Nuala Ellwood’s Top Five Grip Lit Novels

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Have you heard about the hot new literary genre? It’s grip lit. Grip lit is made up of novels that are a blend of fiction and thriller and typically written by, for, and about women. Nuala Ellwood, author of My Sister’s Bones, is no stranger to the genre. Here, she shares her favorite grip lit books with Bookish readers.

Talking to the Dead
Helen Dunmore, who sadly passed away in June, was a huge inspiration to me as a writer. In this stunning novel she explores sibling bonds, childhood violence, and unreliable memory with an understated menace that bleeds through the pages. The story takes place in a remote Sussex farmhouse at the height of summer where two sisters with a tragic past are reunited when one of them gives birth to her first child. We slowly come to realize that all is not as it seems; one or both of them may have committed a terrible crime years previously and yet each of them manage to convince the reader that the other is to blame. This haunting, beautifully written thriller gives me goose bumps every time I read it.

Apple Tree Yard

On the surface Yvonne Carmichael has it all: a successful career, a happy marriage, two much loved children. So why does she feel so unfulfilled? A chance encounter with a handsome stranger under the Houses of Parliament seems to give her a new lease of life, a chance to break away from the safe, steady world she has built around herself. But a random act of violence brings that world crashing down and forces Yvonne to make a drastic decision, one that threatens to destroy her life. Louise Doughty excels at creating bone-chilling stories by delving into the darkness that exists at the heart of seemingly ordinary lives. One of the things I loved about Apple Tree Yard was that, through its second person narration, it managed to turn the reader into a voyeur. Much like the CCTV camera hidden in the titular yard, we are at once removed from and yet colluding in the horrifying events that unfold.

He Said/She Said

Laura and her boyfriend Kit are at a festival in Cornwall watching a solar eclipse when Laura interrupts the apparent rape of a woman called Beth. They call the police and a man is arrested. However, as Beth becomes ever more entwined in Laura and Kit’s lives it becomes clear that she is getting too close for comfort. This is an extraordinary novel that clouds your perception throughout, much like the eclipse that sets the whole story in motion, so that you are never sure if what you are seeing is the whole picture or just a strange trick of the eye.

The Last Days of Summer

When Jasper Curtis is released from prison and returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters he assures them that he is a changed man, but soon trouble comes calling with horrifying consequences. Here is a novel where the landscape and searing temperature of Texas become characters in their own right and add to the intensity of this terrifying story. Vanessa Ronan’s thriller drips with tension and foreboding from the first sentence to the last.

Lie With Me

This chilling thriller is narrated by Paul, a failed author and pathological liar. One night at dinner Paul meets Alice, a widow. They become involved and Alice invites Paul to stay with her at the villa she owns on an idyllic Greek island. But the trip turns into a nightmare where the ghosts of both Paul’s and Alice’s pasts come back to haunt them and Paul’s lies finally start to catch up with him. I read this novel in one sitting and loved the way Sabine Durrant managed to combine beautiful, hypnotic prose with a killer plot and truly unexpected twist.

Nuala Ellwood is the daughter of an award-winning journalist. Inspired by her father’s and other journalists’ experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder, she gained Arts Council Funding for her research into the topic and ultimately made it the main theme of My Sister’s Bones, her debut psychological thriller.

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Jordan Harper on the Importance of Punching Back

Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.

Working as an in-demand screenwriter has made Jordan Harper no stranger to writing an action-packed story, which certainly comes across in his debut novel, She Rides Shotgun. It’s a gritty, emotional, and grippingly terrifying thrill-ride about the fine line between being bad and being good. We caught up with Harper recently to talk about the draw of the powerful young girl character, the difference between writing for the page and writing for the screen, and about why he believes the perfect response to being punched is to punch back.

Bookish: She Rides Shotgun puts the reader right alongside Nate, as though we are a part of him, running for our lives. We’re in Nate’s head as much as we can be but there’s only so much we can know given the third person narration. What else do you want readers to know about Nate McCluskey?

Jordan Harper: My first draft of the novel was written much more from Nate’s point of view than Polly’s. It’s really more Polly’s story than his so I’m glad I made the switch, but there’s a lot of Nate on the cutting room floor, particularly his relationship with his brother Nick, and how that blend of toxic masculinity and bravado gets passed on generation to generation.  There was even a brief explanation of how white trash hill people (my people) spread from the east coast to the Ozarks and then to California. Which is probably a bit much, so it’s better on the floor than in the book.

