Liz Robinson Reviews, Memoir

John Sutherland – A Liz Robinson Author of the Month.

Liz Robinson knows a good book when she reads one and this month she has picked John Sutherland, as the author who has stood out and grabbed her attention. Over to Liz…

My April book of the month is a biography, a rather special, searingly honest insight into policing, ‘Blue A Memoir’ by John Sutherland.

BlueA candid, objective, cooly passionate, and often unsettling account of policing from a police officer. John Sutherland joined the Met in 1992 aged 22, we see snapshots of his life as an officer, as he progresses up the career ladder, as he deals with all the horrors and glory a life in blue has to offer. From the very first page my attention was sucked in whole, I come from a family of blue, married blue, and spent 20 years as a member of police support staff. Even then, I was on the edge of understanding, I didn’t ever have to run towards danger, tell someone a loved one had died, sit with death, experience the bitter lows, the jubilant highs of being a police officer, yet John Sutherland takes you there.

As we read, we step in and out of a series of events that have all added up to create this man. It isn’t a glittery or gory descriptive feast, but it doesn’t have to be, he simply and clearly gives you a connection, and an understanding that under that uniform is flesh and blood and feelings. One thing is abundantly clear, this man loves his job.  He feels the continued effort is worth it and yet it very nearly broke him. It is truly captivating; whether you nod, smile wryly and wish he could have been your boss, or feel the shock and admiration as you learn what our police are exposed to day after day. ‘Blue: A Memoir’ is a worthwhile and fascinating read, I really do recommend it with my heart and soul.

Note: John has written an epilogue to his story, which has been included in the paperback of ‘Blue A Memoir’. He speaks with his normal good sense, and he has the remarkable ability to put into words the thoughts and feelings so many officers struggle to properly articulate. He speaks from the heart, and his words made me cry. I wish him every success in his future, and whatever path he decides to explore. I’m quite sure to the many who know him, follow him on twitter and read his blog, he will forever remain a true inspiration.

Liz in conversation with John Sutherland John Sutherland

Liz – ‘You’ve been incredibly honest in ‘Blue A Memoir’, prior to the publication did you have any concerns about feedback?’

John‘There were definitely one or two moments before Blue came out when I wondered how on earth people were going to respond – and when the prospect of publication felt more than a little overwhelming. I guess that, in writing a memoir, you are giving something of yourself away – without having any control over the myriad ways in which people might read and react to it.But, almost without exception, the response has been amazing.’

Liz ‘At what point did you realise ‘Blue’ was truly speaking to, and touching peoples hearts and minds?’

John‘My dad died a couple of years before ‘Blue’ was published. But he read a very early draft of something that, in parts at least, resembled ‘Blue’ – and he loved it. I always said it would have been worth writing it just for that. As I continued to write, I began to show extracts to friends and family and they were incredibly encouraging. But it wasn’t until I found Laura, my brilliant literary agent, that I began to appreciate the extent to which there might be an audience beyond those closest to me. My words and stories became a book published by the wonderful Weidenfeld & Nicolson – and complete strangers picked it up and started to read.’

Liz – ‘What has been the most interesting piece of feedback you’ve had from both police and public about ‘Blue’?’

John‘There are two recurring pieces of feedback that I’ve had about ‘Blue’. Police officers (both serving and retired) have written and spoken to me to say that my story might have been their story – and they wanted to thank me for telling it. That has meant more to me than I can say. Members of the public have written to say that the book has given them a glimpse into a world that was previously unknown to them – and that it has left them with a renewed sense of gratitude and appreciation for the men and women who stand on the thin blue line.’

Liz‘What was the most difficult and enjoyable part of the writing process?’   

John‘I started writing as part of my recovery from serious illness. It became increasingly cathartic – and I found that I really loved doing it. I have always loved reading stories. I discovered that I loved telling them too. Because much of the subject matter is quite raw, there were days when I had to step back from it to give myself a break. Once or twice, a few weeks went by before I got back to it. But it was always there waiting.

Liz‘Did you develop any writing habits?’

