My Top Ten Reads of 2016.

I’ve been putting this off, lots of other bloggers have posted their top ten (or twenty) books of the year weeks ago. I’m not quite sure why I’ve been putting it off but part of me has been thinking that the year isn’t over yet and I’m still reading. But I think that mainly I’ve been putting pretty much everything to do with Christmas and New Year off. I only put my tree up this morning (it’s the 22nd December!) after finally giving in to my children’s demands, for whatever reason, I am not ready for this year to end and the next to start.

So it is with some trepidation that I’m going to attempt my top reads of the year. They aren’t in any particular order, that would just be too difficult but I have given one book my Book of the Year 2016 award!

So to kick off we have The Optician’s Wife by Betsy Reavley, a fab read that just wasn’t anything that I was expecting. It was shocking and gruesome and sad and, well, shocking. If you think that your stomach is strong enough then read it!!

 

 

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The Optician’s Wife by Betsy Reavley.

 

Next up is Nina Is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi. I thought that this was a brilliant book and described addiction, or more specifically, alcoholism, so well. I think that this should be required reading for everyone, every teenager should read it as should anyone who knows or loves someone who struggles with addiction.

 

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Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi

 

M.J.Arlidge released two books and one novella this year, spoiling us really! While all of them were good I’m putting Little Boy Blue in my top reads. His detective, Helen Grace, is a great character, strong yet flawed. In Little Boy Blue someone uses those flaws against her with shocking consequences. If you haven’t read any of the Helen Grace books then do, I’ve reviewed a lot of them on the blog.

 

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Little Boy Blue by M.J. Arlidge.

 

So while the Helen Grace series is definitely one of my favourite detective series, Kim Stone edges slightly ahead. While the Grace series has had some amazing books it has also had some average books, whereas Angela Marsons’ Kim Stone books are consistently good. I’ve enjoyed each and every one of them and although they are written so that they can be read as standalone books I’d definitely recommend reading them from the start (Silent Scream). This year I read two Kim Stone books and I’m adding Play Dead by Angela Marsons, and I can’t wait to read the ones to come in 2017. I was also lucky to have Angela Marsons stop by for a fab Q&A, she really is one lovely lady.

 

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Play Dead by Angela Marsons.

 

The next book wasn’t the best written book, but it was definitely one of the most fun to read. Although calling it fun seems kinda wrong given the death count in the book. But it was definitely one of the most gripping books that I’ve read this year. The Killing Game by J.S. Carol is without a doubt one of my top reads. I loved it, what a rollercoaster!

 

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The Killing Game by J.S. Carol.

Next up is one of my favourite authors from years ago, I absolutely loved Jodi Picoult and her books but at some point, she seemed to lose her way and I stopped reading her books. That changed when I heard about Small Great Things, it all seemed positive and so without knowing much at all about the story I started to read it. Soon I was emersed into a world that I had been largely unaware of. I knew that prejudice in America was a problem in many areas, that black people are often treated differently, that parents worry about their black sons being shot by the police. But Small Great Things opened my eyes and my mind up in a way that not many books are able to. I think that many are put off from reading a book about prejudice, but please don’t be. While it’s a thick book it is such a worthy read, especially in the world today with hate crime all over increasing. I was also lucky enough to hear Jodi Picoult talk about Small Great Things and I wrote about that too Jodi Picoult: Talking about her latest book, Small Great Things.

 

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Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.

The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse is another book, a bit like Nina is no OK and Small Great Things, that I think that people should read because you will have your eyes opened to something that you were perhaps unaware of before. This time the subject is anorexia and the author has written an incredibly well-researched book with well-formed characters that show the reader the reality of anorexia.

 

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The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse.

My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal was the first book that I reviewed on my blog and so will always be a bit special to me. But it is also special in itself. Leon is a little boy who broke my heart, set in the 1980s it frequently reminded me of my childhood, but thankfully my childhood was nothing like Leon’s. With a mother unable to care for him Leon and his baby brother are thrown into the British care system. This was such a lovely book, but incredibly sad too but the wonderful characters made this a book to remember.

 

 

 

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My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal.

