Review: In Black & White by Nia Forrester

Nia Forrester never fails to create realistic portrayals of love that I always find so beautifully written. She never disappoints. And this is definitely true in her latest, In Black & White

Set in a leafy suburb of Philadelphia, we’re immediate dropped into what is every parent’s nightmare–the disappearance of a child. In this case, it’s the disappearance of 18-month-old Samara, the daughter of interracial couple Noah and Dana. Samara’s abduction and the subsequent fallout around it mark the beginning of a fascinating story that is in parts mystery and a thoroughly modern story of a love on the rocks. 

Forrester is a master at crafting three-dimensional characters. Dana and Noah are no different. From the first chapter when we learn the status of their marriage, we are given a very realistic, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes frustrating portrayal of a couple who come from different worlds. Noah is the product of privileged, old Pennsylvania money. Dana is his polar opposite–raised in a working-class neighbourhood in Baltimore by her grandmother and her older sister, she has struggled to get used to the life of privilege being Noah’s wife affords, especially since her skin color will always mark her as out of place in the world that Noah comes from. One of the aspects I loved about In Black & White is how Forrester deftly takes us through the couple’s history and its relevance to their separation. These snippets of their shared past help the reader understand who Dana and Noah were when they first met and what attracted them to one another as well as what has driven them apart. 

This is not a sugar-coated, fantasy-laden love story, so if that’s what you’re looking for, then this isn’t going to be the book for you. But if you’re in the mood for a very realistic look at a modern love and marriage, racial and socioeconomic differences (and how it can make or break a couple), and how the disappearance of a child can unveil secrets, then you’re going to love In Black & White.

Highly recommended! 5 stars.

Getting to know…Cat Hogan

We’re back with another instalment of Getting to Know… Today, we have Irish author Cat Hogan with us. Her novel They All Fall Down came out in July, and I’ve just added it to my TBR/1Click list. If you like novels about love and obsession, then you should do the same. Cat lives in County Wexford in Ireland with her partner Dave and her two sons Joey and Arthur, loves storytelling, and has a cat with the cool name of Jim Hawkins (I’m guessing this cat is a bit of an adventurer like his namesake in Treasure Island). So pour yourself a cup or glass of your favourite beverage, make yourself comfortable and let’s get to know Cat Hogan! 

13124599_10153655434767549_3085583176196253113_nCat, I have to tell you that I love the cover of They All Fall Down. It’s on my TBR list and I’ll probably dive into it this weekend. It sounds like my cuppa tea. So tell me, which titles are on your must-read list this year?

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney. I can’t wait to get my hands on this. Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent. This was one of the most anticipated releases in Ireland this year. Published by Penguin in July, it didn’t disappoint. It was number one best seller for quite some time. The book certainly lived up to the promo and the hype. Liz is an exquisite writer.

There are so many amazing titles out there.

Now I am intrigued! I will have to add these titles to my TBR list as well. They All Fall Down is out and it’s getting great reviews.  Are you taking a writing vacation to recharge your creative batteries, or have you already begun working on a new book? 

At the moment, I am working on two!

Two? I’m impressed! I have a hard time concentrating on writing one book. Can you give us a sneak peek? 🙂

One of the two is a standalone and the other is a sequel (of sorts) to They All Fall Down. The plot is evolving as I go on these two- particularly the follow up, but what I can tell you is I am wandering around souks and alleyways in Marrakesh, drinking mint tea and getting up to no good.

The standalone, at the moment, revolves around a not so tough guy who’s past is about to catch up with him in a very strange sequence of events.

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Cat Hogan

Ooh! Now you’ve got me hooked. I’ll probably start bugging you about your writing progress so I know when they’ll be launching! Now, I think every writer has a favourite place to write. Where is yours? Do you write at home or do you go to a local café or someplace like that?

My current hide away for writing is in my local library. I don’t have the luxury of an office space and trying to write at the kitchen table with my two boys running around, is not always conducive to creativity. I usually end up running around with them- an avoidance technique. The library in my home county of Wexford is a beautiful space and the staff are all fantastic. It’s a community.

So what’s your typical writing day like?