Bookish: Polly is a remarkable character. In many ways, she’s old beyond her years and yet she is still very much a child. At the end of the first part, she cuts off her hair and dyes it red, an action both literal and symbolic of her change. There seems to be a trend with these powerful, dangerous young girls in pop culture (Eleven in Stranger Things, for example). Why do you think such characterizations are growing in popularity?

JH: On one hand, this isn’t new. Polly springs from a mini-genre, the crook and child on the road, that has a long tradition of very strong little girls: Mattie Ross in True Grit, Addie in Paper Moon, Natalie Portman’s character in The Professional. But the current vogue springs from the fact that when a vacuum is filled, it is filled rapidly. People are hungry for girls in crime fiction who aren’t victims or props. I’m not the first to say that the majority of interesting crime fiction these days features and/or is written by women.

Bookish: The relationship between Nate and Polly goes from basically non-existent to survival mode, to mentorship, and finally to something close to father and daughter (or maybe as close as they can be). Polly goes from being rigid with fear to strong and powerful. In their case, violence is a learned behavior but rage seems to be inherited. Why?

JH: The answer to this is buried in the scene in which Nate teaches Polly how to take a punch, and it is my inner anarchist’s response to anxiety (which plagues both Polly and Nate). I think that anxiety is a natural response to the modern world, a world that teaches you not to fight back, a world that does violence to you daily in a million different ways and expects you not to punch back. Polly does no violence to anything but herself at the beginning of the book, which is why her fight-or-flight instinct jams her up so often. Nate teaches her that the correct response to being punched is to punch back, which is a radical thought these days.

Bookish: Let’s talk about place. California is supposed to be the land of dreams fulfilled, fruit, honey, and beautiful people, right? But here you show us the underbelly. What drew you to California as a setting?

JH: I moved to LA almost a decade ago, and I love it deeply. There was never any question about where to set the novel. While a few of the places in the novel are fictional, every location is at least based on real places that I drove to while writing the book. I write best about places that I physically go to. So since this is my home, it made for a natural location.

In some ways, California is it’s own country, but it’s also the most American place, with its worship of cars, its dirt, its dedication to a dream that’s only achieved by a very few. I also love that here in LA you can drive from the Pacific Ocean to the desert madness of the Salton Sea in half a day.

Bookish: She Rides Shotgun is your first published novel. What was the experience like for you and how was it different from writing screenplays?

JH:  It was fiendishly difficult, a nearly three-year process. Writing a novel has made writing for television seem very simple and quick. A novel has so many more moving parts.

Bookish: The movie rights to She Rides Shotgun have already been sold, and you’re working on the adaptation. How’s that going?

JH:  I just turned in a draft to the producers, so I’ll know better how it’s going when I hear back from them.

Bookish: What are the pros and cons to adapting your own work?

JH: While I’m happy with what I’m done, and I’m very excited to be working with the producers I’m working with, I’m not sure I’d tell other authors to attempt adapting themselves. Maybe you shouldn’t adapt yourself for the same reason that you shouldn’t operate on yourself: You need to make deep cuts without pain. But it’s a great honor to take a crack at it, and put these characters on the big screen.

Bookish: I have a feeling this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Polly. Any plans for a sequel?

JH: I’ve toyed with an idea for bringing Polly back, but not in my next novel. I’ve been wrestling with a new idea based on a murder that took place in my high school when I was a senior, but it’s been rough going. I’ve also got an idea for a modern-day Bonnie-and-Clyde murder mystery that I’ve been excited about for a while. So we’ll see.

Jordan Harper was born and educated in Missouri. He has been a music journalist, film critic, and TV writer. He is the author of the short story collection, Love and Other Wounds. He lives in Los Angeles.

