Thursday, August 21, 2014

{Author Interview} Rachel Abbott

Rachel published Only the Innocent in November 2011. It raced up the UK charts to reach the top 100 within 12 weeks and quickly hit the #1 spot in the Amazon Kindle chart (all categories) and remained there for four weeks.

Originally Only the Innocent was a self-published title, but since the success of the early version, the novel was re-edited and the new version was launched in the US by Thomas and Mercer in paperback, audio and Kindle versions on 5th February 2013, hitting the number one spot in the Kindle Store in August 2013. Her second book, The Back Road, was also published by Thomas and Mercer.

Her third book, Sleep Tight, was published in February 2014.

Rachel Abbott was born just outside Manchester, England. She spent most of her working life as the Managing Director of an interactive media company, developing software and websites for the education market. The sale of that business enabled her to fulfil one of her lifelong ambitions - to buy and restore a property in Italy.

Rachel now lives in Alderney - a beautiful island off the coast of France, and is now able to devote time to her other love - writing fiction. For more information, see Rachel's website, or follow her on Twitter.

Why did you originally decide to self-publish on Amazon? Is it due to enduring years of rejection from agents and publishers?

It didn’t really work that way for me. I originally wrote Only the Innocent for my own benefit – I had this idea in my head and it wouldn’t go away. I wanted to write about what set of circumstances would give a woman no other option than to murder a man. So that’s what I wrote about.

I wasn’t planning to be published. I did send it to a few agents and had some pretty good feedback about the writing. The problem that they could see was that it was a difficult book to categorize, and they thought that publishers would have a problem adding it to their lists. I wasn’t too concerned – I’d done what I set out to do. But then when it became possible to upload to Amazon, I just thought “why not?” and it was as simple as that. One decision on a rainy afternoon when I was just roaming around the internet!

I have taken the decision to continue to self-publish in the UK for the time-being, but I do have a US publisher – Thomas and Mercer – and my books are being translated into a number of other languages with publishers around the world.

We can talk marketing strategies all day, but your books clearly gained a following by word of mouth and great reviews. What is it about your books that strike such a chord in people?

That’s a really hard question, and if I knew the answer for sure, I would be able to replicate it time after time! I think it’s the fact that the story is about dilemmas. If somebody dies, it’s more about the ‘why’ than the ‘who, where or when’– if that makes sense. Personally, I’m not a fan of typical detective driven murder mysteries where the emphasis is on the evidence, with the police following procedures to eventually capture the perpetrator of the crime. I want to understand the motivations of the main characters - to see what drives them. So I think that makes readers ask – “What would I do if this happened to me?”

Tell us where you get the idea for your books.

The idea for Only the Innocent was buzzing round in my head for many years. It all started when I heard that a woman had been accused of murder – a pretty rare thing and probably the first I had heard of in the UK. It made me wonder if there was any set of circumstances that would cause me to think that murder was the only option. I had to come up with a scenario in which there was no other sensible way out for the murderer – but I also wanted the killer to be somebody that the reader would empathise with. That’s why I added the strapline – Can murder ever be justified? Should the guilty be punished, or the innocent protected?

The Back Road was quite different. I wanted to explore the possible consequences of a number of people telling relatively small lies to protect themselves. A girl is knocked over and left for dead on a local lane known as the Back Road, and nobody knows what happened to her. Because so many people are failing to tell the truth, the danger to this girl increases day by day.

I have just finished the second draft of my third novel, and in this case I wanted to explore what a woman might do if her children were in danger.

I like to give my protagonists dilemmas – problems to solve that don’t appear to have a ready solution.

How do you name your characters?

In a strange way, names have always painted pictures of people in my mind. Hugo couldn’t have had any other name, really, given his background and his obsession with wealth and position. But on the whole I look up names in lists and see which of them matches my characters. I do very detailed character profiles, which include images and information about their likes and dislikes – so the name has to go along with everything else that I’ve worked out for them. My biggest challenge was finding Romanian names for three girls in Only the Innocent. I didn’t want readers to struggle with the pronunciation – but I think I chose some that work really well.

