Wednesday, 29 March 2017

LETTERS TO THE LOST by Brigid Kemmerer

Letters to the Lost
Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope. 

 Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past. 

 When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. 

When I received an ARC of this book from Bloomsbury, I knew nothing about it. But the premise sounded interesting and as soon as I got started, the writing swept me away. 

Juliet Young recently lost her photojournalist mother in a hit-and-run accident. Since then, she hasn't been able to let go or get on with her own life. She's always late to school, is hardly (really) available for her best friend and ignores her father. She hasn't even been able to pick up a camera again, even though she used to love photography. Not when it reminds her of her mother. 

So she spends a lot of time at the cemetery, and writes letters to her that she leaves at her grave. 

Declan Murphy lost his father and sister several years ago. One is in jail and the other one died. Since then, he's drifted away from his mother--who remarried--and has gotten himself in enough trouble to have to do community service at the local cemetery. He doesn't care about much but his best friend, and hasn't even paid attention to his natural talent for fixing cars.

So he spends a lot of time at the cemetery, and when he discovers a very personal letter left at a gravesite, he decides to write back.

This impulsive act introduces him to a girl with as much trouble and grief in her life as he has. A mysterious girl who allows him to open up without censoring himself. But as they get closer and confide more in each other, will they be disappointed to find that they've trusted their innermost secrets and feelings to people they don't particularly get along with in real life?

Wow. *wipes eyes*

This is one awesome and very emotional book.

I don't know whether to cry or laugh or sigh. Maybe all of the above. LOL.

Like I mentioned above, I didn't know much about this book going in. So it was awesome when I found myself totally hooked right away. So hooked that I didn't want to put it down, and kept reading until past midnight... I wanted to know how this was going to end.

The story is told in the shared POV of Juliet and Declan. So not only do we get to experience their very personal heartbreak and grief, we also see how their interactions affect them away from the anonymous letters. As well as all of the inner thoughts and feelings they keep trapped inside. This provided an amazingly personal insight into each character and makes them come alive so vividly that they both leap off the page.

I really loved their separate stories. I really enjoyed their joint story. And I especially loved how things shaped up and came together. Everything in this book packs quite a punch, and gets under your skin.

Juliet and Declan are living in the shadow of the parent they lost, and just can't seem to shake the good and bad effects this brings into their lives. Both of these kids were so good in their own way, but allowed too much darkness from their pasts to eclipse their lives. And this causes quite a bit of turmoil to both, but the path was one that I'm glad I got to share with them.

The supporting cast is also pretty amazing. From Juliet's loyal and bubbly best friend, Rowan, who never gives up on her or their friendship. All the way to Declan's best friend, Rev, who always has his back and provides the steady support he desperately needs. I adored Rev, I really did. There are many other great characters--foster parents who are awesome, a father trying really hard, teachers with faith in their struggling students, a supervisor who actually cares and even his cute daughter.

Letters to the Lost is a heartbreaking, yet very hopeful book that is so interesting and intriguing that I couldn't put it down. The road these grieving characters travel is bumpy and sad, but they never really give up. They might make stupid mistakes along the way and say/do things they don't really mean, but keep on moving. 

I loved this book. So much!

Letters to the Lost, April 2017, ISBN 9781408883525, Bloomsbury Childrens

Sunday, 26 March 2017

TATTLETALE by Sarah J. Naughton

The perfect brother.
The perfect fiance.
The perfect revenge.

One day changes Jody's life forever.
She has shut herself down, haunted by her memories and unable to trust anyone. But then she meets Abe, the perfect stranger next door and suddenly life seems full of possibility and hope.

One day changes Mags's life forever.
After years of estrangement from her family, Mags receives a shocking phone call. Her brother Abe is in hospital and no-one knows what happened to him. She meets his fiance Jody, and gradually pieces together the ruins of the life she left behind. But the pieces don't quite seem to fit...

I'm a sucker for psychological thrillers, so of course I was interested in checking this out...

Jody's life hasn't been easy. She has a lot of terrible haunting memories, horrible physical scars, and even worse emotional ones. The day the man she loves more than anything/anyone else in the world ends up in the hospital, her fragile life crumbles around her.

Mags is a successful lawyer in Vegas. After escaping the memories of a horrible childhood, she hasn't looked back. So when she gets a call to tell her Abe, her estranged brother, is in the hospital she heads back to London. Not only is she forced to face her uncomfortable past but, when she gets to his flat, she starts to realise something isn't quite right.

The more Mags digs, the more lies she uncovers, and gets deeper into her brother's life...

Yikes! This book hooked me instantly. 

It starts in a strange, yet intriguing way that introduces all the main characters in such a jumbled way the first three chapters serve as puzzle pieces. Pieces that start coming together as Mags uncovers more about her brother and the residents of the building he lived in.

