the statements of – this is what we’re doing (regarding the nano-tech) there was no attempt at really explaining how it would work. In fact the only thing futuristic about the technology was just the mention and use of nano-technology. Even the descriptions, use and scope of the technology was lacking. I was left hoping for and wanting so much more information because there was certainly scope for it.
Apart from the above additional details, there was also lots of unfinished ends. For example: what happened to the fifth soldier; did we solidly find out what happened to the other 4 soldiers; what happened to general fielding (other than ‘something’; how did they ‘move on’ as it were, at the end – to name a few without giving spoilers away (but seriously, what happened was all that new journey/new world at the end and why didn’t we read about it.
However, despite it’s slightly laborious start, it was a very quick read. So if you’re looking for something light then this might just fit.
Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for the opportunity to read this ARC post-publication.
In this incredible book, Standing on My Brother’s Shoulders: Making Peace with Grief and Suicide, we see not just a family struggling with heartache but a true study in the impact that mental illness, grief and suicide can have on both a family and an individual. Tara J Lal talks us through living with a father struggling with mental ill-health, a mother that has taken the brunt of most of the family life and then sadly passes away, a deep sibling bond with her brother Adam and the shattering loss she experienced when he lost his life to suicide, and ultimately where that left her and how she learnt to heal.
This is a raw but beautiful account of a life so heavily impacted by grief and mental ill-health, showing the devastating effects this can have within a family and as an individual trying to find your way in the world. In the case of her brother, Adam, who did not manage to find his way, Tara shares his inner thoughts in such a caring, delicate way, it felt like she was truly honouring who he was and how he felt. It was a privileged insight into another person’s struggle. The way that Tara wove his writing into her own experiences, thought patterns, challenges and discoveries was masterful. It was like an echo of two souls connected even through death.
Tara handles this incredibly delicate subject with care and sensitivity. Working within mental health, I really appreciated the re-write and subsequent re-release of the book to include adaptations to the language and descriptions that better reflect our understanding of suicide now compared to 5 years ago at it’s initial release. This shows instantly how Tara has a real thoughtfulness and compassion surrounding these topics and can handle them well.
Having said that, this book does cover some incredibly difficult and intense topics. The writings she shares, both of her own thoughts and those immortalised in her brother’s writing are often so raw and brutally honest, it is hard not to feel. There is beauty in what is written too, it’s there throughout, in the descriptions, the understanding and genuine human responses to these experiences. But it’s wise to make sure you are in a place where you are able to read this without it having an adverse effect.
As someone that has experienced loss through suicide and had periods of time where I too made those attempts, it felt like this book spoke to me on a whole other level too. I related to both Tara’s and Adam’s writings, the inner turmoil, the aftermath and the healing. Although no two experiences are ever the same, I found comfort in the explanations and a sense of not being alone in this experience. I was often left lost in thought after certain phrases, appreciating the explanation that at times has been hard to find, and yet there it was, right in front of me. Even if you’ve not been impacted by suicide, this book will provide you with such an insight into the plight and struggles of those that have. It is powerful and invaluable!
Thank you to Tara J Lal, Watkins Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this ARC.
Paul Kane’s latest novel Her Husband’s Grave was recently released and as part of his Blog Tour this week he has kindly agreed to answer some questions for Lotte’s Library. Thanks Paul!
As someone that is new to your work I wondered what you’d want new readers to know about you?