How would you define your narrative style?

It changes between the books. I never write solely from one person’s point of view – I switch between the police and the main protagonist. In my latest book, If You Leave Me (which is still being edited), I write half of the book from the protagonist’s viewpoint, but I write that in first person, present tense. It’s a new style for me, but in this case it just seemed the most natural thing to do.

I love the way you get food into the story - is this something you personally care about?

I love food. I enjoy cooking, and The Back Road did start off with even more cooking, until my editor said it was a bit over the top! I wrote a scene in which Leo is in the supermarket with Ellie and they are buying some raw prawns, which Leo sees as grey slimy looking things until Ellie says she’s going to marinate them in lemon and garlic, barbecue them and then throw them into a salad with some avocado, feta cheese and a herb dressing. That got cut, unfortunately.

I think that for people who love food, it gives a much better feeling for the occasion. We could have had the dinner party in The Back Road without any mention of what everybody ate, but as a reader that wouldn’t have been the same for me at all. I’ve put quite a few of the recipes on my website too – and they’re all tried and tested – most of them were actually made up by me in the first place.

Let’s do some fun stuff. Favorite candy?

Favourite Candy (not that we would call it candy in England!) would be, without a shadow of a doubt, chocolate gingers. Lovely pieces of ginger coated in a thick, dark chocolate. I’m salivating at the thought of it!

Home cooking or eating out?

Home cooking – definitely. I love to cook, and in fact there are loads of recipes on my website because food plays a big part in my writing.

What’s the one question you’ve never been asked but would love to answer, and what’s the answer?

I would love somebody to ask me “If I could wave a magic wand to change one thing about you today, what would it be?” And my answer would be “make me a person who can eat anything at all, and stay slim!”

Give me five trivial facts about Rachel Abbott

I can recite the alphabet backwards just as easily as I can say it forwards

I’m really bad at parking the car – and getting worse

I’m addicted to chocolate

I love cooking and eating curry – the spicier the better (just like Tom Douglas in my books)

I once made a record – a vinyl album (an LP, for those old enough to remember) – as part of a folk singing duo.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

{Review} FAIRYDUST by Simon R. Taylor

ISBN #: 978-0956647795
Page Count: 640
Copyright: November 4, 2013
Publisher: Bluebox Publishing

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

As the elves face extinction due to a natural crisis, their belligerent king is bent on self-preservation. It falls to reluctant hero Daniel to go in search of the White Fairy – his last hope for answers and his people’s last chance for a future.

An unforgettable cast of fairy tale creatures come together in this ground-breaking epic fantasy. With never-before-seen storytelling techniques, Fairydust is packed full of ingenious, inventive layouts and concepts which reflect the twists in the rich, fast-moving plot.

Fresh from his acclaimed thriller debut End from the Beginning, Taylor once again blends heart-stopping action, gut-wrenching passion and side-splitting humour – this time held together with a sprinkling of fairy dust. Join him for a journey the like of which the world has never seen before.

Mandy's Review:

Once upon a time, there was a male born in Scotland. He grew up in a very religious environment and exuded intelligence beyond his years. Before he reached the 30th year of his birth, he had written and published two different novels. Fairydust being the most recent work of this young man.

With Fairydust, Simon explored the world of fairies, trolls, dwarves, elves, wizards, warlocks, a ruling monarch, a long-time battle between two species of beings, along with a dabble of religious references. This world had many interesting characters who were introduced to the reader almost instantly. Having all of these introductions so suddenly can cause confusion in a reader. As the reader continues deeper into the story, the characters begin to stay separated in his/her mind allowing the reader to get to know a bit more about them.

As with all fairytales, there must be a hero and a damsel in distress. Both make their appearances here. Daniel is slated to be the hero, but things don't always work out the way we think they should. What his quest did do was create a renewed confidence inside him ... but can he save the day?

The aforementioned damsel is the elven princess, Maria. Although, when you enter into a dangerous journey of your own free will because you're too headstrong to listen to your father, you're not much of a damsel in distress, are you?

