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Blog Tour: Kate Moretti, The Vanishing Year

September 27, 2016 in Blog Tours, Guest Posts

Yesterday I shared some spoiler-free thoughts on The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti which, by the way, is OUT TODAY! If you missed that post you can find it here. I’m very excited to welcome author Kate Moretti to the blog today (the first day of her blog tour) to share her answer to the question “what do you think makes a propulsive read?”

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Over to Kate….

Character is at the Heart of All Good Novels (Even Suspense)!

Sometimes I’ll end up at an event or a book club and the subject of “page turner” will come up. Think of the last book you read, the one that gave you a book hangover, kept you up half the night, the one you couldn’t put down and later, couldn’t wait to talk about with someone. People will ask me “what do you think makes a propulsive read?” My answer, regardless of genre is always the same: character.

People will argue with me. They’ll say, oh well I’ve read lots of great novels and I didn’t even like the main character. To that, I say, so what? You have to read about them, not invite them to brunch.

You don’t have to like a character to be drawn into their lives. You do have to relate to them. The writer’s job is to take the main character, even if they are deplorable human beings, and give them an emotional need or want that we, as readers, can identify with.

With suspense, the main characters are often completely unlikeable. They have to fit the mood and tone of the book, often they are sullen, crabby, isolated, perpetually drunk, amnesiac, you name it. Sometimes, their basic universal need is to simply stay alive. They are in awful situations and if they did things 100% correctly, (simply called the police, half the time), the book would be twenty-five pages long and boring as all get out. And yet, we flip through these books faster than any other. Why?

The need to stay alive is universal. We all want that. We can see ourselves, flung into impossible situations, trying desperately to just live another day. To outrun the bad guy, to find the missing sister, keep the lie buried. We all relate to that desperation, that moment that upends your life and deeply threatens everything you hold dear. It doesn’t matter if what the main character holds dearest is her antique spoon collection. If the author does their job, we will care about that spoon collection as much as the character.

Did you ever read The Martian? Let me ask you, did you cry when the HAB blew up and he lost all his potatoes? Like. A. Baby. I mean, it’s potatoes, but God, did we care. My husband couldn’t understand and all I kept saying was he’s going to die without these potatoes. He’s going to starve to death, DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

In suspense, the page turner is determined by the character, not the plot. If the writer does their job, we are sucked in, and the plot can twist and turn, and venture completely into the unbelievable. We are along for the ride because want the same things the protagonist wants. On the other hand, think of the last book you read fifty pages of and quit. I’m willing to bet it had loads of plot. You just didn’t care enough about what happened next.

When I’m preparing to start a new novel, like I am now, all of my pre-work goes into my main character. Who is she? Where does she come from? I dream up a life that will never make it into the main story. When it comes to writing the plot, I know the beginning, the middle and the end. The rest comes to me as I write.

But if I do my job, my hope is that the reader will come along for the ride, wherever it takes us.

 

Thank you so much Kate! Reading this, I kept smiling and nodding, thinking how true this is. I also kept thinking about Zoe and perfectly she fits this criteria!

Be sure to check out the rest of the stops on Kate’s blog tour, including tomorrow’s host SHOTSMAG Ezine!

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Review: The Vanishing Year

September 26, 2016 in Book Reviews, Psychological Thriller, Thriller

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Vanishing YearThe Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti
Published by Titan on 27th September 2016
Genres: thriller
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Zoe Whittaker is living a charmed life. She is the beautiful young wife to handsome, charming Wall Street tycoon Henry Whittaker. She is a member of Manhattan's social elite. She is on the board of one of the city's most prestigious philanthropic organizations. She has a perfect Tribeca penthouse in the city and a gorgeous lake house in the country. The finest wine, the most up-to-date fashion, and the most luxurious vacations are all at her fingertips.

What no one knows is that five years ago, Zoe's life was in danger. Back then Zoe wasn't Zoe at all. Now her secrets are coming back to haunt her.

