The Venus Trap by Louise Voss #review

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 17.27.38With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, what better than to share my thoughts on a fantastic psychological thriller of obsession and unrequited love?

Here’s the blurb: 

Jo Atkins’ sixteenth year was disastrous: she lost her dad, was assaulted by a stranger, and then had her heart broken. For the last twenty-five years, she’s believed that nothing could ever be as bad again.

She was wrong.

Now, still smarting from her recent divorce, pretty, self-effacing Jo finally gathers the courage to enter the dating scene. She meets Claudio, whom she vaguely remembers from her youth, but after a few dates decides he’s creepy and politely tells him ‘thanks but no thanks’.

But Claudio has no intention of letting her go.

Instead of never seeing him again, Jo wakes up sick and terrified, handcuffed to her own bed. She is given a week to prove her love for Claudio—or he will kill her.

Claudio, it turns out, is a man with nothing left to lose…

And what did I think? Well, firstly, thank you to the author – the lovely Louise Voss – and the publisher for the review copy via Netgalley.

This is the first of Louise’s solo novels I’ve read, and I did wonder how it would differ from those written with her co-writer, Mark Edwards. I’m not sure what comparisons can be made, other than to say that both authors produce very well written, engaging stories that pull you in and keep you there. The main difference, I’d say, is that this is much more of a woman’s book, in many ways (not to say that men couldn’t learn a thing or two from it about what NOT to do!) In The Venus Trap, there is a lot of talk of past dating disasters and the main character, Jo, narrates these in the midst of her current biggest disaster – a date that has led to her being kidnapped and imprisoned in her own home by a man she vaguely remembers from school.

Her tormentor tries to torture her into loving him.

As things unravel, we start to work out what has made him act like this, and through the schoolgirl diaries of Jo, we get a beautiful, if tragic, story of her past loves, her difficult teenage years and what has shaped her into the woman she is. Voss has a knack for capturing the teenage angst with brilliant, often dark humour. There are many excellent turns of phrase and proper laugh out loud moments, in both teenage Jo and adult Jo’s accounts, and the dark side of her current situation is neatly and believably handled. This is one of those books that you’ll want to recommend to your friends, so much of it is relatable – especially for anyone who has suffered the perils of the dating scene.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

ALSO… as The Venus Trap is released on 24th February, which is the same date as the eBook release of Black Wood, Louise and I will be collaborating and chatting over at LizLovesBooks.

Don’t miss it!!

21 days to go…

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 13.18.48I can barely sleep. I am suffering from nausea, shaking and abject terror. The fear has struck! And no, it’s not a side-effect of doing dry January (note: I didn’t do dry January… everything in moderation. Except at book launches.)

Yes, the time has come, well, almost. The eBook of BLACK WOOD comes out in 21 days. TWENTY ONE DAYS. 504 hours. Less, actually, as anyone who has pre-ordered on Amazon will get the book auto-delivered at 00:00… in under 492 hours.

The palpitations have started.

Please send calming thoughts.

Created, The Destroyer: The bestselling series you’ve never heard of…

Before Jack Reacher. Before Jason Bourne. Before Alex Cross… There was The Destroyer. One legendary hero. One epic series.

Remo Williams is a former police officer who was sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit and is now hours away from sitting in the electric chair. During his last rites Remo’s confessor gives him a black pill to bite down on exactly before he is electrocuted. Remo does as ordered but, instead of dying, he wakes up in an ambulance. He is still alive. Remo has been recruited by CURE, a secret government organization set up to defend the country outside the law. He is their new assassin: The Destroyer.

This is an interesting book. The premise, where Remo is saved from electrocution and then sent off to a secret organisation to become ‘The Destroyer’ intrigued me, but I found that a lot of the time I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. It’s a short, noirish, satirical take on the thriller genre and having been written in the 60s there are some cliched characters and some old-fashioned views – which in some ways, you can attribute to the satire, but sometimes it felt a bit dated. Being short (print length is <200 pages), I’m not sure how much I really got to know Remo, but I was quite entertained by him, and the fact that this is the first in a series of 145 (yes – 145!) titles, I think that he is set to become a great character who will surely develop more… The karate scenes with his trainer, Chiun, reminded me of The Karate Kid, and you can hardly fault that 😉 Overall opinion is that I enjoyed the book, it was different to the things that I usually read, and an interesting experiment to see if the stories have stood the test of time… well, only a new audience will be able to assess that. And maybe the upcoming Hollywood movie might help as it is definitely written in a way that would lend itself to the big screen… Sony have recently signed up Shane Black of Iron Man 3 fame to direct it. I wonder who’ll play the lead?

