Archive for July, 2013

Book Review: The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison: A Riveting Psychological Thriller

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Author: Sherry Helms

The silent wifeA.S.A Harrison has spun a masterfully frightening psychological thriller, “The Silent Wifeof an intimate relationship gone terribly wrong. Set in Chicago, this is the suspenseful story of Jodi Brett, a psychotherapist, and Todd Gilbert, a developer, who have been living a successful and seemingly perfect life together for 20 years. The childless couple possesses energy and time to indulge in fulfilling their hobbies. However, not everything that glitters is gold. After being in a relationship of more than twenty years, the fun in life has dimmed to a flicker yet they are both agreeable to push this aside since there is still so much to get from such relationship.

The disentanglement in Jodi and Todd’s relationship is the central plot of the Harrison’s outstanding first, and sadly her last novel. Todd is a committed philanderer; Jodi knows about his dalliances but overlooks them. Todd’s silent wife assumes everything is going orderly and remains uncomplaining without having a thought about that her marriage to Todd Gilbert has been slowly approaching a final stage of disintegration.

Chapter by chapter, the story alternates between ‘Her’ and ‘Him,’ giving the reader the point of view of both Jodi and Todd. Jodi believes her silence as a great weapon, she is a kind of woman who avoids objecting and knows how to mind her business. She rationalizes to herself that all relationships are built on compromise, but Todd’s affair with the much younger Natasha disrupts the equilibrium of a series of concessions they have made in their long intense relationship, and compels spouse to re-check their personal lives, causing their marriage to approach at a deadly end and mayhem.

The author makes it clear from the first page of the novel that after a few short months, the therapist Jodi Brett will be worried enough that she eventually resort to killing of the man with whom she has spent her life’s significant 20 years. But Harrison’s skillful narrative does not rely on the customary suspense to hold the reader. The delight is in the small details that make Jodi a putative murderer and more on Jodi’s descent – in the how rather than the what.

The debut novel from Toronto writer, A.S.A Harrison, who died just before the publication of this fascinating tale of lust, betrayal and revenge, is skillfully plotted and reminiscent of, and the successor to, Flynn’s Gone Girl. It is really very sad that the author is not here to see it published and to take pleasure in the acclamations now being heaped upon her page turning novel.

Although the book is simple as far as plot goes but what makes The Silent Wife impossible to put down is the way author handles the characters. Harrison’s omniscient perspective and hypnotic plot gives us a well-drawn glance into the cataleptic and twisted web of human emotions. Moreover, the insidious and terrifying portrait of a marriage ensnares the reader from its starting to its shocking ending.


Researching Circle of Shadows

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Guest Author: Imogen Robertson

Robertson Imogen BWCircle of Shadows sees Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther travelling from England to a small court in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation where their friend is under arrest and accused of murder. The year is 1784. They find a killer stalking the palace and old enemies waiting for them, while old stories of power, secret societies and revenge play out amongst the luxury and excess.

Researching Circle of Shadows was a great pleasure because it gave me a chance to spend time in Southwest Germany looking for the palaces and castles, the towns and villages that would be the models for the locations in the book. It is a beautiful part of the world with a rich and complex history one can still see reflected in ruins, half timbered buildings and gorgeous palaces. I had a chance to see the crowns of ancient kings and drink the local heavy white wine in the shade of the cathedral. Inevitably, I spend a lot of my time working in libraries reading the diaries, letters and newspapers of the period, so when I do get a chance to get into the open air it is a particular delight. However much you learn from the books it is not until you actually visit a place that the world of the novel begins to come alive. I also find there is normally some chance encounter with a place that can end up having an enormous influence on my finished novel. In a small town on the edge of the Black Forest called Gengenbach, I saw a booklet Circle of Shadowsabout their Shrove Tuesday celebrations, including the traditional masks and parades. Those celebrations became the opening scene of the novel. In the midst of the carnival a man is found, confused and without memory, locked in a room with the body of a beautiful young woman who is a favourite at the local court. I wonder what the novel would be like if I hadn’t seen that booklet?

