Cover Image: The Writing Retreat

The Writing Retreat

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Member Reviews

I really enjoyed this book. An amazing debut from Julia Bartz, I will definitely read her future books.

The story follows Alex as the lead character who is a frustrated writer with severe writers block. She's also reading to heal after the destruction of an intense friendship with her best friend and fellow writer, Wren.

Circumstances lead to both Alex and Wren being selected to attend a month long writers retreat at their all time favourite and adored author, Royal Vallo.

What starts as a place for Alex and other writers to focus on their novels and gain expert insight from Roza, turns into chaos, murder, revenge and the need for survival. Amazing stuff!

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I loved the premise of this book and the first half, and I loved learning about Alex and her relationship with Wren.

By the turn I suddenly had no idea what I was going on and found the climactic last section very confusing and unrealistic but I’ve always said I’m not a thriller fan and this turned until a thriller very quickly.

I’m also not a fan of a book-within-a-book so skimmed a lot of those chapters.

Despite this I think this book is going to be very popular in the book community.

3.5 stars

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The Writing Retreat was a wild ride of a book, and once I gave myself up to its gothic melodrama, I enjoyed it a lot. The characterisation is strong, and Bartz does a great job of making even the difficult characters sympathetic, if not likeable. But you do need to suspend your disbelief to a large extent - what the women put up with at the retreat in pursuit of success is so fantastical as to seem far-fetched.

A solid 3 star read. Although dealing with different topics, I feel it’s a book that fans of The Inheritance Games trilogy might enjoy.

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I saw somewhere that this book had been described as a mix of Squid Games, Misery and The Hunting Party, and now that I’ve finished reading it I can fully see why!
A writing retreat with your favourite author, in her own house. Of course any up and coming unpublished writers would die to be chosen, to be one of the five lucky people to actually attend, and not only meet the famous author, Rosa Vallo, but to walk away with a publishing contract for their own book.
So when Alex finds out that not only has one of her best friends entered the competition for her, but that she is actually one of the five selected few to be granted an invitation she can’t believe her luck.
On the other hand, she also finds out her best friend come enemy, Wren will also be at the retreat, taking a little bit of sparkle off the excitement and replacing it with dread.
But not even having to face Wren could keep her away from this once in a life time experience.
As the other writers all arrive at Rosa’s gothic mansion, Blackbriar, everyone is in high spirits, eagerly awaiting to meet their idol, and Rosa does not disappoint.
Their challenge is to write an entirely new, fresh novel by the end of the retreat and whoevers book was deemed the best would win the life changing, seven figure publishing deal. But, they only have a month to do so!
With every one wanting to win, it is a race to the finishing line.
But of course, there are plenty of surprises to come, nothing is as straightforward as it seems and things begin to take a dark twist.
Snowed in, miles away from anywhere, with no way out, no internet, no mobile phone signal, they are trapped and at the mercy of their hostess who’s behaviour and mind games spiral out of control and one of the women go missing.
From there it gets worse and there is nothing they can do, that is, except write!
There are plot twists that are as shocking as they are unexpected, and plenty of them making it inpossible to put this book down, each page drawing you deeper into the madness right along with it.
Julia Bartzs debut novel is surly going to propel her to the top of the charts, making her a name to look out for.
In equal parts horror, physiological thriller, suspense and thriller, there really is something in this book for everyone and I cannot recommend it highly enough, now I’m eagerly awaiting her next book already!
The Writing Retreat is out soon on the 21 Feb. 2023 and is available to preorder now from your local bookshop or the link below

A massive thank you to the author, Julia Bartz, publishers Oneworld Publications, Magpie Books and NetGalley for my digital arc of this book in exchange for an honest and independent review.

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Five would-be writers are invited to the home of a famous and reclusive author, Roza, for a month-long writing retreat. However, all is not as it seems - the five are pitted against each other for a lucrative publishing contract and surface friendships quickly dwindle as the retreat becomes increasingly sinister, particularly for main character, Alex. At times the focus moves between excerpts of Alex's novel (which reflects the chaos happening in the house) and the events of the retreat, which becomes ever more dangerous as secrets are revealed. I enjoyed this novel but the darker and adult themes (and some graphic scenes) make it unsuitable for my school library.

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Thanks to Oneworld publications and Netgalley for ARC.