You may have noticed that this book is quote lengthy. 640 pages is quite a bit to read, I'll grant you. There were a couple factors, though, that made this novel easy to traverse. First, we have the Story Goblin. I'll admit, at first he was a bit annoying. There were moments where I just wanted the story to continue and up pops the Story Goblin sticking his stinky nose in the middle of the story. He did make things interesting overall, so I can't be too upset by his intrusions.

The main feature that made this novel more manageable was the varying chapter designs throughout the book. For example (and I'll try not to give too much away) there was one point in the story where a couple characters were in a very dark cave. As they progressed further into darkness, the background of the chapter slowly transformed from the standard white page with black text into a black page with white text. This is only one example of many. Each of these helped the reader visualize what was happening at that moment in the story. A bit genius, I'd say.

For those of you still leery about reading this 640-page novel, let me put your fears to rest. I, too, was a bit daunted when I received the novel and noticed its girthy size. There were times where I didn't feel like I was making any progress at all. Chapter 14 changed my whole perspective. This particular chapter is the longest one of the entire novel (almost 200 pages), however it is also the fastest chapter you will read in Fairydust. 'How is that even possible?' you may ask. Well, now, it would be much of an adventure for you if I sat here and told you all the secrets, would it? I will say that once I finished Chapter 14, the remainder of the book seemed to fly.

Overall, even though I started reading this novel apprehensively, I wound up really enjoying Fairydust. I can picture teens reading this novel and falling in love with the story because of all the characters. I would also recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy a bit of fantasy with subtle religious undertones intermingled in a couple spots. You'll only recognize them, though, if you're familiar with stories of the Bible.

*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

{Review} LUMPINI PARK by Ty Hutchinson

ISBN #: 978-1496084873
Page Count: 334
Copyright: April 9, 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing

Book Description:
(Taken from back cover)

Winning means killing.

Sickos around the world are playing a deadly game, and the body count is climbing.

In the second book of the thrilling Chasing Chinatown trilogy, FBI agent Abby Kane hunts the man behind the sadistic challenges the only way she knows how: by playing the game and moving up the bloody leaderboard herself.

Abby arrives in Bangkok, Thailand, where she discovers a killer is already roaming the Big Mango looking for his next grand kill to win the game. As Abby is pulled further into the world of deadly play, the dynamics of the game suddenly change. Out of her jurisdiction and unsure of who she can trust, Abby is faced with two choices: walk away or die.

Charlene's Review:

In the Chasing Chinatown second installment, Abby may have shut down the killer in San Francisco, but the online killing game is still going on around the world. Haven taken on the identity of the original players, Abby and her partner, Kyle Kang, decide to continue the staged killings to try to hunt down the mastermind. Next stop: Bangkok.

This being the seventh book I have reviewed for Mr. Hutchinson, I will first say, I may be biased. I am a fan of his dark, twisted, hilariously sarcastic writing. One of my favorite parts of this book had nothing to do with the actual storyline but referenced "leaping lizards." Just a small clue as to how his mind works.

Abby, balancing a demanding job and a family, is a seasoned veteran of Mr. Hutchinson. Readers are given a plethora of information about the characters, which helps to identify with them throughout the story, and makes the action more personal. Each character is given thorough attention and separate personalities. Most every story also revolves around food. Although, after this book, I may never feel the draw to try some tam.

Once again, Mr. Hutchinson’s ability to maim and kill takes on a disturbing and creative twist.

Never the same injuries, which is either brilliant, or frightening. Either way, I am hooked on this series, and am waiting, impatiently, to see where Abby goes next. The very last page heightens the suspense to new levels. Now, to wait for the next one...

5 out of 5 stars!

*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, August 18, 2014

{Review} THE ETERNAL WONDER by Pearl S. Buck

ISBN #: 978-1480439702
Page Count: 304
Copyright: October 22, 2013
Publisher: Open Road Media

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Lost for forty years, a new novel by the author of The Good Earth

The Eternal Wonder tells the coming-of-age story of Randolph Colfax (Rann for short), an extraordinarily gifted young man whose search for meaning and purpose leads him to New York, England, Paris, a mission patrolling the DMZ in Korea that will change his life forever—and, ultimately, to love.

