Wednesday, 20 June 2018

The Man On The Roof - Blog Tour

 Welcome to a stop on Michael's Stephenson's Blog Tour for his new release The Man On The Roof.
Below the synopsis are some questions that Michael has taken the time to answer for us, the readers. So be sure to scroll through the entire post. Enjoy! I hope you are as excited to grab a copy of this book as I am! Happy reading!
 
Someone has been creeping in the dark while the others sleep, and they've done terrible, terrible things.
“There was a man on your roof,” claims curmudgeonly lane-hermit Herbert McKinney. Then, he initiates an unprovoked fight with a local punk. Drama escalates when that punk's dead body is found hanging at mid-street one August morning—a boastful killer messaging their next prey. All fingers point to Herbert as the culprit. Soon, the five couples he calls neighbors come under suspicion, too. When detectives divine blackmail as the motive, eyes cross to find who hides the most shameful secret. Husband versus wife, friend versus friend, the shiny suburban veneer of innocence has been forever tarnished. As hidden deviousness boils from their pores, there lurks a thief, a pill addict and a sadist—secrets worth killing for.
Now, as the man on the roof helps guide justice and watches devious neighbors slip in and out of sleepy houses, confusion and questions persist. Who dies next? What have they learned? Who is becoming a monster? Who already is one? And just how many secrets can a small group of multi-ethnic Ohioans have? Only one cemented truth exists: the killer will kill again.
A taut domestic mystery-suspense thriller, The Man On The Roof propels the reader through a tangled, volatile and suspenseful thicket of deception, murder and friends, inviting the reader to discover the murderer and who hides which lie. First there was Gone Girl. Then there was The Girl on the Train. Now, there's The Man On The Roof.
 

Q & A with Michael Stephenson
 
How did you come up with the idea for this book?
A few years ago when I wrote this novel, I was in a bit of a pissy funk with my writing. I saw the influx of reboots, remakes and sequels in film and TV now starting to flood into books as well and thought, “So, no one is going to try to do something original anymore?” I actually got quite depressed about it and then I decided if you can’t beat them... you know the rest. So this idea came from me readying to bite someone else’s work. The original The Man On The Roof was a short story that was going to be a riff off of that famous William Shatner-led Twilight Zone episode in which he sees a monster on the wing of his airplane. Thank god my brain dug itself out of that funk and said, “No, you’re going to keep trying to do something wholly original or at least 90% original.”

What most influenced the writing process?
This probably sounds crazy, but reviews. So, even though I wanted it to be an original idea, I also knew I wanted to incorporate ideas from other, more popular books that had quickly become part of our social conscious. Books like The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo all took an interesting look at gender dynamics, murders and women, allowing the latter to be the complex people they are. And when you want to be among a crowd, you have to study that crowd and know why people enjoy them so much. So I visited almost every blog that had reviewed these books, read nearly every Amazon and Goodreads review I could find (both bad and good) and cherry-picked a few elements from those reviews that seemed to stick out to me and would, surprisingly, fit well into my story. For instance, there’s a reason why my characters are mostly tea drinkers and not coffee guzzlers. So many book bloggers and Amazon reviewers mentioned not only how they disliked the amount of coffee guzzled down in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but also how much they love tea. Also, a cat made it into the book because I had an idea for an animal, and then read through a ton of blogs and saw that more readers seemed to prefer cats. Strangely, both Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl also briefly feature a cat. As you read that, I’m sure you thought, “That is the stupidest, most asinine reason to include something in a book I’ve ever heard.” Maybe. But it’s also a very interesting little anecdote about the book, isn’t it?


