Book Review: “A Stranger in the House” by Shari Lapena (Sorry Shari)

I don’t like giving these reviews… but here’s my truth.

A Stranger in the House Shari Lapena

The less said about this novel the better really. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read, but it was lacking in so many departments.

The plot was,… ok. It wasn’t all that enticing, but it obviously had enough to make me want to know more and read to the end. Part of me thought there was going to be something more underlying here.

My amazon review sums it all up well:

“Cliché after cliché, the characters were dry and ‘the twist’ wasn’t a surprise at all. Disappointing.”

I guessed what was going on very early on. But I read on, hoping that there was going to be a shocking twist.

There wasn’t.

Unfortunately, we’ve all already read and watched these kind of stories before.

** (2 stars)

This was Lapena’s last chance to convince me…

I’m always willing to give books and authors a chance. This was Lapena’s last chance to convince me.

I wasn’t at all fussed with “The Couple Next Door”, but “A Stranger in the House” was the chance to convince me to read more of her work.

Unfortunately, I’ve not been converted. So this will be my last read.

If you thought differently of this novel, then please let me know. I’m interested to know what you like about it.

Advertisements

Finally… my untitled novel has a name!

If you’ve been following my blog and Twitter (@TJBlake93) for the last year or so, you will know that I have been working on my next novel. It has been known as my ‘new novel’, ‘next book’ and my favourite, ‘Untitled’.

Now though it has a name. Finally!

I’ve been umming and ahhing about the book’s title for some time now. This new name, which I will reveal soon, has stuck… so far anyway.

Thank you Twitter peeps for your support.

Some of you on Twitter were kind enough to offer your time to read my very, very basic synopsis and hear my potential book titles for the previously untitled novel.

Although I ended up coming with a completely different name, your advice and input meant a great deal to me.

You know who you are. Thank you so much!


More details on the new book’s title will be revealed soon. 

17676 words into my untitled novel

A great deal more progress has been made in my latest novel.

I’m currently writing chapter 8, which is just shy of 5k words alone. It’s the biggest chapter in the novel without a doubt. It’s based on the 15 year anniversary show of Arabella’s.

This is one of the lines written in chapter 8:

Above all, he loves fear. Arabella knows this because the more frightened she feels, the wider his smile becomes.

Naming the book

Well, I still don’t have a name. However, there are a few names being thrown around.

My partner is calling the book something whilst I’m calling it something else. It’s funny and everything, but I really want a name already!

I’m sure we’re close to a name now though, it won’t be long!

Book Review: “Watchers” by Dean Koontz

Some great moments of suspense. Ultimately let down by the ridiculousness of the story.

I enjoyed stretches of the book. However, I couldn’t help but realise how ridiculous the story actually was – a talking dog who learnt to read and spell.

I read the remainder of the book to solve the mystery of the dog and the Outsider but, I was left disappointed.

** (2 stars)

Dean Koontz Watchers

Have you read this novel? What did you think? Am I being harsh?

1199 words written. 537 edited. “Untitled” book progress.

In my writing session today I managed to write 1199 words in chapter 8 of my next novel. 537 words edited too.

This was the last line written…

Untitled novel last line

A quick update on my writing

I’m not afraid to admit, this book is a welcomed challenge. But it is that, a challenge.

The first challenge, my time is limited to write. It’s a real shame as I really want to get this book written and into the editing phase.

Secondly, it’s a different kind of book. The narrative is unique and the voice is dissimilar to my other novels. However, the story itself is mysterious, gothic, dark and suspenseful, which I love.

It has great potential this one. It’ll be similar to DECEPTION in the way that readers will need to pay attention in this one.

Book title update

No luck yet. However, I have a few that are floating around.

None of them feel right, but I’ll continue to write this story and see if one jumps out at me suddenly.

Why do you guys think Arabella feels far from safe?

Book Reviews – Holiday Edition: The Taking of Annie Thorne, I am Watching You, The Twisted Tree

I’m now back from my honeymoon in The Maldives, which was amazing!

I wanted to read more, but I was busy snorkelling and exploring the island of Kuredu. A beautiful place. A quick review of that: dreamy. Highly recommend!