John‘To begin with I simply used a notebook and pen. I sat quietly and allowed myself to remember, before starting to write – for as long or short as the inspiration and energy were there. Eventually I graduated to computer and keyboard – and my favourite place to type is sitting at our kitchen table, under the natural light pouring in through the glass roof. Puffin – the 2 year old family spaniel – sits at my feet as I type.’

Liz‘Are you an avid reader? Which books beckon to you from bookshelves?’

John‘I love books. I always have done. I have to be careful what I read these days – one of the long term hangovers of my illness is an inability to deal with trauma and violence. But that still leaves plenty that’s wonderful.

Favourite books include:

• ‘First Light’ by Geoffrey Wellum: the breathtaking memoir of a Battle of Britain spitfire pilot.

• ‘Seabiscuit” by Laura Hillenbrand: the remarkable true story of three men and a racehorse.

• ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ by Stephen King: a short story about love and hope.

• ‘The Measure of a Man’ by Martin Luther King: powerful observations on the meaning of life.

But if I had to choose one book (or series of books), it would be ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ by C.S.Lewis. I read them as a child and was captivated. I read them as an adult and was overwhelmed. I read them aloud to my wife when I first tried to win her heart. I’ve read them to each of our children in turn. And the magic remains. The deeper magic.’

Liz‘Has the book world been a surprise to you?’

John ‘I bumbled into the world of books without a clue in the world!  I really had no idea what expect – it all just felt like an adventure to me.  And people have been wonderful.’

Liz – ‘Are you planning any more books?’

John‘I would love to write another book. I’ve got a handful of ideas, but I haven’t quite picked up my pen yet. There’s a family holiday to come first!’

John is appearing at the Chiddingstone Literary Festival

on Sunday 6th May at 2:45pm.

 http://www.chiddingstonecastle.org.uk/literary-festival-adult-day/ 

‘Blue’ was published in paperback by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on the 19th of April 2018.

Follow John on Twitter by clicking here.

Find out more about John Sutherland by visiting his blog here.

Adult Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Keeper by Johana Gustawsson

9781912374052

The next in the award-winning Roy and Castells series.

Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror.

London 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets nurders of some ten years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman’s body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims.  With the man arrested or the Tower Hamlets crimes already locked up, do the new killings mean he has a dangerous accomplice, or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose?

Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down…

Oh my goodness I enjoyed this, KEEPER is brilliantly written.  Although I read a lot I’m not a fast reader, I generally like to take my time with a story, savour the words and allow myself to become immersed in the story. KEEPER however didn’t allow me that luxury.  It pulled me in right from the start and I literally couldn’t put it down. Short chapters that create quite a punch carried me on whilst crying a constant ‘just one more’ like a child at the park bargaining for another turn on the slide.

I’ve always been a big fan of crime thrillers and murder mystery.  From an early age I’ve had a love of the old fashioned Agatha Christie novels (and TV adaptations) and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.  I love trying to figure out who the guilty party is.  Johana Gustawsson brings the crime novel right up to date with her incredibly sharp, suspenseful writing.  KEEPER features a host of intriguing (and rather damaged) characters who all contribute to the story in their own (at times rather disturbing) ways. There are so many twists and turns that I honestly found the ending a complete surprise.  Just when you think you’ve begun to understand the who, why and when, it takes you in a totally different direction.  This doesn’t mean it’s unwieldy and difficult to follow – in fact quite the opposite.  The writing is excellent and by the time I turned the last page I felt that the story had come to an excellent conclusion and all my questions had been answered.

Johana weaves her story from the late nineteenth century with the reign of terror held by Jack the Ripper through to 2015 when the brilliant Roy and Castells attempt to crack the case of a modern day serial killer who is incredibly sadistic and dangerous.  Johana Gustawsson is a French writer and I have to say the translation by Maxim Jakubowski is faultless.  He has expertly maintained the tempo, atmosphere and  brilliance of Johana’s writing.  Not a word is wasted.  At times shocking, this was an incredible thriller I heartily recommend and that will certainly have me checking the back seat of my car for quite some time to come.