What was the writing process like?
Chaotic, yet calm. I don’t like to spend too much time on one singular project because I feel that if you spend too much time trying to perfect it, the more imperfect it becomes. It’s similar to the holding-sand-in-your-fist adage. I think if you want to be a working writer where you can make a legit wage off this craft, this art, then you have to focus both on quality and quantity. It’s so rare that you’ll write the next great American novel, but you can get away with writing really good, entertaining books for a long time, so long as you write a slew of them. So I tried to write this as quickly as possible. I started with the short story which only had a few paragraphs, then decided to break for a while and write the character profiles instead. I then wrote all the first-person passages, except for the confession. All the while I would take notes of what I had mentioned in previous passages, what this character did or said and why. By the time I finished those, I had already written about a third of the novel. I then wrote the very beginning, followed by the very end. From there it was just a game of fill-in the blanks, and me asking myself what evidence I really wanted the reader to know, what was important to the mysteries and what would go un-found. In other words, no outline, which is usual for most of my projects except for my serials Extraordinary and The Writer, which both have super-detailed outlines.

What would you want readers to know about the book before reading it?
That my idea and definition of a psychological thriller may differ from their own. In my mind, a psychological mystery-thriller is not a book that focuses on the mental state of the characters inside. Yes, we see a great deal of their psychology and mental makeup, however, I have always viewed this genre as a way of the reader, the consumer to evaluate their own psychological makeup. For instance, with AJ Finn’s novel The Woman in the Window, it’s not really about how Anna has become an alcoholic and agoraphobe to deal with her loss, but more about why you, as the reader, either judge her so harshly or identify with her. Are you empathetic, sympathetic or indifferent, and why? When reading through reviews for a lot of these novels in this genre, you come across the recurring theme of, “... gosh, these are just such unlikable characters.” Yet, no one asks why they’re such unlikable characters. Is it because they have such human problems? Because they, like us, make too many real-life mistakes, or are unable to cast out their own demons? Or are they truly flawed enough as to fall into one of the disgusting -ist categories: racist, sexist, chauvinist, etc.? I, as the author, can only write the character in as real and as raw of an expression as that character begs of me to be written. It is ultimately you who mentally labels them wholly bad or wholly good, or empathizes or sympathizes with them. The question is not why they do what they do but why do you judge them as you do? 

Did you ever feel any hesitation about writing female characters the way that they are portrayed in this novel?
Not really. I know that in our current media climate, there is a big microscope on male writers, specifically focusing on how they write female characters in all mediums, whether that be in novels, comic books or for film and television. We’re being scrutinized more than ever about whether our frame of fiction passes certain tests: Does it pass the Bechdel test? Does it show strong women? Is there real complexity to the female characters? Are the female characters described in a way that would fit the way a woman would describe herself and not fantasized or overly sexualized? Concerning The Man On The Roof, I think the answer to most of those questions are negative. It doesn’t pass the Bechdel test because it is a book about a boy who was murdered and even if they’re not talking about their husbands, if you’re talking about the murder you’re technically talking about a male character. And most of the characters, including the men and children are described in the way they’re described for a reason, usually because it plays into their character on a deeper level. With that said, I tried to give equal weight to men and women in this. It’s very much an ensemble piece. I think one of the things I hated in the whole Gone Girl criticism is that when some female fans were calling it misogynistic and calling Flynn out for writing such a terrible female character, it came off as women being the epitome of perfection. Same went for Paula Hawkins’ characters in The Girl on the Train. The idea of “who really wants to be a mistress” still lingers in the bad reviews for that novel. It’s almost an indignation, a, “How dare these imperfect women sully the idea of a modern woman.” I never ascribed to the idea of writing strong women, but writing complex, real characters and making sure they’re not always damsels in distress. But everyone feels distress sometimes, right? In my novel, I wasn’t going to shy away from that, even if I was accused of being sexist. If you choose to see only the women as having flaws when the men are just as murderous, conniving and deceptive, then go ahead. But we can’t continually try to act like these women don’t exist. Plus, in the end it’s a man who... well, maybe I shouldn’t spoil the book.

