Friday, 26 February 2010

Out of the Shadows - Susan Lewis

Susannah Cates had had a tough three years trying to bring up her teenage daughter alone since her husband had been sent to prison.  Money was tight and Susannah juggled several jobs to make ends meet and get by.  Even her best friend was half a world away in Australia!

Things begin to look up when her best friend Patsy returns to Europe to head up a beauty company's division in Paris and her enterprising teenage daughter, Neve, seeks out Susannah's first love, Alan Cunningham, on Friends Reunited and starts contacting him while pretending to be her mother.  Susannah is at first shocked by her daughter's actions and then thrilled to be caught up in a whirlwind romance with her long-lost first boyfriend.  Patsy enjoys the challenge of her new job in Paris, but is both intrigued and irritated by the enigmatic Frank.  Is she attracted to him and what does he really think of her?

Things move fast for Susannah and while her romance with Alan deepens, she auditions for her first acting role in years and is stunned when they offer her the leading role in a racy, new drama.  Susannah's glamorous new life starts to unfold, but little does she know of the true reasons why Neve has become so depressed and uncommunicative, and that maybe her perfect partner Alan is desperately trying to hide secrets from her that could tear their relationship apart and destroy their reputations forever.

Although this book is well written, I am not sure whether it is trying to be a glamourous 'bonkbuster' on the lines of Jackie Collins or something darker and grittier.  The main theme is very dark indeed, but I feel is trivialised a little by the emphasis on champagne, worldly success and beautiful surroundings.  I suppose a lot of books have a happy ending, but this one seems surreally unrealistic and idyllic especially so soon after the traumatic events that the main characters went through. Or maybe I'm just turning into a grumpy old woman!

A summer book to read by the pool, so champagne seems to be the order of the day for this book along with pate de foie gras.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The Rapture - Liz Jensen

An apocalyptic novel set in England a few years into the future, The Rapture by Liz Jensen tracks the story of Gabrielle Fox as she moves into her new life after being paralysed from the waist down in a tragic car accident.  A psychologist by trade, she moves to a small town on the South Coast to try and rebuild her career.
Gabrielle is assigned to the case of Bethany Krall, a very troubled teenager who killed her own mother by stabbing her in the eye and who gets a kick out of her electro-convulsive therapy.  Bethany's previous therapist left suddenly and her case notes are unaccountably missing.
Gabrielle finds that Bethany believes that she can predict various natural disasters that are happening around the world, and after a devastating hurricane and a killer earthquake happen on the dates and in the locations that Bethany prophesied, Gabrielle starts to feel uneasy and finds that she has trouble dismissing them as coincidences.
Gabrielle is also having to come to terms with her own emotional life after she meets the physicist Frazer Melville at a charity event.  Her married lover had been killed in the car accident that had taken the use of Gabrielle's legs and she had also lost her unborn child.  She had come to believe that she would never again have a physical and loving relationship with a man and has to battle with her own insecurities and lack of self-belief as enters into a relationship with Frazer.
With Britain caught in a 'Faith Wave' due to the ravages of global warming and food shortages and many people predicting that the end times had started, Gabrielle tries to untangle Bethany's past as a child of a preacher and get her to open up about what had happened to her mother.  But Bethany's visions seem to become more powerful after each course of ECT and she starts to predict the 'big' one, where floods and lakes of fire will engulf large parts of the country.
Gabrielle and Frazer start to try and convince the world of science that the world is in danger, but as the story draws to a dramatic climax, is Bethany manipulating them more than they realise?  How much does she really know about what is going to happen, and how much depends on her need for revenge on her father?
Not a long novel, but it packs in a lot of ideas on potential environmental disasters, religion, love and insanity.  A good thriller, but a depressing world view, so you'll need some comfort food like sausages, mash and beans with a large glass of wine!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Writing Tips for Aspiring Authors

As the manuscript for the children's fantasy fiction novel that I am writing is (and has been for some months!!) stuck at 50,000 words, I found that reading cindyvine's Hub on writing tips for aspiring authors to be both timely and useful.

cindyvine has written and published a couple of books and in the Hub talks us through how to plan our writing and be disciplined about it.  For any novel to be a success these days, it needs to well written, properly formatted and have a professional-looking cover that will appeal to your target audience.  The Hub also talks about writing about what we know and doing a lot of research to get the details correct.  There would be no point in writing a historical romance set at the time of the The War of the Roses in England if you had no historical knowledge of that period?  All that would happen is that anyone choosing to read that book would probably chuck it straight in the bin or through the open window (yes I have done this!).

So if you are serious about moving your writing career forward and really want to finish that novel that you started read all of writing tips for aspiring authors