Review: The Accident by C.L. Taylor

The Accident

 

Title: The Accident

Author: C.L. Taylor

Published: HarperCollins Avon UK April 2014

Status: Read from April 15 to 16, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

The Accident is a fast paced psychological thriller from debut author, C.L. Taylor.

Desperate to understand why her comatose 15 year old daughter would deliberately step into the path of a bus, Susan Jackson begins a frenzied hunt for clues amongst the secrets her daughter kept from her. As Susan slowly begins to piece together information from Charlotte’s diary, phone and friends, shocking evidence of betrayal and blackmail begins to emerge, along with ugly secrets from Susan’s own past.

The author nurtures an uneasy atmosphere from the first few pages of The Accident, building mistrust and dread as the story unfolds. Surrounded by secrets and lies, Susan doesn’t know where to turn or how to make sense of the information she learns but is certain she can find the truth, even if everyone else believes she is simply chasing ghosts.

Taylor quickly establishes Susan an an unreliable narrator, Susan is deeply distressed and confused as you would expect of a mother whose child is lying in a coma but it soon becomes obvious that she is also unusually neurotic, and paranoid. While the present day, first person narrative communicates Susan’s growing nervousness and fear, it’s Susan’s journal excerpts from 22 years earlier that helps to explain why she is so anxious.

A well crafted thriller, The Accident is fast paced and tense, culminating in a dramatic conclusion. A strong debut, I’d recommend it particularly to those who enjoyed Kimberly McCreight’s novel, Reconstructing Amelia.

 

CLICK HERE to read Writing What you Fear by C.L. Taylor posted earlier today on Book’d Out

 

The Accident is available to purchase from

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Guest Post: Writing What You Fear by C.L. Taylor

CL Taylor

I am happy to welcome author C.L. Taylor to Book’d Out today.

CL Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son. Born in Worcester, she studied for a degree in Psychology at the University of Northumbria, Newcastle then moved to London to work in medical publishing. After two years she moved to Brighton where she worked as a graphic designer, web developer and instructional designer over the course of 13 years. She currently works as a Distance Learning Design and Development manager for a London university.

Cally started writing fiction in 2005 and her short stories have won several awards and been published by a variety of literary and women’s magazines. Her psychological thriller The Accident debuts this month in the UK, published  by Avon HarperCollins, and will be released by Sourcebooks in the US in June 2014 (with the title ‘Before I Wake’).

The AccidentTo the outside world Susan Jackson has it all – a loving family, a successful politician husband and a beautiful home – but when Charlotte, her fifteen year old daughter,  deliberately steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma Sue questions whether any of it was real.

Desperate to find out what caused Charlotte’s suicide attempt, she is horrified by an entry in her diary – ‘Keeping this secret is killing me’.  As Sue spins in desperate circles, she risks everything to discover the truth and finds herself immersed in a shady world she didn’t know existed. The deeper she delves the darker the world becomes and the more danger she puts herself in.

Can Sue wake up from the nightmares that haunt her and save her daughter, or will ‘the secret’ destroy them both?

Writing What You Fear by C.L. Taylor

They say that authors should write what they know but I think that psychological thrillers should write what they fear. When I came up with the idea for ‘The Accident’ I tapped into three of my very darkest fears:
•    Going mad
•    Being stalked by an ex-boyfriend
•    Something terrible happening to my child

Going mad
It might seem strange that someone with a psychology degree would fear going mad but that’s exactly how I felt when, aged 21, I started having panic attacks. I don’t know for sure what sparked them – possibly it was because I stressed about my final year exams at University or maybe there was a deeper underlying reason – but they became so bad that I’d have to leave cinemas because I’d feel like I couldn’t breathe, or I’d lie awake at night counting my breaths – certain that if I stopped something terrible would happen.
Nearly sixteen years later, and long after I’d stopped having panic attacks I began to fear going mad again. I’d just had my first child and I was so severely sleep deprived that I started hallucinating when I’d take my son for a walk in his pram. I clearly the remember the day I saw the pavement tip and shift and I had to cling onto the pram handle for fear I was about to be tipped into the busy road and into the path of oncoming traffic.
When I began writing ‘The Accident’ during my maternity leave I poured my fear of going mad into the main character, Susan who is still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, twenty years after she left her abusive ex-boyfriend.