As a self-published author, what advice would you give other self-pub or indie authors?
Don’t baby one project. It’s very easy to get caught up in trying to write that one breakout novel, so you focus solely on it for all of your writing time. Next thing you know months or even years have gone by and you’re still focused on this one book. So many soon-to-be self-published authors focus on one book and say, “Okay, I’m gonna put this out and have instant success.” Then when it’s not a success, they fall into a superfunk where they don’t even attempt to write the next book because why try. No. Always have at least three ideas lined up and work on them incrementally as you finish one project. You never want to just have one thing for people to read because deep down people want to be repeat buyers. So even before you release your first book, already be working on the second and feature a passage from it in the back of the first book. Entice them and don’t lose their attention once you get it. Then remember to cultivate relationships with potential readers/buyers and what I like to call secondary sellers, or people who are going to bark about your book when it does release. If they really like your book, they will want to talk about your book. Talk to them.


Be sure to check out the other spots on the blog tour!
 

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Sarah’s Review of Abandoned, A Jennifer Malone Mystery, by John Schlarbaum


 

Jennifer Malone is a hard-working, investigative journalist, looking for her next big story. Abandoned is the second book in the Jennifer Malone Mystery series by author John Schlarbaum, but it can be read as a standalone novel. This is actually the first Jennifer Malone Mystery I have read and I didn’t feel as though I needed any more background information than what the author gave in this book.

In Abandoned, we are introduced to an elderly patient, Helga Klemens, as she is about to undergo emergency hip surgery. Just before she is wheeled in, she says “Don’t let them kill me,” to a hospital porter named Luke. It is Luke’s job to assure her that everything will be fine as he sees a lot of people frightened before surgery. Unbeknownst to Luke, those were her last words.

That afternoon we meet Jennifer Malone, a newspaper reporter who happens upon the hospital morgue while digging into a John Doe case. After speaking with the coroner, Jennifer and Luke cross paths, along with Luke’s girlfriend, Maryanne who works as a security guard at the hospital. Both Luke and Maryanne find Helga’s death shocking though they can’t quite figure out why.

The rest of the story takes place over the course of five days in which Jennifer delves deep into the investigation in order to figure out what happened in the operating room. Then another John Doe washes ashore. Jennifer strives to get to the bottom of it and wonders if these deaths are related or if there is a killer out there.

Throughout this novel, we meet many extraordinary characters. They are introduced in an order that helps all of the clues fall into place at exactly the right time. Even though many of the characters are secondary and aren’t overly represented throughout the whole novel, I still found that I had a great sense of who they are as a person from the descriptions and language Schlarbaum uses. Every character had their own unique personality and voice.

Abandoned is written from may varying points of view. Sometime switching perspectives in the middle of a chapter. In this sense, I found that it was written as though you are watching a television show as the thoughts aren’t only one-sided in the scenes. You get everyone’s perspective so you have all of the information, thoughts and feelings moving forward throughout the book.

It’s extraordinary how intricate and inexplicably woven our lives can be with those around us. This novel shows us that even people we don’t know can have an immense impact on our lives. All of the characters intertwine with each other and everything comes together perfectly in the end.

Schlarbaum uses just the right amount of descriptives in order for the reader to easily envision the story unfolding. The book is fast paced, keeping you turning page after page because you just need to know what happened. Abandoned is a great mystery novel, full of twists and turns.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Sarah’s Review of The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn




This is the debut novel for A.J. Finn. The Woman in theWindow is touted as being a psychological thriller. I have enjoyed these genres of books in the past and couldn’t wait to read this as I had heard only great reviews about it. Essentially, this book is about a woman, Anna Fox, living in New York City, by herself, even though we know early on she has a husband and a daughter. She has agoraphobia and therefore cannot leave her own house. Instead she watches her neighbours, watches old black and white movies, and drinks wine, lots and lots of red wine. The story begins when new neighbours move in across the park. Then one night, Anna sees something disturbing out of her window and this event spins her life out of control. Through a series of page turning events, Anna begins to wonder what is real, what is imagined and what is out of her control.

I have to admit that when I first started reading it, I wasn’t immediately pulled in. The first couple of chapters were a bit hard to get into, to be honest, but very early on things begin to pick up. As soon as the new neighbours move in you know something isn’t quite right. And immediately it becomes a page turner. I definitely did not want to put this book down and found myself trying to read even a page or two if I had a minute or two to spare.