This has a cracking premise - five aspiring novelists under 30 have been awarded the chance for a writers' residency at the upstate New York home of the reclusive cult novelist Roza Vallo, with the prize being a publishing contract worth an implausibly high sum.
Alex finds herself selected despite being slightly older than the cut off, and decides to go despite having writer's block and knowing her arch-frenemy Wren is one of the other successful applicants.
When she arrives, she quickly realises that they will be cut off from the outside world and expected to work at a phenomenal rate, in elaborate surroundings with idiosyncratic rules. So far, so country house mystery meets gothic horror .
After that, things get weirder and creepier very quickly, with secrets, lies, and twist after twist. Whether you like it or not will depend on whether you want to just go with the ride or whether you interrogate each turn in the narrative and think 'nope, don't believe that'. Lots of people will love this. I finished it, but for me the ending stretched my credulity even more than the gothic horror elements.

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I received an early copy of this book approximately 3 seconds after saying I was thinking of signing up for a writing course, so it felt like fate.

At first, I felt the book was flying by. For a debut novel, it felt really accomplished and I was absorbed.

I felt this book was a book of two halves...or 70/30. The first part was more about the women themselves at the retreat and the stories they were planning on writing. And if I’m honest, I would have gladly read a full book just about that.

But then it changes. I didn’t mind that as such, but it’s such a sudden change that I feels broken, it doesn’t flow well and you’re then brought out of the story. The second part also felt over the top and a bit fantastical.

Because it’s set in a writing retreat, and we hear snippets of the works written, it’s like Julia Bartz has had to come up with half a dozen separate books in one, which was impressive.

I did feel frustrated with it. I wasn’t sure what it wanted to be. Romance, supernatural, thriller, murder mystery. It was all a bit of a hodgepodge. An interesting hodgepodge, but a hodgepodge all the same (yes I am impressed that I managed to get the word hodgepodge into this review – 3 times!)

Bar two characters – who only appear once or twice – it is an all-female cast. They’re front and centre, but I can’t say any of them stood out. I liked the main character of Alex, she seemed to closest to an everyday character. Then you have Wren, who got on my nerves a bit, hiding behind her bratty attitude and butter-wouldn’t-melt persona. Rosa is the author everyone is aspiring to be like, but she felt a bit flat. She wasn’t this completely otherworldly creature, or a full-out villain, or a friend. She sort of flitted from one to the other but never fully settled. Her assistant Yana is a bit one dimensional too. She did come into her own, but I felt to begin with she was meant to be this unsettling figure but it didn’t fully land. Chitra, the cook, iliked. There was clearly something going on with her under the surface but I felt she was innately likeable. Then you have the three other writers on the retreat: Poppy, Kiera and Taylor. I won’t say too much about their stories for fear of spoiling, but between the five of them, they worked well off each other.

It’s hard to say overall what my thoughts were. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Am I glad I read it? Yes. Was it well written? In parts. Would I recommend it? I’m not sure. It wasn’t bad, so I should be recommending it, but I can’t give it a fully positive recommendation. It’s a confusing one. An original premise, a promising debut, but a story for each person to make their own mind up about.

The synopsis showed so much promise and promised a murder mystery, but it didn’t quite live up to it. And then it suddenly finished. You’re going through this up and down story, and then it’s done. I don’t usually do star ratings, but if I had to, I’d probably say this was a 2.5 out of 5, or a 5 out of 10. Not bad, but not great. It tried to be clever but felt a bit lost for me.

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Devoured this - I found it to be hugely inventive, gripping, and unpredictable. I was never really sure where it was going. Very much recommended.

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Alex has been inspired to write since she first discovered the books of Roza Vallo. Years later she is stuck in a dead end publishing job with a serious case of writers block. However her luck is about to change- she has won a space on Rosa’s exclusive writing retreat. It’s a dream come true, or is it?

What reader doesn’t like a book about books? And The Writing Retreat is a speedy, tense rollercoaster of a read. I raced my way through this book because it was a real page turner and I loved the spooky, gothic tones of the plot. I would recommend it to my fellow thriller fans.

Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to review an advanced copy of the book in exchange for and honest review. .

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Wow! This book started like most. Introducing you to certain characters etc, but then? I'm not going to ruin it with spoilers, but everything changed. I barely had a hint of some of the things that happened. It definitely kept me guessing who was dead, who wasn't and what was going to happen next. A pageturner in my opinion

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Okay, at first I thought: here is another thriller with an ex best friend, a job she doesn’t like, and how « life is so hard » because she’s got a writers block… but actually, it is so goooooood!

