Every Secret Thing – Rachel Crowther *BOOK TOUR*

I have a treat in store today, A question and answers session with Rachel Crowther, author of Every Secret Thing!

Summarize each character

The central characters are a close knit group who all sing together in a choir at university.

Marmion is described by one of the other characters as the group’s ‘moral compass’. She’s a Quaker, a very talented musician, fresh-faced and optimistic about life. She’s perhaps a little naïve and unwordly but she sees the good in everyone and is unstintingly kind.

Judith is the only daughter of two doctors from Bristol, strikingly beautiful and ferociously strong-minded. She describes herself as a ‘Jewish Hindu atheist’ and likes to think she doesn’t care about other people’s opinions or conventional morality.

Cressida comes from a wealthy family, the product of a famous girls’ boarding school who’d grown up with horses and brothers in the Home Counties. She is very clever and highly ambitious and dreams of becoming an academic at Cambridge, but she’s also spiky and full of self-doubt.

Bill comes from Birmingham, where his parents run a small hotel. Ginger-haired, bluff and self-deprecating, he’s the choir’s star tenor, a natural musician who is determined to escape from the confines of his family.

Stephen is perhaps the most complicated of the group: he’s tall and gangling and a little awkward, reluctant to talk about his family – his adoptive parents and disabled brother. He’s also the most ambitious of them, destined for a glittering career in international commerce.

Fay is the group’s shadowy benefactress, an older woman who takes them under her wing and gives them treats: dinners, concerts, and then a weekend in her cottage in the Lake District.

Explain who is your strongest character, in your eyes, and why? Who do you believe to be the most influential of the group? 

Judith is probably the one the others see as most powerful, because she’s very self-assured and outspoken and rather unconventional. They’re all a bit on awe of her. But Marmion has the most inner strength, and the others recognise that too. In fact they all have a lot of respect and admiration for each other, and in different ways they are all strong characters: Bill is a natural leader, Cressida is incredibly well-read and erudite, and Stephen’s sights are set well beyond the others’ horizons.

Why is the friendship so important?

The five characters have had a very close bond during three intense years at university, when singing in the choir together has been the most important thing in all their lives. To quote Marmion: ‘the thrill of singing with this group of people would never leave her. Making

something together, she thought in a moment of startling clarity, in the same way as sex, and with the same effect of rendering you completely alive.’

Later, the drama that overtakes them that summer in the Lake District overshadows all their lives, and although they go their separate ways for twenty years, those events and the destruction of their friendship is something that never quite leaves them, and in different ways holds them all back.

 
In a sentence explain how each character has changed with age. 

I don’t want to give too many spoilers here, so I’ll be cautious…! The short answer is that although they have all been more or less successful in life, they are all essentially unfulfilled at forty-ish. None of them have children, and none of them have very successful relationships. They are all drawn back to the cottage they visited with Fay that summer in 1995 because they are looking for resolution and redemption, and hoping for something better from the future.


What does ‘Every Secret Thing’ mean to you?

The setting – both the Cambridge choir and the Lake District – are drawn from my own life, and both are really important to me, so the novel was very enjoyable (and rather nostalgic) to write. But all the characters, and what happens to them, are entirely fictional, so it was also exciting to find out what became of them all as the novel took shape, and I became very fond of them all.

I guess the question of fresh starts and new possibilities in mid life is also close to my heart: I was about the age of these characters when I started writing and began to move away from medicine, and I do believe strongly that people can take stock, rethink what they want and remake their lives at forty or fifty or even sixty.

Emma In The Night – Wendy Walker

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

One night five years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

Emma In The Night is a tormented read with harrowing realities and emotional draw, yet breathtakingly beautiful and delicately spun yarn by silken yarn

Never doubting that Walker had written another stunning read. I was not to be disappointed as I read her latest novel word to word, sentence to sentence and chapter to chapter. Walker writes with a beautiful presence, her characters fully formed in complexity displaying an exceptional strength of imagery.

This is a story of love, loss and revenge with a side of tension and a competitive streak thrown in the mix. A wholesome novel with a satisfying conclusion.

