‘Hands Up’ by Stephen Clark

Hands Up’ by Stephen Clark is a crime/police procedural novel that deals with domestic storylines. It is a book that focuses on the death of a young, unarmed black male who was killed by a white police officer. When I was sent this book by the author to read and share my opinion I was very happy as this sounded like the very type of book I would like to read. All of these opinions are my own!
This is a serious topic that many people can feel effected by. This book is emotive, powerful and gripping. From the moment I was sent it I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know more and find out the conclusions to the storylines.
I found the writing itself engaging as it used language that matched the story and it was not filled with complex words. Occasionally authors will use big complex words to seem more professor but it effects the impact of Thier sorry if you have to read the same thing multiple times to be able to understand it. I did not have that issue with this book and I was able to engage and be fully present with the story.

I liked the fact it dealt with a thought provoking issue and didn’t shy away from the realities. It is not only about unlawful brutality by police but faces issues such as racial divide, police corruption, self harm, drug use and gang culture. Due to this the book can be intense but that isn’t a negative, these are serious topics that need to have a platform and if that is in a fictional book then so be it. I felt it was authentic and could be a real event.
It sharesa story, although fictional, that is similar to those we have all heard of on the news. It was structured in a way that we heard from three main viewpoints throughout the event, the aftermath and the conclusion. We hear from Jade (the sister of the young male (Tyrell) killed), Ryan (the cop who killed him) and Kelly (the parent of Tyrell and jade who has come back after leaving his family years ago).
I liked this as you saw the views from very different views which helped to build reasoning to your own thoughts as you read. It was also nice to hear from Ryan’s pint of view and not just the victim family as it shows that he didn’t just kill. There was a reason and influence by others and we also get the chance to see how he is coping with the events and that it didn’t just happen and that’s that.

The main characters whose viewpoints we hear are strong characters. They all provide different aspects of the event and I really like the way in which Clark has written this book. I think the characters are well developed and realistic. Jade I liked. She was a sister hurt by her brothers death and I felt that anger and upset through Clarks words. Although not necessarily to me I feel that she could be relatable to a large amount of people. She dealt with huge loss. I feel like saying that Ryan is likeable is wrong as he is the culprit in this book, but I did think he was. He was a man that, yes commited a horrible crime that cannot be condoned, was influenced by his corrupt partner and from the outset knew and took responsibilities for his accent. Kelly is a character is did not particularly like. I however do not think this is a bad thing. You need to have character you don’t connect with to add the tension to the book. He had previously left his family after being involved in gangs and when he comes back he claimed he had changed but had he really?. The other characters in the book are all vital parts who we get to meet through these three and although their views are not used as a voice for the story they are just as important to convey the realistic and thought provoking aspect of the book.

One thing I would say is that I’m not sure how I felt about the way thing went in part two between certain characters (you will know once you read it). I mean it’s not a negative thing and maybe it’s just because I wasn’t expecting it but still I felt it lessened the impact of the story just a little. There are other benefits to it however with it bringing the two ”sides” together but I still not 100% how I felt. I’m not sure if it was a real connection or if it was all part of a scheme and that could be completely what the author intended for the reader to feel. So they can make thier own mind up.

Overall ,I would rate this book highly and would recommend that you read this! Even if you don’t like police procedural books this is one that isn’t solely about that. I don’t think you can easily categorise this and there is almost something for everyone!
Again thanks again to Stephen Clark for sending me the book for this honest review. Again everything in this review is my honest opinion.

The Lincoln Rhyme Series

Recently on twitter @LoveBooksGroup ran a competition to win two books from the Lincoln Rhyme Series and one from the Katheryn Dance Series by Jeffery Deaver, alongside different teas and a cute notebook, and I was lucky enough to win. (Many thanks to @LoveBooksGroup).

I had never heard of this author or this series before seeing this competition and once I had read a little about them I was very interested.

Jeffery Deaver is a former journalist and attorney who is an international best seller and has released over 35 novels. He mainly writes mystery/crime novels but he has also released a non-fiction book that looks at law.

The Lincoln Rhyme series is focused on the central character of Lincoln Rhyme who is a former NYPD homicide detective who is now a forensic consultant with the department. This change of role was due to an accident which resulted in Rhyme becoming a quadriplegic. He is partnered with Amelia Sachs who acts as his eyes as she walks through the crime scene.

Personally, I really liked the concept of these books as I love crime novels but having the main character as a quadriplegic is not only a great way to show disability is not something to shy away from when writing and having the main character quadriplegic hightens this but also it lets you see the stories and crime scenes from a different view as he uses his partner as his eyes.

I have not yet read them but I can’t wait! The two books from this series are; The Burning Wire and The Skin Collector.