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Warren Murphy is a former newspaper writer and editor. After the Korean War he moved into politics and co-wrote Created, the Destroyer, the first title in The Destroyer series, with Richard Sapir in 1963. The series is composed of 145 titles and has now sold more than 60 million copies. Warren has served on the board of the Mystery Writers of America and has also been a member of the Private Eye Writers of America, the International Association of Crime Writers, the American Crime Writers League and the Screenwriters Guild. He is the screenwriter who gave Clint Eastwood the script of the Eiger Sanction.

Thanks to Clara Diaz at Little, Brown for the advance review copy and the invitation to be part of this blog tour.

You can check out the rest of the tour via the blogs below (click on the poster to enlarge):

I Want to Believe… The Story Behind ‘What You Wish For’

I’m very pleased to welcome Mark Edwards back to the blog to tell us about his new thriller, What You Wish For.

As with Mark’s previous solo novel, The Magpies, I flew through this book. The main character of Richard is engaging, the storyline quirky, fast-paced and very enjoyable. Addictive reading from a master of the page-turner 🙂

See blurb below, followed by a post from Mark on the inspiration for the novel.

* * *

From the author of No.1 bestseller The Magpies comes a gripping new tale of suspense.

Marie Walker has vanished from the face of the earth…

Her besotted boyfriend, newspaper photographer Richard Thompson, vows to find her, convinced that Marie’s unusual beliefs hold the key.

But a shocking discovery makes him question if he ever really knew his girlfriend. And when people around him start to die, Richard is plunged into terrible danger.

Drawn into the world of a sinister cult and the darkest corners of the Internet, Richard finds himself increasingly out of his depth – as he discovers just how far people will go to protect what they believe in…

* * *

I Want to Believe… The Story Behind ‘What You Wish For’

My new novel, ‘What You Wish For’, is a book about a group of people who believe in aliens. But it’s not a book about aliens – or UFOs, or abductions, or little grey men – even though on the surface it’s a thriller featuring a search for a missing woman who is convinced that she can communicate with extra-terrestrials and is set in a world of UFO-fanatics.

As Stephen King says in ‘On Writing’, most good books have themes, but the story should always come first…and as you are writing, the theme will emerge. This is exactly what happened when I wrote ‘What You Wish For’.

I started writing this book waaaay back in 1997 and it was originally going to be called ‘Staring Into Space’. Back then, aliens were trendy. The X Files was the biggest programme on TV, that Levi’s ad featuring ‘Spaceman’ by Babylon Zoo had recently been a massive hit, and the media was full of stories about alien autopsies and crop circles. Pre-millennial madness perhaps. One Sunday afternoon when I was walking on the East Hill in Hastings, where I lived, I bumped in to my best friend from primary school. I hadn’t seen him for years. We went for a drink and he told me, excitedly, that he had recently been to Roswell to see where the US Government kept the bodies of the aliens that had crash-landed in the New Mexico desert. His eyes burned with the conviction of a religious zealot. (I haven’t seen my old friend since. Maybe he’s been abducted.)

This sparked the idea for a novel, and after reading up on what UFO-watchers believe, I started writing it. I finished a first draft but then moved onto something else (my memory is blurry).

Fast-forward a decade and a half. I have lost most of my hair, fathered four children, and have achieved the dream I had back then: I am now a full-time writer, with a couple of publishing deals under my belt. I am also, I think, a much better writer due to all the years of practice.

Just before Christmas, I was moving a load of boxes into our loft. One of these boxes contained all my manuscripts from the nineties. I sat and looked through them, cringing slightly, but then came upon ‘Staring Into Space’. Leafing through it, I realised that there was the seed of something good here. It was rough and needed a lot of work. And it only existed on paper – this was the only copy in the world. I took it to Prontaprint who scanned and converted it into a PDF and, through the magic of modern technology, I soon had it in Word.