I was so gripped the whole way through, I actually didn’t want it to end.
I love the plot of the writing retreat that turn into a competition and then into a mad house with some twists and turns. I even got a little scared of ghost in my on house during the night while reading it.

There was a couple of things that didn’t make too much sense (trying not to spoil but how did she get to the wine at the end?!) but I still recommend it and I am looking forward to reading more of Julia Bartz books!!!
Thank you Netgalley and One world Publications for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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A famous writer, Roza Vallo, runs a promotion to invite four young women, under 30, to her secluded home on a writing retreat. The idea is that she will decide which story turns out best, then nurture and promote the author. As Roza is an icon, competition is fierce, and the MC, Alex, is amazed that she is offered a place., especially as she’s over 30. When she discovers that her frenemy Wren, also over 30, is also on the retreat (making five attendees, not four, so much for the rules!) she has second thoughts about attending, but her fixation with Roza wins her over.

Another remote house, bad weather, stranded characters story. Although the start of the book was a little cliche, it seemed well written and interesting. However, the plot became more and more implausible, and the dialogue poor. The sex scenes were excruciating! The last few chapters of the book were a struggle to read, with a wandering narrative and gems such as “It felt almost sexual to lather up my greasy hair”.

A fairly good first half, hence 2.5*

Thank you NetGalley.

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There were so many overlaps with my own life in this, I had to read it! (Although, it is dark - so I’ll say immediately that the overlaps are limited to normal ones!)
Like Alex, I work in academic publishing. And I’ve literally just returned from a writing retreat! Nowhere near as atmospheric as Blackbriar though - mine was in a commuter hotel. This was still the perfect reading for that setting, in the evenings after a hard day staring at the screen. Bartz writes writer’s block so well. I’d also really like to read full versions of all the plots mentioned in the book’s retreat workshops, especially Roza’s of course!!

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This wasn't for me - the plot was unbelievable and I couldn't relate to any of the characters. I did enjoy the writing style and the author is clearly talented so giving it 3 stars.

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I started this and really struggled to get into it - I think maybe I wasn't quite in the right headspace for it. I just found the characters a bit annoying! Sorry! However, I persevered and soon I was hooked and enjoyed this book - I think the beginning maybe just was a bit clunky given that it is Julia's first book BUT what I liked about this was the writing, the way it was paced and the plot was ominous and keeps you really emotionally involved with the characters. Normally this would probably be a 2/3 star review, but I'm going to give it a three for the fact that for a new author who has clearly already started her new craft strongly!

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The blurb for this book describes it as being dark, atmospheric and feminist. Unfortunately I found it to be none of those things and in fact found it to be a bit dull.
This trope of a group of people going somewhere desolate and being stranded is one of my all time favourites to read, so this sounded like I would have a great time. And to begin with I did.
I was invested straight away, liked the characters and crucially, as there are multiple characters, could always tell them apart so they were well written.
But by 50% in my interest started to fade and then it continued to go downhill the more I read.
The main problem I had was that I just did not find it gripping, tense or atmospheric. I found that the setting added nothing to the story and it could have been set anywhere. I was also desperate for more to happen, it was all a bit dull for my taste and the plot seemed to lack any spark. I also didn't enjoy the excerpts of Alex's book she was writing that were added in here.
The longer the book went on, the more I didn't care about the characters or the plot which is a shame because when this started I was enjoying it.
Others may enjoy this, but for me it didn't tick all my boxes.

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The book of a my dreams! A twisty plot, a creepy house, a plot focused on the creation of art... I loved the tinges of horror and I honestly did not see the twists coming. A brilliant read!

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This was everything you need for a thriller and crime story. It is not as black and white as you first think and like most typical thrillers, is full of twists.

The E-Book could be improved and more user-friendly, such as links to the chapters, no significant gaps between words some text written has been typed in red and a cover for the book would be better. It is very document-like instead of a book. A star has been deducted because of this.

This is a first for me by the author and one I enjoyed and would read more of their work. The book cover is eye-catching and appealing and would spark my interest if in a bookshop. Thank you very much to the author, publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.

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I was expecting more from this book, I think the characters didn’t make it worth the read for me! The plot wasn’t all that as well.

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I understand where the book wanted to take me. I'm just not sure we ever really got there. I thought that the plot got more and more rediculous as it went on and sadly I didn't enjoy it as much as I had wanted to.

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