Well, I’ve been writing for some time under the name Paul Kane, but am a relative newcomer to the crime scene. Before these books I was probably best known for my post-apocalyptic novels reworking the Robin Hood mythos, gathered together in the omnibus Hooded Man. Having said that, the very first novel I ever wrote with an aim to seriously having it published was The Gemini Factor, which is a procedural with a supernatural element; that’s due to come out this year as an anniversary edition through Gestalt Media. In terms of the PL Kane books, they’re domestic noirs with an investigative strand to them, though this is via individuals rather than the police. We’re in the POV of ordinary people trying to get to the bottom of some quite unsettling crimes. I’ve always been a big fan of digging into the emotional core of characters and situations, so hopefully in these books I’m presenting ‘real’ individuals who suddenly find themselves in predicaments that force them into action. In Her Last Secret, for instance, it’s an estranged father trying to find out the truth about his daughter’s death. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, obviously, and I think it’s relatively easy to put yourself in Jake’s shoes when he finds out what’s happened. Then when nobody seems to be getting to the bottom of things, he takes it upon himself to investigate – largely because he’s trying to make up for how things worked out between him and Jordan. I’ve always tried to write believable characters, even if I’ve been telling quite an outlandish tale, because if we don’t care about those first and foremost, we also won’t care about what happens to them. Everyone’s made mistakes in their lives, nothing’s ever black and white, and characters like Jake reflect that. From some of the reactions I’ve had, it certainly seems like Jake, his wife Jules and co. come across as real. They’re definitely real to me, as I’m writing them. So, as a new reader I’m hoping you’ll be moved, but also entertained – and the stories keep you guessing.
How long did it take you to write Her Husband’s Grave and what was that process like?
I wrote Her Husband’s Grave last summer. If I remember rightly I started towards the end of June or beginning of July, then finished a draft the first week in September. I’m a big planner and do a lot of research, so although I’m quite a fast writer when I get into a novel there will have been months of prep ahead of that. I also work out a detailed synopsis and chapter breakdown ahead of sitting down to write, which gives me a fairly good guideline to follow. That doesn’t mean I stick slavishly to them, however, because there’s always scope to veer off and explore something that crops up while you’re writing, but I do feel like I’ve got a rough idea in my head where the book will be going. I also like to have an end point in mind, as that gives me something to work towards; I see it as like following a map towards a destination. You might discover short-cuts or have to take detours, but generally I’ll end up in the place where I wanted to be. I know some friends who just sit down and write without knowing where a book is going, they might even have detectives investigating a crime and not know who did it till the cops find out themselves. That would send me loopy, my mind just doesn’t work like that, and frankly I’m in awe of writers who can do it.
Did something inspire you to write Her Husband’s Grave or did it develop as you wrote?
I’ve always wanted to do a set of books where the locations are just as important as the characters, maybe even more so. In Her Last Secret it was the town of Redmarket, an amalgamation of various places where I grew up. With Her Husband’s Grave it was Golden Sands, a location very much inspired by family holidays when I was young. My better half Marie – O’Regan, who’s a superb writer and editor herself – and I had also been planning a convention for a couple of years at Scarborough, so we’d been visiting that section of the coast quite a bit and I soaked up a fair amount of the atmosphere from the area. I love places like Flamborough, Whitby, Hornsea – where our good friends Pete and Nicky Crowther of PS Publishing live – so this was my chance to weave all of that into a book. The series Broadchurch is a good example of what I was trying to do with the sense of place in Her Husband’s Grave. I’m also a big fan of Val McDermid’s books featuring the psychologist Tony Hill, famously played by Robson Green on TV, and also Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter novels. So I’ve always wanted to do something along those lines, though this is slightly different as my psychologist Dr Robyn Adams is quite damaged herself, coming off the back of a case that almost killed her – and is then almost immediately dragged into a family drama when her cousin Vicky’s husband is found murdered. Seeing how she dealt with that was one of the best writing experiences I’ve ever had.
What comes first for you – the plot or the characters? Does it differ depending on the book?
They both tend to come at the same time for me, one feeding into the other and vice versa. I love bringing characters back to places they used to know, because although that familiarity is there, things will have changed over time and that makes for a more ‘fish out of water’ type of situation. It’s just enough to put them on the backfoot when they’re already stressed about trying to work out who committed the crime. With Robyn, for instance, there’s a link of childhood memories of summers with Vicky which were actually better than her homelife with her mum. So that’s a perfect example of a character and place being created at the same time, so one can bounce off the other. It’s happened with all three of the HQ novels, including the one I’ve just written for them during lockdown.
Do you have a favourite character and/or moment in Her Husband’s Grave?
