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Tag: Amanda Jennings

IN HER WAKE by Amanda Jennings

I finally read this highly acclaimed novel over a week ago. Sometimes books fail to live up to the hype. Most certainly, this isn’t one of them. I loved it from the opening page to the last. It’s the kind of novel whose characters stay with you long after the final chapter brings the story to a close.

For those who haven’t yet picked up the book, the story begins when Bella returns to the family home following the death of her mother. Not long afterwards, her father commits suicide. He leaves a note for Bella that reveals she was abducted as a three year-old from her family while on holiday in France.

To say this rocks Bella’s world is an understatement. Bewildered, angry and confused, she leaves her extremely controlling husband and sets out to find her real biological family. There is a point in the novel when the old Chinese proverb kicks into play: Be careful what you wish for.

As with most crimes, but perhaps particularly with abduction, the victims are many, and consequences catastrophic. Jennings does not flinch from painting an honest account.   Bella’s desperate desire to unravel lies, and search for her true identity is, at times, painful to read.   Yet this is not a story without hope – far from it.

Yes, the writing is superb and richly atmospheric. Yes, there are twists and turns. Descriptions of Cornwall are so clear you can virtually smell saltwater and seaweed. But, for me, what stands out is Jennings’s innate understanding of how humans tick. As much as our sympathies are with Bella and her blood family, we also glimpse why some couples would steal a child and cause so much intolerable pain. So many victims, so much wreckage and yet, through it all, and without a shred of sentimentality, Jennings ensures that Bella and her family emerge stronger and happier. It’s a tour de force of a novel. Buy it, read and see.

‘In Her Wake’ is published by Orenda Books.

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PROMISES, PROMISES…

I like to think I’m pretty good at keeping my promises. If I say I’ll do something, I generally do it. Specific others may be forgiven for thinking, ‘Yeah, right’. By specific, I mean writers whose books I said I would read and review but, months on, spectacularly failed to do so.

I cannot blame it on Euro 2016 or Wimbledon – yes, I watched a lot of matches, but only in the evenings and at weekends. Crimefest is now a distant memory. (I read four fab novels in preparation – see previous post). Stonking family events are par for the course when you have a tribe the size of mine, so I can’t use this as a mitigating factor either. Have I been sunning myself in the sweltering heat or in foreign climes? Fat chance. Even my blog has reduced to once a month instead of once a week.

With regard to watching TV dramatizations and film, I confess that I’m guilty as charged.   Too many to mention, I particularly enjoyed, ‘The Five’, Harlan Coben’s superb and gripping thriller about a disappearing boy, ’13 Hours’, based on a true story about the secret soldiers of Benghazi, TV Western series ‘Texas Rising’, clue in the title, and (enjoyed is stretching it because of THAT scene) ‘Bone Tomahawk.’ So when not slumped in a heap at the end of the day, precisely what have I been up to that renders my reading for pleasure time minimal to non-existent? WRITING.

Aside from crafting reports for my day job in which I work with unpublished writers, and carrying out edits on ‘Don’t Tell Anyone’ scheduled for publication in December 2016, and ‘An Imperfect Past’, in March 2017, I’m working on a brand new stand alone. I delivered the first 70k words only a couple of days ago to my agent to give her a steer.  There is still much work to be done to finish the novel.  Once this is ‘in the can’, I intend to honour my commitment.

In the same way I like to vary what I eat, I take pleasure from mixing up my reading. So, in no particular order, the following are first up on my menu: ‘The Gingerbread Wife’ an anthology of stories, by Sarah Vincent, ‘In Her Wake’ by Amanda Jennings, ‘The Corruption of Chastity’ by Frank Wentworth, ‘Killer Plan’ by Leigh Russell and ‘The Locker’ by fellow Midnight Inker, Adrian Magson. Starters fully consumed, hopefully, I can move on to main courses that are already stacking up on my ‘to be read’ bookshelf.   Promises, promises…

 

 

 

 

CHELTENHAM ROCKS!

It would be heretical of me not to begin this blog by mentioning the Cheltenham Literary Festival, which runs from October 3rd to the 14th. My daily walk often takes me through Montpellier Gardens so I observed the park transform over the week leading up to one of the most fabulous and prestigious literary festivals in the UK, if not the world. This year, I watched with more pleasure than usual and a sense of ease, unlike last year when the sight of project managers made me faint. And no, this has nothing to do with the virility or otherwise of the mostly male crew, and everything to do with the fact that I took part in a panel on crime writing.  I suffer badly from ‘stage fright’, a revelation to those who know me and have seen me in action. Thankfully, I always rise above it. (In the early days when I was a new writer, I once memorably froze. My mind emptied of words, thoughts and pretty much everything else.) So, hand on heart, once I’ve wobbled to a seat, sat down and opened my mouth, nerves kick in and I’m articulate.