The story unfolds in the POV of several characters--some start out as a mystery--and totally work. I loved how Mags's cold exterior also concealed a damaged woman who found it easier to focus on ambition. I loved how Jody came across as weak and useless, but was really a survivor. And Mira added another, alternate perspective to an already great story.

As for Abe, he might have been absent for most of the story, but he was so interesting. The mystery at the core of the story is: what really happened to Abe? And it's a hard and page-turning path. It takes some great writing and characterisation to breathe so much life into a character who's in a coma.

Oh, and I have to mention St Jerome's because this former church felt like another long-suffering character in this book. The atmosphere is as vivid as the colourful residents and the many secrets they keep.

Tattletale is a very sad and twisted psychological thriller that reveals the very deep and awful echoes childhood abuse has on adults. Some scars never fade, but they sure ruin lives. This is such a well-written story. The characters in this book perfectly portray just how strongly the echoes of the past can burrow. And sometimes, actually follow you. 

This is also a story about family, friendship, sacrifice and loyalty. Even though the disturbing subject matter was uncomfortable, made me angry and very sad, I loved this heartbreaking book. I really did.

Tattletale, March 2017, ISBN 9781409166948, Trapeze

Sunday, 19 March 2017

When a Short Story Becomes More

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to start writing my March short story soon. I had an idea ready to go, and even a market to send it to. I was also positive it would take two-three days to write the first draft.

So, after weeks of this story simmering in my mind, I got started. I was positive that I could get the first draft done before hubby's annual leave.

On my first day I wrote over 5k words, introduced an array of characters I liked, and really fell into the narrator's life. I felt for her because there was an edge of sadness to her story I hadn't expected.

That's when I realised this couldn't be a short story. There's too much story to tell. Too many layers to slowly reveal. So many mysterious, twisted scenes to write. Nope. This had the makings of a novel.

But I wanted to be sure, so I added more words the next day--2.5k, to be exact. And adding these words confirmed what I suspected soon after starting: this YA horror idea was determined to be a novel.

So, it looks like I'll need to come up with another short story idea for the market I had in mind... o.O 

In the meantime, I've taken a bunch of notes for the novel, done some research, and even cast the characters. But I won't be writing it just yet because hubby's got the next two weeks off--yay! After that, I think I'll be tackling this story. 

Writing YA horror fills me with A LOT of excitement. I've always been a huge horror fan, so I'm not surprised to be coming back around to this. Actually, all my stories contain some thread of horror. If you've read any of them, you know what I mean. ;)

Anyway, it's a little strange when this sort of thing happens. But hey, I'm not going to complain about any story wanting to be longer. I'm just happy about getting new ideas.

Like I mentioned above, the next few weeks are going to be full of hanging out with hubby--awesome!--but after that I intend to get stuck into this story. And I'm really looking forward to it.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Well, it's official...

I'm now a published author with no currently available published books. 

Yep. It's so weird to say that out loud. O_o

Last week I received my return of rights letter for the 10 pubbed and 2 contracted books I had with Samhain Publishing. That's two UF series and one SFR series.

I'm really happy with how quickly Samhain got these letters out. In spite of everything, I will always be super grateful for the opportunity Samhain Publishing gave my books. As well as the editors I worked with, because I learned a lot from each of them.

Like I've mentioned before, and as sad as it makes me, I have no immediate plans to submit or self-publish any of these titles at the moment. I'm not saying never. Just right now. I didn't buy any of the covers, and am not going to rush out to get new ones. I also won't be proofreading or re-editing any of these just yet.

Maybe I'll consider doing this one day. But not right now.

So I have to say Goodbye for now to my beloved Sierra & Co. and my Recast kick-ass guys & girls. *sniffle* Besides, I still have my paperback editions to help me reminisce. But I need to let go. Even though the last book in the Elsewhere series--the one that pretty much ties up the whole of the Sierra series--hasn't been published at all.

Hopefully Willow will get her chance someday...

Funny thing about all of this is that the other day I sorted through all my previously published novellas and novels, and discovered that I've had over 40 stories published. But because of publisher closures and many other problems, none of them are currently available. It's bizarre. But it's okay.

I have to look ahead now, not back. I need to keep writing the many ideas that hound my brain and hold me hostage until the story is written. I also need to start travelling a new path, and never stop the pursuit of my dream. Because at the end of the day, the fact that I get to write all these stories is a dream come true.

I have several projects (in different stages of completion) in another genre for another market that I want to focus on. I need to see how that goes, and if it leads anywhere. I'm also enjoying the short story writing and will continue to send them out to anthology and magazine markets.

I'm a writer. 
Writing is what I do. 
Being published is what I'll continue to strive for.

Happy writing!

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