Finn writes through the eyes of the agoraphobic, Anna, and at times it can be confusing as there are moments of time we just don’t have, however, we are meant to be as confused as Anna, so he does do a great job. You really feel like you are pulled into Anna’s world and are experiencing everything with her. And at just the right moments, the author gives us more information into Anna’s life and the reason she is the way she is.

There are a lot of twists and turns and even when you think you have it all figured out, you turn the page and you are proven otherwise. The storyline weaves and twists so much that you are never really sure what is going on until the very end. I love stories like this, that aren’t at all predictable, yet make sense once all is laid out. I can honestly say that I could not have predicted the ending, no matter how many different scenarios I was imagining. He did a great job!

Finn’s writing is catchy and original. I liked the themes and the characters. It was especially intriguing that Anna herself is a psychologist yet she is suffering with a psychological disorder that is threatening to ruin her life. The other characters are well laid out and there is just enough information given about them to make the story work and to make it real. The author sets the scene up well and describes it in just enough detail that you can easily picture her in that huge 5 story house.

This is actually a quick and easy read. Some of the chapters are quite short so you want to keep going. There are a few shocks throughout the storyline and one in particular had me dropping my jaw, but it makes total sense and works so well with the book. Even with all of the twists, the story is woven beautifully together and comes out perfect.

I loved this book and would definitely recommend it, especially if you like psychological thrillers. But it isn’t over the top scary, it just gets you thinking and wondering and gives you the creepy thrill factor just perfect for a novel. I really hope this author continues writing as he obviously has the talent.

On a side note, it does say the book is in production to become a movie. I can’t wait to see what they do with it!

Thursday, 22 February 2018

RELEASE DAY AND GIVEAWAY! Marrying Mr. Valentine

RELEASE DAY & GIVEAWAY!  Marrying Mr Valentine is LIVE!


 
Amazon Bestselling author Laura Barnard brings you the follow on book from Adventurous Proposal, second standalone in the One Month Til I Do series.

Amazon UK - http://amzn.to/2CKUcW
 
Synopsis


Nadine Roberts smiles for everyone, but beneath it she hides a heartbreaking past that only a few know about. Throwing herself into her new career; wedding planner at The Duck & Goose, a property recently purchased by newlyweds Florence and Hugh, has helped distract her from her loneliness.

When a teary bride suddenly cancels her upcoming wedding Nadine looks to the two year waiting list. Clara Blumenkrantz and Hartley Valentine. It’ll have to be a quick turnaround, but what’s the worst that can happen, right?

This should be like every other wedding she plans, but the magnetism she feels towards Mr Valentine disrupts the orderly life she’s worked hard to carve out. 

Can she ignore her intense desires and be a professional? Or will she open up her heart to the one person that has the power to break it? And in doing so endanger not just her job, but her venue’s reputation?
 
 

Amazon UK - http://amzn.to/2CKUcW

With reviews like this what are you waiting for?
'Another great read from Laura full of her usual quick wit and slapstick shenanigans.'

You don't need to have read book one, but if you'd rather read in order you can download Adventurous Proposal:
Amazon Affiliate UK - http://amzn.to/2qxKSAk
Amazon affiliate US - http://amzn.to/2D5IhQK
 
Giveaway

Head on over to Laura's Facebook page (details below) to enter her release day giveaway to be in with a chance of winning a £10 Amazon Gift Card!

 

Stalk Laura






Thursday, 28 September 2017

LOVE UNCOVERED IS LIVE!

 


The second standalone book in the Babes of Brighton series is out now and available to read for FREE via Kindle Unlimited - 
myBook.to/LoveUncovered


Synopsis

Independent woman to her core, Brooke Archer has always been happy to hit it and quit it with the men in her life. But when her beloved Nan suffers from poor health, Brooke realises just how precious life is and decides it’s time to face her daddy issues and seek out her estranged father. Without so much as a name or photo, and a cagey Mum withholding vital information, it’s going to be no easy task. 
Nicholas Parker is a relationship guy and always has been. Abandoned by his mum when he was seven he craves love and security. But finding a woman who can conquer his trust issues is no easy feat. Brooke is exactly the kind of woman he doesn’t need.
Pulled together by some invisible force, can Brooke and Nicholas overcome their differences to uncover true love? 