However, three books were consumed and I’m most of the way through a fourth novel (a classic apparently) by Dean Koontz!

Three books and a five star rating below.

TOP READ: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor

Highly recommend. Well written. Dark. Gritty. Mysterious. Addictive.

Joe, a witty yet troubled man, returns to his hometown. It hasn’t changed much. In fact, much of what Joe went through back then seems to be happening again.

I found this book super easy to read. That’s what I liked about it most. The writing was brilliant and because it was so easy to read, it made me read it really quick. Shame really because I wanted more. The story flowed and the characters vivid.

C. J. knows how to build tension. She knows how to create mystery. She most definitely knows how to create a dark atmosphere. That’s what I felt in this book. Arnhill (the hometown) is a dreary place. It was the perfect setting though for this book. The balance between the present and the past offered a great deal of suspense and mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed unveiling the story of Joe’s past and what was to come. And I most definitely did not see the ending coming. Some really nice touches to conclude the book.

Another point, there were some really though provoking quotes in this book which make you just stop and think about your own life. A nice touch also.

I’ve seen some negative reviews for this one, which I am surprised about!

It was a brilliant read, highly recommend.

4.8/5

I am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll

I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll

Chilling from the start. A great premise which didn’t disappoint.

Two teenagers being teenagers whilst on their way to London. A normal day, a typical trip for teenagers wanting to feel like adults. But it all turns dark. Very dark.

The differing lives we follow all offer an interesting perspective. Plenty of secrets and there are many suspects in the build up to the horrifying conclusion. It was an addictive read and an extremely fast paced story.

Although the many perspectives were at times confusing (a couple being told in first person the others in third) they offered some difference in progressing the story.

3.7/5

More about this book.

The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

Screen Shot 2019-06-04 at 19.04.53

A chilling, dark and gothic short story.

For a 180 page book, it goes into a lot of detail about the characteristics of the locations and characters. Although detailed, it didn’t detract from the narrative, it only aided it.

It’s dark, gothic and chilling. An enjoyable short story.

3.3/5


I’m also reading Dean Koontz’s ‘Watchers’. Review will be coming soon!

Book Review: “A Watched Pot” by Mr Blue

A darkly humorous thriller.

A Watched Pot was a devilishly dark and humours read, which made me chuckle and really drew me in.

The most rewarding reads are those ones that slowly drip feed all the key information into the story beyond your realisation that it’s going to be significant later in the story. A Watched Pot did exactly that. It was a clever narrative and really easy to read. It may have only been short but I really got involved in it. The twist at the end was great. I won’t say too much more on this!

The only way it could have been better is if the writing was stronger in places. I noticed a couple of errors, but it didn’t take away from the read itself, which is why this is still a 4 star review.

I reviewed A Watched Pot after the author provided me with a free ecopy.

**** (4 stars)

A Watched Pot

Book Review: “Kill Someone” by Luke Smitherd

This isn’t a bad 2.5 star review, it just wasn’t for me.

I finished reading this book today. I started reading it a while ago and unfortunately I wasn’t entirely compelled to read it all that often, which is why it took me so long to finish.

The premise is great, I was drawn in quickly. What a bizarre circumstance to find yourself in. A sick game that you can’t escape. Well, you can, but at a cost. The plot and set up of the story was very similar to the Saw movie franchise.

I didn’t connect with the main character at all. I wasn’t concerned for him or really care about him. I was more interested in the reason behind this mad scenario. I could however really imagine, see and even hear both The Man in White and Klaus.

The writing had flicks of greatness, but I thought a lot of it was repetitive. When I reached around 40% of the book I did find myself skim reading, but I was too far in to stop now.

The ending was quite disappointing too.

I hope the author reads this review and takes it constructively. It wasn’t a poor book, it just wasn’t for me. I’m confident that many other readers will enjoy this thriller.

*** (rounded up from 2.5 stars)

Kill Someone Luke Smitherd

Book Review: “Silent Victim” by Caroline Mitchell

The different perspectives made the narrative shine.