Goodness, this is harder than I expected! Too many good books to choose between and for the penultimate one I’m torn between two books, My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor and The Caller by M.A. Comley and Tara Lyons. Both are good in their own right, My Husband’s Son tells the story of a couple brought together by the loss of their children, one was murdered and the other kidnapped and missing. But has the wife finally found her husband’s son? This is an impressive debut novel by O’Connor and I look forward to seeing what she does next. The Caller tells the story of the police hunting for a team of criminals who are murdering women in their own home, gaining access under the pretense of having a delivery. The Caller gave me the heebyjeebies and when I found myself receiving the same phone call that the women received before being murdered I likely came across as more than a little bit crazy to the poor woman on the phone but there was no chance that I was giving her the information that she wanted!

So I guess that’s both of them included in my top reads of 2016 but I’ve still got one more book to go!

I think that the book that I have spent the most time thinking about after reading it has to be Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris, I loved this book in so many ways even though at times it was very hard to read and quite distressing. When I finished this book I literally wanted to throw it across the room as I just did not want it to end. I managed to restrain myself (mainly because I was actually reading it on my Kindle), but this was a wonderful book. The author has a new book, The Breakdown, out in 2017 which I cannot wait to read, unfortunately, my request to read it wad turned down on Netgalley, something that I still haven’t quite recovered from, but I will be reading it as soon as I possibly can!

So, my book of 2016 is without a doubt, Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris.

 

There’s also a couple of books that I need to give a mention too, even if they don’t make my top ten. The Goblin Princess: Smoky The Dragon Baby by Jenny O’Connor was the most wonderful children’s book that I have read this year. I enjoyed reading it and my children loved listening to it too. The illustrations were beautiful too and made it even better. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi was also a very worthy read, it was touching and inspirational in so many ways, I’d really recommend reading it. Finally, Tom Bale wrote two cracking reads, See How They Run and All Fall Down which just miss out from a place too.

I could go on and on but I’m going to stop here. I hope that if you’ve got this far I have inspired you to pick up some of these great books. I hope that 2017 will be another bumper year of great reads too.

Review: My Girl by Jack Jordan.

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My Girl by Jack Jordan.

My 3.5* review:

This is my first Jack Jordan read but I’ve heard a lot about him and how good his books are so I was excited to read this. I knew little about the book’s storyline and if I’m honest I think that that is the best way to read this book.

I found it very easy to read, it took me a couple of days which is really quick for me but that was because the book is quite simply written. This has its benefits but I also felt that it was a bit too simplified and I just didn’t emotionally relate to any of the characters which meant that I didn’t really care about what happened to them.

Paige is a mess, her daughter was killed ten years ago and only her severed arm was found. Then, a few months ago, her husband committed suicide. Paige falls apart, she is drinking so much that she often blacks out so when strange things start happening no one will believe her as they think that it was something that she had done herself when she was drunk.

There is talk about childhood sexual abuse in the book which could be a trigger for some people but it is not graphic in any way. There is pretty graphic violence in the book though.

I enjoyed My Girl and give it 3.5*. I received a copy of My Girl from the publisher via Netgalley but I was under no obligation to review the book.

Blurb:

Paige Dawson: the mother of a murdered child and wife to a dead man.

She has nothing left to live for… until she finds her husband’s handgun hidden in their house.

Why did Ryan need a gun? What did he know about their daughter’s death?

Desperate for the truth, Paige begins to unearth her husband’s secrets.

But she has no idea who she is up against, or that her life isn’t hers to gamble – she belongs to me.

From the bestselling author of Anything for Her, Jack Jordan’s My Girl is the new chilling thriller that you won’t want to miss.

My Girl is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Blog Tour & Review: Dark Minds by Bloodhound books.

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Publishers, Bloodhound books, have done something very special. They have brought together a group of crime authors and each of them has written a short story that together makes up the new book, Dark Minds. The proceeds of the book go to two amazing charities, Hospice UK and Sophie’s Appeal making the book even more special.