Oh, hands down my favourite character is Robyn! I love her to bits and hope I get to do more with her down the line, as there’s so much left to explore. She’s quite complex and although she might like to come across as a professional and on the ball she’s pretty messed up. Very messed up, actually, as we discover the more we follow her progress. Then there’s the way she ends up interacting with other characters, like Vicky and her small daughter Mia – Robyn is jealous of the family life she has, or rather had till Vicky’s husband was killed, while Vicky is envious of the career and perfect life Robyn seems to have from the outside – and also the ‘will they, won’t they?’ thing going on with younger cop DS Ashley Watts. Robyn is very much the central character in Her Husband’s Grave, just like Jake was in the previous one, even though we get chapters from other characters’ points of view. At the same time villains are always fun to write and this book was no exception; I won’t say any more because I don’t want to spoil it for people who haven’t read the novel yet, but you’ll see what I mean when you do. That sense of fun and playing with bad guys I think comes across massively in everything I write. I remember having a whale of a time writing De Falaise, who was my version of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Arrowhead. Well, you can imagine how much fun I could have with such an iconic villain, whilst as the same time giving him my own personal spin.
Did you find writing any parts of Her Husband’s Grave challenging? If so, why?
It’s always hard to write emotional scenes for me, as I get really into them and live in the moment – I can actually see those scenes playing out and I’m a bit of a softy at heart. Sometimes I write something quite horrific and I think to myself, ‘what are you doing, why are you putting these people through this?’ But of course the story demands it in the end, I’m not so much doing it to them as simply reporting it like I used to do in my early journalist days. That’s where I started out, working for newspapers and magazines, so I think that stood me in good stead for this kind of work. I also found it quite hard to write about the serial killer aspects, doing the research for all that because it was quite upsetting at times. To read about and watch – if it’s a documentary – the different methods that people have been murdered this way can leave you quite shaken. But if you want to bring a sense of authenticity to your writing, it has to be done. There’s just no getting around it.
Just as I think I have it all worked out you throw in a plot twist that makes me question all over again – and I never seem to see them coming until the last minute. Do you plan your twists before writing or do they come to you as you write? And how do you keep them so surprising?!
I do plan them, yes. It’s just the way I like to work, figuring it out in the planning and outlining stages first before even writing a word. I think it helps you get an idea of the book as a whole, the shape of it, and where you can best slot in a twist or few. The best ones happen organically, however, so even though you know you need one at a certain point, you have to let it unfold like you didn’t know it was going to happen yourself. You sort of kid yourself things are going to go along as normal, getting into the moment as I said before, then bam! you slip in a twist that you worked out all along and end up surprising even yourself at how you dropped it in. I’m also one of those people that if I’ve watched a film or read a book, likes to see someone else’s reaction to a twist when they come across it. I love seeing the surprise on their faces of ‘well, I didn’t see that coming’ just as much as I enjoy experiencing it myself when I get the rug pulled out from underneath me.
Do you have any writing quirks you’d be willing to share with us?
Not really quirks as such, but things like I have a certain way of working. Like if I’m doing a longer piece I’ll try and do 1-2,000 words before lunch, then maybe 1-2,000 before dinner. I get into a kind of routine, and I think again the journalism kicks in there because you’re treating it like a day-job. Because of course for me it is a day-job! I don’t like to let anyone read my work, apart from Marie if she’s not too busy, before handing it in. That’s just another routine I’ve got into over the years, just trying to develop a sense of whether you think yourself something is fit to send out there. I don’t really have any rituals or anything that I do when I’m writing or when I’ve finished, apart from maybe a celebratory drink when the work’s done!
What is your writing kryptonite?