Being stalked by an ex-boyfriend
Unlike Susan I was never physically or sexually abused by an ex-boyfriend but I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for four years in my early thirties. I didn’t realise I was in that kind of relationship for a long time – you never do – and when I finally left him he started stalking me online and in real life. I was bombarded with emails, text messages and phone calls. He’d turn up at my flat at random times in the day and stand at the door in the pouring rain, his finger pressed to the buzzer while I’d sit on the sofa, too scared to move in case he saw me. The stalking became so bad I had to move out and live with my sister and I had to ask my dad to ring him and threaten to report him to the police. Fortunately the stalking stopped but the fear that you ex might suddenly show up in your life again never really leaves you. I poured that fear into Susan.

Something terrible happening to my child
When I gave birth to my son back in 2011 I had the same fears as any other mother – SIDS, choking, falls, illness – but there was a tiny part of me that worried what my ex-boyfriend would do if he ever met my child. I knew, rationally, that nothing would happen – that he lived in a city many miles away, he hadn’t been in touch for years and he wasn’t physically abusive, but that didn’t stop my sleep deprived mind from worrying. I poured those worries into the character of Susan. When her teenaged daughter steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma Susan goes through Charlotte’s diary and discovers an entry that says ‘keeping this secret is killing me’. Susan hasn’t seen her ex-boyfriend James for twenty years but when strange parcels start appearing at her house she becomes convinced that he’s somehow to blame. But Susan has had ‘episodes’ like this before, where she’d imagined James was after her, but it was all in her head. That’s what her doctor and husband told her anyway. Is James responsible for Charlotte’s ‘accident’ or is someone closer to home to blame?

You can read my review of The Accident by clicking HERE

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Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

 

 

Title: The Word Exchange

Author: Alena Graedon

Published: Hachette Au April 2014

Status: Read from April 13 to 15, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“The end of words would mean the end of memory and thought. In other words, our past and future.”

In Alena Graedon’s alternate history literary thriller, The Word Exchange, the printed word has all but disappeared in less than four short years. Set in New York in 2016,Just weeks before the publication of the third and final printed North American Dictionary of the English Language(NADEL), its curator, Doug disappears leaving behind a cryptic message for his daughter, Anana. Concerned and confused, Anana, with the support of a colleague, Bart, begins to search for her father, and stumbles upon a shocking conspiracy that threatens to destroy the very foundation of civilisation – language.

The population in The Word Exchange depends on ‘super’smart personal devices, known as Memes, for almost every want and need and to perpetuate that reliance, the company, Synchronic, responsible for the devices has recognised and exploited the profitability in owning not only the means of communication, (ie the Memes) but also language itself through the Word Exchange. Synchronic does this by essentially forcing the development of a new language, but one without any rules or context, thus forcing users to consult (and pay) the Exchange in order to communicate. Only a handful of people, including Anana’s father, Doug, object, and predict disaster but it is too late when meme users begin to develop ‘Word Flu’, essentially aphasia (the loss and the comprehension and formulation of language) that leads to more serious individual and societal complications.

The Word Exchange is, in part, a cautionary tale about society’s increasing reliance on digital communication and information, and its possible impact on language when paired with corporate greed. If you are appalled when the Oxford Dictionary updates with words like ‘vacay’ and ‘phablet’ and insist on spelling every word in full when you send a text message, The Word Exchange will leave you feeling horrified, yet vindicated.

I think The Word Exchange is both an ambitious, complex, and clever novel and a frustrating, vexatious, and pretentious read. The concept, while not unique, is intriguing and creative but for me the execution was largely alienating. The pace is almost glacial til halfway through and littered with incomplete info dumps, Anana is a weak and annoying heroine who uses disruptive footnotes in her ‘journal’, and the prose is wildly overwritten, even allowing for intentional irony.
But for all that there are moments of brilliance in the narrative, like when, for example, we begin to understand and relate to Graedon’s premise as Bart’s aphasia progresses and made up words proliferate, stripping his journal writing of context and meaning.

I am, in all honesty, torn. The Word Exchange is simultaneously too much, and not enough, an intelligent story but somehow lacking in common sense. If you are curious, I do think it is worth the attempt, but I wouldn’t judge anyone who gives up on it.

The Word Exchange is available to purchase from

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Review: From the Feet Up by Tanya Saad

 

 

Title: From the Feet Up

Author: Tanya Saad

Published: Harlequin MIRA April 2014

Status: Read from April 12 to 13, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

At the age of 30, Tanya Saad tested positive for BRCA1, a hereditary gene that greatly increases the risk of its carrier developing aggressive breast and/or ovarian cancer, forcing her to make difficult choices in order to preserve her health. From the Feet Up is the story of Tanya’s journey from childhood to a woman facing up to an uncertain future.

