A Lover of Books

Archive for the month “July, 2015”

Blog Tour – ‘The Hiding Place’ by John Burley

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I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off this blog tour. ‘The Hiding Place’, published by Avon, is out today in eBook and on the 27th August will be released in paperback. I was kindly sent a proof copy of this book. Read on for my review.

Dr Lise Shields works for Menaker State Hospital, an institution which houses some of the most dangerous criminals in America. These patients have all been found guilty and there is little chance of any of them ever leaving.

Jason Edwards is admitted to the hospital without any paperwork, not even a transfer order. When Lise questions this she is immediately fobbed off, which makes her all the more suspicious. Is Jason really guilty of the crime he has supposedly been sentenced for or has he been set up? Lise is determined to find out the truth but soon finds herself caught up in something very sinister indeed.

I love a good psychological thriller so couldn’t wait to start reading this book. Hooked from the start, I was intrigued by Jason Edwards and wanted to know more about him and why there was so much secrecy. ‘The Hiding Place’ was really hard to put down. It was fast paced, exciting and just so addictive. I also really liked John Burley’s writing style. Split into five parts with the majority of chapters being fairly short it really was a case of just one more chapter. You are also given a good insight into both Lise’s and Jason’s past which helped to solve the mystery a bit. I could not wait to get back to the book.

I did find myself questioning a couple of things throughout the story but I was still totally unprepared for the ending. I have to admit that after the journey I was taken on I was a little bit disappointed. It was like coming back down to earth with a bump. This story was well thought out and very cleverly written and it is one that will say for me for a while.

If you want to read a book that keeps you up late, takes you on a rollercoaster of a ride and messes with your head then ‘The Hiding Place’ could well be what you are looking for. I will definitely be reading more of John Burley’s novels.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

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Now for an extract from ‘The Hiding Place’…..

Menaker State Hospital is a curse, a refuge, a place of imprisonment, a necessity, a nightmare, a salvation. Originally funded by a philanthropic endowment, the regional psychiatric facility’s sprawling, oak- studded campus sits atop a bluff on the eastern bank of the Severn River. From the steps of the hospital’s main administration building, the outline of the U.S. Naval Academy can be seen where the river enters the Chesapeake Bay some two and a half miles to the south. There is but one entrance to the facility, and the campus perimeter is demarcated by a wrought- iron fence whose ten- foot spear pickets curve inward at the top. The hospital is not a large central structure as one might imagine, but rather an assortment of redbrick buildings erected at the end of the nineteenth century and disseminated in small clusters across the quiet grounds, as if reflecting the scattered, huddled psyches of the patients themselves. There is a mild senseof neglect to the property. The wooden door frames sag like the spine of an old mare that has been expected to carry too much weight for far too many years. The diligent work of the groundskeeper is no match for the irrepressible thistles that erupt from the earth during the warmer months and lay their barbed tendrils against the base of the edifices, attempting to claim them as their own. The metal railings along the outdoor walkways harbour minute, jagged irregularities on their surfaces that will cut you if you run your fingers along them too quickly.

Twenty- two miles to the north lies the city of Baltimore, its beautiful inner harbor and surrounding crime- ridden streets standing in stark contrast to each other— the ravages of poverty, violence, and drug addiction flowing like a river of human despair into some of the finest medical institutions in the world. Among them is The Johns Hopkins Hospital where I received my medical training. Ironic how, after all these years, the course of my career would take me here, so close to my starting point— as if the distance between those two places was all that was left to show for the totality of so much time, effort, and sacrifice. And why not? At the beginning of our lives the world stretches out before us with infinite possibility— and yet, what is it about the force of nature, or the proclivities within ourselves, that tend to anchor us so steadfastly to our origins? One can travel to the Far East, study particle physics, get married, raise a child, and still . . . in all that time we’re never too far from where we first started. We belong to our past, each of us serving it in our own way, and to break the tether between that time and the present is to risk shattering ourselves in the process.

Herein lies the crux of my profession as a psychiatrist. Life takes its toll on the mind as well as the body, and just as the body will react and sometimes succumb to forces acting upon it, so too will the mind. There are countless ways in which it can happen: from chemical imbalances to childhood trauma, from genetic predispositions to the ravages of guilt regarding actions past, from fractures of identity to a general dissociation from the outside world.

 

About the author

John Burley attended medical school in Chicago and completed his residency in emergency medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Centre’s Shock Trauma Centre in Baltimore. He currently serves as an emergency medicine physician in Northern California, where he lives with his wife and daughter, and their Great Dane and English bulldog.

 

 

‘The Hiding Place’ is available to buy on Amazon UK:-

http://amzn.to/1eC5VGr

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Blog Tour – ‘Sugar and Snails’ by Anne Goodwin

Blog Tour - Sugar and Snails

I would like to start off by congratulating Anne Goodwin whose debut novel, ‘Sugar and Snails’ is out today, published by Inspired Quill.  As part of this blog tour I have interviewed Anne.

 

How does it feel to be having your debut novel published?