I spent the next few months completely rewriting it. The original idea and most of the plot, along with the main characters, remained. As did all of the stuff about aliens. Despite rumours of a third X Files movie, E.T.s are not so zeitgeisty now. This worried me a little. But as I worked on the novel, it struck me that it didn’t matter, because this book is not about aliens.

It’s about belief.

I had tapped into a theme without meaning to, my younger self subconsciously working through an issue that meant, and still means, a lot to me. Belief, and faith. What is it that makes some people believe so strongly in something that they let it take over their lives? Why do some people have such strong faith, or convictions, that they will kill strangers, even start wars? Or what is it that makes less extreme people go to church every Sunday?

And what about the rest of us – people like me? Like the narrator of ‘What You Wish For’, I don’t have any strong religious or political beliefs. Of course, I have convictions. For example, I am a vegetarian because I don’t like the idea that an animal was killed so I can eat it. But I don’t let it affect my life beyond not buying or eating meat.

This book explores what happens when a believer and non-believer meet and fall in love, and then what happens when the non-believer poses a threat to people who will do anything to protect their faith. The novel would still work, I think, if the believer was a religious fundamentalist or political activist. The difference is that most of us see people who believe in aliens as harmless nutcases. Except in my book, they’re not harmless.

There’s a part of me that thinks that when this book is published it will come to the attention of an Intergalactic Council, who will dispatch a squad of other-worldly assassins to deal with me and my blasphemous ways. But of course that won’t happen.

Will it?

* * *

Thanks Mark! What You Wish For is available now on Amazon.

Review

Having really enjoyed the author’s other books (both solo and in partnership with Louise Voss) I was very excited to read this book. The storyline is offers something different, a mix of love bordering on obsession, the hunt for a missing girl and the shadowy world of cults. The main character, Richard, is a joy to read, and the people he comes across on the way to find his missing girlfriend, Marie are realistically portrayed – even if they’re not the type of characters you might be used to reading about – delusional misfits and hints of a very shady underworld where aliens – yes – the bulbous headed abduction type – hold the key to the future… for some people, at least. The story harks back to a time when alien sightings were almost commonplace in the media, and the people who believed… and those cynics who flatly refused to. Richard is grounded in reality, yet he is drawn into a world where he has to question the truth if he wants to find his girl. This is not a sci-fi novel – this is a novel about people from different backgrounds being thrown together into the mix. Ultimately it is a story about losing someone, and coming to the realisation that they may not want to be found. Fast-paced and very enjoyable, this is addictive reading from a master of the page-turner.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman #Review

Most people ignored the outrageous reports on the news. But they became too frequent, they became too real. And soon, they began happening down the street. Then the Internet died. The television and radio went silent. The phones stopped ringing. And we couldn’t look outside anymore. Malorie raises the children the only way she can; indoors. The house is quiet. The doors are locked, the curtains are closed, mattresses are nailed over the windows.

They are out there. 

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There are numerous books and films out there about post-apocalyptic worlds, dystopias, the destruction of mankind… a lot of the same territory is covered. It’s hard to come up with something original. The most exciting I’d seen prior to this was The Children of Men. Josh Malerman manages to go one step further, resulting in a book that will stop you in your tracks, keeping you reading in one-sitting, so that you will miss your stop on the train, bump into lampposts, and stay awake all night.

The end of the world starts in typical fashion – something ‘strange’ is happening to people in different parts of the world. The events increase in frequency until they reach Chicago, where Malorie lives with her sister Shannon. They have just moved into a flat together, there is a new boyfriend on the scene. All is looking good, until Malorie realises she is pregnant, and shortly afterwards she ends up alone and scared.

The story flits from past to present – from pregnancy to the aftermath – as the world falls further into decline. Malorie must make a perilous journey to find other survivors… not once, but twice. And throughout all of this, she must avoid what lurks outside her front door…

…and she can’t open her eyes.

One word review: Brilliant.

[Big thanks to Liz Loves Books for sharing her review copy with me]

Books I’ve Enjoyed in 2013

There are a lot of ‘best books of 2013’ posts circulating at the moment, so I thought I’d share with you the books I have enjoyed this year, not those necessarily published this year… although I am not selecting those that come out early next year (even though I have read them…) Confused? Ok, in no particular order – I really liked these:

Merry Christmas!