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NetGalley Author Interview: Marc Elsberg

Watch our author video interview, “15 minutes with… Marc Elsberg,” now! Here, we talk about his TedxBerlin talk, where the inspiration for Blackout came from and how we should all truly be thinking about what would happen if we experienced a full technology blackout in our world. You don’t want to miss this interview brought to you by NetGalley, Meryl Moss Media and BookTrib.com.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017
General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thrillers
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark

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When the lights go out one night, no one panics. Not yet. The lights always come back on soon, don’t they? Surely it’s a glitch, a storm, a malfunction. But something seems strange about this night. Across Europe, controllers watch in disbelief as electrical grids collapse. There is no power, anywhere.

A former hacker and activist, Piero investigates a possible cause of the disaster. The authorities don’t believe him, and he soon becomes a prime suspect himself. With the United States now also at risk, Piero goes on the run with Lauren Shannon, a young American CNN reporter based in Paris, desperate to uncover who is behind the attacks. After all, the power doesn’t just keep the lights on―it keeps us alive.

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NetGalley Author Interview: Terri Blackstock

Watch our author video interview, “15 minutes with… Terri Blackstock,” now! Here, we discuss Blackstock’s If I Run series, writing in multiple genres and the inspiration behind her novels. You don’t want to miss this interview brought to you by NetGalley, Meryl Moss Media and BookTrib.com.

If I'm Found

Request It!

Pub Date: March 21, 2017
Mystery & Thrillers, Christian
Published by Zondervan Fiction

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Is Dylan hunting Casey to prosecute her or protect her?

Casey Cox is still on the run, fleeing prosecution for a murder she didn’t commit. Dylan Roberts—her most relentless pursuer—is still on her trail, but his secret emails insist that he knows the truth and wants to help her. He’s let her escape before when he had her in his grasp, but trust doesn’t come easily.

As Casey works to collect evidence about the real murderers, she stumbles on another unbearable injustice: an abused child and a suicidal man who’s also been falsely accused. Casey risks her own safety to right this wrong and protect the little girl from her tormenters. But doing so is risky and just may result in her capture—and if she’s captured, she has no doubt she’ll be murdered before she ever steps foot in a jail.

In this riveting sequel to the USA Today bestseller If I Run, evil lurks, drawing Casey out of the shadows . . . but there is light shining in the darkness. Is Dylan a provision from the God who loves her, or another heartache yet to happen?

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NetGalley Author Interview: Cara Putman

From veteran author Cara Putman, Beyond Justice weaves a tale of mystery and suspense as up-and-coming lawyer Hayden McCarthy takes on the government in a controversial wrongful death case.

Beyond Justice

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Pub Date: April 4, 2017
Mystery & Thrillers, Christian
Published by Thomas Nelson - Fiction

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Hayden McCarthy is on track to become the youngest partner in her prestigious D.C. law firm . . . if the case she’s just been handed doesn’t destroy her first.

Hayden McCarthy knows firsthand the pain when justice is not served. It’s why she became an attorney and why she’s so driven in her career. When she’s handed a wrongful death case against the government, she isn’t sure if it’s the lucky break she needs to secure a partnership-or an attempt to make sure she never gets there. She keeps the case alive through sheer determination and more than a little creativity, but then she’s fired by a partner with a vendetta.

Further complicating matters, Hayden keeps finding herself completely distracted by Andrew, her roommate’s cousin. But his father is a Congressman and she’s currently taking on the government. Could the timing be any worse?

The longer she keeps the case active, the higher the stakes become. Unknown enemies seem determined to see either the case-or her-die. Should she fight alone for the dead young man by launching her own unfinanced firm, or abandon the case in order to save her own life?

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Reader Spotlight

Blog name: The Suspense Is Thrilling Me
Your name: Chelsea Humphrey

Let’s start with your origin story - how long have you been blogging about Mystery & Thrillers, and why did you start?

Technically I have only had my blog since May of 2016, but I have been reviewing books on Goodreads since September of 2015. I’ve always had a deep love of reading; after my second child was born I wanted to find something I could do for “me time”. I started writing reviews and found it so enjoyable that I knew I had found something special. Eventually, I had some wonderful authors like Mary Kubica, Angela Marsons, Emily Carpenter, and James Renner offer to back my blog and help me get it off the ground with some interviews and giveaways. I’ll never forget their kindness; the fact that they believed in me before I could believe in myself is what got me started and loving the world of blogging!

Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?