The eldest of three girls, Tanya was born and raised in the small New South Wales country town of Taree by her immigrant Lebanese parents, next door to her fraternal grandparents. Athletic and talented, Tanya, and her sisters, were involved in competitive swimming with Olympian dreams and Eisteddfods (playing piano) in between working at the family’s shoe store chain and helping out on their grandparent’s small cattle and fruit & vegetable farm. The most significant childhood event for Tanya was a three month holiday to Lebanon taken just months after the end of the Lebanese Civil War in 1990 to visit relatives. Bullied in part because of her heritage during primary school, high school provided some relief but Tanya gratefully escaped the region after graduation, returning only for family occasions and holidays.

Tanya’s memories of her childhood experiences weave in and out of her adult narrative. In the period before her diagnosis, Tanya was living in Canberra enjoying a high pressure career in politics while developing a competitive edge in road cycling. She maintained close ties to her parents and her two sisters, Vivian and Paula, now living in Sydney, and undertook the genetic testing as part of Hereditary Cancer project after it was discovered her father was a carrier of the faulty gene, their family history having revealed several generations of women who died of breast or ovarian cancer, some only in their early twenties. Both Tanya and Paula were found to have inherited the BRCA1 gene.

With strength, grace and courage Tanya shares her thoughts and emotions as she wrestles with the hand fate has dealt her. Still single and childless, the preventative options for sufferers of the BRCA1 gene including a bilateral mastectomy and a complete, or partial salpingo-oophorectomy (the removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes), could permanently affect Tanya’s chances of pregnancy, but decrease her risk of developing cancer by as much as 90%. Tanya must weigh the risks and benefits and make a decision about her future.

From The Feet Up is a poignant, articulate and ultimately uplifting memoir sure to give hope to women facing a similarly confronting diagnosis and raise awareness of the risks associated with the BRCA1 gene.

* I should disclose that Tanya’s family home, as described in her memoir, is just around the corner from where I live. We have never met though, I’m not a ‘local’, only having lived in the town for a decade, but I have shopped at the family’s shoe store in town.

*Please note: I choose not to give memoirs a star rating*

 

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Review: The Tea Chest by Josephine Moon

 

Title: The Tea Chest

Author: Josephine Moon

Published: Allen & Unwin April 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from April 11 to 13, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The future of the ‘The Tea Chest’, a boutique chain offering gourmet and custom tea blends, is in doubt after Simone Taylor’s sudden death. Judy, Simone’s step-sister and part owner, is desperate to sell but Kate Fullerton, who inherited Simone’s share of the business, is determined to follow through on her mentor’s vision and launch a new store in London. It’s a huge undertaking, a scary financial risk, and means leaving her husband and young sons behind in Australia for months, but if it succeeds, Kate’s wildest dreams could come true.

A charming debut novel from Josephine Moon, The Tea Chest is a story about self belief, friendship, love and tea.

As a tea designer, with no experience in running a business, Kate knows she needs help and during the process of readying the store recruits Leila Morton, and sisters Elizabeth Clancy and Victoria Plimsworth. All four women, have something to prove, to themselves and others, and need to work together to launch The Tea Chest on time, and on budget, but their path is strewn with obstacles, both personal and professional.

A third person narrative shifts between the perspectives of the four women, providing individual back story while moving the story forward, and an additional narrative begins about a third of the way into the book to share Judy’s story. To be honest I found this thread a bit distracting as it seems so removed from the main action, though ultimately it explains Judy’s motivation for selling.

The technicalities of tea making didn’t really interest me, as I don’t drink tea (or coffee) but Moon infuses Kate’s passion for blending with a romanticism and glamour that is appealing, and I’d certainly be tempted to stop and browse in The Tea Chest should I pass it on the street.

I thought The Tea Chest was a light, easy read with a lovely message about trusting yourself and reaching for a happy ending.

The Tea Chest is available to purchase from

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Review: Games Creatures Play by Charlaine Harris & Toni LP Kelner et al.

 

Title: Games Creatures Play

Authors:  Charlaine Harris (Editor), Toni L.P. Kelner (Editor) , Jan Burke , Dana Cameron, Adam-Troy Castro , Brendan DuBois, Joe R. Lansdale , Laura Lippman, Seanan McGuire, Brandon Sanderson , Scott Sigler , Caitlin Kittredge, William Kent Krueger, Ellen Kushner, Mercedes Lackey

Published: Jo Fletcher Books April 2014

Status: Read from April 10 to 11, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Games Creatures Play is an entertaining anthology from fifteen contributors, with each short story featuring the unusual combination of the paranormal and sports.

