review

Dead Of Winter by Gerri Brightwell

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I got this book from Ninja Book Box, it’s an indie read but probably not something I would’ve thought to read only because I don’t usually read crime but I do try to read a wide range of books these days. The synopsis is interesting:

“A fast-paced, darkly funny crime novel set in Interior Alaska that follows down-on-his-luck cabbie, Mike Fisher, as he searches for his daughter. Her step-father has been shot in her bathroom, and Fisher thinks she killed him and fled. In a panic he tries to hide the body, but that’s not easy when it’s fifty-below outside. Things get dangerously complicated when it turns out step-dad was part of a local militia, and now they’re on Fisher’s tail. Dead of Winter evokes the harshness of winter in the ­­­sub-arctic and the intrigue fostered in a bored, trapped and socially circumscribed small-town community” – from GoodReads

My thoughts

Dead Of Winter is set in Alaska, it follows cab driver Fisher who gets a voicemail from his daughter, she’s in trouble and needs his help. The best thing about this novel is the atmosphere- how the cold of Alaska is written, you can almost feeling it creeping into your bones as you read.

The character of Fisher is an everyday man, he’s just trying to do his best, to make a living and help his daughter but life knocks you down. He’s not a super hero or some military man with amazing skills, he’s just Fisher and he does try, that makes him more likeable, the fact that he’s a normal man and he does worry that this will all end badly, that he won’t be able to help his daughter.

The story is riveting, we’re pulled in by the realistic characters and the chilling (literally) atmosphere, and the mystery of what’s happened to his daughter and what’s been going on. Along the way learning about Fisher and discovering more about the people in his life.

It’s described as “A fast-paced, darkly funny crime novel” it is definitely fast-paced, there were some moments of humour but the events were serious so I don’t think I’d consider it a funny book. Classing it as a crime novel does not really do this book justice, there’s more to it than that.   It’s a gem of a novel and I’d recommend it to anyone who isn’t overly squirmish or sensitive.

My favourite things about this book: the realism of the characters and the intense atmopshere of the setting. And amazing writing!!!

 

challenge

Beat The Backlist: challenge update

I signed up for this challenge a while ago and as expected I haven’t really been reading my to- be- read- books from my Backlist. These are the books I’ve read so far that can count towards the Backlist challenge:

  1. Uncommon type by Tom Hanks( ninja book swap)
  2. Thin Air by Michelle Paver ( recent/first book fairy)
  3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (reread, readalong)
  4. Affinity by Sarah Waters (actual tbr book!)
  5. Good Wives by Sarah Waters (reread, readalong)
  6. Raven Black by Anne Cleeves tbr
  7. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs tbr
  8. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (felt like it)
  9. Dead Of Winter by Geri Brightwell (Ninjabookbox)
  10. Anne of Green Gables (not a tbr but a read along)

The challenge was to help me to widdle down my to -be- read list and then possibly make space for more books. But of the 14 books I have finished this year, only 5 are actually from my tbr list, these are the ones I’ve marked in red. The other 5 in this list are those books I’ve acquired this year or the classic read-a-long I joined in with on readitswapit forum.

Here I got a bit baffled with my Goodreads saying I had read 15 books, it counted The Two Towers which I’d started reading last year and finished in January. And then there’s Sarah Millican’s book which I started reading in December I think so haven’t counted it either.

I could not stop myself from requesting ARCs from Netgalley and for joining a blog tour:

  1. The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan (review here)
  2. The Stranger by Kate Riordan (review here)
  3. Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind by Elizabeth McGiven (upcoming blog tour)riginally on writing this post and lately I have felt so disapointed in myself for not actually reading from my to-be-read list

Lately I have felt so disapointed in myself for not actually reading from my to-be-read list yeah, I do that but after looking over the books I’ve read for this year to write this post I realised how much I’d achieved.