I enjoyed the story. I wasn’t blown away by the plot itself, but I did enjoy the differing perspectives in which the story is told. This is what made this book stand out.

The writing I thought was nice and easy to read, it flowed, and because of the differing voices, the character development was really effective.

The stand out development was from the point of view of Luke. We could really get inside his mind and experience his harrowing plan unfold to devastating effect.

And because the different perspectives were so personal to each character, you didn’t always know who to believe!

As I say, the plot as a standalone isn’t the most original. Saying that, the opening premise of the book is, that hooked me in right away.

Finally, something I didn’t like was a moment where one of the characters has a realisation about an event in the book. The connection they make is almost impossible to make that connection. It made me say, “Oh come on, really!?”

All in all, a good read!

**** (3.8 stars)

Silent Victim Caroline Mitchell - T. J. Blake's book review

Writers are ‘losing control’ over their characters. But is this really possible?

I tweeted about a problem writers are facing. A seemingly ruthless and universal issue that shows no mercy. The problem? Misbehaving and disobedient fictitious characters.

What is losing control over your character?

Many writers talk about occasions when their character does something that they (the writer) simply didn’t expect or allow.

Maybe their character absolutely loves eating apples, but no matter what, the author just can’t stop their character from eating goddamn bananas.

I don’t know about you but this process of a character changing or doing something against your will is completely ludicrous. There is simply no way that a fictional character can dictate their own actions against you, the author, their god.

Fictional characters DO become real beings though… in your head and on paper

Sure, fictional characters become real, living, breathing, walking, talking beings in our heads, in our words and in our stories. They, however, cannot make a single decision without you. For a start, they’re a floating individual or group in your head. They don’t have their own mind, like a real person. Only in their fictional world.

As a writer, you are the character. You make their decisions and you control their behaviour. So if there is any behavioural change to your character, then that’s down to you as the writer and god of your fictional universe, not the character.

It’s character personality development rather than character defiance

It happens in a story. A character’s personality, behaviour and mannerisms can change, just like a real life person’s personality changes over time. Personality change is the result from life experience. This is something that happens in the real world and fictional universe.

Imagine yourself ten years ago, think about where you were in your life and how it affected you. Were you a different person? If so, why? Maybe you weren’t as confident as you are now. Maybe you say certain phrases that you would never say now. Maybe you now like a certain food that you never liked before. It could be any kind of behavioural change, but it all dwindles down to life experience.

It’s more impressive when writers ensure their character’s personality developments from their experiences. Whether the experience is part of their backstory or are the effects of the narrative we’re following.

Why do writers say their character is defying them and doing what they want?

It’s for effect. It makes it seem to others that they’re so wrapped up in their creative world that they’re part of the universe. Or that their character has escaped their fictional world and joined them in the real world – sounds like the bloody Matrix films now.

Simply put, writers have an overactive imagination. It’s what helps us to come up with the stories we come up with.

I have all sorts of random thoughts in my day-to-day life, creating various scenarios in my head.

Picture this: I walk in the front door after work. It’s dark upstairs. “I bet there’s a axe wielding maniac up there hiding in my wardrobe,” I think to myself. I walk up the stairs anyway without turning the lights on.

My Conclusion

I’ve said it already, but writers are gods of their fictional worlds. They’re in control of every single aspect of their world, including the development of a story and their characters. If a character swears, the writer allowed them to. If they order a pint, it’s because the author wanted them to. If they end up killing someone, it’s cause the writer allowed it.

You may not always agree with your character or condone what they do, say or think, but you created them. It’s because of you that they act a certain way or have a belief in your fictional world.

Sorry fellow writers who say their characters are going rogue, in my opinion, it’s simply not the case. It’s part of your imagination and you like the thought that your character is a real person who makes their own decisions. To some extent they do make their own decisions, but it’s down to you what decisions they make, whether it’s the right or wrong decision. But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? Living a different life and doing things that we can’t always do in our normal lives.

We can live a different life through our characters.

Get in touch if you are a firm believer in lacking control of your characters

If you’ve ever experienced losing the control of your character and they do what ever the hell they want, get in touch. Tell us what happened!