Some of the authors didn’t venture too far from their comfort zone. ‘Into the Blue Hereafter’ by Charlaine Harris is set at a softball game in Bon Temps, where Sookie Stackhouse and Manfred Bernado meet for the first time. Similarly Seanan McGuire doesn’t stray far from the familiarity of her InCryptid series, ‘Jammed,’ in which a chimera is on the rampage during a Roller Derby, features Antimony Price. I enjoyed both stories in part at least because of my familiarity with the characters and their worlds.

My favourites included Scott Sigler’s ‘The Case of the Haunted Safeway’, a ghostly tale of love and baseball which managed to be funny, sweet and a little bit spooky all at the same time, Jan Burke’s ‘Stepping into the Dead Zone’ which portrays dodgeball as a test of loyalty and friendship, and ‘Bell, Book and Candlepin‘ by Toni L. P. Kelner in which more than just the bowling balls are returned.

In Games Creatures Play you will find witches, monster stompers, faeries, Gods, ghosts and more, all playing to win and even though I have very little interest in sport in general, I really enjoyed this anthology. Get ready, get set and go… pick up a copy today.

Games Creatures Play is available to purchase from

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Blog Tour Review: Losing Kate by Kylie Kaden

 

Title: Losing Kate

Author: Kylie Kaden

Published: Bantam: Random House April 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read on April 10, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Kylie Kaden’s compelling debut novel, Losing Kate, is an absorbing contemporary story of secrets, betrayal, love and redemption.

On the night that seventeen year old Kate disappeared while celebrating ‘schoolies’, Francesca lost both the best friend she adored and the boy, Jack, who held her heart.
Thirteen years later, Frankie is stunned to discover Jack has bought the vacant block of land bordering her cottage. Their unexpected reunion revives memories and emotions neither are prepared for, and to move forward they need to learn the truth about what happened to the girl they both loved.

The first person narrative shifts between the past and present as it traces Jack, Kate’s and Frankie’s teenage relationship, the events on the night Kate went missing, and Frankie’s and Jack’s reunion after 13 years. Though Frankie and Jack quickly reestablish the intimacy of their childhood friendship, Kate always stands between them. Guilt, regret and lies are irredeemably tangled with loyalty, truth and love. The situation is complicated further by Jack’s current relationship.

The mystery of Kate’s fate is what primarily drives the tension throughout the novel. The flashbacks slowly reveal what Frankie remembers of the night and how those memories fit with what she is learning in the present day. Frankie just can’t let go of Kate and her desire for closure. Suspicions rise and fall as the truth is pieced together, and the swirling ambiguity kept me guessing.

Despite the pop culture references (to bands like Powder Finger), elements of the story, including the oppressive summer weather, Francesca’s crumbling cottage, fire and illness, give the story a contemporary gothic feel. The doomed teenage romance between Kate and Jack also plays into this, as does Frankie and Jack’s unrequited love.

Set amongst the streets of suburban Queensland, Losing Kate is a gripping novel of suspense, drama and romance. An impressive debut, I really enjoyed Losing Kate and I’m looking forward to more from Kylie Kaden.

 

Losing Kate is available to purchase from

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To learn more about Kylie Kaden visit Goodnight Carolina to read an interview with the author

 

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Review & Giveaway: Beached by Ros Baxter

Title: Beached {Aegira Chronicles #2}

Author: Ros Baxter

Published: Escape Publishing April 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from April 06 to 07, 2014 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Beached is the second book in Ros Baxter’s Aegira Chronicles, a fantasy trilogy with a creative twist on Norse legend. The first, Fish Out of Water, introduced Rania Aqualina, deputy sheriff of small town Dirtwater, and half mermaid. Her investigation into the discovery of a dead blonde with a fish tattoo on Main Street leads Rania to uncover a plot which could mean the end of her underwater home, Aegira, and her own life, at the hands of a crazed sorcerer, Manos.

In Beached, the focus of the story shifts to Rania’s sister, Princess Lecanora whom the Queen has sent to Land to find support for the battle against the Sorcerer from none other than the Presidential candidate. Lecanora, while struggling to adjust to the ways of the Land, joins her sister, mother and their allies to gain the candidates favour while dodging over zealous bodyguards, Manos’s army and saving two worlds.

The action is fast paced, as Manos launches his attack, determined to take Lecanora as his bride so he can rule over Aegira, and destroy any chance of the prophecy of ‘the Three’ thwarting him by killing Rania. The fight moves between land and sea, finally culminating in an epic battle in Aegira.

