Friday, 31 October 2014

Searching For Katherine

Searching For Katherine

by Melissa Holden

3 out of 5

Jennifer and Katherine are living the typical post-university life, drinking lots of tea and going clubbing. But when Katherine is kidnapped in a night club, Jennifer’s whole world is turned upside down. 
Could her luck finally have changed for the better when Marcus enters her life, or is it about to get a whole lot worse?

After her best friend goes missing, Jennifer is left to go on with her life.  But no matter what she does, no matter how her family grows, she can never forget that Katherine is missing.

I found this novella very hard to review.  To be honest, I don't think I've reviewed a novella before, and I think that Holden's story was too big for 129 pages.
"Searching For Katherine" starts with the lead up to the night when Katherine disappears; it goes on to the immediate aftermath; and then proceeds to cover several years of Jennifer's life.
The second half covers Katherine finding Jennifer, and how they move on from the nightmare together, plus a few chapters to answer the final questions.
That's a lot to fit into a full-length book, or even in a series.  In novella form it felt more like a review of a good story, rather than the meat of it.

I think the condensed style made some aspects hard to believe.
((spoilers - look away now!))
That the police gave up finding Katherine so quickly; that her family and fiance seemed resigned to the fact that she was dead, and how quickly they lost touch with Jennifer.  How passive Katherine is in her relationship with Marcus; how she managed to finally escape...
I felt that if the book was slowed down and looked at what was actually going on, and gave a bit more background as to why the people have moved on, it would have been easier to connect with.
I also thought that the characters' reactions were... non existent.  You've been held captive by a man that abused you for years and you're finally free - Katherine was as calm and composed as though she'd just been to the shop.

As I said, I would have preferred something longer, taking more time to explore some of the darker moments, and the light.
Or... actually, I kinda wished it had been written in a different format - it focusses so much on Jennifer's life in fast-forward; I would have really liked it to be "One Day"-esque - one day a year, looking into Jennifer's life and where she is, and how she's coping with her missing best friend.

Not a bad piece from a young writer, I will look forward to Holden's future work.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Author Interview - Melissa Holden

Author Interview - Melissa Holden

This week, in the run-up to the release of her new novella "Searching for Katherine", I've been lucky enough to get an interview from author Melissa Holden.

Melissa Holden is an undergraduate at Canterbury Christ Church University (Creative and Professional Writing BA Hons). As well as studying at university, Melissa is also an Editor for CCCU Her Campus. 

She is originally from Dartford, Kent where she grew up but has since moved to Canterbury in order to study. 

Along side her writing, Melissa is a supporter and member of the movement Indie Books Be Seen which helps indie authors work together to promote self-publishing. 

Melissa has been writing professionally since 2012, but has been an avid writer, reader and general creative her entire life. She is a big supporter of self-promotion and encouraging up-and-coming creatives to get their names out there. 

1)  Congratulations on your new book!  Where did the inspiration for "Searching For Katherine" come from?

Oh no, that's a tough one! I think it came from me and my old housemate drinking loads of tea and gossiping. I can't remember the exact moment I came up with the idea, it just sort of burst into my head and refused to leave until I wrote it. 

2)  What advice would you give to other Indie writers?

Never give up. Also, I never considered the traditional publishing route because indie-publishing really works for me. I think you should feel confident with how you produce your work. Also, you should check out #IndieBooksBeSeen because it's an incredible, supportive indie author movement. 

3)  You have quite the following with your blog, Twitter and YouTube channel.  How much of a support is your fanbase?

It's been a long year in the making, and my fanbase are the ones that kept me going. It's really nice having readers that accept you not only as an author, but as a human being too. My fans are my rock! 

4)  What do your friends and family think of you being a published writer?

My family aren't that into it, although recently my mom has been very supportive. My brother and sister have been incredible since Day 1 with the books. My friends are there for me day-to-day, but I suspect they're getting a bit sick of hearing about my writing by now. 

5)  What is the best and worst thing about being an indie-published author?

Best thing: the creative control! I love being in charge of every detail of my novel - it's my baby! Also, the support from other authors. 
Worst thing: the editing and the money. Now, I'm not in it for the money, but I spend more making my books than I've ever earned from them. It would be nice to get a decent sized pay cheque every now and then. 

6)  What has been your favourite book?

To write? I think this one because it's the longest, and I've spent the better part of a year working on it. It's been an incredible experience for me and I wouldn't change it for the world. 

7)  What came first: the desire to be an author; or the creative writing degree?

The desire to be an author! I've wanted to write books since I was a little girl, but I was never encouraged to write and read as a child. It was only when I did my A Levels that I realised that I was any good! I love my degree and it's taught me so much, I would definitely recommend writing courses. 

8)  What has been your favourite piece of work to date - fiction; advice; or poetry?

I love writing fiction and poetry, but the advice seems to come naturally - especially when I blog about writing. 

9)  Who has been your best critic?

My author friend, Eliza James - she's been great beta reading Searching For Katherine. 

10)  What has been your favourite review/comment?

It was actually a bad review I got on my novella, The Snow Killer. It made me realise that even though he didn't like the book - he still finished it and took the time to review it. I remember being really mad at first, but as time goes on I love that review - it's humbling! 

If you'd like to find out more about Melissa Holden and her books, she has a very handy list of links on her website:

And don't forget to look out for the shiny new Searching for Katherine, that I will be providing a review for this week.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Yesterday: A Novel of Reincarnation

Yesterday: A Novel of Reincarnation

by Samyann

5 out of 5

A tender love story pulls the reader back to previous lives and a time richly elegant. In modern day Chicago, deja vu draws together a handsome mounted policeman and the beautiful young woman who saves his life.

Yesterday is also a harrowing tale of escape through the American Civil War, the heart wrenching love of slaves for their young white charges, and The Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In this historical romance, Mark fights through Amanda's rejection to prove that she will love again as she once loved - Yesterday.

A freak accident brings Mark and Amanda together as they each risk their life to save the other.  Then Mark can't get the girl out of his head - or the thought that somehow, he already knows her.
Amanda feels the same way, but knows that she can't let anyone else into her life right now, as she can't handle losing another loved one.
Throw in a clock and a history that seeps forward and you have a glimpse of Yesterday.

There was a lot to enjoy about this debut novel.
There are two stories weaved together: Mark and Amanda in the present day, trying to overcome the emotional barriers that Amanda has but up; and the story of Bonnie, a girl caught up in the Civil War.
My favourite storyline would change every other chapter, as you become engrossed in one, then switching to another.  It is very clearly set out and easy to follow, despite it jumping to different points in the timeline.

The history itself plays a major factor in this book, and it is very well done by Samyann.  I am British, which means I know absolutely nothing about American history.  But even I found it self-explanatory, without coming off as lecturing; and most-importantly it was absorbing and entertaining.
Throughout the book, I was so impressed by the Civil War era sections, I hope that Samyann has plans to write one solely based then and there.

The not-so-good bits.
I'm not sure why the harassment by the press thread was involved.  In the beginning, Amanda becomes an instant hero and media darling.  A chapter or so later, it's dropped and never mentioned again.  It just felt a little unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. Especially after Mark gets shot and is a hero cop.  You'd think the press would love that.

Overall it was a very nice read, a pleasant meander through Amanda and Mark's blossoming romance; and the mystery of Bonnie's life.
It often hovered between a 4 and 5 star for me and is a very strong debut!

Goodreads link