Monday, 30 January 2017

SNOW WALKING AND MORE GREAT READS





I've finally made a vow to keep going with my morning walk schedule regardless of the winter weather outside. And despite the challenges of walking outside at temperatures of -22C and lower, I've discovered snow walking can be fun, beneficial and incredibly beautiful.

It takes twice as long to dress up for the weather with extra leggings, thermal socks, snow boots, wooly hat, scarf, parka, hood and thick mitts, but I have this theory that plunging through the park or climbing a snow hill dressed like a yeti, burns at least three times the usual calories for a walk. The only trouble is that we've also been experiencing some higher than normal temperatures more recently and that means the snow turns to ice which then makes it feel like you're walking on an ice rink.




For many writers, a quiet walk outdoors is the best way to think of new ideas and sort out plot problems, and winter has a certain sleepy, silent magic about it that seems more inspirational than any other season. To write a novel you need to do a whole lot of thinking before you even sit down and put your fingers on the keyboard, and once you're into the first draft you need to take breaks and think about the way the story is developing. Tearing yourself away from that screen and plunging out into the fresh air is the best way to go.
Since winter is a great time for a quiet read by the fireside, I've highlighted a few more great books I've enjoyed recently:



THE PURCHASE by Linda Spalding

Set in Virginia, 1798, this Governor General's Award winning book explores the indignities of slavery from a unique perspective and shows how one man's single impulsive action can create ripples that affect the lives of multiple generations of his family.
This is the story of Daniel Dickinson, a Quaker from Pennsylvania, whose wife has passed away and left him alone with five children to raise. He hastily marries a fifteen year old orphan and sets off with his entire family and his few meagre belongings to forge a new life across the border in Virginia.
At first life is tough, the family buys a plot of land in a tiny community and begins to establish a life there, but when Daniel goes to market one day and encounters a slave auction he is horrified. A firm abolitionist, this spectacle goes against all his values and beliefs. On impulse he buys the boy but is completely unaware how this action will resonate with his family through the decades, leading to conflict, passion and tragedy.
This story is a complex exploration of emotions, morals and the struggle to maintain one's beliefs in a changing world. The characters are well drawn, memorable and imperfect which makes them all the more intriguing. Also the author conveys the hardships of life on the American frontier with unsentimental but beautiful, spare prose that will keep you reading to the last page.



HUMAN REMAINS by Elizabeth Haynes

This suspense filled thriller is made even more compelling by its imperfect narrator and its exploration of a major societal problem - the epidemic of loneliness suffered by people forced through circumstances beyond their control to live alone, unloved and unnoticed by their community. Most often they are seniors, but sometimes they're younger - possibly suffering from mental illness, depression or some other crippling problem.
Anna, the main character, is one such person. A police analyst with a busy job and an aging mother to check in on, Annabel is socially awkward, has poor self-image and is a loner at work. She lives alone but doesn't see herself as lonely. When she discovers her neighbour's decomposing body in the house next door, she is shocked that no one, including herself, noticed the woman's absence. When her colleagues show a lack of interest in the case, she takes it upon herself to investigate and discovers a disturbing pattern of such cases, leading her to believe that something is not right and this can't be a coincidence. But as Anna gets chillingly close to the solution, she reveals her own vulnerability in the depths of her depression and puts herself in danger.
This was a refreshingly different take on the usual police procedural thriller, mainly due to the originality of the characters and the complete believability of the situations portrayed. Reading it, one is reminded of one's deepest fear - of being completely and utterly alone and uncared for - invisible to the people around you.



THE WONDER by Emma Donoghue

Another novel by the author of the wonderful Room, this novel is definitely as compelling. Set in the  19th century, this is the story of an English nurse who is brought to a small Irish village to provide objective observation of what is thought to be a miracle: an 11 year old girl who lives and thrives without touching a morsel of food. Tourists already flock to the small cabin to see little Anna who lives, according to her family and the local priest, on manna from heaven. Lib, a veteran nurse from Nightingale's Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch on the girl, but soon finds herself fighting for the child's life, together with a journalist sent to cover the miracle.
As with all Donoghue's books, this is an in-depth psychological exploration of the motivation of diverse individuals - each with their own agenda. This story begins slowly but picks up pace so that it becomes impossible to put down as the stakes are raised and Lib must make a choice to do as she's told or to defy the orders she's been given and possibly put herself in danger. Ultimately this leads to a gripping life or death scenario with an innocent child at the centre.

