Good Neighbours by Sarah Langan – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

A sudden tragedy pits neighbour against neighbour and puts one family in terrible danger.

Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world. But when the Wilde family moves in, they trigger their neighbours’ worst fears. Arlo and Gertie and their weird kids don’t fit with the way Maple Street sees itself. As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and neighbourhood Queen Bee Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes. Suddenly, it is one mother’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.

A riveting and ruthless portrayal of suburbia, Good Neighbours excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. When Gertie and Arlo move to Maple Street, Long Island, with their children Julia and Larry they are over the moon. A proper home with stairs and a garden. Admittedly Gertie isn’t the best at housework but Arlo is and tries to encourage the children to be like him. Gertie thinks she has found a friend in next door neighbour Rhea but she is mistaken. Rhea has many issues, and despite looking like a good mother, wife and teacher she is far from it. But she also has a lot of power in the area and many of the neighbours fall over themselves to impress her. When a sinkhole appears on Maple Street, and Shelley, Rhea’s daughter falls in Gertie and her family soon realise how unwelcome they are and that the vicious rumours that are being spread by Rhea could destroy them. 

The book takes place in 2027 with brief interviews and press reports from the 2030s and 2040s. Both worked perfectly, you could see how hysteria, paranoia and jealousy affected nearly all of the adults who feature in the novel. I found it interesting how their accounts changed, like they were trying to justify their actions. It is close to a miracle that their children, known as the ‘Rat Pack’ were on the whole decent people who could see that things weren’t quite like their parents insisted they were and were willing to risk their own lives to find  Shelley.

I loved the way the author played with the reader. I couldn’t guess at what each neighbour might say or do next. Some of them manipulated their children into tormenting Gertie and Arlo and ignored the guilt caused by their actions. I felt that it was the media reports that were published years after the event that showed what they were really capable of. There was little remorse and a lot of self pity. 

Many people have neighbours they  become best of friends with but some have ones that they go out of their way to avoid. If I lived anywhere like Maple Street,  I would have done everything I could to avoid most of the adults who were neighbours in this book. 

After The Eclipse By Fran Dorricott – Extract and Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Two solar eclipses. Two missing girls.

Sixteen years ago a little girl was abducted during the darkness of a solar eclipse while her older sister Cassie was supposed to be watching her. She was never seen again. When a local girl goes missing just before the next big eclipse, Cassie – who has returned to her home town to care for her ailing grandmother – suspects the disappearance is connected to her sister: that whoever took Olive is still out there. But she needs to find a way to prove it, and time is running out.

Extract

Secrets. That was the thing, wasn’t it? At eleven I didn’t have many secrets, but by thirteen I was brimming with them. I loved them. Hated them, too. The summer we lost Olive I had a lot of things to keep to myself; I gorged on my secrets, on the stories I was writing and on my expanding emotions as if they were sweets and chocolate that I’d never had before. For once I had something I didn’t have to share. 

I had Marion; I had feelings that nobody else had. 

The thrill of the secrets was greater still because Marion and I knew our parents wouldn’t approve. Girls didn’t like other girls. Not like that. Mum had told me as much herself. It was a different world, then, and I was trapped by its customs and rules. 

Holding hands in the back seat of Gran’s car on the way to the Bishop’s Green fête had given us such a rush that the evening before the eclipse we could hardly keep our hands off each other. The jasmine scent of the air mixed with the trembling excitement in the hot summer night. The fear of getting caught was almost as fun as knowing that only we felt this way. 

I realised later that Olive had secrets, too, but she didn’t flaunt them like I did. She kept them close to her chest, guarding her hand relentlessly. And I was so wrapped up in myself that I didn’t see it. I almost wanted to be found out so I didn’t have to tell my parents how I felt. About myself and about Marion. 

Olive was different. When she was small she’d shared everything with me, but the prospect of moving to Big School at the end of the summer had closed her off. It was almost as though she felt she had to hide things in order to grow up. 

The week we arrived in Bishop’s Green, I’d found Olive writing in a diary. She’d never kept one before that I knew of and I wondered what had prompted the change. She’d left it under her pillow, and I found it while looking for a hairclip of mine she’d borrowed. The diary was blue, covered with stickers of Pokémon and dinosaurs and planets, a mixture that I thought summed up my nerdy sister perfectly. 