Not every writer can hold my attention, presenting script that feels flat and bland, without the delicacy of emotive scribblings and musings from within. Walker, for me, writes with everything I need from a novel, with an understanding of each character and a depth so deep they too walk from the page and for those few days become part of the daily life and routine. Maybe I just crave a more articulate verse than most? but I praise the writing style that evokes emotion and feeling grabbing my attention and most importantly holding it firmly in place.

Walkers words lift from the page in silken strands that wrap intricately around the all consumed reader.

Whilst the characters seem to all be fighting for attention within the story, Dr Winter was the character for me, she was the strength and the soul of the story becoming the saviour who helps bring this tragic tale to a close. Her side of the story slides under skin wrapping its way around the reader, tightening the binds until the anticipation is too intense, only to fall away to an amazing conclusion and outstanding finale.

I thoroughly adored her debut novel All Is Not Forgotten. I find myself living within her books, absorbed deep in the centre, too enthralled to put them down. This, is everything I need from a book.

The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir – Lesley Allen *BOOK TOUR*

A stark but uplifting story of bullying and redemption, for anyone who’s ever been a weirdo.

Almost too terrified to grip the phone, Biddy Weir calls a daytime television show.

The subject is bullying, and Biddy has a story to tell.

Abandoned by her mother as a baby, Biddy lives in her own little world, happy to pass her time watching the birds – until Alison Fleming joins her school.

Popular and beautiful, but with a dangerous, malevolent streak, Alison quickly secures the admiration of her fellow students. All except one. And Alison doesn’t take kindly to people who don’t fit her mould . . .

A story of abuse and survival, of falling down and of starting again, and of one woman’s battle to learn to love herself for who she is, The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir is Lesley Allen’s startlingly honest debut novel, perfect for fans of Rowan Coleman and Julie Cohen.

The most frightening revelation of this novel is that for someone to describe so accurately the deep-rooted level of such harsh bullying must have endured it themselves.

Lesley Allen has written a heart breaking emotive novel, with such talented writing you engage with and react to, the tales so horrific you cry for Biddy as you witness her misunderstanding and confusion around her situation and feel her pain she consumes on a daily basis.

Before Alison Flemming Biddy lived in her own existence ignorant to being different and so very unique.

The experiences bestowed upon Biddy are harsh with the naivety and vulnerability of Biddy being abused.  Her innocence is overwhelming and the reality of it is that the situation she finds herself trapped within is none of her own doing.

During parts of the story I got angry, throwing the book down and shouting outloud ‘how could they’ at my family, I was incensed that the people who could help turned a blind eye and those who tried became penalised for wanting to make a difference. Alison Flemming needed her comeuppance years before it was finally received.

I had an Alison Flemming in my childhood, my Alison came in many types and different forms and at times, even now, still raises her ugly head. Confidence is a brittle thing, something so easy to shatter instantly, after taking the slow journey years upon years to construct and build a strong place, only to be destroyed by some bitter individual with a harsh tongue and jealous approach.

Why are the Alison Flemming of the worlds be allowed to exist, what can they offer other than cruel destruction, misery, pain and fear?

I understood Biddy’s pain, I cried her hot tears and felt that lump in her throat she so desperately wanted to swallow. I know what it feels like to be stood invisible in a room surrounded by Alison Flemming clones and cronies and for those of authority to turn away, close their eyes or join the parade. All those times hearing the same repetitive drivel of ‘they are only jealous’ or ‘they feel threatened’ yet they break you to the point of worthlessness and fail to understand how someone could be jealous of the insignificant husk of a person you have now become after being brainwashed over decades of you pathetic existence.

Yes I understand Biddy all too well and nobody deserves to be treated in such a way.

The anger I felt was real, that old enemy of frustration reared his ugly head once again, never doing me any favours, and tying me in knots as I read page upon page of relentless bullying from some nasty piece of work who deserved a very hard smack.

Biddy’s life is not always so lonely, we are introduced to Terri, who is the guardian angel that Biddy needs.

The relationship slowly developes and grows over time, fragmented and disjointed but worthy of the invested time spent in the end. Terri is Biddy’s saviour, the one to teach her how to appreciate herself, believe in herself and undo the many years of brainwashing she had so frequently received.