You can watch a promo video of the book to get you in the mood, but there are so many authors contributing to Dark Minds that everyone is bound to find something that they enjoy. Perfect Christmas present I think, so much so that my brother will be getting a copy.

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I was sent one story to read but I really wanted to support the book and was keen to read many of the stories by some of my favourite crime authors so I also bought an ebook of it. I’m still reading the book but loving it, I’ve never read short stories before, it’s something that I’ve never really been interested in but I think that Dark Minds has changed my mind. I’m enjoying the fast pace and the stories are short meaning that I can read one or two in a sitting which works well for me. At 400 pages the book is a big one, but broken down into smaller stories it is easy to read. As I haven’t finished the whole book yet I’m just going to talk about the stories that I have read.

15542133_1185300924868380_8347541699500614332_nAuthor B.A.Morton kicks the book off with the story Ten Green Bottles, telling the story of Zoe who wakes up in hospital, covered in blood that isn’t all her own she slowly pieces together the pieces of what happened and faces the full consequences of her actions. Is it her fault that people died?

londoncrawling-darkminds Next Emma Pullar gives us something completely different. Jody leaves work to find London deserted, a thick fog covers everything and she has no mobile reception. As she walks the empty streets she can’t help feeling spooked but is there a good reason for that? Of course there is! This book was really creepy and definitely got under my skin!

theshoe-darkmindsThe fabulous Louise Jensen‘s The Shoes Maketh The Man gives us some twists and turns as Bill, an old man living in a nasty area fearful of being attacked in his own home like many other pensioners in the area. When he hears his upstairs neighbour Bill’s reaction is not what you think it will be, that’s for sure! She has another book out this week, The Gift, and this short story has made me determined to read it soon.

15621584_1313581865350367_6086013827764944870_n-1Then comes Never Tell a Lie by Tara Lyons who co-authored The Caller which I really enjoyed. I loved her story about a man working in a coffee shop and looking for the woman for him. He has some unusual ideas about what that might mean though!! Yikes.

15590180_1313623128679574_8747783979732814351_nRichard Burke gives us his story, A Christmas Killing about a man who gets an intriguing delivery and has some very strange things in his fridge. The story leaves you guessing and trying to get your head around just what it is that is in his fridge.

15622219_1314657988576088_4639021279306110985_nAuthor Betsy Reavley who has published two brilliant book this year, The Optician’s Wife and Frailty, doesn’t disappoint with the unsettling By The Water, about a woman who finds herself in a river covered in blood, did a doctor’s attempt to cure her from her mental health problems actually cause more damage?

15578915_1315061125202441_1666168732298414783_nNext up is Tony Cox with his story, A Cup of Coffee and a Slice of Life. A man in a cafe overhears two old ladies talking about old times, it all seems innocent until the woman start to talk about events that are anything but innocent. This story gave me the shivers.

15349549_1315098708532016_7459202053480914597_nS.E. Lynes gives us Slow Roast Pork, a woman’s husband goes missing and she deals with it by cooking. Guests get given plenty to eat, including the police who particularly enjoy her roast pork. But is all as it seems?! This one got under my skin, and the end was not what I was expecting!

dark-minds-strangers-eyesFinally, I read Paul Gitsham‘s story, A Stranger’s Eyes. In this story, we follow a man who wakes up in a hotel room, beaten and bloodied he can’t remember anything, not even who he is. In his room, he finds a stash of money and soon enough a knock at the door tells him that whatever he has done, the police want to talk to him about it. Panicked he runs, but what is it he did and will he get caught by the police?

 

So far I have enjoyed all of the stories and I hope that many of you are tempted enough to buy a copy for yourself or for someone as a present. It always feels even better buying something when the proceeds go to two amazing charities. I will be publishing my full review when I have finished the complete book.

Dark Minds is out now and available from Amazon UKAmazon USWaterstones and all good book stores.

Review: The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse.

 

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The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse.

My 5* Review: 

The Food of Love is my first Amanda Prowse novel, but it certainly won’t be the last. I’ve heard a lot about the author and her books on Facebook book pages and kept wanting to read them but never quite getting round to it. But when I read the blurb for The Food of Love I really wanted to read it. So I did.

