Blog tour – Liz Mistry author of Uncoiled Lies talks about why she writes.

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Today I am very lucky to feature on the blog tour for Liz Mistry’s Uncoiled Lies. My thanks to Liz for writing a very honest and moving account, about how writing helps her to manage her depression.

My thanks also to Helen Claire and Bloodhound books for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

Finally, I would like to thank Liz’s very talented husband for his drawing of Gus from Uncoiled Lies.

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Writing as therapy
I have suffered from depression for many years and at times have been so incapacitated that I couldn’t leave the house. Mental health issues affect people in a variety of different ways and at different times in their lives and yet, still there is so much stigma attached to sufferers that it is often impossible for them to get the help they need to move improve. Funding for Mental Health issues through the NHS is still tight and critical support denied to those with Mental Health issues.
For me the key to learning to manage my depression and to battle it effectively was my writing. The physical side effects, for me, included lack of concentration and focus as well as extreme fatigue and disassociation. All of this meant that maintaining relationships with friends and family was difficult. Being able to immerse myself in my writing was a way to de stress. With my writing there was no ‘judgement’ involved, no expectations of how I should behave or feel, no need to interact and above all no timescale to work to.
Exploring different characters was like delving into other peoples’ lives and exploring what makes them tick. My characters could do things I was unable to, they could explore places I couldn’t go to and they allowed me to maintain my grasp of reality. More importantly, however, they waited for me… sometimes for days, weeks, months and even years without criticism or rebuke. When I got them out and dusted them off they were like old friends at a reunion and that made me feel better.
The main character in my debut novel Unquiet Souls and the sequel Uncoiled Lies has been a friend for many years. DI Gus McGuire has been in my mind, prompting scenes and events and dialogue for a long time. He has matured and become the character he is today. Gus too suffers from mental health issues and I hope that through him my readers will be encouraged if they have similar issues or prompted to realise how difficult it is to operate when the mental issues also take a physical toll on a person.
Gus suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which has left him suffering panic attacks and feeling intolerant of those closest to him. He is aware that his temper is short and that his mood swings but is determined to work through it with the help of his psychiatrist.
A good counsellor helped me to manage my depression and for that I will be eternally grateful. I am able to monitor my condition with the help of my family and friends and am quick to realise when I’m slipping down. I try to be kind to myself and I use my writing as a tool to help me through the bad times and as a luxury in the good times.

Liz’s new book can be ordered from Amazon in ebook version and paperback.

 

The Wronged Sons by John Marr’s

Having read the authors second book, Welcome to Wherever You Are and thoroughly enjoying it, I quickly downloaded his first book, The Wronged Sons. I’m not the biggest thriller reader, but Marr’s is such a fabulous writer, I guessed rightly that this his first novel would be a very enjoyable read.

The story comprises of two threads. The first focuses on Simon, who walks out on his family, only to re-appear twenty-five years later.  Why did he leave and why has he come back?  The second thread focuses on his wife Catherine, who is left to rebuild a life left devastated by his abandonment. It’s when their lives collide again, that many truths are brought to light and questions long left unanswered lead to a thrilling conclusion.

I loved this book because Marr’s keeps the reader constantly wrong footed. You think you know why a character acted as they did and you’re proved wrong and taken down an altogether different story thread. He doesn’t try to make his characters all likeable, they are flawed and realistic.  I enjoyed disliking them!  He takes human nature and gives a voice to its darker side.  But despite the fact I found it hard to like the characters, Marr’s made me want to know how their story concluded and for me that makes this an accomplished thriller.

I look forward to reading his third book and I am anticipating a thrilling read!

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Synopsis

Set in the long hot summer of 1976, ten year olds Grace and Tilly decide to investigate when their neighbour Mrs Creasy goes missing.  The avenue they live in is simmering and its inhabitants become increasingly more paranoid under the oppressive summer heat.  Behind the closed doors of this seemingly respectable group of homes, secrets fester and two young amateur detectives set out to solve a mystery. 

Joanna Cannon’s book looks at the secrets adults hide behind and is told from the point of view of her two young heroines. For me Tilly and Grace seem set to become classic characters, ‘literary heroines’, because they give what is a funny and yet dark tale in places, a sense of innocence, which captured my heart and made me think back to my own childhood and the adventures we had.  She manages to highlight the often bizarre behaviour of their parents and neighbours while capturing the charm of childhood innocence and sense of adventure.