The third book I was lucky enough to win was Roadside Crosses which is an installment in Deavers Kathryn Dance series. Kathryn Dance is a Special Agent in the Central Bureau of Investigation of the state of California. This character was originally introduced in one of the Lincoln Rhyme novels before Deaver went and dedicated a new series to her. Kathryn Dance is an expert in Kensics and interrogation and is originally assigned to interogate Daniel Pell, a convicted murderer.

As you can imagine this is also a series that I am interested in reading as I also love any book that has a spy aspect to it, and although she isn’t a spy she is a special agent so close enough!

I also was sent 4 different types of tea from ‘eteaket’ and a cute notebook.

Again thanks to LoveBooksGroup and I recommend you follow them on twitter!

Many thanks, Caitlin x

(ps please comment if you have read any of the books from these series’ or by the author Jeffery Deaver.)

Perfect Crime

‘Perfect Crime’ by Helen Fields is the 5th instalment in the DI Callanach Series. It focuses on Luc as he continues his life as a detective in Scotland whilst being haunted by his past.

I love this series anyway as it is well written with great characters in my favourite genre and this instalment was no different. I enjoyed seeing the comradery between the officers at MIT and how these relationships have evolved throughout the series.

The characters are realistic and are not represented as perfect and the best police officer. They have their fair share of problems and we get to see them cope with this. I really like Callanach and Turner but in this book I felt myself becoming frustrated with their relationship. They want to be more than friends but it doesn’t quite happen. Maybe this was the writers intention and if so it worked but I just wanted something to happen between them! I like to see other characters like Tripp and lively make an appearance where we get to see them evolve as they spend more time in MIT.

You get to see MIT investigate a series of suspicious ‘suicides’ and as more and more deaths occur we see them work through the all the outcomes. I like to read these parts of the book as much as the personal stories of the characters as I find it provides a balance between the excitement and the sincere.

It is well structured and well written and engaging. I read this book pretty quickly as I couldn’t put the book down. I wanted to continue to read more and more to see what happens next.

I would highly recommend this book and the series as you will get the chance to see the characters evolve and develop. ( although I would say that you don’t have to)There is also another instalment due to be released in 2020 and I also can’t wait to read that!

Many thanks, Caitlin x

(PS please comment if you have ever read these books or have any other recommendations. )

Song of the Dead, Douglas Lindsay

Song of the Dead by Douglas Lindsay is a crime fiction novel that is the first installment of the DI Westphall series. It follows DI Westphall as he investigates a strange case. What happens when a man who died 12 years ago walks into a police station in Estonia? As the case unravels DI Westphall begins to realize the amount of secrets that led to this mysterious case.

The book is set in the Scottish Highlands and features scenes in various places around Scotland and in Estonia. I enjoy reading books that are set in Scotland as I often feel I can relate to them more being Scottish myself.

The idea of someone who was declared dead 12 years prior walks into an Estonian police station with only half his organs seems unbelievable but Douglas Lindsay writes it in such a way that it is completely plausible. The book is structured well with fairly short chapters which I prefer to huge long sections!

I enjoyed this book and I would like to read the next one. I felt the characters were likable and the main Character being realistic. DI Westphall seems to live in the land of the living and the dead but this seems normal for him. He used to work for the Secret Service but due to a fear of flying he decided to leave and work as a DI in Scotland. I ofund this fear to be a good part of the character as often in crime novels the policeman is portrayed to be this intelligent, brave man that is scared of nothing. This help to make him seem more human and real.

The book makes you think about possible connections and outcomes of the case alongside DI Westphall and I believe that this therefore engages you in the book. You want to read on and find out exactly what happened all those years ago. I found the book quite atmospheric even although it is a crime fiction novel.

There is a good balance between the investigation and the characters which I really enjoyed as I could learn more about the case whilst becoming invested in the characters themselves.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book especially if you enjoy reading crime fiction. It is gripping and immersive and keeps you reading till you have finished the book. I am definatly putting the secong installment on my ‘To Be Read’ list!

Many thanks, Caitlin x

(PS please feel free to comment if you have ever read this book or have any other crime fiction recommendations)

The importance of viewpoints

There are masses of viewpoints that authors can use especially if they have a lot of characters. This can be vital in making a story engaging and realistic.

If you are looking at a crime novel, viewpoints are important. You can look at the criminals view which can tell you why they are doing what they are doing, the police view to show how they are trying to solve the problem as well as the victims view. Those are just a few and you can look at many different people in the book to shed a new light on the events. A good example of looking at different viewpoints is All The Hidden Truths by Claire Askew. I found this book that shared a different point of view with a lot of the book being focused on the parents of both the victim and the criminal. To show how crime effects those that surround those individuals involved.