A routine for me is hard to achieve. My older boy, Joey (11), returned to school last week and Baby Arthur(3), has just started in Montessori. This frees me up and I go straight to the library until about 2pm. After that, I come home and do the Mammy thing for the afternoon. I pick up the writing again when my boys are asleep. It doesn’t always pan out like this but I tend not to stress over it either.

I know what you mean. I’ve been trying to fit my writing time around my work schedule and it’s not always easy. If I’m having a hard time writing, I end up working on an inspiration board to help me visualise the characters and settings. What about you? Do you look for images of actors or actresses as inspiration for your lead characters, or do you find inspiration elsewhere?

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Aidan Gillen

When I wrote They All Fall Down, I pictured Aidan Gillen’s face for Scott. It’s funny, the initial inspiration for me comes from location and sometimes a lyric in a song but when you hit a certain point in the story, the characters take over and tell the story for you.

I think a lot of people have this idea that being a writing is easy, and we both know it’s not. What do you think is the most difficult part of being a writer? How do you deal with it?

The most difficult part for me is trying to establish a writing routine around my boys and home life. The process happened very quickly for me. I finished the first draft in June 2015 and by November,I had a two book publishing deal. They All Fall Down was released in July- meaning lots of promo and events. Book 2 is due back with the publishers this month!! It’s a real juggling act.

What is your favorite part of being a writer? 

The freedom. The idea that you can be anything or go anywhere in the world while sitting at your desk. I always loved reading and writing, from the time I was a small child, but the reality was, I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life. Two degrees and my own business later, the penny finally dropped.

Last question: what was the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

Just keep writing. Write the book you want to write, and believe in yourself.

Thanks so much to Cat Hogan for joining us today! Make sure you add They All Fall Down to your TBR or 1click it today. Don’t forget to connect with Cat on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads

Guest Post: Claire Duffy & Life Is Swede Day on 21 February

A few months ago, a colleague told me about a blog I had to read–and I was hooked from Day One. That blog belonged to Claire Duffy, who is our guest blogger today at Kim Talks Books.

For six months last year, I blogged as a fictional character.  The idea – inspired by Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds – was to create a fictional world that initially appeared authentic, so that people could step right in, interact with the characters, and almost become part of the story themselves.  I’ve always been fascinated with that concept: who wouldn’t want to enter a novel they’re reading, ask questions or give a character a few home truths?

When I moved to Stockholm and the story of a lonely ex pat who gets drawn into a murder mystery began to form in my brain, I knew I’d found my War of the Worlds.  It felt organic: of course Regan would blog daily about her impressions and experiences struggling to settle into her new life.  Within weeks, she had built a fantastic, loyal following, who advised and supported her through culture clashes and the language barrier, a rough patch with Anders and her struggles dealing with his apparently cold and reserved friends.

Regan’s early accounts of being an ex pat in Stockholm are extremely autobiographical: one of my friends only clicked that it was fiction when she realized how much of what happened to Regan had happened to me. I love living in Stockholm, and love Swedish people – but my first year or so was definitely a struggle against loneliness, homesickness and frustration.

I remember at times feeling that I couldn’t read people any more – often I would meet someone and diagnose that they had no interest in being friends with me, then later discover that they were just being Swedishly reserved upon first meeting. For me it was just a case of getting to know and understand a new culture, but, but it was a ripe emotional state to toss a little murder into!  When one of Anders’ close friends is murdered and he is arrested, Regan sets out to clear his name – but unable to trust her perception of the people involved, unable to understand what she hears, it’s easier said than done!

Now that the final blog has been posted, the whole project has been put together into an ebook.

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Friday 21 February is Life is Swede day!!

The idea is to gather up all the fantastic support the blog has had over the last few months – and welcome some new friends into the fold – and see if we can get this little project that could onto the Amazon best seller list for a day*!

(*and also for the rest of all time. But you know, one step at a time 😉 )

To pull this off, we need to spread the word as much as possible to everybody in the whole world (ideally) to buy Life is Swede on Friday 21 February. Join Regan’s Army and blog, share, re-post, tweet, like, submit, pin with abandon! There’s even a Facebook group you can join and add your friends to if you really want to go wild!