What I read was a very well researched book that told the story of a family torn apart by anorexia.

Food had always played an important part in the lives of the Braithwaite family, Mum Freya spends her days writing about food and every meal was a veritable feast. Youngest daughter Lexi was on a health kick, having grown up slightly podgy she was running regularly and Freya was happy with this change. She put it down to Lexi’s interest in a boy at school.

When Lexi’s school called Freya in to talk to her about their concerns about Lexi and the fact that she was losing weight and not eating Freya dismissed their concerns. She knew her daughter and she’d sat with her at the kitchen table every night watching her eat her dinner. Husband Lockie agreed with Freya and family life continued.

Soon enough Freya was forced to accept that maybe Lexi did having a problem with eating, something that was clearly very uncomfortable for her to face, Lexi had a healthy dose of denial about the seriousness of Lexi’s problem.

I loved how the book was written, how each member of the family dealt with what was happening differently and how it pulled the family apart. I especially loved the relationship between Lockie and Freya, could such a strong and loving relationship handle anorexia in the family?

I think that The Food of Love will really open people’s eyes about anorexia and the shocking impact that it can have, and the lengths that someone with anorexia will go to in order to hide it.  I know that many don’t understand why the person just can’t eat and get on with it, but this book cleverly shows the reader how it really isn’t that simple and how distressing anorexia can be for the sufferer but also for those around them. If you know someone with anorexia and struggle to understand it then read this book, if you have a friend whose daughter is anorexic then read this book and if you are the parent to young children then read this book.

Although The Food of Love wasn’t always easy to read I found it such a good book and one that sucked me right in, took me on a real emotional rollercoaster and made me care for the family. Sure, at times I wanted to shout at Freya to kick her out of her denial and her insistence that she could make Lexi better, but I also understood and empathised with where she was coming from.

I for one look forward to the next Amanda Prowse book that I will read, she is definitely an author to follow.

I received a copy of The Food of Love from Netgalley, this has not affected my review.

Blurb:

A loving mother. A perfect family. A shock wave that could shatter everything.

Freya Braithwaite knows she is lucky. Nineteen years of marriage to a man who still warms her soul and two beautiful teenage daughters to show for it: confident Charlotte and thoughtful Lexi. Her home is filled with love and laughter.

But when Lexi’s struggles with weight take control of her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart, leaving the whole family with a sense of helplessness that can only be confronted with understanding, unity and, above all, love.

In this compelling and heart-wrenching new work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse, one ordinary family tackles unexpected difficulties and discovers that love can find its way through life’s darkest moments.

The Food of Love is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Q&A and Review: Sarah Rayner, author of Making Friends with Depression.

So, today we have something a little bit different on If only I could read faster. It isn’t often that I review a non-fiction book, but I have always supported Sarah Rayner’s non-fiction books and so when she released a new one I wanted to help her let more people know about her books.

I sort of feel like this is a bit of a ‘coming out’ post for me, I am not someone who is open about their mental health struggles, I’ve always been a private person and I guess aware of the stigma around mental health. But I do think that that stigma is not the same as it used to be, I certainly hope not anyway, and I don’t think that keeping mental health struggles quiet is helpful to the person who has the struggles, or those that are close to them. So I have been thinking for a while that it would be good to be more open about my experiences, I was just unsure how to go about that.

So reviewing Making Friends with Depression and doing a Q&A with Sarah Rayner is my way of ‘coming out’ about my own mental health struggles. I have been a member of the Facebook group, Making Friends with Anxiety (now Making Friends with Anxiety and Depression), for a couple of years now, and although not a very active member the group has at times been very helpful, although for me anxiety is not my main struggle. My battle is with depression, severe and debilitating depression. It is something that I struggle with in some way or other pretty much every single day, although thankfully with the right support and treatment I am able to function in the sometimes scary world.

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Making Friends with range by Sarah Rayner.

My 4* review: 

Having read Sarah Rayner’s previous non-fiction books focusing on anxiety I was keen to read her latest book about depression. Rayner has a great way of talking to her audience, it really does feel like you are chatting with her in person when you read. Her style is light and certainly not preachy.

