Thursday, 20 October 2016

Book Review: The Crooked Heart of Mercy

The Crooked Heart of Mercy
By Billie Livingston
Published by HarperCollins
Available in paperback and ebook

Billie Livingston's latest novel, The Crooked Heart of Mercy, is one of those books which will pull you into the world of its characters and not let you go until a few days after finishing the book.

This is the story of people who have had their lives torn apart by tragedy and can't seem to break away from the past without learning to forgive each other and themselves.

Ben who is having a mental breakdown after the sudden death of this child; Maggie, Ben's wife, who is trying to cope with the death and with Ben's detachment from the world as well as looking after her brother, Francis, a priest with a drinking problem and unlikely Youtube star after a mishap with a police officer. Life is tough with Maggie finding it hard to cope with real life, trying to bury herself away from the past yet it keeps catching up with her. All three characters are stuck, being held back by their pasts, unable to move forward with their lives.

Livingston creates realistic, flawed characters against the shiny, perfect background of LA - this juxtaposition shows you that people on the surface are like the city - seemingly perfect public persona but underneath there are cracks, and these characters have very deep cracks in their lives.

Loss and grief eat away at these characters with Ben pushing away Maggie, and Maggie making her brother suffer for their childhood. As this gripping story develops, the vulnerability of their relationships starts to strength as they all come to the realisation that they must seek redemption with each other and forgive themselves for the past. Livingston really digs into the depths of these characters, and this pulled me into the story and made me really care about the fate of these characters, and even after reading the book, I was worrying about their future.

I said it in my mini-review but the UK cover isn't the greatest, and I really think this fantastic story of families, redemption and forgiveness deserves a better cover. You can buy The Crooked Heart of Mercy at your favourite bookshop.

This book was sent to me by the publisher.

Monday, 17 October 2016

September's Reading

I still feel like it's September but apparently it's not so I better talk about the books I read last month before this month disappears. September was full of addictive non-fiction and thrillers, great books with boring front covers and boring books with fantastic front covers.

Amy Schumer - the Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo
Comedian and actress, Amy Schumer has written a book of personal essays about being an introvert, sexual experiences, her family, about fame and women's rights. I know that some people poo-poo celebrity books (I know because I've been there) but this one is a good one. For two days, I was coming home from work, bypassing the television, putting the radio on as background noise, quickly eating dinner and then diving straight back into this book. I couldn't stop reading this book. Very candid, relatable and funny.

Noah Hawley - Before the Fall
From the creator and writer of the Emmy Award-winning series Fargo, Noah Hawley's latest novel, Before the Fall is a thriller which will pull you into the story, shake you round, dig its claws into you, and make you end up caring about dubious characters and find yourself fully invested in an intriguing plot. This thriller tells the story of Scott, one of only two survivors of a private plane crash. This novel is full of surprises and red-herrings. You can read my review here.

Billie Livingston - The Crooked Heart of Mercy
This is a fantastic book wrapped in a crappy cover. Billie Livingston's latest novel tells the story of three characters, Ben who is having a mental breakdown after the sudden death of this child; Maggie, Ben's wife, who is trying to cope with the death and with Ben's detachment from the world as well as looking after her brother, Francis, a priest with a drinking problem and unlikely Youtube star after a mishap with a police officer. This is an interesting look at the way families come together as well as fall apart when a personal disaster hits. I'll be reviewing this book very soon.

Ali Smith - There But For The
A dinner guest turns up and doesn't leave. The stuff of middle class nightmares! Ali Smith's novel looks at the way this infects different characters who are connected to the dinner guest. This is definitely not my favourite Ali Smith book (but then Hotel World is brilliant). I love the David Hockney cover though!

So what did you read in September?

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Book Review: Before the Fall

Before the Fall
By Noah Hawley
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Available in hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

From the creator and writer of the Emmy Award-winning series Fargo, Noah Hawley's latest novel, Before the Fall is a thriller which will pull you into the story, shake you round, dig its claws into you, and make you end up caring about dubious characters and find yourself fully invested in an intriguing plot.