I was doubly lucky when researching Circle. When I realised I would need to find out about the amazingly complex and beautiful automata that were being built at the time, I found the website of Michael and Maria Start, who make and restore these marvels in Scotland. They very kindly invited my husband and me to stay and we spent an evening and a day marvelling at their singing birds, acrobats, stalking tigers and monkey orchestras, all powered by clockwork and gears, and their home became that of my automata makers in the novel. The delight and wonder my characters feel on seeing these delicate miracles is a reflection of my own.

Author Bio:

Imogen Robertson grew up in Darlington, studied Russian and German at Cambridge and now lives in London. She directed for film, TV and radio before becoming a full-time author and won the Telegraph’s ‘First thousand words of a novel’ competition in 2007 with the opening of Instruments of Darkness, her first novel. Her other novels also featuring the detective duo of Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther are Anatomy of Murder, Island of Bones and Circle of Shadows. She has been short-listed for the CWA Historical Dagger twice.

Remembering Ernest Hemingway And His Greatest Works

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Author: Sherry Helms

“In order to write about life, first you must live it!”  – Ernest Hemingway

ErnestOne of the most famous American novelists of the world, Ernest Miller Hemingway (nicknamed Papa), who left an indelible mark on the 20th century American Literature, is best known for his epic work, The Sun Also Rises. It was a spellbinding story written in tight and crystalline prose that had a strong influence on numerous crime fiction novels.

Born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois, United States of America, Ernest was a renowned novelist, storywriter and journalist who started writing as a high school pupil and served in World War I before publishing his story collection In Our Time. He described the incident of bullfighting in Spain in his non-fiction book Death in the Afternoon, which was released in 1932. He started from the American literary customs, which he transformed in the light of a contemporary European outlook on literature.

the sun also rises ernest hemingway 0743297334The influential American legendary icon became famous for his succinct and lucid writing style. Hemingway always wrote about those facets of life he has encountered personally like warfare, women, sport fishing, bullfighting, big game hunting, etc. He once said that my aim as a writer is “to put down what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way I can tell it”! He found a kind of mystical experience in Pain, Violence and Death and therefore portrayed these things in his novels in a totally objective manner. He had also become a cult figure due to the disastrous end of his four marriages that were widely covered in the press.

The Old Man And the SeaMost of his work published between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, including six short story collections, seven novels, and two non-fictions. His three novels— “The Garden of Eden” (1986), “Islands in the Stream” (1970), and “True at First Light” (1999, four collections of short stories, and three non-fiction works were released posthumously.

His significant last work The Old Man and the Sea, a novella, proved to be a magnum opus for him that brought him Pulitzer Prize in May 1952. He received Noble prize in literature in 1954 for his mastery of the art of modern fiction, most recently shown in The Old Man and the Sea. Sold half a million copies within months, his book For Whom the Bell Tolls became a Book-of-the-Month Club Choice. He wrote Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories, which is an anthology of short stories comprising “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” which was a tragic history of losing and regaining dignity that was considered an extremely intense short story.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

He was a savvy world traveler whose 10-week trip to East Africa for a safari in 1933 inspired much of his work including Green Hills of Africa, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro“. However, on his trip to Safari, he survived two successive plane crashes that made him increasingly fearful and depressed. In the summer of 1961, he committed suicide with his shotgun in his Ketchum home.

Although Hemingway’s legacy is at times seen as being homophobic, yet undeniably his writing and his larger-than-life personality had a profound impact on literature. His stunning success proved his knowledge of the deadlock of human values and understanding of the need of a modality to convey it effectively using artistic possibilities.


Apples and Strawberries: The Seductive Delights Of Georgian Romance

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Guest Author: Jo Beverley

blue1The 18th century is the generally accepted Georgian period, and to me it’s lovely, because it’s lush in ways the Regency isn’t. I love the Regency, and I do write romances in that time, but the two periods are different. Like a firm cheddar cheese versus a creamy-ripe Camembert, or a tasty apple versus a perfect strawberry — with a dab of whipped cream on top.

For the upper classes, it’s a world of silks, lace, embroidery and color — for men as well as women. I definitely have a thing for manly men in gorgeous plumage.

You can see a short video about Georgian dress here:

It’s also an exciting time of agricultural, industrial, and political change, even revolution.

However, in my latest Georgian Romance, Seduction in Silk, the heroine, Claris Mallow wants only peace and tranquility.