I’m not taking part in the festival this year, the highlight of my week then was the launch of the new weekly newspaper, the Cheltenham Standard. Invited with my book reviewer hat on, I, or rather we (other half) rocked up to Lily Gins and entered the crush. The mayor and mayoress were in attendance, Fiona Fullerton (ex-Bond girl and now successful property developer) appeared, and I got to talk to journalists on both the Standard and sister magazine, Cotswold Style, PR people, Press officers and folk from the Everyman theatre, and many more. It would be fair to say that, in a couple of hours, I met more movers and shakers on the Cheltenham media scene than I’ve done in two years of living here. One of the big highlights was getting my paws on the first edition of that week’s newspaper. I’d written a book review of ‘The Monogram Murders’ by Sophie Hannah who appeared at the festival on the same day as publication.   Which brings me to my main point.

When I started writing this blog my intention was to comment on books I’d read, creative writing and the arts in general. Time devoted to reading is now time also devoted to reviewing. Yes, I can report on the glorious return of ‘Peaky Blinders’ with the smouldering Cillian Murphy reprising his role as Thomas Shelby. I can comment on ‘Hell on Wheels’, a superior Western with one of the most original villains I’ve seen in ages in the form of the ‘Swede’ played by Christopher Heyerdahl, and the sublime BBC production of ‘The Driver’ featuring David Morrissey. But if it’s book reviews you’re after, check out the Cheltenham Standard website and follow the link. There, you’ll find, to date, reviews of ‘The Judas Scar’ by Amanda Jennings; ‘The Monogram Murders’ by Sophie Hannah, and if you check out tomorrow’s edition, ‘Vagabond’ by Gerald Seymour. Next up: ‘Silencer’ by Andy McNab.

 

 

CONFESSIONS OF A BOOK REVIEWER

A couple of weeks ago I left a teaser at the end of my ‘Back on Air’ blog. I wrote: ‘I’ve another little gem to disclose, which should materialise in a couple of weeks. Until then, I’ll keep you guessing…’ Well, guess no more. This week my book review of ‘The Judas Scar’ by Amanda Jennings appeared in the Cheltenham Standard, a new weekly newspaper that combines wit with an incisive take on all things Cheltenham. I’m delighted to play my small part but for more personal reasons than you’d think – it’s completely reignited my passion for reading.

To put this into context and in case you’re scratching your head, I’ve always loved stories in whatever form they come, whether it’s through watching film, sitting in a pub listening to a well told tale, or more obviously, through novels. Reading to me is heart and soul, meat and the proverbial drink. Not exactly rocket science you could say – I’d be a very poor novelist if I didn’t enjoy reading – but, and I’m not admitting to a heinous crime, I can’t be the only writer who, at the end of a long working day, is tempted to slump in front of the television or switch off the light rather than getting stuck into the latest thriller, romance, historical yarn or whatever. Give me a few days holiday and I can tear through the pile of books stacking up on either my Kindle or bedside table with relish, but weaving it into my every day can be more problematic. In my guise as an editorial consultant, there is a tendency to feel slightly ‘worded out,’ and the lure of easy viewing is on a par with a lover you keep going back to because you can’t think of a good enough reason to move on.

Reading for the purposes of review has been a revelation. It most fully completes what I do. As a crime writer whose day job is to help others craft their work, I ‘get’ how much it takes to craft a story. I know about the blood, sweat and, sorry guys, tears from first idea to publication. I understand the many decisions a writer takes in the creation of a great plot, how much they give of themselves to fashion that unique voice. When I write a review you won’t catch me being scathing or sycophantic. You will know that I’ve really read the novel, thought about it and will give it my considered opinion. Stories are stories are stories. I make no distinction between genres because the process is the same and I pretty much love them all, although I admit I’m a poor judge of sci-fi and fantasy.   This aside, not for me the dashed off, vented spleen and plain nasty review by armchair critics who need to get out more and live a little.   Book reviewing should be a privilege as much as a pleasure, and I’m glad to have been given that opportunity.