It used to be noise, like being in a room with the TV on or someone playing music, but I’ve had to train myself out of that lately – not least because of being in the house with the family while lockdown’s been happening. It’s not fair to ask for complete silence in the house when all’s that’s going on, so if I’m writing now I just put headphones in and try and tune it all out, try and get into the zone with the writing that way. Other than that, I think it’s just that the story you want to tell never really lives up to your expectations, if you’re like me. It’ll always be better as an idea than when you try and execute it, because we’re all learning as writers all the time. The minute you think to yourself, ‘this is brilliant’ or ‘that’s perfect as it is’ I think you’re in danger of believing your own publicity. I always struggle with my writing, with my editing, trying to hone whatever it is I’m working on until I just have to let it go. There have only really been a handful of things I’ve written I’ve been totally satisfied with, but I see that as a good thing because it keeps you on your toes. Keeps you striving to do better and write the next thing that’ll hopefully come closer to living up to your expectations.
Can you tell us if there’ll be a third book that combines the characters from Her Last Secret and Her Husband’s Grave???
There’s definitely going to be a third HQ book, as it was a three-book deal, and I’ve just handed that in. I can’t really talk much about it, but there’ll be at least a couple of characters you’ll have seen before, though the tale is told mainly through a brand new one. All the books are designed to be read as standalones, so you don’t necessarily need to have read Her Last Secret to enjoy Her Husband’s Grave. But if you have, then a couple of things will make you smile knowingly when you get to them. What I can tell you is that Jake and lawyer Sam from Her Last Secret are back in a novelette I wrote at the start of lockdown called ‘Confessions’. That’s set after the events in both books, and at the time of writing we’re still discussing where exactly that’s going to see the light of day, so watch this space as they say. I can promise it’ll shake things up in their world, if nothing else, and would make a great jumping off point for further adventures. It also briefly introduces the main location of book 3, so is a bit of a teaser in that way.
P.L. KANE is the pseudonym of a #1 bestselling and award-winning author and editor, who has had over a hundred books published in the fields of SF, YA and Horror/Dark Fantasy. In terms of crime fiction, previous books include the novels Her Last Secret and Her Husband’s Grave, the collection Nailbiters and the anthology Exit Wounds, which contains stories by the likes of Lee Child, Dean Koontz, Val McDermid and Dennis Lehane. Kane has been a guest at many events and conventions, and has had work optioned and adapted for film and television (including by Lions Gate/NBC, for primetime US network TV). Several of Kane’s stories have been turned into short movies and Loose Canon Films/Hydra Films have just adapted ‘Men of the Cloth’ into a feature, Sacrifice (aka The Colour of Madness) which recently sold to Epic Pictures. Kane’s audio drama work for places such as Bafflegab and Spiteful Puppet/ITV features the acting talents of people like Tom Meeten (The Ghoul), Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who/Shetland), Alice Lowe (Prevenge) and Ian Ogilvy (Return of the Saint). Visit www.plkane.com for more details.
Kane kicks this novel off with a gripping opener, giving us Dr Robyn Adam’s harrowing backstory before taking us straight into a murder investigation – the death of her cousin’s husband. As a consultant psychologist, Robyn’s cousin asks her to use her skills to help solve the mystery of who did it, but despite her reputation from some high profile cases, she is initially met with resistance from the local police. Meddling in a small town causes waves and soon Robyn find herself in trouble which only escalates as she digs deeper and the questions surrounding the murder become greater. Eventually it seems like Robyn has cracked it, but will she live to bring the guilty to justice and is that really the end?
We already know that Kane can combine a crime thriller with a family heartbreak but in this novel he manages to weave in a psychological element complete with an extensive and complex backstory – mastery! This created a dark, intense and twisted plot!
This books really packs a punch in the opening chapters! I love that we get such an insight into the shocking backstory of Robyn, it feels like we’ve already read a full novel about her before we even get started on this one. Having such a fully established character added depth and a layer of complexity that I really enjoyed. You could see how this history, along with the clever way that Kane shares additional flashbacks, really influenced how Robyn questioned and saw the world in front of her. It also heightened that emotional reaction to the events happening.