On a foggy evening, a private plane takes off heading to New York from Martha's Vineyard, with two multi-millionaires, David Bateman a media mogul, and Ben Kipling a Wall Street banker, on board with their families, a painter, Scott Burroughs, and the crew. Everyone is happy, content, chatting to each other, drinking, watching sports as the plane takes off. The plane oozes wealth and success.

Yet, sixteen minutes later the plane crashes into the sea. Only Scott and JJ, Bateman's four year old son survive, after swimming to shore in the dark. It sounds like I'm giving away spoilers all over the place but I'm not - this all happens in the first third of the novel!

Hawley weaves together the events leading up to boarding the plane and the aftermath, planting red herrings along the way, as the reader slowly finds out why the plane took a dive to the bottom of the sea. Money laundering claims, hints of terrorism, families on the brink of collapse - was this a tragic accident or is there more lingering under the surface? Hawley ramps up the tension with separate chapters about each passenger, making sure that he leaves a cliffhanger to make sure the reader carry on reading way past their bedtime.

Hawley explores the behaviour of the media as it goes into overdrive clutching at every clue and rumour while the investigators take a step back so that they are not pulled into the rumour mill. This conflict between the two builds up the suspense - who will find out the answers first. There is also the question of privacy that both the media and investigators from FBI and Homeland Security seem to have a disregard for around the survivors.

This book also explores America's class system and the prejudices around people's status within society - is a life worth more than others? The media questions why a poor artist survives over a media mogul and Wall Street banker. The media seem set out to prove that Scott, the artist must have something to do with the plane crashing because of his financial status. How far with the media spin a story to get the ratings they want? Before the Fall reminded me of the TV show Newsroom as the debate on how far to push a story comes up each time a new rumour surfaces.

Before the Fall is a great thriller, and I'm sure this will be a big hit once it's published in paperback but go and buy it now and get ahead of the game. You can buy Before the Fall from from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy by

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

New Published Story: I'll Love You Until the End of Time

Dear Damsels, an online magazine promoting writing written by women, around a different theme each month have published one of my stories, I'll Love You Until the End of Time.

Do click through and have a read, and also explore the other writing on the site.

You can read it by clicking through here > I'll Love You Until the End of Time.

From the Dear Damsels website

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Book Review: The Good Guy

The Good Guy

By Susan Beale
Published by John Murray
Available in Hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

Susan Beale's debut novel, The Good Guy, is one of those books that you can't put down once you start. The characters are compelling, the time period is interesting, the style of writing lures you into the plot and makes you care about the characters, EVERYTHING is great.

I'm getting carried away. Lets start at the beginning...

This is the story of love, marriage and self deception in suburban New England in the 1960s. Ted is a car-tyre salesman who takes a promotion and gets alot of admiration from his colleagues, success is an addiction and he wants to be the best. His wife, Abigail, is at home with their baby but she craves being at college, learning and earning a wage. Beale creates these two characters, and alternates between their viewpoints, showing their frustrations with the life they are expected to live against the life that they both crave.

After a business dinner, Ted meets Penny, falling in love with her and her carefree attitude to life. He creates himself a more successful past, creating a new life when he is with Penny. The deception and tension builds as Ted falls deeper into their alternative life he is building. His good intentions and self-deception build, pushing all three characters to the extreme.

The Good Guy is a combination of Mad Med and Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road where society is changing and evolving and the characters are caught between the older and newer generation. This push and pull not only forms relationships, bringing people together in this interesting time period but also ripping apart families when people start forming regrets and resentment.

Beale explores the pressure to conform to social convention where Ted and Abigail are caught in the middle of the change. People are shunning the way of life led by their parents, wanting to break away. The prosperity of the post-WWII is changing society with new freedoms but gender roles remain clear and there are strict morals at the core. Society's expectations have yet to catch up with these new freedoms and each generation is trying to find their way. The Good Guy doesn't just tell the coming of age story of Abigail and Ted but also of a new America, on the cusp of change.

Fans of Mad Men, Revolutionary Road and Raymond Carver will love this book. This book is fantastic, either read it now or buy it in paperback as this really is a book you don't want to miss. You can buy a copy of The Good Guy from your favourite bookshop.

The publisher kindly sent me a copy.