I wanted to read it. 

I was burning to rip it open and devour the contents – but something stopped me. Not guilt as much as a fear of retribution. I hovered at the edge of the bed, holding her pillow in a tight grip, indecision rendering me completely immobile. 

If Olive found me reading it she’d never forgive me and I still had the summer to endure with her. I hated being punished by her because Olive was so insufferable: she never rubbed it in my face, never gloated that I was in trouble, and that quiet calmness was always so damn infuriating. 

So I put the pillow back and left it alone.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I always enjoy fiction of this type, an unexplained disappearance that is explained as the novel progresses. Combined with another disappearance in modern day in the same area. And this novel doesn’t disappoint.

However, it was one where I guessed correctly who was responsible and saw hidden twists very early on. But, unusually it didn’t stop me reading and enjoying the novel. In fact I liked finding that I was correct in my deduction and there were a few occasions where I questioned if I had been correct.

I liked Cassie and seeing her loyalty to her Gran, having to cope with her illness felt real but it wasn’t depressing or overpower the story. Instead, it helped show the devastation that Olive’s family went through when she disappeared.

I liked the excitement surrounding the eclipses. I remember going outside to witness them in the past, hoping to feel different but being left disappointed after experiencing nothing because of cloud cover.

One of the stronger parts of the novel was Olive’s story. It was original and was at times poignant. I’m not too sure that I would cope as well if I had to face what she did.

In Her Bones by Kate Moretti – Blog Tour Review.

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About The Book

New York Times​ ​bestselling author Kate Moretti​’​s​ (The Vanishing Year)​ latest ​novel follows the daughter of a convicted serial killer who finds herself at the centre of a murder investigation.
Fifteen years ago, Lilith Wade was arrested for the brutal murder of six women. After a death row conviction and media frenzy, her thirty-year-old daughter Edie is a recovering alcoholic with a deadend city job, just trying to survive out of the spotlight.
Edie also has a disturbing secret: a growing obsession with the families of Lilith’s victims. She’s desperate to discover how they’ve managed—or failed—to move on, and whether they’ve fared better than her. She’s been careful to keep her distance, until the day one of them is found murdered and she quickly becomes the prime suspect. Edie remembers nothing of the night of the death, and must get to the truth before the police—or the real killer—find her.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I’ve enjoyed both of Kate Moretti’s earlier books so was looking forward to reading her new one. I have never read a book where the main character is the daughter of a convicted serial killer and found it fascinating.
Edie is an amazing character who due to the actions of her mother is obsessed with knowing how her victims families are coping. Only a few of these feature, a couple of them know each other through an online support group and she has met them both. Edie is also member of this group but nobody knows who she is. Or so she thinks.
Her life is a mess, recovering alcoholic, a loner whose friends deserted her when her mother was arrested. All she has is her brother Dylan, her friend Tim and a cop connected with the case, Brandt. But she isn’t self-pitying, she is just determined to make her life the best that she can. Despite her unhealthy obsession with the families.
All of the characters are strong, if not always likeable. The damage caused by Lilith to the victims families, especially her own is compelling and fascinating. The ‘excerpts’ from a book about the case reveal the mental health issues suffered by Lilith and how they affected Edie and Dylan as they were growing up, and also how their father struggled to cope. These parts of the novel were my favourite parts, where they show people’s memories of what happened before the killings started.
Edie was very engaging, often amusing and made the best of her life. Once she started to trust people I loved her.

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The Beloveds by Maureen Lindley – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