HAPPY READING!

Monday, 12 December 2016

HAPPY HOLIDAYS and A FEW GREAT READS





So winter is already here in full force which means the holidays are closing in on us. Maybe it's time to consider some of the delights and aggravations of the season. Check these out:

  1. Fir trees decked with pillowy white snow - a delight to the eyes! πŸ˜€πŸ˜€
  2. Driveways covered with icy snow - a pain in the ass (and lower back)!  πŸ‘ŽπŸ‘Ž 
  3. Cosy evenings spent around a crackling fire equals "I love you." πŸ’—πŸ’—
  4. Endless days spent inside because it's -25 outside equals "I'm sick of your face. Let's get the f*** out of here." πŸ‘ΏπŸ‘Ώ
  5. Aahh - the spicy deliciousness of cinnamon and nutmeg and delicious holiday baking. πŸͺπŸͺ
  6. Owww - the bloated gassiness of gluten and sugar on your overloaded holiday gut. 😀😀
  7. Raising a glass of Christmas cheer with friends and loved ones. πŸΈπŸ·πŸ˜€πŸ˜€
  8. Raising all the ancient gripes and grudges after too much Christmas cheer with friends and loved ones. 🍷🍷🍢🍹🍺🍻😑😬😑
  9. Laying out the cookies and milk for Jolly Old Saint Nick.
  10. Opening yet another bottle of Scotch for boozed up old Uncle Nick.
  11. Turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings - a Yuletide feast fit for a king! πŸ—πŸ—πŸ—
  12. Turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey pie, turkey risotto, turkey tacos - let's get our asses to Burger King!
  13. πŸ˜€πŸ‘David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing Little Drummer Boy
  14. πŸ‘ŽπŸ˜Elmo and Patsy singing Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

On a more serious note, here are some great reads to occupy all that extra time over the holidays:

THE UNDERTAKING by Audrey Magee




This powerful account of a German soldier caught in the nightmare of the Eastern Front is told with such precise and unsentimental language it reveals all the horror, violence and futility of war.
Peter, an ordinary German soldier, fights for survival in a war engineered by Nazi elitists who regard him only as cannon fodder to fuel the massive German war machine. Seizing on the opportunity to get ten days' "marriage leave", he marries a woman he doesn't know so that he can escape the Front and assure her of receiving his pension should he die. After an awkward first meeting, love unexpectedly blooms between the two strangers and Peter returns to the Russian Front determined to return to his Katharina.
The story follows Peter through the unimaginable horrors of the Russian front where soldiers ill equipped to deal with the frostbite, hunger and disease are driven to commit unspeakable acts of violence. Katharina's story also unfolds as her spineless father is so caught up in his ambition to ingratiate himself into Nazi high society that his own family falls victim to the self-serving Nazi elite.
Magee's cool, detailed prose and ultra-realistic dialogue make this a fast but utterly disturbing read and a damning account of yet another aspect of World War 2.

SMALL ISLAND by Andrea Levy




A multi-award winning novel, this wonderfully human account of Jamaicans coming to England during and after World War 2 is told with tender emotion and sparkling wit. Levy tells a story of false hope, disillusionment, racial discrimination and the power of love, through the voices of four very different narrators: Queenie, a farmer's daughter turned landlady who disregards her neighbours' disapproval and offers accommodation to Jamaican immigrants; Hortense, a proud, well-educated Jamaican teacher who arrives in London with a broken heart and one suitcase, to an entirely different welcome than she expected; Gilbert, Hortense's kind but disillusioned husband who struggles to make a life for them in a hostile city; Bernard, Queenie's missing husband who returns after horrendous war experiences in India.
Levy skilfully steers this unlikely group of individuals through unexpected twists and turns while dealing with important social issues in a way that is never heavy-handed. An incredible, compelling read.


And if you're looking for a good suspense novel set in a snowy small town, check out LILAH, one of my own novels. 



Beautiful and mysterious Lilah arrives in sleepy little Silver Narrows one snowy night and journalist, Nick Hendricks is soon caught in her spell. When he begins to investigate a string of tragic disappearances from the past he soon realizes there are guilty secrets lurking beneath the town’s cozy exterior and somehow Lilah is connected. But he’s unprepared for the nightmares that emerge from his own past as well as the shocking discoveries he makes about the town and Lilah, the woman he thought he knew.



HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL OF YOU! AND HAPPY READING!

Thursday, 3 November 2016

JOURNEY TO A STORY


Major apologies for the long time gap between posts! My time has been taken up with revising my new novel. The whole process takes a long, long time from the inception of the idea to the time it's sent out on submission to publishers. This new book (working title, MATTIE WAS HERE) was born from a scene I conjured up many years ago of a woman deliberately losing her husband on a second honeymoon. I imagined her slipping away from him and hiding in a narrow alleyway to watch him panic as he realizes she's gone. That's all I had.


The question then arises - why would she do that? What would cause her to do something so cruel. For years I sat on that idea until I finally worked out a story that begins with "the scene". It became a story of twins - two inseparable girls - living with their single father until he can't manage any more. They're then forced into the foster care system only to be shunted around from one place to another until one of them disappears, leaving the other determined to find her. This was a tough story to write since it deals with issues of unresolved grief in children taken away from the only home they know and moved around from one temporary placement to another until their personal identity is gradually stripped away from them. It also deals with the sexual exploitation of the most vulnerable and powerless in our society who fall prey to opportunistic predators lurking in malls and other public places to lure them into lives of slavery.


Writing a book like this requires careful research of real cases. I'd say the book took over a year to get to the first draft and in that time I read about many sad cases of kids who were moved between placements up to 100 times a year - often at a moment's notice, of kids overmedicated by unscrupulous carers, or lured by promises of clothes and beauty treatments and food into lives of prostitution - some tattooed by their "owners" so they could never forget who was in charge of their lives. I also read about kids who, through the power of their own will and determination to get an education, triumphed over the odds and became successful. Yet despite their victory they still carry scars.

Revising a novel means going over it many times for different purposes: to check out the story structure; to check out each character's development; to check out consistency of timelines, verb tense, voice; to check out language use for freshness and creativity as well as syntax (sentence structure); to check out authenticity of dialogue; to check that your "world" or setting is fully developed so the reader can imagine the place and time and has enough information to enter that world; to fine tune the mood and atmosphere; to carefully test the pacing (too fast? not fast enough? climaxes at correct places?).

It's a lot of work, but it's a relief when it's done. After that you wait! For the agent to approve it then send it out to publishers. Then you wait again!! For the publishers to deliberate for a long time.
And if they don't take it, you publish it yourself!! I'll keep you posted.

REVIEWS
In previous posts I've reviewed books, but I thought I'd do something different this time and share some top rated Netflix series for all you Netflix junkies out there. These are series I've watched and enjoyed:


  • DR. FOSTER: an amazing mini-series from the UK about a female doctor who suspects her husband is having an affair. Intense and breathtaking in its pace and starring the brilliant Suranne Jones, you'll be addicted to this tense revenge drama.

  • 30 DEGREES IN FEBRUARY: a brilliant award-winning series from Sweden about three separate groups of people who go to Thailand to escape the grim Swedish winter. Shy, plump Glenn who wants to find a wife so he can fulfil his dream of having children; Maijlis, the long-suffering aging wife of wheelchair-bound Bengt who longs to escape his cold, cruel abuse to enjoy skindiving in exotic Thai waters; workaholic mother Kajsa, recovering from a stroke, who brings her daughters, Joy and Wilda to live in a tropical paradise. This series is startling, heartwarming, funny and utterly addictive.


  • AMERICAN CRIME (SEASON 1 and 2): This brilliant and gutsy crime series stars the wonderful Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton. Rotten Tomatoes describes it as follows:Raw, emotional portrayals of diverse characters in dire pain, mashed up with chilling narratives and a gutsy attitude make American Crime a must-see. This is character-based crime. The story of the victims, the perpetrators and their families. It never shies away from the in-depth exploration of everyone's perspective. Each season features a self-contained story, but an original twist is that the same actors portray totally different characters, which is further testament to their amazing talent.
HAPPY VIEWING!!