It is also important to ensure the correct viewpoint is chosen so that it suits the story. Whether the book is written in first, second or third person it need to be write for the story. Most books are written in third person, past tense but that doesn’t mean your book should be!

You also need to make sure that you stick to these viewpoints. To ensure you are staying in the characters head and the book stays in first, second or third person unless for a specific reason. Continuity is also incredibly important and key for viewpoints especially if you have multiple in one book. You need to ensure that if one character knows something but another doesn’t you need to ensure that these are stuck to.

Many thanks, Caitlin x

(PS please comment your opinion on viewpoints)

Author Q&A: Claire Askew

Author Photo : Lewis Khan

Claire Askew has kindly answered some of my question about being an author and her novel ‘All the Hidden Truths’ 
I hope you all enjoy and I greatly appreciate the time Claire took to answer these questions.

Claire Askew is the author of the poetry collection This changes things(Bloodaxe, 2016), which was shortlisted for an Edwin Morgan Poetry Award and the Saltire First Book Award, among others.  She is also a novelist, and her debut novel All The Hidden Truths won the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress.  The novel was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2018, and was a Times Crime Book of the Month.  Claire’s second novel, What You Pay For, will be published in August 2019.  Claire currently works as Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh.

1. What made you want to become a poet/author?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a little girl.  My dad was a big part of that: he’s worked in Communications for most of his career, and as a child I didn’t really know what that was, but I knew that he wrote as part of his job.  “I think knowing that meant I never internalised the message “writing isn’t a real job,” and thus managed to side-step a lot of the self doubt that new writers experience.”   I was always writing: limericks, little stories, journal entries, whatever. I took a small break around the age of about seven, when I got into reading animal stories and decided I wanted to be a vet.  Then I learned that vets have to put animals to sleep, and felt rather tricked!
2. Why did you decide to move from poetry to a novel?
Simply because the idea for All The Hidden Truths wouldn’t leave me alone.  I’ve always been strangely fascinated by mass shootings, ever since the Dunblane Massacre, which happened when I was ten and had a profound effect on schools and communities across Scotland, including mine.  More recently, as school shootings have become depressingly common in our news cycle, I’ve heard people say “this is an American problem,” or “thank goodness it doesn’t happen here.”  But to the people of Scotland, it’s important to remember that it has happened here.  I kept thinking: someone needs to write a book about this topic from a Scottish perspective.  What I wanted was for someone to write that book so that I could read it.  I didn’t think I had the attention span for anything longer than a poem.  But then no one did write it, and the idea kept bothering at me every time there was another news item about a school shooting.  In the end I started writing just to try and shut my brain up.
3. Why did you choose to write your novel in the crime/thriller genre?
I didn’t realise I was writing a crime novel until quite late on in the process.  To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be able to keep going (that attention span thing), or get finished, or redraft, or any of that.  I wrote in secret for quite a long time.  Then All The Hidden Truths won the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress, and a lot of people heard about it, all of a sudden.  It was a relief: I was able to say to them, so, I’m writing this thing and I’ve only ever been a poet, and I don’t know what I’m doing.  I began to get a handle on what it was I was working on — a literary/crime crossover novel — only when those early readers started to come on board.  I’m eternally grateful to those people for helping me untangle the knot that my manuscript was back in 2016!
4. Were you particularly influenced by any other authors or novels?
Louise Welsh really inspires me: she’s written in so many genres, and every single one subverts the tropes and expectations of that genre beautifully.  The Cutting Room is a masterful book.  Then there’s Jennifer Egan, whose books — especially A Visit from the Goon Squad — make my jaw drop.  Egan’s prose is absolutely phenomenal and she inspires me to write the best sentences I possibly can.  Lastly, Margaret Atwood has been a teacher of mine for a long time.  Her book Negotiating With The Dead: A Writer On Writing is the best book on writing that exists, in my opinion.  I must have read it dozens of times.
5. What sort of process and research did you have to complete when writing ‘All the Hidden Truths’?
I did a lot of reading, and am deeply indebted to the following books and their authors.  A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold — the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine gunmen — gave me insight into the most unimaginable and horrendous experiences, and allowed me to write Moira.  Another Day In The Death of America, by Gary Younge, is one of the few non-fiction books in existence that has attemped to get to the bottom of the whys of youth gun culture, and although it’s USA-focussed, it contains messages for all of us, I think.  And for the police procedural research, I’m endlessly grateful that Michael O’Byrne has written The Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and Procedure.  I was also very, very lucky to be able to work with a former policewoman to ensure I didn’t mess anything up when it came to writing DI Birch.