As in Fish Out of Water, there is a strong romantic element within the story and it’s Rania’s ex, Doug, who leaves Lecanora breathless. Peace loving Lecanora is baffled by her attraction to the gun toting, ex special forces, bad ass and the strange feelings he evokes. It’s insta-love of a sort, but not too badly done.

I enjoyed the humour which came from Rania’s snark, and Lecanora’s naïveté. Baxter writes well, with snappy dialogue and descriptive prose. I’d recommend reading Fish Out of Water before Beached though it’s not strictly necessary, Baxter provides enough back story to orient a reader new to the trilogy.

Beached, like Fish Out of Water, is a fun book, combining action, fantasy, humour and romance, which I really enjoyed. I’m looking forward to reading the final adventure in the Aegira Chronicles.

***

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Review: The Dead Ground by Claire McGowan

 

Title: The Dead Ground {Paula Macguire #2}

Author: Claire McGowan

Published: Headline:  Hachette Australia April 2014

Status:  Read from April 07 to 09, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The second book from Irish crime fiction writer, Claire McGowan, The Dead Ground is part police procedural/part thriller as forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, and the Missing Persons Unit, searches for an abducted infant, a missing pro-choice doctor and a newborn, ripped from her mother’s womb.

The grisly opening scene, set during the height of ‘The Troubles’ sets the tone for the shocking crimes that follow in The Dead Ground. This isn’t a story for the faint of heart as the MPRU and Serious Crime team struggle to trace a child abductor and a killer who may be the one and the same.

Paula’s personal issues are entwined in the cases her unit are investigating. I could sympathise with Paula’s prevarication with regards to her personal life but I was irritated by her lack of assertiveness and clear thinking in her professional role. Distracted by her own problems, Paula makes poor choices, including withholding evidence, ultimately putting herself in the path of a killer. I wanted to like her more than I did, and perhaps if I had read the first book to feature Macquire, The Lost, I may have been more forgiving of her flaws in this one.

McGowan courts controversy with her exploration of the abortion debate. Vehement religious opposition means termination is still illegal in Ireland and the few, like Dr Alison Bates, who are willing to offer women options are subject to public vitriol. The irony of the doctor being brutally murdered, and the lack of sympathy for the woman from right to lifers, is inescapable.

Fast paced, provocative and intriguing, The Dead Ground is a story of murder, madness, and the missing.

 

The Dead Ground is available to purchase from

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Review: Crimson Dawn by Fleur McDonald

 

Title: Crimson Dawn

Author: Fleur McDonald

Published: Arena: Allen & Unwin April 2014

Read an excerpt

Status: Read from April 04 to 06, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Fleur McDonald’s fifth novel to combine her love of rural Australia and her farming experience with drama and romance, Crimson Dawn is an engaging story of betrayal, resilience, and family secrets.

Reeling from betrayal and tragedy, Laura Murphy throws herself into the management of Nambina, the family sheep station which now belongs to her. Eight years later, Laura is proud of what she has achieved including developing prize winning Merino rams and setting up a successful farm school that teaches young women the basics of managing a property but then things slowly begin to wrong, one of her rams is poisoned, she suspects one of her students is doing drugs and then her neighbour, and former best friend, announces she has a claim on Nambina, and threatens to take away everything she loves.

There are several tangled plot lines in this story which ultimately reveal unexpected connections, including Meghan’s claim on Nambina, the identity of Laura’s mother, a drug and sex party ring and most significantly, the parallel narrative within the novel which tells the story of a young boy, who left his abusive home in the 1930′s, as he grows into a man. McDonald does well to draw these and other minor threads together in a manner that is plausible, though not entirely probable.

The story did feel a little disjointed to me, especially to begin with, as the contemporary chapters move quite quickly from 2000 to 2001 to 2003 before finally settling in 2008, while the parallel historical timeline makes similar leaps. I personally would have preferred for the contemporary story to have been grounded in a single time period.

Laura is a likeable heroine, her own hard work and determination has seen her build a successful property and business and she is satisfied with the life she has created for herself. But she has been unable to move on from the shocking betrayal of Meghan and Josh, once her best friend and fiance respectively, and has become emotionally closed off from all but family. When Nambina is threatened, McDonald gently guides Laura into the realisation that she doesn’t have to face this latest betrayal alone and introduces Tim, the local vet with whom Laura forms a tentative, and ultimately lovely relationship.

While I do think the storyline was just a bit too ambitious and the flow of the narrative suffered as a result, I did enjoy Crimson Dawn. Laura is a protagonist I can admire and I always appreciate the authentic details McDonald provides about everyday life on rural properties.

 

Crimson Dawn is available to purchase from

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