Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Our souls at Night

My great thanks to Kate Green at Macmillan for providing a review copy of ‘Our Souls at Night’ which will be released in hardback by Picador on 4th June 2015.

On the back of my copy Peter Carey is quoted as saying ‘If you have never entered his beautiful singing sentences, I envy you your first time’. I completely agree. ‘Our Souls at Night’ arrived this morning and I thought I would just read the opening paragraph to get a feel for it. I was completely mesmerised by Kent Haruf’s style and just a few hours later I’ve finished what is a beautiful, poignant and moving book.

There is little real plot to ‘Our Souls at Night’. Two lonely neighbours, Addie Moore and Louis Waters, live in the small town of Holt, Colorado. Both find solace in one another’s company as they spend their nights together chatting. Their lives are further enhanced when Jamie, Addie’s grandson, comes to stay.

The book is a series of unpunctuated conversations between Addie and Louis through which, in just a few short chapters, the whole panoply of human emotion is revealed. It is like eavesdropping on the intimate conversations of two people about whom we care deeply.We get a real feel for small town America with its nosy gossip about others’ lives. We understand the complex relationships within marriage, family and friendship and we abhor the behaviour of Gene and Holly as they try to destroy Addie and Louis’ new found happiness through their own prejudices. ‘Our Souls at Night’ restates for us what it means to have humanity through its gentle prose.

I have not read any of Kent Haruf’s work before but will ensure I read every one of them so that I can re-encounter the economical eloquence of this haunting writer who appears to touch the souls of readers as well as those of Addie and Louis. I usually pass on books I’ve read. I’ll be keeping this one.

Book Signing – Kathryn Joyce Author of Thicker Than Soup

P1030592Thicker than soup

It was my great pleasure on Saturday 16th May 2015 to meet Kathryn Joyce at Walkers Bookshop in Stamford. Firstly, because I like to support independent book shops where I can, but also because I’d seen the reviews of ‘Thicker Than Soup’ and was eager to read it. What I hadn’t factored in to the encounter was what a lovely person the author of ‘Thicker Than Soup’, Kathy Joyce, actually is. It was a delight to meet her.

Kathy incredibly kindly gave me a signed copy of her book and agreed to be interviewed for my blog in advance of the official release date of ‘Thicker Than Soup’ on 28th June 2015. However, if, like me, this looks just your kind of book, then you’ll want to know that if you can’t make it to Walkers in Stamford, you can get a copy from the publishers at http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=3206

I’ll be posting a review of ‘Thicker Than Soup’ just as soon as I can!

Ruby by Cynthia Bond

Ruby 1

I am indebted to Bookbridgr, Two Roads Books and Yassine Belkacemi for providing a review copy of ‘Ruby’ by Cynthia Bond.

As an adult, Ruby Bell returns to the small East Texan town of Liberty where she lived as a child, having endured an incredible life of violence and sexual abuse. She has never been forgotten by Ephram Jennings who has loved her all his life. The novel outlines their love story against a powerful and disturbing background.

I would not say that ‘Ruby’ is an easy read. I found some of the descriptions so vivid as to be disturbing and shocking and I think some readers would perhaps find a few concepts too unsavoury. However, the themes of child abuse, domestic violence, religious hypocrisy, racism, madness, witchcraft, superstition and sexuality are woven into a mesmerising text. Reading ‘Ruby’ is a bit like looking at an intricate tapestry and the more you look, the more there is to see and understand. What is so impressive is that there is also humour and pragmatic realism alongside the more mystical elements within the story, especially when Cynthia Bond describes the towns people.

The prose is beautiful and savage so that the reader experiences a range of emotions almost against their will. Characters are so well depicted it is difficult, for example, not to hate Ephram’s sister Celia, even if she has had to devote her life to bringing him up.

It took me a while to adjust to the dialects of the townspeople and to accept the Dybou elements, but once I’d adjusted as a reader I found ‘Ruby’ completely enthralling. If I say that I gave up trying to sleep because I was thinking about the book and so continued reading at four in the morning, you’ll get an idea of the hold the narrative obtains over the reader. ‘Ruby’ is an extraordinary book.