The book is broken down into chapters that spell the word Depression. So chapter one talks about diagnosis, where the book talks about what depression is and the various symptoms, two about expert support including guidance on talking to your doctor and medication and so on.

This means that reading the book is broken down into simple, easy to read topics. In this book Sarah is also joined by another author who has struggled with depression, helping to give different viewpoints and experiences, and by a GP who gives his professional experience too. Although Rayner is the main narrator the book does benefit from the other contributors.

Perhaps the most important contribution comes from people who struggle with depression. In researching this book Rayner carried out a number of online questionnaires in order to get as a wide an experience as possible as no one with depression has the same experience as another. There are regular quotes in the book from these responses (including one from me) and I found these to be helpful and I think would definitely help someone in the middle of a depressive episode to feel less alone.

One of the chapters does focus on crisis care, where they advise on what to do and where to get help in an emergency situation, but the rest of the book is aimed at people who are struggling with depression but not, in my experience, a severe episode.

I know from my own experience that if I was at a really low point then this book would be of very limited help to me, but if I was at the start of a depression and if you like, caught it early enough, then this book would be a great help and reminder of things that I can do to help get myself out of it before I go too far.

I think that this book would be particularly useful for someone who is new to depression, and perfect for someone who is just starting to accept that they have depression as this book will educate them in a non-judgemental, easy to follow way. It would also be very helpful for a friend or family member of someone with depression.

This is a light and easy to read book, and I’ve no doubt that many will gain a lot from reading it. I do feel that if someone is struggling with severe depression then this book would have limited use.

The final thing to note about this book are the many wonderful illustrations. Rayner, it turns out, is something of an artist and she has drawn lots of pictures for the book. Although in Kindle format these illustrations are often not fully legible, especially small writing, which is unfortunate, although I believe this is only the case with e-readers and not if you use a kindle app on tablet or phone. I think that this is one book that would be better to read in hard copy so that you can make notes, perhaps highlight parts, and enjoy the illustrations.

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Sarah Rayner.

Q&A with Sarah Rayner:

  1. You started off writing fiction. What made you change to writing non-fiction books?

I didn’t deliberately set out to change from one to the other – in fact I’ve always written non-fiction, just not in book form, as for twenty years my ‘day job’ was advertising copywriting. So you may have read my work in magazines or on the tube, but not been aware I was the author! Some people might say that advertising is a form of fiction, but I found that composing letters, brochures and advertorials good training when it came to writing my non-fiction titles, as I learned how to sift through information and pare it down so I could write about complex subjects in an accessible way.

Then, when I was launching my novel Another Night, Another Day, which focuses on three people who meet in a psychiatric clinic, I was invited to write a series of blogs for Moodscope, a website which allows you to track your moods on a daily basis. I decided to focus on panic and worry as I’d personal experience of anxiety, and each day for a week explored a different area related to subject, starting with ‘A’ for ‘Adrenaline’ and finishing with ‘Y’ for ‘You’, so that after seven days I’d spelt out the word ANXIETY. I researched each subject carefully – not least as I stood to benefit myself! – and had the content checked by a GP to make sure the advice I gave was responsible. The reaction to those blogs was so heartfelt – it seemed there were a lot of people out there who were as desperate as I had been – that it led me to believe there was an opportunity to offer anxiety sufferers something more permanent that they could turn to whenever the need arose. So I set my hand to penning Making Friends with Anxiety, a little self-help book where I drew upon my own experiences and learnings in order to help others help themselves. Because I’d experience of marketing, I decided to publish the book myself, curious to see what ‘independent publishing’ was really like, and discover I could make it work financially and aesthetically as well as reaching out to a new readership.

2. Have you always been open about your mental health struggles or did you make a conscious decision to tell people about it when you wrote Making Friends with Anxiety?

