Blog Tour Review: ‘Skeletons’ by Jane Fallon

Skeletons cover (2)

JaneFallon©LeeCarter low res (2)

Title:Skeletons

Author: Jane Fallon

Publisher: Micheal Joseph, Penguin

Publication date: 27th March, £7,99

Paperback: 448 pages

Why did I choose to read this book? I was invited on the Blog Tour by the PR team at FMcM so I jumped aboard – toot toot.

Jane Fallon’s Official Writing Tips:

1. Keep writing. It’s all too easy to keep going back over a passage to perfect it. It’ll mean you never move on. Write a first draft quickly (I say quickly, mine take 8 or 9 months!) without stopping to edit too much. I guarantee you will have found your style by the end and then you can go back and rewrite and polish from the start.

2. It’s great to chat through ideas sometimes but try to not invite too much input as you’re writing the first draft. It’ll only confuse you. Novels need a bit of tunnel vision. Essentially your book is different because it’s written by you. If you start putting in all your friends’ suggestions it will lose that uniqueness.

3. They say write about what you know for a reason. It will give your book depth and authenticity. That doesn’t mean you must have gone through the same things as your heroines or heroes but you should understand the world they move in. If you have your characters work in a field you’re familiar with or live in a town you know well you will be able to add little details and bits of colour that will help create a believable world for your book.

4. If you struggle with naturalistic dialogue then tape a conversation between you and your friends one night without telling them. When you listen back you’ll notice how no one speaks in perfectly structured sentences. We stop half way through a sentence. We change thought out of nowhere. We abbreviate. It’s unlikely that when speaking to a friend we’d say ‘I do not’. We say ‘I don’t” Say your dialogue out loud (when there’s no one else around obviously!) and listen to how it sounds.

5. On a similar note think about the use of names. It’s very rare that people use each other’s names all the time when they’re chatting. It’s generally only if we’re telling someone off or trying to make a point. If you’re worried that if the characters don’t refer to each other by name all the time then the reader won’t be able to keep up with who’s saying what there’s something more fundamentally wrong with how you’ve written the conversation.

6. Most importantly of all write. Anything and everything. Every day. It’s a skill and it needs to be practiced. The more you write the better you’ll be.


Review:

Since she was a little girl Jen always wanted a big, happy family. So when she married Jason and into the Masterson clan she got exactly what she wanted, then when two daughters followed everything was perfect and that’s how it remained for twenty-two years. Then one lunch time Jess witnesses something that she was never meant to and a crack forms on the surface of her perfect life, a secret that will slowly but surely seep its way into every corner of her world and destroy everyone and everything in it. But if she keeps this secret to herself, how long can she keep up the pretence to those closest to her? How long can she live a lie

Jen Masterson knows the truth – but is she ready for the consequences?

Jen Masterson to begin with is not my favourite female she’s quite a needy wet lettuce however, it’s stick with her because she develops into someone that you can not only identify with and I personally end up extremely peeved on her behalf.

The Masterson clan come across as one big huggable team with Amelia and Charles in the middle. However, this idealised nuclear family is quickly put under the microscope and the overbearing, exclusive nature becomes apparent. By the end of the journey they represent a freaky twilight zone family who have unhealthily closed ranks without dealing with their issues. As an ‘outsider’ Jen is the perfect witness to this entire transformation and it must be noted Jason, Jen’s husband, needs to grow a backbone and some balls.

As peripheral characters I really loved Elaine, Jen’s mother, I found her story really heartfelt and their relationship flourishes beautifully on the side lines. Further to Elaine, Jen’s colleagues at the hotel are light relief in the guise of ‘my wife says’ Neil and flirty guest Sean.

A slight disappointment within the story was the underdeveloped role of Cass, whose reason for being is the catalyst for all future events. We are offered glimmers of her as a person but I would have preferred for her to have come further onto centre stage – but perhaps this was because she was the bomb that Jen detonated and the focus was on the fallout.

Although not my usual genre, this was a really interesting read exploring the differences in families and their responses to a crisis and how to deal with secrets. The lesson I’ve learned is stop at 4 glasses of wine if you’re harbouring someone else’s secret!

Next stop on the Skeletons blog tour is Novel Kicks – all aboard!

Skeletons by Jane Fallon is published by Michael Joseph /Penguin £7.99

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Book Review: ‘High Rise’ by J G Ballard

High Rise

Title: High Rise

Author: J G Ballard

Publisher: (my copy) Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (imprint of Harper Collins)

Publication date: Originally 1975 but my edition is 2014 and very shiny

Paperback: 176 pages

Why did I chose to read this book? Tom Hiddleston was tooted as the lead character in the film adaptation anything that he would sign up to had to be good so I bought a copy from the stunning Daunt Books Bookshop

Where to read this book? If you’ve got the pennies and you’re in London then The Aqua Shard bar would be ideal boasting 31 floors high and offering spectacular views (on a good day) over London enabling you to feel somewhat like one of the character’s that you’re about to meet.

Refreshments: If you managed to get up the Shard and it happens to be a morning it’s time to sample one of their delicious Shard Mimosa or if you’re at home try to mix yourself a fancy pants gin cocktail – what I’m trying to say is alcohol just a strong drink will suffice.