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Thursday, 15 September 2016

DOGS and DATING



I've recently changed writing gears to work on a more lighthearted project, inspired by a chance moment in my life when I went out with a friend to walk her dog, a cute, woolly little mutt. As we strode down the leafy path, I was amazed at the number of people who stopped to chat and generally fawn over my friend's dog. In that short walk we met more new people in half an hour than I had in several years, and some of them were hunks! My friend and I are both married, but it didn't take much of to stretch our imagination and ponder the question: Could walking a dog help you meet the man or woman of your dreams? And that's how THE DOG WALKERS' DATING CLUB was born.
The main character, LILY, is a self-professed dog hater after some traumatic dog-bite incidents in her childhood, which lends the book a more interesting dynamic when she decides to take on a puppy in the hopes of improving her chances of meeting someone to love. She wrestles with her new responsibilities but learns a lot about people and life as she struggles to fit a new puppy into her life .

I can relate to Lily, since I've never really been a "pet person", though we took on a puppy in later life after my daughter begged for one. That's when Bella, the "shorkie" came into our life and I realized the challenges and benefits that come when you have a pet in your home. The house training, the walking, the feeding, the behavioural quirks, the puddles on the floor, the chewed Kleenexes and all those other irritations are all mitigated by the unwavering love, loyalty and devotion of your dog, which inevitably becomes a member of the family.
In the novel Bella becomes "Baby", a tiny but major intrusion into Lily's almost perfect life.
The first couple of chapters are available for preview on Wattpad so you can read them for free! Check it out right HERE.  

To celebrate the ideas in the book I'd love to hear about your crazy or funny dog stories or see your doggy pics and videos. Either leave a comment on my blog or contact me through my website HERE. if you ask me, I'll feature them on my blog. Just send me the details.

FEATURED BOOK REVIEW:

THE ART TEACHER by Paul Read

As an ex-teacher I was interested to read this gritty story of an ex-rock musician who struggles with his fallback teaching career. Working as an art teacher in an inner city secondary school, Patrick Owen feels stuck in a rut he can't remove himself from. Separated from his wife, his young son and his beloved music, he barely tolerates the students who show little interest in art or anything else he tries to get across to them. The result is that he's merely putting in time, staying under the radar until something better comes up. All that changes when a difficult student causes a problem during class that Patrick can't ignore. When he finally snaps, he becomes the boy's number one target which draws him into the dangerous world of  the local gangs who terrorize a nearby housing estate. In his efforts to help a female student caught up in the conflict he's drawn directly into the line of fire and soon finds himself at the centre of media scrutiny as well as trapped in an untenable position which he can't seem to escape.
Read's experience as a teacher really shows through in his tense descriptions of classrooms disrupted by troubled students and the absolute helplessness of teachers with no support from the higher-ups. Though Patrick is at times an arrogant character with very little empathy, one can't help feeling sorry for the way he's trapped in a career he hates. He seems to float through life unmotivated and unable to climb from out of the pit he's dug for himself. Perhaps that explains the questionable choices he makes when it comes to the war he unwittingly provokes. In his mind any change in routine is good - even if it means he lives in utter fear rather than total boredom. The plot moves very quickly, compelling the reader to keep going just to find out how far Patrick will go, how many lies he'll tell and how much he's prepared to sacrifice to get himself out of the mess and reunite with his young son. Though there is a surprise turn of events at the end I had already guessed it beforehand and found the ending a bit rushed . Other than that this was a good read.
*I received a free Kindle copy from Legend Press in return for an honest review*.
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Tuesday, 16 August 2016

SUMMER MUST-READS: Part 2





Well, it's just past the mid-point of August when we're all trying to savour the last weeks of summer. Take more walks, go to the beach, sit on the deck or patio and enjoy the sun - with a good book in hand, of course. I've reviewed a few more books you might be interested in reading. They're mainly suspense/thrillers, because I needed to be in that mode to complete the book I've working on. Thankfully I've finished the first draft. Now the tough part comes when you ask yourself if it's really any good and what it needs now to make it work in terms of story, language use, world building etc. etc.
Anyway, hope you like these books:



ARMADILLOS by P.K. Lynch

This slow-burning story of Aggie, a young girl who escapes her Texas backwoods home by simply opening the door and walking away from years of chilling and deliberate abuse, is one that gradually settles itself into your bones and compels you to read on no matter how depressing the situations the main character  inevitably lands in. Aggie, because of her poor, deprived background, is doomed to stumble from one risky, marginal situation into another. And all the while she's haunted by the guilt of leaving her sister JoJo but driven by the idea that the world must have something else to offer her and maybe she'll find somewhere to belong. Eventually she lands in a "family" of sorts - a squat populated by a crazy collection of misfits and runaways. There she befriends Freak, a whacked-out self-cutter and "The Beast Woman" who fashions odd knick-knacks out of old tires and gives dignified burials to armadillos found as roadkill - an obvious metaphor for Aggie and her tireless drive not only to survive, despite all the abuses hurled against her tough shell, but to confront the abuse she endured at the hands of her father and brother. The author relates the horrors of Aggie's life with effective, unsentimental detachment that makes it all the more powerful. Though I enjoyed the book and the characters I did feel something was a little "off" and when I discovered the author was Scottish and had only visited Texas, I realized the voice of the characters and the whole "feel" of the setting didn't have quite the authenticity it needed. Despite this I would recommend the book as very compelling and well written.
I received this book from Legend Press in return for an honest review.



SLEEP by Nino Ricci

Nino Ricci burst onto the Canadian literary scene with his first novel, Lives of the Saints, which won the Governor General's Literary Award as well as many others. Since then he's gone from strength to strength with a whole run of prizewinning books. I must say, however, this latest novel is better than anything I've read of his. I was initially drawn to the cover which features a compelling painting by my favourite artist, Alex Colville. It's a brooding, menacing picture and Ricci's story uses this ominous sense of danger in his story of David Pace, a man who seems to have it all - brains, successful academic career, happy family. We soon discover the irony of his last name. Pace - which in Latin means peace, is the total opposite of David's personality. He's a man at war with himself due to a rare sleep disorder that scrambles his brain and causes him to submit to an ever more powerful cocktail of drugs to keep a lid on the utter chaos inside him. As sleep haunts him and eludes him, his world gradually unravels and his choices become increasingly destructive in his quest to shake himself free of the effects of the disorder. The only thing that seems to calm him is to hold a gun. So begins a downward spiral that leads him to make terrifying choices in the gradual destruction of his life. The pace of Ricci's story is intense, as he delves into the turmoil of David's mind, and portrays him often as a loathsome and deceptive person with no scruples. At the same time making us aware of his helplessness in the face of his disorder. This is definitely not a breezy beach read, but an intense, compelling experience that only flounders when it comes to the ending. One is left with the idea that Ricci couldn't think how better to finish it. Despite this, the book left a great impression on me.



THE WICKED GIRLS by Alex Marwood

This fast-paced page-turner is the story of two women who first met on one fateful day when they were both eleven. At the end of that day they were both charged with murder. Fast-forward twenty five years, journalist Kirsty Lindsay is sent to a seedy English seaside town to report on a series of gruesome murders of young women. There her investigations lead her to interview carnival cleaner, Amber Gordon. It's the first time these two women have met since the darkest day of their lives twenty five years ago. When each woman realizes the implications of this meeting and the very different lives they're leading, they're both gripped with the fear of trying to keep their wicked secret hidden from those they now love, and all amidst a terrifying murder hunt that comes way too close for comfort.
The characters and setting were so well-drawn that I was immersed in the lives of these people and the way their lives intertwine both in the past and the present. The author controls the movement of the story in a way that compels you to keep reading and I have to say, the ending was one of the best I've read in a long time. A great book!



THE BONE CLOCKS by David Mitchell

David Mitchell's books have been nominated for the Man Booker prize and this book was rightfully named as one of the top ten fiction books of its year by Time and several other influential magazines.. The Oprah magazine called it "A time-traveling, culture-crossing, genre-bending marvel of a novel," a great description of this wildly ambitious book that spans time and distance, yet manages to put forward some simple truths about the human condition. Though the book has also been widely criticized by readers who preferred Cloud Atlas, Mitchell's other famous novel, I loved it simply because I found it entertaining, moving in parts and very beautifully written in others (though there are definitely some sections that could have been edited more).
The title refers to one thread of the story - the idea of immortality and the lengths human beings will go to to avoid our ultimate fate - to become a dead sack of bones after a prescribed term of life. In other words, our countdown (or clock) begins the moment we are born. I found that it's really more a story about love, heroism and the power of the human soul. The story follows the life of Holly Sykes who we first meet as a fifteen year old. 
Holly is a sensitive child who was once contacted by voices she called "the radio people". As she journeys away from her old life, she's unaware that she's caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics and their enemies.  After a fight with her mother about her boyfriend, Holly slams the door on her old life and sets out on a journey that will last a weekend, but will result in the disappearance of someone she loves. This mystery leaves her family scarred and will reverberate through the decades affecting even those not yet born. As with Mitchell's other book, the story shifts to other characters, A Cambridge scholar, an Iraq war reporter, a middle-aged "has-been" writer. All become connected to Holly in some way and all have a part to play in the invisible war that rages on the edges of humanity.