When a stranger invades her world — a stranger from the glittering nobilitySeduction in silk — she sees him only as a threat. When he states that they must marry, she’s sure of it. She’s survived her parents’ bitter marriage and kept her young brothers free from harm. Now she has a cottage, enough money to get by with and peace. She doesn’t trust change, especially in such a ridiculous form, and makes her point with a pistol.

The Honorable Perry Perriam is very much a man of the world. He’s a younger son of an earl with an excellent income which he earns by his charm and expertise at court and in the aristocratic beau monde. He wants no part of this odd marriage, but family duty commands. He intends to marry the plain clergyman’s daughter, install her in Perriam Manor, and return to his London life.

As they say, the best made plans…

Perry’s intrigued rather than dissuaded by the pistol. After all, he has no choice. By charm, seductive wiles, and some subtly applied pressure he gets his way, but Claris is not totally overcome. She lays down her terms, the main one being that theirs will be a marriage in name only and that he’ll leave her in peaceful possession of the manor and its income.

So, they both have what they want, yes?

As they say, the best made plans…

You can read a sample here.

Seduction in Silk will be out in print and e-book in August 2013

 Author Bio:

Jo Beverley is the author of thirty-five romance novels, both Regency and historical. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Golden Leaf, the Award of Excellence, the National Readers Choice and a two Career Achievement awards from Romantic Times. She is also a five-time winner of the  RITA,  the top award of the Romance Writers Of America, and a member of their Hall of Fame and Honor Roll.

Beverley regularly appears on bestseller lists, including the USA Today, the Waldenbooks romance, and the in-print NYT bestseller. Her works have been translated into many languages including Italian, Spanish, Chinese, German, Dutch, French, Japanese and Norwegian. She is a lead author with New American Library, Penguin Putnam, New York.

To know more about her, you can visit her website

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: A Deeply Moving Family Saga

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Author: Sherry Helms

AndTheMountainsEchoed-cvr-thumbSkillfully crafted and touching throughout, Hosseini‘s third novel, “And the Mountains Echoed” is a multigenerational family saga that covers more ground, both geographically and psychologically, than his earlier works. With this amazingly written novel, #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner (2003) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007), Khaled Hosseini proves that he is not ready to put his feet up.

The author’s latest novel is much like his previous works infuses in grief, with an essential infrequent ray of hope and human resilience. The novel begins in 1952 with a small family in a rural Afghan village of Shadbagh where a father telling a bedtime tale to his two little kids- Abdullah and Pari as they embark on a journey across the desert to Kabul. Both Abdullah and Pari are unaware of the darker fate that lies ahead. Their father, Saboor, a wage laborer, who married to Parwani after the death of his first wife, sold off his daughter “Pari” to an affluent family in order to save the rest of his family from the next cruel wintry weather.

The central tragedy of book is the separation of siblings in rural Afghanistan and what is more gripping about the tale is the powerful bond between 10-year-old Abdullah and his sister Pari. Abdullah’s absolute care for his little sister gives him courage to walk miles over rocks to find out her. However, both are oblivious to each other’s existence, and time is running out for both of them.

More expansive than his earlier books, And the Mountains Echoed spans three generations and jumps beyond Afghanistan to the posh boulevards of Paris via the urbane settings of San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos and many other countries. It is a touching, stimulating, and well-crafted novel with interconnecting nine short stories that brilliantly portray a deep sense of hopelessness, sacrifice, betrayal, guilt, desire, family power and loss that surpasses our understanding of those situations.

Amazingly skilled in juggling the balance between first and third person account, Hosseini’s novel manages to lay a hand on a sort of sensitive issues, from homosexuality in pre-Taliban Afghanistan to the repercussion of the Soviet incursion and a more comprehensive insight on the guiltiness and indifference felt by successful Afghan exiles about their native soil. With his deep acumen and compassion, Hosseini expresses once again unspoken feelings of the bonds that define us and shape our lives, the ways in which we help our dear ones and how the selections we make resonate through generations.

 “And the Mountains Echoed” is a tear-jerking, and ultimately heartening elegy that exposes humanity in both its best and worst. Moreover, the poignant and neat conclusion of a sentence and powerfully impressive characters leave an imprint upon the reader’s heart.

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