Graham Smith Guest Author Interview

Graham Smith

I am so excited to be able to interview Graham Smith, author of ‘Lines of Enquiry’ and ‘Snatched From Home’. He’s my first ever author interview! You’ll see from his responses that, although Graham writes about crime, he has a wry sense of humour too.

Graham Smith Interview

  1. How did your writing career begin?

I’ve been an avid read of crime fiction since the age of eight. A chance encounter at the Harrogate Crime Festival saw me join the ranks of www.crimesquad.com as a reviewer. Through Crimesquad.com, I got to meet and interview lots of authors. Eventually the urge to jot a few ideas of my own down saw me embark on the journey that is writing a novel. I also encountered a lot of books where I’d be thinking, “I can do better than this.” It got to the point where I needed to put my money where my mouth was. I did and was lucky enough to earn a publishing contract for ‘Snatched from Home.’

Snatched-From-Home

  1. What motivates you to write?

The voices in my head keep telling me stories which I think are worthy of a wider audience. Plus there are a lot of mental health benefits in letting some of the voices out. Being more serious, I have a caught the writing bug so badly that if I was alone in the world with no possibility of anyone to read my stories, I’d still be writing them.

  1. What do you read when you’re not writing?

I always have a crime novel on the go. The only exception to this is when I’m editing. Then I try to read books which will help me with my research.

  1. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a pantser through and through. I need only the setting, lead character, the major crime and the resolution I want to happen (eg a serial killer being caught or killed by the hero) for me to start writing.

  1. Do you create characters for the plots or vice versa?

The answer to this is neither and both. I have a head full of ideas and I have two series characters. I tend to choose which idea is best for which character. Having said this, I always have to introduce new characters within the framework of my story. The first third of the last novel I wrote, took a totally unexpected turn when a character took over the story despite being dead from the first paragraph.

  1. Would friends and family members recognise themselves in your writing?

Some traits from family members are definitely included in my characters, but it’s the little things I pick up from strangers and overheard conversations which often create the most memorable traits.

  1. What plans do you have for future novels?

I have the sequel to ‘Snatched from Home’ completed and submitted to my publisher and I have another novel – ‘The Watcher’ – out on submission. I have enough details for both the third Harry Evans novel and the sequel to ‘The Watcher’ swirling around my head. I plan to start one of them in the next few days.

  1. Which five authors would you have round for dinner?

I’m gonna go for an odd and eclectic bunch as I’ve been lucky enough to meet most of my writing heroes. My five dinner guests would be, Wilbur Smith, Tom Cain, Alistair MacLean, Ian Fleming and J.R.R. Tolkein. I’d serve a huge shepherd’s pie and make sure there was plenty of beer available. It’d be a proper boys night in.

  1. Which book do you wish you’d written?

‘The Da Vinci Code’. I believe there’s a great story hidden among all the clumsy phrases. Plus, there’s a certain financial benefit to be had from being the author of one of the best-selling books ever.

  1. Your debut novel ‘Snatched from Home’ is being made into a play for the Manchester Arts Fringe. Can you tell us about this?

I’m very lucky to have met the actor and director, Derek Lawson, when he directed the adaptation of a friend’s novel. We got talking and he asked to read my work. From there he adapted it into a play and it was picked up by the Fringe festival. It will be showing at the Salford Arts Theatre from the 8th -10th July. I have been involved in creating the script and the casting and have to say I’m blown away by the level of talent involved and can’t wait to see it live.

Lines-of-Enquiry-Cover

Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. For the last fourteen years he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website Crimesquad.com for over six years.

I’m sure you’ll want to find out more about Graham Smith so here’s where you can do just that:

The Major Crimes Team Vol 1: Lines of Enquiry

UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Major-Crimes-Team-Lines-Enquiry-ebook/dp/B00U0N3FG8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1424951840&sr=1-1

US

http://www.amazon.com/Major-Crimes-Team-Lines-Enquiry-ebook/dp/B00U0N3FG8/ref=sr_1_5?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1425557648&sr=1-5

Snatched from Home

UK

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Snatched-Home-Would-Children-Harry-ebook/dp/B00U0GRQCY/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1424951840&sr=1-2

US

http://www.amazon.com/Snatched-Home-Would-Children-Harry-ebook/dp/B00U0GRQCY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425557558&sr=8-1&keywords=snatched+from+home

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/grahamnsmithauthor

Twitter
https://twitter.com/GrahamSmith1972

Website
www.grahamsmithauthor.com

The Secret of Us by Liesel Schmidt

The Secret of Us

I was delighted to be offered the chance by Liesel Schmidt to read and review ‘The Secret of Us’.