As I said before, this multi-layering of approaches meant one minute we were experiencing those raw human emotions and just how real they were, then we were processing the twisted psychological moments, while in the next minute puzzling over the crime details. This constant change in focus kept me hooked pretty much throughout. I think the only time the pacing dipped a little was during the middle of the book when Kane needed to do some fact/world building in order to deliver the impressive latter half of the book, which was totally worth it. I was kept guessing right up until I was reading the plot unfold and loved all the twists and turns. I honestly thought I had it figured out at one point until everything was thrown into uncertainty again.
This was, for the most part, a fast paced and easy to read book. Kane structures his chapters to finish in such a way it entices you to read the next, be that with plot twists, more questions or gut-wrenching events, making it hard to put down. Although it is definitely a standalone story, for those that have read Kane’s previous novel – Her Last Secret – there was a very small but incredibly interesting link. I’m wondering if a third book might reveal more…I’ll be keeping my eye out!
Thanks to NetGalley, HQ Digital and Paul Kane for providing me with this ARC.
I’m not sure how to summarise Seven Devils because so much happens! We have 5 main characters: Eris, an ex-heir to the throne; Clo, a natural born, mechanic; Nyx, an ex-soldier; Rhea, a courtesan for the empire; Ariadne, a teenage genius behind the workings of the Oracle. We kick of this novel with Eris and Clo being sent on a difficult intel mission, one where neither wish to be with the other. During this mission they end up colliding with Nyx, Rhea and Ariadne, Tholosian fugitives looking to join the resistance and escape the Empire. However, with the Empire’s new plans for a truce with their previous sworn enemies and suspicious findings, things don’t seem to add up, so these five are forced to work together to uncover and prevent the Empire’s plans. The fate of the entire galaxy and millions of lives rests on their success but can they pull it off when al the odds are against them?
What a fantastic read! Seven Devils has pretty much everything you could want from a sprawling space saga: great characters, detailed back story, well-built worlds and so much action! And I love where the name for the book eventually came from – nicely done!
I really enjoyed the five main protagonists that Lam and May created. Their diverse characteristics were subtly woven into the plot bringing different elements and so much more depth. With each chapter being told from one of the five perspectives we experienced such a range of emotions and responses.
I appreciated having no repetition in the chapters as we switched between characters, instead it was either a flashback or the next step of the story. The flashbacks themselves were really useful and added a lot of context to the plot and world-building without requiring a ton of effort. It almost felt like we’d read a prequel! I also loved that there were so many ‘events’ plus twists and turns within the story which didn’t all end in doom, halting the progression of the story and requiring some farfetched solution. It was refreshing to see the characters face difficulties but find ways to get through them meaning we got so much more story and the plot continually moved forward without losing out on the drama. The Sci-Fi element was pitched perfectly for me too. There was enough for us to understand the different empires, races, space craft, technology etc. without it being too overwhelming and confusing. Elements like the Oracle’s all knowing, all controlling influence were neat little complexities Lam and May added to their novel.
The chapters themselves were short and easy to get through but I did find the pacing in the first half of the book a little slow and I didn’t always feel compelled to read the next chapter. I think part of this was because Lam and May were fleshing out both the characters and the worlds. It completely paid off though! The story reached a gripping crescendo, and cleverly one that left us wanting more, despite all the action. Seven Devils ended with so much drama, I could hardly believe it when they wove in such suspense for the next novel. It had me checking to see when Lam and May were planning on releasing it (please be soon!) as they’ve proved themselves to be a stellar writing duo!
There has been quite a bit of discussion around categorising Seven Devils as an adult novel or a YA. In my opinion it’s definitely aimed more at adults, but reading is subjective so if this sounds like your thing I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
It’s going to be an exciting week ahead here at Lotte’s Library – we will be part of our first ever Book Blog Tour for P.L Kane’s novel Her Husband’s Grave!
As you can see from the poster we will be sharing our review of Her Husband’s Grave on Tuesday 4th August so be sure to check back then to see it. I’ve also asked Paul a few questions so I’ll be posting a short interview with him on that day too.
Also why don’t you join me in following the tour to the other blog sites to see what they thought of the book too. It’s a great time to be connecting with both readers and authors!