I have read about 3 books every month since Febuary and I’ve read 5 backlist books, so it works out about 1 a month. I should be happy with how many books I’ve managed to read. I am 🙂

But now I have to get back to my Backlist! I have an ARC I am almost finished (The Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan) and another to start reading on Netgalley (but since the review is not until August I might leave it for the moment).

So once I have finished this book-hopefully today- I will start another backlist book. And get back on track, trying not to request anymore ARCs at least for the moment.

You maybe be thinking, why are you making yourself read all the books, they will still be there when you want to read them it’s because I have this habit of buying books and never getting around to read them and I want to! I want to be able to get to a point where I need to buy books because I’ve read them all (I‘m laughing at myself because this may never happen) and have the joy of buying a book again because I want to and need to.

I don’t want to be continually impulse buying books and not reading them, or saying yes, that’s on my bookshelf waiting to be read. So I am going to widdle my list down so at the end of this year I can be happy that I have read a lot of books I actually meant and needed to read.

You can join the Backlist anytime this year, so if you’re interested here’s the link

What book from my Backlist do you think I should read next? Poll on twitter ending this afternoon (7th May) https://twitter.com/Jen_wales/status/993234101988741120  you can find my backlist here  on my original Beat The Backlist post/page 🙂

If you are already doing the challenge, how you’ve been doing? Apologies to my fellow Dewey Dragons, I will be getting back to it and joining the chat again 🙂 It feels good to be getting back to it 🙂

 

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

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Blog Tour: The Accidental Recluse by Tom McCulloch

I am so happy to be part of the blog tour for The Accidental Recluse by Tom McCulloch! First of all let me tell you all about the book before I get on to the interview with the author.

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Synopsis:

Johnny Jackson used to be a famous film director, but his brother Duke was a hero. Just turned 75, JJ is heading home from exile in Japan for one last blockbuster and a civic honouring. But home is where the ghosts of his past reside, some darker than his dead brother’s shadow. His sins may be about to come to light.

About the author

Tom McCulloch has published poetry and short stories in various journals including Other Poetry, Northwords, Northwords Now, Eildon Tree, Markings, Buzzwords, and Wilderness magazine (New Zealand), and was long-listed for the Herald/Imagining Scotland short story competition 2011. With his first novel, The Stillman, he became an Amazon Rising Star.

Tom is from the Highlands of Scotland, and currently lives in Oxford with his family.

Interview

I am so grateful for the opportunity to interview Tom McCulloch, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

1-What inspired you to write The Accidental Recluse?

Like an ornery old man in a Jim Dodge novel my Grampa Bert sat me down and
told me this strange tale of a cargo boat sunk off Oban by the Luftwaffe,
the Aga Khan’s favourite horse and a rescued monkey. From such facts,
half-truths and whisky-tinged fabrications are new ones made.

2-What authors have inspired you and what books do you recommend?

So many lean in and out but I keep coming back to James Kelman (‘A
Disaffection’ is a masterpiece- where’s that man’s Nobel, I’d love to hear
that address to the academy…), Céline (‘Journey to the End of the Night’ – I
read it again and again for the self-hate of wondering why I bother to
write…), Michel Houellebecq (a reprobate and provocateur, but I think he’s
laughing at himself more than anyone), António Lobo Antunes (‘The Return of
the Caravels’ is just the most beautifully hallucinatory novel) and Malcolm
Lowry (the heat and madness pours out from ‘Under the Volcano’).

3-The most common piece of advice you see given to writers is to write everyday. Do you write every day? Do you have a writing routine?

9.30 am every day JG Ballard poured a big Scotch and sat down at his
typewriter. When he ran out of words he would do the hovering until he found
some more. I am only permitted the hoovering. My routine is a tad more
banal. I start early and write no more than a thousand words. Sometimes it’s
like laboriously building a wall brick by brick. Sometimes I glance up and
500 words have passed. Sometimes I get sick of myself and just stop.