This book held a particular charm for me as I was a nine year old child during that long hot summer of 1976. I remember the way it seemed to stretch on forever and how the days were spent playing or reading, it was a time when the world seemed smaller and more contained in my own world. I had the same level of imagination as Grace and Tilly and a longing to find adventure and mystery in the word around me, fed by reading childhood classics such as the Famous Five, The Hardy Boy and Nancy Drew mysteries.  Adults and their world was often an impregnable mystery and so A Trouble With Goats and Sheep spoke to me. Its obvious charm and mentions of childhood favourites such as Angels Delight transported me back to that summer, when I was still held in the thrall of a simpler childhood world.

The suspense of wondering if Mrs Creasy would be found is built up throughout the novel with great skill. You can feel the tension building between the pages and as adults and children alike struggle under the oppressive heat Grace’s parents and neighbour’s become increasingly more paranoid. Panic sets in as secrets they have buried risk being discovered and lives changed forever.  Yet alongside this we have a beautiful portrayal of childhood innocence.  Seeing all this through Tilly and Grace’s point of view, allows us all to engage with the child within us all and that is a precious gift from a very talented author.

Its a stunning debut and I’m sure that Joanna Cannon has a very glittering future ahead of her.

 

The Ashes of Berlin by Luke McCallin

Firstly, I would like to thank Anne Carter and Oldcastle Books, for a review copy of this book in return for a fair and honest opinion.
Ashes of Berlin is the third in a series of Gregor Reinhart novels set against the backdrop of a ruinous Berlin. Reinhart, the hero of the tale, is now back serving in the Berlin Police force and investigating the murder of a group of former airmen. I’ve not read the first two books, but The Ashes of Berlin reads perfectly as a stand alone novel and i’m sure will also delight those already fans of Reinhart.
There are many reasons why I loved this book, firstly its the way the author evokes the devastation of the German capital at the end of World War II. The utter destruction of buildings, and the despair and loss of hope, that seeps off the pages into the mind of the reader. You can feel how the city is enveloped in a fog of melancholic despair. The characterisation of Reinhart himself is perfect, with the right combination of anger, determination and doggedness that mixed together gives us the flawed hero of the novel. He functions well because he has suffered the same fate as his fellow Berliner’s. He is a part of the city, yet alienated from many of those that control it now and caught between the opposing occupying forces of France, Britain, America, Russia and his superiors in the Berlin Police force. Like so many famous hero’s of detective fiction, Reinhart has a healthy disregard for his superiors and many of his colleagues, while he’s troubled by a past that comes back to haunt the present.
The story itself makes the most of the city setting, giving it an atmosphere of edginess. It’s not a typical fast paced thriller either, the author has invested in building up the tension between the occupying forces and the people divided under their control. It’s full of powerful imagery and portrays a city full of people barely surviving and desperate as a result. In this atmosphere of recklessness a series of murders occur, the killer seeming to seek retribution for past crimes. Reinhart refusing to give into intimidation, determined to track down the killer and bring him to justice. I was drawn along and hooked from page one to the very satisfying conclusion.
McCallin writes a very intelligent thriller and one that fills the readers head with imagery that makes them feel they are walking in the hero’s footsteps, experiencing his frustrations and despair as he does. I hope this is not the last novel to feature Reinhart’s exploits, because along with Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike he has fast become a favourite character of mine. He is flawed, but doggedly determined and brave in the face of overwhelming forces.

A first class novel.

The author can be followed on Twitter at @mccallinluke and has an author page on facebook. 

Published by Oldcastle Books

The book can be bought from

Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ashes-Berlin-Divided-Gregor-Reinhardt-ebook/dp/B01MCSX7UL/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1484503350&sr=8-2&keywords=the+ashes+of+berlin

or Waterstones

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-ashes-of-berlin/luke-mccallin/9781843448327

or any local/idependant bookshop.

Odd and the Frost Giants (Hardback) by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell.

th-1I found this book while nosing around one of my favourite independent bookshops, Mr B’s Emporium in Bath.  It was an impulse buy and has turned out to be one of my favourite reads this year!  Beautifully written with glorious illustrations.

I don’t normally read illustrated books, but I’m glad I read this one and will certainy be reading more. This could rapidly turn into a new book addiction.

Odd and the Frost Giants is the retelling of the legends of the Nordic Gods, Oddin, Thor and my personal favourite, the ever mischievous Loki, combined with a young hero called Odd, who leaves home and ecounters an adventure with a bear, an eagle and a fox.

It’s a clever retelling of the story of the Gods of Asgard, now made so popular by the superb Marvel films.  Given this story has already been adapted by previous writers, managing to create a new tale from an older epic is a spendid achievement; especially when it manages to charm young and older readers alike.  It’s a rare book in that it spans a wide ranging readership and like the Harry Potter books is capable of bridging the generational divide.