Anyone who:

* tweets, shares, mentions the project on any social media will get a thank you & link of their choice on www.lifeisswedeblog.com

* hosts my guest post about the project & plan (I’ll email it on request!) or adds friends to the event Facebook group will get a thank you & blog button displayed on www.lifeisswedeblog.com, plus I’ll tweet & share to the Facebook group a link of your choice.

* blogs about the project (the story, the concept, the plan!) or reviews the book on Amazon will get the button on www.lifeisswedeblog.com, plus a thank you and link on the last page of the book itself, and will go into the draw to be name-checked as one of Regan’s blog friends in the text of the book.

These are just the thank yous I could think up myself (and though my fuzzy, cold addled brain!) – if you have any thoughts or co promotion ideas, I am all ears!! I’ll be monitoring any activity of course, but please do give me a heads up if you are getting involved so that I can be sure to thank you!!

The only thing that helps at times like this is buying books

It’s been a crazy two weeks. There is a lot going on at work, which means I am exhausted physically and mentally when I come home. And this is affecting my writing time. I wake up too tired to write. I come home too tired to write. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to read other people’s work instead but I find myself falling asleep on the sofa–not because the books are boring, but because I am tired. Ah well, at least I have Matera and my vacation in the US to look forward to in the coming weeks.

Anyway, I indulged in a little retail therapy and this is what I bought:

ImageMo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Ben Greenman

I had to get this. Questlove and I come from the same town, my beloved Philadelphia. We both come from West Philly. We’re both creative–he’s a musical genius, I’m a writer. Really, it’s a wonder our paths haven’t crossed yet. 😉 But seriously, I am always drawn to books and movies set in my hometown. And since I am a Roots fan and I have always liked Questlove, I knew I needed to get a copy of his memoir. And then a few months ago, Nick Hornby was talking about Questlove’s memoir and I was even more intrigued. It wasn’t available yet and when I tried to preorder it here in Stockholm, I was met with blank stares from  bookstore staff. Of course, after I finally ordered it from Amazon UK, then every online bookstore in Sweden suddenly decided they could stock it as well. I don’t care. I have it now and the cover looks great. I’ve already sneaked a peek at a few pages and this is definitely my kind of book.

I haven’t started reading Mo’ Meta Blues yet but it is the next book on my To Read List. Maybe I will save it as something to read while I am in Philly and then give to my oldest niece as a source of inspiration. I want her to see that there is more to the world than the confines of our old neighborhood.

ImageThe other book I ended up buying is not new but I didn’t want to read it when everyone else was reading it because I really, really hate when other people see you’re reading the same book and then they feel compelled to inadvertently spoil it for you. So which book is it? Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I love a good mystery/thriller and I wanted to be able to read this without everyone else a) trying to convince me it was godhead, b) wanting to discuss it and reveal spoilers, c) wanting to talk about which Hollywood A-listers should play Nick and Amy. Luckily the Gone Girl hype in Stockholm has died down. I think everyone has found a new novel to gush about. I started reading it on Thursday and it’s as good as everyone assured me it was. I’ve decided I need to Gillian Flynn’s other novels (Dark Places and Sharp Objects) as well, so they are also on the To Read List for this autumn/winter. And what could be better to read in Stockholm–that city where the winter cloud cover is so thick you nearly forget there is a thing called the sun–than really tight mystery novels that play tricks with your mind? 🙂

So I think I am set for a few weeks. I am editing Maybe Baby again after making changes suggested by a beta reader. I’m also beta reading a friend’s novel. And I have to wait and see what the future has in store for me. If all else fails, at least I have my writing, Nanowrimo and my gorgeous husband. 🙂

Happy reading (and writing)!

Another brainstormed book published–congrats, Beate! :D

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 7.53.27 PMJust heard from Beate Boeker, another of my Matera Brainstormers, and her latest book, Banker’s Death: Temptation in Florence #3–which we brainstormed in Matera last year–is on sale now.

Beate’s books are so much fun to read and they make you want to jump on the next flight to Florence, so if you’re an Italophile like me and you like quirky cozy mysteries, then you’ll love her Temptation in Florence series.

I am so happy for Beate and I’m on way to Amazon now to get it for my Kindle. Congrats, sweetie! Keep these Temptation in Florence novels coming! I love ’em! 😀

Happy reading (and writing)!