The final chapter had me in tears, covered in goosebumps and with every hair standing on end.

I made a disgrace of myself on public transport but for Biddy it was worth it. She became my hero.

This is an excellent book, a very poignant story and very real. It is emotive and thought-provoking and uncomfortable at times but very worthy of your interest. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

From the Author; Living with the Character

My novel is about a girl who is mercilessly bullied from the age of ten until a catastrophic event removes her from the grip of her bullies five years later. Biddy is a loner. She gazes at the world from the outside in, observing life from a distance, but not actively participating in it. Her mother abandoned her, her father is a social recluse, she has no friends, and she lives in fear of Alison Flemming, the girl who bullies her on a daily basis.

I, on the other hand, have an amazing family, a wealth of wonderful friends, and live a busy, active, full-on life. And I have never been bullied, at least not in the way that Biddy is. Not even close. Oh, over the years, I’ve encountered many an Alison-type character, experienced intimidation in the workplace, and was frequently teased as a child because of my curly hair. But that’s the height of it.

Many people who read the book ask if Biddy is me. She isn’t. In fact, our curly hair is the only thing we have in common. But sometimes I feel that I know Biddy better than I know myself. I’ve lived with her inside my head for many years now, ever since she popped up in a short story and quietly, but firmly, demanded my attention. It took me a long time to tease her story out, but that’s how Biddy is.

We’ve been through a lot together: financial pressures, two house moves, the death of my father, the on-going fall-out from the breakup of my marriage, and, most notably for Biddy, a publication false-start when a deal I received for the book eight years ago fell through at the eleventh hour. She tolerated my apathy during the times when, poleaxed by grief after losing my dad and floored by the collapse of the first publishing deal, I thought I would never write again. She didn’t complain when I set her aside and began to slowly write some other material, and she welcomed me with open arms when I decided to tweak her story, and try again. And when I was at the lowest point in my life following my marriage breakup, she gave me back my dream of publication, just when I needed it most.

Since the day we heard that Twenty7 Books were going to publish the book, Biddy has been a permanent feature in my life. I talk about her daily, I write about her, I even find myself talking to her sometimes! She has changed my life, and I’m elated that this time, the publication ending has been a happy one. The day I held the book in my hand for the first time was the second best day of my life – the first belongs to my 18-year-old baby girl. And now my book baby has taken flight. Biddy’s story is finally out there for the readers of the world to make of what they will. It’s a nerve wrecking time! I hope they like her. Actually, I hope they love her just as much as I do.

 

 

Don’t You Cry – Mary Kubica

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she’s the person Quinn thought she knew.

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.  

As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under Pearl’s spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end.

I adore the work of Mary Kubica, my favourite was always Good Girl, for being so different yet this, Don’t You Cry won hands down!

Just before starting this book I read a review that stated not much had happened yet the story was keeping him hooked. It was the writing, I totally agreed because even though there wasn’t a fast pace hanging on the edge of your seat beginning there was something so very hypnotic and seductive in the writing that held me captive and left me hanging onto every word.

I was enthralled by Dont You Cry with time standing still as I read page by page becoming deeper submerged under its spell

The characters made this story for me. Two stories of two different lives all joined together. Even those who only play the minor parts, the sub characters if you will, are strong and meaningful within the story. Alex Gallo appealed to me more than anyone. His heart warm and nature caring and such a beautiful boy. His relationship with Ingrid is so heart warming and how without the knowledge of doing so they continue to support each other, look out for each other and understand what it feels like to be lonely.

This soothing tale wraps itself around you joining you on the journey to find Esther whilst at the same time treads carefully along the eggshells of the life that Alex leads and his mysterious companion the lady he nicknames Pearl. As thought patterns are pulled this way and that the story changes yet again and just as you think you have worked it all out…you realise you were wrong all along.

This isn’t a book of red herrings, it doesn’t lead you to suspect individuals it sends you on a journey of companionship, friendship, self discovery and the powerful emotion of unconditional love and what you would do to protect that love.