I am a huge fan of the psychological thriller! That has always been my #1 go to if I’m stuck in a rut. I’m also partial to crime thrillers/police procedurals; I have recently discovered a new liking for medical thrillers and even a few political thrillers. I think I speak for most readers in the genre who would like to see the “Gone Girl” craze disappear. I adored that book when I first read it; I found it very unique and original for the moment, but once the floodgates opened to all the similar books that style got old quickly. My dream is one day to be able to pick up a psychological thriller with no mention of the word “Girl” in the title or a blurb. I’ve really enjoyed this recent trend of stories being told out of order; All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda was so unique in the fact that we discover the story backward, from end to beginning.

Your review style is very engaging - you take away something different from each book and bring in your own knowledge. For example, in a recent review you gave readers a heads up about possible triggers in the book, and in another you praised an author for his honest depiction of the struggles of parenthood, and you pull in additional information about the author and publisher, and giveaways/events that readers may not know about. Can you describe how you formulate your reviews and what you’ve found works the best for yourself and what resonates with your followers?

Thank you! To be honest, I had to play around with formatting and what I wanted to include in my reviews for months before I found a set “go to” standard. For instance, I have followers from all walks of the reading spectrum; some are fellow reviewers/bloggers, some are aspiring/current authors, and some are just fantastic readers looking for an honest review to help them narrow down that ever growing To Be Read list. I always like to include publisher, author, and series/genre information, as some readers aren’t sure where it falls in a series and some fellow reviewers need that information to request review copies easily. I try to always be constructive in my reviews, as there is no need to be cruel. A book is a project that someone has worked on for many months, sometimes years. I do try to include information that might be helpful to a reader on deciding if a book is for them. In the mystery/thriller genre, there are a number of triggers that might affect someone poorly and be a book they likely shouldn’t pick up. Graphic violence, rape, murder, and abuse of humans and/or animals can be common in these types of books, so I like to point out (in a spoiler friendly way) if these types of triggers make an appearance in a book. I do post many reviews as I read an average of 4 books per week, but I also like to mix things up with other types of posts as well. My favorite posts are author interviews that include giveaways; many publishers/authors have been so generous and just all around awesome by providing everything for those types of posts. I have heard from numerous readers and winners of the giveaways that they were able to find a new-to-them author that is now a favorite they might never have found otherwise. It’s a win for everyone involved! I love nothing more than promoting books for a debut author and spreading the word on their fabulous new story.

Aside from your reviews, you have a variety of different features on your blog – which is your current favorite?

While I thoroughly enjoy all the excerpts, reviews, cover reveals, and interviews/giveaways, I think my favorite current feature is my weekly wrap-up that occurs every Friday. I try to include what I’m currently reading, books I’ve won in various giveaways (thank you Goodreads!!!), and book mail from various publishers/book buddies. I have a few blogger/reader friends that we mail each other books we weren’t able to get our hands on, and all my friends/family know me as the crazy book peddler because I give away all my books (except the special signed ones) once I’ve finished reading them.

Which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about reading and recommending to your followers? And are there any covers on NetGalley that you’re loving?

I’ve recently been approved for Wintersong by S. Jae Jones (and that cover is GORGEOUS!), Dark Water by Robert Bryndza, Bloodlines by Angela Marsons, and Tell Me No Lies by Lisa Hall- all books I’ve been anticipating for months now! I can’t wait to review these because I can already tell you I’ll be pushing all four heavy. One that I haven’t read yet that just went up is The Nightwalker by Sebastian Fitzek; the cover is gorgeous and the blurb has me hooked.

Wintersong    Dark Water   Bloodlines   Tell Me No LiesThe Nightwalker

Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

The Suspense Is Thrilling Me focuses heavily on the Mystery/Thriller genre, but also includes reviews of Women’s Fiction and YA. It’s growing quickly and I couldn’t be more pleased with it’s success!

Your favorite character in a book or series:

Isabel Spellman in the Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz

Your favorite 2 publishers for Mystery & Thriller titles:

Bookouture and Minotaur Books

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

There are many, but a top pick would be Harlan Coben. I feel like anywhere would be an adventure with him, but NYC would be a blast, and I hope he’s as funny in real life as he is in his books.

Thanks so much Chelsea, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out The Suspense Is Thrilling Me and more Mystery & Thrillers available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate your blog, or a blog you admire, to be featured in our Blogger Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret

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