I haven’t read BLOCK 46 yet but I will most definitely be adding it to my list AND I can’t wait to see what comes next in the brilliant Roy and Castell series.

KEEPER will be published in paperback by Orenda Books on the 30th of April 2018.

Find out more about Johana Gustawsson here.

 

Adult Fiction, Author Spotlight, Blog Tour, Young Adult Fiction

Author Spotlight – Gayle Forman

I have lost my voice

I have lost my love

 I have lost everything

Spring has finally kicked in here in the South East of England.  The trees are springing to life with beautiful blossom and the landscape is brightened with bright and colourful daffodils, crocus and primroses.  The smell of spring and new beginnings is in the air and so it seems perfectly fitting that my author spotlight should fall on YA author Gayle Forman, and her latest novel, I HAVE LOST MY WAY.  I’m also delighted to be the stop on day three in the #IHaveLostMyWay blog tour.

lost my way1

…a tender, sad and yet uplifting tale that shows the power of friendship in times when we feel desperate and unable to find a solution. Three strangers come together and show that strength can be found with each and every one of us no matter what our individual troubles may be. That we too can find our way to a life we truly deserve when we are true to ourselves.

Beautiful, tender and very important, Gayle Forman has yet again captured a coming of age novel that will fill you with hope, love, acceptance and courage.

Gayle Forman makes an incredibly important contribution to today’s YA literature and if you haven’t read her before then I HAVE LOST MY WAY is a great place to start (there is also an amazing back catalogue of her books for you to discover). She captures those difficult years we all go through when finding our identity, leaning about who we are and accepting that we are all different.  Of course this never really ends.  Life is a journey and we are constantly changing and growing according to the roads we take along the way, but our young adulthood is, I believe, when our experiences feel at their most raw and Gayle captures that perfectly.

I grew up in the 80’s and went through my teens and early adulthood with the films of John Hughes; there was something in them that captured my attention and seemed to tap into inner emotions and feelings of self doubt.  So I was fascinated that Gayle’s early influence was Molly Ringwald – someone I myself found a source of comfort as I struggled to fit in to the world around me.

With her YA novels Gayle too is able to tap into emotions that are difficult to voice and I think by reading and getting to know her characters and their own pain you can learn to understand a little more about what you too are going through.  You are not alone.  Our experiences, difficulties, dreams and fears are all unique to us but there is something comforting in knowing we are not alone in the message that we all have those feelings.  I HAVE LOST MY WAY is a perfect example; showing that even three strangers who come together in unexpected circumstances can change their perspective and find hope where hope is lost.

Here’s a little more from Gayle herself…

140910_forman

Which novel do you wish you could have read when you were a teenager?

I would’ve liked to read SAVING FRANCESCA by Melina Marchetta in middle school. I was miserable, a weirdo outcast. Years later, in high school, I would find my people. I love that novel, how Francesca and her friends, find their family of friends where they least expect it. Melina is one of my favourite young adult authors.

You’re characterisation is incredibly intimate which helps us really connect with them. How well do you get to know your characters before you start writing? Or do they develop along with the story?

Both. The book sparked when Freya started whispering in my ear “I have lost my way.” I knew she was a singer who had lost her voice but I didn’t know why. Harun followed and then Nathaniel. Though Freya came to me first, she was actually the last one to crack. It was right at the very end that I understood what motivated her and how that tied into her loss. Ironically, Harun, the character I have the least in common with on the surface, was the one who I understood most immediately.

I feel so close to all three of these characters. More so than any others before them. Which is saying a lot because IF I STAY’s Mia and Adam are like my children!

Where did your inspiration for I Have Lost My Way come from?

My last YA novel was published in 2015 but I actually wrote it in 2011. In the intervening years, I tried, and failed, to find a new YA story to write. I managed to publish a novel for adults (LEAVE ME) but YA is my home and I couldn’t seem to find my way back. I began to wonder if I’d ever write another book. Everything I wrote (and I crashed and burned on 7 different novels) felt insufficient, inauthentic, hollow. It was like the thing I’d known how to do, had always done—explain my world through story—I couldn’t do anymore. I kept thinking: I have lost my way. And then one day Freya came along and said it to me and it started from there.