Certainly a ‘keeper’ a ‘must read’ and a definite ‘recommend’ read this book and allow it to seep into your pores, absorb into your blood stream and savour the story thereafter.

A beautifully written novel with an excellent, unforeseen conclusion and a cast of perfectly developed characters.

This book certainly makes my top ten for 2016. Such a remarkable one that it is.

Under My Skin – Zoe Markham

Inside we are all monsters…

Chloe was once a normal girl. Until the night of the car crash that nearly claimed her life. Now Chloe’s mother is dead, her father is a shell of the man he used to be and the secrets that had so carefully kept their family together are falling apart.

A new start is all Chloe and her father can hope for, but when you think you’re no longer human how can you ever start pretending?

A contemporary reworking of a British horror classic, Under My Skin follows seventeen-year-old Chloe into an isolated world of darkness and pain, as she struggles to understand what it really means to be alive.

Set against the familiar backdrop of everyday, normal teenage worries, Chloe’s world has become anything but…

This book is such an amazing read, not only is it an original twist on a well known and loved genre but it explores the harrowing emotions of loss, heartbreak, pain, suffocation, restriction, control, trust and love.

Zoe Markham has brought an historic classic to life injecting it with everyday surroundings, real relationships, trust issues, isolation and pushed it bang smack in our line of sight with a bright yellow book cover and a cracking font that jumps away from the page. I do love a good book cover.

The intrigue and suspense after the prologue and around the first few chapters kept me riveted, the more I read the more I needed to know. I sat on the fence and watched as both the main character Chloe and her father battled it out for Chloe’s freedom, how he sacrificed everything for his only daughter wanting the best life for her as she, Chloe felt further isolated and unhappy hidden away from the world.

It took me a while to envisage what Chloe would look like because even at the outset we knew her story it just took me a while to comprehend, even though she was ‘different’ and had her ‘quirks’ she was still a raging hormonal adolescent teenager underneath.

The way the relationship between father and daughter is depicted is beautifully done, with detail and intricacy of minuet feelings and realistic arguments. We see Chloe struggle and not understand, we watch as she pushes and rebels and eventually how her father relents allowing more trust whilst knowing he was always right. He was the most rational of the two, torn between doing the right thing by his daughter and the right thing for his family. The relationship played out to the reader is a genuine one with feeling and depth. The book consists a lot of just the two of them and how they interact together, which I must say I found refreshing and enjoyed.

Some of the characters are nasty, mean spirited, selfish and harsh. Teenagers at the best of times are cruel and gruesome but involve a heap of money and a close guarded secret and the world is their oyster, I found reading about some characters hard going because of my instant dislike and wariness towards them.

I always want a happy ending, I am a true romantic and a sucker for a warm fuzzy feeling post book. This never came with such feeling and the latter part of the book filled me with anticipation and what can only be described as dread. I dreamt of Chloe and her struggles, she was on my mind throughout the day, I became consumed with her story for freedom and wanted her to be given that opportunity to be that normal teenager, albeit, as the reader I knew it was not possible but a girl can dream and that was exactly what both Chloe and myself did. It took me a while to read, the content was heavy, engaging but emotional, draining almost and I found at times affected my mood. Markham being a talented author to be able to evoke such feeling and emotion on many levels.

I didnt see the ending coming, I hadn’t a clue, it left me questioning ‘but what now?’ also pulling my heart strings yet gave me the satisfaction she was loved, her family were proud.

I recommend this book to Young Adults and Adults alike, read it at face value yet feel its depth, be open minded and allow the words to be absorbed under your skin and most importantly feel the strength in the love between father and daughter.

 

Departure – Tom Ward

In a heartbeat

Michael’s life is good.

He’s in love and about to leave home for university. Things couldn’t be better.

Then a natural disaster hits Britain.

With his family and friends dead, and no help forthcoming from the government, Michael sets off, alone, aiming to reach the potential safety of the continent. Along the way, he forges a new family amongst the ruins of England when he is joined by former teacher, David, parish council head, Judith, and Zanna, a student.

As the group travels south, what remains of society deteriorates around them, revealing the darkest aspects of human desire. Amongst so much darkness, Michael must fight to uphold his own ideals.