When Eira’s fiance Matt tells her he thinks their engagement is wrong and leaves her stranded in a restaurant with just the word ‘Sorry’ scrawled on a napkin, she feels as if her heart is broken. Flame haired Eira moves state to try to begin a new life, little realising that her life will change for ever and her past is never very far behind.

As I started reading, I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this book as there were a few too many adjectives in the descriptions for my taste. However, the plot is very good, twisting and turning along the way so that, although the reader hopes for a happy ending, there’s no guarantee there will be one.  Such clever plotting hooks the reader and I enjoyed ‘The Secret of Us’ after all. It’s a real roller coaster of a read.

Eira is a strong and likeable character. As one shock after another hits her, she adapts in a very realistic and humane way so that the reader feels her emotions with her and grows to admire her more and more.

There is real emotion conveyed throughout this book and reading ‘The Secret of Us’ put me in mind of some of the Nora Roberts books I’ve read and enjoyed. I think ‘The Secret of Us’ would definitely appeal to all readers of romance.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Ove

My enormous thanks to Bookbridgr and Nikki Barrow at Hodder for providing a review copy of ‘A Man Called Ove’.

Fifty-nine year old Ove thinks everyone is a fool. Ove likes order and routine. He says little but is very good at D-I-Y. His world becomes complicated when new neighbours arrive, who, along with a mangy cat, don’t allow him to get on with his life the way he thinks wants to.

I’d heard a lot about Fredrik BackMan’s ‘A Man Called Ove’ and I had read and thoroughly enjoyed ‘My Grandmother Sends Her Regards And Apologises’ so I was expecting great things from ‘A Man Called Ove’. This is always a problem as the potential to be disappointed is high. Phew! I need not have worried. I absolutely adored ‘A Man Called Ove’.

The novel is cleverly constructed in quirkily named chapters that could happily stand alone as short stories in their own right. Written in the continuous present tense there is a freshness and immediacy about the story that draws in the reader so that they are living the events at the same time as Ove. I found the writing perfect and not at all constrained by being in translation. The variety of construction meant that I totally understood Ove’s point of view.

Indeed, as the novel progresses, the reader feels as if Ove is a beloved member of their own family and that all of the other characters are friends they’ve known for years. I’ve seen references to Ove as a kind of Victor Meldrew character, but he is so much more than that. He experiences love, rage and frustration in a totally humane and understandable way. In Ove there is something we can all recognise about ourselves. I feel I have missed out in life by not having met Ove and have to keep reminding myself he isn’t real but is a character in a book.

I also thought the humour was wonderful and I laughed out loud in several places – something I rarely do when reading. I cried too. On the front of my copy of ‘A Man Called Ove’ is an endorsement saying ‘warm, funny… unbearably moving’. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Wonderful.

‘A Man Called Ove’ was published in paperback on 7th May 2015

Girls on Tour by Nicola Doherty

Girls on tour

I am very grateful to Frances Gough at Headline and Bookbridgr for my copy of ‘Girls on Tour’ by Nicola Doherty.

Originally published as a series of five novellas, ‘Girls on Tour’ focuses on Poppy, Maggie, Rachel and Lily as they search for true love amongst a series of madcap adventures taking them from Paris to Los Angeles, Meribel to Rome and New York.

This is not the kind of fiction I usually read, but it was a real pleasure. ‘Girls on Tour’ is a sparkling chick lit book, full of laughs, romance and friendship. Each section is written from the point of view of one of the girls and each is really well depicted so that they become like friends to the reader as well as to each other. Similarly, even the most insignificant character is well rounded and alive.

What I really liked was the detail of the settings. I could easily picture myself on the ski slopes in Meribel or on the back of a Vespa in Rome. The descriptions of clothing, food and weather brought the book to life and I found the stories fast paced and engaging. There are lots of very amusing elements and I frequently found myself laughing out loud.

‘Girls on Tour’ is a perfect read for those looking for lighthearted escapism. I’d recommend taking it with you on holiday and if the weather’s poor you know you’ll have some sunshine!