HAPPY READING!!

Monday, 18 July 2016

SUMMER MUST-READS: Part 1



It's that time of year when you're stretched out on your deck, patio, the beach, by a lake or river or at the park taking in the sunshine. Cold drink to your right, healthy snack (chips contain Vitamin C, don't they?) to your left, and a magical book in your hands. Summer is the time for a novel you can't put down - or only put aside long enough to go for a dip to cool down or share a glass of wine and lunch or dinner with friends and family.




Summer is the time when you lie in bed, windows open, warm night air blowing the curtains and the moon shining down on your book. Imagination runs wild on warm summer nights, maybe bringing back memories of some long-forgotten night in your life.
Here's a few books that will thrill you in different ways - maybe even make you shiver! But they'll certainly draw you quickly into their world.



A MAN CAME OUT OF A DOOR IN THE MOUNTAIN by Adrianne Harun

Set in isolated British Columbia this beautifully written, magical book tells the story of a community haunted by the disappearances of its young women. Inspired by the infamous "Trail of Tears" BC highway where countless young women - mostly native - have vanished, this story takes an original, almost mythic approach to the tragedy. Leo Kreutzer and his four friends are aware of the disappearances but have not been touched personally until a series of mysterious and enigmatic strangers arrive in their town. Strangers who seem like characters from native legends: Kevin Seven, the trickster, who beguiles shy Ursie with his card tricks and sleight of hand. Hannah Swann, bone-white, with long, black hair - the Ice Queen - who bewitches Bryan with ideas of violent revenge against the tyrannical and villainous local meth dealer and his messed up gang. The story follows the five friends - Leo, Bryan, Ursie, Tessa and Jackie - and tenderly though chillingly reveals the harsh realities of living in a depressed rural area where danger lies in the forest or the highway or even the local motel but you never know until it's right there in front of you. On a positive note the story also shows that real friendship knows no boundaries. An exciting, spellbinding and exquisitely written novel.

A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY by Lauren Grodstein



Narrated in a totally authentic male voice, it's sometimes difficult to remember the book is written by a woman. This tells the complex story of a father and husband's fall from grace. Pete, an affable, respected internist with a thriving practice in suburban New Jersey, a wife and son, has everything he needs - on the surface. Dig deeper and his life is plagued by insecurities about his marriage, his uber-successful best friends and his teenage son who can't seem to settle on a direction for his future. Enter the wild card, Lauren, his best friend's beautiful daughter, with a past so shocking people try not to speak about it. Pete's world changes irrevocably but not in a predictable way, which is what really makes this novel shine. That and the complex inner world of Pete's mind that Grodstein captures so well as Pete tries to save his family, his reputation and himself.

AFTER HER by Joyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard is the author of Labor Day, also a fairly successful movie and At Home in the World, an autobiography that became controversial because of its expose of her relationship with the famous but reclusive writer J.D Salinger. Maynard is an exquisite writer and After Her is a wonderful, and evocative portrait of the type of childhood in which children run wild, their imagination left to create magic and mystery as well as terror. Set in Marin County near San Francisco in the late '70's it is the story of Rachel and her younger sister Patty who enjoy unlimited freedom exploring the wild mountain trails behind their home. Their charismatic and handsome father is a detective, but his infidelity has caused the family to break up, leaving their mother a chronically depressed women who spends most of the day in her room barely supervising her girls. When young women begin to turn up dead on the mountain trails, the entire area is gripped by terror and when Rachel and Patti's father is appointed to head the investigation, their adoration and pride knows no bounds and they look forward to every visit from him. When the case proves difficult to break, Rachel sees the toll it's taking on her father and decides to take matters into her own hands. Her decision has far-reaching effects on her family and on his career. A spell-binding portrait of a daughter's devotion to her father and her sister. A great read.