You were obsessed with Molly Ringwald as a teen. Which is your favourite character that she played?

Samantha in Sixteen Candles. It’s a movie that doesn’t really hold up over time—it’s racist; it’s rapey—but it was the first time I ever saw the weird girl get the boy. Which, in 1980s parlance, was a huge validation that the weird girl had value. I was a weird girl. So you can imagine how this appealed to me.

What are you currently reading?

I’m on vacation with my family and I’m reading Matt Haig’s HOW TO STOP TIME and listening to CONCUSSION by Jeanne Marie Laskas, narrated by Huilar Huber.

And here is my review for I HAVE LOST MY WAY

i have lost my wayA heart-wrenching and powerful YA story exploring themes of loss, love and discovery, from award-winning, bestselling author, Gayle Forman

The story is told over the course of one day with flash backs to the past to help us engage with the characters and understand what has brought them to this place and this moment in time. Through Harun we learn to understand love through his own loss and fears. The love he feels is alien and not acceptable within the society he lives in. He is ashamed, obsessed and utterly lost. Freya is a star in the making but is following a difficult path and is torn between the need for adoration and the ‘friends’ and sense of belonging she fears she will lose if she can no longer sing. Her lack of self-love is evident as she fears losing her voice will mean losing her place in the world and the acceptance she craves. Nathaniel is a tortured soul and his sadness pours from the pages as we slowly discover the tragedy that has driven him to New York. Each character is suffering their own pain and yet when they are brought together they find the strength to try a different path. But is friendship enough to heal the pain of the past?

This is a tender, sad and yet uplifting tale that shows the power of friendship in times when we feel desperate and unable to find a solution. Three strangers come together and show that strength can be found with each and every one of us no matter what our individual troubles may be. That we too can find our way to a life we truly deserve when we are true to ourselves. Beautiful, tender and very important, Gayle Forman has yet again captured a coming of age novel that will fill you with hope, love, acceptance and courage.

I HAVE LOST MY WAY was published on the 5th of April 2018 in the UK by Simon&Schuster.

To discover more about Gayle Forman and her books visit her website here.

 

 

Adult Fiction, Crime, Science Fiction, Thriller

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

I thoroughly enjoyed reading a sampler of this time travelling thriller; it kept me guessing throughout and left me on a knife edge wondering how it will end.

Psychology of time travel1967: Four female scientists invent a time-travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril…

2017: Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future – a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady…

2018: When Odette discovered the body she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, flesh. But when the inquest fails to answer any of her questions, Odette is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

A fascinating, thought provoking thriller about time travel, murder and a conspiracy that threatens to explode through time.

Four female scientists invent a time machine in 1967. They can only travel from this point in time, back and forward at will. When the initial trip is made by all four women the consequences are unknown and the whole project is put at risk when one of the women suffers a very public breakdown. Labelled as a liability and shunned by the group she tries to rebuild her life as best she can but always the thrill of time travel stays with her and as we revisit her fifty years later she is filled with the desire for one final trip. But the consequences of messing with the fragile fabric of time can be catastrophic and can set in motion destructive and dangerous events.

Visiting three time different periods in time, Kate Mascarenhas guides us expertly through the story and not once did I feel disorientated or unenjoyably lost. There is an element of trying to fit the pieces together but that is one of the things I love about a thriller, trying to work out the conclusion from the clues scattered throughout as the story builds up to the culmination of the (presumably) murdered women discovered by Odette in 2018.

This is a thriller unlike anything I have read before and I found it fascinating. The only frustration from reading this excellent sampler is that I will not discover what happens until August 2018. I will have to wait patiently for the answers… if only I had a time machine.

The Psychology of Time Travel is published by Head of Zeus on the 9th of August 2018.

Thank you to Head of Zeus and Netgalley for the sampler.

Discover more about author Kate Mascarenhas here.

Oh just one more thing… I love the cover image for this title.