My father, Eric Rayner, was a psychoanalyst, so an interest in mental health is in my blood. He recently passed away but his intellectual influence on me was always strong, and I remember asking him to direct me to books on people with multiple personality disorder when I was 17 as there was a song by Siouxsie and the Banshees – remember them? – called Christine, which focused on a woman with the condition. However it took several decades before I was ready to write about mental illness myself – maybe because he was so erudite! So whilst I touched on it in my other novels, it wasn’t until my fifth book, Another Night, Another Day, that I made it the focus of the story. When launching Another Night, Another Day it seemed relevant – and important in terms of overcoming stigma – to speak of my own experiences – and since then I’ve been much more open. I would encourage others to talk if they feel up to it, too, as whilst I still have dark days, I believe bottling up emotions or trying to cope on our own often makes us feel much worse.

3. You began with Making Friends with Anxiety, followed by colouring and craft books, and a book on the menopause. Why did you decide to focus on anxiety and the menopause before writing your latest book on depression?

Depression is arguably the obvious successor to a book on anxiety as both are frequently diagnosed together, but my anxiety had escalated enormously in the run up to the menopause, and I became interested in the link between hormonal changes and panic so for me the subject of menopause was the natural follow-up. I was also wary about dealing with the sensitive subject of depression on my own; using my experiences as the sole basis for extrapolating advice aimed at a wide audience, many of whom would be in a highly distressed state, seemed unwise and potentially dangerous. But when my fellow author Kate Harrison and doctor friend Patrick Fitzgerald expressed an interest in collaborating, I became inspired by the prospect of what we might do together. And when the team of wonderful volunteers who help run the ‘Making Friends with Anxiety’ group on Facebook offered to expand the group to include sufferers of depression too, I finally felt we had a ‘net’ so to speak, capable of supporting people in a way that I could never offer alone. Once I had sorted those elements, I felt able to embark on the project and I’m thrilled with how the book has turned out.

4. You asked people to fill in online questionnaires when you were researching Making Friends with Depression, did you learn anything surprising from doing that? 

The survey was Kate’s suggestion: she uses a similar technique to help research her 5:2 diet books. I was astonished by the huge number of responses we got, and the honesty of the replies. I think perhaps because they could remain anonymous, people felt more able to express themselves. We asked all sorts of questions (readers can see the survey here, and it helped us understand not only how differently individuals experience depression, but also the commonalities. I was interested to learn how many people had had some form of therapy through the NHS – that’s a big and positive change and one that has happened in the last five years. What is less good is that a great number of respondents felt the therapy had stopped too soon. It’s my hope that our book will enable those who feel bereft of support either begin or continue to help themselves – because recovery is possible.

5. Why did you decide to start the Making Friends with Anxiety Facebook page?

One important distinction is that it’s a group not a page, which means that members have to ask to join. This means they can discuss their issues with others in confidence, and I know from my own experience of being in groups that talking to others with similar experiences can go a long way towards helping us feel more connected to others and confident. To explain the benefits more fully, I asked the members. Here are a few responses:

Making Friends with Anxiety means I’m not alone anymore, like-minded people are always available on my mobile. People that I now consider friends.”

🙂It’s somewhere I can be myself, where I’m understood, nobody will judge me or call me a nutter or tell me I’m being stupid. People are so warm and caring – it’s like a big fluffy comfort blanket!”

This group makes me feel not so insular. Never have I spoken completely honestly about my anxiety or what it has caused me to do or feel. I have a voice, I am not alone and everyone on this site is so supportive and kind which is exactly what you need when you feel low. It is like a little supportive family when you don’t have your own to turn to.”

6. You have drawn a lot of drawings for Making Friends with Depression, and you’ve released two books on creativity and mental illness. How do you think that being creative helps your mental health?  

I’ve noticed that when my brain is tired of writing that I still have energy to draw; this may be because they involve different neural pathways. In any case, I feel we can often say a lot more with a drawing than with words, and illustrations were a way of ‘lightening up’ the book without being flip. I found myself smiling as I drew, feeling empathy for the characters I was creating. So there are two examples of how being creative helps lift my spirits, and others who suffer with anxiety or depression have said similar. Kate writes about cooking in the book for instance, and how it enables her to combine self-care and creativity. Patrick is a musician as well as a GP – my guess is that it helps him unwind from listening to patients’ problems to thrash about on a guitar!