Review

Within the concealing walls of an elegant forty-storey tower block, the affluent tenants are hell-bent on an orgy of destruction. Cocktail parties degenerate into marauding attacks on ‘enemy’ floors and the once-luxurious amenities become an arena for riots and technological mayhem. In this visionary tale of urban disillusionment society slips into a violent reverse as the isolated inhabitants of the high-rise, driven by primal urges, create a dystopian world ruled by the laws of the jungle.

The surprising opening paragraph sets the tone for the entire novella as it trips of the page with a rakish style and casual openness of one who knows there about to enlighten you on society’s basest instinct, “As he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.” And there you have it in a nutshell.

Within this high-rise prison we have various specific inmates ranging from successful and unsuccessful professional and media types, their pecking order reflected on how high up the apartment block they live.

The primary observer and the novel’s only surviving male, Dr Laing is at first appealing in his aloof nature, treading water by being clever, detached and rather lazy. His relationship with his sister has nuances of a sinister level as the descent of the building gathers pace. Laing choose his survival technique in a clever way with the creation of a new, isolated world which he can control and dominate and one in which he can separate himself from everyone else… he was satisfied by his self-reliance…

We then have Anthony Royal, “king” and architect of the High-Rise, he actually tries to leave the high-rise but doesn’t get further than the bedroom doorway. Ballard’s most ethereal character in the novel, a successful, self-made man who “always wanted his own zoo” he was ready but maybe not completely prepared for the experiment he was to unleash and is in the end the architect of his own demise.

At the bottom of the social ladder on the 2nd floor we have Wilder, the TV producer, who decides to film a documentary on the trials of life in a singular structure. As the social strata breaks in to gangs Wilder begins to feel the weight of the building upon him and as the escalating violence emerges, Wilder decides his fate is to ascend the building and dominate. The further he rises up the building the less he remembers the restraints of civilisation, including his wife and two young sons. Wilder’s actions are the most visceral, assaulting women and taking a delicious glee in doing so.

The most disturbing sector of the high-rise is the women. In the beginning they are either living as ignored wives or casual sex partners descending into a series of polygamy, incest and submissive accepting victims of violation. However, conversely by the time we reach the end of this vile journey a group of the women have occupied the top floors and have started refurbishing it for their own uses and are for want of a better term a family of cannibalistic women girl power indeed

Overall this is Darwin having a party with William Golding and Alex Garland to create an addictive and shocking novel – one of Ballard’s best and one which I can already picture Hiddleston as Dr Laing.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Book Review: ‘Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband’ by Natalie Young

Season to Taste

Title: Season to Taste or How to Eat your Husband

Author: Natalie Young

Publisher: Tinder Press

Publication date: 16th January 2014

Hardback: 288 pages

Why did I choose to read this book? The title combined with the controversial topic of murder and cannibalism.

Where to read this book: In a crowded place and not before bed.

Refreshments: I can’t stress this enough DON’T EAT whilst reading it should really come with a warning. To drink take a leaf out of Lizzie’s book and quaff a lot of white wine, I chose a crisp and citrus flavoured Vernaccia from Italy.

Review:

Lizzie Prain is an ordinary fifty-something housewife who lives in a cottage in the woods with her dog Rita, she spends her days cooking and avoiding her crazy neighbours and at one time she dallied in running a cake making business. However, no one has seen Lizzie’s husband, Jacob, for a few days and that’s largely because last Monday, on impulse, Lizzie bashed in the back of his head with a spade and hidden his body in the deep freezer in the garage. Although this was apparently not premeditated Lizzie now acknowledges that it’s her chance to embark on the new life she feels she deserves after thirty years in Jacob’s shadow. The problem? She needs to dispose of his body. Her method appeals to all her practical instincts, though it’s not for the faint-hearted and there’s a question of whether Lizzie will be able to carry her plan through to the end.

Firstly one should state that you should never be eating when reading this book, it’s not a good idea. Even when you’re lulled into a false sense of security one shocking statement and you’re gagging over you’re lunch and receiving quizzical looks from your work colleagues. This isn’t for the queasy amongst us readers, you won’t be able to cope I almost gave up at page 42 with the sentence ‘a slick of yellow-white fat under the heel and under the toe’ – it should be noted I can’t stand feet so reading about eating on is beyond repulsive.

The leading lady or should I say murderer in this book is Lizzie comparable to Hannibal she certainly has a flair for cooking, some of the ingredient and recipe ideas sound delicious, if you replaced human for a sirloin. Lizzie is strangely likable and also relatable once you’ve become semi immune to the gory bone crushing details you find a hidden emotional journey of a woman who’s been stuck in a suffocating marriage. Young has created a character who embodies the feeling of being alone in a hectic world, no friends an emotionally distant husband and a family that leaves a lot to be desired. This life and the darkness that circles it continues throughout the story follows Lizzie gorging herself on her husband’s body and regardless of how much she stuffs herself she still feels empty and unfulfilled.

Supporting characters in the guise of Tom who works at the garden centre hints that happiness could be entering Lizzie’s life as he provides a degree of friendship and intimacy, he is a rather socially inept character and not really fleshed out enough to be of too much consequence. There’s also Joanna, who we’re given to believe had an emotional affair with Lizzie’s husband Jacob but again the focus is very firmly on Lizzie.

The reasoning for Lizzie’s final breaking point is extremely subtle which is frustrating, I would have preferred a greater knowledge of her married life and the events leading up to it rather than the excesses of cannibalism. However, overall this is a very interesting read studying the darkest depths of humanity – or if nothing else it’s an exceptional diet book.

Rating: 7 out of 10