4-Do you plan your novels/short stories or do you discover the plot and characters through writing?

I start out planning things very tightly and slowly loosen my grip. Good
writing is letting go, especially when it comes to character. Plot-wise I
try and retain a general sense of where I’m heading. Otherwise, I just end
up wandering all over the place. I enjoy the re-write and editing process, I
could tinker for Scotland. It’s the only time I listen to music when I
write. I’m clearly enjoying myself far too much…

5-We often look back and think if only I’d known this then, for example I wish I would go back and tell myself never to stop writing even if I think my writing is terrible. What do you wish you’d known before you became published? What advice would you give your past self?

Dear Tom. You may be called Tom but that doesn’t make you Thomas Pynchon.
You will be your own Tom. In time. Just keep laying the words down before
your mind like rocks. Damn, Gary Snyder wrote that, I told you just to be
Tom…

*

Thank you so much for your time.

You can buy a copy of The Accidental Recluse now. Do follow the blog tour on twitter to hear more about this amazing book!

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Insecure Writer.

I have this piece of writing which seems finished but won’t really fit anywhere, I was going to have this blog post just feature that but them I remembered it was the Insecure Writer’s Group posting day:

I have been feeling insecure as usual about my short stories. After my CampNaNoWriMo win I should be feeling good but I planned to send a short story out and with the deadline approaching I read over it and realised it’s not up to scratch. I always struggle with rewriting and polishing a story to make it good. I am gutted that I won’t be entering this competition, both stories I have written are not ready but I know I haven’t been giving my short story writing my full attention. So what do I expect?

I’m taking a short break from writing my novel, I’m working on another story I wrote recently. It will fit a competition which is running in November so there’s plenty of time; I’d already written it when I seen the competition advertised and it will fit perfectly with the theme. I did once tell myself to stop aiming to send out my stories and just finish a bunch, but I never learn, I always find competitions to enter and feel bad when I have nothing to send. I am determined to enter one this year though.

Some writers love rewriting but I just don’t seem to have the knack of it. And when my brain gets tired…. I can’t seem to get it to work.

I know I have some talent because of that one short story win but sometimes my critical brain says: what if it was just luck? Well, shush critical brain we got this. We just need to write a good story.

Am I trying to do too much?

Here’s the fragment/story I was intending to share today, I wrote this sometime ago as part of a writing exercise. I can’t find it a home as it’s not finished.  I might add to it one day. 

There was only silence. Isabel opened her eyes and watched the dancing candle flame in front of her. She blinked, the light still in her eyes as she opened them again; seared there like a unwanted memory.

She wasn’t used to silence, there was always something. A whisper, a sentence, usually something. Sometimes it was like listening to static on the radio between the channels, a mixture of voices fighting to be heard.

“Well?” The woman asked, her voice shaking. Her lips were working to keep straight, her hands jittering on the tabletop.

Isabel reached over and put her hand on top of the woman’s shaking ones. “I’ll try again, Mrs. Jacobs, I promise.”

“Don’t you usually find them and.. talk to them.. and .. I just need to know.” Tears slid down her cheeks and Isabel wished not for the first time that she could heal the pain of this women’s grief, heal the grief of all those who came to her anxious for her to call out to the other side and talk to their loved ones.

A guttural voice from the other side of the room spoke out. “Maybe she’s a fake!”

The words stung, Isabel felt the familiar tension in the pit of her stomach, she took a deep breath and let it go. “I am sorry I couldn’t help  this time. I will try again next time.” She turned to the man, just a shadowy form in the dark, short and rounded. “I didn’t ask you to come here. I didn’t ask for any money, remember?”

The man grunted and Isabel felt the woman squeeze her hands. “Thank you for trying,” she said her voice straining with tears.

Isabel nodded. She got up and turned on the light. The woman let her husband lead her out of the room, at the open door she turned back. “Maybe this means he’s not dead. If you can’t hear him. Maybe my son is still alive.”