7. You’ve become a champion with all the work that you do around mental health; writing books, an active role on the Facebook page and your regular feature in Psychology Today.

Yes! Here’s a link:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/worry-and-panic/201412/simple-tips-managing-anxiety-in-the-run-christmas

8. Was this something that you wanted to do when you set out to write Making Friends with Anxiety? 

When my father was a young man, he was a naval officer and he visited Japan in the aftermath of Hiroshima. He was horrified by what he saw there, and it was this experience that led him to work in mental health – he wanted to understand why people could be so destructive, when he believed that basically humans are social and good. He spent over 50 years campaigning for better mental healthcare. My motivations are not the same, but I do appreciate where he was coming from in trying to build bridges between people. I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all ‘cure’ for depression or anxiety or grief, but I do I believe understanding ourselves can give us greater freedom from mental illness, and the support of others can help us through dark times.

9. Do you have plans to write more books on mental health or will you return to fiction? 

Hopefully both! I’ve just relaunched my first novel, The Other Half, as an ebook with illustrations – it’s probably the furthest from Making Friends with Depression that it’s possible to be. This link should allow you to look inside, and you’ll see what I mean!

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It tells the story of an affair from the alternating perspectives of the wife and the mistress and is half price to download between Friday 16 and Sunday 18 December as a present to all my readers – and yours – so they can treat themselves to an illicit affair via my novel over Christmas should they fancy it.

Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog, Becca. It’s been really interesting to get this chance to talk about all my books, and keep up the great work!

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Sarah Rayner’s fiction books.

Thank you so much for answering all the questions Sarah, and for the half price download of The Other Half! It has been great to have you on If only I could read faster and I wish you lots of luck with future books.

All of Sarah Rayner’s books can be found on Amazon UK and Amazon USI particularly recommend One Moment One Morning.

Blog Tour: Guest Post by Angela Corner Author of The Hidden Island.

hidden-island-blog-tour

I’m delighted to have Angela Corner, author of The Hidden Island on If only I could read faster today giving us some writing advice. As I’m still trying to finish my NaNoWriMo project I’m still really interested in getting all the advice that I can and I have to say that I found a lot of what Angela had to say interesting. I hope that you do too!

Writing Advice

Do you write every day or wait for inspiration to strike?

One of the things I learned for writing for soaps is that if you get up in a morning and wait for inspiration to strike then you’ll never finish anything.  There are days when writing feels easy. The ideas flow, your sentences seem to appear on the page as if by magic, you are ‘in the zone’ and it feels great.  But then there are the days when your mind is blank. The keys on your keyboard might as well be in Chinese. The temptation to eat cake and chocolate or even do some house work is almost impossible to resist.  It is those days when you have to battle and sweat and just write something. Anything. It will feel like total rubbish, and may well be total rubbish, but you have to force yourself to keep writing. It’s a habit, a discipline. And even on those bleak, painful days you may produce something worth keeping. Or the germ of something worth keeping.  

Where do you get your ideas from?

Everywhere. From the news, from family and friends, from eavesdropping on conversations on trains, in pubs and in shops.  There’s a thing called the creative bubble or the creative cloud.  It’s populated by everything going on in the world, locally and nationally.  Everyone can access it and draw inspiration and ideas from it. Sometimes people will reach into the bubble, pull out the same things and come up with very similar ideas at similar times.  It then looks like people are copying each other when in fact they’ve simply got the same ingredients from the bubble and put them together in the same way.

Using friends and family’s experiences – including the most shocking and upsetting ones – as a basis for stories can be difficult to reconcile.  Every time someone confides in you the writer part of you will be thinking of ways it could be made it into a story whereas the ‘human’ part of you will be sympathising and trying to help or console.  It’s a conflict that all writers have and it is essential to keep enough distance between real life experiences and what you use in your stories, either by time or by altering aspects of the story. Otherwise you may end up with no friends and lots of family conflict.