Wonderful – and a bit unreal. It’s taken me a long time to get here but it’s a good place to be. And I’m thrilled, humbled and moved by the volume of support I’ve received from friends and acquaintances both on and off-line.

 

Can you tell me a bit about ‘Sugar and Snails’ please?

It’s a midlife coming-of-age story about a woman who has gone to great lengths to safeguard the secret of her past. But it’s entailed a lot of sacrifice: although Diana appears fairly together on the outside, with her own house and a good job, she’s highly anxious and defensive, keeping others at a distance and forgoing opportunities for promotion at work.

When, at fifteen, she made her life-changing decision, she was advised to put the past behind her. But, as she discovers, that’s easier said than done, especially after meeting Simon at a dinner party and being assigned a troubled student at work.

Sugar and Snails is about friendship, turbulent adolescence and the rocky road to self-acceptance. While Diana’s journey is an unusual one, I think many of us can identify with that struggle to bridge the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.

 

Where did you get the idea from for your book?

The novel didn’t come out of one single thing but, looking back, I think there were three sources of influence that somehow came together to make the story. One was the exceedingly long time it took me to understand my own painful adolescence. Another was an interest in hidden vulnerabilities: knowing, from my experience as a clinical psychologist, how high levels of achievement can sit alongside deep levels of distress. A third factor was my curiosity about challenges to the rigidity of the gender divide.

 

How long did it take you to write?

I began my initial draft in October 2008, nearly seven years ago. Although I received some extremely encouraging feedback on the early chapters from a critique service, it took me at least another five drafts (how do you measure these things? when does tinkering turn into a new draft?) to get it anywhere near right. Several times I was ready to give up on it completely (which is how I wrote another novel and published several short stories during those six and a half years), but something about the story kept nagging me to have another go.

 

Did you have to do any research?

I did a fair amount of reading about the situation Diana faces, including identity issues, medical procedures and the legal framework. But as much as I could, I drew on what I knew already, setting the contemporary strand of the novel in a city where I’d lived for twenty years, and drawing on my knowledge of psychology. Even so, it required a lot of checking back, as well as compromises of the sake of the story.

 

Can you relate to any of your characters?

Absolutely! I’m an “it’s personal” as opposed to an “it’s autobiographical” kind of writer although I do, obviously, make a lot of things up. But the only way I could get inside Diana’s situation was to imagine it happening to me. Not that I gave her my own personal history, but hers does feel like a life that, in other circumstances, I might have led.

 

Are you working on any other writing projects?

Being published by a very small press no-one’s heard of (well you have now: it’s Inspired Quill), I’m conscious of the need for me to work extra hard to try to bring my novel to readers’ attention. So, thanks to the generosity of the blogging community, my main writing projects right now are guest posts and Q&A’s like this. But on the fiction side, in the next year or so I hope to see the publication of my other novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman imprisoned in a cellar and do a second draft of the novel I began for my non-NaNo project about the secrets uncovered in the course of a psychiatric hospital closure.

 

Where do you tend to do most of your writing?

I have a lovely study (ostensibly shared with my husband, although he’s rarely allowed through the door) with a view over our wild front garden. With repetitive strain injury, I dictate with voice-activated software, standing at my desk with my laptop raised to a comfortable height with two box files (very high-tech).

 

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to write their first book?

Know whether you’re writing for publication or your own pleasure. Of course they overlap, but the path to publication is strewn with disappointments. You’ve got to really want to do it to make that worthwhile.

 

Which do you prefer: eBooks or printed books?

As a reader, printed most definitely. As a writer, with a low-budget publisher, ebooks.

 

What is your favourite genre?

Accessible literary fiction with complex characters, high stakes emotionally and a story worth telling.

 

Have any authors influenced your work?

Of course! I’m an avid reader and I learn a lot from just about everything I read, even if it’s how not to do it, but sometimes it’s hard to detect exactly how that influence has shaped my work. One of the lovely things about being published is having others pull out the links with more established authors. One of my early reviewers said she was reminded of Claire Messud’s novel, The Woman Upstairs (which I haven’t yet read, but I know from reviews that I’d like to). And very early on in my writing journey I was told my style was like Kate Atkinson’s. I’m not complaining about that!

 

About Anne Goodwin

Anne Goodwin author photo

Anne Goodwin grew up in Cumbria and studied Mathematics and Psychology at Newcastle University around the same time as the narrator of Sugar and Snails.

She loves fiction for the freedom to contradict herself and has been scribbling stories ever since she could hold a pencil. During her 25-year career as an NHS clinical psychologist her focus was on helping other people tell their neglected stories to themselves. Now that her short fiction publication count has overtaken her age, her ambition is to write and publish enough novels to match her shoe size.

Anne juggles her sentences while walking in the Peak District, only to lose them battling the slugs in her vegetable plot. As a break from finding her own words, she is an avid reader and barely-competent soprano in an all-comers choir.

Sugar and Snails is her first published novel.

Links

Sugar and Snails on the Inspired Quill website

http://www.inspired-quill.com/books/sugar-and-snails/

Sugar and Snails on my website

http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/sugar-and-snails.html

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