As the past and present collide, Zoe must decide who she can trust before she - whoever she is - vanishes completely.

Zoe Whittaker lives a privileged life. She shares a New York penthouse apartment with her husband Henry, who lavishes her with gifts and treats. Her life hasn’t always been like this though. Back when Zoe was someone else she was broke, alone and fearing for her life.

It’s five years on though and she’s made a new life for herself. However, when an attempt is made on her life, she starts to wonder if her past has finally caught up with her.

I found The Vanishing Year to be extremely readable. It’s a book that kept me thinking, constantly trying to unpick the mystery. While I did guess part of the story, I certainly didn’t preempt it all.

I enjoyed Moretti’s storytelling, her attention to detail, her ability to make you question each of her characters, and to throw in twists that will likely blindside you.

It’s a quick, consuming read that will keep you engrossed right up until the final page.

That’s it… I’m telling you no more! I refuse to say anything that could spoil this book for you.

Be sure to pop back tomorrow when Kate Moretti will be visiting Strupag as part of her blog tour!

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four-stars

Review: Stealing Snow

September 25, 2016 in Book Reviews, YA Fantasy

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Stealing SnowStealing Snow by Danielle Paige
Series: Stealing Snow #1
Published by Bloomsbury on 6th October 2016 (UK)
Genres: YA Fantasy
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
one-half-stars

Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn't belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door – and Snow knows that she has to leave …
She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she's destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate …

I actually don’t know what to say. I don’t like being negative and yet I fear this post will be just that. I really wanted to enjoy this Stealing Snow so much but ultimately I didn’t.

I rarely DNF books, in fact I can’t remember the last time I did, but I seriously considered it midway through this book. I didn’t though, I read to the end but this really wasn’t a book for me.

Described as a reimagining of The Snow Queen, we open to find a 17 year old girl, Snow, living in an asylum in upstate New York. She has been there since she was 6 with her mother visiting monthly. Aside from her dedicated nurse her only friend is a fire-obsessed fellow patient, Bale.

When Snow and Bale are segregated all Snow wants to do is see Bale; she loves him. So when he mysteriously disappears from the asylum, she sets out to try and find him. Her journey takes her into another world, Algid, a world of ice, magic, fear and secrets.

Personally, I felt this book had so much potential, but I just really did not like its execution.

The story itself moved fairly quickly but I very much felt it lacked detail. It felt rushed, almost more like the bones of a story than a finished work. Given that this is the first book in a trilogy I was surprised by this. It’s not as though the author was trying to cram it all into one book!

I also found that I really didn’t care very much about Snow. I didn’t dislike her, but I didn’t like her either. I could’ve put this book down half way through and never missed her character or wonder what became of her.

I guess my third issue kind of combines the two above. This girl is constantly banging on about Bale, her love, and yet within no time of meeting another male character she is swooning over him. Yes, I get that she has spent her life confined in an asylum but I just didn’t find these interactions believable.  It wasn’t even as though she showed any interest to begin with, then somewhere midway through their story we are blindsided by her swoony thoughts on them.

All in all I was really disappointed with this book. It felt too rushed, there wasn’t enough detail, the romance element, if that’s what it was, was off, and at times I didn’t even enjoy the writing. That said, I think perhaps the reason this book irritated me so much was the fact that this story has so much potential.

Part of me wonders where the story will go in books two and three, but in all honesty I will not be reading on in this series.

one-half-stars

Review: Robin Hood: Demon’s Bane – The Two Torcs

September 24, 2016 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Robin Hood: Demon’s Bane – The Two TorcsRobin Hood: Demon's Bane II - The Two Torcs by Debbie Viguie, James Tuck
Series: Robin Hood: Demon's Bane #2
Published by Titan on 2nd August 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Evil is everywhere. Through terror and dark sorcery, Prince John wields the power of the throne. Lord and peasant alike meet violent ends as the Sheriff’s arcane beasts spread fear and death.