It’s a good idea to have an ideas notepad. You might be working on something else but have a new idea. Write it in your ideas notepad for future reference. It’s very easy – and tempting – to have a great new idea and abandon whatever you’re currently working on to start the new idea. It’s the grass is always greener phenomenon.  New ideas always seem better than the one you’ve been sweating over for weeks and months.  A bit like the excitement of a new relationship. But if you constantly move onto the newest idea you’ll never finish anything. All writers are guilty of it.

Do you plan or make it up as you go along?

All writers are different. Some plan to the nth degree. Others start at chapter one with no idea where they will end up. Most writers are somewhere in between. If you are a writer who has started many books but not managed to finish any then I think planning the structure and major events/turning points is a sensible idea.  It gives you a framework and keeps you focused with certain points to aim for.  With The Hidden Island I started with a fairly detailed plan of each chapter.  This did change to varying degrees as I went along with some aspects removed and others added in.  The original plan included lots of flashbacks to Beckett’s previous investigation on the Island but during the writing process I found this slowed the action too much.   The other big change to the original plan was the ending. This changed when I was writing the synopsis to send off to publishers and agents. In writing the two page synopsis (easily the most difficult part of novel writing!) I realised the original ending wasn’t working as well as I’d liked and a different ending popped into my head.  I put the new ending in the synopsis and then rewrote the final chapter.

My writing day

It’s important, or at least to me, to get into a writing routine. Most writers seem to have a routine that suits them and their lifestyle and mine has had to adapt to changes in my own life.  My preferred time of day to write is actually in the evening and on into the early hours.  However this routine is not conducive to a healthy relationship!  I also struggle to write if anyone else is in the house.  Complete immersion in my made up worlds requires no real world distractions.  So my writing routine now means writing during the day whilst the house is empty. I have a minimum word count of 1000 words a day.  If the writing is going well then I will continue on past 1000 words and keep going until I get beaten by the clock or simply feel too tired to carry on.  If it’s one of those struggling days I will write my 1000 words and then stop but I will make myself do a 1000 words however long it takes and however horrible those 1000 words feel.

Edit as you go or just keep going?

It’s tempting to start each new day by going back over what you’ve written the day before and rewriting it.  But this can really stall all forward motion.  I will edit as I go during the day but once that day’s writing is done, in general, I won’t go back over it the following day. There are exceptions to this – if something really isn’t working, or if I get a lightbulb moment that evening about a new way of doing things or an extra story strand to add.  It’s important to keep going and bury any self-doubt until you’ve got to the final full stop, of the final sentence, of the final chapter.  Then put the manuscript aside for a few weeks, or months. Work on something else. Start a new book, or at least the research and planning of a new book, before picking up your first draft and beginning the editing process.

The Hidden Island by Angela Corner is available now from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Blurb:

The Hidden Island: an edge of your seat crime thriller

Sex. Drugs. Murder.

Hidden behind the crystal seas and beautiful beaches of a Greek Island dark and dangerous secrets lurk. Beckett has had his fill of adrenaline fuelled criminal investigation and with a broken body and damaged career goes to the Greek Island of Farou to head up the Criminal Investigation Bureau. Serious crime is rare, the weather is great and the beer is cold but his ‘retirement’ is cut short when a pagan cult resurrects and bodies start showing up.

With doubts about his mental and physical ability to do the job, a British police detective is sent to help with the investigation. DI Lee Harper is everything Beckett is not – young, ambitious and by the book.

As well as tackling the new case Beckett must overcome the demons from his past.

Family loyalty, power and money are at the source of the investigation where appearance is everything and nothing is what is seems.

Can Beckett and Harper work together to find justice for the victims?

Will the idyllic island ever be the same again?

Sometimes paradise can be hell.

“This gritty thriller is a brilliantly plotted and refreshing read. Angela Corner is one to watch for those who like their books with a bit more bite” Betsy Reavley, best-selling author of The Quiet Ones, The Optician’s Wife and Frailty.

Angela Corner is a debut author who mastered her craft as a screenwriter on top serial dramas including Eastenders and Hollyoaks. The Hidden Island is the perfect read for fans of authors like Lisa Hall, Katerina Diamond, Kathryn Croft and Caroline Mitchell