6. Why did you choose to tell this story through three different viewpoints?
Initially, I had intended to tell it through lots more, and indeed the book’s first draft had about nine POV characters.  I wanted the book’s structure to reflect the mess and cacophony of the immediate aftermath of an event like a mass shooting, but I discovered quite quickly that the content couldn’t be a slave to the form.  It was too emotive, and I had to pursue that emotional core rather than trying to write something experimental and weird.  That meant I had to write about the two mothers, Ishbel and Moira: arguably the two people most deeply and painfully affected by the tragedy the book describes.  But one of the central questions of the book is’what the hell can we do about something like this?’, and I couldn’t answer that question without showing the ways in which our institutions respond to tragedy, or at least try to.  DI Birch, who’s tasked with ‘solving’ this unsolvable case, represents the ways in which the institutions of law and justice so often feel useless.  Birch herself feels useless, restricted by procedure and red tape.  For me, these three women provided the most interesting lenses through which to view the themes of this novel.
7. The topic for this book is very relevant and topical at the moment, why did you choose to write about this difficult event and did it make it more difficult that it is something that people experience?
It was difficult to research, difficult to write, and it has been difficult to talk about at times, too.  However, I think it’s important that we have hard conversations around the topic of mass shootings involving young people.  I think the ‘problem’ of youth violence is too often spoken about lazily: the conversations lean towards generalisation and sometimes-deliberate misunderstanding.  Young people the world over turn to violence for reasons that are complex, structural and which intersect with many other pressing issues: poverty, inequality of opportunity, gender, race, education, and many more.  I strongly believe that we don’t talk enough about the influence of toxic masculinity on young men, for example.  My hope has always been that this book will challenge people to think about the reasons behind youth violence — especially where it has a gendered element — with increased nuance.
8. Do you plan on writing any more novels?
I’ve already written the follow-up to All The Hidden Truths, in which DI Birch takes on a brand new case.  The book is called What You Pay For, and it’ll be published in August 2019 by Hodder and Stoughton.  Without spoilering either book, readers of All The Hidden Truths will know that thirteen years ago, DI Birch’s little brother Charlie went missing without a trace.  In What You Pay For he reappears, but he’s in big, big trouble.
9. Do you have a favourite book, poem or author?
Ah, the impossible question!  I’ve named a few of my favourite novelists already, but I must add Agatha Christie to that list, too!  Poetry was my first love, and if I sat and listed all my favourite poets I’d be here forever.  However, I was knocked sideways by the news that Mary Oliver recently passed away.  She’s been another of my life’s teachers and she’s a poet I believe everyone ought to seek out and read.  
10. Do you have any advice for an aspiring poet or writer?
Lots!  But the main thing is: believe in what you’re writing, believe that you’re the best person to write it, and believe that it deserves to be read.  Don’t get me wrong, that stuff is hard to do.  But I meet so many writers who end up totally stuck in the muck of self doubt, and it ends up killing their writing projects.  Until you get yourself some readers, or an agent, or an editor, you’re going to be the only person who’ll champion your work.  You’ll be the only person there to say ‘hey, I made this thing and you ought to read it.’  Like I say, it’s hard.  But the good thing about this sort of belief is it self-replicates, so if you can create just a little spark of it, or even fake it to begin with, it will grow if you nurture it.  I’m not telling you to believe that your work is perfect and you’re a genius: rather than you believe it deserves to find readers, and you’re willing to do whatever work is needed to get it out into the world.  You can do it, but you won’t be able to if you don’t believe that.

Many Thanks, Caitlin x

(PS please feel free to comment!)

BOOK HAUL

For my Christmas I was lucky enough to be gifted a book gift card and I went and spent it on a few new books!

Both The Power by Naomi Alderman and The Melody by Jim Crace were on my most recent to read list and due to this I had to purchase them!

The Power is a science fiction novel that was written by Naomi Alderman and released in 2016. It won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2017. It is a book that centres around gender and how when woman start to have powers such as producing electricity from their fingers they become the dominant gender. This is Naomi Aldermans fourth novel

The Melody by Jim Crace is psychological fiction that was released in 2018. It is centred around Alfred Busi who is famed in his town for his music. He is mourning the loss of his wife and one night he is attacked by a creature he disturbs. He believes it was an ‘innocent and wild’ child and these thoughts spark flames of an old rumour – of an ancient race of people living in the bosk surrounding the town.

Song of the Dead was written by Douglas Lindsay and was published in 2016. It is the first in the DI Westphall novel and it follows him as he investigates the case of John Baden. A dead man who walks into a police station who tells a story of kidnapping and organ harvesting. I am excited to read this as I love a police series!

Many thanks, Caitlin x

(PS Please comment if you have ever read these books !)