Read Love Uncovered now - myBook.to/LoveUncovered


 Check out the first book, Excess Baggage (although both can be read as standalones) - myBook.to/ExcessBaggageLB

Stalk Laura

Friday, 15 September 2017

COVER REVEAL!!!


Love Uncovered, the second standalone book in the Babes of Brighton series is now available for pre-order - myBook.to/LoveUncovered
 
Synopsis
Independent woman to her core, Brooke Archer has always been happy to hit it and quit it with the men in her life. But when her beloved Nan suffers from poor health, Brooke realises just how precious life is and decides to it’s time to face her daddy issues and seek out her estranged father. Without so much as a name or photo, and a cagey Mum withholding vital information, it’s going to be no easy task.
 
Nicholas Parker is a relationship guy and always has been. Abandoned by his mum when he was seven he craves love and security. But finding a woman who can conquer his trust issues is no easy feat. Brooke is exactly the kind of woman he doesn’t need.
 
Pulled together by some invisible force, can Brooke and Nicholas overcome their differences to uncover true love?
If you'd like to catch up with book 1, Excess Baggage, read it here - myBook.to/ExcessBaggageLB
The book will be available to read for FREE via Kindle Unlimited from 28th September.
 
Connect with Laura

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Sarah's Review of In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware


In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware, our main character, Nora, hasn't seen her high school best friend, Clare, for ten years. They haven't even spoken since the day Nora walked out of her high school, never to return.

Then, out of nowhere, Nora receives an invitation to Clare's hen do. Wanting to put her past behind her, and vowing to attend with a mutual friend who she has remained in touch with, Nora decides to go.

But right from the start, things seem off. Clare's maid of honour is high strung and almost seemingly obsessed with Clare, even copying the way she dresses. And the guest list is just as absurd.

If Nora was slightly uncomfortable before arriving, she becomes even more so after she meets Clare after those ten long years. Nora realizes that even though time has passed, some secrets can never stay buried.

And then to make matters even more confusing, Nora wakes up in a hospital bed, badly bruised and covered in blood, with only patchy memories of what happened the night before. But one thing she does know for sure is that someone is dead.

This is Ruth Ware's debut novel, however I read it after the Woman in Cabin 10. It was the main reason I picked it up.

In a Dark, Dark Wood was a very good read. It hooked me right from the beginning and the characters were so easy to understand. Also, the plot line was very sequential and everything fit in. At times I had "hunches" as to what was going to happen or what had happened in the past that Nora was hiding, and, even though those hunches were proven correct, the entirety of it was not overly predictable. You think one thought, but then the reasoning behind it or how it comes to be is not what you expected.

Ware's writing is so well laid out and she has the ability to entangle you into her story and the world she has created. The characters were easy to follow and each one had such a unique personality that it was nice to see how they all fit with and interacted with one another. Especially since none of them really knew each other before showing up for the hen (bachelorette) party. You could get a good sense of who they were, and as the story unfolded you saw the profoundness of their personalities take hold.

Ruth Ware's psychological thriller really takes you into the depths of what the human mind at it's darkest is capable of. And that you never really know what people go through or what they are thinking, no matter how well you may know them. You come under the realization that even one decision can have the ability to affect so much more than you could ever imagination. Even years down the road, one little lie has the ability to completely destroy a person's life.

In a Dark, Dark Wood is a page turning, murder mystery, that dives into the deep psyche of what one person could do to create their own reality and how intertwined our lives really are with those we are close to.

I highly recommend this novel, especially if you have read and enjoyed her other books. It is a quick, easy, dark read, that pulls you in right from the beginning. A page turning, murder mystery.

The Man On The Roof - Blog Tour

  Welcome to a stop on Michael's Stephenson's Blog Tour for his new release The Man On The Roof . Below the synopsis are some ...