Monday, 16 May 2016

Book Review: Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard.

Product details
Publisher: Corvus.
Paperback, 352 pages.
Release date: May 5th 2016.
Rating: 4½ out of 5.
Ages: Adult
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Did she leave or was she taken? 
The day Adam Dunne's girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart. Days later, the arrival of her passport and a note that reads 'I'm sorry - S' sets off real alarm bells. He vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Adam is puzzled when he connects Sarah to a cruise ship called the Celebrate - and to a woman, Estelle, who disappeared from the same ship in eerily similar circumstances almost exactly a year before.

To get the answers, Adam must confront some difficult truths about his relationship with Sarah. He must do things of which he never thought himself capable. And he must try to outwit a predator who seems to have found the perfect hunting ground...

 A stunning crime debut, clever to the core and brimming with plot twists and tension, Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard is a must-read for summer 2016.

After living the ‘struggling artist’ lifestyle for too many years, screenwriter Adam Dunne has finally hit the big time. Hollywood beckons, and so too does a happy-ever-after with his long-term love, Sarah, who has been there for him through thick and thin. First though, Sarah must leave for a work trip to Barcelona. It’s a short trip, only a few days, and so despite being mildly irritated by his girlfriend’s lack of communication while she’s away, Adam doesn’t think too much of it. But then Sarah doesn’t return from her trip. And now her phone has been turned off.  Frantic with worry, Sarah’s parents, along with Adam contact the police for help – and that’s where things get really interesting. It soon becomes clear that Sarah has been living something of a double life. The police are convinced that Sarah has left Adam to set up a new life with a new love. But Adam is not so sure. And when Sarah’s passport is sent to him along with a mysterious note, he’s determined to find out the truth.

If you like your crime fiction sun-dappled and multi-layered, then this one is for you. Adam’s investigation into Sarah’s disappearance takes him aboard the Celebrate, the cruise ship where Sarah was last seen with her new man. It’s a double-whammy for Adam; not only does he have to deal with the fact that his girlfriend has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth, he also has to face the realisation that she’d been indulging in affair on board a fancy Mediterranean cruise.  Heartbroken and alone, Adam wants answers.

On board the Celebrate the plot thickens. Far from being a place of ultimate rest and relaxation, the Celebrate has a sinister history, one which turns a blind eye to mysterious deaths, and where disappearances are routinely swept under the carpet.  One such disappearance, that of a woman one year previously, bears striking similarities to Sarah’s, right down to that mysterious note. Is there a killer loose on board the Celebrate? Well, it would seem so.  But, despite the fact that something dark and scary is obviously at play, the authorities are of no help to Adam. It’s a case of ‘what happens at sea’ stays at sea’, and Adam is on his own as he uncovers the answer to a mystery darker than he could ever imagine.

A true page-turner of the ‘just one more chapter’ variety with a plot wound so tight it is guaranteed to keep you reading late into the night, Distress Signals is a truly accomplished novel from a talented (and clever!) debut author.  I can’t wait to read the next book from Catherine Ryan Howard already!

Friendly warning:  Distress Signals makes for a great summer read BUT if you’re going on a cruise and you take this book along with you, I guarantee you will not sleep a wink!

Read Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard if you’re a fan of Julia Crouch, Lucy Clarke and Emily Barr.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Guest Post: Catherine Ryan Howard Talks Writing Killer Plot Twists!

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard || Release date: May 5th 2016

Did she leave or was she taken?
The day Adam Dunne's girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart. Days later, the arrival of her passport and a note that reads 'I'm sorry - S' sets off real alarm bells. He vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Adam is puzzled when he connects Sarah to a cruise ship called the Celebrate - and to a woman, Estelle, who disappeared from the same ship in eerily similar circumstances almost exactly a year before.

To get the answers, Adam must confront some difficult truths about his relationship with Sarah. He must do things of which he never thought himself capable. And he must try to outwit a predator who seems to have found the perfect hunting ground...

Guest Post: Catherine Ryan Howard -- How to Write a Killer Twist!

As a reader, I’m a sucker for a big twist. Ever since Tell No One by Harlan Coben, I’ve been seeking out crime and thriller novels where, right at the end, everything I thought I knew gets turned right on its head. I love the shock, the surprise and – if it’s done right – the satisfaction, because endings should be both utterly unexpected and yet also feel somehow inevitable. You should also, if you ever re-read the book, be able to find clues or nudges that were pointing you in the direction of the truth even though you didn’t realise at the time.

As a writer, creating a plot that ticks all this boxes is incredibly challenging.

With Distress Signals, I started out with the end. Then I asked myself, how can I frame this in such a way that the reader has no idea what has really happened until the last few pages of the book?

I read a crime novel a few years back that, for the sake of avoiding spoilers, will remain nameless here. In the opening scene, the main character came upon a hit and run incident where the victim, a young man, lay dying in the road before succumbing to his injuries before help could arrive. Also present was an elderly couple who had stopped to try and help. The novel was about the main character’s deep dive into who this man was and why someone had deliberately (it turned out) ran him over. But…

At the very, very end, the opening scene was replayed again. This time, you realised with a dawning horror that the elderly couple hadn’t stopped to help.