A small group of rebels oppose John, striking from Sherwood Forest...the one place his creatures cannot pursue them. Though their numbers grow, so do the forces of darkness. Unless Robin and Marian fulfill the ancient prophecy of the Two Torcs, the forest will be overrun, and England will fall.

Upon reading the first book in this series last August (review here) I was very much looking forward to book two.  I had enjoyed book one but felt it largely scene-setting. I had anticipated that book two would be more action packed.

Yes, there’s plenty of action in this book. Yet, I found myself struggling more with this book despite that. I’m not sure that I particularly gelled with the writing style on this occasion. I’ve also come to realise that I like to use my mind when I’m reading and not have every detail spelled out to me, as was the case with this book. There were times when I felt this book almost stated the obvious. It felt more aimed at a younger audience in that respect, making sure the reader was following along.

I don’t really know if I am explaining myself well here. While I was happy accepting this style in the first book as I classed it as ‘scene-setting’, it was something I did not enjoy in this book.

The story itself? I enjoyed it well enough but I didn’t ever feel swept up in it. I continued to enjoy the twist on the Robin Hood tale and the nods to folklore. However, all in all, I just wasn’t crazy about this book. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for it? Either way, I fully intend to read the conclusion to the trilogy Robin Hood: Sovereign’s War, next year. The title itself has me intrigued.

two-half-stars

Review: Kids of Appetite

September 21, 2016 in Book Reviews, YA

I received this book for free from bookbridgr, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Kids of AppetiteKids Of Appetite by David Arnold
Published by Headline on 20th September 2016
Genres: YA
Format: Paperback
Source: bookbridgr, Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

In the Hackensack Police Department, Vic Benucci and his friend Mad are explaining how they found themselves wrapped up in a grisly murder. But in order to tell that story, they have to go way back...

It all started when Vic's dad died. Vic's dad was his best friend, and even now, two years later, he can't bring himself to touch the Untouchable Urn of Oblivion that sits in his front hall. But one cold December day, Vic falls in with an alluring band of kids that wander his New Jersey neighbourhood, including Mad, the girl who changes everything. Along with his newfound friendships comes the courage to open his father's urn, the discovery of the message inside, and the epic journey it sparks.

 

Vic’s best friend was his Dad. His Dad seemed to ‘get’ Moebius syndrome and Vic’s life with it, but he’s been dead for the past two years. Vic’s Mum seems to be trying to move on with her life. It’s her moving on that prompts Vic to do something he’s been unable to do so far – touch his father’s urn. This sparks a series of events that will not only lead him to discover more about his parents, but lead to his meeting a group of kids who each have their own stories to tell. It’s also how Vic meets Mad.

We begin each chapter with a police interview. There has been a murder and the police are trying to decipher what Vic knows about it. To tell his story he has to go back in time and recount the last eight days.

The story is told from two perspectives – Vic and Mad. It’s through them that we uncover the details of the murder and the events preceding it.

I thoroughly enjoyed Kids Of Appetite.  I have been meaning to pick up David Arnold’s debut Mosquitoland for quite some time now and having read this, his second novel, I’m most definitely going to get my hands on a copy!

I’m not sure I can adequately convey the depth of this book. There is so much more to it than the mystery of the murder – although let me tell you, I didn’t actually figure out the mystery myself! There’s loss, fear, illness, the naivety of youth and simultaneously the loss of childhood innocence. There’s understanding, orphans, refugees, bullying, new relationships, friendship and family.

In truth, there are so many layers to this book. It will undoubtedly make you laugh (the lettuce wrap in particular made me chuckle), it’ll educate you, make you think, consider life and perhaps even cry. Arnold’s concepts and way with words is striking, and the characters in this novel are incredibly memorable.

I refuse to give you any more details as this book is a journey in itself. My vague description will have to be enough to convince you to take this trip – it’s stunning!

five-stars