Rann falls for the beautiful and equally brilliant Stephanie Kung, who lives in Paris with her Chinese father and has no contact with her American mother, who abandoned the family when Stephanie was six years old. Both Rann and Stephanie yearn for a sense of genuine identity. Rann feels plagued by his voracious intellectual curiosity and strives to integrate his life of the mind with his experience in the world. Stephanie feels alienated from society by her mixed heritage and struggles to resolve the culture clash of her existence. Separated for long periods of time, their final reunion leads to a conclusion that even Rann, in all his hard-earned wisdom, could never have imagined.

A moving and mesmerizing fictional exploration of the themes that meant so much to Pearl Buck in her life, The Eternal Wonder is perhaps her most personal and passionate work, and will no doubt appeal to the millions of readers who have treasured her novels for generations.

Kathy's Review:

In the forward, written by Buck’s adopted son, he explains that this manuscript was unfinished and unedited prior to the author’s death. So one can only wonder how “finished” the manuscript was, what tweaks she might have made had she had the chance. He also hints that Buck sprinkled in some tidbits from her personal life in this book, such as a favorite dessert she made.

While the summary above is basically the gist of the plot, this book is much more cerebral than the love story it suggests. Rann is an extremely brilliant man who explores many philosophical themes and approaches life through the lens of an intellectual. While he gains a lot of life experience, the writing doesn’t really convey him as an emotional character. He’s rather flat and goes through some rather extraordinary circumstances without much pomp and circumstance.

I enjoyed the novel as it described his childhood, as Buck portrayed those years in a unique fashion. But once he became an adult I began to grow bored.

The novel was not found until 40 years after it was written, and it does seem out of place with modern writing. Had it been released closer to the time it was written, perhaps this would have been a literary success for Buck. In current times, though, it read like a yellowed book plucked from the shelf at one’s grandparents’ house because you forgot your copy of Twilight at home.

*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

{Blog Tour/Review} HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE ME by Paul Mark Tag

File Size: 2499 KB
Page Count: 258
Copyright: August 10, 2014
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

As the phone continued to ring, Kazuko bent over and picked up the cardboard. Fingers shaking, she steadied herself against the counter and stared. It took a fourth ring before she composed herself enough to answer. 

It was Patrick. “I was afraid that you had already left.” There was a pause. “Kazuko, are you there?” 

Kazuko’s heart was thumping hard. “I’m here, Patrick. You’re not going to believe what I just found—in the last place we would have ever looked.”

On December 7, 1941, Keiko Tanaka finds her whole world affected by the Pearl Harbor bombings. Normally friendly neighbors are suddenly suspicious of her Japanese ancestry, and her engagement to James Armstrong—a Caucasian—becomes a crisis rather than a celebration. Despite their parents’ protests, Keiko and James decide to marry before she is sent to the internment camps and he to the war.

Nearly sixty years later, Keiko’s daughter, Kazuko—born in the camps—attends to Keiko on her deathbed. However, a chance incident makes her suspect that her mother is harboring a secret. The truths she is about to uncover might unravel the family . . . and change her very perception of abiding love.

Lupe's Review:

Wow. Just wow. This book was incredible. I love historical fiction books, and this reminded me a bit like Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Love, loss, war, romance. It had it all. I don't like to give away too much in my reviews anyways, so I won't here, but this book was truly remarkable. I had tissue next to me at some times, and at others held my breath. I would definitely recommend this to those out there who love to read historical fiction that is not so far in the past that we've forgotten it. I think that was another reason I loved it so much. Paul Mark Tag chose a very specific point in our history to remember and I applaud him for that. WWII was a difficult period, not just around the world, but here in America especially. To remember those who were put in the Japanese internment camps but with a side we normally would never know about-this book was really a wonderful read.

*An ecopy of this book was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this tour and in exchange for an honest review.
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