To try to explain why I loved this book so much, I need to remember the unique joy reading brought me as a child.  Like everyone I learnt to read from books that were a visual medium as well as a textual one.  Words and pictures combined to attract a child’s attention and this book gave me that as an adult. It made reading once again a simpler experience. Joyful!

Please don’t think i’m suggesting reading adult books isn’t magical, because it is, but in an altogether different way!  Adult books are often much more complex creatures, full of grown-up themes as they should be.  This book managed to recreate the feelings I experienced at the begining of my reading journey.  It took me back to a more innocent time in my life, before events, sad and good shaped me into the adult I am now.

Gaiman’s writing and Ridell’s illustrations complement each other perfectly.  They have created a magical and charming tale that should be read by children and adults.  The characterisation is simple and very clever, even Loki the trickster is warm and charming while Odd the erstwhile hero is easy to love.

Though the story is based on epic tales of the gods, it manages to remain simple enough for the child to understand its themes of loyalty, love, friendship and bravery, while charming enough to entertain those adults lucky enough to read it.

I think it’s ony fair to say that you really need to read it in paperback/hardback form or at the very least on a tablet, just to be able to appreciate the magical quality created by the combination of words and illustrations.  A normal eReader is simply not going to do this version of the tale the justice it deserves.

I would recommend this book to any reader. Revisit a simpler period of your reading life, when reading was a more innocent experience.  I wouldn’t change the books I read now as an adult, I need the complexity of their themes, but a part of me will forever be rooted in the childhood reading nook, taking grand adventures and then cwtches from my mum and dad.  The world was smaller to me then.  Books remain my soul mates and that period was the beginning of the love affair.

 

 

 

My top reads of 2016

Its been a fabulous reading year and I struggled to narrow down my choice to ten, but after a lot of thought I have come up with a final list! 

For the first time I have seperated my choices into a fictional top ten and a non-fictional top five. All the books have been 5* reads and there were a number of books that only just missed making the final list, just because I read so many great books.                                                         

 

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The Trouble with Goats and Sheep took me right back to the long hot summer of 1976. Charming and beautifully written, I look forward to more books from this extraordinary talented writer.

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The Watch Maker of Filigree Street is a intricate combination of a victorian mystery and a fantasy story. Added to that is the unexpected love story at its heart.

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The Past was one of Waterstone’s recommeded fiction books in 2016 and it charmed me. I loved the focus on characterisation and the time given to each member of the family. 

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Dark Water is a clever study of adolescent yearning and obsession.  Making the most of the claustrophobic setting of an island community, the writer gives us a novel, that explores the inner turmoil suffered by a women running from her past. 

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The Year of The Runaways is the story of a group of illegal immigrants forced to live hidden away from normal British society.  Touching and often revealing, The Year of Runaways reminds us all that these are people with stories.

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Odd and the Frost Giants is beautifully written by Gaiman and stunningly illustrated by Chris Rididell. I don’t often read illustrated books, but this was magical and I will certainly be reading more in 2017.

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A Whole Life is a novella that tells the life story of a man who has little to say, but heart that is bigger than the world around him. Beautiful and simple, but also utterly captivating.

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The Reader on the 6.27 is utterly captivating. Whats not to love about a book about books, friendship and love?

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Welcome To Wherever You Are is a addictive thriler and my favourite of John Marr’s books so far.  I loved the way he wove the story of so many characters into a high quality tale. You can run, but your past always catches up with you.

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A Place Called Winter is my first Patrick Gale book and I loved it.  When a forbidden love story destroys his marriage and carefully constructed life, Harry is forced to emigrate to the frozen wastes of Canada.  Its a moving story of a generation lost to history and their families.

I also read some amazing no fiction reads in 2016, from hstory to autobiography.

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O’Farell’s book had me laughing and nodding in agreement throughout.  I need to read his other books.

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I was attracted to the cover of The Outrun while having a coffee in Waterstone’s coffee shop. A powerful story of a women’s battle against addiction. 

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At a time when society seems determined to blame immigrants for all of societies ills, The Optician of Lampedusa is powerful and moving book should be read by everyone.

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The Fish Ladder is one women’s journey to healing and discovery. 

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I love Sue Perkins and this book was charming, funny and emotional. 

Well that was my top reads of 2016. I’m looking forwarding to more amazing reads in 2017.

Happy New Year to everyone and here is to a year full of bookish delights.