Betty Stash is not a Beloved one of those lucky people for whom nothing ever goes wrong. Everything falls into their laps without effort: happiness, beauty, good fortune, allure.
Her little sister, the delightful Gloria, is. She s the one with the golden curls and sunny disposition and captivating smile, the one whose best friend used to be Betty s, the one whose husband should have been Betty s. And then, to everyone s surprise, Gloria inherits the family manse a vast, gorgeous pile of ancient stone, imposing timbers, and lush gardens that was never meant to be hers.
Losing what Betty considers her rightful inheritance is the final indignity. As she single-mindedly pursues her plan to see the estate returned to her in all its glory, her determined and increasingly unhinged behaviour aided by poisonous mushrooms, talking walls, and a strange dog escalates to the point of no return.
An exploration of domestic derangement, as sinister as Daphne Du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, The Beloveds will have you wondering if there is any length to which an envious sister won’t go.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Beloveds doesn’t have many characters in it but really there was just one. Elizabeth, sometimes Betty, sometimes Lizzy is the only one who had a voice. And a deeply unpleasant one it was. The first few pages where I had a bit of sympathy for her didn’t last long. I don’t really have much idea whether any of her complaints were justified but I doubt it. She was either resentful to, or jealous of, everybody she had contact with. Gloria, Henry, Bert, her neighbours couldn’t do anything right. I would have liked to seen how they felt, especially Gloria, but it certainly added to the fascinated horror that you didn’t get to find out.
She is a brilliant. twisted creation and one I definitely wouldn’t like to know. Cruel, snobbish, critical and she had a very big chip on her shoulder. A creepy slant to the novel was House. I would never have the imagination to give a house a character but it is the second biggest in the book.
A big surprise when I started to read this book was that it was set in England, for some reason I assumed it was American. So village life near Bath combined with the more hectic life in London was welcome.
Maureen Lindley is an author I would read again.

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A Baby’s Bones by Rebecca Alexander – Guest Post – Blog Tour.

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Today it is my pleasure to host a guest post from Rebecca Alexander who talks about how literary and film influenced her writing. But first I will tell you about the book. It is one that I can’t wait to read.

About the Book

Archaeologist Sage Westfield has been called in to excavate a sixteenth-century well, and expects to find little more than soil and the odd piece of pottery. But the disturbing discovery of the bones of a woman and newborn baby make it clear that she has stumbled onto an historical crime scene, one that is interwoven with an unsettling local legend of witchcraft and unrequited love. Yet there is more to the case than a four-hundred-year-old mystery. The owners of a nearby cottage are convinced that it is haunted, and the local vicar is being plagued with abusive phone calls. Then a tragic death makes it all too clear that a modern murderer is at work…

Literary and Film Influences

There is always an overlap between writing history, with its snippets of information lost in ledgers and court documents, and wanting to write a historical fiction with realistic characters. Every writer tackles that overlap differently. Alison Weir, for example, strikes me as a writer who uses every bit of known information them lets imagination fill in the gaps. I find her books wonderfully researched, full of the tiny details of Tudor life. Philippa Gregory manages to convince me in a different way, the characters believable and the story in the foreground, the background authoritative without being too detailed. I enjoy both enormously, and both help me find my way in the morass of historical detail to trust in the story.

I’m a big fan of the 1580s for lots of reasons, and I’m not alone. Films from Shakespeare in Love to Elizabeth: The Golden Years show a glittering world of an England in a cultural renaissance. Ordinary people had seen their prosperity improve, religious freedom started to develop (at least in private) and our modern perspective on things like science and human rights started to evolve. It was also a time of more trading and travel around the world, importing silks and spices, sugar and new technologies. I love C. J. Sansom’s Shardlake mysteries, they are based earlier but reflect the turmoil that England was going through with the upheaval of the dissolution of the monasteries. But when writing the historical strand, my strongest influence came from books like the Giordano Bruno mysteries by S.J. Parris. Bruno is surrounded by many of the characters from my own books like John Dee (the sorcerer and astrologer) and his associate, Edward Kelley. I was also informed by the fascinating The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer, which is so entertaining I read it like a novel when I first found it.

Although I hadn’t read Elly Griffiths’ wonderful Ruth Galloway stories until after I had written A Baby’s Bones, I loved them. I enjoyed the slightly disorganised, strongly independent main character, and the wide range of archaeological puzzles she writes about. I have since read them all and they are wonderful at developing the main characters through the varied storylines and the crimes she investigates.

Writing historical fiction obviously involves reading a lot of research, some of whom tell their own stories. Many books from the era survive, and it’s possible to get lost in the research and struggle to find time to write the story. With A Baby’s Bones I found the story easier to write while wandering around Elizabethan houses, reading ‘receipt books’ like Catherine Tollemache’s and reading Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir’s books.

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