A tale of coming of age on a road where rules no longer apply

 

This is certainly an unusual twist on a coming of age story, and for a debut from a young up and coming author I found the tale captivating, I loved this story.

‘A Departure’ from the very first page kept me constantly questioning what would happen next, how would the journey unfold, what will happen to the characters, what will happen to Britain? a very thought provoking plot which kept me riveted word by word. I had no idea how the story would end, which I really do enjoy when reading a novel, I like the suspense with the twist that is so unexpected it comes as a shock. The twists and turns en route of this journey kept the plot alive and the reader engrossed.

The main character of the story, Michael really stood out from the beginning and it was a refreshing change to read a coming of age story from the male perspective. Michael has been portrayed as a beautiful young man, one who we watch grow and develop as the gripping story unfolds before our eyes. The new characters he meets along the way all touched a place within me in their own unique way and I found I grew to admire the main character more and more as they slowly touched a place within him too.

I read with passion from start to finish, I found the story consumed me, wrapped itself around me taking a hold and gripping me tight. I highly recommend this read, it is one of those stories that builds, exposing sneak peeks along the way with shocking twists and turns throughout. An excellent debut novel brought to us from a very talented author.

I feel somewhere in the future we should see this story in film. I, for one, want front row seats.

Paper Aeroplanes – Dawn O’Porter

It’s the mid-1990s, and fifteen year-old Guernsey schoolgirls, Renée and Flo, are not really meant to be friends. Thoughtful, introspective and studious Flo couldn’t be more different to ambitious, extroverted and sexually curious Renée. But Renée and Flo are united by loneliness and their dysfunctional families, and an intense bond is formed. Although there are obstacles to their friendship (namely Flo’s jealous ex-best friend and Renée’s growing infatuation with Flo’s brother), fifteen is an age where anything can happen, where life stretches out before you, and when every betrayal feels like the end of the world. For Renée and Flo it is the time of their lives.

With graphic content and some scenes of a sexual nature, PAPER AEROPLANES is a gritty, poignant, often laugh-out-loud funny and powerful novel. It is an unforgettable snapshot of small-town adolescence and the heart-stopping power of female friendship.

As a 15-year-old adolescent I could only of wished to be one of those girls who was the other half of a solid friendship resembling the one between Flo and Renee when I was at high school. They are polar opposites yet attract and connect bringing out the best in each other.

O’Porter did a wonderful job of spinning this tale around the reader, it was beautifully written, realistic and humourous in parts with an overall nostalgic warmth weaving through the sentences.

I was completely hooked from the first word, flying through the pages soaking up the words addicted to what would happen next. I connected with the lives of these young girls in a big way. From the opening scene I was transported back through the years to being young and eating tea with my Nana hoping my Grandad wouldn’t notice me (as I was feared of him simply because he existed,) the nostalgia around those years warms my heart.

I feel my 15-year-old self certainly resonates with the character of Flo but I can honestly say my older self is certainly more of the character Renee’s persona.

I saw myself in this book and relived my teenage years somewhat as I turned the pages. A gripping novel that discusses hard topics in an honest way and warms you through from the inside out. It makes me regret I never successfully kept a diary and I still don’t.

I admired how O’Porter wrote of all the taboo subjects many only insinuate, situations and emotions were played true to the experiences themselves, stark events and raw emotion.

As many of us are only too aware that the first ‘sexual encounter’ is not necessarily the best and O’Porter captured this writing about the reality of the situation instead of playing up to the so-called hype, which is vital for teenagers to bear witness to. Losing your virginity as a young woman is a very important part of your life and to feel abandoned and disappointed thereafter is heartbreaking but a common feeling that Paper Aeroplanes deals with delicately.

Death, anorexia, being individual and sexual encounters are all covered within the pages of O’Porters debut novel

This tale follows the young lives of two very individual friends as they embark on their life journey together as they are ‘growing into’ and ‘learning to love’ themselves.

The story expresses emotional reading and soars high with euphoria in parts, it is a wonderful ‘coming of age’ story told in a very real and raw way.

I loved this story and immediately read Goose straight after.