They’d stopped to make sure he was dead.

THEY had run him over.


What the writer had done was present a scene in such a way that the reader (a) had all the facts but also (b) didn’t put them together in the right way, at least not right off the bat.

This was the same kind of effect I aimed to have on my reader. I knew what had really happened in my book, and I knew my main character would eventually find it out. I worked backwards from that, asking myself questions like:

·         What information does the main character need to figure this out?
·         When will he put it together? How will he?
·         What do I want the reader to think is happening (that isn’t)?
·         How do I frame this story so the reader doesn’t realise what’s really going on?
·         What kind of clues will I leave for the reader along the way?

Remember: complexity can be layered in draft by draft. So in the first draft, my story was quite linear. The beginning was the “framing” of what really happened, the ending was the revealing of what really happened, and the bit in between was just the main character’s journey from knowing A to knowing B. But over time, as your story bolts get turned tighter and tighter and editing sparks all sorts of ideas, the story grows more and more complex. The chart/Post-It situation over my desk as I was writing the third and final draft of Distress Signals says it all, I think!

The thing is, your pay-off – the reveal – has to be surprising and satisfying, because it’s easy to come up a situation that seems inexplicable, i.e. the set-up. In Harlan Coben’s new book, Fool Me Once, a woman sees her husband recorded on the “Nanny Cam” – even though she witnessed his murder. Now, anyone could come up with a scenario like that. The skill is explaining how it came to be in a way that thrills and surprises – which is exactly what the masterful Coben does (and apparently does without plotting or knowing the ending in advance? Dear God. Way to make me feel inadequate!) The hard part is accounting for it in a way that keeps the reader turning the pages and convinces them to recommend it to a friend after they’re done.

Because if it doesn’t work, the whole thing is ruined. I’m still angry about a mini-series that aired on Irish TV a couple of years back about a missing girl that was all very intriguing and suspenseful, but in the end finished with all the impact of a speck of dust landing on an umbrella. They didn’t even explain what had happened – cheating, in other words. Sometimes it’s not cheating, but just disappointment that faces the reader. Years ago I was browsing in a bookstore when I picked up a paperback whose jacket copy really grabbed me. A number of children had gone missing from the same area in the space of a year, and had been missing for several years when they all returned, unharmed but with no memories of their abduction or where they’d been all this time. It was a crime/thriller, so you knew the explanation couldn’t be supernatural. I bought it because I HAD to know: what had happened? But the explanation was neither believable nor exciting. Remember, the ending is just as important as the beginning – maybe even more so, because the reader has invested so much time by then.

I do love a killer twist and the biggest compliment a reader could pay me is to say that they didn’t see the twist in Distress Signals coming. I hope that’s the case!



Thanks to Catherine for such a great guest post! Watch out for my review of Distress Signals later this week. Spoiler Alert: I LOVED it! 

Friday, 6 May 2016

Book Review: The Season of You & Me by Robin Constantine.


Product details:
Publisher: Balzer & Bray.
Hardcover, 352 pages.
Release date: May 10th 2016.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ages: 14+
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Cassidy Emmerich is reeling from a sudden, humiliating breakup. The last thing she wants to do is stick around and be reminded of her ex everywhere she goes. On impulse, she decides to spend the summer with her father and his family at their Jersey Shore bed-and-breakfast. A different scene and a new job working as a camp counselor seem like the perfect recipe for forgetting Gavin as quickly as possible—not to mention for avoiding him until he leaves for college.

Bryan Lakewood is sick of nevers. You’ll never walk. You’ll never surf. You’ll never slow dance with a girl and have her put her head on your shoulder. Last year he made one false move—now he’s paralyzed and needs to use a wheelchair. But this summer, he’s back at his camp job and is determined to reclaim his independence—and his confidence.

Cass is expecting two months of healing her broken heart.

Bryan is expecting a summer of tough adjustments.

Neither is expecting to fall in love.

When Cassidy Emmerich has her heart broken courtesy of her cheating boyfriend, Gavin, all she wants to do is escape. One ill-advised hook-up later, and she really wants to get out of town. The last thing Cassidy wants to do is to spend a whole summer pining over Gavin and/or seeing him with his latest hook up.  It doesn’t help that her best friend Emma is dating Gavin’s best friend, which means that sooner or later Cassidy will run into her no good, but very charming, ex. She needs a new crowd. Thankfully, she has an escape plan.  She’s moving to the Jersey Shore, where her Dad and Step-mom run a B&B. Cassidy also an adorable six-year-old Stepbrother called Hunter, who loves having his big sister around. It’s time for Cassidy to leave her heartbreak behind and have some fun.

Bryan Lakewood used to have it all; fun times and a hot girlfriend. Now, he’s confined to a wheelchair. Oh, and he’s single too, which sucks.  Although paralyzed, Bryan is determined to maintain his independence, which is why he returns to his job as a supervisor at a summer camp for kids.  Though he’s tried to keep his sense of humour through all that’s happened to him, he’s not expecting a fun summer. He’s definitely not expecting to fall in love, but that’s exactly what happens. On his first day at camp, a new camp counsellor called Cassidy walks into his life, and sparks fly.