BROKEN HARBOUR by Tana French

Tana French is essentially a writer of thrillers and police procedurals, but she writes with such lyricism and style her books read like literary novels. Broken Harbor is one of her best. Set in post-economic-collapse Dublin, the action takes place in a suburban wasteland - a new, ambitious housing development by the old seaside town of Broken Harbor, abandoned mid-project by the builders and left to fall apart. Left behind are families who believed in the dream, vainly trying to cope with derelict half-framed homes on their street, poorly built houses falling apart, gangs of disaffected teens roving the streets, graffiti, isolation and general depression. When Patrick Spain and his children are found brutally murdered in their own home and his wife, Jenny is barely clinging to life, Mike "Scorcher" Kennedy and his team are sent to investigate and to figure out what happened. As he digs deeper the portrait of a family in crisis emerges: missed mortgage payments, hidden baby monitors, holes punched into the walls. The mood becomes increasingly haunting as Kennedy also has to deal with ghosts from his own past and childhood spent in Broken Harbor with his troubled sister Di. This is a complex, haunting and multi-layered novel that is impossible to put down.

So those are my picks for this month. I'll be reviewing more in my next blog.


MY NOVEL UPDATES!
Check out this brand new cover for Chasing a Thrill which I've decided to turn into a series. I'll be starting work on the next book in September.

THE IDUNA PROJECT
My YA trilogy continues to garner rave reviews. Check out reviews for The Forevers, The Parasites The Feeders right here.


THE SAVAGE INSTINCT
This book cracked the Amazon Top 100 for British and Irish Literary novels this month. If you haven't read it yet, check it out here.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

THE LOST AND FORGOTTEN ONES




After a short break from blogging, I'm finally back to let you know that I haven't actually gone missing in action. I'm still writing - at least trying hard to finish the first draft of my new novel, a suspense/thriller set in Minneapolis.
These months of close family celebrations have made me really appreciate how fortunate I am to be part of a stable, loving family network. That isn't the case for many children.
The main character in this story is a survivor of the foster care system, and while I must say that many children who go into foster care enjoy the warmth and security of some very good homes, there are far too many who endure years of abuse, neglect and impermanence which leaves them deeply traumatized and unable to form lasting relationships later on in their lives.
While doing the research for this novel I read many disturbing reports, both from Canada and the US. One quote really stood out to me, from a survivor of multiple foster homes:

Even though sometimes on the outside I wouldn’t show it, I was always looking for time to spend with foster parents or someone that would give me time and show me comfort. I felt like a lost wolf that strayed from the pack - a dog that couldn’t speak about his pain. I needed someone - even though I may have rejected hugs, and laughed at heartfelt sentimental moments - but I was a kid, and I didn’t know how to ask for love and comfort let alone handle the feelings of guilt and humiliation of doing so.

Former youth in care (As quoted in Brady, n.d.)




An important study from the Office of the Children's Advocate (Manitoba 2016) entitled Don't Call Me Resilient: What Loss and Grief Look Like for Children in Care outlines very vividly how well-meaning adults can misinterpret a child's behaviour and ultimately fail to treat the deep-seated emotional trauma that results when a child is taken from their home. Here are some of the important points made:

  • When a child is taken from his/her home - even an abusive home - he/she experiences grief and loss.
  • With every placement change, losses mount and grief multiplies. This sense of loss is unaddressed in the current system
  • Loss and grief can cause anger, confusion and fear
  • A child who appears depressed and delinquent may actually be expressing sorrow
  • Constantly changing placements cause instability and fear. The child experiences a loss of personal history, identity, belonging and control. The child may withdraw from emotional commitment or put barriers around his/her emotional state of being

Here are some very revealing comments from children who have been in care:
I couldn't talk to anybody, couldn't trust anybody, I wanted to end everything.

Adults said about us, They'll be fine, they're young, they'll get over it. they won't remember. They just need to toughen up.

One day the new foster parent just picked us up from school. (My worker) was too busy to introduce us to our new placement.

Our few belongings were just tossed in garbage bags.


One child actually endured 105 changes of placement in one year. It's no wonder that chronic sorrow and unresolved grief are the consequences of an overstressed system.
My research shows many similarities between the systems in Manitoba and Minnesota. I'll be touching on more of these issues in later blogs. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, go to the CONTACT section on my website HERE since the comments section on this blog doesn't seem to be working. I'd love to hear from you.



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