A super cute and heartfelt summer read, The Season of You & Me will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen’s wholesome summer tales. I loved Robin Constantine’s debut, The Promise of Amazing, when I read it a few years back, and here she has another feel-good hit on her hands. Cassidy and Bryan are characters readers will root for. Cassidy is a sweet girl-next-door type who has had her heart broken by her first love, while Bryan made one false move which saw his whole world fall apart. These characters are highly relatable, and teens will find much in common with the duo as they navigate first friendship, and then something more.

Cassidy’s new life is not without drama. That’s because instead of facing her problems back home, she runs away from them, all the while posting a series of fun pictures on social media just to show her ex what he is missing out on.  And her ex isn’t letting go so easily. He wants her back, going so far as to weave his way into her new life when he unexpectedly shows up in town one night. As with all first loves, Gavin has a hold on Cassidy’s heart. So, will she go back to the guy who shattered her world, or will she choose her new love, Bryan? These two have a real connection, but their union is also not without its stumbling blocks.

The Season of You & Me is a perfect summer beach read, with a feel-good factor that will leave you with a smile on your face and hope in your heart for a summer romance of your own. The book also contains a fun summer scavenger hunt, lots of mouth-watering baked goods, and some secondary characters, will they/won’t they couple Tori and Wade, who maybe deserve a book of their very own!

 Read The Summer of You & Me by Robin Constantine if you love books by Jenny Han, Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Cover Alert: Nothing Tastes As Good by Claire Hennessy!

Ooops! So, I guess I wasn't paying attention last week because when I was gathering info for my latest cover post I somehow missed this little bit of gorgeous. Hey, it happens! Better late than never though, right?

Feast your eyes on the cover of Nothing Tastes As Good the latest YA from Irish author Claire Hennessy coming from Hot Key Books in July 2016. 

When Cat Clarke says a book is 'Absolutely Phenomenal' you know you're on to a good thing!

Nothing Tastes As Good by Claire Hennessy || Release date: July 2016

What happens when you give in to the voices in your head?  

 Annabel is dead. And she's not happy about it. Despite having strived to be 'lighter than air' back when she was alive, the consequences of that yearning haven't quite sunk in yet.  

 Julia Jacobs is fat. Which Annabel immediately notices when she's assigned as Julia's ghostly helper (don't even think about calling her a guardian angel). And as her helper, Julia's problem seems pretty obvious to Annabel. Fat = problem = unhappy. Sorted. 

The only trouble is that whatever is causing Julia to overeat is hidden deep within her. Annabel will have to get to know Julia to uncover this secret and 'fix' her. Annabel can become the voice of reason, Julia's source of strength. 

Except...all this time spent in someone's head has got Annabel thinking. Not just about food, but about her family too. And that maybe happiness can mean more than eradicating all the flesh from your bones.


Nothing Tastes As Good

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Fury Rising (Dark Inside #3) by Jeyn Roberts is (Almost!) Finally Here!

I'm so excited about this!

So, you may remember that, a couple of years ago now, the first two books in Jeyn Roberts enthralling and highly-addictive post-apocalyptic series Dark Inside, were released. Then, nothing. It turns out that even though the series was a planned trilogy, Roberts' publishing contract for the series did not extend beyond her initial two book deal. Hence the major delay in the release of the third book.

But now it's happening!

The self-published Fury Rising, which will be available in paperback and eBook will hit online stores on May 16th. (I believe the release date is subject to change). Also, I haven't had any luck in tracking this one down for pre-order yet, so if you're a Dark Inside fanatic like me and you happen to find it, please let me know in comments. 

I can't wait to find out how everything ends for Mason, Michael, Clementine and Aries. And of course, Daniel. Oh Daniel. 

But first, I need a re-read of the first two books in the series. It's been almost four years since I read the second book, Rage Within. (Which was ah-mazing!) and so naturally I've forgotten a lot of what happened in that book.

If you haven't yet checked out this series, do yourself a favour and read it now!

Fury Rising by Jeyn Roberts || Release date: May 2016

The third and final novel in the Dark Inside series.

It’s been nine months since the earthquakes destroyed most of the world and the Baggers awakened. Now Aries, Mason, Clementine and Michael must fight the final battle for their lives. Only this time, the sides aren’t quite so clear. And it looks like the only people who can help, are the very killers themselves. 

There’s a new threat to survival. The Ferals. Baggers who have gone so completely insane, they will kill anything that crosses their paths, including their own kind. 

Mason knows he can’t trust Leon, the Bagger leader. He knows exactly what kind of monster Leon is. But without the Baggers help, they can’t stop the Ferals from killing all the survivors, especially the ones still being held hostage at the Plaza of Nations. And it doesn’t help that Daniel is back, determined to save Aries from everyone, including himself. 

With the Ferals closing in, the four friends must make tough decisions. Who can you trust in a world where everyone wants you dead? 

Trust nothing.

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